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 SCRY
  By Jason D. Grunn

 

            I’m getting sick of waiting. I’ll have a trapping expert within the next hour? They should
have extended that estimate by two, or even three. Checking the sun dial on the wall, yep, three
now.

“So, there’s no one else here in line!” I grin wider than I need to, “The guild does need
their pelts, right?”

The black-bearded Dwarf behind the rusting brass bars at the counter just gives me a
shriveled, apathetic look. ‘I’m not paid enough to care about you, please leave me alone,’ the
face says to me. No good making the wheel squeak, eh?

So I enter my patience realm within my mind, cross my legs, and stiffen my back. I have
to shuffle around my massive woolen grey cloak to get more comfortable. If I’m going to wait
for longer, I better keep my mood down. A professional exotic beast hunter can’t be losing her
cool in the lobby of one of the few Trade guilds within the central provinces. I’ve lost big deals
over less.

Still, hurry up before I break something. It’s not like I’ll starve to death should I not get
paid and get kicked out of here.

As if hearing my prayer, the wooden doors at the end of the hall finally open. Two guild
representatives with an excessive amount of clinking bronze chains and brown leather robes,
both human men, both shaven heads, walk on both sides of an elfish man towards me. I stand up
from my stone bench. The three of them stop, and one of the guild men bows.

“Apologies Hunter Scry, we needed a good deal of time making our selection,” he says to
me and then turns towards the elf man, “The Plyus Emsamordium Guild is honored to present to
you Fendenyr, your trapping expert and hunting partner as of today.”  

The elf man gives me a nod and a smirk. He doesn’t seem all that thrilled to be here at
first glance. I look him over quick:
Hmm, at least he has a good build to his muscles underneath that dark and orange tunic,
he’ll definitely need his physique later for the job ahead of us. His white hair is also shorter than
what most elves prefer, with a part separating his hair evenly on both sides. No Jewelry on either
of his pointy ears, which means a lesser chance of frostbite or having a chunk torn out of his
flesh by wild beasts. His thick jaw is accompanied by a big and slanted nose that hooks downwards in the slightest. Too bad he doesn’t have much of a beard, but a simple scarf can take care of cold weather conditions I suppose. Now I stare at him directly in his bright red eyes. He darts them around nervously a few times, but manages to keep his gaze focused on mine after a few seconds. So this one has some spine then. 
 
“Is something wrong?” the guild man asks.

“No, he’ll do. Can we get our instructions now?” I ask.

“Of course,” he says then turns to the dwarf at the counter, “Yurt will hand them to you
once you’re ready to leave.”

Ouch. Getting called by his dwarvish middle name on the job, they hate that. No wonder
he looks dead inside.

“Is there anything else you need?” the guild man inquires. I shake my head. The two
representatives bow, and walk back the way they came. Fendenyr extends a hand to me.
“What are you doing?” I ask.

“A handshake,” he says, “isn’t it customary among humans to do so?”

I shake my head.

“Not with me, I’m not that polite.”

He scrunches his lips and retracts it.

“Then what do you prefer?”

“Nothing for the moment, we’ll talk along the way to our first destination. Do you have
everything you need?”

He pats himself around the waist and one spot on his chest.

“I’m ready if you are.”

Interesting. He’s quick at recovering from awkward moments. Is that a forced reaction or
due to experience? I walk past him and slap my hand down on the counter.

“We’ll take those instructions now. I suggest that you change jobs, might help that depression of yours,” I say to the Dwarf. He just stares at me with that same, droopy apathetic look as he slides the leather pouch underneath a small space in the bars. I leave down the stone staircase which leads to the chilly outside through two massive iron doors, which are kept open at all times during the day. Fendenyr is forced to follow me, as I didn’t say ‘Let’s go!’ or anything like that.

“What is your name by the way? I didn’t catch it,” he says once we’re both outside.

Several of the orange and red trees in the garden rustle and have their leaves shook off by a
strong, cold wind. 

“What are you talking about? It’s Hunter Scry, you heard the guild man didn’t you?” I
shrug.

“I mean, what is your full name?”

I stop and look at him.

“Woah, not a good question to ask.”

“…Why not?”

“Seriously! Don’t you know human culture at all? You only ask a human woman that
when you want to date her!” I give him a disbelieving grin.

“…I am married,” he says with a hardened face. I raise a brow.

“So you’re just plain ignorant then? I hope your trapping skills are better than your poor
ability to hold a conversation,” I say and keep walking. He starts walking to my right.

“And I hope your attitude doesn’t overshadow your ability to hunt,” he says using stiff
words. I start laughing.

“Okay that was a good comeback. But, seriously, don’t ask for my full name again,
okay?”

“If I knew what the act of asking really meant, I would never have bothered,” he sighs. I
grin and give him a tap on the shoulder, he just looks at me with another hardened face.

“I have a feeling we’ll work well together then,” I say and look ahead at the mountains
before us. 

Once I ask him about his wife, which I came to regret, he’s all too happy to talk about her
in great detail. Rystheta is her name, and she loves to play the lyre for him, and she cooks him
quails over a fire–that part makes my mouth water I’ll admit–and her skills with the bow and
arrow are ‘exquisite’ blah blah blah blah…

“What about you Hunter Scry?”

“Just call me Scry please.”

“Scry then. Do you have a husband?”

“Nope.”

“Will you insult me if I ask why not?”

A smelly horse-drawn cart rolls past us along the dry and dusty trail.

“Nah, no need for insults. And I don’t want to marry, really. I love to hunt, that’s all I
want to do, not settle down in some crappy old cottage somewhere and pump out screaming
children. Plus I’m not exactly a fair maiden, you’ve noticed my bulky body build haven’t you?”

He gives me a few glances, then shrugs.

“You seem strong, yes. Is that a problem with human women?”

“It’s a problem with all women. Most men of any species prefer a partner who’s
physically weaker than they are. It’s just a fact. And to be honest, I love being stronger than most
men. Makes it easier to kill them,” I say with a toothy grin. Fendenyr whips his head at the trail,
away from me, and makes visibly uncomfortable movements as he walks. You have to be
kidding me, is that the limit of his toughness?

“Can’t say I expected that. But, in all honesty, that doesn’t make me afraid of you or
anything.”

His voice sounded calm and stern when he said that. Never mind then, I was wrong. Maybe.
“Good, because the things we’re going to hunt, those you should be worried about.”

After a good while of small talk regarding our home towns, mine being a small village near the furthest north of the world, while Fendenyr lived out his childhood in the swampy eastern elfish territory, obviously, we finally arrive at the mouth of the forest that the instructions told us to go. I shuffle through the papers again.

“So the guild wants us to look for our beasts near cave openings, which are higher up the
mountain face,” I say.

“I missed what species they were exactly, are they the Golden Claw Bears or the ones
with three foot horns?” Fendenyr asks. I toss all of the papers in the air.

“Neither. Someone at the Plyus guild messed up the region. The bears you speak about,
those are on the north side of this mountain range, were in the south. We’ll hunt Gnashing Bulls
instead, worth more anyways.”

Fendenyr shoots me a look.

“They are a class two beast. You need a platoon of spearmen to successfully kill even
one!”

“Yeah I know. I’m surprised you knew that!”

I make sure I have enough poison-soaked daggers. One, two, three, four, five…twelve in
total. Just enough.

“I think it would be more profitable, and less deadly for us to travel further north. Actually, we should go back to the guild and demand new instructions!” Fendenyr says.

“This kind of thing happens more often than you think. In my long career, I’ve just made
the most of any mistake I come across,” I explain as I take out my sickle and swish it around to
test the handle, it’s been feeling a little loose lately. I should check out one last thing before we
start.

“You…haven’t been a professional trapper for long, have you?” I ask.

Fendenyr rolls his eyes.

“I figured you’d say that sooner or later. No, I haven’t been one for long. About a year at
the most. Yet, in that time, I’ve brought down a Griffin, ensnared four river snakes, all at the
same time,” he looks at me for emphasis, “trapped a male Shelled Auroch during mating season
in a pit that I dug myself in about a day, and neutralized a class three Berserker Dragon by
pinning it against a cliff side using only lots of rope and thick, heavy logs. And my total list is
much larger than that.”

Nice, he has pride for his work. I have a good feeling today.

“A class three eh?” I ask. Fendenyr gives me a wince.

“What? And I suppose you’ve done better?”

“Maybe, you ready?” I start walking. He starts following.

“Yes–maybe?”

“I killed a class one Dragon by myself twelve years ago.”

As predicted, silence. I sigh to myself. The next part is coming…

“Impossible.”

“Possible.”

“You’re a liar.”

“I’m not.”

“Do you have any proof?” He grins at me. I whirl around and stick the tip of my sickle
underneath his chin, making him freeze in place.

“What do you think my weapon is made of?”

He tries to move away from it, but I hold it firmly in place, forcing him to look at the
blade from an awkward angle. His eyes widen.

“I’ve only seen that pearly sheen once in my lifetime…may I, feel it? With my fingers?”

“Do it,” I smile. He gently grips the blade, and retracts in surprise.

“Heat. I actually feel heat coming from it! It’s made from a Metal Lord Dragon’s tooth!”

I retract my weapon.

“Let me guess, you’ve seen this kind of material at the Uthrail tower in the holy land?”

Fendenyr blinks a few times.

“Yes. Isn’t that where just about anyone can see it? I’m sure there’s more of its kind in
the world though…”

“There’s not. Believe me, I’ve been checking for a long time,” I say and start walking
towards the forest again, forcing him to hurry up and walk by my side.

“Wouldn’t you have more than just one tooth if you actually killed the Metal Lord? How
did you manage to do that anyways?”

“No, this sickle is made from a primal tooth. All the other teeth melted away when the
dragon died, leaving just the one. So I took it and made it into my favorite weapon. And as to
how I killed it, it would take too long to explain it to you.” 
      
“Wait, Scry, with that blade alone you could live like a Prime General for the rest of your
life! Why use it to hunt beasts that are worth worlds less?”

“Because I have to. Believe it or not, but there are worse beasts out there than dragons.
Pray that you never come across one,” I say and leave him with that. I want peace and quiet for a
while. Plus the silence will help us hear the grunts and moans of Gnashing Bulls. Just like I
predicted, Fendenyr picks up on this and begins listening with me as we walk through the thick
woods. A pungent odor reaches my nose.

I whip out my hand, signaling him to stop. I turn my face towards him.

“Start making a trap. I’ll piss it off, then lure it in,” I say. He gives me a nod, then starts
breaking off medium–sized branches from the trees.

“What kind of trap are you going with?” I ask.

“That depends. Do you want to capture or kill it?”

“Kill. You can’t exactly ask a beast to give you its pelt.”

“Of course. Apologies, I only ask that question out of professional habit.”   

I decide to let it go and start walking towards our target.

“Well, whatever you make, just be ready with it by the time I get back,” I say.

From the sound of rocks smashing and water splashing, I’m getting close. Just ahead of
me I feel the cool, moist air of a rushing creek near its freezing point. And the smell, it’s getting
stronger by the second. My nostrils pick up Bull sweat, grassy breath mixed with blood, and
flatulence all combined into one overpowering stench. The first time I smelled a Gnashing Bull
up close, I puked and ended up alerting the beast. Almost died that day. I’ve made it a habit to
carry mint leaves with me at all times since then. I pop one in my mouth just in case and chew it
slowly.

I walk very softly up the hill till I reach the top. I crouch down low to my stomach and
begin to crawl just before the peak. I look over, there it is. This one has fully grown teeth jutting
out from its mouth, each one about the thickness of an average man’s arm. The multiple messy
patches of dark brown on its white coat tells me that it’s won many fights during its lifespan.

One of its four horns is missing, that means less of a gold reward for me and Fendenyr, but if
we’re successful today, we’ll get a big payout regardless. And there’s another one on the other side of the river. Knowing how violently territorial Gnashing Bulls are, I might just have to wait and see which one comes out on top. So I lay perfectly still. 

They roar, kick up big rocks with their heads and hooves, bellow deeply, gnash their jaws
of teeth that can cut a thick tree trunk in half, breath heavily, but so far none of them have made
an actual move yet.

After a while, the competitor on the opposite side of the river trots away. From the look
of it, I’d say that both wanted to attack, but couldn’t due to the depth of the river itself, judging
by how each one tried to cross but decided not to. I sigh in disappointment, this is actually the
first time I’ve seen Gnashing Bulls walk away from each other.

I start moving again, check my thick gloves for any tears or holes, discover none, and then ready a few poison daggers. I keep moving till I’m right behind it on the hill. When its back is turned I stand up, take aim, and throw a dagger at its hind quarter. The Bull shatters the silent air with a blood curdling roar. Connected my first strike.

It whips its head around. I throw a second dagger, and connect my second strike on its
shoulder. It charges. I begin running between the trees to throw it off, it’s not working well. Any
tree that gets in its way explodes into splinters, causing a huge amount of noise within the forest
as the trees that are hit come crashing to the ground.

I have to dive and shoulder roll to avoid being crushed to death by a massive wooden
trunk. I stand back up in an instant and grab three daggers for each hand, and place them between
my fingers. I start waving my grey cloak, taunting the raging beast. Its deep and loud bellow
forces my whole body to shake from the sheer vibrations as it charges at me full speed.
I dive to the right, and let loose three daggers from my right hand. Third, fourth, and fifth
strike connect as the daggers get stuck into the Bulls ribs. Did I get its lungs?

It roars nice and loud. That’s a nope, then. It turns around while still running, forcing me
to jump to the side again, nearly being caught in a huge, slimy set of gnashing teeth. I roll several
times on the ground into a thicker portion of the woods. I start running again, this time, back
towards Fendenyr. He’d better be ready…  
 
The Bull keeps breaking the trees in random places, really, it lost my scent already? So I
stop running, and ready two more daggers. This poison is some top-grade stuff. I’ll have to
remember to go back to the Detrifus guild for a big heaping vial of it. I just hope it hasn’t lost all
its senses just yet, I’m curious to see what Fendenyr has planned.

I stand about twenty feet away from it, and start waving my cloak around. The Bull sees
me instantly, and charges again.

“Right this way ugly!” I shout at it before turning around, and run away at full speed. As
I’m running, I jump and twirl in the air, and let lose my sixth dagger behind me, strike connected
in its cheek. Keep running. Jump up and twirl again, throw the seventh, strike connected in its
other cheek. Run again.

I scan the forest ahead constantly for the right tree or hard surface, I need a wall of some
sort. A large and mossy rock dead ahead, that will do. First, I let the Bull catch up with me just a
tad. The sounds of slobbery teeth chomps behind me. I feel hot, musky breath on my back. I run
up the face of the rock, flip off it just before the Bull hits me, land on its back, unsheathe two
daggers and stab them into its back side with maximum force. Eighth and ninth strike connected.
The Bull bucks me off with a mighty kick, I manage to land on my feet before starting up
another sprint away from it.

After I reach good distance, not too close and not too far, I start running towards the
beast, and ready two more daggers. Just as the three massive horns are about to gut me, I jump
into a ground slide and lay low–then stab upwards with the two daggers into its soft and fleshy
belly– before running again. Tenth and eleventh strike connected.

I have to breath harder now, I’ve lost a good chunk of my stamina. I whip my head a few
times to get rid of the sweat trickling down my curly brown hair and face. I ready both my last
dagger and my Dragon tooth sickle. Is it running behind me still?–yep.

I’m already back where I left Fendenyr. I nod in approval at his hiding skills, even I can’t
spot his orange tunic at the moment. To be fair though, I am being chased by a class two beast,
and don’t have the time to do a thorough search. I hear something rustle in the leaves behind and
above me, then something makes a loud crack.

The Bull howls in agony as it stops running. I turn around and stop. Two massive wooden
multi-pronged spike traps are firmly dug in into each of the Bulls back sides, and a shallow pit of
more wooden spikes keep its underside held down. I have to admire Fendenyr’s work. The
massive spikes are attached to ropes made of grass and small twigs, so they had to have swung
down to impale the bull, my partner wasn’t all just talk then. I gaze at the copious amounts of
fresh red blood pouring from the beast, yet it still struggles more violently than ever.

“Finish it off Scry!” Fendenyr shouts from a tall tree above me, “My trap can only do so
much!”

I can’t see him, but I know where he hid, up a few stories underneath a pile of leafy branches, not bad.

“Don’t need to tell me twice,” I say and take out my sickle, and flip my last dagger around in my hand. I run at the trapped and bloody Bull, jump up in the air, and stab my twelfth dagger down onto its head with all my might, landing on two of its horns with my feet to avoid being impaled by the pit below. Last strike connected. The Bulls facial muscles freeze, then finally, relax. Didn’t even make a sound, that’s almost creepy.

Yet, it still twitches a bit. I don’t worry about it, it’s only residual reflexes. I climb up
onto its back, and position my sickle underneath its throat. This is why I chose a sickle instead of
something more usual like a sword, or even a spear, as I find sickles the best kind of weapon for
decapitations. I slice and pull up at the same time, the Gnashing Bulls head comes off nice and
clean, that’s until the blood starts gushing out.

“Nighty night beasty,” I chime. The Bull body stops twitching completely. I give my
blade a firm whip, spraying Bull blood onto the earthy ground below.

It takes about an hour to remove the Bull carcass from the trap with Fendenyr’s help. I
carefully take out my daggers, clean them, sheath them, and remove the Bull pelt from its dead
body using a short skinning knife that I brought. Fendenyr makes a fire just outside the woods as
I do this. I heave my prize over my shoulder then walk over to join him.

“Are you actually going to carry that all the way back?” he asks as he gathers embers
with a small stick.

“Not on my own, I have you to share the burden!” I smile nice and wide. I let the pelt slide off my back onto the ground before sitting down on a log that Fendenyr prepared.

“I hope the reward is worth all that heavy weight,” Fendenyr mumbles.

“Why are you whining? I had to do most of the work,” I say.

“Creating a trap for a Gnashing Bull on the spot isn’t easy you know,” he retorts.

“We’ll switch places next time, then we’ll see who gets the right to complain the most,” I
grin and pop a fresh mint leave into my mouth. Fendenyr gives me a wince.

“Next time?”

“Interested? You’ve seen my skills, and I know now that yours are top notch. We’d make
a strong and efficient team. Plus, you’ll get paid stupid amounts of gold if you stick around.”

“That’s…well…To be honest I thought you the type who prefers to work alone.”

“That’s only because most people I work with are really bad at hunting. You have no idea
how many necks I’ve had to save in the past all by myself. You though, you’re reliable, and
that’s saying something, believe me,” I say as I wipe off the Bull blood off my sickle in the
grass.

“Then…thank you. Is that the proper response?” he asks. I laugh.

“Yeah, that will do elf, that will do.”

“I need some time to make such a decision however, would you be willing to wait for my
answer once we get that pelt back to the Plyus guild?”

“Fine by me,” I shrug. I hope he takes my offer, I doubt I’ll find anyone else with such
pristine trapping skills.

Then I ask him about his home, and how he grew up. He starts telling me stories how
he’d always makes snares and pits just for fun, as his uncle was the source for his inspiration,
and after a few years of practice, he started to outshine his uncle in trapping. Fendenyr was
labeled a genius by everyone in his village, and some people would avoid or be mean to him
out of jealousy. If someone bullied him too much, Fendenyr would make a trap for that person,
and get them caught in it. That part made me laugh hard. When he turned thirteen, he met his
wife Rystheta when visiting a neighboring village blah blah blah blah…  

That’s when I notice it, the flash of purple lights, just down the hill. I shoot up with sickle
ready. There’s absolutely no way…

“…Scry?” Fendenyr asks.

“Get out a weapon! Now!” I whisper. He stands up, whips out a curved dagger, and turns
towards the threat. A pair of purple eyes pops up from behind a rock. The fire produces a loud
spark, and the eyes dart out of sight. I start running full speed at it.

“What are you doing! Hey!” Fendenyr shouts. I ready a few poison daggers, they won’t
be as potent the second time, but they’ll do damage none the less.

I jump on top of the rock and point my sickle out in front of me, it’s gone. …I was wrong. I feel like something’s behind me-

Sssscccrrryyyyy…

…There it is. After all these years, after so much doubt and searching, it’s here, it’s real.
The beast before me appears as a shiny, thick set of muscles with no fur or hair or anything on its dark purple surface. Its entire body is shaped like a great cat beast, different from how I remember. Those six glowing purple eyes, however, all with bright yellow slits for pupils, are
exactly the same as they were all those years ago. It’s…grinning at me. That’s a grin, as if it’s
pleased to see me again.

I can’t move. My sickle shakes in its loosening handle. So I start breathing hard to try and
unfreeze myself. Then I remember all the pain, all the agony, and all the grief it caused me. I
shout at it with all my might.

Before I can charge, something hits the creature, and releases a cloud of thick, yellow
paralyzing gas. I cover my mouth and get back. The creature slithers away, using its thick limbs
to propel itself along the ground, away from me at an unnatural speed, making no sound at all…

“I will kill you! I swear on my life and everyone you killed!” I scream at it. It stops
briefly, gives me a glance, wiggles its long and strange spiny tail, then slithers away into the
distance.

“What, was, that thing?” Fendenyr can barely breathe.

“I had it Fendenyr, you got in my way with that gas attack,” I say with an icy voice. He
gives me a bewildering grimace.

“It was going to kill you with its tail! You weren’t watching it get behind you–you’d be
dead if I didn’t do something!”

I force myself to calm down with a few deep breaths. Fendenyr is right, I didn’t notice
the tail until it escaped.

“Scry, I’ll ask again, what was that?”

“Well,” I sigh, “I was hoping not to tell you this about me until much, much later. But
that thing killed my entire village thirty years ago in just one night. I managed to hide from it but
burying myself under freezing cold soil, so that it couldn’t smell me or detect my body heat. That
beast is the reason why I killed a Metal Lord to get its primal tooth, that beast is the very reason I
became an exotic beast hunter. That beast is above class one, and I mean to kill it, no matter
what.”

“…There’s nothing above class one, though,” Fendenyr says.

“Remember how I told you that there are beasts out there worse than dragons? That was
one of them.”

“But, what is it? Does it have a name?”

“I have no idea. No one knows. I’ve looked in every single book and scroll that spoke of
rare beasts across the world. Not one ever mentioned it.”

“Are you sure it’s a beast then? I think…did it actually speak your name?”

“It did. And yes, I know beasts aren’t supposed to talk. But I don’t care what it is,” I say
and re-secure my sickle on my back, underneath my cloak, “I will kill it one day.”

I look at Fendenyr.

“So, now you know that, want to hunt it with me?”

 

 

jd grunn

About the Author
Jason D. Grunn is a fledgling writer who loves to write stories, both short and novel length, mostly
science fiction. Whenever he is not working at his lifeguard job or gaming online with friends, he
is writing every day to continually improve his craft.

 

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