Passage to Ithorah
"Your timing is impeccable, unfortunately for me," she breathed, wiping the back of her gloved hand over her foggy goggles. Quickly darting to the side, Roeve avoided the swipe from a heavy paw, and launched herself into a crazed run around the creature. The beast's roar followed after her, alerting every other presence in the plains of his chase.
She ran, her hide boots thumping quickly through the plains grasses with heavy paws pounding away at the earth not too far behind. The grass was indecisive, sometimes it was as low as her ankles and sometimes it was as high as her head. It stood neck high at the moment and it was too thick for her to see just where the beast was. But she could hear him plowing through the grasses, and the sound was much too close for her likings.
Roeve wasn't prepared for that kind of creature, which was breaking another Guild rule. She couldn't remember the exact rule number, or the exact terms of it. She just knew she was breaking it, which at the moment was the least of her worries.
Faster she went, ignoring the stab under her rib cage. Her arms swung wildly in front of her, pushing the grasses aside. It was cutting up her skin, she knew, but her bracers at least shielded up to her elbows. And if she had forgone her goggles, she was sure she'd been blind by now.
The Dalteric Plains were a sight of beauty, but its inviting scene was false. The plains were dangerous; beasts roamed the open lands freely, only kept at bay when they lurked too close to the city walls, and wild foliage with razor edged grass. Travelers knew better than to walk the open lands without caution, smartly sticking close to the roads.
Hunters were the only ones who roamed the plains without a care for the guarded roads that weaved through them. They wanted to be sought out by the creatures of the grassy fields. Many of the animals brought in a decent amount of money, some for their pelts, or some for their features; a horn, claws the size of an average man, teeth, organs that could be used for medicinal purposes, and some for entertainment.
Roeve's world turned upside down when she tripped. Her body sailed through the air before she landed on her back, onto stone, she noticed with an internal wince. The travelers who had scrambled out of the way were now looking down at the fallen huntress with mixed curiosity, murmuring amongst each other.
The Roads of Daltera.
She heard the beast roar again as it neared, people around Roeve started to scream and back away from her. The grass parted, revealing the brute as it launched itself into the air to pounce on her. She cringed and moved her arms up as a feeble attempt to shield her face, but the beast never landed.
Roeve looked up to see it suspended in the air, just between the border of the grass and road. A transparent barrier held the creature in place, glowing blue as it flickered around it. The beast struggled, though in vain, for the barrier held it strong.
Vectian, they called the beast. Large brutes that walked on all fours with a pelt the color of overturned dirt, rich browns. Two silver stripes started from their front haunches, running down to their back, and a fat maw with canine teeth the length of her head. Dripping strings of saliva connected the top jaw to the bottom, and a heavy set of red eyes blared angrily in her direction. Its body shook with each deep, shuddering breath that huffed at her face. She fought to keep still as her fingers twitched in apprehension.
The people traveling looked at the brute in awe as it remained trapped.
The roads of Daltera were specialized roads constructed long ago, carefully paved through the high green grasses. Their location was specifically chosen where beast activity was thin. Guards who trained to deal with the monsters patrolled the roads from the gate, to the edge of Daltera. The roads were hidden to a blind eye, but the Zaethians knew how to find them. Outsiders who came by foot, well, many weren't so lucky.
Heavy booted footsteps came hurriedly. The guards.
Roeve moved to her feet and dusted herself off. When she looked up she found herself on the receiving end of two dark glares.
"Hunters," one spat.
The other looked at the beast and brought out a dark cylindrical metal stick. He flicked a switch and the barrier holding the creature sent a shockwave to it, eliciting a pained yelp.
Roeve frowned a little at that. The guards caught her attention again.
"You know better than to lead them to the roads," the one holding the stick scolded.
Roeve glanced between the brute and them before answering, "I was only trying to lose him, I wasn't really paying attention to where I was going."
"Clearly," the other scoffed.
"Every time they cross the barrier, it weakens, and we have to wait for the engineers to come out and fix them. Imagine a barrier that runs on for miles, weakening every couple of paces. It's extremely troublesome and puts everyone at risk until then. I won't have any civilian deaths while I'm on patrol, especially brought on by the recklessness of a novice Hunter. Am I making myself clear?"
Roeve's shoulders slumped a little as she rubbed her arm. "Yeah, I guess…"
The guard nodded and pulled out a small pad and pen. "I'm going to have to report this to Jausep. What's your name?"
Roeve lifted her gloved hands and waved them quickly in front of her. "Oh, no, no! You don't have to do th—"
She sighed dejectedly then muttered, "Roeve Thelle…"
"Thelle." The guard nodded as he scribbled it down and snapped the pad shut, stuffing it between his the white metals of his chest piece. "He'll get the report later today, you can leave. I don't want to see this happen again."
They turned back to the beast and flicked the switch again, causing another electric shock to course through its body.
Roeve watched the creature yelp from the attack. Its red eyes rolled towards her, pain leaking through. She nibbled on her lip when they shocked it again.
"What will you do with him?" She asked tentatively.
The unoccupied guard turned to her, swept his eyes along her person and snorted, "He's going to the Arena. Can't let him go now that he's been to the barrier. Get de-clawed, get his teeth shaved down I suspect. Make it easier for you novices to learn so shit like this don't happen again." The guard glanced at the beast again. "It's too bad, this one ain't so grown. Most likely left his ma a few months ago I'd guess."
"Right..." Roeve responded quietly. The guard turned away from her, leaving her standing awkwardly in the center of the road. The gazes of the travelers finally unnerved her so she quickly spun on her heel and began the long walk on the road to the southern gates for the Lowest District of Zaethius.
Roeve made her way through the large intricate city silver gates. Metal fleurons wrapped around the sturdy bars that ran vertical to the heavy arch of the city's south wall where two guards were posted on either side, one of them leaning against his tall silver spear, his boredom poorly veiled. Past the gates the people bustled about their business. Stalls lined both sides of the wide, dusty entrance street, shop keepers yelling out their wares to the passers-by with enthusiasm. Roeve glanced at a few as she weaved her way through the street, but didn't stop at any.
She was in no hurry. But, she also had nothing else to do but go home. She had no funds to spend and that just made being in the market depressing and boring.
Further along the main street, after a big arching curve in the road, the large Arena towered over all the buildings in the Lowest District. The building was old, one of the oldest in the city. Great vines latched themselves to its tanned stone walls. The plentiful sun allowed for the vines to reach ridiculously high and near the top was where the white florals bloomed, bringing some beauty to the otherwise dusty district.
The Arena, the Hunter's Guild, and bar were the three most prominent buildings in the district, all managed by the even more prominent, Jausep Baenul. There were mixed feelings on the Arena, the higher districts didn't approve. Though Roeve suspected it due to the fact that the earnings made from it—which was notable—went straight to Jausep, who sometimes, when feeling generous, funneled it into the Lowest District funds.
The streets intersected near the Arena and shops multiplied. Everyone was always by the Arena, there was always something going on. The traffic of people caused her to squeeze through and push past, ignoring the annoyed glares that shot her way.
She turned onto the walkway that bordered the street, and curved around the giant Arena to the side entrance where the Hunter's Guild connected. A large, well-kept building, seemingly out of place in the district, with its sleek shale colored stones, covered in vibrant, climbing vines which dangled off the edges of the roof, swinging lazily in the light breeze. Green, diamond shaped flags flapped and whipped in the wind from the columns stationed on both sides of the large, arching guild door. A small weapons stall sat just to the side of it where a few people were lazing about on some benches and tables.
Roeve took in a breath and continued for the looming wooden doors when a voice stopped her.
"Roeve! Hey, Roeve!" She glanced to the benches to see a petite blonde girl wave at her wildly as she sat atop the stone table with a few others. "Come over here! Check this out!"
Welcoming the distraction, Roeve made her way over to the large rounded table, nodding at some of the guild members she knew.
"Geeze, where have you been? Anyway, look at this, Kole found it in one of the caves on the Eastern Hills."
Roeve's eyes landed on a large orange stone sitting just in front of a brown-haired young man. He had both of his arms flat on the table, resting on either side of the stone, as if protecting it from the others. He glanced up at her, a flicker of annoyance passing over his blue eyes, before resting them back onto the stone.
"What is it?" Roeve said as she took a seat at the table. She'd never seen anything like it. It gave off a glow, even in the harsh sunlight.
Kole's eyes lifted to hers again, guarded and angry. But Roeve ignored his look; she was used to his distaste of her.
Davette, the blonde girl, spoke again, "Oh, we don't know, he found it wrapped in a cloth bag wedged in some crevice. Right, Kole?"
"Yeah," he replied simply.
"It's so shiny right? So I think it's just a really big chunk of jewelry! Ha, imagine wearing that. It's like the size of someone's head."
"Doesn't look like any stone I've ever seen," a hunter from her left spoke as he ran a sharpening stone along the curved blade of his dagger with boredom. Zeke, she recognized.
"Me either," another chimed in.
"Who cares! Obviously it's going to be worth a lot of money." The girl nodded enthusiastically. "That's why Kole brought it straight here. He's going to persuade Jausep into letting him have a Guild pass—"
"Davette!" he snapped as he glared at the blonde girl. "You don't need to tell everyone my business, alright?"
Davette's expression dropped a little as she blushed and looked away. "Sorry I just—"
"You're going to try and buy your way into the Guild?" Roeve asked, tilting her head and raising a brow.
Kole's blue eyes went to her shielded ones quickly. "I-It's not like that," he stuttered before sneering, "And it's none of your business anyway."
Roeve glared at him with narrowed eyes, but the look went unseen, as her goggles hid most of her face from the cheeks up.
Zeke chuckled. "Kole, you ain't gettin' in by insultin' the Guild rules. Jausep already said no—"
"He hasn't even given me a real chance," Kole defended. His arms seemed to tighten closer to the stone.
"No? Ten chances in the past year ain't enough for you? Look kid, you just ain't hunter material. Nothin' to be ashamed of, just got to go find somthin' else you're good at s'all."
Kole scowled and jutted a thumb at Roeve. "If she gets in, then I should be able to also."
The male gave him a dry look over his sunglasses. "Roe worked her way in the guild just like everyone else."
Kole scoffed and muttered, "Yeah, worked her way into Jausep's bed s'more like."
Roeve's temper flared and she stood quickly as her hand went to touch the hilt of the dagger at her belt. "What?"
How she wished she could just wound him, only once, just enough to get him to shut-up. Years and years of tolerating his attitude only fueled to strengthen the desire. Such things would not be allowed unfortunately, especially as a member of the Hunter's Guild. She doubted she would actually do it anyway, though the thought was nice at times like these.
He glanced at her blade apprehensively, trailing his eyes up to her goggles. "You heard me Roeve, I'm just as good, if not better than you at hunting. It makes no sense for him to turn me down but give you a free pass."
She glowered but Zeke tugged her by the elbow to plop her back down into her seat, throwing his arm around her shoulders, and leaning forward on the table. "Roe got in just like anyone else, by provin' herself. Don't be startin' shit rumors that got no truth, Kole. 'Sides." Zeke glanced at Roeve with a smirk. "Jausep's an ass to Roeve on a good day, can't imagine him wantin' her like that."
"He doesn't," Roeve remarked bitterly.
"Yeah, whatever…" Kole turned his attention back to the stone, shrugging off Davette's hand when she tried to rest it on his shoulder.
Zeke turned to Roeve then curiously. "How'd your hunt go?"
Her shoulders sagged as she let out a breath. "Not good… it followed me to the Barrier."
Zeke winced as he shook his head. "Yeah, that's no good. Anyone see?"
"Jausep know yet?"
"Roeve!" a deep booming voice came from the entrance of the guild doors. She dared a glance and saw Jausep standing with his arms crossed, shooting a not too happy look her way.
"I think he does now…" she mumbled as she got up and walked over.
Jausep looked down at her as she approached, jerking his head for her to go through the doors and into the entry hall.
She bit her cheek as she did and flinched when the big wooden doors slammed shut behind her, echoing loudly against the stone walls.
"Go wait in my office," he spoke sternly while he passed her and walked through an archway leading to the Arena hall.
Roeve sighed and made her way through another archway between the two sets of stairs. When she came to another large wooden door, she grabbed the handle and opened it slowly.
The room was wide, a big wooden desk sat in front of the large window that gave view of the back training grounds where a few other members lounged. There was an equally big fireplace to her left, and a green hide of a beast resting on the floor just in front. Two chairs sat facing each other, resting atop the hide, but she took a seat in the chair placed in front of the desk.
She pulled her goggles down to hang from her neck, rubbing her face where the goggles had pressed too much on her skin. She knew there were red lines on her cheeks just by the feel of it. Her eyes traveled lazily to the walls. Claws and teeth from various beasts mounted them, turned into art and strange sculptures. All sorts of creatures littered the walls, and hides from the same covering the ground. Bordering the walls stood display cases where Jausep kept his prized weapons. 'For looking, not touching,' he'd say, 'That blade's worth more than even my life, kid. And you know how valued I am.'
The door opened from behind her and shut with a click. Jausep came into her vision as he walked around to sit behind his desk, lacing his fingers together as he rested them on the black varnished surface.
She kept her teal eyes down, biting her lip anxiously.
"Roeve," he said, his voice deep, layered with ire.
"I know, alright! I know," she began quickly as she looked up into his dark green eyes, which widened slightly at her sudden outburst. "It was an accident, Jausep, I promise, it… it… I wasn't even hunting that one, it just showed up out of nowhere! And I ran and it followed and—"
"Roeve," he cut in, impatient. Her words stopped immediately as she looked at him with in trepidation. "Accident or not, I had to hear an earful from the Warden just now, and I didn't even do anything."
"No. No buts, you know better. Everyone knows better. Don't bring them to the damn roads."
"It was an accident I wasn't even trying to go to the roads—"
"But you did and now my ass is hearing all about it." Jausep sighed and rubbed a hand down his face. "Look, did you at least get your catch?"
Roeve slumped down a little in her chair, fighting the urge to slide all the way to the floor and just not deal with him. "Well, no…"
She felt his stare and she slumped a little more. "That's the third miss in two weeks."
"I know…" she murmured as she tugged on her goggles again.
"You're behind on payment, Roeve. Three weeks to be exact."
"I know Jausep, but all I need to do is catch a—"
"I know what you need to do Roe, but you're obviously not doing it. I can't keep giving you chances like this. It looks bad." He gazed at her with no apology in his eyes. "You can work it off in the bar and—"
She shot to her feet then. "No! Please, I swear if you just let me go out one more time I won't come back unless I have it. Please, Jausep? I swear!" she begged desperately as she gripped the edge of the desk with her gloved fingers.
Roeve saw him work his jaw as he looked at her, thinking. A spark of hope fluttered in her chest but diminished as soon as he ran a hand through his short dark hair and sighed again. "Be ready for the afternoon shift tomorrow, I'll let Kea know you'll be taking over for her."
Her expression dropped with her shoulders and her hands fell to her sides as she swallowed. "But Jausep—"
"Go Roeve, I gave you your chances. Make up your payment in the bar, and then you can go out again."
She stared at him then, hurt and disappointed, but he kept his eyes from her, keeping them on his desk.
Jausep; a man she'd known since she was twelve. The face of the Hunter's Guild, a title holder in the Arena, and a right jerk when he wanted to be.
She turned for the door, disappointed in him, thought mostly just disappointed in herself. She didn't expect to be treated differently, she knew not to expect it since he never treated her any different. Some of the members of the guild thought otherwise, though Roeve didn't see it. But her time with Jausep surpassed quite a few of the others, and sometimes she liked to think that meant at least something. It was instances like these where she realized it didn't.
"Roeve," he called from behind. She glanced over her shoulder questioningly. "Do better next time and I won't have to do this," he said quietly.
You don't have to do this, you're just being a greedy jerk as always, she thought.
Roeve gave no reply as she turned back to the door, a doleful frown making its way on her face. When she reached it there was a knock from the other side, and she paused. Jausep asked for her to open it, and when she did she saw Kole, standing there, holding what she assumed was the strange stone wrapped in cloth.
Jausep came from behind her. A flash of annoyance pass over his eyes at the sight of Kole before he covered it with a blank face.
Kole looked between the two of them. "Uh… Jausep sir… I was uh, I was wondering if I could talk to you about something…" His eyes found Roeve's and he added, "Uh… privately, I mean."
Jausep gave a reluctant nod and opened the door wider for Kole who went to sit by the desk. He gave a gentle push against Roeve's shoulder to usher her out.
"Afternoon shift, Roe," he reminded as he shut the door.
Roeve stared at the dark wooden door and let out a small, dejected sigh as she turned, dragging herself up the stairs and down the corridor to her room.
Author's Note: Any feedback will be greatly appreciated.
This has been heavily edited as of 3/14/13
Thank you for Reading!