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The Way of the Hunter - Help (Chapter Thirty-Three)

Alya Elvawiel
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Heavy boots stomp through the mud as the Greycloak trudges half-heartedly along the road, stumbling occasionally as he walks, and swigging every now and again from the bottle in his hand. His uniform is wrinkled and in disarray, and although his tunic marks him as a sergeant, anyone meeting him may be forgiven if they mistook him for a drunken sailor. His surly, unpleasant attitude, coupled with the ever-present reek of alcohol that seems to permeate his very being, would be more fitting on some rowdy sailing vessel than among the ranks of the Neverwinter army.

And today, the soldier’s mood is distinctly more sour than usual.

He hacks up a mouthful of phlegm and spits it carelessly onto the road.

Stupid foreign bitch, he curses, as he wipes the spittle from his mouth with the back of one hand. Acting all high and mighty already!

He hadn’t really cared when their Knight-Captain never came back from her epic battle, whatever that was about. Why should he? He was still getting paid for doing minimal work, and that suits him fine. Sure, that Lieutenant Kana hates his guts, and always seems all too happy to send him far away on some special assignment, but he doesn’t mind that; after all, he’s good at those jobs.

He has ways of making people talk.

But then word had come from Neverwinter, ordering them to abandon the futile search for their missing leader. Why waste resources hunting for a lost Captain when we could simply appoint another one?

And so they made her the new Captain.

Kana had wasted no time in hauling him up before her, telling him in no uncertain terms that unless he started behaving in a more ‘acceptable’ fashion, she would not hesitate to discharge him from service.

Why else would he be on patrol duty now, in such gods-forsaken weather? Why else but to make it seem as if he is putting in some effort to conform? Until a better offer comes along, this job pays pretty well, and he’ll be damned if he’s going to get fired by that imperious wench.

Sanctimonious little bitch…wonder how self-righteous she would be if I get to have my way with her?

He chuckles to himself as he imagines all the different ways he could violate that pert little body.

You wanted me discharged, did ya say, Cap’n? Well, I got my discharge for ya right here!

He snickers at his own crude joke, then snorts loudly as he launches another offensive projectile. Sniffing, he glances up at the cloudy sky.

At least it’s stopped raining.

Just another hour before he goes off duty. Then, it’s back to the Keep, and the Phoenix Tail Inn for more ale. Screw that half-witted barkeep Sal if he doesn’t like his patronage. He has the coin to pay for his drinks, after all…

The man stops short at the scene before him. His bottle drops from his limp hand and rolls away, leaving a trail of frothy beer in its wake.

What in Toril happened here??

He gawks at the corpses littering the ground. Most of them are in pretty bad shape. A couple of them have their throats torn out, as if they were attacked by some large animal. They all wear the same black uniform, and he easily identifies the distinctive markings on their armour.

Luskan assassins.

What are they doing here?

He sees an empty cart. The dun-coloured mare tethered to it is calmly chewing on roadside vegetation, seemingly oblivious to the carnage around it. Some sort of dead animal lies not far from the wagon. It resembles a gigantic black cat.

Could that be what killed these people?

Then he sees her, kneeling over yet another body, and his eyes widen in disbelief, wondering if this could all just be some alcohol-induced hallucination.

She glances up when she senses his presence, and recognises him almost immediately.


He carefully steps over the dead bodies to get to her, all the while thinking that this can’t be a drunken dream; the corpses, the coppery smell of blood mingling with muddy rainwater, her…it all just seems too real for that.

“Jalboun!” she cries again, as she jumps to her feet. Her movement is slightly unsteady, as if she had taken a few hard hits, and she is bleeding from a cut on her arm.

She grips his arm tightly when he approaches. “Oh, thank the gods for leading you here! Please, you have to help us.”

For a moment, Jalboun merely stares at the woman as he tries to convince himself that he is not imagining things. She may look thinner than he remembers, and the rain had plastered her auburn hair to her face, but his eyes are not deceiving him.

“C-C-Cap’n?” he manages incredulously. “By the hells, how did ya get here? We’ve been searching for ya for weeks!”

But she doesn’t seem to have heard his questions.

“We got attacked. He’s hurt. We have to get him back to the keep, now!” Her tone is urgent and a little anxious.

“Huh? Who’s hurt?” It takes Jalboun a while to realise that she is gesturing towards the body she was bending over earlier. He steps closer to the injured man, who appears to be unconscious. His armour and shirt had been cut away, exposing his bare chest. A hastily applied bandage covers his right collarbone, the pure whiteness of the cloth blemished by a slowly spreading circle of blood.

When recognition dawns on him, he draws back as if he had been scalded.

“Woah there!” he exclaims, pointing excitedly. “Tha-that’s the ranger! The traitor!”

“Yes, but…” she begins hesitantly, before continuing in a softer voice, “but he was the one who saved me. We have to help him!”

Jalboun’s mind is racing. Confused, he glances at the woman, and then back at the ranger.

What does she mean, he saved her? He’s a traitor, and he very nearly got them all killed! He has half a mind to slit the bastard’s throat right now for jamming the Keep gates open during the siege, forcing him to fight what seemed like an endless stream of undead that surged into the fortress as a result. He had barely survived that assault, and he still has the scars to prove it.


From somewhere in his foggy ale-clouded mind, he retrieves bits and pieces of a proclamation he heard not too long ago, one that had been announced in every town, village and hamlet across the region.

Wanted for crimes of treason...generous reward…dead or alive.

Generous reward…

He couldn’t quite recall the exact sum, but he knows it is a substantial amount of coin. In fact, it is probably enough for him to retire very comfortably from active service.

I could then tell Kana to stick my job up her…


Her insistent voice interrupts his thoughts. She is eyeing him expectantly.

Imagine the look on Kana’s face when he returns from his patrol with both the Knight-Captain and the betrayer in tow! Surely there must be an extra reward for the monk’s safe return…

He tries to decide on the best way to transport his precious cargo back to the Keep. His eyes fall on the horse and cart.

How convenient – the gods are definitely smiling on him today!

The trick now is to make her think that he is trying to help.

Forcing sympathy into his voice to mask his increasing glee, he tells her, “Give me a hand with him.”

It doesn’t take long for them to load the wounded man onto the wagon. Jalboun is about to grab the reins when the Knight-Captain calls out, “Wait.”

He watches with curiosity as she places both her hands on the ranger’s bare shoulders. Her thumbs wander down towards his chest, and linger briefly over an area directly above each pectoral muscle. Firmly and with a twisting motion, she pushes both her thumbs deep into the soft flesh of each spot. The action causes the unconscious ranger’s body to jerk in response.

“That’s gonna leave a bruise,” he remarks, wincing at the sight.

“Pressure points,” she explains, as she unclasps her cape. “Hopefully it will help slow the poison’s course.” Covering the injured man with her cloak, she looks back at Jalboun, her intense green eyes gleaming with worry.

“Let’s go,” she finally says, as she clutches one of the ranger’s hands. “Oh, and Jalboun?” A faint smile plays across her lips. “Thank you.”

Jalboun smirks, revealing a row of yellowing teeth. “Just doin’ my duty, Cap’n,” he replies with as much sincerity as he could muster, trying not to slur his words.

The Way of the Hunter Chapter 33 - Help © Alya Elvawiel

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