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The Way of the Hunter - Torn (Chapter Twenty-One)

Alya Elvawiel
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Stupid good-for-nothing pervert-chauvinistic-asshole! Alya seethes as she stomps toward camp, her cheeks still feeling hot and flushed. The nerve of that bastard talking to me like that!

Karnwyr, who was napping by her bedroll, jumps up when he sees her coming, and runs to greet her, a wolf-smile on his face. Absently, she ruffles the scruff of his neck. “What is up with that master of yours, Karnwyr?” she asks the wolf.

Why was he being so difficult? What is he hiding? The lacerations on his back look nothing like anything a woman’s nails could do. And they look like they‘ve been there far longer than just a few days; they are healing, but slowly and not very well, as if he had not bothered using any healing potions or bandages on them. She was genuinely concerned, and it was not fair for him to be such a jerk about it.

Of all the people in all of Toril I could be stuck with, why him? She’d rather have Grobnar singing his white thistle song to her over and over again…

Why can’t I be with Casavir, or Elanee, or even Ammon…she sighs as she sinks to the ground beside the wolf, tears of frustration and grief threatening at the corners of her eyes.

If Casavir were here things would be so different…

Wistfully, she recalls the night they spent together at Crossroads Keep. Her heart was still beating madly after he had confessed his love for her up on the battlements, and the moment the door to her room was locked, he had enveloped her in a gentle embrace. She remembers how small she had felt, her head barely reaching his chest. At that moment, in his powerful arms, she felt that nothing could harm her, not even the King of Shadows. As she nuzzled her head into his firm chest, she could smell his masculinity and a tinge of armour polish. She heard his steady heartbeat, and it had made her own heart swell with emotion. Their first kiss was funny; she had to stand on tiptoes and Casavir had to bend down quite a bit. But when their lips met, she felt like melting into his arms. It started off gentle and polite, their lips barely touching, before her hands had slipped up and around the back of his head to pull him closer. As the kiss became deeper and more sensual, he had swept her off her feet and carried her to her bed. Laying her down, he started to kiss her all over her face and neck, sending shivers up and down her spine. His lips lingered over the scar on her chest, as one of his hands slid up her hip and under her shirt in a rather un-paladin-like way. As he did so, her blouse began to ride up, revealing her stomach, then the underside of a breast. She feels a finger lightly brush her nipple…

And with a small gasp, she had caught his hand to stop him going further.

“Is something troubling you, my la–“ and he had stopped himself, remembering her previous order not to call her a “lady”. “– Alya?” Concern was reflected in his deep blue eyes, although Alya could feel that he was highly aroused.

“It’s – I’m just…” she stammered as she pulled her top down and sat up.

“I am sorry.” Always the paladin, apologising when it wasn’t even his fault. “It was not my intention to –“ “No, Casavir,” she placed a finger over his lips. “It’s not you – it’s me. I…I’m sorry.” She ran both her hands through her hair in exasperation.

“Alya,” he had said gently, a hand on her knee. “We will not do anything if you are not ready.” Sitting beside her on the bed, he placed an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. “Know that I am happier now than I have ever been in my life. My only wish is that you are just as happy. So until you are ready…” he tenderly kissed the top of her head.

And they had remained in that position through the night, holding on to each other, Casavir softly stroking her hair while she leaned against him, listening to the rhythm of his heart, until they were interrupted by the siege on the keep.

He was so sweet and understanding…

It is only when Karnwyr starts to lick the salty tears off her face that she realises she has been crying.

She hears movement towards the river. Bishop has probably finished with his bath.

She is not in the mood to face him right now.

Getting to her feet, she creeps into the trees, and finding a path, starts to follow it unconsciously as she allows her mind to wander. She starts to think about a conversation she had with that ranger at Port Llast, Malin. Apparently she had some sort of history with Bishop, and from what she had told Alya about him, they probably did not part on the best of terms.

“Bishop doesn’t serve anyone but himself,” she had warned her. “Don’t turn your back on him.” How right she had been. Where did trusting Bishop get her in the end? The entire Crossroads Keep had come close to falling to Black Garius, all because their Knight-Captain had foolishly ignored everyone’s misgivings about the ranger, and had chosen to try and see the good in him.

And there hasn’t been much good to find.

Alya remembers what Bishop had said, when she tried to confront him about Malin’s accusations:

“She doesn’t know me, and neither will you.”

You’re right, Bishop, she thinks to herself. I’ll never know you. I cannot seek to understand someone who does not wish to be understood.

The trees around her starts to thin out, and before she realises it, she finds herself standing again in the clearing facing the burnt-out village of Redfallows Watch. The blackened ruins seem to stare back at her with hollow eyes.

How could anyone do this to their own village? She wonders, hugging herself protectively. She tries to imagine what the place would have been like: where she stands, this looks like it could have been the main approach to the village. The houses were arranged in a rough semi-circle surrounding the communal well, with what looks to be the remains of a farm over there…she tries to add some people into her picture: men, women, children, animals…a nice, normal Mere community.

All gone now.

Something brushes past her leg, making her jump. Karnwyr looks up at her intently.

“Hey, boy,” she rubs his head. “Hope Bishop hasn’t sent you to track me down.” The wolf sniffs the air, and, catching the scent of something, runs off towards the charred remains of the village.

Bishop grew up here, in one of these very houses, she thinks distractedly, as she watches Karnwyr dart inside a crumbling structure. I wonder which one was his home?

As if responding to her question, the wolf gives an excited bark, and she sees his dragging something large and heavy out of the old house.

“Aww, Karnwyr,” she says, wincing. Please don’t let it be a skeleton. She runs toward the wolf, intent on stopping him from desecrating someone’s dead body.

As she gets closer, she notices that it was a piece of leather armour. It looks as if it had been dumped there only recently; the leather is still supple, but…

The back of it has been completely ripped to shreds.

This looks like Bishop’s, she thinks, as Karnwyr makes a snuffling noise beside her. But why –

The deep gouges she saw on Bishop’s back…

As she inspects the tattered piece of armour, she wonders what could have been vicious enough to tear through the leather in this way. She fingers a patch that looks to have been scorched.

Bishop mentioned something about hell hounds…

The cuts in the leather are ragged. They were not made by clean slashes, but rather by repeated scratching. It would have taken time for whatever did this to dig its way under the armour.

But why would he just lie there and let a hell hound claw his back like that? Was he unconscious?

Waitaminute, I was unconscious…and that would mean, at any one time, either Bishop or Khelgar would have to be carrying me…if the hell hounds were on him when Khelgar had his hands full with me, he’d be a dead man as Khelgar won’t have been able to help him…

So the only plausible explanation is…that Bishop was holding me when he got attacked…

An unlikely image forms in her mind: the ranger being besieged by a hell hound but unable to fight back because he was holding her. He uses his body to shield her from the creature…

She shakes her head. Bishop would never do a thing like that…

Would he?

Karnwyr nudges her with his nose. The sky is darkening, and she does not fancy hanging around these ruins at night. Wrapping her arms around herself, she reluctantly makes her way back to camp.


The morning is grey, drizzly and utterly gloomy, a perfect reflection of Bishop’s mood.

She was not at camp when he returned from the river the day before, and neither was Karnwyr. He had not bothered to try and track either of them down. By nightfall, they had returned together. After eating dinner in silence, she had turned in for the night.

Bishop could not read the funny looks she had kept giving him. She didn’t seem angry with him anymore, but she still wasn’t talking to him.

That’s not a surprise, though, is it? After how you acted like some degenerate prick yesterday.

He knows he could have just told her the truth, but what good would that have achieved? All he would have gotten would be more sympathy…

He pictures himself jerking away when she touched his bare back. Her hand had felt cool and soft on his shoulder blade, and his skin tingled where her fingers brushed it. Something did a little flip in his chest, and he hated it. He is glad he hadn’t told her how he really got those scratches. She would probably have tried to touch him even more, trying to nurse his wounds. He doesn’t know how long he could have endured her hands moving up and down his back, before he snapped and lost control.

And I don’t want to lose control.

It’s disconcerting how close she had gotten him to the brink with just one touch.

Would it be all that bad to go over the edge? A voice inside him asks. Why can’t you just tell her–

No! What difference would it make, anyway? She’s still going to leave…

He had returned from a morning hunt to find her packing a satchel.

“Off somewhere?” he had asked, and she had merely nodded.

Now he is rolling up his own bedroll as he prepares to break camp. The rain is spitting down, not heavy enough to be a problem, but wet enough to be a nuisance. Karnwyr is lying under a tree, seeking shelter from the rain, his snout under his front paws. He doesn’t look too happy either.

He gathers up half the food rations and most of the healing supplies and dumps them next to the bag she is packing. She looks up at him uncertainly, but before she could say anything, he turns, and starts busying himself with his own preparations.

Soon, they are both ready, their packs slung over their shoulders. Wordlessly, he leads them away from the clearing and into the woods. They trudge along a muddy path in silence, until Bishop thinks he would get smothered by the palpable tension.

“So…” he tries to make it sound casual. “Where will you be heading, Captain?”

She is quiet for a few seconds, as if surprised by his sudden attempt to make conversation, and is deciding whether to answer him or not.

“I don’t know,” she finally concedes.

“I don’t know? Never heard of that place.” He cringes at his own lame joke, but he thinks he hears a small chuckle behind him.

A few seconds later: “I can’t return to West Harbour. After…” he hears her voice catch. “After what happened there, there’s nothing left for me to go back to.” Unsure of what to say, Bishop keeps quiet, but Alya soon continues. “I guess I’ll head back to Crossroads Keep.”

“Returning for the hero’s welcome, are we?” he snorts. “And then becoming one of Nasher’s lackeys again.”

“I guess…” she sounds wistful. “But it’s not like I have anywhere else to go. Besides, I’d like to see Bevil again. Perhaps Daeghun is still there. And…” she hesitates before adding, “perhaps then I could give the rest a proper burial.”

Bishop turns to look at her. She is walking with her eyes downcast, and he sees a tear trailing its way down one cheek. He looks away quickly.

It’s not like he’s never seen her cry before. For a hero of Neverwinter, she seems to do a lot of crying. She had cried when that Shandra girl died, and when they found that almost all the villagers of West Harbour had been slaughtered. Shedding tears at all is bad enough, but doing so in front of other people is such a show of weakness.

So why is it that she still appears so strong, even now, as the tears are falling?

He chances another glance backwards. She is surreptitiously dabbing at her eyes while pretending to push her hair off her face.

How he longs to stop and hold her, to wipe those tears away, to tell her some nonsense about how everything will be fine…

But they have reached a fork in the path.

Alya stops next to him, and looks at him expectantly, all traces of tears gone now.

He jerks a thumb in one direction. “You’re going that way.”

“And you?”

He points down the other trail. She nods distractedly, but keeps her eyes on him. Those eyes, such a deep, liquid green, like forest leaves on a dewy morning. He loves how they slope up ever so slightly at the corners. They have always reminded him of a cat ’s eyes, so befitting someone of such feline grace.

He suddenly realises that they have been staring at each other for a full minute.

“I…” he mutters, forcing himself to break away from the hypnotic gaze. “Go. I’ll stay here and watch until I’m sure you’re not straying off-track.”

“Okay.” She walks past him towards the indicated trail. Then, she stops.

“Bishop?” she says, turning around.

“What?” Again, those eyes, staring right at him.

“Thank you,” she whispers, her hands clasped in front of her, the slightest hint of a smile playing on her lips.

Bishop says nothing.

Say something! He screams mentally at himself. Offer to follow her!

Instead, he merely nods an acknowledgement.

As she turns to walk away, Bishop watches in silence, feeling a surge of relief.

He also gets the awful feeling that he will regret what he didn’t do – forever.

The Way of the Hunter Chapter 21 - Torn © Alya Elvawiel

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