Eating Clouds

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Chapter 11: Buck The Demon Hunter

A few feet further away from the hole Eddy appeared out of, another piece of ground was tossed aside, revealing yet another underground space. A loud groan echoed from below.

“Crack-a-doo!” it said. “That light burns!”

Ozzy frowned. He first expected for Dawn to pop up, but this was a male’s voice speaking. A low and deep, yet warm sound. It was the kind of tender noise making everyone feel at ease. Ozzy immediately felt curious to meet this person with that remarkable voice.

He stared at the hole, waiting for this individual to appear. He would try to memorize everything he’d see of that man.

And so the first thing he saw were two giant hands grabbing the edges of the hole. Thick fingers dug filthy nails into the earth as the man pulled himself up to the surface.

First, there was a bulb of brown hair with a glimmer of red when the sunlight gently stroke it. It was pulled back into tail, or a braid. Ozzy couldn’t yet see it.

Next he noticed where the huge eye moustaches above two gigantic blue eyes. Next to these two colourful irises was the nose the most important of the man’s face. It was a big one, with wide nostrils, big enough for Ozzy to put two index fingers in them. If he wanted to, that was.

Under the huge nose hung a great moustache and beard, in the same colour and glimmer as his hair. It covered his face from the nose down, only leaving his red round cheeks naked.

The two remarkable eyes met the pair of the boy, who felt busted. Ozzy immediately bowed his head, as if a means of respect. Up till now, never in his life had Ozzy ever explicitly showed respect towards anyone. Not Gerald, not strangers, and surely not Eddy.

But being in this man’s presence made him shy.

“Well howdy, little bastard!” the man said excitingly as he pulled himself onto the grass. Ozzy dared to look up for a second, but still felt too humble to speak. And he also just didn’t know how to respond. The man treated him like an old friend, yet he’d never met the boy before.

Ozzy suddenly felt something tingling his knee. Eddy was poking him with an angry look on his face. His eyebrows basically clung his round glasses as his eyes spit fire.

“Don’t get rude, idiot” he mumbled. “This man saved your life. The least you can do is greet him.”

The man patted some dust of his wide trousers as he’d finally set foot on the ground. While he did, he chuckled. “Oh, you’re too kind.”

He then straightened his back, and almost unnoticeable gave Ozzy a wink. “Yet a bit harsh.”

Eddy turned towards the giant man, placing his hands yet again on his hips. The simple gesture with which was his way of telling he didn’t agree with whatever statement was made. “An’ what’s that supposed to mean, pal?”

The man started stepping towards the mattress, and with every step he took the ground shook under his weight.

Before he answered the little elf, he sighed. Then, on a very casual tone, said: “It means you’re an uncivilized piece of shit, Tolkon.”

Ozzy quickly placed a hand over his mouth to hide his giggling. He’d never heard someone speak so rude to someone else. True, he did learn some swear words from the old man Gerald, but those were never directed to anyone in particular.

Eddy, however, didn’t seem to get the gist. The boy could see how the back of the little elf’s neck began to redden. The little man stepped away from the mattress, his hands folded into fists.

“’S that how you treat an ol’ friend, bud?”

The man stood before the mattress, his gigantic body casting a shadow over both the elf and the boy. In order to look down the man had to place his chin on his chest, since the little elf didn’t even reach his ankle.

“Puh, ‘ol’ friend’?” he snorted. “Last time I saw you was three damn years ago. And that’s in human ones! Longer in elfish! We’re merely acquaintances, you and I.”

The little elf jumped angrily on his feet, shouting in an elfish language Ozzy couldn’t make much sense out of. But he also couldn’t of this entire conversation.

Eddy kept calling the man his friend, yet he told the boy they were acquaintances. And now he’d gotten angry because the man called the elf his acquaintance. It was all very blurry.

The man casually stepped over the shouting elf, not affected by whatever was coming out of the elf’s mouth. He instead turned to Ozzy, whom he probably figured was more interesting than an elf who let his emotions be stirred by someone else by just a few words.

The man kneeled down next to the mattress, with a warm smile on his face. He was either amused or just kind.

“So, how ’bout you?” he asked. The little boy frowned a bit awkward, as he didn’t really understand what that question meant. Luckily, the man quickly caught up on that. “How ’bout I introduce myself first, right?”

Ozzy nodded, still a bit overwhelmed by the presence of a man who looked like the ultimate warrior from his adventure books. Not only his great amount of facial hair, but also his big shoulders and weight chest. And although the shirt he wore was very baggy, there was no doubt they hid some strong arms underneath. His trousers also looked more like pyjama’s, but his feet wore heavy boots, capable of kicking the life out of anything.

Yet his eyes showed nothing but kindness, making it impossible for Ozzy to imagine this man would harm even the tiniest insect.

Eddy finally calmed down a bit, and although he kept on mumbling angrily, he did seem interested in joining the conversation. He climbed up the mattress and swung his thin legs over the edge, but he did turn his back on the man, still too stubborn.

This man sat down cross legged, and sighed. “The name’s Buck. I am…” He paused and glanced at the little elf, with a twinkle in his eyes. “Well, what did the bobble head tell you?”

Eddy glared over his shoulder, but kept his mouth shut. Ozzy looked from the little elf to Buck and back. He cleared his throat, suddenly feeling the need to put up a good first impression. “You’re a wizard, aren’t you?”

Buck’s big blue eyes widened in surprise. Slowly his mouth started curling up, his cheeks went up to his eyes, causing wrinkles in his face. He leaned back, slapped his knee with the back of his hand and swung back forward. A mixture of bad breath and spit was launched in Ozzy’s face as the man burst out laughing. His shoulders moved up and down, and he seemed to have trouble maintaining his balance with the next salvo.

The boy blinked, wiping his cheeks. He had no idea where the joke was hidden.

“A wizard?!” Buck shouted. He bowed towards the little elf, bringing his face close to the little man. “That’s what you told him?”

Eddy waved his hand in front of his nose. “Get that filthy face away from me, will yah? And no. I just said…oh well, you’re one, aren’t you?”

Buck leaned back again, wiping a tear from the corner of his eye. “Gimme a break. A wizard! Can you imagine?!” He giggled, in a pitch higher than one would except from him. “Me, with a pointy stick, wavin’ all ‘round like a drunk, talkin’ nonsense. And a long grey beard wavin’ like a curtain! Ha!”

He leaned back again to laugh again. “Crack-a-doo! What a story that would be.”

After some more chuckling, he seemed to recover from that terrible joke. Ozzy’s face had turned red in the main time. He was wondering if he’d somehow insulted the warrior.

Buck breathed in and out as his face got a serious expression. When he looked Ozzy in the eyes, he spoke with pride and honour. As a real warrior would do.

It made the boy respect the man even more.

“I” Buck started, and he spoke very slow, “am a demon hunter.”

The boy was in awe. He’d never heard of such a thing. The man grinned at the excitement of the youngster. When he continued speaking his voice seemed to regain some youth. His profession was awesome, after all.

“I slay demons who’ve escaped the underworld, with something which is called ‘Weaponry Making.’”

The little elf grunted. “Which is the same damn thing as magic!”

Buck narrowed his eyes, for as much as that was possible, at the little man. “It ain’t. I’ve shown you dozens of times, you should know that by now.”

“Whatever” the little elf replied stubbornly. The man grumbled, seemingly tired of talking to someone who just won’t listen.

“Ozzy, was it?” he continued, turning his attention back to the boy. Ozzy nodded, and started to feel more comfortable around the man. He seemed nice. The wrinkles around his eyes made him think of Gerald. Not the beard, not the eye moustaches. The wrinkles.

“You look better than when you first got here” Buck said as he quickly examined the boy. “How much do you remember of before?”

The serene atmosphere around Ozzy suddenly turned cold. A shadow flashed before him. The trees were screaming as they were being ripped apart. A horrific festival of leafs descending too soon for this time of year surrounded him. There was a scream which hurt his ears.

And the pain. Oh, the pain. From the bottom of his spine it dragged itself up to his shoulders. He curled up, his muscles moving around spastically.

From his toes up to his throat he pulled up a scream, louder than he’d ever screamed. He felt his vocal cords burn, but he couldn’t stop.

Then it was gone. As pulled away by a string, the images faded. The pain immobilizing him exploded into nothing but dust particles after a firework.

The boy felt so tired.

Slowly but surely, the blurry world opened up again. As he slowly regained his sight, the face of the demon hunter was the first thing coming into view. Buck’s eye moustaches formed a downward spiral, and the boy indicated that as him being angry.

“I…I’m sorry” he coughed. His dry throat barely allowed him to speak.

“Don’t apologize” the demon hunter mumbled, as he kept on staring. “This is the bird’s doing, not yours.”

Buck turned to look at Eddy. The little elf had his arms hanging loosely around his round body, his eyes widened and his face as pale as a sheet. He swallowed.

“Where’s he from?”

The little elf didn’t take his eyes off the boy. “How should I know? I only know the kid for, like, a day.”

Buck responded by grunting in a very low tune. As an animal protecting the cubs. Eddy finally seemed to understand the dire situation.

“Beyond the Grey Stream. ’S all I know.”

All Ozzy sat there like a statue. He didn’t understand any of it. The demon hunter was able to pull away his nightmares. Just like that. How?

And Eddy kept talking about a place called the ‘Grey Stream’, but he’d never heard of it, or read about it. And the two men were talking about him as if he wasn’t present.

“I see…” Buck nodded wisely. When he noticed Ozzy’s scared eyes, his face softened once again. “Don’t worry, boy. We’ll figure somethin’ out.”

The boy nodded slowly, feeling ever so thirsty. Dawn sure took her time to get that water from the river.

“Right” he mumbled, hoping he’d sound a lot more braver in reality.

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