DATE: Sun 06 Jun 2021 20:47 By:

A Hunter’s Garden part 5.

Part 1.

Part 2.

Part 3.

Part 4.

Another short chapter but there is a LONG one coming next time. It just felt really natural to end it here. Another update soon.

As always: email me with comments.

Fight for it.

The Gardener looked at us for a second. I think now that she was assessing our chances and taking stock of her soldiers. At the time I thought our little group was sharing a moment in solidarity. She issued her commands. “We head for the large hall where they eat, I saw it on my way in. That’s where most of the daemons congregate when they are in the compound. It’s probably where the Gate keeper is. We can’t take on all of them but there will be lots of lesser daemons there making up the numbers. They are no more of a challenge than a vampire; maybe a little faster when they attack is all.” She paused and took a deep regal breathe. “Charles, float about the enemy. Don’t focus on any single target just keep the ones at the back distracted so we can focus on them one wave at a time.” Charles nodded, as usual happy to be of help in any way he could. “Howard, use that new blood lust you have to sniff out the lesser daemons, rip out their souls as soon as you get a chance. Its not like you can be over-fed and it will have a impact on them, they will perceive you to be the largest threat and head for you. I’ll be there to back you up.” Howard grinned widely in agreement. “Mike!” she snapped, looking intently at me “Take the Vampires mixed in there and focus on them.” I knew what she meant by that. I wasn’t to try and help her or Howard if they were in trouble, I should focus on my own problems. Her and Howard were in a league above me and I had to remember that.

Howard was checking his gear and stretching his arms out, casually limbering up for the single biggest fight any of us had ever willingly walked in to. “What if there isn’t one of these Gate Keepers in there?” He asked. The Gardener raised an eyebrow “Well my little hunter. Once they are all dead, we just wait for one to turn up.” He nodded and smiled to her. She had called him Hunter, not Vampire. We all noticed that. She knew where his loyalty still lay.

She planted her fists on her hips in a heroes pose and let put a beaming, nervous grin of a warriors apprehension and excitement. “Whatever happens in there. Thank you for coming for me.”

“Take these” Said Charles as he handed me his robes. He vanished from sight. It looked like he had been blown away like the smoke from one of Howard’s cigarettes in a light breeze. The Gardener turned to Howard who was by the door “Lets go and introduce our selves” and with that Howard spun his sword around his hand in that way he likes to do and kicked open the door, looking as bad-ass as any action hero I had ever seen.

We walked down the corridor. That’s important. We ‘walked’ down the corridor. We never ran. We never jogged. We walked. Because we were hunters and we knew that if we were going to take on this fight we would do so with pride and vigour. We walked into the belly of the beast with out eyes open and our weapons drawn.

We turned to the left, the direction we never dared walk the first time though this place. We entered the large hall that we had seen on the way in. The gardener took the lead, she walked up to the large wooden door and with absolutely no doubt in her mind she strolled in as if she was an honoured guest. We followed her steps but not her stature. The room was large and smelled like bile and rotten flash. The daemons sat about tables with no organisation. Some eating meats and putrid fruits, some devouring the freshly killed victims that they had trapped and brought here with them. They numbered almost fifty and every single one looked at us and stood, dropping their vile meals.

The gardener set the tone for the encounter “Hello.” she said calmly “I’m the gardener and I need a Gate Keeper to send my associates and I back to a city that we’re rather fond of” They looked at us as if we where insane, we probably were. One of the larger muscular animistic daemons looked around at his army. He gave out a sound that may have been laughter, or a battle cry, I’m honestly not sure. He waved a hand for his Allies to stand their ground. He stepped a side and revealed the daemon woman who had beaten the gardener out side of the night club and brought her here.

The daemon woman spoke a few words to another daemon who was smaller than the rest but robed similar to Charles. He took down his hood to reveal a burned and green face that was formed like a bald dig. He began to nod repeatedly getting faster and faster while he made a croaking sound, He raised a necklace out his robes and the croaking turned to a scream or warble. He took a knife from his sleeve and stabbed into his own arm. He did not bleed but instead a thick and wet looking smoke began to stream from his wound, The smoke formed into a portal of swirling black with electric sparks of blue light. It drifted backwards towards the wall where it formed into a full sized and solid looking portal. The Woman pushed the strange monk away with a violent shove. She Stood in front of the portal “Here is your way home.” she said again in a coarse voice in the Demti tongue. She sat down and carried on eating some putrid fruit as if nothing was amiss. The room filled with the daemons laughter. “Thank you” said the Gardener, in a suspicious tone. We woman gestured for her to stop. With a mouth full of her vile meal she decreed “Assuming you can make it to it that is.”

With her last word spat the room erupted and our enemies leapt towards us from every direction, with knives, hammers, claws and fists. Time seemed to stop for a moment as my training took over.

The first Thing to feel the Gardeners fury was a lesser daemon that looked like a large rat. She put a hole in its neck with her spike that was so wide its head came off with just one movement. She knelt as the pulled her weapon back to its attack position and lowered herself as she did. She spun around and impacted the legs of another lesser daemon. The daemon fell. She pulled the spike around again as she carried its momentum and pushed it up and straight into the side of a vampire. Her fluidity was mesmerising. It all looked like a choreographed dance. As this thought crossed my mind I realised that I had my own problems. I instinctively blocked a bone-like blade from a vampire on my left, he looked larger and angrier than the vampires I had fought before. Maybe he was not from my world, maybe he was just angry. It didn’t matter. He was so focused on his one blade he forgot that daggers have a tendency to come in pairs. I let his own momentum keep him moving and as he leaned a little past me I viciously let my other blade impact into the back of his neck. He screamed but I had no time to make sure that he was of no further threat to me. I just moved forwards to another vampire. This one I simply punched in the face with the butt of a dagger and as he stepped back to get his balance I flipped it over and buried the end in his eye, he fell away from me and I moved to the right to be a little closer to the Howard. I would be overwhelmed if I was isolated. Another well armed enemy came towards me this time a large woman who’s body was more like that of a spider than a person, she was gripping a large hammer and had the strength to use it. She was a lesser daemon but I knew even a lesser one was out of my league usually. In this mess of movement and death though I had no time to pass the fight along to a more qualified ally. I dropped to the floor as her hammer came swinging for my face, I rolled on my my back and kicked at her. Impacting both her knees at once. She screamed or screeched at least. The hammer came falling down into my shoulder. It hurt but I had no time for such worries. It was my fist injury this fight and no doubt little more than a foot note in the damage that I was sure I would receive. I jumped back up to my feet to see Howard walking through lesser daemons like they were angry paper. All he had to do was get a grip on their chests and they where paralysed, then he would use his new found powers suck out their souls. When they ran dry, the husks of body’s would fall to the floor. His training and experience when added to his new vampire speed and strength made him much more than any of us had realised. The ones he couldn’t soul drain for whatever reason he despatched with unsettling levels of violence.

The wind and debris was blowing around the room like being in the eye of a storm. It kept many of them distracted and out of view. This was the power of Charles. He had kept the levels of the storm in the room rising slowly but steadily until it even lighting was striking out of the wall of wind I didn’t even notice the storm start. Even the walls were beginning to show signs of the pressure.

I caught a glimpse of the daemon woman, this groups leader. Still sitting at the edge of the room relaxing, guarding our portal home. Then the dust and wind obfuscated her away from me. But I knew she would be there until the end.

I had been distracted for a second. A crash of swords meeting appeared in my gaze. Howard had blocked a weak human looking vampires blade from cutting my neck open. Howard made short work of the little vampire and it was a lucky reminder to me that I had a job to do. I carried on carving and jabbing my way through every enemy that came at me. The Gardener was fairing better than even Howard. We had many a cut and fracture but she seamed to be as calm and methodical as she was on the first strike. She was still effortlessly jumping from one kill to another as if it was all pre-planned.

There was change in the air. Charles stepped up his wall of wind and it gave Howard and I a chance to organise for a moment, we stood back to back knowing that any second more daemons would come through the storm. “How’s it going?” he asked over my shoulder. “Better than expected but I can’t keep this up much longer” I replied. “Me neither” He called back. “I thought vampires had more stamina” I yelled. “let me know if you want to see how the other side live, I always got room for one more soul you know” Howard said taking a moment to show me how his teeth had grown-in during the fight. That’s when a new blade came through the storm this one was large and imposing and attached to a massive daemon. This daemon was not making any attempt to look human, he was like a giant statue had come to life, he was no smaller than nine feet tall and his muscles matched his stature. His eyes were a smoking black and his blade steaming with shadow. He was also coming right at me. I nudged Howard who was standing back to back with me still. He turned and the moment he saw it we both rolled in opposite directions away from it. I whistled as loud as I could and called out for the Gardener. Instinctively in Demti. She finished off the four daemon’s she was battling in mere moments and turned to her new enemy, “Shit!” she mouthed softly. Behind him came another four smaller but very confidant daemons of a similar breed. Moving statues with stone skin and oversized weapons.

The wind and the sand that was blowing accurately around us began to fall, we had been fighting in the eye of a storm for a while now taking each enemy as they came and now that storm was falling away. We could finally see the mess we had made. There were only two or three daemons and vampires still capable of moving and they were in no shape to stand against us now. Howard looked at me and we knew what to do, for better or worse we needed to keep the smaller daemons away from the Gardener so she could focus on the big one.

I was first to engage them, I fired my throwing knives at them as fast as I could, they all bounced off but served to get their attention. The larger one swung his black blade at the Gardener. This was no time for me to focus on her. I the rest of my blades franticly. One went in. I was more than a little shocked. Of all the blades I had thrown there was one that landed in a one of the daemons lower back. “Howard” I called. And gestures to my own back, then to the daemon. Howard looked confused for a second then realised. We knew their weak spot. The daemon, reached back and pulled the blade out, There was no bloody but stone dust or grey sand came seeping out. It didn’t like being injured and came running at me, not realising that it was crossing the stride of the larger one who smashed through it like it was chalk. One down. Three to go.

Howard ran towards two of them with his blade dancing franticly. The final one heading to me. Getting hit would be like being run over by a bus. I needed to bide my time. I dodged.

Meanwhile, the Gardener was doing something similar, letting the daemon attack and simply slipping away before it landed. She was trying to get it to swipe its sword at one of the tables. It took three or four more strikes that I could see before it paid off. The word was stuck deep in heavy old wood of the table. The Gardener ran up the daemons arms and like it were an gymnastics spring board she flipped over and keeping the force of her fall she pushed her bone spike into its back the daemon reacted like a horse rearing on its back legs and crushed the Gardeners blade with whatever passed for its muscles as it straightened its back. It whipped it arms out wildly impacting the Gardener and slashing her against he wall, then the floor.

I saw my own chance with my foe and lunched towards its back with both daggers out. They hit their mark but barely. The daemon smacked me as it turned to dust. I was right, it did feel like being hit by a bus.

I pulled myself to my feet and coughed up something black. I wasn’t in a good way. I turned to see the last of the daemons that Howard was fighting throwing him around like a rag doll. I looked over to the Gardener and saw the massive all be it injured daemon pounding her into the ground with both hands clasped together. I stepped forward and fell to my knees. The explosions of pain on my body faded to the background as one of the onlooking vampires saw its chance from the periphery of the fight and leaped onto me. Then as my own blood ran into my eyes I looked at my Gardener. The Woman I had risked so much for and she looked back from under the fists of the daemon. That moment froze in my mind and time its self slowed as everything faded to black.

Inside the blackness I was sure I was in the process of dying. Never again to open my bloody eyes. Then I realised something. I was not inside the darkness of my own mind at all. I was lying on a floor in a black room. I stood up disoriented but in no pain “Hello?” I called first in English then in Demti. I could see nothing. I put my arms out looking for a wall or a table or anything to give me a sense of place. Then a blinding white light appeared in front of me. Slowly as my eyes adjusted it took the form of a person, and slowly again I could see Charles. The light coming off him was not hitting anything, there was no reflection from the floor it was like there was nothing here except he and I.

“It’s okay Michael. Don’t be afraid” He said with a crisp and vast voice. “What’s happening? Where am I?” I tried to look around again, there was still only the light that was Charles and his glow upon me. “Where are the others?” I asked hurriedly. Charles walked closer to me “It’s complicated but they are still in that moment. On the precipice of defeat.” He said, again with that crisp voice that I could not fail to understand completely. “My people have been watching you since you came to this realm you know.” He said it softly and with regret. I wasn’t interested in his people I wanted to get back to the fight and live or die with my Friend’s but Charles continued on “For us, this battle has raged forever” he said cryptically. “Look, I’m interested, I really am but is now the right time for this?” I snapped. He put his finger to his lip as a gesture for me to shut up and listen.

“We have been watching everyone who has come to our broken Utopia. Looking for a weakness a way we could fight. Some of us, like me have taken a more active interest. Some have left our world to see if they could become form enough to fight in other realms” he circled me as he spoke. I listened still.

“The wisest of our people, exist without an form at all. They look at everything at once, they are all present in all places and they know things you could not understand” He stopped circling directly in front of me “They can see the future and the past and they see no hope for us” I wanted to apologise or offer my help but I cared more about my friends than the plight of his people right then. “The wisest of my people have decided that they will give themselves to the fight, but they have no form… You will be their vessel” He said. “What?” I asked with genuine confusion.

Silence filled the already silent place. Then slowly balls of light faded into the room or wherever I was. They did not make an effort to take a form as Charles had, first there were few then more. Within a few moments there were lights all around me. Stretched out in every direction. “They offer themselves to you. Accept them and you will be human no more.” I looked around “I don’t understand” I said. Charles continued. “You will no longer be Human. But I promise you. You will be a Hunter still.” the worlds that left Charles were solemn and weighty.

He spoke one last time but without that supernatural crispness. He was speaking outside of the script his wise men had given him “You will lose much, but gain more than you can imagine”

I had one question “What happens if I say no?” Charles began to walk away. As he faded he turned his head to me and said in a whisper “Then there will be no one to save her.” and with that he was gone. I was alone in the black room surrounded by balls of light. Little made sense to me but I knew what I wanted now. In a bold and proud Demti tongue, my last words as a human were uttered “I accept.”

The balls of light began to spin around me and then the black room was too bright for me to keep my eyes open. I closed my eyes and as I blocked out the light without, the light within began to blind me. I have no words for what happened in that moment that lasted forever. I sometimes think I’m still there now. Time was returned to me. I felt reality encompass me like a blanket. As the world was brought back into focus I was aware that the Vampire was beating me in the face with its powerful hands. It didn’t hurt. It was an irritation though. I ignored it and stood up throwing it from me. It didn’t understand what was happening but I couldn’t let his ignorance buy him any mercy. I waved my hand at him and asked for the force of gravity to take him. He was pinned to the ground for a moment and screamed as he was crushed like a cockroach under and invisible boot.

I noticed Howard first, he was in pain being held around the neck while with one hand while the daemons other punched him in the stomach. Howard was beaten and broken but alive. I waved my hand and pulled the daemon off him he slid screaming towards me. Within am moment his neck was in my hand, I looked into his eyes and burned him within all it took was a mere thought. I brushed the dust from my hand and turned my attention to the Gardeners enemy. He was an elder Daemon and the most powerful I had seen since coming to this world. I snapped my fingers mostly for showmanship as I turned his own black eyes into balls of furious pure light. He screamed and clawed at his own face and the light consumed the daemonic energy that was his own soul. I smiled as it fell to its knees and with a wave of my hand his own massive sword was ripped from the table it was stuck in and entered his back, and then it burst out of his chest. He fell sideways onto the floor and shattered into sand.

I looked over to the front of the room where our portal was. The daemon woman stood in front of it but this time not as an epic guard but as a refugee. She ran into the portal closing it behind her. I made no attempt to stop her. I looked about the room. There were a handful of things alive in there. I blew a thought out of my lips and the simply died.

The gardener stood up and breathed in deeply. Her wounds healed as the air filled her. I could see the magic she was leveraging now, not with my eyes, but some other sense I now had. I traced it with my mind and pushed a little more power into it as she breathed. She looked at me from the other side of that room and looked into my eyes “how?” she asked, silently. I looked across to Howard, he was pulling himself to his feat. As long as he was alive there was little that a Vampire wouldn’t heal from within a few minutes. I walked towards the Gardener and as I did I answered her silent question. “The Wraiths. They are with me now” I said with a smile. “Your eyes they’re blue” she said with a shock “I know” I answered. “No, they are like totally blue, glowing almost” she said with intrigue.

I hugged her, and helped Howard to his feet, hugging him too. Charles began to take form, I could see him clearly now. He was still his usual hazy self to others but I could see the energy that made him up. He was as real and physical to me as anyone else in the room. “You going to explain all this then?” I asked him. “In a little while, lets get out of here first” he answered.

I picked up a bench that was left mostly intact and let Howard shit for a moment so he could use some of that soul power he had soaked up to fix himself. “Got some new moves have you?” he joked as he picked up his sword. “Something like that” I answered.

I looked at the wall where the portal had been. It was not my own understanding but the minds of those wraiths that travelled with me that understood the mechanics of reality its self. But it was my hand that waved and with a powerful thought that they used my mind to bring fourth I tore the hole open again. I gestured for Howard to go first. Then I sent the Gardener. “Charles, are you coming?” I asked. “Am I welcome?” He queried with a nervous tone. “Your people travel with me. I need you my friend.” I answered with sincerity. He nodded and as wind its self he blew past me and into the hole. I looked at the destruction that we had caused and was glad to leave this place, then stepped into the portal myself.