So I know you guys miss my weekly nonsensical (and sometimes coherent) weekly blather. That will continue next week. For now enjoy this short story. It’s based on two characters from some of my past writing.
Two Hunters, Part 1
Nell Draadich sat with her hands folded on her lap in front of a dwindling campfire. A hush hung over the night air of the forest, an hour past midnight. She yawned gently and stared into the flames. She considered brewing another pot of coffee, but work demanded her attention, too close by.
Nell had always been a thin woman, with natural grey hair that made her look old at a glance. She dressed in light robes to accommodate the muggy summer heat of the day, but stood prepared for the occasional chill that forced its way between the trees in the evenings.
She shivered and eased the flame back into place when it tried to come to comfort her. “Shh… it’s fine. Stay calm.”
Nell crossed and rubbed her upper arms. The time of threat drew close; This according to complaints from the farmers in the area. Unusual noises in the evening, the freshly risen weren’t exactly known for their manners.
A distant noise alerted her to stand; she stooped over to pick up her weapon, an anointed wooden short staff with an ankh on its top. The campfire grew restless but she soothed it again with a kind gesture. Quietly, carefully, she stepped onto the outskirts of the campsite to investigate the disturbance.
A misstep sent her tumbling forward, and she made hard impact with the ground. She winced; her head swam with a culmination of sleep deprival, pain, and embarrassment. She opened her eyes to see a pair of red eyes looking at her, inches from her face, a rabbit.
She wore a small smile and righted herself. She pulled to a cross-legged sit. “Oh so it was you making all that noise, huh?”
The rabbit sniffed at the air and eyed Nell with confusion. She held out a hand and it drew closer. After a few tentative sniffs, it nuzzled against the tips of her fingers and brought a smile to her face.
A knife landed clean in the middle of the rabbit’s back, pinning it to the soil and ending its tiny life with unerring accuracy. It died silently. Nell’s eyes widened and she stood quickly. Her eyes darted back and forth in the low light provided by her campfire.
The flame leapt from the piled sticks and rallied to her side, manifesting as a crackling wisp that darted and swam between trees looking for the attacker.
“You’re just an amateur,” a voice said behind her.
Nehl froze as she felt cold steel against the small of her back. Sweat dripped down the side of her face. Panic filled her. When had he gotten behind me?
“Go to town. I don’t have time to babysit. The forest isn’t safe for foolish women who—”
He leapt backwards abruptly, a torrent of flame poured from the wisp high above them. Nell spun to see her aggressor. He stood hunched with a single dagger at the ready. He wore leather armor and quite possibly the ugliest belt she had ever laid eyes on.
“C…Culvir…? You’re Culvir Silverdark right?” Nell relaxed and lowered her staff.
He raised a brow and straightened, however his dagger stayed at the ready. “Don’t tell me you…”
“I’m Nell Draadich.” She placed a hand on her chest. “I’m your new partner.”
Culvir’s expression blanked. He sized her up through dark glasses, odd considering the time of night.
“But… you probably knew that already,” she said, “I talked to the locals and—“
“I know all that too,” Culvir said. He glanced around before continuing. “Only a rookie doesn’t gather information before a job.”
He jabbed a thumb towards himself. “You’re dealing with a seasoned veteran here, not some wet nosed novice. If the association thinks we should work together, fine. Orders are orders. But I don’t need some rookie getting in my way.”
“But I…” Nell clutched her staff defensively.
“What? You think you’re something because you killed some Zombies? Or maybe you killed a vampire on accident and they decided to let you in out of pity.” A sneer crept on his face.
“Actually…” Nell blushed furiously. “…we were put on the same team because you and I currently have the most kills in the organization. First and second respectively; I looked you up as soon as they offered the assignment. We’re apart by five.”
“What…? You’ve killed ninety-five vampires? You?!” Culvir pointed at her with his dagger.
“…One Hundred and five actually, I should have been clearer.” She scratched her cheek idly.
Culvir took a step backwards and turned away, muttering. He brought a hand up to adjust his glasses.
“I’m s…sorry.” Nehl said with an apologetic shrug.
“Don’t be. It’s pretty clear how you do it.” Culvir glared. “A pretty face and you look completely helpless. They probably just see you as an easy victim.”
“Maybe…” She said, her blush deepened. Did he just call me pretty?
“Bah, whatever.” Culvir threw up his arms. “This seems like a dead lead anyway. I’ve been here for hours and no sign of them.”
“Hours…? But…” Nell bit her lip. “Isn’t it sort of pointless to look for them much before midnight?”
“Pointless?” Culvir’s temper flared. “I start an hour before sundown every-day. If there’s even a chance that I can catch one of these blood suckers in action, I’ll gladly put the extra effort in. These things aren’t going to kill themselves.”
“I…I see.” Nell looked down.
“While it pisses me off that some lazy spell flinger has more kills than me, it only means I have to work harder. I’m fine with that.” Culvir turned to leave.
“Where are you going?”
“Scouting, you can just sit here and be bait or whatever it is you do.”
“But… I have an idea. Since there’s two of us,” Nell said. She gestured with her staff at the ground and started to carve a mark on the ground. It flared with power and then faded to nothing.
She lowered her voice to a whisper. “Come here.”
Culvir raised a brow, but complied.
“We should argue. I think it’s not a dead lead at all.” Nell pointed behind her, her wisp danced in the woods flitting about.
He frowned pointedly. “That’s bullshit. I’ve gone around the perimeter at least a dozen times. There hasn’t been a trace of vampires.”
“Yes… but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.” She leaned closer to him. “Why do you wear sunglasses at night?”
“None of your business,” he leaned away from her, his cheeks reddening. “Why do you wear a dog collar?”
Nell reached to her neck, the silver choker she wore stood stark and rather conspicuous against her pale skin, but she treasured it, and it served an important purpose. “Well… I…”
“Not very confident are you?” He smirked. “If you weren’t so clumsy you probably wouldn’t need that much protection.”
Culvir’s smirk widened and he calmly put away his dagger in the sheath at his side and sat on the spot. He leaned back sizing up Nell. “It’s a wonder those rags do any good keeping you alive. Your luck is only going to hold out for so long.
Nehl looked away. He’s good, playing into the plan flawlessly.
“They probably think some bar wench has wandered out of the city. You may not have much here, but you probably get a few craning necks looking and your backside.” Culvir pointed to her chest offhandedly.
She blushed furiously crossing her arms across her chest. “Hey! That’s m…mean.” Did he just say my butt is big?
“Truth hurts lady,” Culvir placed his hands on the back of his head.
Nell caught a glimpse of a shadow that crept behind him. She pushed her arms forward to cast, but the figure moved too fast. They rose from a crouch and drove their blade downward towards Culvir’s skull. The trap triggered and flame started to gather at the assailant’s feet but not before they finished their swing.
The wicked looking sword swung downward and sunk into the moist soil next to Culvir. A grin sat on his face. Then he vanished into thin air.
The vampire tugged on his sword, confused. Culvir lashed out behind him and drove a dagger deep in his neck. The pillar of flame erupted around Nell and engulfed their foe. Culvir retreated to avoid the flames, leaving his sterling dagger lodged deep in his prey.
Culvir drew another dagger, identical to the one that took the rabbit’s life. He glanced around in anticipation, but found himself left disappointed.
The vampire writhed briefly in the torrent of flame reduced it to a charred husk. The dagger in its throat served well to silence any death scream.
A distant explosion rocked the forest, and a flaming body flew through the night air. Nell blinked in realization and finished her half prepared spell. She closed a fist and the flying body burst like a firework scattering ash, bone and blood to the winds.
The distant vampire’s remains fell away from the flames and it settled back to a tiny wisp. Smoldering patches of flame lingered around the corpse. The wisp fluttered over to her obediently.
Nell welcomed the flame into her hand and looked at Culvir apologetically. “Ah… well… You definitely got that one… So we—“
“I don’t need your charity. You got both of them.” Culvir waved her off annoyed. “I’m not worried about it.”
Nell gaped at Culvir and reddened.
“What?” He folded his arms.
“Your glasses,” Nell said.
“Hm?” Culvir brought a hand to his face. His large expressive blue eyes scanned around desperately for his lost glasses.
He’s gorgeous… Nell offered a shy smile. “I think I understand now, Why they—”
He spotted his glasses , plucked them from the ground and replaced them. Irritation sat on his lips, but she had a hard time keeping the image of the rest of his face out of her head. “I don’t want to hear about it. Not a word. If it doesn’t have anything to do with killing vampires It doesn’t need to be said.”
“All right,” Nell frowned. “But why did you kill the rabbit…?”
“What? Are you serious? Fresh blood, even animal blood will draw their attention.”
“B…but I can do the same thing with magic… you shouldn’t kill animals just for bait.”
“It’s not like I’m going to waste it.” Culvir walked over to it holding it up against the dagger like a skewer. “It’s dinner.”
Nehl let out a small whine.
“Don’t tell me you don’t eat meat. How are you supposed to keep up your strength without a healthy diet? It’s just as important as a strict exercise regime.”
“You don’t have one of those either?” Culvir threw up his arms. “What sort of Hunter are you?!”
A normal one…? Nell couldn’t think of a single person that thought like that in the Association. They were mostly rowdy drunks and womanizers. She had been one of the few women in the group, if not the only woman, now that she considered it.
Culvir tucked the rabbit under one arm, brought out a small black book and wrote angrily. “Well that’s going to change… partner. I can’t have some skinny undernourished waif watching my back. Well uh…”
His head tilted. Even without seeing his eyes she could see him staring at her hips. Nell squirmed uncomfortably. Does he think those things keep me from telling what he’s looking at…?
He scribbled in the book again and closed it. “There. We’ll wake up tomorrow and get started on a game plan. Once I get the reports filed and sent off the Association.
Nehl stared blankly as he retrieved his throwing knife, scooped up the rabbit and went about checking the vampire’s bodies for clues. We’re supposed to do reports?
She brought her thumb to her mouth and chewed on a nail. Culvir Silverdark… he’s every bit as odd as they say he is. But cute… in his own way.