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The Way of the Hunter - The Black Sea (Chapter Twelve)

Alya Elvawiel
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She is swimming in a sea of darkness, darkness so thick and tangible, it envelopes her like a cloak of shadows. She hangs suspended in the abyss, floating aimlessly, like kelp swaying to the rhythm of an underwater current.

How long has she been drifting like this? She doesn’t know, but it is not a worrying feeling. The stillness, the silence, the nothingness of it all, is somewhat reassuring. Vaguely, she remembers her mind and heart being troubled by something, before she had found this empty void. She thinks she remembers pain, both physical and emotional. But now her problems have been washed away by the black current. She does not even remember what had been concerning her before. It feels good to be free from cares, free from hurt, free from all thought.

A dim orb of light catches her attention. Without any conscious effort, she gravitates towards it, moving from the comforting depths of this boundless ocean of darkness. As she nears it, the heavy blanket lifts a little, and she feels the rippling of the surface waves. It seems to manifest itself in the form of what feels like strong arms around her, rocking her as if she were a baby. The motion is making her feel seasick.

A low muffled sound. The roll of distant thunder? The waves stop swaying her about, and sets her down gently on something hard. She is so close to the surface she could almost touch it. Through the dark water, she sees some movement in the light, and she chances a closer look.

Her head breaks the surface.

The light is too bright. It seems to sear her eyes as she tries to open them, making her head pound. She tries to breathe, but she feels a sharp pain in her chest, a pain that runs deep into the very fibre of her being. It causes a cascade of memories, in which she sees death, destruction and suffering. She sees the lifeless faces of those she loves. Casavir, covered in blood, a deep gash in his throat…

So much hurt…and so cold. She shivers. The pain is unbearable. Again, she hears a thunder-like rumble.

I don’t like the light, she thinks. Like a frightened little girl who has wandered too far from home, she tries to retreat to the solace of the deep water. Down she dives, trying to get as far away from the hurtful light as possible. She thrashes frantically to propel herself faster.

Something coils itself around her body, something that ripples like the muscular body of a large serpent. It feels strangely comforting, and unlike a reptile, it exudes a warmth that allays her fears. It reminds her of strong, loving arms. Casavir’s arms, as he held her so tightly what seemed so long ago.

Have you come back for me, Casavir? His touch is so soft, so gentle, she feels that if she were to just give herself over to his sweet embrace, he will take her back to the void at the bottom of this trackless sea, where nothing bad will ever touch either of them again.

And so she surrenders herself, sinking ever deeper to the bottom of this black ocean, allowing the darkness to engulf her once more. The light at the surface fades as she moves away from it, and she hears the distant thunder again. It almost sounds like it is calling her name, before the soothing emptiness consumed her once again.




Bishop is on his knees, his arms around her. He gives her another shake.


But she has slipped back into her coma, just as quickly as she had regained consciousness mere moments ago.

“Gods dammit!” he swears. For a split second, he was sure, so sure, that she was stirring. Khelgar had just set her down with a low groan, and then left to walk off the crick in his back from carrying her for so long. Her eyelids had fluttered, and she had gasped softly. Bishop practically fell over trying to get to her side. He saw her face scrunch up in pain, and her petite frame shivered and tensed up. Then her arms started flailing wildly, as if she was in the grips of some nightmare. He had lifted her slightly off the ground, holding her tight, calling her name, hoping – praying – that she would hear him, and wake up. But she had merely relaxed into his arms, and slid back into oblivion.

The heavy clunking of plate mail boots signals the return of the dwarf. He stops when he sees Bishop kneeling there, cradling her in his arms. An eyebrow shoots up quizzically as he looks at the ranger.

Like a child caught red-handed with his hand in the biscuit jar, Bishop gently sets her back down and stands up, looking briefly uncomfortable. “She moved. Thought she woke,” he mumbled brusquely, as he brushes past Khelgar. Grabbing a piece of stale bread from his bag, he sits down and starts eating, ignoring the dwarf. The dry loaf is unappetizing at best, but it is his last bit of food.

Following his lead, Khelgar plonks down opposite him and starts eating, too. The stale, crusty bread makes their mouths feel like sandpaper, but thirsty as they are, they barely sip from their canteens, trying to conserve what little water they have left. They sit in silence as they eat.

“Why did you leave?” Khelgar asks suddenly, breaking the silence.

The question catches Bishop by surprise. “Huh?”

“Why did you leave?” the dwarf repeats.

Scowling, Bishop wipes the crumbs off his face with the back of a gloved hand. “I don’t recall inviting you for some small-talk, dwarf.”

Khelgar shrugs. “Not like there’s anythin’ else to do, is there? Seein’ as we may be stuck here for a while, just thought we could get a couple o’ things out in the open.” He stares at Bishop expectantly. Glowering, Bishop eyeballs him back. Under normal circumstances, he would stare anyone down. This time, however, he looks away after a few seconds. He crosses his arms, then, picturing how petulant he must look, decides to do something else with his hands. Picking out an arrow from his quiver, he starts running his fingers through its feathers.

As he ignores Khelgar, it seems like minutes before the dwarf finally stops visually interrogating him. He stands. “Aye, ye can sit there and stew if ye like. I’m going to go check up on Alya.” As Bishop continues to stroke the feathers on his arrow, his eyes follow the dwarf as he moves to Alya’s side. Bending down, Khelgar unscrews the lid of his canteen, then, tilting the monk’s head gently forward, tips some water into her mouth. Bishop cannot get over how frail and helpless she looks. He imagines her boundless energy, her nimble grace, her tinkling laugh – that pale, lifeless creature lying there just cannot be the same person. They have just used up the last of their healing supplies on her.

No food, no water, no medicines – not a good outlook.

“It’s like I said before,” Bishop starts in a low voice, as he fingers the tip of his arrow. “I don’t like being tied down.”

Khelgar wipes some water that has splashed onto Alya’s chin. “Then why did you come back?”

Another spell of silence. Bishop presses down harder on his arrow tip, scowling into space. “Because I like being doomed in the Nine Hells with a nosy dwarf and a half-dead monk,” he sneers sarcastically. “At least I’ll die in good company.”

“Have some faith, lad,” says Khelgar absent-mindedly, as he removes his gauntlets. With his hands free from their unwieldy armour, he moves aside the cloak they are using to cover Alya. Carefully lifting an edge of the bandages, he inspects her wound. “We’ve been through all sorts in the past. With the blessings of Clangeddin Silverbeard, we may pull through th-“

“Damn your Clanging Silverbutt!” Bishop interrupts angrily. “Lathander be damned, Tyr be damned…all the gods be damned!” A sting on his finger tells him he’s pressed down too hard on the arrow tip. “If the bloody gods cared we won’t be stuck here in the first place!”

And Alya won’t be dying…

“Whoa there, easy, ranger” Khelgar says, raising his arms in defense. Then, as if reading Bishop’s mind, “If ye have no faith in the gods, then at least have faith in Alya.” He glances at the unconscious woman, as he tucks her bandages back into position. “Just checked the wound. It’s stopped bleedin’. Whatever that strip of rag is that ye put into her, it seems to be workin’.”

Bishop says nothing as he tries to hide the surge of hope he felt at Khelgar's words. Uneasily, he inspects his pierced finger as a spot of blood appears. He throws down the arrow in disgust. “Question time over, dwarf,” he says as he strides past Khelgar. “Let’s keep moving.”

“Aye, all right, ranger.” He grunts as he gets to his feet. “But alas, I think I may have done me back in carrying her for so long.” He groans, theatrically rubbing the small of his back. Then, he looks at Bishop with a knowing smile. “Could ye hold her for a bit?”

The Way of the Hunter Chapter 12 - The Black Sea © Alya Elvawiel

Migrate Wizard: 
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