To my dear mother,
Sorry I couldn’t write back sooner, I was busy at the time. I hope you and the rest are all doing well.
As you would’ve of guessed already, I’m fine. I finally got accepted at the hunters guild I’ve always strived to be part of. I finally did it! Master Org, the elder in charge, frightened me at first, but I came to like him already.
I haven’t been able to meet my idol in person though – Cage Thunderwolf. Remember I told you about him?
He’s amazing mum. Cage is one of the most famous hunters throughout the country. The things he has achieved at his age is unbelievable! He’s also one of the last known thunder type mages, although he hates using magic. It doesn’t matter though, he makes up for it with his great combat skills. I’ve already made some friends here and they told me that he’s a rare sight – mostly because he tends to venture on long journeys. I’ve only seen him once, that was at the welcoming ceremony a month ago. He was standing next to Master Org, who was leading a speech. He’s got dark, short hair and light blue eyes. I still can’t believe how young he is – he’s not that much older than me. I was literally begging for a chance to speak to him, to at least exchange a greeting or something but, he was gone by the time the ceremony came to an end.
He dresses extraordinary too. His clothing is all black, and he had this weird cape with a broad hood hanging on his shoulders. He gives off a real impression of a warrior with those two lethal blades sticking out on his back. He’s so cool! I can’t wait to go on a mission with him! Though I’m not sure if I’d be able to any time soon…
Sorry mum, I know it sounds like I’m hopelessly in love with him but – he’s just that great of a person. At least that’s what I think, and I know he’ll not disappoint him once I get a chance to know him better!
My guild is full of activity right now, we’re all preparing for the festival in No-Haven. Miss Ruyu is busy organizing everything and the members are all helping out. I’m new so, they can’t really make much use of me now. I’m still getting used to things here – plus I’ve got some tasks I have to fulfill for the guild. It’s a good thing I’m finished with school. I settled everything with the other guild where I studied before by the way, they were glad that I got such a great opportunity to continue my career as a hunter.
I know you asked me what a hunter exactly does. It’s a broad topic to be honest. You see the guild gets requests from all kind of people throughout the country – requests that are not possible to fulfill by normal civilians. The tasks vary. It can be a simple mission, like finding ingredients or something or a hard one like killing some dangerous creature – it could be anything actually. There’s this saying that goes something like “A hunter will do anything for the right price.” And as primitive as it sounds, it’s true. Don’t worry, I won’t be doing anything extremely risky at the beginning. I’m going to try and get used to things first.
Anyways, I’d better go now. Hope to hear from you soon!
The Beastmasters Legacy
Cage looked at the enormous wooden door in front of him. He hesitated to push against the round doorknobs – sighing. He knew there was no way around it - around the uproar that he could hear perfectly well without even being inside the building.
The main halls – the center of his guilds base.
His guild, one of the most notorious Hunters Guild in history for being powerful and unmatched regarding strength. You could think this was due to hard work and discipline, well partially that was the reason too but, it was mostly because everyone rivaled each other. Cage didn’t know why but in his Guild, everyone just strived to be the best – and if he were to explain why, he’d say it was because of the teaching method of his Guild. Nevertheless they were also famous for having a handful of exceptionally skilled and ferocious hunters. Cage was one of them.
The name of his guild? Nowindor. Why such a weird and uncommon name? He didn’t know. His master was the one in charge of the whole thing. Master Org. The person Cage respected most. Master Org never said much, and emitted a cold atmosphere around him – a real veteran of this corrupted world. There were endless rumours going around in Alta about Cages master. He was such a legend one could think he was dead but – no, he wasn’t. Master Org was old, very old…but as lively as ever and still at it.
Cage didn’t like attention, and no matter where he went he attracted enough of it no matter how he tried not to. He was counted as one of the best and most superior hunters of the present day. His unique road of life behind him was filled with events that deemed him a celebrity in Alta. If people spoke about THE best hunter – it was him. He was the type little kids idolized on the streets – but authorities and many, many others despised him – without a particular reason. Probably because Hunters weren’t exactly seen as heroes – some hunters were evil by nature – many others didn’t care who hired them as long as the price was right, working with evildoers against the system. So actually, yes, there was this vague reason for all the hatred and suspicion.
This attention never left him, even at home.
After making up his mind, Cage finally put pressure on the door through his half-finger gloves. The door screeched – but the noise coming from the big brawl muted the sound in an instant. It was chaos, and Cage wasn’t surprised at all. Of course he wasn’t, he would only be surprised if it WEREN’T like this.
“Guys…man…” he ducked just in time, avoiding a jug full of beer flying over his head that crashed into the door he just closed. The four broad tables in the big hall were all seated full. Cage figured his Guild mates were all feasting once again, because normally half of them would already be jumping on him like hounds just to greet him. This time they were too drunk and busy fighting whatever crossed their way to notice Cage. This was usual. The hunter had to grin…he was at home.
Shouts and insults were tossed from all corners – to all corners. Someone fell down after a hit to the jaw, crippling the chair under him. There were at least 30 Nowindor hunters present and Cage, even though being directly under Master Org in the hierarchy next to four others, didn’t recognize all of them. Like every other hunters guild out there Nowindor was also an open school for aspiring younglings who wanted to study and become full-fledged hunters. Master Org always accepted a handful of, in his eyes, extraordinary individuals every year to give them a chance to secure themselves a place in this world.
And Cage rarely stopped by for a long period of time so, he didn’t have the chance to familiarize himself with the new students.
Cage made his way through the crowd keeping his hood over his face. A lot of people came into the main hall with the same appearance throughout the day so naturally nobody paid him much notice. Cage felt a bit relieved – there was a whole bunch of unsettled matters with practically all his friends.
He carefully avoided the hostility around him and fled up the stairs to the second floor. After observing more or less the same situation there he continued his way up.
The third floor. Only one door. The one place where things were more or less peaceful – excluding the noise coming from the lower two floors. Master Orgs floor. This was clearly his residence.
Cage mindfully opened the one door – stepping into a void of silence. This was Master Orgs magic, it turned down all sounds and only noise produced inside the room could be heard once inside it. Cage was well familiar with this procedure – you come in and feel like a switch was triggered in your head. He closed the door shut.
The Masters office was hardly ever visited – as a matter of fact, Cage couldn’t recall anybody else ever entering this room except him. If Master Org needed something from you, he’d find you in a split second. The veteran was powerful enough to teleport himself anywhere he wanted. Master Orgs character also seemed to induce unease into even his own guild members.
The room was the same as usual. Shelves all around seemed to contain endless knowledge about anything and everything – at least that’s the impression the old looking book covers gave. A strong scent of nicotine filled the air making one feel drowsy.
There, in the middle of the room, was a table behind which another hooded figure with dark eyes starred at the pile of papers in front of him. He silently motioned an ink filled feather with his hand. One could think Cage was seemingly invisible because the old man was completely oblivious to his presence, peacefully smoking his pipe. The flames produced by the two torches flickered seemingly in resonance with the old man’s thought process – this was how devastating his magical aura was. The hunter felt his own electric magic inside him react to the atmosphere.
Only now did Cage throw back his hood, feeling more than just nostalgia after observing his Masters casual appearance. The old mans long, grey beard had a remarkable length.
“Cage…” The voice reminded the hunter why everyone was cautious of him. The old man slowly put the feather down, looking up. Master Org was never the type to participate in needless chit-chatting. Business with him was direct and straight to the point. But Cage was one of his accomplices and knew him far better than most of his guild members. Though, that in itself wasn’t much at all.
“Sorry for disturbing you during work, Master. I wish to report that – well, I met one of your fellow friends, the Guild Elder Holotof. He doesn’t admire the fact that you weren’t present at the last Council meeting….” Cage sat down in front of his Masters table. Master Org inhaled smoke through his pipe. “Just thought I should mention that…em…”
The hunter scratched his forehead, thinking about what she should say next. Silence took over while Master Org continued smoking.
“Cage…” It sounded exactly like the first time his Master had said his name. Cage knew what this meant. The hunter had spoken the truth, yes, but not about what he actually wanted to discuss. His Master could see through him better than anyone else. “I see you’re still at it. Good…”
Master Org surprised Cage with such lines before but the hunter came to understand the fact that his Master said such things when Cage was absent for a long time. Which had now been the case. Missions for the Higher Classed hunters of a guild were usually tedious and time consuming.
“As to what you are about to ask. No, I have not seen Faith since her last departure.”
Cage sighed. This was how well his Master understood him. Who is Faith? Well briefly put also one of Master Orgs subordinates directly under him, on the same level as Cage. A female – who shared an affectionate, and at the same time a rather turbulent relationship with the hunter. Cage didn’t like conflicts, but a recent incident pretty much messed up things between them. Let’s say that if Cage was to stand in front of her now…no amount of white-flags would guarantee his survival.
“Eh…thanks.” Cage felt relieved once again. The one other reason Cage didn’t interact with anybody in the hall was because of the possibility of bumping into Faith. His masters office was so to speak the only place where he was safe. He really didn’t have the wish to sort things out at the moment, especially because he was unprepared and a reconciliation with Faith required a special kind of approach.
“Well…I’ll be leaving then. I’m sure Ruyu has some first class work for me to do. See you, Master.” Cage turned around, trying to keep the discussion as brief as possible. Due to the impression Master Org gave off, the writing he did seemed to be important. This was coupled with the fact that his Master was a political figure, a member of Altas Royal council.
“Cage…” Again, it sounded exactly the same as before. Cage stopped in front of the door. “Remember…I don’t think positively of the disturbances going on out there. Consider being around when the time comes where your guild shall be in need of your guidance. That is all I have to say…”
The hunter sighed. He didn’t like such statements coming from Master Org, because anything he said had a high probability of being true.
O O O O O O O
Cage carefully read through the reports Ruyu had given him. He was lucky that he managed to talk with her outside the main halls without interference, now he could directly proceed with his next TASK. He loved his profession, and nothing was more satisfying than helping out people while making a living from it. This world was corrupted at the core, and Cage knew if not him, then who would try to do something about it? Who would help those poor civilians? Certainly not the majority.
But before he started another journey, he needed to meet somebody.
He was now entering the fields of the large castle like building not far away from the main hall. The Nowindor Hunter School. Another noisy place – and just as Cage was digesting that thought one of the windows belonging to the dojos, which were located all around the school grounds, was blown away.
Cage lazily turned his head into that direction. Broken, burning wood was scattered everywhere whilst smoke slowly penetrated the area.
I guess that’s where I’ll find him then…wasn’t that hard.
Cage slowly trotted towards the mess.
A small child appeared amidst the smoke, searching the wreckage for something. Sure enough, Cage recognized a transparent diamond like sphere which the student picked up. The hunter stopped not too far away from the scene.
This particular sphere was a magic tool capable of helping the user to project his magical force more easily. Obviously, the kid probably tried too hard and Cage could only identify himself with the incident – he sucked at magic too.
“Master Cage?“The small kid starred at him. After doing so for a small period of time he suddenly rushed inside the dojo, looking like he wanted to notify somebody of a catastrophe or something.
“Guys!! Ey guys!!”
Cage slowly followed, waving his hand in front of his face to keep the smoke away.
Once inside, he was met with a horde of gazes belonging to what seemed like twelve year olds.
All the students rushed over to him, making all means of escape impossible. One could think there was some kind of riot. Cage was lucky enough that they didn’t all try to jump on him, but they sure made enough noise and posed an unbelievable amount of questions.
“Where were you Master Cage?”
“Are you going to teach us again?”
“Did you kill a lot of monsters?”
And so on…Cage couldn’t help but laugh. He then caught sight of someone he intended to meet from the beginning. His old friend Leo. The mage didn’t seem amused at all.
Even though the tile of “mage” made one sound like a grumpy old man with a long beard, Leo was the opposite. Totally opposite. His clothing style was considered weird by the majority. Broad looking black pants, lapping over his sandals and on top of that a oversized, white T-shirt. To top it all off he had a blue bandana tied around his head, hiding his black hair.
“All right – why don’t you guys go and report to the main hall and tell Miss Ruyu that Master Cage let you take the morning off.”
A loud “yay” erupted that echoed within the dojo and after repeated shouts of how great Cage was, all the students stormed outside like a horde of hungry grasshoppers striving to plague the fields. It wasn’t long before Cage and Leo approached one another, grinning. Following long practiced tradition, they greeted each other by grasping the others right hand, then a shoulder check and eventually a pat on the shoulder.
Then they parted.
“Just to make this clear. You’re the one answering Ruyu later…got that?” Leo pointed at Cage, seating himself on a nearby chair. Cage crossed his arms.
“Sure.” Cage couldn’t help but smirk after seeing the new opening. Smoke still rose from the wreckage. “A new backdoor entrance?”
“Yeah…that’s what you get nowadays for trying to teach kids some decent magic.” Leo grunted. “What the hell are you doing here anyway? I thought you said you’d be gone for over three months.”
“Finished earlier.” Cage lifted up the papers in his hands, eventually throwing the bundle over to Leo. “Thought you’d want to tag along on this one. Lord Snowblack of Mortuga is having some problems.”
Mortuga was a city not too far away from No-Haven , the place their guild resided at. There were probably other guild closer to Mortuga but the issue seemed to be in need of experienced hunters.
“And I was just thinking about working full-time here.” Leo joked about his current position as a teacher. He was primarily a hunter, just like Cage – although he specialized in force magic more so than in combat. Leo unwrapped the package, quickly observing the content.
“What a joke, a third class gets paid more than you now. Besides, think of all the beverage you could get when we’re done.”
Unlike Cage, who wasn’t a magician – he read everything in a blink of the eye. He then threw the papers back at his friend, who caught it with no posing difficulty whatsoever.
“Dragonriders? Shouldn’t such an assignment be more suitable for Momo? Or Faith?”
Cage acknowledged the response. Explanation: Momo, one of the first class hunters alongside 5 others, was an Angel. Yes, one of those Angels. In this world they were All-powerful humanoid creatures which lived amidst the skies. They were rarely seen by the civilian eye, and Cage had no clue whatsoever on how Master Org was able to recruit one. Momos strength was terrifying, Cage could say so from firsthand experience and her magical power could probably never be depleted. Capable of healing magic, Cage wasn’t sure if it was even possible to harm her at all. A pair of wings made it possible for her to fly.
Faith? She was a True Vampire. What did “true” mean? Well, normal Vampires were the victims of the true Vampires and didn’t posses the same ability to turn living things into a vampire. True Vampires were also much, much stronger regarding physical strength and magical power.
They also, depending on their genetics, were gifted with a second form, magically bound to them since birth. There was a variety of creatures one could possess inside himself, and Faith was blessed with a dragon form. So, if she wanted to, she was also able to fly after the transformation.
“That’s what I thought too but…Ruyu said the old man wanted me to do this one so...” The “old man” was a reference to Master Org. “There’s not much I can do about it…”
“There must be some kind of reason behind it then. Well anyways…do you always get this much loot for a first class mission?” Leo was still amazed by that amount of gold that
“This one seems to be special, it’s usually not that much. So what about it? Fifty-fifty?”
Leo thought about it.
“Eh…” He shook his head. “Not much choice if your financial state wakes you up every morning with an aching stomach.”
O O O O O O O
The trip to Mortuga took the hunters half a week including several stops on the way to rest. Nothing in particular happened. Typically in such cases Cage had to cover some expenses Leo brought up along the way, like drinking liquor he couldn’t afford. But Cage was used to it by now ever since Leo decided to take up the tutoring job which didn"t exactly give him any financial freedom. Once in Mortuga, they were confronted with the fact that they had to wait outside of Lord Snowblacks Castle until he accepted them – who was also the man who had made the request in the first place. Of course, this didn’t sit well with the two hunters…
“Man…talk about having to wait…”
“Come on Leo, look at all this luxury around you. This is the home of Lord Snowblack himself.”
“Luxury? Sorry, can’t see any – probably because these guys are blocking the view!!”
Cage smiled. He and his companion were surrounded by a group of angry looking guards who were ready to pierce their bodies from all angles. Cage could only hope the messenger who went on to clarify things for them would explain the whole situation to the lord in a way the royal figure would understand.
“Well…I guess we did do some unauthorized things-“
“I told you!!! I even said-“
“I know, okay? But then we would’ve waited outside the castle for like…a week before these guys even got wind that we’re standing there. This kind of approach is like..."Cage shifted his eyes downwards, searching for a fine term. "A shortcut.”
“Damn right it’s like a shortcut. SHORT-CUT to the throat if this situation gets misinterpreted.”
The door opened and the messenger from before appeared, holding some documents.
“Cage Thunderwolf and Leonardo Orandalf. Members of Norwindor…correct?”
Both of them replied with an exhausted yes.
“Men, you can let them go.”
“Finally…I was starting to think I had something on my face or something.” Leo sighed. All the guards around them lowered their weapons. Slowly, they returned to their assigned posts and only two of them stayed, guarding the door from which the messenger had just came from. It seemed like they were pleased too, because holding a spear up for such a long time wasn’t exactly pleasurable.
“Please sit down – the king has to prepare himself.” The messenger showed them to a neat looking place that was probably designed especially for foreign messengers and other people who had whatever business with Lord Snowblack.
Two coaches and a table. Female servants came running by cleaning the table and offering beverage. Leo made himself comfortable the instant he felt that the hostility was gone. Cage did the same whilst the messenger disappeared through the door again.
“Now this is more like it…” Leo greedily gulped down his beer. The only ones present now were Leo, Cage and the two guards, who were quite far away – leaving put the possibility of them overhearing each other. The servants were gone too. “Too less booze though.”
Cage didn’t really feel like drinking anything, he just starred into his cup – lost in thought whilst playing with his hands, juggling blue sparks from finger to finger. He didn"t think of his own power as magical, even though it clearly was, he thought of it as a natural attribute in his case. He couldn"t deny the fact that his power saved him on numerous occasions though.
“What’s up? Don’t act like your usual self, it’s too early to be thinking about the task anyway. They couldn’t of been more vague about the whole issue in the assignment, so we’ll have to wait for the details from Mister Snowblack.” Leo said, placing his legs on the coach. “Or maybe…a certain bloodsucking princess is on your mind? Hahaha…”
Cage knew who he meant, and the tone Leo just used to phrase it annoyed him. Because indirectly, Leo was at fault for everything regarding the matter between Cage and Faith.
Cage proceeded with a rash motion, hitting his thigh with his right hand. Leo, not expecting it, freaked out and toppled from the coach, lying beside the table.
“Woah! Dude, chill out! I was kidding man!!” the magician panicked, placing his hands on his head. Cage’s eyebrow twitched, he obviously didn’t get it.
“My leg itched.”
“Wha-? I thought you wanted to kill me!!”
“Stop freaking out. If I wanted to kill you…man who would even want to kill you? Seriously?” Cage leaned his head back.
Leo eventually crawled back to where he was initially sitting, moaning something whilst doing so.
“Do you know where she is?” Cage asked, receiving a sigh as response. He understood the unease Leo felt remembering the whole situation. Faith hadn’t made his life exactly easy that day.
“You wish. Last time I interacted with her, if you could call it an interaction – was when she threw me into the apartment I was renting and burned the room INCLUDING the whole house to the ground. Which cost me all my savings at the bank, mind you. “ Leo spoke in a obvious, pissed off tone. “I tell you, of all the participants during that Apocalypse…you were lucky as hell and as funny as it sounds and I hate to admit but…you running away wasn’t an act of cowardice, more so of a genius.”
“I didn’t run.”
“Put it any way you want brother, it was fun as hell either way. Hahaha…”
Cage couldn’t recall much. The memory was all blurred in his head but he remembered how Leo persuaded him to have a drink with some guild mates. The situation, naturally, escalated and Cage really went overboard – drinking without a second thought. That’s why he didn’t like to START drinking because once he started, he couldn’t STOP. Maybe it was his motive that if you do something, then go all the way or don’t do it at all, he couldn’t say. In any case, consequently he started flirting around with Ruyu. They knew each other well, back when he only started attending Norwindor she was the one female he could always rely on and talk about anything. Now that he thought about it he couldn’t believe that he actually did something like that with her. It was hard to explain: He had a crush on her once, yes, but that was long time ago. Besides, she had never really shown any interest in him, only as a good friend – or maybe that was only what he thought. Either way…he couldn’t blame it on her or anybody else. That night, once they were alone and were getting all nostalgic– the incident ocurred. They were sitting on the stairs at the main hall which led to the third floor while Leo and his bunch were causing an uproar on the lower floors. Faith caught them right before anything serious happened.
“Man…” he scratched his head.
The rest was all vivid in his mind. Momo, being beside Faith at the time, tried to restrain her. Cage took Ruyu away. Half of the drunks got to feel Faiths wrath, especially Leo. He brought Ruyu, who had fallen asleep in his arms, to his Master to ensure her safety. He then prepared to meet Faith to put an end to the issue, but his Master only shook his head to the idea. Master Org gave him an assignment and advised him to do some business outside of town for a while. That’s what the Hunter did.
Since then, to avoid any trouble for everybody else – he waited for an opportunity to clear this mess up with Faith alone. He hadn’t been able to do so till this day though and the more time went by, the more he got the impression the situation was getting worse.
“Cage Thunderwolf. Leonardo Orandalf.”
Both them looked up , recognizing the messenger from before.
“Please – come with us.”
O O O O O O O
Cage silently waited, still thinking about the usual stuff. Leo, being the inpatient type that he was, started to play with his fingers.
“Man – whats the point of calling us-“ he suddenly fell silent at the sudden arrival of several troops, escorting someone who Cage instantly identified as Lord Snowblack. Rings with diamonds, an expensive looking mantel and a crown. It was definitely him.
Cage an Leo instantly stood up, bowing to the Lord.
“You can sit.” Lord Snowblack said, waiting for his servants to pull up his chair. After carefully sitting down he signaled his men to take of his mantel. The first thing that Cage thought about was that the Lord was definitely well fed, which was to be expected. This was due to the fact that Lord Snowblack was quite the chubby type. He had a round, rosy face with small, brown eyes that were quick to observe the two hunters in front of him.
“Cage Thunderwolf. I am honored that Mavius Org chose his best hunter for the job.”
“The honor is all mine my lord.”
“My advisors were against the idea of asking the Guild Elders for help. Admitted, with all the rumors about hunters which I am sure you are familiar with, I was somewhat skeptical about it myself but…I have heard a lot about you Thunderwolf.” Lord Snowblack cleared his throat with a cough. “I look forward to seeing results regarding the matter.”
“I shall be glad to give it my best shot.”
“Now then…” Another cough. “I shall bring things to the point. As you already know, my city is being plagued by what seems like to be a group of rogue Dragonriders. At a random time, every week, these scoundrels attack innocent people on the streets, rob our food supplies and kill our troops without second thought.
“I have tried to settle this issue, but unfortunately, without any success whatsoever. You see they demand my head. Yes – mine. “
“So…you spoke with them?”
“Not directly. Through my men.”
“Did they say anything else?”
“No – only one proposal. I give myself in, and they stop the plunder.”
“Hmm…” Cage looked at the ceiling, lost in thought. “How many of them are there?”
One of the advisors sitting next to the Lord suddenly broke in.
“Their numbers vary. Sometimes there are three of them, sometimes five. Never more than that.”
“I know it is absurd to ask for this but – if you can do something, please do it as fast as you can. I cannot afford to lose more people. This issue seems to be somehow tied with me, and I can’t have people dying because of that. Please, I will even double the reward-”
“Sorry for interrupting my lord, but that won’t be necessary. I am well aware that this case requires a solution as soon as possible…” He sighed. “Either way, I shall need your assistance.”
“And…I have a question.” Cage took his time to think. “Are you absolutely sure there isn’t any other reason for this hostility?”
As if the question was extremely personal, Snowblack and his men shared a some concerned eye contact, after which Snowblack gave them a nod.
“Well…I do have a story which has something to do with this.” He said, changing his tone to a quiet one. Cage felt rather satisfied. He anticipated the fact that not everything had been revealed to him regarding the situation.
“I inherited this position from my father…Lord Rak’neel Snowblack.” The lord started. “These dragon riders, their leader…as far as I could tell – is a descendant of the Beastmasters.”
Cages curiosity was now at its peak. He had heard a lot about the Beastmasters, even had the luck of meeting one. Every citizen of these lands knew the legend about them. There had been a dispute between them and the main forces of the human race which led to a war where they summoned help from creatures of all kinds. Unfortunately, this support wasn’t enough to crown them with victory. They lost.
Now, 40 years later they were regarded as merely a legend. The loss their kind suffered pushed them to the edge of extinction, only small fractions of their people survived deeming them a rare sight. A tragic outcome, but such was life.
“Now my father was one of the Lords who helped our people fight against the beastmasters. This city is not far away from the Mountains of Heavenfall – which was believed to be their main residence. Some even say some of their kind still live there.”
Cage broke in.
“Sounds like revenge. I’m taking a wide guess here but, do you think the survivors are trying to take revenge upon your father by confronting you? But that would be rather narrow minded I mean, it’s not like your father could just, let them attack your people, could he?”
“Your guess is on target. Yes, I believe this person burdens a hate against me and my people, especially me, for what happened back then. To some extent, this is understandable but as you might of guessed, I can’t just do nothing about it, this must be prevented.
“I get the picture…” Cage answered, already thinking of a solution. “I shall do my best, Lord Snowblack.”
O O O O O O O
“How COULD you just…AHH!! We would have had twice as much cash for this, just like that! Man!!” Leo kicked some unknown object, probably a stone, whilst following Cage through the darkness. They were walking on the enormous wall that guarded the Lords Castle. They were approximately eight meters high, approaching one of the towers intended for scouting that merged with the wall. The hunter halted before reaching the very end of their destination, observing the surrounding city. Everything was quiet and no one seemed to be wandering around on the streets – just as he had hoped.
“Just so you know, I’m not giving it all knowing that I could’ve had double the amount of money for the work that I’m doing. You understand, Mr.Generous? It just doesn’t work like that!”
“That must be it…” Cage scratched his chin, ignoring Leo’s ranting. He could now see the place that he was looking for. The Marketplace – which was now completely empty thanks to the soldiers help. Cage was pleased that Snowblack had held his word, unlike many before him. This made the whole job a lot easier.
Suddenly, a group of cavalry entered the scene, walking towards the center of the lifeless marketplace. Leo recognized one of them. It was Lord Snowblack. Because he had listened to the whole briefing rather absent mindedly, he was somewhat confused.
“Are they supposed to do that?”
“Yep…and it’s about time me and you prepared to signal our dragon friends.”
“What? You didn’t tell me anything!” Leo panicked, acting like it wasn’t his fault for not listening at the briefing.
Cage only shook his head in response. He opened the bag he had carried, revealing a cannon ball.
“Look, I light it, and you toss it sky high - okay? ”
Leo couldn’t talk back right now, he was getting nervous by watching Cage prepare everything. He instantly thought that if something went wrong, they would be blown to bits.
Cage rubbed his thumb and index finger together, placing them on the tip of the rope. There was a sudden spark and the rope was lit. Leo, even though not really prepared, grabbed the cannonball with both hands, fearing its destructive power . He realized how heavy it was, but there was no time to hesitate.
“Damn!!!” Leo closed his eyes, concentrating all the energy he had into the palm of his hands. Cage saw how the magicians hands were glowing with a bright green.
Leo hurled the explosive with all his might and the ball soared with incredible speed towards the sky. Loaded with Leo’s force magic, it left a somewhat beautiful trail of green behind.
“You see that?” Leo, even though a bit exhausted, let out his pride. “Nothing less than perf-“
There was a loud explosion, of which the mild shockwave caught Leo by surprise, making him fall to the ground. All the surroundings were lit for a few seconds, confirming the magnitude of. Cage merely hid his face behind his left arm, enduring the blast.
Leo stood up, stroking the dust of his clothes.
“What a blow – that was definitely some magic infused material. No wonder it felt weird loading it with my own energy…”
“Don’t worry, I’m sure it did the job.” Cage smiled.
Cage and Leo waited in silence. They watched Lord Snowblack and his crew - occasionally taking a peek at the sky.
“You know, I got the point that you wanted to use Snowblack as bait and everything, it’s all simple but – what’s next?” Leo whispered, probably influenced by the quiet atmosphere. “We still can’t fly you know.”
“You didn’t listen at all, did you?”
“Hey! Its wasn’t exactly an option you know, I had to come to terms with the fact that SOMEBODY declined a whooping amount of cash! But it’s okay, it’s okay!! It’s not likely of you to understand a freeloaders perspective anyway-“
Leo didn’t have the time to finish his sentence due to a shrill, bestial sounding scream which notified everyone of a new presence. Cage looked up. Sure enough, a large, green-scaled creature followed by four others flew in their direction. They seemed to have been scouting the town and were now gathering together into a formation after being commanded to do so by their leader. It wasn’t hard to distinguish him from the rest, his dragons size and especially the mask he wore gave him away. This wasn’t the first time Cage had encountered one of his folk, the Beastmasters.
Leo tightened his bandana, feeling uneasy.
The dragon riders started circling around the marketplace, looking for a place to land.
The troops stationed around Lord Snowblack started moving around, trying to exclude any possibility of an attack. A motion of the Beastamasters hand signaled his followers to land. The dragon riders pulled on their dragons reins, simultaneously landing on the market place, positioning themselves not far away from each other. Some of the wyverns gave out a hideous cry, expressing their belligerent attitude forcing their owners to calm them down with a careful tug of the reins.
There were exactly five of them, with the leader in the middle. His dragon was far bigger than the rest, with beautiful, golden-green skin making him stand out in contrast to his fellow-beings.
The two parties of Lord Snowblack and the Beastmaster stood about fifteen meters apart from each other. The Beastmaster was the first to speak.
“Lord Snowblack.” He bellowed. His pet was definitely well raised, acting composed and calm. “My curiosity forces me to ask you this: What made you surrender? Have you acknowledged the wrong doings of your ancestors? Are you ready to compensate for the damage inflicted upon my people with your blood? Because believe me when I say this, every part of my body is aching to cut your head of right here, right now!!” He raised his sword up high triggering a mass of shouts from his followers, which were backed up by the roars of their dragons.
Snowblack stayed calm, waiting for the uproar to subdue. He showed no sign of fear, which was actually quite surprising due under circumstances.
“May I ask your name? I didn’t have the pleasure to hear it the last time we meet.”
The Beastmaster laughed.
“I don’t see a problem with that, since you won’t know for long. I am Fardan, Fardan Nayswing.”
“Fardan. I understand your hate towards me and my people but, I advise you to stop this nonsense while you still can.”
Another laugh, now it came from everybody on Fardans side.
“You understand? What on earth do you understand? Oh, how my people, all the children, all the women suffered, how they saw no mercy under your fathers hand? This is justice my friend. This is only justice. Nothing more.”
“No. This is meaningless slaughter of the innocent who had nothing to do with my fathers doing.”
“And our folk was at fault? Did your father have the right to kill our people who were mostly innocent too?”
“No, there is no point in this argument. There was nothing to say here in the first place. Men, prepare yourself!!!”
Once again Fardans sword sparkled under the bright fire the wyverns spat into the dark sky. Like Fardan had commanded, his men drew their weapons, joining the fierce battle cry he performed.
Lord Snowblack suddenly raised his own arm. The troops around him acknowledged this, signaling some unknown presence.
It suddenly became clear that the rooftops of the surrounding buildings were all stationed with Snowblacks men. Dark hooded archers popped up from everywhere, pointing their bows fire-ready at the center of the market place where Fardan and his crew were just about to attack Snowblack.
“Ambush!! Men!! Retreat! Reunite back at the base!”
The dragon riders rapidly forced their dragons to take off, but it was to let to retreat unharmed. The archers started showering the team with a seemingly endless flow of arrow which were a deadly force camouflaged by the darkness.
The wyverns retaliated with a mighty roar, releasing fire which had a devastating range. The archers that were attacked had to duck down and press themselves to the roofs ground to avoid the attack. In a matter of seconds the market place turned into a chaotic battlefield.
Leo looked at Cage with desperate eyes.
“What now?? Is this also part of the plan????” he asked, sounding nervous. It was at times like these he hated being a hunter.
Cage focused his attention on Fardan, who was trying to ward off the attack. He had a problem leading his dragon towards the sky. The arrows were maybe somewhat ineffective against the wyverns rock hard skin, but he himself was in a pinch.
“There’s no time, Leo! I need a force push!!” Cage pointed at Fardan.
“What? You insane??”
“No time, come on!!”
“What the hell!” the magician was obviously unsure.
Cage stood on the edge of the wall. Leo didn’t have time to think, he wove a sign in the air behind Cage. A sphere of magical power appeared.
“You sure about this?”
Leo stretched out his arms, putting the palms of his hands together. The sphere started to expand.
“You wanted this…” he let go, taking distance from the scene. A blast erupted. Cage felt the incredible pressure pushing him forward. He flew directly above the onslaught of arrows, towards the Beastmaster.
There was no time for Fardan to realize what had happened. The next thing he knew, he was snatched out of his saddle, flying towards one of the buildings.
Cage and Fardan were painfully thrown onto the rooftop of what seemed to be the barracks. The hunter let go of his opponent, trying to halt the crash. He endured the pain he felt in his left shoulder, which was now heavily bruised.
Before he could get his thoughts together, another scream penetrated the atmosphere. The dragon riders were overwhelmed. Some of them were still countering the archers while the others had to come up with way to save their leader. Escaping wasn’t an option now. They fought back.
The scream came from Fardans dragon, who was now in an obvious fit of rage. The golden beast, not being able to locate his master, spat fire in all directions – primarily targeting the archers nearest to him who were now desperately seeking cover.
O O O O O O O
“Men! Take them down!” One of the commanding unit who was guarding Snowblack up until now ordered the Ballista Throwers, who were now also present to target the dragon riders. Lord Snowblack had successfully fled the scene.
“Damn!” Leo looked out for Cage, who was now out of his sight. “What now?”
He observed the scene. There were troops everywhere, fighting the dragon riders. There was even battle on the ground, since Snowblacks men managed to restrain one of the dragons with the help of the ballista throwers. The massive arrows were connected to a long chain of metal – once fired, the arrowed arched over the flying beasts. This gave the troops enough time to gather at the other end to tug on the chain. Of course, a group of ten was a necessity at both ends of the chain. Other ballista throwers followed with the same procedure. Multiple ballista units were needed for per dragon and since the range of the ballistas was more than enough, the soldiers had no problem pulling down the rest of the riders. The beasts struggled against the restriction.
“No time to waste!” Even though Leo didn’t like the extreme, at times like these, he behaved exceptionally calm. Without a second thought he jumped from the wall.
“Woah!” The wind pounded hard against his face as he began to gain speed. Just before he could experience a fatal collision with the ground, he stretched his arms before him again with rapid speed, releasing a another force blast.
“Unngh!!” his body abruptly halted in mid air, making it seem like he was flying. Some invisible force pushed him up coming from the ground. The power of the magic he had use eventually faded away, and Leo successfully landed on his two feet.
Without hesitation, he took off towards the nearest battle scene.
O O O O O O O
Before Cage could sight his opponent, he was surprised with a rash blow aimed at his head. Fortunately, he was fast enough to pull out one of his own swords and deflect the attack. Fardan took a step back, not expecting this outcome and gave Cage the possibility to draw his second blade.
Inconveniently for all, it started to rain gradually making the roof wet.
“Who are you?” Fardan pointed his sword at the hunter, who only smirked in response.
“That’s rather unimportant. But if you insist, I’m Cage Thunderwolf. A Hunter. “ Amidst the havoc going on around them, Cage didn’t seem to be influenced by the disturbances. He griped the hilt of his elven blade, altering his expression to a serious one. Blue sparks started circling around his body before disappearing.
“Well then Cage, let me tell you that you picked a fight with the wrong person.” Fardan prepared for another attack. “I don’t like people meddling with my affairs.”
“That sounds like a contradiction coming from somebody who slaughters innocent people.” Cage countered. “So I’ll tell you something in return, Beastmaster. I don’t like people judging others because of past deeds that have nothing to do with them. I really…don’t like that. One way or another, you’re going down.”
“Don’t underestimate me, Hunter!!”
Cage maneuvered his next swing in time to block Fardans sword. The Beastmaster then proceeded to continuously slash at his opponent, but the hunter didn’t falter . They were well balanced against each other –Furdan had incredible strength, where as Cage made up for it with his speed.
Furdan executed a blow aimed at Cages left arm. Unfortunately for the hunter, he didn’t have enough power to parry. His blade slid across the roof. Fardan smiled.
With one swift stroke Cage landed a blow with his now free arm to Fardans chest, releasing a powerful electrical discharge into his body. The Beastmaster howled in pain as he stumbled backwards, holding his chest. Cage expected an interval and was surprised as Furdan regained his balance almost instantly to strike again.
“You can’t defeat me, hunter!! I have a legacy on my shoulders and YOU, nor anybody else, shall stop me!!”
Fardan and Cage tried to overpower each other, pitting their swords into a battle of endurance. Cage was forced to take a step backwards. It was now that he noticed how slippery the roof was. He gritted his teach, knowing that one small mistake could leave him fatally wounded.
“Legacy, revenge, hate, peace. Just shut up already.” He pushed back. “You talk too much.”
Cage warded off Fardans sword only to immediately block another blow. The hunter had no choice: Analyzing the situation, speed was his only method of winning.
He changed his approach into offensive one, pushing Fardan back as far as possible, until the other was almost at the edge.
The fear of falling down distracted the Beastmasters concentration, making him trip.
“Surrender.” Before Fardan could even realize that he was on the ground, the tip of Cages sword was already at his throat. He swallowed hard.
“Hahaha…do you really think this is it?” Fardan tried to catch his breath, trying to get some distance from the blade. His long, wet hair stuck to his throat while his face stayed hidden behind his fear-infusing mask.
“As a matter of fact, yes. Drop your weapon.” Cage didn’t move. He didn’t have to, there was no way of escape for his defeated enemy.
“I shall cleanse the name of the beastmasters…and go down in history!!”
A shrill shriek made Cage turn around. He hadn’t noticed the beast approaching probably due to the rain – which muted most of the noise. Not possessing the time to think he jumped to the side, avoiding an assault by the beastmasters dragon. The creature would of probably continued attacking if Fardan had not tried to mount his pet. This happened quickly, and before Cage could stop him they were already in mid air.
Cage couldn’t let his enemy get away. Before it was too late, he jumped, successfully wrapping his arms around the dragons tail. This disturbed the flight, but the dragon managed to keep going regardless of the additional passenger. Cage on the other hand didn’t endure an easy task trying to hold onto the reptiles end. The rain didn’t make things brighter either.
Fardan, noticing the issue, spat out his anger.
“Persistent, are we!?”
Neither the wyvern, nor the owner could do something against the hunter approaching. Things were hard enough as they were with the fact that Fardan had to guide his dragon. Cage successfully made it to the upper part of the dragons body, motioning Fardan to try and fend the hunter off. He took out his sword, gripping a rope that was attached to the saddle with the other hand. Fardan already gave his opponent undivided attention, forsaking control over the flight. The wyvern probably noticed that its master was in trouble, and tried to maintain balance, which allowed both warriors to stand up. Fardan didn’t hesitate to strike first. Cage, with only one sword, parried and countered back.
They exchanged blows, both risking to lose to their footing and fall down into the depths of the forest bellow them. They were now approximately a mile away from the castle. The rain poured down aggressively, and Cage could feel Fardan getting the upper hand. He obviously had a better position.
Things looked bad on the hunters side. They were now both in the center, with the saddle between them. The strong wind hitting against them threatened to disturb their balance.
“Forget it, you can’t defend yourself forever!” Fardan shouted, feeling confident of his victory.
“Who said I need to defend myself?”
Cage, surprising Fardan, focused his strength into one blow. The beastmaster didn’t have a chance to succesfiully deflect it, and the elven sword inflicted a deep wound upon his right arm. Fardan released his weapon instantly, and his bladed faded away, disappearing somewhere amongst the trees bellow.
Cage watched his enemy shout in pain. The hunter was surprised at Fardans durability, since the warrior managed to keep his stance without falling. Nevertheless, he couldn’t continue the fight, and had to kneel down to regain his composure.
“It’s over!” Cage shouted against the wind. Fardan looked up. His eyes were bloodshot.
“Never!” he leaped at the hunter, aiming for his throat. Cage didn’t react, even though he could easily cut him down with his sword. The beastmaster gripped his neck, desperately trying to choke him and once again Cage realized how strong his opponent was.
The hunter focused his entire magical energy and discharged the electricity that had charged up inside him. The shock penetrated Fardans body, and even though his assault was persistent, he couldn’t help but release Cage. The force had trained him of any remaining vitality, and he fell down on the saddle barely holding onto it.
Cage couldn’t help but cough.
Fardan moaned in pain, still feeling the discharge pulse around his body, disturbing his sense of coordination. His breathing was disrupted and he couldn’t concentrate on anything else but staying alive, which meant gripping on the saddle.
Cage kneeled down himself, resting for a brief moment. Now he had another problem to solve. Stopping the wyvern.
The hunter couldn’t tell where they were, but it was getting cold with the rain and the wind hitting down on him. After reassuring himself that his opponent was defeated, he made his way towards the wyverns neck. The beast couldn’t tell what was happening, and gave out a mighty roar.
“Please make this work…” Cage didn’t know to whom he was speaking. The cold was unbearable.
He carefully stepped over Fardan, charging his hands with magical power. With a rash motion, he plunged his hand into the wyverns neck.
The painful cry he received as a response almost made him let go, but he continued driving electricity into the dragons body. He felt the energy leave him, which was replaced with fatigue. Eventually he stopped, feeling dizzy. It required a great amount of power to effect such an enormous creature. He wrapped himself around the wyverns neck.
Fortunately his plan seemed to succeed.
Cage couldn’t really tell, but it felt like they were heading downwards. The dragon tried to keep flying forwards, but the attack had dominated its senses. In a matter of seconds, they were already breaking through the heavily branched forest underneath them.
Cage was aware of this risk, but there was nothing else he could of done.
There was a sudden halt as the dragon crashed into a tree. Cage managed to hold on, but felt an awful pain surge through his side as an unknown obstacle hindered his own fall. Not being capable to understand the circumstances he fell hard on his back, coping with an unpleasant sensation that he felt from the collision.
The next thing he saw was a bright wave of fire that came from Fardans rampaging dragons mouth, illuminating the area. After several waves of scorching hot flames the wyvern crawled a short distance in confusion, before collapsing unconscious.
Several trees and bushes were burning, ignoring the rain that tried to extinguish the fire.
Everything fell silent. Cage felt the raindrops hit his face, trickling down his cheek whilst soaking his hair. It was finally over. He groaned as the pain from his injury became more prominent and a warm substance gradually covered his side, coloring his torn clothing red.
Cage tried to move his arm, which proved to be difficult. The wound he had obtained moments ago was no mere scratch. There was no doubt that he had broken something.
A sudden noise.
Cage looked to the side. The fire revealed the owner of voice. Fardan.
The hunter found the scene brutal, and somewhat repulsive for his taste. The beastmaster was laying not far away from him, in pain, grasping what seemed to be a sharp piece of wood that poked through his stomach. He had no strength left to do anything and it was obvious that he was close to draw his eternal breath. There was no way any miracle could save him now, he was bleeding internally and they were far away from civilization to ask for aid.
Cage stood up, resisting the pain and limped toward his defeated foe. He couldn’t help but sigh.
The mask was broken, and half of the beastmaster face was now on display, partially covered by his long, dark hair. Fardan coughed up some blood, still holding onto the wood that held him in place. Cage really didn’t want to be in his place right now. The beastmaster still carried an aggressive look on his face, although now it was forced.
“Come on…” He coughed, staring at the hunter who stood before him in silence. “Laugh if you want….*cough*…Someone will replace me….eventually…*cough*…and avenge me…mark my words…”
Cage sighed. The rain continued pouring whilst the fire only grew fiercer.
“Sad how hate can consume somebody like this…” He said.
Fardan gave out a weak laugh in response, but Cage continued.
“But…no one goes down in history for long if they go down the path of revenge. Do your actions deserve eternal praise? Think about it.” He turned around, starting to walk away.
Fardans face tensed up as he tried to say something, but he couldn’t. His eyes fell shut as a tear rolled down his face, joining the rain.
“So long, beastmaster.”
O O O O O O O
Cage peacefully basked under the morning sun. He and Leo were on their way home and since Cage was bruised all over and could hardly move, they were lucky enough to run across some farmer along the way who was heading in the direction they needed to go. He didn’t refuse to let the two hunters travel with him, offering them a place amidst the hay in his cart. Leo was already annoyed having to wave his hand in front of his face constantly to keep the bugs away. Regardless he tried to count all the coins in the sack in front of him.
Cage thought about the outcome of the mission. Snowblack was satisfied and could rest at ease. The city would return to normal and there was no need to fear being attacked. The damage done was minor, although several building would have to be repaired. The restrained dragons would be probably handed over to the local druids who dwelt in the nearby forests. Fardans followers were in custody. Of course there were some casualties but the mission was a success. Cage always had a good feeling when he knew that his doing helped people out, it was irreplaceable. It was what made being a hunter worthwhile.
“Haven’t had this much libers in a longtime!! We’re celebrating once we’re back.” Leo beamed. Cage crossed his arms, closing his eyes to let the sun warm his face.
“You okay Cage? You look messed up.” Leo said, as if mocking him.
The cart bumped onto something on the road, reminding Cage of the wound he obtained.
“How could you let your guard down? I thought you’re on top of your game?”
“I don’t know, it just happened.”
“Sheesh…” Leo shook his head, resuming his counting.
Cage didn’t bother telling his friend the whole story otherwise Leo would go on about it for ever and ask him all types of questions and the last thing Cage wanted now was pointless chit chatter. He needed to get his injury healed as fast as possible – this condition only restricted his freedom, and there was nothing Cage hated more than laying aimlessly in bed, waiting for that one day you could get up after a month or so of doing nothing.
“Say…I have the feeling there’s much more in that bag than there should’ve been. Leo?” He remarked, observing the sack full of libers. Cage had entrusted Leo with the task of getting the reward from Snowblack instead of him.
“What are you looking at me for? I’m still counting it.” Leo answered rather quickly, not liking that Cage was suspecting something. Cage only stared at him, and eventually the silence became too much for the magician. He stopped counting, returning the serious expression his friend gave him.
“Look. Be happy I got the extra, okay? It’s not like you’re going to be able to go venturing off again anytime soon in that state- some some extra chips won"t be bad.”
Cage didn’t actually care, more money was always good, he would’ve probably done the same thing anyway. He returned the smile that slowly appeared on Leos face.
“Good thing that those eighty percent are mine-“
“What?! Dream on! Want me to remind you who had to deal with all those wyverns while you were sightseeing between the clouds?!”
And so they continued arguing while the cart road along the bumpy road, heading towards home.