I awoke before the dawn that next day. I checked my packs and saddled Aditi. After securing everything I passed him over to a stable boy to lead him to where our Glren awaited us. I began my climb up the High Church of Ruah, heavy white church cloak over my blood hunter’s robes. I’d left my new long sword with Aditi.
The sun was just becoming visible on the horizon of the great plain that stretched from the heart of Ruaheon till the Ross Wood and Eliar Lake. Beyond them rose the Orlo mountains. On a clear day the Orlo’s would appear like a small light blue ridge in the horizon. Hexla had started her climb before me but I met up with her as we entered Ruah’s Spire. She never acknowledged me so I didn’t her. I knelt before the great stain glass window that looked east out of the High Church. The sun slowly beginning to light them up as we said out prayers, casting Hexla and I in gold, warm reds, and oranges. Finishing I stood and looked to my left were Hexla knelt still in prayer. I left her there and made my way out of the church and back down the tiers.
Waiting for me by the gate were three Glren. Orion, tan rough skinned and prematurely graying blond hair, lowered his head in respect at my approach. Luke, who was almost as tall as me, broad shouldered and grim faced, had a short beard and short cropped curse black hair. He lowered his head ever so slightly in respect. Abalyn, the third, had wild brown hair was held out from her face with a single thin strand of leather. She was young and pretty. Large brown eyes and full lips. She greeted me with a bright smile and eyes that smiled brighter. She bowed respectfully like the others.
“Speaker Demetrius Skagora. Orion sile, It is a pleasure to be hunting with you.” Orion said when he straightened from his bow.
“Younger than I thought he’d be,” Luke said almost to himself. “Luke Ryu, a pleasure,” By his tone that wasn’t likely the truth.
“Abalyn Fadella.” Abalyn said much more friendly. Their gazes then shifted behind me. I turned to see Hexla coming up to us. They all bowed to her as they had to me. Orion’s was the same. Luke’s was somehow shallower. Abalyn was a tad more formal.
“We’re ready,” Hexla said. She took the reins of her sleek brown mare from the stable boy. She mounted and the rest of us did likewise. The Ross wood was nearly a month’s ride towards the north east. Ross was the city was nestled into the northern end of Eliar Lake in the heart of the Ross Wood. Farmer’s roads crossed the plains and connected the numerous farming and ranching settlements that populated the area. They were not the smooth well-kept Boreas Road. Or even the cobble stoned Church Road. The going would be slower through them.
We road our horses gently as the five of us made our way along the church road. We had received sparse cheers upon our departure by those out at that early hour. And upon the road, we received praises, blessings, and salutes from those who watched us pass and understood our purpose. By midday we were off the Church road and heading north on the Boreas Road, we quickened our pace and were entering Maia by third bell. With perhaps three hours of daylight left that was it for our travel that day. I was disappointed by our progress but it was Hexla who got to set the pace.
She led us to a large triple story Inn named, The Sweeter Sister. Hexla passed over her reins to a groom and entered the Inn. After taking care of Aditi myself, I strapped my long sword over my right shoulder and made my way into the Inn. The place was fairly crowded, though the seating in the main room of the Inn was still plentiful. Hexla, Luke, and Orion, were seated in a far corner of a room, Abalyn was seated alone near a small stage where a minstrel played his lute. I found myself moving to sit with her. She looked out of place amongst the town’s folk in her Glren plate armor. I must have looked just as odd in my blood hunter robes. She turned to me smiling, more with her eyes than anything else. they were her most animated feature.
“Do you like music?” she asked as I approached.
I nodded to her. “Yes, very much.”
“Can you sing?” she asked.
“By Ruah no, can you?”
“A bit, I bet you can sing, all pretty boys can sing.”
I raised a skeptical eye brow. “Well, I can’t”
She laughed, and her eyes glistened. “This is your first blood hunt, right?”
“Yeah.” I took the seat next to her.
“Well, I heard they only get exciting at the end, this is my first one too. Been fighting though…”
“Where?” I asked curiously.
“Flora, some Lunatic raised a rebellion of other Lunatics. They scared the local people so the locals told us were they were hiding. We took care of them, Luke was there, I fought with him, he’s is actually the reason I’m able to be here.”
“He’s quiet, and stern looking, but he’s a nice guy. Don’t let that face fool you. He’s also a devil with the sword. Took twenty of those crazies himself.”
“What are they talking about?” I asked.
“Maps, that’s why I’m over here, maps are boring, music isn’t.”
“Oh, should I go over there?”
“I’d rather you didn’t. They were just planning camps I think.”
“Oh, I think I’ll stay, Hexla is bad company.”
“A good portion of you Speakers are, think you’re the will of Ruah or something like that.”
“Most of us are fine.”
“Maybe, maybe it’s just the ones I’ve met. You seem fine though.”
“Thank you, you’re quite pleasant for a Glren.”
She laughed. “Turning this around on me now?”
“Maybe, I have met some sour Glren.” I said with a smile.
“I’m sure you have,” She observed me for a moment before she spoke again. “Can you even use that sword? Most Speakers who carry one can’t”
I smiled. “Want to find out?” I said toying with its hilt.
She laughed. “Not now, tomorrow maybe.”
“Tomorrow then,” I said with a smile.
“As good as it may be that you may actually swing a sword around with some ability, it would be better to know what you can do with the Quatane.” she said feigning seriousness.
I smiled. “Alright, don’t move,” I lounged back in my chair and began to speak. I began with creating seven small flames that hovered like a crown around Abalyn’s head. I then had them begin orbiting her. Faster and faster till her head was crowned by a halo of rotating fire. I then leaned forward, and began speaking exotically in the Quatane, words and phrases I’d mastered that most Speakers had no knowledge of. I began to pull strands of the halo apart and changing their color. I did this till Abalyn’s Halo of fire appeared to be made of seven different strands of colored fire intricately woven together. A strand of blue, a strand of yellow, a strand of green, I strand of red, a strand of purple, a strand of silver, and a strand of gold.
All these colors radiated off of Abalyn’s eyes. Her face was a bright smile, our eyes locked for a long moment as I put the finishing touches on her vibrant halo of fire. It was then I realized that the music had stopped playing and that Abalyn and I had an audience. I lounged back again, a broad smile on my face. I spoke one last phrase in the Quatane and the Halo of fire erupted away from Abalyn in a flower of vibrant speckles of fire that vanished as they fell. The room burst into applause, even the minstrel applauded us despite having interrupted his show.
“Well Dmitry, that was fun. Perhaps not too useful but fun. I’ve never seen a speaker do something like that before.”
I shrugged. “A lot of Speakers can’t do that.”
“A little proud of yourself.” She said tauntingly.
I was about to reply when I saw Hexla and Orion moving towards me. Abalyn followed my eyes and saw them too. Hexla didn’t look impressed by my display.
I was on my feet by the time they reached me. I had a couple inches on Orion and quite a bit more than that on Hexla. I’d found that my height could make me intimidating.
“Dumb boy,” Hexla greeted me.
“A Speaker should know better than to use the words of the Creator for entertainment!” Orion growled at me.
I ignored him and addressed Hexla. After all she was the one who held the leash. “I was simply demonstrating my abilities with Speaking.”
“You defile the Creator’s words with such simplicities.” Hexla replied.
I looked at her amused. I knew she knew how complicated it was to do what I had just done. I was also certain she hadn’t understood half of what she had heard. “Sorry Speaker, would you want to display something not simple?”
She sniffed. “Orion.”
The broad man went for my wrist which I snapped away. I turned towards Hexla to retaliate but she spoke first.
“We’re going upstairs, Glren, you too,” Hexla said addressing Abalyn, who went to follow but I spoke up.
“What I did wrong? we are allowed to speak in public, just not to harm…” Hexla interrupted me
“You were speaking fire.”
“And I didn’t singe a hair on Abalyn’s head.” I knew arguing wouldn’t help any, but Hexla was bothering me.
“We are Blood Hunting, Speaker.” She seemed to at least remember that I was that. “Attracting attention is not wise.”
I nearly laughed. By now the other patrons of the Inn had given us our own corner of the room and were doing their best to ignore us. I saw Luke striding towards us slowly. Close enough now to hear the conversation.
“Look at us, everyone in this town knows who we are!” I said gesturing to our robes and the Glren‘s armor.
“You are too young!” Hexla growled.
“Hexla,” Luke said coming up behind her. “I’ll talk to the boy,” I looked at Luke. His stern face met mine, hard and unyielding, impossible to read.
Hexla scowled at him. “What will you do?”
“Talk to him,” Luke answered. “Boy, let’s go for a walk.” he turned and began to walk away. I saw Abalyn’s urgency and decided not to push this anymore, and Luke didn’t even appear to be waiting for me. I was forced to rush to catch up with him.
I came up next to him as we stepped outside. “What?” I said, prompting him to speak.
“Speaker Dorian isn’t a poor Blood Hunter.” He spoke, “She may even be one of the best, more kills than even Speaker Atique in the past several years.”
I snorted at Hari being compared to her.
“I don’t mean to compare them. Ten years ago, I hunted with Speaker Atique, after the Jahzn conflict. He usually doesn’t hunt with any other Glren than Darien, and I only went with them because I had squired under Darien and he trusted me.” He answered. “But we aren’t talking about Speaker Atique. I’ve hunted with Speaker Hexla before, and though I may not agree with everything she does, it’ll be easier on all of us if you don’t step on her toes.” He put the last bit very carefully.
I shrugged. “Is she really that good?”
“She’s killed many Hemomancers.” Luke answered. “She finishes Hunts, do what she says and do not fight her. Also fighting Orion would be a foolish move he’d crush you like a slug. He’ll do whatever Speaker Dorian says. He loves that woman as a divinity, and he does not like you.”
“Already?” I asked.
“I’m not a fan either,” Luke said calmly. “You may have been told that you’re the greatest thing since Tonajuar Marquette, but you haven’t proved anything to me, or any of us yet. That was a pretty little display you gave, but that doesn’t prove anything to me. And unless you can actually use that sword don‘t carry it around like you mean to.”
“I can use it, if you need me to prove it to you,” I said, meeting his eye. I was just slightly taller than him, but his shoulders and arms were nearly as thick as my legs.
He looked at me and for the first time I saw him smile. “You are a piece of work boy.” his fingers absently stroked the sheath of the sword on his waste. I drew mine to back my words.
He shook his head. “Dumb kid. That‘s live steel, don’t twirl it around like a children’s toy. If you’re that eager to spare then we‘ll do this some other time, not here.”
I frowned a bit and sheathed my sword. “Tomorrow then?” I asked, “If we make camp somewhere out of the way?”
Luke nodded. “Perhaps, come on boy, let’s get back inside.”
Being called ‘boy’ really chaffed, especially since despite his firm expression and hardness Luke didn’t look that old. I guessed without his beard he may actually be quite young. “How old are you?”
He looked at me curiously before he answered. “Twenty Eight, why?”
“Nothing, so you were close to my age when you served with Hari,” I said.
Luke gave me a queer look but he didn’t say anything, we just walked into the Inn in silence.
Tyler W. Golec