Post 100 woo! I’d like to say a little aside regarding the Two Hunters Tale. I might have mentioned it before but this is a re-envisioning of a story from a BBoard RPG named Ki-Rainelle. The story, it’s contents, and it’s source material is very close to my heart as it was developed by my lady friend.
Some of the characters in Two Hunters Short Story, like Culvir and Nikidas are interpretations of characters she created for Ki-Rainelle. They’ve changed a bit, as well as some of the details of the story. Ki-Rainelle has a very unique magic system and Vampires work considerably different than normal lore. Some of it is tweaked, but much of it is maintained in some form to preserve the spirit of the original Nell and Culvir.
Nell and Culvir themselves made their debut as our characters in the Korean MMO Ragnarok Online. Some of their details offer subtle nods to their origins. I also have a great attachment to these characters as they played a part in me getting together with my lovely lady-friend. But that is a story for another day.
Chapter 8 of Two Hunters goes back to Nell, and make sure yo check out 1-7 here if you missed it.
Chapter 8 — Shattered
Nell felt naked without Wisp. The small flame had been the first thing she had ever conjured. In her days of tireless study and stain, lauded by her peers as worthless, she had been overjoyed to see his flickering form. She could still remember the chuckles of her classmates when Nell had brought Wisp into the world.
That laughter hung about her now. The jovial murmur of masses of people around Terra proved as subdued to her as they were on that day. Nell walked aside Sonnie, her arm held his lightly. That drummed up memories as well. She recalled a time when she would be happy to be at his side, now it left a bitter taste in her mouth.
Nell found Sonnie a handsome fellow: a tall broad shouldered fellow approaching his thirtieth year. His arms were strong and fierce, a testament to his training. Sonnie wore his long sleeve tunic with a laced design at the neck that showed a glimpse of his sculpted chest while his neck was covered by a high collar trimmed with gold.
Standing beside him, Nell felt like a pauper. She wore her light robes with pride, but they were drab and simple by comparison. Sonnie glittered like gold while she felt a lump of tarnished tin.
“This city reminds me of when we met in Anaguast.” Sonnie said with a smile. “You haven’t changed much since then, save for a bit of wisdom and a few scars…”
Nell raised a hand to her throat. The deep gouges that covered her neck were fully exposed. They did not hurt, but their exposure for the world to see left her uneasy. Despite that, no one paid mind to her. Their eyes were locked on Sonnie’s brilliance.
“You needn’t worry on that Nell. This…” He pointed at his arm, her choker hidden by his sleeve. “…is a shackle. I have freed you of it. The world will accept you for what you are: A beautiful woman and a talented magician.”
Nell nodded dully.
Sonnie gave her a condescending pat on her arm.
“Where are we going?” Nell said, her tone hushed.
“Nowhere.” A sly smile came to Sonnie’s face. “Our movements have nothing to do with arriving at a destination.”
“We’re searching then?” Nell glanced around. “I doubt any vampires or their agents would be making moves in the middle of the day.”
“Not exactly.” Sonnie paused. “No doubt you are familiar with the forbidden magics?”
“Of course.” Nell scrunched up her nose. “But what does—“
“Everything. “ Sonnie squeezed her arm. “The threat of Necromancy is obvious, with the undead running rampant, but many people all but forget the threat of Dreamweaving. I’ve taken an interest in it. Fascinating topic that.”
“But… you’re a practitioner of the light.” Nell’s voice fell to a whisper, her body tensed. “…and you want to weave dreams? Not only that, it’s forbidden.”
The very idea of Sonnie approaching the fundamentals of the forbidden art terrified her. While her magic could protect her from most powerful and practiced Dreamweavers, Sonnie had a way in.
His twisted application of the light’s blessing stood as proof of this study.
“You wound me. “ Sonnie let out lithe drawl of a laugh. “This is something different. This is an art based on the natural fundamentals of Dreamweaving. Psychology.”
Nell frowned. She had never heard of any magic outside of the four. There were derivatives, specializations, and combinations but all of them could be simplified. Nell used the magic of Nature, drawing the power of the four natural elements. To it opposite was the forbidden art of Shadow, commonly called Necromancy. To the informed was the truth that there were fair and practical applications of the art that proved beneficial, a stigma had been cast over it and it was never accepted wholly.
Sonnie followed the practice of the Light. The few potent were born with the gift. Those that practiced it through study never really amounted to much; mostly because of the ill temperance of the magic. People oft associated the light as a divine gift. They could not be more wrong. The light was a fickle mistress that often stuck her followers mad. The impure would be swallowed whole by it and controlled as living tools.
There remained Dreamweaving, the magic of the mind. Some argue that it was far more diabolic than Necromancy. It allowed one to impose their will unconditionally on their victims. Dreamweaving was often dubbed the moniker of ‘King’s Magic’.
No one could deny the similarities between Necromancy and Dreamweaving. The Major difference rested in the method of control. Life and death existed in all men. Necromancy targeted death, Dreamweaving targeted life.
“You seem lost.” Sonnie rubbed her arm, taking her from her thoughts. “This isn’t magic. It’s science. Without the influence of the forbidden arts our minds as men and women follow paths. We can seek comfort by developing an understanding of them. If we face our fears, conquer our doubts and take control of ourselves. This is Psychology.”
Nell relaxed. That made sense. This confidence had been one of the reasons she had fallen in love with Sonnie: his calm approach to life, his easy smile, and his strong support. She blushed and turned away. That Sonnie is gone. This is a shadow of a lie.
“We are using that very art to lure in our foes. If they believe I have you subverted, broken at my feet, they will trust me unconditionally.” Sonnie’s eyes shifted to the a corner of the city, past the chattering crowds. Men watched from the shadows.
Nell turned to look; she caught a glimpse as they slipped away. Sonnie’s strong hand slipped under her chin and lifted her eyes to his. She had no means to resist and helplessly braced for his kiss. Memories danced on her lips and made her heart ache.
All she could think about was the stolen kiss, Culvir had taken from her.
“None of that,” a woman’s voice came from behind Sonnie’s towering figure.
Sonnie’s golden eyes flashed with irritation, only Nell caught the moment of rage. He calmed, donned his smile, and turned
A woman stood and stared. The woman was older, somewhat broad, and as much handsome as she was beautiful. She dressed regally and had clear nobility about her. Nell had seen many of her ilk in Anaguast. Most of the mages in the academy were children of nobility and the rich, while Nell and the few like her scurried about like roaches barely able to support the tuition.
“I understand the laws regarding public displays of affection are non-existent in Terra, but there remains a matter of common decency. “ The woman frowned at Sonnie pointedly.
“My apologies milady,” Sonnie said with a bow. “Can you blame me though? Nell is hard to resist. There are few sterling gems as fine as her.”
“Try harder,” the woman said, “I suggest you get your eyes checked as well. All I see if a shabby little old woman.”
Nell winced and stepped out from behind Sonnie. It wouldn’t be the last time she heard that accusation, her natural silver hair and thin build certainly didn’t help her case.
“You are mistaken milady. Nell is quite young and fetching. An acquired taste I assure you, the simplicity of her beauty is the highlight of her charm…”
The woman sniffed and turned to leave. Sonnie glanced down at her, sized her up.
“Tell me,” Sonnie brought a hand to his chin. “Who do I have the honor of meeting this day?”
The noblewoman stopped, turned and regarded him carefully. “Lady Gabrielle Tusche, and you?
“Sonnie Daie,” he said, “I think I’ve heard of you. Why are you in Terra?”
“I’m afraid I cannot return the sentiment. As for why I am here, I live a vigilant pursuit of virtue. Surely one that embraces the light understands this.”
“All too well lady Tusche . I am an acting member of the virtue of the fist: Firm, deliberate, and just. It seems we are of like minds.”
Nell’s gaze drifted to the crowds and fixed her eyes on a familiar figure. Nikidas lingered mere steps away from them.
“Nikidas! What are you doing here? I asked you to keep watch over Culvir.” Nell stormed past Sonnie and planted her hands on his shoulders.
“Uh well… you see something came up.” He squirmed listlessly against her protest. He pointed at Lady Tusche. “That crazy woman conscripted me into following her around.”
“Her?” Nell turned. Gabrielle and Sonnie were distracted with conversation. The fine jeweled saber that sat at her hip caught the light of the sun.
She closed her eyes, focused and called to her familiar. Through its eyes she could see to Culvir’s safety. Immense vertigo hit her, a wave of disorientation jarred her senses. She plunged into a hall of mirrors. Endless visions of herself and her surroundings assaulted her senses. She placed a hand on her forehead, dizzied.
“Wisp…?” Nell’s vision came back into focus. She found herself in Nikidas’ strong arms. “I don’t understand… that wouldn’t happen unless…”
Contingencies. Magic proved ever complicated and contingencies, rules in place by magic, always tripped up Nell. She had never been able to devote all of her attentions to her class work. There had always been the distraction of work and the ever present fear she would not be able to make tuition.
“Nell. Don’t worry about it. Everything’s fine. Your little flame is still watching over Culvir and he’s safe, out of sight, and keeping a good hold on things.” Nikidas timidly righted her. “You’re really light. Are you eating ok?”
“Nikidas!” Gabrielle Tusche snapped her fingers at him. Her tone suggested she had called more than once.”
“Yes s— ma’am.” Nikidas glanced back at Nell.
“Did you cause trouble for Mr. Daie? He said you were around when he was healing that fellow from the Association. You mustn’t make it habit to stick your nose where it does not belong.”
“Forgive me for the misunderstanding.” Sonnie passed Gabrielle and gave a quick squeeze to her shoulder as he approached Nell. “This boy is one of the recently freed victims from the Vampires that took up residence under Terra. I’ve asked Lady Tusche to aid me in my own investigation.”
“You’re investigating the vampires?” Nikidas folded his arms. “But you’re not a member of the Association. Why would you?”
“Because the woman I love is doing so.” Sonnie draped an arm around Nell and pulled her close. “True I may have drifted from her because of duty, but it is my wish to right that wrong. Nell and I have a history together.”
Nell winced. Sonnie’s mention of Dreamweaving left her uneasy. She could not shake the suspicion that he only wanted to deepen their bond so he could control her. She wanted nothing more than to be wrong about him. There was a time were his embrace would soothe wounds more than any healing the light could offer.
“That is completely understandable.” Gabrielle wagged a finger. “My network of information is yours if it means bringing a miscreant to justice. For me this is a matter of public security rather than simply a threat of the undead.”
“You do me great honor.” Sonnie said with a polite and shallow bow.
“I’ve already done some foot work.” Gabrielle narrowed her eyes. “The vampire’s reach seems to have at least touched the city guard. There are deviances in their books and pay by up to three and a half percent!”
“It’s a start.” Sonnie gave Nell’s shoulder another squeeze. “Thank you milady.”
“I’ll inform you with any other deviances. The city is on tight watch. It is refreshing to see these lay-a-bouts doing their jobs for a change. “Gabrielle snapped her fingers. “Nikidas, come.”
Nikidas shot Gabrielle a glare and aimed one at Sonnie too. “Fine.”
“I need you to carry papers. We’re going to the archives now.” Gabrielle drummed her fingers on the hilt on her sabre. “Despite the lack of adventure and danger, it is work no less important.”
Nell’s eyes fell to Gabrielle’s hand. The red stone at the hilt of her sabre radiated familiar warmth and magic.
“Lady Tusche. Are you a magician?”
“Decidedly not,” The woman said raising a brow. “I’ve studied it though, the fundamentals of magic hold rules practical to everyday life. You can’t get anywhere in life without a balance of order and chaos: Order, from the laws of the land and nature; Chaos, from the ingenuity of man.”
These words were taken directly from her time in the Academy.
“Never underestimate what man is capable of and when you learn to distinguish the improbable from the impossible, you have taken your first step towards being a great magician.” Nell spoke the words and let them set her at ease. “That’s what you mean right?”
“Something like that.” Gabrielle shrugged and continued on her way.
Nell felt very conscious about being in Sonnie’s arms. Nikidas stared at her, his eyes narrowing.
“So I suppose Culvir is nothing to you then? Now that you have Sonnie?” Nikidas said, his tone dry and harsh.
“Of course.” A pang of doubt inched through Nell, but she did not hesitate. “He’s… just a business partner. Sonnie and I have history, substance. “
Lady Gabriel Tusche stopped walking, her eyes turned and glared back at Nikidas.
The boy gave a look of protest, his hands balled into fists and glanced over at Lady Tusche.
“Sonnie and I are working to get to the bottom of this, not for Culvir, it’s for everyone,” Nell said, “Culvir may be a great hunter, but he’s wounded and useless now. We’re not just hunting undead, so for that I’ll need to think beyond someone I can only count on for killing mindlessly.”
“Is nothing to me,” Nell said. The words cut her deeply but Sonnie’s word stood as law. Nikidas’ expression did not make it any easier. Nell’s eyes fell to the ground. Sonnie gave her an endearing squeeze.
“Nikidas.” Lady Tusche’s voice rang cold and abrasive. “Why are you wasting time with matters that are not your concern? We have work to do.”
“Fine.” Nikidas stormed past and plunged into the crowds.
It might have been her imagination, but Lady Tusche seemed in pain. Her hand rested gently against her chest, her breath somewhat ragged, and tension clear in her hands. It proved fleeting though. The woman turned on her heels and entered the sea of people.
Nell reached out in her direction, opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out. She closed her eyes and focused. She called for wisp gently and issued a simple command. Where are you?
Wisp answered. A small whisper accompanied by the glow of a gem at Lady Tusche’s side. With the man whose heart you just broke.