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The Way of the Hunter - On the Road (Chapter Twenty-Six)

Alya Elvawiel
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The morning was grey and gloomy, with the distant rumble of thunder. It started to drizzle around midday, and now it is a torrential downpour. The wind blows sheets of rain across the land, as the thunder rolls across the bleak, overcast sky. The ground underfoot has grown slick and muddy, the soil completely saturated by the deluge.

They trudge in silence through the storm, their boots sending up splashes of brown muddy water with each step, the wet squelching sound of their feet sinking into the bog audible even above the booming thunder.

Alya pulls her hood tighter around her head as a gust of wind whips more water into her face. With visibility obscured by the curtains of falling rain, she can only see a dozen yards at best in any direction. Up ahead, barely discernible in the gloom, she spots the stooped, shadowy outline of Bishop’s back, as the ranger stomps ahead, leading the way.

And keeping his distance from her as much as he could.

No words have been exchanged between the two of them since last night. After he had stormed off, she had waited up for him, but he never returned. Eventually, she had fallen asleep, only to wake up to a dreary, cloudy morning. She found him sitting on a log, his satchel slung over his shoulder. The fire was already covered with sand and put out, and Karnwyr was beside his master, waiting patiently. He never met her eyes as she busied herself with her own packing, and when she was ready, he had merely started walking, not even turning around to make sure she was following. When it started to rain heavily, he made no move to stop, to wait out the downpour, and even now, weighted down by soppy clothes and impeded by the sticky mud, he marches on, as if he wants her to reach her destination as quickly as possible.

As if he wants to be rid of her as soon as possible.

Not that I could blame him, she thinks to herself, as she bows her head and leans into the wind. After how she had led him on last night, she had half-expected to be making this journey on her own.

She had felt terribly guilty for tricking him the way she did during their sparring match. She just didn’t think he would get so bothered by it. She had tracked him down, intent on apologising, and what she had told him was heartfelt and sincere. Somehow, she just didn’t want him to be mad at her, which is odd, seeing as she had never once cared about what he thought of her. Perhaps, considering the fact that he had risked his life to save hers more than a few times already, and had nursed her back to health, she didn’t want him to think that she was being ungrateful…

She was startled when he suddenly grabbed her and forced his lips onto hers. The intensity and desperation in the kiss surprised her, and it also scared her a little. She had tried to protest, pushing against his chest, trying to struggle out of his grip.

But the feel of his lips on hers was not at all unpleasant, nor was the sensation of having her body pressed tightly to his. She could feel his firm chest muscles rippling beneath his shirt, and she caught a whiff of his masculine scent. Something possessed her then to say “screw it”, and to give in to his hunger.

She remembers returning his kiss, and he had shivered slightly when she lightly nibbled his bottom lip. Their kisses became deeper, and she felt his tongue invading her mouth. Soft and moist, it reaches for her own tongue, sending a tingly sensation running up and down her spine. She remembers her arms around his neck, her fingers running through his short dark hair.

Somehow, she had ended up pushed against a tree, the grainy bark scratching against her back. Her robe was slightly open – had he done that? She couldn’t remember. He started hungrily kissing her around her neck, and she had gasped when she felt his teeth on the sensitive spot around her collarbone. Their gaze met briefly, and she saw a fire in his wolf’s eyes that set the golden flecks in his irises ablaze. She felt a sudden longing to have that fiery passion inside of her, to let it burn her to her very core. Something about his ferocity, his wild thirst, was somewhat arousing, and when she stroked his cheeks, feeling the coarseness of his stubble, she felt something hard pressing against her leg, and she knew that he was as stimulated as she was.

All of a sudden, she had a sudden yearning to feel his bare skin, and at that moment his thin cotton shirt felt as thick as any plate armour. She undid the top two buttons and slid her hands into the resultant opening. She remembers the small strangled cry that escaped his lips, the warmth of his exhaled breath tickling her neck, as she massaged his firm chest muscles, her fingers feeling the raised scars on his smooth skin, and the fluid tensing of his strong muscles.

She felt his hand running across her hip towards her stomach, lingering briefly at her navel before it started to descend, and it was only then that she realised that he had unlaced her trousers.

His fingers brushed her inner thigh, and suddenly, the old fear had returned. Without thinking, she grabs his probing hand before it reached its destination. The look Bishop gave her was one of confusion and consternation, as his hand strained against hers.

“Don’t play games with me,” he warned, his tone low and menacing, as his hand tried to thrust downwards again. But she had held on in a blind panic, and he eventually backed off. As she clumsily pulled her pants back up, he stood staring at her, his hair mussed, his shirt partly open, showing his well-defined chest muscles as they heaved with every breath. His eyes still burned with an inner fire.

But this time it was flaring with anger.

“Bishop, please…” she had started, but he pushed her away, and rushed off into the darkness, leaving her leaning against the tree, her hair in disarray, her dishevelled robe hanging off a shoulder, and her mind in turmoil.

He hadn’t given her a chance to explain…

And what would you have said if he had stayed to listen? She asks herself, and sighs when no answer comes to her. Even if she had the chance to justify her behaviour, he would probably still have been angry. Bishop doesn’t seem like the sympathetic, understanding type…

In fact, he doesn’t even seem like her type, so what in the hells had possessed her last night?

He’s rude, brash, obnoxious, self-centred…sure, he’s attractive with a good body, but…

He’s a traitor,
she tries to convince herself. He sold you out, he sold Neverwinter out…and he killed Casavir in cold blood…

Alya feels a pang of grief at the thought of the paladin, and an overwhelming sense of guilt that she has betrayed his memory so quickly.

What has gotten into her? All this time stuck in the woods with the ranger, with no one else for company, must have done things to her head. As soon as she gets back to civilisation, things will be different, and she will forget all about him.

She glances ahead. She catches a glimpse of amber eyes as the ranger peers over his shoulder briefly before turning away again. She watches the lithe movements of his powerful shoulder muscles as he walks on.

Yes, she thinks wistfully. Things will be different.

But will I forget him?

* * *

The rain finally starts to let up around early evening, slowing to a light drizzle, although the sky overhead remains dark and imposing. Karnwyr, who has been slinking quietly beside him, looking cold, wet and miserable, shakes himself, spraying the ranger with dog-smelling water. Bishop hardly notices this as he steps past the last trees that mark the edges of the Mere of Dead Men, and onto a large road, one that winds its way down a hill. In the distance, just about visible amid the grey gloom, they glimpse the twinkling fires of torches lining the battlements of Crossroads Keep.

They are less than an hour away now.

He knows he should go no further. As it is, standing on the open road, he risks being detected by a Greycloak patrol. His intention is to leave Alya here, and then disappear back into the woods.

Whatever foolish notions he had entertained about begging her to stay, or having a civilised farewell, are all quashed now. The memory of how she had led him on last night, deceiving him into letting down his defences, into revealing so much, only to deny him at the very last moment, burns in his mind like a red-hot brand.

Any common wench who would dare toy with him in that way would not have had a choice anyway in the end, and he would probably have cut her up a little while he was at it, as punishment for her insolence.

But with her, he had merely run off like a coward, his libido unsatisfied, and he then had to degrade himself by getting reacquainted with his right hand…

The thought of that alone is enough to steel his resolve.

As he stands in the middle of the deserted road, he hears her catching up to him and stopping just behind him. He doesn’t glance back, but he imagines that she is looking at the lights from the keep in the distance.

As the misty rain continues to fall all around them, they are both silent. Several minutes pass before he hears her call his name.

“Bishop?” Quiet, careful, uncertain.

“Just go,” he states tersely, still gazing into the middle distance, refusing to meet her eyes. No doubt the witch would try to shake his resolve if he were to look directly at her.

More uneasy silence, then, with a sigh, he hears her trudge away, her boots making squishing noises with each muddy step. Karnwyr whines beside him, and he grabs the animal firmly by the scruff of his neck, in case he tries to bolt for her again.

Despite himself, he chances a quick peek.

She is looking back at him over her shoulder, her hood pulled up to protect herself from the rain, a soggy lock of reddish hair plastered to one side of her face. He cannot read the expression in her green cat-like eyes. Her cheeks are wet, but whether it is rainwater or tears he does not know.

He turns away quickly, ignoring the twinge in his heart, and starts to shrink back into the shelter of the trees, dragging the reluctant wolf with him.

But then he notices a horse-drawn cart trundling towards them from the other end of the road. A lone man steers the dun coloured horse as it pulls a wooden wagon covered by a sheet of tarpaulin. He appears to be a merchant travelling with his wares.

Except that Karnwyr is growling at him. Still holding on to the wolf’s neck, Bishop could feel the snarl sending vibrations of caution up his arm.

He hopes the merchant has not seen him, allowing him time to melt into the darkness of the swamp.

But the man is eyeing him intently as he pulls his horse to a stop. Part of his face peeks out from under his hood: a jagged pink scar runs diagonally across one eye. The eye sparkles with recognition on seeing the ranger.

“Bishop,” the mysterious man says with a sneer, his voice low and rough, and somehow menacing.


Karnwyr growls again.

The Way of the Hunter Chapter 26 - On the Road © Alya Elvawiel

Migrate Wizard: 
First Release: 
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