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The Way of the Hunter - Garrick's Revenge (Chapter Twenty-Nine)

Alya Elvawiel
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Alarmed, Alya rushes to the ranger’s side. She had not seen the arrow until the very last moment, when Bishop had suddenly nudged her aside. She felt him back into her a little as the missile slammed into him, throwing him slightly off balance. Then, grunting, he had yanked the arrow out from his collarbone. She had winced as blood spurted out from the hole in his armour, but she felt a surge of hope and relief, that he was not seriously injured.

But when she called out to him, she noticed that he was staring blankly into space. All of a sudden, he lurched forwards, falling to his knees before collapsing onto the ground.

She cries his name again as she turns the ranger over. Bishop’s eyes are clamped shut, his rugged features contorted in pain. His breath is coming out in ragged gasps through his clenched teeth, and his muscles under her touch are bunching up as he writhes in agony.

Her eyes fall on the bloody arrow he still clutches in his hand. It has a jagged head on one end, and on the other, black feathers that look like they came off a raven’s tail.

With an accumulating sense of dread, she realises that the arrow tip was probably laced with poison.

Shrugging off her satchel, she starts to rifle through the contents for an antidote. Producing a flask of luminous green liquid, she bites down on the cork, and moves to open the bottle.

“That’s not going to work.”

She whirls around at the sound of Garrick’s sinister voice. The duergar emerges from the shadows, his bow drawn and aimed at her. Another one of those black-plumed arrows is nocked in his shortbow. The enormous black panther, which she has nearly forgotten about, pads tamely to the dwarf’s side.

He gestures at the bottle between her teeth.

“That’s not going to work,” he repeats simply.

Glaring stubbornly at the dark dwarf, Alya pulls the cork out with her teeth, lifts Bishop’s head, and gently prises his mouth open. She pours the contents of the bottle down his throat, all the while expecting Garrick to put an arrow into her for her defiance.

But he merely stands there, his ranged weapon still trained on her, a cruel sneer pulling up the corner of his mouth.

The ranger coughs as he chokes on the bitter liquid, then…


Bishop continues to struggle in the throes of some unknown pain. The antidote does not seem to have alleviated the effects of the poison. If anything, his breathing appears to become increasingly laboured as the toxin spreads in his bloodstream.

And Garrick starts to laugh.

“Told you, doll,” he chuckles. “That’s no ordinary poison. It’ll take more than a bottle of watered-down antidote to neutralise.” He looks at the twitching body of the ranger with an expression of amusement. “Too bad he got in the way. That arrow was meant for you, dear girl. I didn’t count on him trying to be a hero.” He shakes his head. “That’s not like him at all,” he muses. Then, a shadow falls across his blue-grey face as he continues. “And I wanted him to watch you die, to feel how I felt, and then kill him.”

“You’re a monster,” she whispers, shaking her head, and as she desperately tries to still Bishop’s spasms, she asks, “Why are you doing this?”

Garrick snickers as he moves menacingly closer. “You don’t know? Looks like your boyfriend’s been keeping secrets from you.”

As the duergar closes in even more, Alya bites back the urge to childishly retort that Bishop is not her boyfriend.

“Let’s just say his past has finally caught up to him.” Another step closer, until now he is just a yard or so away. The dwarf starts to regard Alya in that lecherous way again. “It’s such a shame I have to kill you now,” he says. His tone is so casual, he may have been commenting about the weather. “But I can’t risk having a vengeful lover on my tail.” He pulls his bowstring back further. “Such a waste of a pretty woman…”

He’s too close, Alya thinks. I won’t be able to dodge the arrow.

She could only watch helplessly as Garrick releases his taut bowstring…

Just as a ball of grey fur latches itself onto the dark dwarf’s arm.

The duergar cries out in surprise and pain as Karnwyr’s teeth sinks into his flesh. He jerks his arm as he fires, causing his arrow to fly off harmlessly into the trees.

Alya would normally have seized that opportunity to strike, but she still has Bishop’s head in her lap. By the time she has gently laid him down, Garrick has freed his arm with a vicious punch to the wolf’s snout, causing the animal to let go with a pained snuffle.

With the element of surprise gone, though, the dwarf is not going to have time to notch another arrow.

Alya moves to fling herself at Garrick, but he has quickly drawn his rapier, swinging it in a wide arc. The monk has to brake suddenly to avoid running headlong into the tip of the sword.

“Get that mangy mutt, Sable!” Garrick yells, shaking the pain out of his bitten hand, and it takes a moment for Alya to realise that ‘Sable’ is his black panther companion. Even now, as the creature hisses dangerously, its fangs and claws bared, its eyes glinting with a feral light, she cannot help but find the sleek, ebony coloured animal majestic and lethally beautiful. As it moves, she could see its powerful muscles flowing fluidly under its glossy coat.

With one effortless leap, the panther lands between Karnwyr and Garrick. Alya feels a twinge of concern for the wolf; the cat is almost twice his size.

The sound of a blade slashing the air in front of her reminds Alya that she has more pressing issues to worry about. Garrick dances with the rapier, slashing and stabbing, forcing her to dodge and retreat repeatedly. He is obviously skilled with the weapon.

Alya gasps when one of his slashing attacks slits her sleeve, nicking her arm. She feels a biting pain as warm blood trickles out of the cut. The duergar grins, relishing the fact that he is in full control of the fight.

She cannot keep eluding him this way.

Somehow, she has to stop defending and start attacking.

Watch his shoulders, something in her mind tells her, reminding her of her training. They’ll betray his every move.

Her heart hammering in her chest, she carefully observes the dwarf’s shoulders, trying to ignore the sharp blade whizzing past her vision every other moment. Eventually, she begins to notice some patterns in his movements: jab, slice, thrust…jab, slice, thrust…each action is smooth and sure, a testament to the man’s fighting prowess.

But then she spots a slightly inconsistent jerkiness in his motion, right before one of his strikes, imperceptible enough that she would have missed it had she not been scrutinising so closely. His muscles appear to twitch in anticipation of some form of sudden exertion.

He’s going to make a big lunge…

As Garrick raises his rapier, an expectant glint in his eye, Alya takes a deep breath, and steps forward just as the duergar charges, his blade levelled at her gut…

She spins out of the way at the very last moment, and feels the sharp blade whistling by. At the same time, she grabs Garrick’s passing sword arm. Startled that his target is no longer there, and carried forward by his own momentum, the duergar stumbles ahead. Wrenching his arm in an awkward angle, Alya falls in the opposite direction.

The loud pop! and the sudden extra give in Garrick’s arm confirms that she has yanked it out of its socket.

Garrick screams as he falls, clutching his dislocated shoulder. Quickly, Alya disarms him and pins him to the ground, putting the dwarf’s own blade to his throat. The assassin tries to struggle, but Alya places one knee on either side of his ribs, and squeezes hard enough to deter any further squirming.

She hears a gasp. Glancing up quickly, she sees Bishop’s back arch off the ground as his body seizes.

Involuntarily, the sight makes her heart clench.

“Tell me,” she pants, pressing the edge of the blade into the tender flesh of the duergar’s neck. “The poison…what’s the cure?”

The dwarf glares up at her, the ugly scar across his face an angry red. Then, incredibly, he starts to laugh. He seems to be looking at something directly over Alya’s shoulder when he pursed his grey lips together and blew a shrill whistle.

Something hits Alya’s side with the force of a runaway wagon barrelling downhill, knocking her off the dwarven assassin. As she lands heavily on her back, she has the presence of mind to raise her arms up in front of her, just in time to stop a set of razor sharp teeth clamping down on her jugular.

Grabbing the panther’s upper and lower jaws, being careful not to impale her fingers on its fangs, she tries to push the creature’s massive mouth away from her neck. She smells the rancid reek of the animal’s hot breath, as it snarls, straining against her hold. Warm saliva drips from its open maw, and its whiskers twitch continuously in anticipation of a kill.

The panther’s jaws inch ever closer as its weight, combined with its superior strength, starts to overwhelm her. She will not be able to muscle her way out of this one.

Desperately, she wriggles until one of her legs is freed from underneath the big cat. With all her strength, she drives her knee upwards, into the soft underside of the creature.

The animal’s yowl of pain rings out right next to Alya’s ear as it staggers off her. Jumping to her feet, she kicks out again at the creature, and again, repeatedly aiming for its vulnerable underbelly. The panther swipes at her with its dagger-like claws, and she skips out of reach. Launching herself on the cat’s back, she latches both arms around its thick neck. Growling angrily, the creature bucks and writhes as it tries to throw the monk off. It even tries to reach over its own head to paw at her, but she tightens her grip, cutting off the animal’s air supply. As she hangs on, she can feel the panther tiring, as its struggles grow more sluggish, and its breath starts to escape in strangled wheezes.

Finally, after what feels like a lifetime dangling from the big cat’s neck, the panther staggers and falls. Even as she lies beside the creature on the ground, Alya keeps her arms firmly around its windpipe, until the rise and fall of breathing in the animal’s body has completely stopped.

As she clambers to her feet, she sees Garrick not too far away. Scraps of cotton gauze and an almost-empty bottle of blue liquid lie strewn at his feet, as he gingerly flexes his freshly healed shoulder.

Their eyes meet across the distance, and they both simultaneously spot the rapier that lies on the ground between them.

Garrick dives for the sword, but Alya kicks it away, and in the same motion, follows through by swinging her foot into the duergar’s chest, sending the assassin stumbling backwards. The dwarf is tough; he steadies himself quickly, and steps back in with a cocked fist. Reading his movement, Alya catches his punch in her hand. Her trained fingers quickly find the pressure point on Garrick’s fist, between the thumb and the index finger, and she digs her nail into it.

The dark dwarf yelps in pain as he withdraws his fist. Twitching uncontrollably, his hand goes limp at the wrist, rendering it temporarily useless. Eyeing a striking opportunity, Alya ducks in, pretending to hit low, but then she lifts her elbow in an upward motion as she stands, the solid joint catching Garrick squarely in the chin. Alya feels a jarring sensation up her arm, and she hears the sound of the duergar’s teeth clashing together, as his head whips backwards from the force of the blow. He falls awkwardly on his back, and the monk is on top of him in a second.

A scarlet line traces its way from Garrick’s mouth to his chin, and Alya waits for his dazed eyes to refocus. When she is sure he is looking directly at her, she grabs the front of his throat with her fingernails, holding his jugular in a vice-like grip. As the duergar attempts to fight back, she gives his neck a little squeeze for good measure. With a small gasp, the dwarf stops struggling.

Logic tells her that she should end this troublesome dwarf’s life right now. He does not seem the type to graciously retreat with his tail between his legs.

But out of the corner of her eye, she sees Bishop’s still form, no longer gripped by seizures. She has no idea if that is a good sign, as the ranger now appears to have lost consciousness. Worse still, she can’t see any sign that he is even breathing, and her insides twist with worry.

Despite the feeling in her gut warning her that the duergar cannot be trusted, she wonders if she would be able to live with her conscience if she doesn’t at least try.

So she tightens her grip slightly on the assassin’s throat.

“The antidote,” she states evenly. “Now.”

Garrick’s eyes widen as her nails dig deeper into his flesh, until she could feel his pulse beating against her fingertips. A pitiful whimper escapes his split lips.

“P-please…” he stammers, spraying bloody spittle on her hand as he speaks. “Let me go…I’ll give you the antidote…just…please…don’t kill me…”

“Give me the antidote first,” she demands warily. “Or I’ll rip your throat out.”

“It’s…it’s in my back pouch.” He reaches a hand behind himself and fumbles clumsily, eventually managing to pull out a small felt bag. He tries to open it, but his fingers are trembling so hard, he could not untie the string keeping the pouch shut.

Frustratedly, he makes another piteous squeak. “Oh, gods, please don’t kill me!” he sobs. “Just take the pouch! It contains the neutralising powder!” The pathetic thing actually seems genuinely scared.

What little respect Alya had for the dwarf is completely erased now by his piteous whining.

With one hand still encircled around Garrick’s throat, she carefully picks up his pouch with the other. The contents in the bag shifts fluidly in her hand, and Alya feels a surge of hope.

At least the dwarf isn’t lying – it is some sort of powder.

But she is not going to administer it to Bishop unless she is sure it is safe.

She undoes the drawstring of the purse with her teeth, and peeks into the open mouth of the sack. It contains a strange yellow powder.

Putting the pouch closer to her face, she sniffs it tentatively. It smells slightly acrid, and oddly familiar.

With a flash, she recognises the pungent odour.

“This is –“ she begins, but her hand that still holds the bag of dust is suddenly pushed forcefully into her face, scattering the unknown powder into her eyes, nose and mouth.

The Way of the Hunter Chapter 29 - Garrick's Revenge © Alya Elvawiel

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