Blowdart, darts, a very long metal string and a dagger.
She never carried much equipment, her body was most of the equipment she ever needed. The mist was no longer dark now that the sun had risen over a lack of clouds. But as clear as the weather got, you could never get rid of the smog, not with all the industry surrounding the forest.
She took a deep breath of the morning air, her mind fresh and her muscles rested. She felt like she could run forever and so waited not a minute longer.
There was no need to bid farewell to anyone, or if there were, she was not aware of it, she left as everyone else slept.
A normal body would be too tired to make the long run she was planning to do but the Hunter had honed her physical attributes to perfection, or as close to it as she could discern. No one could match her stamina and no one could match how silently she could move.
She avoided the traps on her way out, having to worry about spotting them all the way to the last sentries.
It was only after a few minutes that she thought it was odd she had not spotted the ones patrolling the inner perimeter.
Must improve my senses still, she thought to herself, disappointed.
However, she did find the final sentry, the one guarding the outer perimeter, but it turned out to be a terrible find. She skipped her feet into a stop as she noticed a dangling leg on top of a branch. Walking closer, she went around to look at the sentry, finding him staked to the tree.
The weapon was odd and not very recognizable to her, it looked like a very big nail, almost the size of a chest. The blood was dripping off the dangling leg, fresh and running. She looked back towards her tribe in tense realization.
We are under attack!
She had not missed the sentries in the inner perimeter, they had been taken out! She frantically searched the floor for the dead man’s spear and once she found it, she sped up running back to Mother Superior.
How is this happening?!
Her heart was at her throat as she ran, no longer avoiding the traps but either jumping over them or triggering them because she knew she could dodge them.
No one knows we are here, she leaned under a stake and then vaulted over a big hole into sliding under two colliding trunks. Our sentries are perfectly located, she span to avoid a burst of arrows. At one point, a rope grabbed at her foot and tried to pull her but she swiftly waved the spear across the ground, cutting the rope in that one movement and wasting only one second.
Even that slight loss of pace made her more nervous.
The ground is too riddled with traps still active, how is this happening?!?!
And if they had approached from that direction, how had she not passed by them? She then saw the sentries of the inner perimeter; two bodies huddled into a bush. Why they had not bothered with the other one, she didn’t know, but that was a mistake they would pay for.
Much of the people were still asleep, scattered around the big tent that was Mother Superior’s home, in their own smaller tents. Or they were in the open air, beneath the layer of trees above. No one was alert and she did not see any signs of attack. She didn’t understand but she felt she shouldn’t alert the attackers, or even lose time yelling.
She rushed straight for the tent. A covert attack always tried to start with the leader. Someone else was there, however, not Burto.
She stopped, breathing much more heavily than she should be.
“We are under attack.”
“What do you mean?”
And right then, it happened. The ground shook, but so much less than an earthquake would cause. She feared it, she feared the beasts had arrived there. How could they have been so fast as to travel half a continent?!
What emerged from the ground, waking up pretty much everyone else, was a machine. Well, first its drill, massive, easily the size of a vehicle, tore through the ground like a worm.
The drill then disassembled into hands as the rest of the machine pulled itself out, looking humanoid. It was made of cheap metal and steel that were rusted and differently colored, all bolted together haphazardly around a mess of exhaust pipes and small contraptions.
At one point, she could see parts of it had been taped together. The feet were track wheels and the hands had half of the drill but were already changing form to the sound of loud cranking. The drills opened to show what she could only describe as small cannons. As if a wrist opened all the way up to show a hole that was the hollowness in its arm.
The head was a transparent dome, glass, and it showed someone inside. The glass was so dirty, however, that it was hard to discern any physical features.
Suddenly, a noise surged out, a high pitch mechanical scream that quickly dissipated, giving way to an audible broadcast. The voice was skewed by the quality of the sound which that was reverberating it beyond already having a bad quality.
“Hello? Yes, okay, it’s working.”
That was definitely not the beasts. But its presence and impact were almost as bad. The smog the pipes were creating were already thick, she could smell it. The noise, the destruction of the soil, that thing was as invasive as it could be. She noticed however that if it weren’t for the audio system, it would have been quiet enough that they wouldn’t have woken as it handled the sentries. She hadn’t seen any holes around them however, she would’ve spotted something ot that size.
“We are Led by Anarchy! We will see civilization crumble! We will witness organizations brought to ruin! Surrender yourselves to chaos! And to the will of those more evolved!”
There was an awkward pause within which more people, some groggy others already alerted and wielding weapons, came out of their tents to circle the machine; all the while, the person inside motioned excessively, producing clanks and smacks and whirrs.
Something in its massive arms flashed with light and suddenly the tips, that the drills had moved to uncover, ignited with fire.
And like that, chaos was abruptly let loose. People screamed in pain and yelled out orders, the speaker, that the man had apparently forgotten to turn off, filled the air with his grumbles of concentration.
“Stay still argh,”
“Fan out! You three, go to the well! You four, go to the river!”
“No not left! Argh, turn right!”
She held her spear high and focused on the dome. Maybe she could slay the pilot.
“Throw your spears! Get the pilot!”
“Damn this thing, I told them we should’ve tested it properly before…”
She saw arrows fly, rebounding or getting stuck to the machine in a not very promising way. She looked over the machine as the man next to her ran off to fight, trying to find a weak point.
“Where’s the dash?! I know we had a dash!”
She soon found herself alone, trying to find what part of the mechanism would perhaps unravel at least a portion of the machine if it were hit. Everyone else was doing their best but the torso of it could rotate at any angle and the pilot was doing a good job of keeping anyone from getting too close.
The flames burned on, trying to catch on to the ground and tents, as well as some people, but with the weather so thankfully moist and everything so wet, she doubted anyone would die. Tents woud burn up but they could always make more tents. Burning away trees and bushes was the real problem.
From behind her.
She turned towards the big tent, facing the closed flap that was the entrance the guard had been standing in protection of. Her mind came to terms with her hearing.
That was mother!
She had never realized how scary the maze of fabric was until she was running across it with a long forgotten fear. A fear that had an impact she was not used to anymore. The bent flaps of the tent, cut and sliced to make halls and rooms, all differently colored or more dirty than the others, twisted before her. At every second, at every twist and turn of those halls, the Hunter would think to see her, every moment her heart pumped faster and more out of control.
“You let her go, you bastard! I’ll gut you like the rat you are!”
Othinia. Othinia’s by her side!
Hunter came in next to her. Othinia glanced very momentarily at her but Hunter did not find that need. She stopped in surprise as she saw the scene in the center of the large portion of the tent that was Mother Superior’s room.
Burdo was on the floor, bleeding and passed out, not necessarily in that order. The bed of leaves was bloodied and messed up and Mother Superior was being held up by a small weapon to her neck. Behind her stood an evil, disgusting man – though in all honesty, that was perhaps an opinion made biased by the way he was holding Mother.
“I said remain cal–Hunter?”
Objectively, he simply looked like a miner. He was wearing weird mechanical goggles, as dirt-infused as every other speck of his body. From the messy spiky hair to the common brown shirt and pants and especially his old dusty coat; there was a hole behind him, on the ground, man-sized and freshly excavated, with a platform just on top of it, four brace-like metallic things keeping it steady. It was cylindrical, with a clearly half-open capsule built up on it.
She looked at him like she wanted to kill him, because she did, and he became a lot more anxious. His weapon, some kind of drill with a pistol-like trigger, pushed against the skin of Mother Superior’s neck.
“Let’s all remain calm,” he said, aware he could never defeat one of them, let alone both.
“We will find you, Mole, we will hunt you down and make you pay for doing this!”
“You will do no such thing,” he casually said, unworried despite shifting eyes, “we have her. And we will kill her should you in any way aid the Shadow Conclave, or anyone else, in their efforts against the beasts.”
“Are you mad?!”
“My life weighs nothing when compared with the whole world,” Mother Superior protested as he pulled her into the capsule. Hunter was nowhere near an expert on technology, but she understood what was about to happen.
“You better hope it do-augh!” She head-butt back against the miner’s face.
The goggles made it so that it hurt her a lot more than him, though what she really wanted was the push, and she got that. He held on, however, and threw his weight back. It nearly wasn’t enough, it wouldn’t have been if hitting the goggles hadn’t disoriented her somehow.
“NO!” Othinia ran, apparently having decided death would be preferable to kidnapping. Hunter, however, couldn’t think. Let alone decide anything.
She saw a dagger bounce off the capsule as it closed and then saw the four braces whirring with the sound of saw blades, they had saws at their feet and the were now working, quickly cutting through the thin layer of earth that was keeping it up.
“NOOOOOO” Othinia dove and grabbed it but got little else than scraped skin and a deep cut across the face of her left arm.
The machine fell down through the hole. It just dropped, at roughly the same velocity a heart can drop. Hunter knew that for a fact right then.
It was happening again.
“You bastard, I won’t let you!” Fueled more by anger than thought, Othinia drew two daggers and jumped feet first into the hole.
The hunter was still staggered. She had yet to have processed the shock of all that was happening.
People, fellow human beings, had found out where they were. They had attacked and kidnapped Mother Superior, all with the desire of helping the beasts, the would-be slayers of all mankind.
She had been taken. And now Othinia was gone and her oldest lover stood most likely dead. They had no meaningful leadership left.
It was happening again.
She stopped seeing the hole and the sound of the fighting dissipated, or more accurately, it morphed. Everything morphed around her senses to take her back, the emotional déjà vu bringing back vivid memories of her time at her tribe.
“Stay still, don’t fight back, this is how you live.”
She shuddered to her core, her now extremely cowardly core. She saw the throat tearing, she saw the head being bashed against the trunk of a tree. She tasted the raw flesh and felt her teeth rotten.
The bone crackling, the silent, desperate gasp for life…gone unsuccesfful.
“If they taught you anything it was to survive,” Mother Superior’s voice surged out of nowhere, out from inside her. “But you can’t get anything out of that. It’s good when all you want is another chance, another day, but bad any other time.”
She blinked. She shook her head, the voice of her mother in her mind.
“Stay still and don’t fight back if you want to survive. But if you want to live? That’s a lot more complicated.”
The familiar room refocused around her. “Worth it, though.”
She pushed away her déjà vu, bit by bit, she grabbed every piece of sensorial memory that was breaking her down and threw it back into the pile she had buried deep inside the recesses of her mind.
She clenched her fists.
There are a hundred warriors in this Guild. If she can be saved, they will accomplish it.
She looked back towards the exit and frowned the tears away.
I’m the Hunter.
She ran out.
I am the best treasure hunter in the world.
She left, everything was a blur. She told someone about what had happened inside, the heavy flame-throwing machine had returned underground, they had apparently managed to wound the pilot but he had still escaped. Or she.
The Hunter went on.
She will be disappointed in me if I show up to save her. She will be disappointed that I didn’t fight for–for…
She passed by a corpse, one of the sentries.
She frowned harder and shook her head, she would not cry.
For the world.
She would make her proud.