The year began like the past except it had Gem. Our relationship flourished as the first term went on. The new aspects had to be kept in secret, the kissing and the romancing. Kevin obviously knew, so did those who spent time close to both of us, especially when most of them had figured it out before we had. Speaker La’Turge the foremost among them, and he couldn’t even see. That year was probably one of the greatest times of my life. I will not spend much time on it though, as not much worth going into details about really happened.
It was close to the end of the first term and Hari invited me to dinner with him, the pretext was to discuss that summer’s apprenticeship that I would serve under him. I told Gem of it, and she wanted to go. Gem was curious as to what my apprenticeship under Hari would entail, since it had to do with training to become a Blood Hunter. She was receiving an apprenticeship under Speaker of the Chair Christina Artell, her cousin-in-law. She had bgune studying the terribly plain subject of politics. I couldn’t imagine a more boring way to spend a summer.
We arrived together at Hari’s house in the Haven’s. I knocked, and after a brief moment he opened the door. “Your grace,” he said, noticing Gem behind me. “I did not know I would be entertaining royalty tonight.”
“Please,” She said. “I don’t mean to inconvenience you, I was just curious about Dmitry’s apprenticeship; we did do our first one together.”
“She insisted,” I said apologetically to Hari.
“I see,” He said. “Come in, there are seats and food enough.”
There indeed was, and soon we were enjoying dinner. We talked about anything as the meal went on. Hari inquired over Gem’s trip to courts near and abroad. She generally appeared to have enjoyed the experienced of traveling through the three nations. She described the arid and flat climate of Carplentaria, and the mountainous uneven terrain of Jahzn. Bethany had been stricken by the young prince and heir to the Carplentarian throne. Her father had been all too happy to arrange the marriage. Now the two nations were connected.
“I’m surprised your father didn’t find you a match as well, you are of age.” Hari commented at the end of her story.
She blushed. “I think he tried, but he didn’t want to force my hand, he said I had time yet. But that’s not why we’re here.” she said changing the subject. “What do you have planned for Dmitry this summer?”
“Fighting, A Blood Hunter above all else needs to know how to fight.” Hari answered. I raised my eyebrows curious, this sounded promising.
“You’re going to teach him how to fight? And that will get him credits?” Gem asked.
“I told the chair that I would be teaching Dmitry how to Blood Hunt. They all know there is very little more schooling will do for you, Dmitry, and they understand the demands of a Blood Hunter. Sure, I won’t just be teaching Dmitry combat. I’ll be teaching him to track. He knows how to ride thanks to you, but I will make sure that he really knows how.” Hari explained.
“When do we start?” I asked excitedly.
Hari laughed. “When your classes end, I will take you hunting game. You’ll have to ride, a lot, and hard. We will hunt brown bear in the woods to the north, we will ride hard to the Orlo’s and hunt big horn sheep. To the south we’ll hunt the great lions that roam the wastes. All the while, I’ll be teaching you weapons, the bow, the staff, spear, sword, you will also need to know how to fight with your hands.”
I was filled with youthful fury by this point, “Is this safe?” Gem asked.
“Safer than hunting Hemomancers.” Hari explained.
“Gem, I’ll be fine.”
She turned to me then looked away. “I don’t like the idea of you becoming a Blood Hunter.”
“I guess Larissa was right, she had mentioned something about you two,” Hari said firmly. “You two are young, but intelligent, I’m sure you’ve figured out how long the future of such things are. Princess Gemaeve Roan, Dmitry will become a Blood Hunter, and he will no longer be yours, you know that. Being realistic, you must let him seek his future, since it is likely you will not be in it.”
There were few times in my life that Hari managed to upset me more than then. Yet, as I looked at him he turned to meet my eyes, coldly and unyielding, I understood what he said. I swallowed my words and remained silent.
Gem spoke, “Sorry Speaker, but as a friend, he will always concern me. However, we understand what you’re saying. Though, am I not allowed to be concerned for his safety whatever our future holds?” We met eyes for a moment.
“Your concern is expected, as long as you let it be just concern,” Hari stated, the rest of the meal past with more pleasant discussion.
The summer began and my anticipation was not misplaced. Hari and I set out north right after classes ended. I thought I had known how to ride before, but what Hari and I did was something totally different. And the horse I rode was also something else. A grey Courser with a black main bred to run. He was one of Hari’s, Aditi, young and strong. Hari rode an amazing Courser, Ashok, my horses father. He was a lean black beast with a long arching neck and powerful legs. Both horses could run, and that’s what we let them do.
Riding like that is not easy. It takes muscle strength that I hadn’t developed yet, and endurance that I would also have to build. By nights Hari taught me how to fight. At first, with my bare hands. He was as rigorous a teacher as he had promised to be. He had to be hard, he had a lot to teach me in the three months we had that summer. When we reached the Gray Wood, Hari began to train me in the Spear, and staff. They are similar but possessed different attack points. The Spear could also be thrown, an ability Hari drilled into me.
Our first prey was the Brown Bear. Hari explained to me that like the Brown bear, Hemomancers were unequaled and brute power. You could not take one head on and win. So we lured the bear into a trap, we left fresh meat out near a berry patch bears were likely to frequent. We hid down wind and waited. We’d made the trap by hand. It was wooden and would spring up to hopefully pin the bears legs, trapping one or several giving us an opportunity to attack.
The trap worked grabbing one of the Bears legs. Then it was our turn. Hari’s spear flew first catching the Beast in the left shoulder crippling it, making it slow. Then came mine, it caught the animal in the neck and it was soon over as the creature bled out.
We ate bear was we rode east towards the Orlo Mountains. Hari also taught me how to work hide, and I had my self I a nice Brown bear cloak. The Orlo’s were stepper and higher than even I could possibly have fathomed. We reached the cliffs and crags high in the mist in which the long horned goats thrived. we were forced to leave our horses in camp, the horses unable to make the climb. Hari had taught me the bow in our travels east. I preferred the spear as a range weapon, though I was never much of a fan of using either, despite their practicality.
Hari taught me, that like Hemomancer’s the goats were elusive and hard to surprise. His words were proven right, as it took three days of climbing through the misty cliffs to get my opportunity. We found several of them gathered on a ledge, I got close enough to shoot without spooking them. I took aim and put and arrow in the top right corner of its left shoulder. Close to the neck, but not enough to drop it instantly. It tried to flee but its maimed shoulder failed to hold its weight when it tried to climb. It fell hard and far, breaking its neck in the process. I prefer goat meat to Bear. We kept the Horns and Hari claimed the hide.
The ride south was the longest and in the hottest in the summer heat. It was during these warm nights, that Hari introduced me to the sword. Hari called me a freak once; under his breathe during our training. The sword allowed to for me to best show off my athleticism. Though I never beat him during that summer, he complained not subtly about the soreness of his arms after our exercises.
Lion was our next prey. It was the alpha predator that prowled the plains and wastes of Southern Ruaheon. Lion’s lived in prides and protected each other. Hari explained that Hemomancers rarely operated alone. You would likely have to deal with a group of three or more and their blood slaves. Slaves they brought for the use of their blood.
To hunt a Lion we needed to catch it alone, and strike accurately. That hunt had been the closest call. I crawled through the brush till I was in range and drew my bow. I looked down the shaft of the arrow aiming the broad head. Hari followed holding two spears, with a hunting knife on his belt. I had Hari’s sword strapped over my right shoulder.
Our prey was a Lion we’d spotted lounging alone away from his pride. We had tied up the horses and came up from downwind. I took the first shot, my arrow flew true and its broad head disappeared into the Lions thick main. The lion was up in an instant as if undeterred by the shaft sticking out of it. It was surprised and angry. I readied another arrow and fired, planting it in the Lions hind courtiers. It was then the beast found us. It roared and charged. Hari stepped in front of me and hurled a spear. It struck the beast in the shoulder, the same that my first arrow was still planted in. The beast stumbled and fell on its side tearing out the shafts.
The beast was not done yet. It stood injured and raging, not ten feet away. Hari’s second Spear struck it in the flank causing it stumble but the beast maintained its footing and that spear fell lose. I fired another arrow that struck it above its right shoulder. The beast charged as if my arrow had done nothing. Hari drew his knife, a useless weapon I had perceived at the time, so I drew his sword as the maimed Lion closed on me. Hari would tell me later that I should have died that day, but I hadn’t. I meet the lion and with a fateful swing of Hari’s sword, and with the entirety of the Creator given natural ability that I possess. I hacked deep into the Lions neck dropping it a moment before it would have torn me apart. The Lion’s pelt was my favorite, and its meat tasted best of all.
We returned to the Ruah, with two weeks left to the summer. Gem still had her apprenticeship, and I surprised her by dropping in at the end of one of her lessons. If she hadn’t been thrilled by the idea of mine and Hari’s hunting she didn’t mind the results. That night we lay in my bed as she traced the lines of the muscles that I had recently developed in my months hunting with Hari.
For the rest of that summer I drilled and spared with Hari during the day. He even plagued the Glren with me. He was constantly trying to find me diverse sparring partners. Despite my athleticism, most had been training for years not a summer. Where I may have been faster. They made up for it with technique, so I still lost most of my bouts.
The beginning of classes didn’t spell the end of Hari’s training, he still drilled and spared with me whenever we could arrange it. The second term of my third year came to an end. My classes ended two weeks earlier than the non-graduating students to allow for the graduation. There would be no Ball for me this year, arrangements had been made even before the graduation for me and several other students to head north for the High Church of Ruah.
Our Graduation took place on the fields on the church grounds. North of the church a large stage which had been erected. All of the Speakers of the Chair in Ruahden had made it this year, and sat behind the podium. The King was also present, and Gem sat beside him on the Stage. I couldn’t help but smile as I waited with the other Graduates. I was the youngest there by at least two years, my pride did not let that detail escape me, nor that I was the lowest borne. Speaker Goldenend’s voice rang monotonously as he read names, and paused for the new Speaker to mount the stage and receive their Speaker robes. They would then bow to each of the Chair Speakers and the king.
“Speaker, Demetrius Skagora.” My smile was broad as I stepped forward and walked up the slope onto the stage. Hari was there to present me with my robes. Not the robes of a Speaker, but those of a Blood Hunter. I bowed to Speaker Goldenend, Speaker Saving, Hari, Speaker Tenun, Speaker Artell, and then the King, with Gem next to him smiling beautifully,
That night Gem found me in my rooms with Kevin, who was back with Savannah, who was also present. I had on my Blood Hunter robes on, and was on my way to being drunk.
“You’re ready to kill Hemomancers now!” Kevin said as I turned in them showing them off.
“Sharp,” I heard Gems voice, and turned to face her. I had not heard her enter.
“Gem!” I rushed to her, and lifted her into the air and twirled with her. Then put her down and kissed her fully. She kissed back then backed away giggling.
“Stop, let me breath!” She complained smiling. “Come on lets walk,” She said still laughing, “Your leaving soon aren’t you?”
“Hari wants me to spend the day with him tomorrow, we leave the next day.” I answered.
“Then this walk it’s important,” she said more serious.
I nodded, my good mood fading rapidly. I knew what my graduating meant, despite all of the positives, this would probably be the end of Gem and me. We left the building and set off through the Haven’s aimlessly taking side paths. Gem held my hand tightly and it was a while before we spoke.
“I think my father is arranging a marriage with Jahzn,” she said.
I had heard the rumors, after Bethany’s marriage to the Carplentarian Prince, this move made sense. It didn’t mean I liked the idea. “I’ve heard, a bit.”
She nodded. “He wants it, but he won’t force it, he’ll give me time…”
“Gem… I’m going to miss you…” I said unable to think of a better response.
She sniffled, “I’m going to miss you too…” There was a long moment where we didn’t say anything. “Keep yourself safe,” She sounded surprisingly firm.
“I’ll do what I can.” We stopped walking.
“You’ll come back?” She said speaking at the grass.
I tried to think of something to say but couldn’t. I just looked at her for a moment. And then we left going our separate ways.
Tyler W. Golec