Hunter Part 1

I am a hunter, what does that mean? It means that when I show up people look at me with fear and concern on their faces. It means that when the time comes to kill, I’m the person people call to get it done, and not have to worry about it anymore. I am darkness, and shadows, and all the things people fear.

But why would I choose to be a hunter? Some adults look at me with pity. And when I turn my back they wispier. “Look at how young she is, can you believe she has to be a hunter at that age?” I hate pity, I hate it because they think they’re stronger than me–but their not–and they never will be. But there is a reason why I became a hunter so young.

Five years before I was born the world ended. Black clouds sprang up into the air and blotted out the sun. I’ve never seen the sun, the stars, or the moon. Those are just words to me, meaningless. But in this world only power lets someone survive the darkness, and there are only two kinds of power, the power of a group, and the power to kill. The hunters gave me both. 

“Tene, your spacing out again aren’t you?” 

“Sorry Lux, I was thinking about something else again.” 

My friend Lux looked at me with concern as we walked through the Sleeping Woods, a long-dead forest of nothing but lifeless trees. It would have been pitch black with no way to see anything save for one fact. Lux glowed, she was her own light source. The adults called her a celestial, but that word didn’t mean anything to either of us. To me she was just Lux, it was an appropriate name as far as I could tell. But being a celestial was certainly important to other people. My fellow hunters heated celestials, especially the hunters that were born before the disaster that took away the sun. But none of them could give me a good enough reason to hate her too–so I became friends with her instead.  

The other hunters hadn’t figured out that I was friends with a celestial then. And that was probably a good thing, though it didn’t make me feel good like I was hiding my friendship–like I had some reason to be ashamed of my friendship with her.  

“Are you sure about this Tene?” Lux’s face was a mask of blankness. She tended to stare with an intensity that could be intimidating. It was something she had learned to survive in the dark world. Emotions were dangerous and needed to be hidden. But her voice was filled with concern. She was kind, far too kind for her own good even though she didn’t seem like it on her surface. 

“I’m sure, think of how cool it will be to be the first hunter who’s also a Linker.” Ahh words, words that you probably don’t know what they mean. But bear with me here everything will be explained. 

“Yeah but…” Lux hesitated–trying to find a way to express what she was thinking. “All the adults say your black blade is poisonous to Linkers. What if you become a Linker and then just die from your own power.” 

I resisted the urge to put my hand on the hilt of the long sword that was safely sheathed at my side. When I touched the sword it made people nervous, I had been taught that early on by the others. We hunters were supposed to be symbols of safety, of course, that was before the disaster, but the older hunters all believed that the sun would come back and the hunters would reassert ourselves as the main peacekeeping force just as we had been before. 

“I really don’t think that will happen, hunters are resistant to the effects of our own black blades. And besides, aren’t you at least a little bit curious if what Narmin said is true.” 

Lux looked away from me, her face impossible to read. But I was almost certain she was just as curious as I was. The old paranoid man who really hated Lux, had yelled at her to make sure she didn’t go around bewitching people and turning them into Linkers. Words again, words that mean a lot, and nothing at the same time.

“I am, the old paranoid man said I could turn people into Linkers, right? And when he said that something felt right, like I understood what he was talking about even though that was the first time the thought even crossed my mind.”  

“Exactly, so let’s try it, I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.” 

Before Lux could respond another creature appeared from the woods. It was a wolf-like with pure silver eyes with no pupils. That was Alpha, Lux’s Cryptix, I think it’s species is moonlight wolf or something like that. Once it was back safely into Lux’s sight it started to glow a faint blue color, it could glow much more intensely if it wanted. But there was no need to draw more attention than necessary. 

I hope my Cryptix is as cool as Lux’s is. I thought while admiring the creature. 

“Nobody followed us,” Lux said nodding. “Let’s hurry to the hideout.”

We moved quicker than before, jumping over roots and rocks, making our way to the secret base. It was a place that only Lux and myself were aware of. Nobody else in the community knew. Of course, nobody else in the community was willing to risk leaving the safety of the well-lit underground without letting somebody else know they were leaving. As the commander always said that was a “recipe for disaster,” but both of us were born in the darkness, and moving around in it came as natural to us as moving though the woods came to a Cryptix. The adults were so afraid of the darkness that they let their whole lives be dictated by that fear. And that made them all idiots. 

Call From the Aeon

I remembered someone calling out to me. They said something important as well, but I don’t remember what. The voice was warm, parental, but strange and distant, like someone calling to me through a radio with low battery. I remember thinking, it’s time to go. But that didn’t mean anything to me–or at least I didn’t think it did.
So you can imagine my surprise when the dream ended and I awoke someplace entirely different from where I had gone to sleep. A bed of moss growing on shallow rocky dirt. The occasional red, blue, and purple flower sprang up from the moss to greet the bright afternoon sun. 

I sat up in a panic looking around to try to figure out what was going on. It was a cave, rocky, and damp. But there was a hole in the ceiling where the sun shone through. My warm bed and blanket were nowhere to be seen. The usual smell of my mom cooking breakfast was replaced by the damp smell of dirt. 

“Mom?” it was a waste of time, I was alone in that small cave. But calling out to her first seemed like the right thing to do. Maybe I had sleepwalked right out of the house and she was running around frantically looking for me. But if a place as cool as that cave had been anywhere near my house I would have found and explored it already. 

I wasn’t wearing my pajamas either, the comfortable cotton shirt and pants had been replaced by a short purple silk robe, with loose silk pants. It was a little creepy that someone had changed my clothes. 

The cave wasn’t that large, so I could see from end to end without much trouble. The light that was shining in from above allowed some plants to grow. But the light that had woken me up was already fading, the small hole was only big enough for the sun to shine through for a little bit. And the worst part was the hole wasn’t even big enough for me to crawl through. And I was rather small and skinny then. But even if I could fit through the hole there was no way I could climb up the side of the cave since it was slick with mud and water.

I stood up, it seemed too pointless to bother. There was no way out of the room, no door for me to walk through, no hole for me to crawl through. There was no way I should have been able to get into the cave, to begin with. 

There has to be a way out of here. Giving up isn’t something I’m good at. Mom always said that learning when to quit was just as important as spirit and willpower. But that never made any sense to me. 

I took a step forward–and immediately tripped on something. My arms instinctively moved to protect my face. But the ground was still wet and mossy where I landed so there really had been no need. Then the thing I had tripped over started to move. I jumped moving my legs away, as though whatever was moving might bite me. But all it did was arch it’s back. 

I scrambled around to face the other living thing in the cave with me. It was an odd cat-like creature, it had green fur, with grass and flowers growing out of its body so it camouflaged in with the mossy ground almost perfectly. While it was mostly green it had slight blue streaks that moved from the front of its body all the way down to it’s–two tails? Yes, it had two cats like tails instead of one, both of which originated from the same spot on its butt. Its eyes weren’t cat-like at all though, they were a solid blue color with no pupils that made it impossible to tell where the creature was looking.
“I’m sorry,” the cat spoke somehow–though it wasn’t sound that it spoke with something else. I could understand it perfectly, probably better then I understood other humans. “I took a break to photosynthesize, I hope you don’t mind. 

“Wha…?” There really wasn’t a whole lot I could think to say to the creature that shouldn’t have been able to talk, yet did. But after searching for a while I did finally find something to ask. “Who are you?”   

“How forgetful can you be, forgetting someone’s name so quickly, especially after asking them for a favor?”I stared blankly at the cat monster in response. She stared back, her strange eyes impossible to read. 

“My name is Roygi–it’s uhh–nice to meet you.”      

“Well, Roygi you certainly are a strange human. You personally asked me to bring you with me and then somehow forget who I am.” 

“I don’t remember asking you for anything, where are we, who are you?” I’m not usually prone to panic. I’d certainly done stupid things before in the name of adventure. But I remember all of those. “Can you bring me home at least?” 

“Unfortunately I can’t take you home even if I wanted to, we’ve passed the Aeon Boundary, it’s a one-way trip.”
“So you’re stuck here too then?”
“Well I want to be here, I’ve heard there was a spot that was a paradise for monsters like me.” 

I looked around at the small moss-filled cave. It seemed like it might be nice–but I didn’t think it looked like paradise. I must have worn my thoughts on my face because the Cat monster laughed at me. Her laughter sounded very much like a bunch of high pitched meows.

“Don’t worry we’re not there yet–like I told you earlier–once we got beyond the boundary I stopped to photosynthesize. I cannot teleport unless I have enough energy. And even going with the flow getting beyond the boundary is taxing.” The cat monster paused and examined my face for a moment. Seemingly pondering something deeply. “You know, you had said you didn’t want to stop and take a break–when I asked why–you said you had a time limit. That didn’t mean anything to me then, but something seems to have happened to you. You’re different now.” 

I wasn’t really sure what to say to that, was there some other kind of person living inside of me. And if there was why did they want to go somewhere that they were never going to be able to come back from? There were too many disturbing thoughts racing through my head–and I don’t have words for some of them.

“Well, there’s nothing you can do about it now Roygi–so my advice is don’t worry about it.” The plant-covered cat started to lick itself, my mom once told me that cat’s do that instinctually to groom themselves. Of course, that was when I refused to take a bath and she was trying to convince me that it was a good idea to clean myself. I had started licking myself in response–she hadn’t been happy about that. 

Suddenly the cat stopped licking itself and looked back to me. “Since you don’t remember my name is Magicae.” It was a strange name for a strange creature, but then again I didn’t have any right to talk. I was called Roygi for some reason. 

 “Well let’s get going to wherever you’re going to take me.” 

“Come over here and put your hand on my back.” There wasn’t anything else to do or say, so I walked over to the cat and put my hand on her back. This is just the start of my story.    

The Castle and the Lab

The world shook, and she was forced awake as she fell from her oversized bed. Her pet twin tail was already awake and looking around with panicked scared eyes. Its blue and white fur stood on end and its cat-like ears laid flat on his head. It’s two long tails stuck straight up in the air.  

She was still half asleep and couldn’t even focus enough to wonder what was going on. She grabbed at her bed in a blind panic, trying to climb back up as though the bed could protect her. She tried to call for help, but no sound came out of her mouth. Her pet twin tail jumped into her lap and opened its mouth as though it were hissing. But the sound didn’t form.  

Cracks started to appear along the wall and her books and toys started to fly off the shelves. But the chaotic destruction was completely soundless.  

The door to her room flew open and her dad rushed in. He seemed to be trying to shout something at her but she couldn’t hear what it was. And then she noticed—her dad was slowly falling apart. Bit by bit he was turning to dust. He probably would have fallen to the ground already if it wasn’t for his staff.  

The beautifully carved redwood staff with a metal ring stuck to the top. It was her dad’s magic staff. She had tried to borrow it a few times. But he had caught her every time. The staff only kept him upright for a few short moments before the combination of the shaking room and his disintegrating body caused him to fall helplessly on the floor near his daughter.  

Despite everything, he smiled at his child reassuringly. And placed his staff gently in her hands. When the staff left his hands, his body started to fall apart even faster. He said something—but she still couldn’t hear, and then he touched her face one last time before turning to dust.  

Then the cracks in the wall started to form fissures. The room was splitting in half somehow, and the side she was on drifted away from the rest of her home. She could see the rest of the castle she had lived in all her life slowly crumbling to dust. Even the ground underneath it seemed to begin crumbling away to nothing….  

She opened her eyes. The same dream, she had dreamed about it every night since it had happened. Her dad’s staff was laying on the bed next to her. She was still in her room, but it was split in half with the open side facing out into the world. When she woke up half of her family home, half of the castle she had grown up in, was gone.  

Her families castle had been built into and through a mountain that sat on a sort of peninsula that extended out into the ocean—or had anyways. The other side of the mountain was a wild forested area that was filled with wild Cryptix, dangerous monsters with a strong connection to magic. Of course, her pet twin tail—or rather her familiar—was a Cryptix as well. That was important for some reason…. 

She had wandered around the half of the castle that was still intact. But she was the only person there. All the servants, and staff, and the advisors were all gone. The empty castle felt lonely even though there was only half as much castle. Luckily the kitchen was on the side of the castle that survived, unfortunately, the generator had been on the other side. All the refrigerated food had gone bad within a few days. Or at least she thought it had been a few days, she had been stuck in a daze and couldn’t even tell how many days it had been.  

She looked over at her staff that she had been clenching since her dad had given it to her. The staff was the sign of her dads’ power, the power of the Philosopher King. Whoever rightfully held the staff ruled the lands of Lomus.  

 So that means what exactly? she thought as she squinted at the staff. She hadn’t been able to think clearly since the castle had been torn in half. And then all at once, her dad’s words came rushing back to her. She clenched the staff and jumped to her feet panicking like someone who had overslept. 

Of course, with my dad gone that means I’m the Queen now. And dad always said a ruler never lazes around when there’s work to be done.  

“Dual, we’re going,” the twin tail was lazing around on her bed with the same distant look that she had just moments before.  

“Meow?” it asked confused. 

“I’m the Queen now, and you’re my familiar, we can’t just sit around all day.” 

Suddenly the fog cleared from the monster’s eyes and it jumped onto its four feet. “Meow!” It seemed to understand.  

“Come, let us go survey the damage to the kingdom.”  

She ran out of her bisected room and down the stairs to the lower floors. And then she stopped for a moment and realized that she was still wearing her pajamas—no queen could be seen walking around in her PJs.  

She ran back up the stairs as quickly as she could and back into her room looking for something appropriately royal to wear. After a few moments, she settled on a black and red robe and a pair of red pants. Her dad always seemed to have his royal robe on even when sleeping. She figured she probably wouldn’t go that far. She even put Duel’s collar on. It had a lovely golden crown ornament hanging off of the black studded leather.  

Once dressed she dashed down the stairs once more and onto the castle’s main floor. Her faithful familiar followed her, easily keeping up. The dark castle made it hard to see, the generator was gone and so none of the lights were on. They had converted from simple torches hundreds of years before. But her ancestors had wanted to keep the medieval aesthetic, so they hid the electronic lights along the edges of the ceiling.  

But she had her dad’s staff, and that gave her the power to solve a lot of problems. She focused her energy into the staff and tapped the ring at the top. The staff lit up like a flashlight, casting shadows that danced along the floor and walls of the castle.  

“Meow?”  

“I’m the Queen now Dual; I have to find out what happened to my kingdom.”  

What she had seen when the castle split in half made no sense. She had to figure out what had happened. Her dad had tried to tell her something before—before—before. But she couldn’t hear him—or couldn’t remember. She wasn’t sure…. 

It’s my responsibility now, I’m in charge. So, I have to do everything I can to fix it, she thought.  

She had an idea of where to start. Before—the thing happened. Her dad had been spending a lot of time in the magic lab hidden under the castle. She hadn’t been allowed in that lab, though her dad never told her why. She figured the lab was the first place to check—it had nothing to do with the fact that there wasn’t anybody to stop her and she was curious.  

She walked down the hallway by the light of her staff. And came to the heavy wooden doorway with the sign that read “forbidden, authorized personal only.” The door was made out of a special kind of wood called dusk wood that was supposed to keep magical energies from passing through. She understood that she was actually really knowledgeable about magic. Her tutors were always impressed with how quickly she picked up new information—especially since magic was not an intuitive subject.  

“Alright Dual, we’ll have to be careful once we go here. You’re not going to be able to teleport in there.”  

“Meow?” Dual looked at the door confused. And then he disappeared with a flash of light and a strange vibrating sound. Then there was a loud bang as Dual reappeared comically pressed up against the dusk wood door.  

“Why do you do these things?” she asked her familiar after it had peeled its self-off the door. She shook her head and pushed the heavy door open, she had to lean into the door with her whole body to get it to open since she wasn’t strong enough to open it like she would an ordinary door.  

The door opened onto a long stairway that extended down into the depths of the castle. She had spent a lot of time coming up with ways to sneak down there in the middle of the night. But she had never been able to pull it off. She shook loose the thoughts in her head; it didn’t matter at that point. She was going to see what was in the lab very soon anyway, no point in getting lost in her past shenanigans.  

She started walking down the stairs. She was expecting dust and spider webs littering the stairwell like a haunted house. But the stairs were almost too clean, sterile, it was part of a lab after all.  

When she reached the bottom, she gasped, the castle had split perfectly in half, exactly halfway through the lab. Tables were cut in half, teetering on the edge. Beakers and other lab tools that sat at the edge were also cut in an unnaturally perfect way. The lab opened up into a cave system of some sort. The strange circular pattern of the caves made it look like something had tunneled out of the lab and deep into the earth.  

Human-sized glass cylinders ran along the left side of the room, specimens floated in some sort of green fluid in each of the cylinders–different types of Cryptix. A strange black and green bird with a long tail, a crow with a unicorn horn, a rodent with pine needles sticking out of it’s back, a tiny lizard with pixie wings. All with their eyes closed and unmoving save for the bob and sway of the liquid. 

“Let’s see,” she said looking at all the different monsters. “That one’s a pixdragonia, that’s a cronacorn, and that’s a pinmartin. But what’s this one?” She couldn’t figure out what species the weird black and green bird was. She looked to her familiar for guidance–but he was trying to bat at the pixdragonia through the glass as it flouted around in the strange green liquid. She sighed and went back to examining the lab. 

There were scalpels for cutting things, and syringes for injecting things. Thermometers, beakers, goggles, forceps, and crystals scattered here and there. 

It’s a Cryptix lab, she thought with some surprise. I thought there would be some big cool magic thing down here. 

There was one odd thing she couldn’t figure out right away. In the middle of the room there was another glass cylinder, but that one had been bisected with the rest of the room. And there was no sign of the Cryptix that had been in there. She found it strange that all the other monsters had been in tubes along the side of the wall, but there had apparently been just one at what would have been the exact center of the room. 

A little disappointed that she hadn’t found a cool magic weapon she sat down on a chair to think. There were no notes or books of any kind in the lab that might help her figure out what they had been doing. Her dad was a meticulous note-taker, so that was odd. But his notes could have been on the other side of the lab when ‘it’ happened. Some of the crystals might have been knowledge crystals, but she doubted any Elementalist or wizard worth their salt would just leave knowledge crystals laying around. She searched her brain for one of her dad’s lectures. He knew everything about magic, so there had to be some reason. 

“Magic is divided into three categories,” she said mimicking her dad’s stern lecture voice. “Magic from above, drawn from the stars is called elementalism. Magic from below, drawn from the Aeon sea, is called wild magic, and magic drawn from Cryptix is called Auramancy.” She giggled, amused at how accurate her mimicry was. 

“Oh,” she said in her own voice. “So then if this is a magic lab with Cryptix in it, then they must have been studying Auramancy.” 

“That’s right,” she said in her dad’s voice again. “Auramancy is the weakest form of magic, however, Cryptix are plentiful so it’s the most common type of magic.” 

Magic users all had different gifts. When she first started using magic, Dual had appeared seemingly out of nowhere to help her cast her spells. She remembered that her dad had frowned since that meant she was an Auramancer, and he didn’t seem to like the art. He didn’t even have a familiar of his own. Of course, she was the daughter of the Philosopher King, so just a few weeks after Dual appeared she also learned elementalism.

“People who can use two kinds of magic get special titles. Since you can use both Auramancy and Elementalism what does that make you Sylvy,” she said in her dad’s voice. 

“Ouhh, ouhh,” she said waving her hand in the air as though there was actually someone else he could pick on. “Someone who uses both elementalism and Auramancy is called a wizard.” She really liked the title even if her dad seemed disappointed about it sometimes. 

In her mind, she was now sitting in a classroom with her dad drawing complex diagrams on the chalkboard. It was halfway between memory and something she was imagining. She wasn’t sure if her dad had ever given her a lecture exactly like that one. But it didn’t seem to matter. 

“Exactly, and someone like me who can use both elementalism and wild magic is called a…” 

“A thhuu–a thhuu–thhuutmaterg,” she said struggling over the complicated word. 

“A Thaumaturge, you had the right word in your head so I’ll count it as a right answer.” Her dad said with a wink. 

“Now someone who can use all three kinds of magic is called an Archmage, but there hasn’t been someone like that since the first Philosopher King way back at the founding of our kingdom…” 

“Dad you missed one,” she said interrupting him mid-lecture. But her dad just looked at her confused. 

“What’s the special title someone gets if they can use both wild magic and Auramancy?”

“Oh–someone like that hasn’t existed in thousands of years. But it is said that the shamans of old could use both Auramancy and Wild Magic.” 

She opened her eyes, trying to clear away the rest of the strange fantasy from her mind. She had everything she needed. The strange secret lab was an Auramancy lab. They were researching the innate magical powers of Cryptix. Her dad had taken a special interest in that project, which seemed odd to her. He didn’t seem to like Auramancy that much. Why would he be so interested in Cryptix research? 

Then again, she thought. Maybe they weren’t researching Auramancy. She had a lot of different magic tutors, but all of them agreed that Auramancy can’t be forced, the power of a Cryptix can only be drawn upon when the monster consents. 

She starred at the monsters suspended helplessly in the cylinders for a few moments. Is there a kind of magic that can draw power from monsters forcefully. If there is that would be horrible. Her teachers had always said that humans and monsters needed to work together. Well except for her dad–what had he said? She couldn’t remember for some reason. 

But–for some reason, she didn’t really understand, it didn’t seem right to keep those Cryptix sealed in those class cylinders. So she walked over to the release valves, and one by one began to open them. The valves hissed and protested as the liquid started to drain out….    

Perfect (Micro Story)

“For some reason I will probably never understand. It was more important for you to be right then to be helpful. So yes, you’re correct, in the most technical of ways, for the most technical of reasons. I will admit that your technical precision, and technique are more impressive then I’ve ever seen.”

“But that’s not what you asked me.”

“You wanted to know why everyone hates you so much. So I’m telling you now even though I know it’s hard to hear.”

“You never share your correctness with anyone. You horde it for yourself greedily licking up every last drop, as though your thirst will never be quenched.”

“Every Facebook post, every tweet. Seemingly the hottest of takes. Carefully thought out and considered so no one could ever find fault in you.”

“But believe it or not–people forgive fault, and imperfections. They can empathize with those. But this strange obsession you have with always being right. People struggle to understand why. I struggle to understand why.”

“Perfection is beyond our ability to understand. So your perfection, fake as it may be, is incomprehensible, and strange. So people look away in disgust.”

Words from the Road 6

My brilliant strategy was quickly formed,
To distract and deceive would be my goal,
I picked up a rock that lay nearby,
And with a swift pitch let it fly.

The Starlight Wolves looked away,
Their natural born instincts leading them astray.
And then I chose a gap in their number,
And ran through it.

They didn’t have much time to react,
But react they did,
bitting at my heel as I flew by,
Forcing me to greet the Earth with my face.