The Hunter And The Lurker | TWIN Anthology

πŸ“šMore in the TWIN Anthology πŸ“š
A Stone's Throw From Death | Sober Minds | Best Served Cold | The Other Half | Beasts | Linked


The tracks were fresh. I am close. Sylla thought stalking through the underbrush. She had been hunting the deer for almost a day now. She was getting restless, but stayed calm. Always calm. Always cautious.

Serje thought her that.

They were in a jungle, searching for some relic Serje sniffed out back in Mivimir. Sylla very much doubted the thing existed, but she didn't want to break Serje's spirit - his heart had been set on finding this junk for months now. So she relented. Spending some time together was good enough for her, off chance of finding an ancient relic? Bonus.

Well. Yesterday things became complicated as an Illuminated Deer crossed their path. Its hide would be more profitable than almost any relic. Thus Serje remained at camp, studying old maps of where the artifact might be while Sylla went out hunting.

So much for spending time together.

This jungle was thick, brimming with all manner of creature. Sylla was experienced, enchanted, and even she had a hard time about it. The bark of the trees was thick, it released a strong peculiar odor and could not be harvested. The leaves were giant and sticky. They released a gas that obstructed vision, as well as irritated the skin. The bugs were menacing, to say the least. Both predator and prey. One had to know which to kill and which to spare or parish from an unforeseen sting.

All senses were assaulted at all times and Sylla was having the time of her life. A challenge was always welcomed; least one becomes complacent and lets down the people they love most.

The tracks stopped abruptly. Sylla frowned studying the pattern. Something was -

She took out one of the many powders Serje had made for her, sprinkling it atop the tracks. Where the dust fell new tracks appeared.

A lurker. Sylla mashed her teeth. Not good.

The Illuminated Deer was not only rare and extremely important for its magical properties, but also delicious to the Lurkers. Predators that were nearly invisible; so elusive that only a master hunter could track their movements. Sylla was such a hunter, but this was a race for time. If the beast ate the deer before she found him, then the day would be lost. Lurkers had no valuable parts to speak off.

There is value in everything, you just need to find it.

Shut up Serje. Even in her mind he was annoying. Sylla tossed the powder on the nearby trees. West, the Lurker went west. Judging by the indentation of the tracks, he was carrying the deer deeper into the jungle.

Sylla drank one of Serje's enhancing potions, one she saved for such an occasion. Her muscles expanded and her awareness increased. So much so that she could make out the scattered tracks of the Lurker. She almost puked, however, her stomach adjusting to the assault of smells. She calmed her breathing, drew her sword, and pushed through the cloud of fragrances. Focussing her entire being on the tracks or risk fainting from being overwhelmed.

The tracks led her deep into the hostile jungle, an area she'd only explored once. If the grazing paths were dangerous these were considered suicide. Sylla's pupils moved in every direction, her grip was steady and her step was steadier. The Lurker's tracks were getting wider, heavier. The deer is heavy. It's having a hard time carrying it.

The tracks stopped at a watery cave alcove. Inside the cave, Sylla could make out the Lurker. Its spindly form hunched over as it prowled on its four legs while it's one hand was stabbing a heap at its feet.

Made it just in time!

Sylla put two fingers to her mouth and whistled. The sound reverberated through the trees and rippled through the water. The Lurker jerked its narrow head, bared its teeth, and screeched in response. That's right. Sylla pulled out her sling. Come for me, you filth! She felt like the monster's sound would pop her eardrums, but there was no time to worry about such frivolous things. Sylla took one of Serje's poison beads, aimed for the Lurker's head, shot, hit. The bead was made to lodge itself into the flesh, releasing a poison that would diminish the largest beast, slowly killing them over time. Sylla didn't expect the fight to last nearly as long, she just needed the beast weakened a bit.

The Lurker prowled towards her, its feet tap, tap, tapping and its mouth click, click, clicking. It was mad, it was hungry, and it was terrifying. Nightmare fuel. Sylla didn't scare though, ever. Instead, she shot another of her beads, hit its spindly torso, then stood ready with her sword above her head pointed at the Lurker. Wind stance. It was preferred versus fast opponents.

As soon as the Lurker was outside its cave it leaped the small body of water, its front-facing limb aiming for Sylla's head. It contorted in the air, so as Sylla blocked its blow with her sword, its legs attacked her torso from the side. There was only one way to beat a lurker - she braced and let the creature impale her. Swung her sword in an arc with all her might, and chopped off the thing's head.

The Lurker dropped to the mossy grass. Sylla gasped for air, her increased senses amplifying the pain many times over. She dropped to one knee, her hands motorically moving on their own to apply Serje's ointment. This was the second Lurker that she had killed, her first being blind luck. This time, she did it right. Let's hope I survive it. Serje's poultice stung. The feeling made her drop on both knees and curse Serje for his stupid medicine. Stupid, stupid man!

Stupid lovely man.

Time became abstract as she kneeled before the water, her arms and legs covered in blue Lurker blood pooling around her. She got up, dizzy. The pain was mailed, but true. True pain lasted, and she needed to get back to Serje so he could stitch her up properly. She wouldn't go back without her reward. Not if it killed her.

Sylla put her hands over her mouth and sang. A flock of pink birds rushed from all the nearby trees and started flying overhead. Serje would see the signal and prepare to meet her outside the jungle. Medicine in hand. With that settled, Sylla made for the cave.

Inside the Lurker had stashed many treasures. Most were skulls from various monsters found in the jungle. The Lurkers were... collectors of sorts. The Illuminated Deer's hide was barely damaged, A couple of minutes later and I would have nearly died for nothing... Its receding glow meant the Lurker had started to suck its luster, preparing the meat for consumption.

Sylla exhaled, drinking another of Serje's potions - increased muscle fiber. In her condition, it would have serious side effects. But she couldn't carry the deer without it.

She quickly rummaged through the cave, searching for anything valuable. And wouldn't you know it, atop a shrine of bear bones stood a very peculiar item. Sylla cackled and took said item, before lifting the deer on her shoulders.

The walk back was slow going, but it was going. Slow. The deer was heavy... so heavy... And the sun? The sun was high! And scorching! Why was it so scorching? So hot... so heavy... if she could only... if she could only lie down for a little just to rest... a bit more and she would rest, yes. A bit more and -

"Sylla!" At the sound of her love's voice, she collapsed. "Oh, Sylla! What have you done you crazy, crazy woman?" Sylla murmured something incoherent and Serje placed a bowl to her lips. "Shut up and drink this."

It tasted vile, but her head cleared. The pain however returned. "You, stupid slug!" Sylla heard herself saying. "It hurts!"

"Maybe next time you'll let me tag along, hmm?"

"Right, so we can both die." She gritted her teeth as Serje inspected her wounds. "I thought you were supposed to be the smart one."

"A Lurker stab..."

"You sound scared."

"If you want to live you'll let me work in peace." Sylla did just that. After a while, Serje breathed. "Alright. Let's get you to camp. Come on. Come. On."

As Serje gave his shoulder for Sylla to lean on he heard her soft cackle. "I did both, you little fucker."

"Excuse me?"

She got out the relic and Serje's mouth dropped. "I got both while you sulked in that camp. Ha!"

"You..." Serje stopped walking. "You nearly died..."

Sylla's smile disappeared faster than a Lurker's footsteps. "I know." She handed the relic over. "I... I'm sorry, love. It won't happen again."

She leaned over and kissed his cheeks. He leaned to the side, and their lips met.

And for a second, Sylla felt no pain.

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πŸ“šMore in the TWIN Anthology πŸ“š
A Stone's Throw From Death | Sober Minds | Best Served Cold | The Other Half | Beasts | Linked

Obligatory shout-out to the πŸ•PIZZAπŸ• gang, πŸ€™ gang. πŸ€™

Where will we find Serja and Sylla next? πŸ€·β€β™‚

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Stay safe out there, and be strong. 😌

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