Hunter's Tale

I see my first target of the day outside the convenience store. It’s a young Turned, which isn’t as adept at hiding compared to the older ones. I can see the twitches in his face and eyes that give him away, in the shakiness of hands that he’s not yet used to using. If I were a cop, I might think he was going to rob the place, but I’m a Hunter,I stay out of his line of perception and wait for him to make his move.

I remember the first case I had as a Hunter. We all do. It’s like a rite of passage for us, when we claim our first prize. Even though it happened centuries ago, her face is still clear in my mind. We must never forget what we are, why we do what we do. If it ever becomes too easy, we become part of the Fallen. So, I remember her, and honor her freed soul by doing my job.

The Turned sense me. He can’t find me, which is one of the advantages we have over them. I can see his eyes glowing with hunger and anticipation. Part of me wants to tell him not to try it; I’ve taken hundreds like him. But I stay silent as the Monk prepares his staff for warding.

The Monk has always struck me as a curious figure; a constant companion-my only one-, for which I’m grateful, although I do know a few other Hunters. He’s been at my side since the beginning, advocated for me when it looked like I might have Fallen, and been my right hand. He’s the closest thing I have to a true friend, which makes for an odd relationship. Still, we’ve always made an effective team.

That partnership comes into play as the Turned finally sees me and begins to manifest. The ordinary people around us don’t see it-that’s one of the unwritten rules of our endless war; both sides try to avoid letting the mundanes see us if we can help it. Our battles can be intense, but they are personal, isolated one-on-one fights.

The Monk points his staff at the Turned. Its tip glows from the soul trapped inside. It’s begging for release, and the Turned scoffs at it as he readies what he thinks will be an easy killing blow: a demonic two-pronged attack.

I remember the day I was called to be a Hunter. I was a low-level knight, a mercenary, hired to help defend the Knights Templars from the princes and bishops who were jealous of their wealth and influence. I was captured and sent to Spain to be burned at the stake as a heretic. It was on the day of my death that I met the Monk, who showed me the choices I had; to burn, to go into limbo, or to serve as a Hunter. I have followed that path ever since.

I unfold my shield to block the Turned’s first attack and unsheathe my sword. The blade was forged out of metal blessed by Saint Eligius. Its aura lights up like a flame as the Turned tries another attack.

“You think you can get this pathetic soul from me?” he cackles, eyes glowing like coals. “I’m in charge, not you, ghost!”

“No, you’re not.” My response is calm, my voice purposely low. It’s a bit of theater, but it can be very effective, especially on newly Turned, like this one. I’ve earned a reputation, and now he realizes just which Hunter I am as he falters.

That gives the Monk and I our opening. I swing at him with my blade, a broad, single stroke that causes an explosion of corrupted psychic energy. The fight is brief by the standards of some I’ve had, perhaps not as “epic,” but the victory is ours and will be duly noted by my superiors. I see the soul, now free, drawn upward, into the Light. It doesn’t thank me, but I can sense its gratitude. 

“Just doing my job,” I tell it, as the Monk collects the scattered, fractured remains of the demon that had been inside the body, which, now no longer controlled, collapses into vapor. The negative energy flows into the Monk’s staff, where it becomes balanced by the staff’s own positive force. 

Around us, the mundanes in the store go about their business, never knowing of the fight which just took place. It’s a lonely path for both of us, but this job is done, and it’s time to move on to the next one. Because we both know there will always be another.

Collective Realms