|Regal Blood: The Birthright Genesis
Author: blueheartstone4 PM
Learn the origins of the legendary beast hunter whose adventures shift the fate of the world.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Fantasy - Chapters: 12 - Words: 48,126 - Reviews: 8 - Updated: 01-10-13 - Published: 12-27-12 - id: 3086471
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Alive and unshackled."
"Nature." Garret cursed and brushed a branch out of his way, "The more I see of you the more I want to leave." The tall, lanky elf trudged through the Hollowglade forest with resentment. The scrawny hare hanging from his belt was all he had to show for the work of an entire afternoon.
"Folks aren't meant to live like this." He grumbled and brushed his stark white hair from his eyes, "When I get back to the city I'm never eating rabbit again. Ever!" he glanced down at his gangly catch, "Not like I've eaten that much of it anyway." He sighed and fantasized out loud, "A big slab of tender steak, a giant wedge of cheese, frothy beer, roast potatoes..." he continued listing comforts of the life he recently was forced to abandon -temporarily... he hoped.
He walked into the tiny clearing where the rickety little shack he'd built stood uncertainly near a flowing brook. Inside the structure was his bed roll in one corner, a fire pit in another, and odds and ends strewn about the floor randomly. Tidiness was obviously not his strong suit.
He tossed the dead hare over near the fire pit and dropped his quiver and bow near his bed and let out a long, mournful sigh.
"Firewood." He cursed, "Knew I'd forgotten something."
He kicked the door open to demonstrate his frustration and stalked out into the dusky forest. As he'd gathered all the stray wood surrounding his house, he ended up taking a short walk before he found any.
His arms were nearly full when he spotted something unusual in the forest floor. He set down his load of firewood and approached a large drag mark- no; it was far too deep to have been something dragged. It looked more as if something had struck the earth at such high speed it dug a trench as it came to a stop.
He saw perhaps twenty feet away a large pile of earth and roots at the end of the long furrow. Curiosity overcame him and he approached.
"I wonder." he licked his lips thoughtfully, "How much a star from the heavens would fetch me." He jumped as he recognized a human arm protruding from the heap. He shook his head, "Not a star then." he said, disappointed. He was turning to leave when the arm moved! Torn between running for his weapons if it was a zombie and running to help if it was a person in need, he stood for a moment in shock. How could someone survive such a landing? His better side took over- not a common occurrence- and he ran to the mass of earth and began clawing away to free whomever was inside.
He unearthed the head and torso of a large man- not altogether human judging by his pointed ears, yet not elf either by the look of his scaled brow and arms. Whoever it was, he'd obviously been through more than falling from the sky. The unconscious man's face and arms were torn to pieces; his whole body appeared to be blackened and burnt all over. He had no sword, nothing on his person- yet he looked vaguely familiar somehow.
Suddenly the body jerked and one of the thickly muscled arms shot out and seized the elf's neck.
The elf shouted in shock and terror as the wounded man grasped him painfully tight and stared with wild, frantic eyes.
The elf coughed and choked. Realizing it would be futile to attempt escape from the iron grip, he held his arms out wide in a gesture of peace. The grip loosened, he suspected more from loss of consciousness than from trust.
"I'm not here to finish you off, don't worry." He said as reassuringly as possible, "My name's Garret. I'll expect to be paid if you live." He dug the rest of the dirt and roots off of the unconscious man and found his legs were as torn and burnt as the rest of him. "You look like you tried to milk a fire-breathing Minotaur." He spoke, shaking his head. He tried twice to move the man, but was unsuccessful both times. "This is what you get for being so bulky." He said to the body, "Can't help you if I can't move you." He stood and cast about for ideas.
It was fully two hours later and well into the night when finally he managed to drag the man on two long branches back to his cabin. Rolling him inside was no small feat, but he had no time to waste resting since he still had to go back for the firewood.
Soon he had a blazing fire and a pot boiling away above it. Garret used the hot water to clean the wounds of his guest and tore up an old shirt to serve as bandages.
"Lucky for you," Garret shook his head ironically, "You got burned so bad it seared most of the wounds before you bled out."
After all the wounds were treated, Garret sat down near the fire and heartily dug into his dinner. He chuckled. "I've been hiding out here too long. I must be getting all kinds of bored to be bringing in a stranger like this." He laughed to himself and continued eating, turning over and over in his head why this half-dead stranger looked so familiar.
Glar struggled to open his eyes. They felt so heavy and they ached- no, his whole frame ached. He turned inward to discover if there was a part of him that wasn't aching or stinging or burning, but gave up and managed to force open his eyelids.
The light sent stabbing pain through his head. His arm wouldn't respond when he tried to cover his eyes, he was able to merely turn his head away with a moan.
Some movement nearby alarmed him, but he quickly conceded to dying without a struggle if it was a foe.
"Good morning meteor-man!" A cheery voice shots spasms of molten pain through Glar's brain, "You remember me? The guy who dug you out of that crater? Anyway, not to worry, you still have all your limbs, all your fingers and toes, and the fever's gone down. All thanks to me."
Glar wanted to thank him, but his head was throbbing and the words that came instead were, "Please... stop talking."
Garret chuckled and pulled out a small satchel, "Here, I figured you'd need this if you lived. Chew on this."
Glar looked incredulously at the dry bark Garret held forth.
"It's willow bark, don't ask- just chew. Believe me, it'll bring down your fever and take care of any headache."
Glar complied hesitantly- not even trying to hide his grimace from the bitter taste.
"You're lucky I had some," Garret assured him. "If we were within ten miles of a decent tavern, that stuff would be looooong gone." He ended with smirk.
Glar rubbed his temples, "So where am I?" he asked, a little fearful of the answer.
"Just about in the middle of Hollowglade forest."
Glar did some calculating in his head, "Where is the
Anturi Monastery from here?"
"That weird place? That's where you come from?"
Garret momentarily tossed in his mind whether or not it could be possible for them to be teaching people to fly in the monastery. Ridiculous. "It's about two miles as the crow flies, but that huge rock between here and there makes it a six mile walk."
Glar sighed, "I've got to get there now." he said determinedly and attempted to stand.
Garret watched in amusement as Glar stood for a split second before collapsing -and made no attempt to prevent the fall. He laughed, "It's going to be a couple days before you can walk, let alone fly again."
Glar made it back up to the bed and sat wearily, cringing in pain, "Fly? Why do you keep-?"
"I found you in a crater with a trail the length of a king's escort."
A spasm of pain shot through Glar's head as he recalled the conditions of his present situation. A surge of dread washed over him as he wondered if any of the Anturi monks who'd challenged the demon survived the encounter. Then his face went red and his heart swelled as he thought of Vegrance's betrayal and the sudden fate she met. He forced it from his mind and shook his head.
Garret observed the inward turmoil and couldn't help but ask, "So what did happen to you?"
Glar didn't want to talk about it. He lay back without a word and closed his eyes.
"I think you owe me just a little explanation since I did save your life and all." Garret prodded.
"I helped unleash an ancient power of the abyss and then tried to take on the largest Cauroth known to the nine hells." Glar stated and rolled over, signaling that it was all the explaining Garret would get.
It was two days before Glar was recovered enough to travel. Those days were spent in avoiding conversation as much as he could. His conscience pricked him deeply; he felt very indebted to Garret, but at the same time he was too ashamed and angry at himself to thank him. Which fact made him more angry and ashamed of himself, so he decided not talking was the best course of action.
"Sorry I don't have any supplies or weapons to send along with you to be charitable and whatnot." Garret shrugged as they stood outside the small shack.
"You've done enough." Glar waved it away, "Just point me in the right direction and I'll be your burden no longer."
"Right," Garret pointed, "Pretty much just head south east and you'll run into the cliff sooner or later, then just make your way around it and you've found that monastery place."
"Many thanks." Glar nodded and walked away. Once again his conscience pricked him hard and he turned, "If ever I can return the favor- anything at all, seek me out." He nodded again and walked away.
Garret waved half-heartedly and sighed. "Wait!" he called suddenly, "You never said your name!"
Glar didn't stop or turn, "Glar." He shouted, the name resonating in his mind.
"Glar?" Garret repeated disbelievingly, "The dragon hunter? You're Glar?!" seeing that he wasn't going to respond, Garret shook his head and threw his hands up in the air, "The famous dragon hunter. Of course that was the famous dragon hunter Glar. Gaa! I could've asked for lots of payment!" he shook his head. "I have no kind of luck at all."
Glar grit his teeth as he thought of the long walk ahead. How painful it was to walk didn't help his outlook in the least. At all cost, however, he was determined not to think of Vegrance.
How she used him from the start. How she played his emotions like a hand of cards. How she didn't have the decency to even kill him outright when she no longer needed him but instead tried to trap him in a cave. And then she had the gall to attempt seducing him to join her.
He hit his forehead with his fist, cursed under his breath, and tried to not think of her anymore.
Every step was a test of willpower. Every muscle, every joint hurt when he moved. He reluctantly drew out some willow bark he'd saved and began chewing, muscling past the awful taste. It was not long before the pain dulled and he was able to quicken his pace.
It was easy to find the giant rock where the shrine of Anturi stood, where he had a few days ago been hurled from by the fire blast of a giant demon. He began the trek around the cliff after a short rest and felt his heart sink with every step.
He didn't know what to expect. A very small glimmer of hope clung to life in his heart that the monks were able to kill the demon or send it back to the abyss. But he knew at best they were still holding it at bay. And here he was, no armor, no weapons, still recovering from wounds sustained and on foot, hoping beyond hope to make it back in time to help contain the beast before he destroyed everything.
Nothing could have prepared him for the devastation he witnessed when he finally came upon the monastery- or what was once the monastery.
The moonlight played dismally over the gruesome scene. Smoke still rose from some of the rubble. Bloodied and burnt bodies lay strewn everywhere. There was not a building left intact. Glar could see some movement here and there.
Abandoning every thought of his own pain he ran to the nearest living person. A young monk knelt on the broken stone road and cried with a demon child in his arms.
"He came after the children." He said to Glar, "Only the children, everyone else he killed… were just in his way."
Glar looked at the wound across the monk's neck and chest and decided it was not fatal, "Where is the grandmaster?" he asked.
The young monk clutched the child's body closer, "He came for the children." He sobbed.
Glar looked about breathlessly. There was a small structure erected at the base of where the large chapel once stood. It was constructed mostly of sheets and timber and looked extremely unstable. Glar could see a small group of people outside huddling around a fire.
As he approached, several of them stood. Glar was immediately on guard, thinking they would blame him for the massacre. But instead he was met with hopeful smiles.
"You've returned!" one of them welcomed him joyfully with a respectful bow, "We all hoped you survived the encounter- so few of us did."
Glar was a little confused, "Why did you care?" he
thought he sounded rude, though he didn't mean to be, "No, I'm sorry." He stammered, "Did the grandmaster survive?"
The monk bowed and led the way into the long tent. The other monks made a path and bowed as he passed, which confused him even more.
"The grandmaster did survive," his guide explained as he led the way through a sea of wounded monks lying on straw in rows on the ground. "He sustained considerable injuries, but he will live, thank Anturi." He held his hand out and gestured to a curtained area.
"Anturi, yes." Came the old monk's voice from behind the curtain, "But moreover thank Sy'voxaagnor for his bloodthirsty hatred for his tarnished bloodline."
Glar drew back the curtain to see the grandmaster reclined on a small cot wearing more bandages than he could count. A small candle sat on a battered end table near him. Even covered in wounds and burns, the old monk looked strong and alert and held a kind of dignity Glar had seen before only in his late mentor.
"It lifts my spirits to see you well." The old man nodded.
"Alive." Glar corrected ruefully.
The monk smiled, "Which, compared to how we all assumed you were, is quite well indeed."
Glar let himself smile in response- amazed that the grandmaster could entertain levity in his present circumstance.
"After the explosion, we couldn't find you." the old man explained, "I sent men around the spire in case you had been blown off the cliff, but they were unable to find you. Mercy, it seems, provided another to care for you." He gestured at Glar's bandaged side.
"I don't understand," Glar said earnestly, "Why waste so much worry on me? Am I not the one responsible for all your suffering? For the massacring of those children? For the complete devastation of your entire monastery!"
"You are not." The grandmaster replied evenly, "It was, in fact, the child I raised. The girl who lived her entire life under my instruction. How can I blame another when I am the one responsible for her? How can I blame a man who was merely trying to assist a lost girl?"
"If I hadn't, none of this would have happened."
"If." the grandmaster snorted, "The most useless word I know. If. It is simply a way of dwelling in the past to avoid dealing in the present. Clear your heart of all your 'ifs' and think of your actions now. I am not here to judge you nor am I here to forgive your mistakes. All that matters is what you choose to do in the moment. No one asked you to help us on the mountain top. And certainly no one asked you to come back. And no one will blame you should you choose to walk away. I thank you for your effort in our behalf. You fought bravely to defend people whom you did not know. Now it is time for you to put all this behind you and continue your journey."
"No." Glar said as if it were a reflex, "I won't walk away from this."
"No man can tell another what to do." The grandmaster said unemotionally, "What do you plan to do?"
Glar looked about. His first impulse was to dart out the door in pursuit of the demon, but his compassion told him to stay. "Bury the dead." He replied, "See to some shelter… Then kill Sy'voxaagnor."
To his surprise the grandmaster began chuckling, "How I wish to be young again that I may have eyes that see only the end and not the journey between!"
Glar didn't understand what he meant, but respectfully took his leave and gathered any able-bodied monks he could find.
Together they gathered the dead and lay them out in rows in the huge courtyard. There the elder monks blessed their passing as Glar and the others began digging so many graves that the cemetery behind the chapel was nearly doubled. Many tears were shed as all the little children of demon descent were laid to rest, then the brave monks who died in their defense.
Looking at the extra, empty graves, a monk laid a hand on Glar's shoulder saying dolefully, "Don't worry, they will be needed in the days to come."
Once the ugly business of the mass funeral was done, Glar led the work in building a more permanent shelter.
Chopping and hauling logs was practically second nature to him for all the years of his childhood spent in the wilderness. They worked quickly and in five days a long, open cabin big enough to house the sixty or so survivors was built behind the remains of the library.
On the fifth night Glar sat in the lodge near the large fire with the grandmaster and a few others.
"None of us can thank you enough for the services you've given to us, complete strangers." One of the elders bowed to Glar.
"No service I offer could ever redeem me." He returned, "It's not over until Sy'voxaagnor is in the ground with his murdered bloodline."
Some mumbling came from those all around.
"How do you expect to kill the demon?" the grandmaster asked inoffensively.
"Who better?" Glar asked, "I've killed dragons larger than he. They breathe fire, they have claws and fangs, and they taunt and jeer. There is no difference! There is no reason I shouldn't be able to kill him!" he sounded confused by his own declaration.
"Your mind is clouded and full of doubt." The grandmaster told him, "To defeat evil in any form, a man must be confident and unwavering in all things."
Glar doubled over and held his head in his hands. He had become more confused and angry with himself every passing day. He had cast over and over in his mind why he hadn't been able to kill the demon. He had the training, the skill, the talent -why had he not slain it?
Without saying a word he stood and stalked out of the lodge. Walking in no particular direction, he found himself climbing the steep trail up to the shrine. How could he have been so gullible? He hated himself for helping Vegrance, for trusting her. He hated that he was unable to kill the demon before it got loose. Never before had he run from an enemy- no matter how big. He ran... ran! He retreated when he should have stayed and fought.
Now the monastery was destroyed, countless monks and children slaughtered and who knew what else in all the time the demon had been loose in the world.
Lost in thought, Glar was surprised to suddenly reach the top. There stood the shrine, half destroyed and surrounded in burnt trees. Glar walked bitterly past the giant hole in the ground where Sy'voxaagnor had clawed his way to the surface. The front half of the shrine was reduced to rubble which, for some unexplained reason, Glar picked his way through carefully. He didn't know what he was expecting to find, or even why he was trying to get in, but he pushed through the broken rafters and crumbled stone with burning determination. He broke through one final wall of rubble and stumbled into the deathly silent shrine lit only by a small stream of moonlight that found its way through a crack in the ceiling.
His eyes adjusted quickly to the dim light and nearly gasped when he saw the figure of Haliven Anturi at the end of the hall, seemingly, untouched by all the destruction.
Glar approached thoughtfully. The proud cleric stood wielding the spiked mace with the free hand aloft in warning.
"I thought I was like you!" he spoke vehemently at the mute statue, "I end suffering and kill those who cause it! My life has been dedicated to the destruction of evil and now..." he couldn't bring himself to say it out loud. "Look at your followers." He cried mournfully, "Look at all the death and chaos I've caused! I should be dead, not those children!" he collapsed to his knees, "The fault is mine."
"Get up, boy." A voice came.
Glar looked up at the statue in shock, and then realized the voice was behind him. He turned to see the grandmaster leaning on a staff in the hall behind him.
"Falling to your knees is for prayer." He shook his head.
Glar stood as the old monk approached, "Or defeat." He added bitterly.
"Defeat?" the grandmaster asked in surprise and poked Glar several times with the staff.
Glar flinched- the monk was not gentle about it.
"You are alive, are you not?" the old man asked, "You are breathing and standing. Your wrists are not shackled." He smacked Glar's wrist with the staff.
"You cry remorse and admit defeat, but I see no reason. What is done is done. Stop looking to the past and wallowing in your mistakes. They are made. And as for guilt, you had no control over Vegrance's actions- they were hers to make and she chose to use you! But if you feel you are still to blame, there is nothing I or anyone else can do for you. Remorse, remorse." He said almost mockingly, "You can stand here beating your chest and crying remorse till the sun goes cold but it will do nothing to relieve your guilt! If you are determined to blame yourself, do something about it- but be certain you do it for Glar!"
Glar watched in silence as the old man turned and walked out of the shrine, making his way through the collapsed section with surprising agility. The grandmaster's words were puzzling, though strangely familiar in tone.
He took a seat on the floor near a pillar and leaned back, pondering for many hours. He found himself longing for the companionship of his old mentor, his only friend and family.
Glar felt more lost than ever without him now. He chuckled as he realized the old hunter's words would have been similar if not identical to the grandmaster's. What's done is done. Get up. Do something about it.
He raised his head as he realized, "I said it." He stood, "I said it myself! I end suffering I kill those who cause it!" his voice grew louder with each declaration, "My life is dedicated to the destruction of evil I am Glar the dragon hunter! Glar!" he roared his name and the word rang in the pillared hall, reverberating and echoing powerfully, "GLAR!"
He stood in silence, basking in his words and his newfound purpose.
Sunlight filtered through the crack in the ceiling and he realized he had spent the whole night brooding. The morning light stung his eyes as he emerged from the wreckage. It was a beautiful, clear day - a perfect day for tracking a demon.