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The Way of the Hunter - I Didn't Know You Cared (Chapter Nineteen)

Author: 
Alya Elvawiel
Old Vault Category: 
fanfiction
Old Vault ID: 
373

He stalks through the woods, his steps falling soundlessly on the carpet of vegetation beneath him. It had taken him a couple of days to trek to the nearest village, and another couple of days to trek back. The pack he carries is weighted down with supplies he bought from the local merchant, and at cut-throat prices too, if you ask him. But, the man was the only trader for miles, and unfortunately that greedy bastard knows it.



Let’s hope that half-elf hasn’t died while I was away, he thinks to himself. Even better, let’s hope she’s no longer there.



When she first discovered the burnt-out village, he had endured as much of her grilling as he could, dredging up as many of the old, forgotten memories as he could bear. When, how, what…he thought he had handled those remarkably well, but when she started on the why questions, he just got up and walked off.



Some memories are better left buried…



In his mind’s eye, he sees the expression on her face as he recounted his story. As he went on, she had pulled his shirt that she was wearing tighter around herself protectively, and he could see her curves accentuated through the thin fabric. But her shock at seeing Redfallows Watch had slowly faded, and in its place was a look he finds even more reprehensible.



Sympathy.



Those clear green eyes had frowned slightly, and in that cloyingly gentle tone of hers, she had proceeded to probe him for more information, seeking to identify with him, to understand him.



That, as much as the increasingly awkward questioning, was what had driven him to leave so abruptly. He had ended up wandering aimlessly through the forest, his sole aim being to put as much distance between them as possible, yet knowing that, sooner or later, he would be drawn back to the camp – to her, and that had infuriated him even more.



That was when he decided he might as well make his trip worthwhile.



He wonders what would happen when he gets back to camp. Would she pretend their previous conversation had never occurred? Or would she start hounding him with questions again, that wretched look of compassion in her eyes?



He sees a faint glow among the trees ahead, and makes his way towards it, moving swiftly and silently through the shadows.



I don’t need anyone’s pity, especially not hers.



Perhaps it would be best if he returns to find that she has up and left, then he wouldn’t need to worry about a possible confrontation. Ill-advised, granted, for her to go gallivanting in the woods in the state she’s in, but things would be far less complicated without her around.



Yep, best if she’s gone…right?



…right??



As he enters the clearing, his eyes scan the campsite before landing on a sleeping form beside the dying fire.



Still here, still alive.



Without realising he has been holding his breath, he releases a sigh of relief.



Karnwyr trots up to him, tail wagging. He pets him quickly on the head, then, knowing that the poor thing has been stuck at camp for days, gives him a quick nod of consent. Delighted, the wolf melts into the darkness of the trees, disappearing into the wild to do what wolves love to do and what they do best – hunt.



After putting his satchel down near the glowing embers of the fire, he turns to her again. She is sleeping on her side, her back to him, her blanket thrown carelessly aside to reveal her silhouette in the fading firelight. She still wears his shirt. His eyes follow the contours of her body, especially where it dips down to her narrow waist, before curving up again towards her hip.



As he tiptoes closer, he sees the steady rise and fall of her shoulders. He moves around her so he can see her face, relaxed in slumber. She looks a lot younger without the burden of the waking world on her shoulders. Although it is too dim to tell for sure, she seems to have regained some of the colour of her normal complexion. The red highlights in her dark brown hair glisten in the flickering light. It looks damp, as if she had just washed it. A wavy chestnut-coloured lock has fallen across her face, and Bishop fights an urge to brush it off.



A gust of wind stirs the ashes of the fire, and she shivers visibly. Squatting down, he moves to pull the blanket over her, his fingers lightly brushing her hip as he reaches for the sheet.



Suddenly, Alya’s eyes snap open, blazing green. He sees a flash of movement in the corner of his vision. The next thing he knows, his neck is in a vice-like grip, fingernails encircled around his Adam’s apple as he is pulled towards her.



The Eagle’s Claw.



That is what she calls the move. With it, he has seen her rip out the throats of men with one quick flick of her wrist.



He can feel his jugular vein pulsing against her fingers. Her face is just inches from his, and he can smell the fresh scent of soapwort on her.



“Hi,” he manages to croak through the choking clamp.



As recognition hits her, she quickly releases her hold on him. Once his airway is clear, he sucks in a deep breath.



“Bishop?” she asks, as he sits down to rub his sore neck, still taking long draws of air. Her fingernails have left imprints in his flesh.



“That how you treat all the men who visit you at night?” he wheezes. She seems wide awake now, her eyes bright.



“Bishop, where have you been? I mean, you were gone for days – I thought…”



“Why, Alya,” he snickers mockingly. “I didn’t know you cared.”



She stops in mid-sentence.



“I don’t,” she finally says, her voice measured. “I just wondered where you’ve been…”



“I hope you weren’t worrying your pretty little head about me.”



Not that I’m expected to account for my whereabouts to you.



“No.” She says this without meeting his gaze.



“Good, cause I would have been offended.” He gets up, one hand still enclosed around his neck. When she continues to look at him questioningly, he sighs. “If you must know, I was out shopping.” He throws her a casual glance. “Seeing as you’ve taken my bedroll, I just thought I’d get myself a new one.”



“Oh.” As he rummages in his satchel, he hears her shift in the sheets. “Bishop?” He turns. “Sorry for…” and she makes clawing motions in the air in front of her neck. He winces.



“At least it shows you’ve got your wits back. Probably means we can finally break camp soon.” He turns his back to her again.



“Where will we go?” he hears her ask. It’s an imminent question, and he has an answer to hand.



Bishop takes a deep breath and shuts his eyes.



Say it.



We will split up. You will go back to West Harbour, or Crossroads Keep, or wherever your little heart desires. I will disappear deeper into the woods, and you won’t have to hear from me ever again.”



She is silent for what could be a few seconds, or a few minutes. Then, quietly, she says:



“Okay.”



* * *



When Alya wakes up in the morning, Bishop is gone – again. Karnwyr, who had disappeared during the night, is back at her side. He wags his tail in a morning greeting.



She had only managed snatches of sleep after Bishop had woken her up. Every time she had stirred, she saw the ranger pacing around the fire. She marvels at how little rest he seems to need. But now, he is nowhere to be seen.



She thinks back to the night before, when he had startled her out of her sleep. It was pure instinct that made her grab him by the throat. When she realised it was him, she had felt relieved – and glad.



I must really be lacking in company if I was actually glad to see Bishop…cringing, she remembers blabbering something along the lines of:



“Bishop, where have you been? I mean, you were gone for days – I thought…” Even as she said it, she was kicking herself at how overly-concerned it sounded.



“Why, Alya,” he had purred seductively. “I didn’t know you cared.” And she had bristled, even though she knew she had walked straight into it. Wisely, she had clammed up after that.



She stretches, running her fingers through her hair to tease out the knots. Bishop thinks that she’s almost well enough to get back on the road. That’s good; she doesn’t know how much longer she could just sit around before she starts to bash her head against a tree trunk, just for something to do.



Snatches of last night’s conversation trickle back into her head. Something Bishop had said:



“We will split up. You will go…wherever your little heart desires. I will disappear…you won’t have to hear from me ever again.”



Why had she felt oddly hurt when he said that? Was there even an alternative?



Shaking her head, she makes her way to where their water skins are stored.



And stops.



Draped neatly over their stockpile of water and dried food is a robe.



And it looks brand new.



She picks it up carefully to examine it. It looks to be about her size. A pale green in colour with darker green piping along the edges, it has a red-orange oriental dragon embroidered down one side, and is finished off with an olive and gold embroidered sash.



“You like it?”



She spins around to find Bishop, a hare slung across his shoulder.



“I –“ her eyes fall back to the tunic in her hands. “It’s…” She fingers the softness of the silk. “…nice.”



Carelessly, he tosses the carcass onto the grass. “It’s nothing too special. About the only decent piece of non-armour that merchant had. And I know how you feel about armour.” He glances at her, but quickly looks away, rubbing the back of his head. “It’s – got a bit of elemental resistance, but that’s about it. I won’t suggest you go running into the thick of battle with it.”



Startled and confused by his sudden show of kindness, Alya stands there dumbly, staring at her new clothing.



“Thanks,” she finally mutters. Then, with a cheeky glint in her eye, she adds, “I didn’t know you cared.”



“I don’t,” the ranger grumbles, as he sets to work skinning his catch. “I just wanted my shirt back.”



The Way of the Hunter Chapter 19 - I Didn't Know You Cared © Alya Elvawiel

Migrate Wizard: 
First Release: 
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