A soft murmur of voices cascaded through the tavern. Another person dead, last week, from what he could tell. A traveler from a distant place this time. Still, no closer to killing the beasts in the waters off the shore of the village. Still, no closer to saving the town from ruin. Many hunters were in the tavern, hoping to slay the beast. The glory, however, could only go to one of them.
“Are you going to stay, sir?” A small girl, no more than ten asked him. She was a pale thing, scrawny, and dressed in tatters. But there was a beauty to her that would come into fruition as she grew older.
“Yes, a room for one please.” He answered her.
“For a night or forever?” She asked with a tilt of her head and a small smile. From across the tavern he could see the tavern keeper, a beauty to behold in these parts. It was a wonder how some great noble lord had not swept her off her feet and carried her back to his castle. The woman must have been a cunning one, sweet words and bitter lies. A mother teaching this girl to con people with doe eyes.
“A night.” He answered having no time to be conned by such people. “I’d like another ale and whatever house special you have for dinner.”
“Are you a hunter?” She asked him not bothering to write anything down.
“Yes.” He answered. This town was plagued with monsters, specifically those of the aquatic sorts. The request had been up for years, so said the rumors he heard. To eliminate the harbor dwellers, and to help their meager town flourish without fear. For their ports were empty he had heard, unable to get trade from the fear of what lurked below. “I am here to save your town.”
He gave her a wink, knowing that this girl may be able to provide more information regarding the monsters. He also hoped she’d put a good word in with her mother.
She scurried off across the room, and not an eye bat its way towards him. There were other hunter groups in the tavern, none that he knew of. He knew they all knew of him. He was hard to miss in his studded leather, studded with silver as it burned a monster to the touch. He was not a modest man, and knew of his charms. Scars across his eye gave his otherwise handsome looks a bit of an edge.
He was large but not too large, fit with muscles from training and two swords. All the best hunters had two swords, after all. He was not worried for money, as he was rich enough as it was, and a town such as this would give little in way of coin.
He knew little about the exact details of their monster. However he knew he’d be the one to kill it. The other fools in the tavern were green, childish, and unready for the monster serpent he knew to live beneath the waves.
“An Ale and the House dinner.” A deep voice woke him from his stupor.
At first he would have thought the man a woman, with how delicate a soft he looked. Not a bit of muscle on him, lithe like a dancer but without having seen a day of combat. A soft one, the man thought. Soft men like him didn’t get much far in life, preferring politics over battle and feelings, over power. Soft men like him were a disgrace to all men, speaking to women as if they were women, joining in on conversations and emoting with them.
Across the bar, the beautiful tavern owner kissed a burly man, who was more soft than muscle as well, albeit in a different way. He was a large man, tall, imposing, but with a jolly smile, and warm cheeks. Another soft man, fat on the money of travelers, the hunter gathered. A reckless family with no strong men to protect them. A wonder how they had lasted so long.
What a horrible family.
The son of the house, for the hunter knew it to be true, placed the food down on the table. “Enjoy.” And then he was off, getting stares by some in the room who watched with interest or disdain.
“You should stay forever.” The young girl was back. “We always could have more help in the village. Become a sailor or a guard.”
“I’m a hunter, girl.” He bit into the meat before him noting how exquisitely it was cooked. Perhaps he should stay another night after his hunt was done, to celebrate of course. Perhaps he would convince her mother that her husband was a worthless stump of flesh, and that he was a much better choice, muscle and skill, an unbreakable charm.
“The boats come with little new people.” She complained. “You should stay.”
“The boats don’t come at all, girl.” He wanted to scoff at her idiocy. But she was only a child, he reminded himself, her parents probably shielded her from more dangerous parts of the world.
“But they do?” She asked with confusion. “As long as they have a deal that is.”
“A deal?” This was news to him. A deal with the creature, it had to be. And only sentient creatures could create deals. Instantly, the creature he thought he was working with was different.
“Meia.” The soft man, her brother, called to her and she turned. “Leave him alone. He’s eating.”
“Mother asked me to ask him about his plans.” She offered back. “A personalized deal.”
This struck him, the hunter, for he hadn’t realized his fame had gotten him acknowledgement in the village. Would he be able to use that deal to speak to their mother, alone? The son glared at him, eyeing him over before smiling a sickening smile that was soft and airy and anything but befitting of a man. “He’s here as a Hunter, nothing more. Let him eat in peace.”
Suddenly, he was anything but hungry or thirsty, pushing his food aside.
“Alright.” The young girl agreed moving off with her brother as the entertainment began.
Songs of the village musicians reverberated through the room. Alluring like a siren at sea that lured sailors to their deaths. Standing the man left, prepared to gather more information on this job before he attempted the kill.
The village itself was peaceful, with ugly men and few women, and beautiful children, mostly girls. Complacence, he could see it on all the ugly people. Complacence and acceptance. The odd dichotomy between ugly complacence and beautiful people was appalling in the town. A world of its own, fat on its own greed. More men than were scattered in the town, and when there was a woman to be seen she was not much but a glaring fool who eyed him.
For a town stuck in ruin they were functioning rather well. Complacence or idiocy? Had they long grown used to their situation that they knew nothing else? The ideal of it made him sick.
Unfortunately, he had to speak with them. They gave him what he needed to know, where to find the monsters, but not what it was. They warned him, and asked him if he were going to stay. They told him of famous adventurers who had come to the parts and had been unable to do anything, adventurers who had disappeared. They seemed to believe that he would be like them, and abandon them or worse, fail. He rejected their offers, for the was no greater embarrassment than failure, and deciding to stay in such a forsaken town.
Knowing he would not get much more, he began his trek to the shore, swords out and prepared to fight.
As he approached he heard nothing, but the wafting of death and alcohol, alerted his senses. Blood, and the salt of the sea. Destruction, he knew, as he hid in the brush and tried to look to the rocky shores for the beast. What he saw was more blood stained rocks, no sand in sight, and a few discarded bodies. The remains of a massacre not a day old. No monsters in sight.
The soft echo of music from the tavern reverberated across the ocean that seemed oddly calm.
Slinking from the brush, he began across the dark beach, using the light of the moon to guide him. His first task was identifying the bodies, or what little of them was left.
“I told you he would be out here. I told you, it would be dangerous.” The soft complaint of a girl.
“And whose fault do you think that is?” the deep voice of a young man.
“Mother asked me.”
The Hunter’s hairs stood on end. He turned back to see the siblings standing on the beach crossing towards him.
“Stay back the monster is out here.” He warned them.
“You didn’t finish your food.” The boy stopped walking. His face was illuminated by the moon and the wind swirled around him, with the light touch of sand. “Was it not to your liking?”
“Does it matter what he thinks, if he’s not going to stay?” The girl asked. What was her name again? Why couldn’t he remember it?
The soft echo of singing from the tavern was closer now, and through the trees came the singers, followed by the tavern goers, blinded by glamour and drugs. At once the Hunter knew what it was, why they had searched for him, why they had brought up the food he had nor finished. “You sacrifice hunters to the monster?” It was a set up.
The complacence of the villagers had been because they made a deal with the creature, much like the girl had told him before. Like what ever sailors came to their shore, these people had grown so desperate that they’d made a deal with a monster in order to keep their people safe. If he had taken their deal, he wondered, would he have ended up like the drugged hunters? Or would he have been safe for a night, able to slay the beast and set them all free from the curse they’d brought upon themselves in fear of what the monster would do to them.
Regardless, he’d have to alert local authorities as soon as he was away from the village.
“Sacrifice?” The girl asked cocking her head a bit. “We made a deal with them. One night or forever.”
“We should not interfere with their revelry.” A soft voice, rumbled behind the hunter. He turned back to see the Tavern lady, standing in the waters behind him. How had she gotten there? What was this?
Her voice was soothing, alluring, beautiful.
His attention shot back to the crowd, hunters and beautiful women. Beautiful women who were dressed in little clothes, dragging the hunters, men and women, to the sea. Beautiful women who he had not seen in village. And he noted children standing on the shore watching, the girls and a few boys that the town had.
“Fear not love, you will learn your gifts better,” The mother spoke to her daughter.
He understood then, better than he should have. They did not need to make a deal with the monsters of the sea, for they were the monsters. Sea witches who walked along land, seducing people to stay with them. Most sea witches, as he knew, were female. Few were male, and the son before him was one of them. The few male children were them.
The two did not make a deal with monsters, it was a town of monsters and he had walked right into their trap. Aiming for the children, the water of the ocean wrapped itself around his ankles pulling him back. Tripping forward, he stumbled a bit before tumbling to his knee when an arrow lodged itself into his calf and then thigh.
He looked back to the hunters who were enticed and charmed by the monsters of the town. They would all drown but not him. He’d get away. He’d reveal the truth of the village to the world. He’d bring back a team of great glory to vanquish the demonic town. War broke out between the charmed hunters, in the form of a bloody dance that was egged on by the demon women.
He looked back to the girl child before him, knowing that she was the weakest link. Peeling himself to his feet he lunged again. Reaching to strike her, he watched as his hand was cut off. The father of the children sliced his hand in two, a glare upon his face.
The Hunter reached with his other hand, for it to be chopped of as well. Just as the Hunter burst out a scream he felt the sword drill its way through his back, severing his spine.
“My husband loves his children.” The woman smiled walking to her husband’s side, past the hunter who was bleeding out, looking at him once with eyes that were not human. She then walked off, husband at her side, directing her son towards the blood dance, telling him that he should join and properly learn. The Hunter could only gasp out in pain struggling to survive, trying, wanting, needing to. They were too far, he could not longer hear them.
Small feet approached him and he looked up. What was said next, in the fading of the light, was said in a meek voice speaking to him in the sort of tone that made his eyes droop and body drowsy. Th words were spoken and then she left trotting after her mother and father as her brother joined the demons in the water.
“You should have picked forever.”
The song of sirens lulling him to sleep.
So, I wrote this for Penable’s weekly writing competition. I wasn’t sure where I was going when I began, but I knew I wanted a horrible character to be the hunter. A sort of Geralt, but the cocky sort of hunter that makes you want to rip their eyes out. Also this guy is no where as skilled as a Witcher, in any way shape or form.
I know its weird of me to post on a Saturday, but it’s how it is. See you next week!