Aftermath 1

A tall, slim man sat back in his chair, overlooking a desk which was covered in sheaves of paper, all covered in writings of official events that had been and were to come. Running a hand down his face, he rubbed the weariness from his eyes, the paperwork taking its toll on him.

“Next time I’m offered a directorial role, please make sure I turn it down,” he commented to the young man that sat on the other side of the room to him, lounging on a chair. From the insignias on the both of their coats they seemed to be Hunters, though one of them seemed to complete the appearance much more than the other.

The older man’s face was creased with age, though he didn’t appear to be too old. He looked to be early in his middle age, with his hair completely jet back. A pair of tinted glasses lay over his eyes to protect them from the sun which may as well have been in the room with how bright it was, despite the late time. His clothes underneath the coat were the new fashion that was taking over Haven, not the usual robes that most wore. He wore a dark, tight fitting suit underneath the coat with a tie displaying the symbol of the ever watching eye of the Hunters. Gloves covered his hands as well, dark leather that matched his suit and coat, preventing nearly any sight of skin from showing.

“And yet you’ll probably accept it,” the young man replied idly, not even looking up from the book that he was reading. Unlike most that could read, he didn’t wear any glasses, finding them uncomfortable and needless. His fashion was taken from a different form that was rising in popularity with the younger residents of Haven. Instead it was a fashion that appeared to be cropping up with the youth of Haven. A leather jacket resplendent in straps and studs was worn over a stylistically torn shirt and pants. “You can’t resist the draw of power.”

“Watch yourself, Jasten,” the director of the Hunters growled softly, though the both of them knew there was no hostility behind it. While they were not family, the young man was pretty much a son to him, and he was the closest Jasten had to a father ever since his own had been lost in battle. “And would you mind wearing something a little more respectable? I feel like I’m hosting a desolate, frankly I’m embarrassed for you.”

“I would rather wear their rags than that thing,” the young man said, gesturing at the director’s suit. “The last time I wore one of those, the tie almost choked me to death, and anyone wearing a robe here is a laughing stock, so unless you want your apprentice to be a living joke, I think you’ll have to put up with this.”

“As tempting as it is to put you in those rags, I think your mother would throttle me,” the director sighed. He looked down at the papers again and pushed away the urge to just slam his head against the table and sleep. The hour was late, and the recent breakout had left him with quite a lot of paperwork and letters to write out to their more influential sponsors to reassure them of the Hunters’ capabilities.

A sudden bursting in of the door gave him a much desired reprieve. Jasten had instantly jumped into action, a hand on the dagger under his jacket while he moved forward to block the path that the intruder could have taken to the director.

The captain that had been sent down to the surface had pushed through the door, though apparently not with his hands. Falling to the ground on his shoulder, he gave a cry of pain as he held his broken limbs close. Jasten stowed the blade and picked the man up, letting him fall against the wall as he gasped for breath, fighting off the darkness that prickled on the edge of his vision.

“What happened?” the director asked, genuinely curious as to what had caused he grievous injuries on the captain. His squad had been given an order to avoid the confrontation that he had predicted, so the injuries were not anticipated.

“It was a bloodbath,” the captain snarled. “This wasn’t just a small group of demi-humans working for one of the crime lords. The fire pillar ambushed us!” The director looked at him for a moment before glancing out of the window behind him. From where he sat in the fortress that the Hunters were based in, he could see most of the outer edges of Danarog. The battle had taken place within his field of vision, and he had seen the minute flashes of red light. The assumption had been made that it was just a few of the group that had broken the test subject out, but apparently he had erred.

“How many of the acolytes survived?” the director asked. He had intended for this to be a test for them to ascend to knighthood in the Hunter’s organisation, for each one to capture a demi-human they would be able to rise in rank.

“Less than twenty,” the captain replied, coughing and wincing as a small amount of blood dripped from his mouth. He had rushed over without waiting for the medics to clear him, believing his information to be of dire importance to the director.

“Give them a promotion, they deserve at least that much for making it out alive,” the director replied, turning back to his desk and sighing as the report that his sources had made to him lay open to the page of Elgen, the one who was supposed to have perpetrated all of this. If the captain was correct in his statement of the fire pillar being the actual cause of this, then he needed to make sure that his information was correct, and he needed to reprimand his contact within them for failing to inform him. He couldn’t lead the war against demi-human’s with a bunch of half-truths.

“Sir, they were the ones that ran.”

“Damn, did nothing fortuitous come out of this skirmish?” the director snarled, slamming his hand down on the table and cracking it. This one was of a cheap material, the original, luxurious, wooden piece having long since taken out to preserve it from his occasional bouts of anger. Now they were mostly plywood banded together with steel.

“I believe we may have discovered a new branch of demi-human,” the captain stated, to which the director’s head snapped up. Although his eyes couldn’t be seen, Jasten knew that the man was looking at the captain with enough intensity to make the soldier shiver in his seat. “H-he had purple markings across his body when I saw him, though it looked as if he couldn’t maintain them for an extended amount of time.”

“Violet,” the director corrected him absently, though he looked at the captain with renewed curiosity when the man whimpered at the word. “Alright, go get yourself patched up, I need to record this and send the information over to the researchers.” The captain nodded and almost ran out of the room, but how he was continuing to stay conscious with those injuries gave Jasten a new respect for the gruelling training regimen that the Hunters were put through.

“Aren’t you going to talk to the lab coats and confirm the discovery?” Jasten asked the director, noticing that he was decisively still. Even more strange was the wide grin on his face.

“Oh, there’s no need to do that,” he chuckled to himself as he sat back down, pulling a new paper in front of him to continue with his work. “After all, that particular hue has already been known for a very long time.” Jasten gave him a look of confusion.

“Is it an obscure one?” he asked. “I don’t remember reading about it at all when we were taught the branches of the four pillars.”

“I think I’ll leave this for you to research,” the director smiled to him. “It will do you some good to get your head out of all of those foolish little tales and learn about the real world around us.” Jasten nodded stiffly, a slight amount of annoyance rising within him at the mention of the stories that he treasured being dismissed as trivialities. Deciding it would be best to begin the task straight away, he left the director to his own devices, making sure to take his book with him.

“I have been waiting a long time for you to appear once more,” the director grinned, placing his hand on the glass of the window as he looked down at the smouldering battlefield. “Now, we have entered the endgame, my old friend, so tell me; is your son up to the challenge you gave him, or will he wilt like those who came before him.” Turning back to the desk, he hummed a small little tune.

“So, what shall I tell those reporters? I think I should throw them a bone and give them a juicy story this time.”

 

*****

 

The Hunter stood in the middle of the training field, his eyes looking over the nooks and crannies that his opponent might be hiding in. He held a heavy blade, kept in a low guard so that he could whirl and defend from any angle necessary. A rush of wind behind him caused him to swing at the empty air behind him.

She was fast, he would give her that. But she was also immature. The faint sound of a footstep behind him gave him cause to reach out with his armoured hand and bat the outstretched dagger away from his back and sweep his blade low to be blocked by her.

In front of him stood his daughter, her eyes gleeful as she jumped back and gave off a rich laugh that echoed within the chamber. Laran sheathed her daggers and stood with her back straightened and her arms crossed, though she maintained her warm dispostition.

“I can never get past you,” she smiled at him. The commander of the guard reached out and ruffled her hair as she protested, pulling away from his grip to straighten it, adopting a look of annoyance.

“That’s because you’re only human,” he told her, his face stoic as he looked around at the observers that were watching. “This is why you must all maintain your vigilance when you’re up against demi-humans. They are much faster, stronger and will not hesitate to kill you. They will seek to put you on the back foot, so you must work from there.”

The acolytes nodded as they scrawled down notes and sketches of the stances he had taken to defend against the girl that looked over the apprentice Hunters with apparent disdain. While she herself was amongst their ranks, she had always been a head above the rest, a natural fighter. It was often said that she had inherited the ability from him, but he had maintained that it was because of her dedication to her people.

But even he grew irritated at her reluctance to take these training sessions seriously. While she had an opponent in her father, her enthusiasm had long since faded once she had sparred with the other acolytes once or twice. None were able to give her the challenge she needed without becoming a wall that she couldn’t overcome like her father.

“Commander Mason, what about when defending from an earth pillar, or one of its branches?” one of the students asked. It was a valid question. With his daughter being the only one able to provide a realistic looking scenario, he had only been able to detail what should happen with a lighter opponent. Sizing them up, the commander picked the largest of the acolytes.

“Charge at me with everything you have,” he told the hefty man. Walking onto the stage, the man suddenly rushed at the commander with a roar. Dropping his blade in an instant, Mason drew his dagger from its sheath and braced himself. As the other man collided with him, Mason let himself be thrown through the air with the man, landing on his back with the blade of his dagger against the man’s throat.

“As you can see, there’s nothing you can do if they charge you, so you need to make them do the work for you,” he told them, nimbly lifting the man and rolling him away as the acolyte gingerly touched a hand to his neck at the slight cut that was made. “You cannot fight a demi-human head on with their physical abilities, so you need to use that against them. For larger opponents, try to dodge their blows and when they come within your range attack a vital area, and you might just make it out alive. Injuries are inevitable, I’m sure you saw the squad that came back tonight.” The acolytes nodded, their faces growing pale as they remembered having seen the captain being carried out on a stretcher while the others limped out, all sporting broken bones and ugly bruises.

“All we can do for you is to prepare you for what is to come so that you might handle it better than those before you,” the commander told them. “The fact you volunteered for this is worthy of respect enough, so we will all do our best to help you stay alive.”

 

*****

 

A woman stood on the edge of the roof, her arms spread out as she felt the wind pass over her finger tips. She smiled as she looked down at the city in front of her. It was not just here, but everywhere, the charge of energy that had echoed out from the epicentre of that fight. Not once, but twice, she had felt the surge rush through the air, and it was intoxicating.

There had been an occasional taste of that energy over the years, and she had been tracking it for a while, but now it had been cropping up increasingly frequently. She knew that now was the time to find it, to accompany the source of that energy along its journey.

Like others similar to her, she could read the emotions of the one who had sent the pulse, sensing what they felt in the moment that the shockwave had been released. This one in particular was a tumultuous rush of emotions that seemed to tumble over each other in an effort to be the most energy released, the second was different though.

It was unsure of itself, a weak pulse that had never been released before. Underneath the anger that had been released, there was an echo of hurt, that made the woman just want to hold the person who had released them and comfort the child who had felt the pain of being led around and toyed with.

She licked her lips and opened her eyes, the startling yellow glow from them pierced the black night as they examined the ground below, searching for the path that she would take. Letting Fate grasp hold, the woman fell from the tall building. The wind rushed through her blonde hair as she rushed towards the ground below.

Landing heavily in the dirt below, the mud spattered up onto the tight fitting battle garb. Unlike the children who fancied themselves warriors in this city, she was an actual soldier; a remnant of a force that had long since held enough sway to be called the ruling faction on this continent, becoming a fragment of a memory in the minds of the people. The steel plating along her body left enough manoeuvrability to allow her to perform acrobatics like a performer, but still retained enough protection to be considered a full suit of armour, a marvel of its time. She was going to continue the legacy that had been left to her.

 

*****

 

“You felt it, didn’t you?” one of the shadowy figures sitting at the table asked the girl standing in front of them. Silently she nodded, her brown hair falling across her eyes as she maintained her eye contact with the ground. The group in front of her talked in hushed tones for a moment, coming to a decision slowly.

“Are you sure that it was Harken this time?” another of them asked. Again, the girl nodded. She was sensitive to the energies in the air, and was able to read most of those that surrounded her. This was the first time that Harken had released a pulse of any kind, unlike these elders with their steadily glowing patterns that released a constant wave of delight and eagerness. Harken’s had cut through all those around her in a sharp pulse of such energy that it had been felt even from here in another city.

“We need to decide, should we send her to him?” another of the elders asked.

“No, she is the best warrior we have. We cannot just send her on such a foolish errand, another could be sent in her place.”

“Do you really think that they will be able to convince him?”

“It’s not just Harken that we need to convince,” the final voice cut through the rest of them. The girl took comfort in this wave of soothing calmness. “We have trained her for this very moment, so why would we not send her. She must appeal to both the warrior and the student, for without one, we cannot have the other.”

“And then while she’s out there, all we can do is sit back and wait while the Hunters draw ever closer!” another voice spat out. “Whether you like it or not, her prowess has been the only thing that has prevented our destruction for the past five years.”

“And yet the one we truly need to save ourselves is the violet one,” the previous voice told them. “How would you suggest we bring them here?”

“Maybe we don’t need them,” the angry voice suggested. “Maybe they’re not everything the great elder thought they were.”

“You dare question his judgements?” the voice that had once been calm now rippled with a barely bridled fury. “This whole organisation was founded on his principles and has been working for the wish that he held dear, and you believe him to be wrong?”

“Not about everything, just possibly that child,” the previous elder protested, his voice quailing as he felt fear. “The date is quickly approaching. How could he possibly be trained to a similar level to her in time?”

“And yet we must trust that the great elder has guided us onto the right path, Fate will take care of the rest.”

“Since it appears that the council is unable to come to a sound ruling, I believe that our own child should make the final decision,” another gentle voice told the others. There were a few more minutes of grumbling before the decision was made to entrust it to the girl.

“I will go and bring him here,” she told the council, causing a few voices to be raised, but they were rapidly hushed. “I will use the training that has been given to me, and whether it will be through friendship or force, I will bring the violet one.”

The girl bowed deeply to the council of elders before turning and leaving, unable to stop her own waves of excitement. The prospect of leaving the facility was something that made her heart skip a beat, and the emerald green patterns across her face lit up with her joy.

 

 

 

 

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