The Hunt ((Short story, but reader assisted.))

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The Hunt ((Short story, but reader assisted.))

Post  Izdazi on Sun Jan 27, 2013 11:43 pm

As usual, it was far easier to slow my breathing then steady my heart.   I could feel it thrumming in my chest.  It was an indication and not one to be ignored.   It was a culmination of a week of preparation and study and days of ceaseless pursuit.   It was knowing that this hunt was on the verge of ending.  

I'm determined to make certain it ends in my favor.   My duty… my honor, demands no less.  For weeks this nuisance has plagued the Horde garrison.   Like a coward, it has struck from the shadows of this infernal forest.   It used traps and misdirection.  It favored long distance strikes.  

Night elves.

Pests.  

Dangerous foes hellbent on denying the Horde the supplies it needs to survive.   Land hoarders who have so much, but refuse to give any of it.

Three Stone Guards have been cut down by one of these mysterious nocturnal foes.   Three valuable, powerful and venerable officers and warriors, dead by a coward's arrow.  

Their assassin was a night elf.  There was no doubt of it.   I've seen the arrows. Definitely night elf in form.   And by the subtle design similarities, he suspected they were all from the same one.  

This elf was toying with them.   It thought itself invulnerable to the Horde.  It was mocking them.  

I'm determined to make it regret the day it'd ever opened his eyes to this world.  

For the last three days I've been tracking it through miles of the Ashenvale forest.   I followed my prey north, along the shores of Falfarren River and up through the ridgeline that led through some of ancient ruins.

It was one of the most difficult prey I've ever attempted to track.   The elf's tracks were nearly non-existent.   It carried nearly no scent.   It left no twig broken and no simple tracks.  Only the slightest depressions on the ground revealed its footsteps, and even these were faint, as it was reluctant to accede to the demands of gravity.  

It was in these ruins that I learned that my prey was far more dangerous then I had anticipated at first.   The previous night's rain had left the ground muddy.  Footprints were suddenly easier to follow.  It's as if the elf had given up struggling against the traitorous mud of the land it selfishly defended.  

I followed behind, somehow knowing that I was nearer then ever to my prey.  Like a wolf closing for the kill, I traded my bow for two small axes.  They would be handy for close combat, but I could also throw them accurately.  

I wanted to see the glow of this cowardly elf's eyes dim before my eyes.  

Despite the mud, it was clear that my prey was struggling to make it difficult.   I followed on ahead.  

There was a quiet nagging forming in the back of mind.  A nagging that all my training refused to allow me to ignore.   I stopped.  Something wasn't right.  

Scanning the forest revealed little.  Despite it being day, only the briefest glimpse of the sun's rays made its way through the thick tree canopy.  The contrast being bright spots and dark shadows made it difficult to see much.   Overhead, the birds sang and squirrels darted between tree branches.   Nearly twenty yards away I saw the movement of antlers.  

Elves weren't demons.  The forest wouldn't shy from them.   The tranquility and beauty of this spot were deceptive.

I took another step forward, but the hunter's sixth sense in me began to wail.   Suddenly, I no longer felt like the predator.   Worry crept into my mind and it took some effort to force it down.   Worry was in the mind.   The situation, however, is real.  This place screamed 'ambush.'  

Hanging one of the axes on my belt, I knelt down and grabbed a branch.   Then, I hurled across the trail ahead.  Something snapped and a small bent tree I hadn't notice before suddenly whipped straight across the trail.   Tied along its end were several small sticks that had been whittled to dangerous sharpness.  

The sound startled several birds and caused the forest to fall into silence, but that stillness only lasted a few seconds.  

It was a trap.   My prey had laid a trap for me.   In fact, much to my anger, the trail I had been tracking seemed to end only a few yards beyond the snare.   It was a false trail.  

I feel my fingers tighten around hilt of my axes.  My breaths are deep and heavy.   My jaws clenched so tightly my gums began hurting.   I want to issue a roar of anger.   This elf has made me the fool.  

But as quickly as it began, I imagine myself diverting the heat of my temper into my blood.   I think back to my training.   Roaring solves nothing.   Hurling my frustration at my environment only serves to hurt me.   This is not the battlefield most orcs dream of fighting in.   This requires patience.  

I realize several things.  First, this is not a failure for I am still alive.  The elf's trap has failed and the hunt is still on.   Secondly, and more importantly, I will not underestimate my quarry again.  

Thirdly… my quarry is near.


~~~~  


Rule #11:  Orcs.  They're so predictable.

The only surprise I've encountered is that I was able to take out three of Horde officers over a span of a few days before they wizened up and found someone expendable us to send after me.   This, of course, may force me to go on the move, thus putting a hold on my disruptive little hobby.  

Well, it's not really a hobby.   More like a job.  An assignment, you could say.

But I enjoy it so damn much.   It's so satisfying to see these greenskin invaders panic when they realize that their commanding officer has just been cut down.  Watching the grunts scatter around in a vain effort to look for the asshole that perpetrated this act is hilarious.

Of course, it's not supposed to be fun and games.   Keeping a few Horde units in disarray is hardly the stuff of legends.  I'm just another cog in the great kal'dorei military serving to push these greenskins back to the desert where they belong.  

Serving in the Sentinels was not my idea.   I enjoyed an independent life.  But, when your mother is a respected Sentinel officer, your future is determined for you.  You can rebel against it.  You can run from it.   But fate, you can't run from forever.   I tried.

Then, I got myself in trouble.  I picked the wrong side.  I ended up in the barrows.   During this time, my mother led one of the Sentinel units stationed in Silverwing Outpost.   Like many soldiers, she died valiantly trying to defend it against Garrosh Hellscream's forces.  

Apparently, several other Sentinel commanders owed her favors, so I suddenly found myself with a choice.  Get paroled to join the Sentinels or stay in the Barrow and serve my time, which was quite considerable.  

Between the claustrophobic confines my cell in the barrows and the fact that it was my mother's dying wish, what choice did I have.  

I know I caused her great shame.   I'll try to do my best to redeem myself.

Still, I'm not one to look for glory.   I'll do the tasks I'm given.  If that task means I spend my time killing orcs and annoying their forces in Ashenvale, then all the more better.  

Through my telescope I look down from my perch high above Splintertree Post.  I'm too far to do anything of effectiveness.   I can only watch and try to discern what this eclectic population that makes up the Horde are up to.   Formations come and go.   Soldiers converse in their little corners of the garrison.  Maybe they speak of their loved ones.  Maybe they compare how many elf ears they've collected.  

I see one orc, though.   He's a tall one with long black hair.  He doesn't wear armor, but rather traveling leathers.   There's a long bow strapped along his back and two small axes at his belt.  He doesn't wear the color of any unit, but by the way he salutes, he's most assuredly military.  

So they've sent a tracker just to catch me.   I'd be flattered but this orc's tusks are too white.  Even from this distance, the way he walks lacks the regiment that comes from serving in a military column.   He's young.  Probably inexperienced.  Most assuredly expendable.  

Like me.

The first thing I see this newcomer do is walk to the area where I had dropped my last kill.   The body had long since been removed and there's only the dark stain of blood in the earth that marks my little handiwork.   He stands in that spot and begins looking around.

Unlike the soldiers who had reacted by fanning out into the forest beyond, he looks upward, scanning the forest canopy.   A cold chill travels down my spine when his gaze locks on the tree branch where I'm lying in wait.

I know in an instant that Rule #11 is about to go to pot.   This guy is a wildcard.  He's young, but there's something about him that puts me ill at ease.    

I've melded into the shadows.  There's no way he can see me.   At least I hope.  

To my relief, after a moment's pause, his gaze moves on.   Still, I can't help thinking that he might be a problem.   It's time to move on.  

Rule #14.   There's always some asshat that defies the norms.  


* * *  

My hopes that I was exaggerating the threat this orc may possess prove in vain.  He's tracking me and he's damn good at it.   I've tried several diversionary paths. I've tried doubling back.   I've tried actively masking my trail.   He's still tracking me.

We're about fifteen miles from Spintertree.  I've caught sight of him a few times.  His eyes are set intently on the ground.   He looks up occasionally, but he's still unable to see me.   But he's getting uncomfortably close.    

And here I thought I was better at masking my trail.  

I see an opportunity to rid me of this pest when I arrive at some ruins.   Ashenvale is riddled with ruins.  They're a testament to my people's past and a reminder of what may come in the future if action isn't taken.  

How fitting that I decide to take a stand against my would-be hunter here.  

It only takes a few minutes to rig the snare.   Making the footprints leading to it believable takes longer. By the time I make my way back to a concealed area, he's already entered the ruins.    

I can get a good look at him.   He's assuredly young, but what I took for a casual stride earlier, betrays wisdom.   He's confident and swift.  Someone has trained this young one well.  The lack of scars betrays inexperience, but how he moves, indicates the quality of his training.

I watch in silence as he follows my trail behind a ruined wall.   He disappears from sight.  A few minutes, that seemed more like hours, I hear a snap and the abrupt sound of birds frantically taking to flight.  

It seems like such a waste to kill off someone so young.   Oh well.  

Time to see if my would-be tracker has any goodies I can put to use.   I round the corner of the ruined wall and suddenly duck as an axe flies inches over my head.   I start to step back but the orc presses forward swiftly with his attack.   His fist connects with my left arm, just below the shoulder.   I twist one and slam my elbow into the back of his head.  

We both stagger back and eye each other with blades unsheathed and at the ready.  His eyes are carefully neutral and betray nothing.  He's cold in his fury, which only makes him scarier in my book.   He doesn't roar.  He doesn't bare his tusks.   He doesn't spin his weapon about or hit the ground with it in rage.   He just stares at me and waits..  

Good ole Rule #15.   How I hate you.


To be continued…


Last edited by Izdazi on Sun Jun 30, 2013 11:00 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: The Hunt ((Short story, but reader assisted.))

Post  Izdazi on Fri Jun 28, 2013 1:34 pm

Her silvery eyes are darting about as if she’s trying to find an obvious upper hand in our stalemate.   Though the elf tries to mask it, the miniscule motion betrays the lack of confidence she has for this situation.  

Yet, the way she clutches her knives indicates advance training.   Many night elves prefer ranged attacks and resort to glaives as a last resort.   This one is holding a pair of knives.   One blade is held in a reverse grip, with a blade pointed behind her while the other is held horizontally in preparation of a slashing motion.   Her legs are bent and prepared to spring, but the direction isn’t set.    She’s left that option for me.  

She wasn’t going to run.    I can respect that.  

Despite her demeanor that seemed to announce ‘sentinel,’ she wasn’t wearing their armor or wielding their weaponry.   That doesn’t mean she's not military, though.   I don’t wear a soldier’s uniform.  

She’s not going to make the first move.   I can see it in her bearing.   She loathes fighting up close.   She doesn’t want to feel her blade sinking into my flesh.  

As if this pathetic elf could.   She fights from a safe places.  

I quickly rein in my contempt lest it devolves into rage.   Rage breeds carelessness.  

She’s unwavering in her stare or posture.  For a moment I’m reminded of the deer that inhabit these woods.  They tend to freeze in place when they suspect something dangerous.

I decide it’s time to shake things up.   I shift to the left and charge forward as if to rush toward her.    

Her reaction is as instantaneous as it is perplexing.    Instead of brining her daggers to counter my faux attack, she instead thrust both arms forward in my direction.  With an audible click, two small armatures spring out from the side of her bracers.  

I barely have a moment to react as one of the small bolts launched from the small crossbows in her bracers flies past my eyes.   The other bolt imbeds itself in my bicep.    

I unleash a brief roar of pain before hurling one of my axes at her.   She just barely manages to twist away and rolls on the ground.    I charge toward her just in time to see her throw a rock at me.   The impact on my forehead is painful and my vision swirls for moment.  

I swing my axe blindly, feeling chagrin at the same time, as I hope to keep her away from me.  At least until my vision clears.  

Moments later, when it does, she’s gone.   This time I don’t try to hold back my roar of anger.   The sound of my frustration pierces through the forest, silencing everything around me.  

“<And I thought you were different from other orcs!>” her voice calls out for the first time from beyond the shadows of the forest.   I’m surprised to hear her speaking orcish.  Her accent discloses the discomfort she has speaking it, though.  The sounds of our language rolls off her tongue unnaturally.    I can even detect the distaste she has for speaking it.  

“<Bitch!  You’re just like all the other cowardly elves I’ve encountered!   You skulk in the shadows and are afraid of a true battle!>”  I bellow.   I’m angry and it leaks into the tone of my voice.  I chide myself for reacting to her provocations.  I can imagine the disappointment in my teacher’s face.  

“<You don’t know anything about us, greenskin,>” she replies.  I spin around to face the new direction her voice is coming from only to jump back as two arrows thud into the ground before my boots.   “<The next one goes through something vital.  Go home.  I think your whorish mother is calling you for dinner.>”  

I feel my upper lip trembling in fury at her words, but I quickly resume control of my temperance.   She’s knows nothing of my family.  She’s goading me.   It’s a childish tactic born of desperation on her part.  

Quietly, I retrieve a long coil of strand rope from my pocket and attach one end to the bottom of my axe handle.   The other end I attach to my left bracer.    The rope at full length is about fifty feet.  Although it’s thin, I’ve had its strength enhanced through an enchantment.   You could drag a cannon with it.  

I start to whirl my axe over the head by the rope as I strain to hear or see any sign of my quarry.   Nothing changes for over a minute.  The only sound is that of my axe cutting into the air as I continued to spin it.  

Time stretches on as I wait, but I can sense that she’s near.  It’s not a special power or magic, but merely that hunter’s instinct.   She’s nearby… waiting.  

Again, I revaluate my quarry.   She is relying on misdirection and is banking on emotion to make me sloppy.   I gamble that this means she is also susceptible to such things.  

“<I wonder what the forsaken will do with your body after I bring it back?>” I call out into the silent forest.  “<They were particularly overjoyed with the bodies we brought back from your… Silverwind Refuge is it?>”

There it is!  The sound I have been straining to hear.   The subtle shift of a foot.   I imagine the tension in the forest is becoming as tight as the string on her bow.   I hear the sound again, and this time I have mentally honed in on the area.    With a grunt, I release my axe.  I use the string to sail it in wide arc and pull as it suddenly snags on the body of a nearby tree and begins encircling the tree.   The rope coils around the tree trunk tightly and is punctuated by a dull thud as the axe embeds itself on the opposite side of the tree.    

Then there’s silence.    

There’s no way I’m that lucky.    I pull my other axe and carefully approach the tree.  


~~~~  


When I trained to serve as a sentinel, I was the top of my class in archery.    And yet, it was a damn rock that just bought me the moment I needed to get escape from this orc.  

He’s good.  Fel.    Why can’t I have anything easy?  Just once I wish things would go according to my plan.   But no… I have to get the complicated ones.    

While my would-be hunter is dazed I consider my options.  It doesn’t take much time.   You have to have a lot of options for it to take time.    

I could flee, but this orc has already demonstrated that he’s exceptional tracker.   With the way he’s blindly swinging his axe, I couldn’t guarantee a killing shot with an arrow.  Besides, at this range, he’s going to recover and be on me with axes in hand.  That’s not the time to be with a bow in my hand.  

That leaves one viable option.  Get some distance from him and prepare to finish him from a distance.    

It doesn’t take long to climb up a tree.   All the right footings are within easy reach.  It’s a sloppy climb, though, and if this takes too long, he’ll see the scuffmarks on the trunk.  I quickly hop to two different trees before he recovers.  His roar is loud enough to mask the sound of me freezing behind one of the trees.  

He’s young, but the roar is primal.  It’s also laced with frustration.  

So he’s not completely immune to emotion.   He’s just gotten a lot less scary.  

“<And I thought you were different from other orcs!>” I call out in his language.   I learned a few things in my years in Booty Bay and I figured it’d bother him to hear me speak in his language.  

Rule #23:  Orcs tend to be like gnomish built machines.  If you push the right buttons, sometimes they explode.

“<Bitch!  You’re just like all the other cowardly elves I’ve encountered!   You skulk in the shadows and are afraid of a true battle!>”    

I roll my eyes.   Hell yes, I’m fighting from the shadows.  I won’t stand a chance against him with blades.   I may have scored perfectly in archery, but my melee skills were just barely above passing.  

The anger in his words betrays his rage.  He’s frustrated.   I’m still alive.  

I prepare an arrow and cautiously look down at his position.   Oh, I could kill him.   It’d be so easy.  

“<You don’t know anything about us, greenskin!>” I snap back before unleashing a pair of arrows that land a finger’s length away from his boots.  

Izzy, what the fel are you thinking?  Kill him already! My common sense chides at me.   I find it hard to disagree with it.  

“<The next one goes through something vital!  Go home.  I think your whorish mother is calling you for dinner!>”   I call out, hoping to keep him angry.   Find me an orc who doesn’t get mad about his mother being insulted.

Only, he doesn’t react.  There’s no rage, roar and rampage.  He just stands there, scanning the canopy with his sharp eyes slowly and fiddling with his axe.  

What is he doing? I wonder as I prepare another arrow.  

It’s time to end this.   No more excuses.   I have a mission to do.  

“<I wonder what the forsaken will do with your body after I bring it back?>” he calls out into the forest.  There’s no anger in his tone.  It’s a statement.  “<They were particularly overjoyed with the bodies we brought back from your… Silverwind Refuge is it?>”

I think of my mother, who had been killed along with many other sentinels as they defended Silverwind.  I think of her body that had been left for days to rot on the ground as the orcs fortified the refuge.   I think how crass the forsaken were probably with it as they tossed it on a meat cart.    

My blood boils.  I ignore the warnings my mind screams at me.   Nothing matters.  I just want his head.   I pull an arrow back sharply on my bow and twist my foot in preparation for shooting around the tree.    

Something metallic flashes in the one of the brief shafts of sunlight that pierces the Ashenvale canopy.   Instinct screams and I press my back against the tree as an axe sails past my face.   I feel a thin rope start to press into my chest.  

Impossibly, I see the axe sail by again and another strand of rope presses against my torso.  Then another and another until my arms are against the body and I’m completely held against the tree.   The ropes bisect my body from my chest to waist and my bows slips from my hands as I start to panic and struggle against the bonds.  

I hear it before I see it:  the telltale sound of air being cut by a blade.   I tilt my head to the side and just as the axe embeds itself deep into the tree just above my head.  

At first, I can’t think.  I’m so terrified at this moment that my mind just can’t process this.    I’m stuck against this tree, powerless and I can hear the orc climbing towards me.  

Insanely, the first thing that comes to my mind is how incredibly ingenious this idea was.   How the hell did an orc come up with something like this?   I’m… actually kind of jealous.  

But still terrified.   Oh… very much terrified.  

By the time he’s climbed up to eye level with me, I’m able to think past the fear.   I heard him cursing as he climbed.  He’s not used to scaling trees and his green knuckles are turning white with as tightly as he holds the branches.    He’s so close I can smell the pungent aroma of his sweat and see my reflection in his brown eyes.  

Part of me wants to try talking myself out of this situation.   But I press that out of my mind.   I won’t give him the satisfaction of hearing me beg for my life.  I’m a sentinel now.  He’s the invader.   His kind killed my mother as she defended our forest.   I won’t disgrace her memory by cowering.

And besides the enmity, I have to quietly admit that he got me good.   If I’m to die as a soldier, then I’d rather die to someone who earned it, rather then a lucky shot by some newbie grunt who’s holding a bow for a first time.  

He doesn’t say a word.  He simply pulls one of my daggers out from my belt.    

It bothers me that he won’t talk.   I’d love to hear him say what an utter pain in the ass I was to catch.   I’d like to ask where he got the idea with the axe and rope trick.  

Instead, he quietly studies my dagger and then me.    He’s looking at my neck.   At least it’ll be quick.   I mentally thank Elune that my death is not coming at the hands of a sadistic assailant.  

The young orc nods at me.   It’s as much a sign of respect as I can expect.   He comes in closer and prepares to slash the dagger across my neck.    

I lower my eyes, note his proximity and thrust my knee as hard as I can possibly manage into his groin.   His eyes widen comically and mouth opens at the sudden shock of pain.  He takes a step back into nothing and falls down, slamming against several branches along the way.  His body spins about and I see my dagger sailing from his grip.

With a heavy thud, he lands on the ground unmoving.    

The birds sing and the insects chirp.   The sound of leaves rustling in the gentle breeze fills the forest.   As far as Ashenvale is concerned, it’s as if little drama never occurred.  

I laugh and struggle against the deceptively strong thin rope.  It doesn’t budge.  

“Oh yes.  I’m home free now,” I say aloud to no one but the birds.    





To be continued....
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