Though I left our lady hunter in a rather difficult predicament, Culvir has a much more literal threat inside of him. But that doesn’t mean he’s taking it lying down.
Here’s part 7 of the Two Hunters Saga. Hope you enjoy it!
Chapter 7 — Restrictions
Culvir woke to the hideous décor of the Gilded Peanut. Gaudiness surrounded him. The red of his surroundings complimented the dull stench of blood about him.
He sat up and winced. The bandages on his chest were clean and soaked with antiseptic. His chest was bare otherwise. Someone had been taking good care of him. Nell.
The sound of footsteps sprang to life in the room. Culvir’s eyes searched for a weapon out of instinct. His dagger, Silverdark, laid on the end table in his reach. I must be safe here. This is all I really need.
Culvir ran his fingers over the dagger. He found no adverse enchantments or tampering. Had it been tampered with the slightest he would be able to tell. Instead he found it well cared for. IT had been freshly oiled and treated.
“I hope that’s all right.” Nikidas came into the room. He carried a tray with rolls and a steaming bowl of soup. “My dad’s a smith, so he’s drilled weapon care in my head. I had to go through your stuff to get the treatment materials.”
“That’s fine,” Culvir said, “You seem to know what you’re doing. Were you the one that bandaged me too?”
“Yeah,” Nikidas said.
“Let me guess. Your mother was a nurse?” Culvir smirked.
“No, I’m just accident prone. I have a lot of practice.” Nikidas shook his head. “I have food here for you if you’re hungry.”
“I am, thanks.” Culvir sat up and gave a cursory pat on his lap. “Just set it down. I need to eat quickly so I can get back to work.”
Nikidas made a face. “That’s not happening.”
“What?” Culvir narrowed his eyes. He realized then for the first time that he didn’t have his glasses.
“Nell said to tell you: She’s contacting Okiir to make sure you get some rest. She has a new partner for now.”
“Impossible. They didn’t have anyone close by…” Culvir moved his feet over the edge of the bed. The world spun around him.
“I told you. You’re not going anywhere.” Nikidas set the tray down near the point of the elaborate heart shaped bed. “I promised Nell.”
“With all due respect, who’s going to stop me? You?” Culvir put a hand to his eye. Just vertigo. I’ll have this shaken in a few hours.
Nikidas pointed to a candle near the bed. Its flame leapt off it and manifested into Nell’s ‘wisp’. It hovered in front of Culvir’s face threateningly but it radiated Nell’s warmth.
Culvir held out a hand and touched it fearlessly. It did not burn. Nell isn’t trying to stop me with force… then…? The flame danced back to the candle.
“Nell said she’d handle it. With her new partner. The man that saved you, Sonnie Daie.” Nikidas stiffened. “She also said if you follow her. The two of you are through.”
Culvir’s heart ached, both figuratively and literally. The practitioner of light had saved his life but had also done something sinister to him. He reached over and grabbed a roll and started to devour it. It did little to sate his hunger. He made a face after eating it.
“Is something wrong with the food?”
“You drowned the rolls in butter; you do realize how terrible it is for you?” Culvir cracked open the second roll and scraped off every last drop.
“What? But… You’re recovering I figured you’d want something to—“
“Wrong.” Culvir bit into the next roll. “Completely unnecessary, there’s no nutritional value. I don’t need it. “
“W…well I think there’s some fruit preserves down there.” Nikidas straightened.
“If I wanted fruit. I’d eat a piece of fruit.” Culvir halved his eyes. “Where’s my curtain?”
“Oh. That thing…” Nikidas reached over and drew a small bracelet off his arm. “Nell told me to wear it.”
Culvir took it from him with a nod. He replaced it on his arm and activated it. The disruption of space, Culvir’s mobile armory, appeared and he reached inside. He made a face.
“What’s wrong is something missing?”
“My glasses. Two pair of them got smashed but I should have spares,” Culvir said.
“Don’t look at me. I think that thing is creepy. I was afraid you kept a monster in there. Nikidas held up his hands.
Culvir let out a long sigh.
“I see why you wear them though. You don’t exactly look scary without em’.” Nikidas rubbed his chin. “I guess I could go out and get you a new pair.”
Culvir shook his head. “It would take me close to a week to get the enchantment right. I’ll just have to send out a message to the person that makes them for me. But they’re all the way back at the Hunter’s HQ.”
“Say… Culvir…” Nikidas drew close. “You think you could train me? I mean. I want to join up too. I want to help protect Nell.”
“You? Ha.” Culvir put fingers to his forehead. “This isn’t some sort of academy for novices. We have criteria. You probably don’t even know how to hold a sword right.”
“Not true! I have some training… and well… I want to be a royal Dragoon one day.”
“Being a hunter is a lifetime commitment. That right there tells me you’re not cut out for it. Stick to your dream of becoming a Dragoon. It’s noble work.” Culvir pointed at him. “Besides. There’s something else that decides if you should be a hunter.”
“What’s that?” Nikidas frowned.
“You really need to have nowhere else to go.” Culvir shook his head. “Everyone in the Association has cast aside their family, loved ones, and friends to join. Not to be cruel, but so that when we meet our end no one mourns us.”
“Don’t you mean if…?”
“No. I mean when.” Culvir darkened his eyes. “Everyone dies. That’s why the undead need to be stopped. They defy the natural order. You have family. You shouldn’t become a hunter.”
“But… Nell… I….” Nikidas blushed.
“Give up on her.” Culvir smacked his leg.
“I can tell. You’re in love with her.” Culvir said firmly. “It’s a lost cause.”
“How can you say that… don’t you…. Aren’t we…?”
“What? Rivals?” Culvir laughed. “Yes. Nell is a wonderful woman, and I might have lost my senses regarding her. But no one can have Nell.”
“Least of all that Sonnie guy.” Nikidas muttered.
“Yeah. Fuck that guy.” Culvir said. He rubbed his chest idly.
“I don’t like him either. But he saved your life.”
“Just means I need to pay him back.” Culvir picked up the soup and sniffed at it. He plucked out the pieces of potato inside.
“You’re really finicky about food.” Nikidas frowned. “That soup is the best thing ever.”
“I’ll eat the potatoes later.” Culvir drank down the broth. “I don’t need something like that weighing me down while I’m searching the city.”
“But Nell said…”
“…to not get involved with her and Sonnie. I’m doing something else.” Culvir said firmly. “I might be wounded but that won’t stop me from taking out zombies and keeping my edge. There’s plenty of work to be done.”
“I don’t know…” Nikidas folded his arms. “Nell seems to want you to rest.”
“This is resting.” Culvir frowned. “Look, would it make you feel better if you came along with me? I could use a set of eyes and you seem at least somewhat competent.”
“Really? You mean you’ll train me after all?” Nikidas put his hands on Culvir’s shoulders.
Ouch. Knew it. This kid is strong. “Not training. Conscription. I’ll make sure you get paid for your assistance.” Culvir suppressed a wince.
“I don’t need payment.” Nikidas shook his head. “If it’s for Nell. I’ll do anything. I’ll wrestle a Dread-bull in a bed of spikes if I have to!”
“Well you’re getting paid. If you don’t want it donate it to a charity or something.” Culvir started rolling up the bits of potato in a hankerchief.
Nikidas stared at him as he tucked it away in his thieves’ curtain.
“What?” Culvir scrunched up his nose.
“You’re like… a stingy old man.” Nikidas shook his head.
“No I’m not,” Culvir said. He stood and stretched.
“Oh! Your clothes, I’ll go get them for you.” Nikidas hurried off.
Culvir picked up the plate and frowned at the lump of butter left over. Nikidas probably had a poor diet and an even worse training regimen. I might be better off ditching him.
Nikidas came back with Culvir’s shirt and coat. He was glad to have them.
Nikidas began to chuckle.
“What now?” Culvir sighed.
“You look ridiculous in that outfit without your glasses. It reminds me of a kid playing dress up.” Nikidas covered his mouth. “I’m sorry. I guess if you just scowl all the time you’ll be ok.”
Culvir growled. This was nothing new. He received plenty of flak for his baby face and his especially expressive eyes. Okiir insisted it was a good thing. Being underestimated was a boon, not a curse. It really didn’t matter if a vampire mocked him if it meant he was getting a dagger between his eyes. But it doesn’t make it any less annoying.
“You’re right.” Culvir slipped off his coat. “It might be better to do this undercover.”
“Huh?” Nikidas blinked.
Culvir reached into his curtain and pulled out three items: a set of clothing, a raven wig, and a sheet of material that looked like skin.
“What is that?”
“Playing dress up.” Culvir smirked. “How’s your acting?”
“What? I…” Nikidas watched quietly as Culvir slipped on the wig. “You’re kidding?”
“I never kid.” Culvir said calmly.
“But… I can’t…”
“It’ll be good practice for you.” Culvir slipped into the clothes. They were appropriately padded in the correct places to be convincing, but not obnoxiously so. It was a matter of illusion not seduction after all.
Judging from Nikidas’ reaction the disguise was near flawless. The face he used was a girl that was now dead. He had to kill her once she turned; her blood lust too great. The end result made for a convincing transformation. He had only used it once. The final touch was the contacts that covered his eyes, turning them brilliant gold.
“This stays a secret though. Call it a secret weapon.” Culvir gave Nikidas a pat on the shoulder.
“That’s just… wow…. “ Nikidas looked him over. “I think maybe you’re in the wrong career.”
“Stay professional.” Culvir said firmly. He closed his eyes and put a hand to his throat. He tried a dozen voices and settled on an alto tone that would be easy for him to maintain.
“What do I call you?”
“Lady Gabrielle Tousch,” Culvir said without hesitating, he took to the new voice well. He stashed away Silverdark and drew out a jeweled saber. “You can and should go by your real name, but I’ve hired you as a guide.”
Nikidas nodded dully. “Yes s… m’lady.”
“I would advise against making that error again.” Culvir said. He spoke in a cool dangerous tone. Culvir had plenty of exposure to obnoxious people that considered themselves far more important than they were.
“So… uhm… you mind if I ask a question?” Nikidas glanced down at Culvir. “What are those made from?”
Culvir groaned, in character. “You might be better off not knowing.”
As they approached the door wisp jumped from the candle and darted over to them. It hovered in front of the door, barring their way.
“What is it little wisp?” Culvir said in the dulcet tones of Lady Gabrielle. “Is there a problem with my methods?”
Wisp smoldered in front of him. It danced about in a slow deliberate circle.
“You’re supposed to watch over me right? Make sure I don’t involve myself in Nell’s investigation? It doesn’t mean I can’t help her indirectly.” Culvir glanced back at Nikidas. “He’ll be with me too. I won’t try anything funny.”
“Dressing up like that is pretty ‘funny’. Just saying,” Nikidas said.
Culvir glared back at him.
Wisp bobbed up and down. It buzzed around Culvir as if searching and finally settled into the pommel of the saber at his hip.
“Looks like I’ve been granted permission. Let’s see what we can find out.” Cuvir nodded.
“Wait… what if they check on you?”
“I have that covered.” Culvir gave a firm nod and paused to take his flatware. The low heeled riding boots he had settled on clacked noisily on the floor. He worked his way to the lobby area.
Batreese came quickly without the need of the bell. “Hello ma’am! Did you need a room to—“
“No.” Culvir said firmly. “I’ve come on behest of the gentleman staying in the gaudy suite you have at the end of the hall. The city guard informed me he was here.”
“Ah… yes… well…” Batreese rubbed his meaty hands nervously.
“Any more of your meddling will not be tolerated. You are lucky I do not have you arrested for playing such a large part in his injuries.” Culvir slammed a hand on the desk in front of Batreese. “See to it no one enters or leaves that room save me and those with me. I have already posted a man to monitor the inside. They will not need food or water. It will be provided more refined foodstuffs.”
Culvir pointed at the remaining blob of butter on the plate. “Are you responsible for this I suppose?”
Batreese glanced down. “But ma’am that butter was impoted from the—“
Cuvir flung the plate aside. It clattered to the counter with a crash. “Don’t back talk me fat man. You should be treating the wounded with tender care not cheap fatty foods!”
“Y…yes ma’am.” Batreese eyed Nikidas.
“This whelp will be coming with me. I am performing a cursory investigation and this young man is coming along. I’m afraid you will have to scrub your own latrines for the week.”
Batreese nodded. “But of course ma’am. I will make sure he is not disturbed. “
“Good.” Culvir tapped the desk in steady rhythm. He stared at the innkeeper with his borrowed gold eyes. Batreese swallowed hard.
Culvir walked away abruptly and pushed away raven locks from his eye. “Try to keep up Nicholas, we have a busy day ahead of us.”
“The name’s Nikidas…” he scrunched up his nose and followed hot on ‘Lady Gabrielle’s’ heels.
The made a few steps out of the inn into the busy streets.
Culvir rested a hand on the pommel of the jeweled saber. Now if I were a vampire lord… who would I fraternize with?
“Wow lady, you sure had him wrapped around your finger. You must be someone pretty important.” Nikidas offered a wry grin.
Culvir glared at Nikidas. Ditching him might not be enough….
Nikidas straightened. “Sorry… ma’am… I’ll behave… ma’am.”
Culvir let out a noisy sigh and the two of them started to search the city for clues.