There were many different Hunters with many different methods. Some Hunters were infiltrators, they stuck to the shadows with religious zeal, only revealing themselves in the most dire of circumstance. Some waltzed into towns waving their sigil, relying on the respect the commoners had for the organisation for their co-operation. It mostly depended on the mission, who had hired them and how the client wanted it handled. But some Hunters were more adaptable than others; they were usually the longer-lived, more experienced ones. Despite only being in his late eighties, the Ritual having lengthened his meagre human lifespan, Arken was chief amongst them. He had been taught by the best.
Hasteq had neglected to tell them how he wanted Arken to do it, so Arken elected to do it the way he liked.
He walked right in.
Arken expected the small town to be deserted, or be at least quiet but much to his surprise it was bustling with life. Many of the locals even greeted him on the street. Men were marching back from the mills or other odd jobs. When Arken found the tavern, it was filled with rowdy locals who eyed him with anything but suspicion. It was all smiles and nods which disturbed Arken more than if they treated him with hostility.
Before he set out Arken had done his research. There had been many times over the history of Angara when entire towns had gone silent. The most recent was in a country far to the north named Camaria when a large group of vampires moved in and killed or sired most of the locals. They were led by an original vampire named Kalthasin who was one of the most dangerous and powerful mages of the time.
It took twenty Hunters to stop them. Seven Hunters were killed in the battle, and most of the town was burned to the ground. But over fifty vampires lay dead and Kalthasin, who had not taken part in the fight, was later tracked down by the legendary human, swordswoman, Malidil and her apprentice. They managed to take down Kalthasin, but Malidil was killed in the process.
Her apprentice was still alive and now active as a Hunter, but Arken couldn’t recall his name. He was an elf and-
Arken stopped just shy of the counter as the realisation hit him. Ever since he had started down the main street, something had seemed off, and now he knew what it was.
There were no elves or dwarves.
‘May I help you there, sir?’ said the barkeep.
Arken nodded. ‘Yes, please. I would like a room and do you know where the best fishing spots are, by chance?’ he said in his best Everdeenian accent.
The people in the tavern were watching him, and Arken didn’t need the ability to sense magical auras to know it.
Arken stood upon a rock, doing his best to pretend to fish. The cool north-westerly blew through his long white hair. It was more than refreshing as it dispersed the humidity notorious for Everdeen.
To their credit, the two men tailing him weren’t bad. Disturbingly good, actually. But they were no match for his senses. Despite this Arken couldn’t help wear a constant smile. This was the closest he had to a holiday for a long time. With the waves smashing against the coast and the beautiful blue sky, he couldn’t help feel relaxed.
The fact the locals had set a tail on him wasn’t surprising. It confirmed there was something behind this excommunication and the fact they had some skill announced they’d had training in it, either that or first-hand experience. If Arken had ghosted the town, he wouldn’t have found this vital information so fast.
Arken hoped the town’s people were rebelling against their corrupt aristocracy. Perhaps even wishing to free the slaves? If so, it was an admirable ambition, but too lofty. They wouldn’t last long against the might of the Everdeenian army. But the fact there were no elves and dwarves around disturbed Arken.
He’d noticed the tail the second he’d left the tavern that morning, the second he’d been here, so had decided to go straight to the beach to fish. That’d been five hours ago. Arken was at now ease while they would grow bored and weary, he could keep this up all day. But that was the problem, as much as he didn’t want to he had to stop soon as they may rotate the watch replacing the bored, tired locals with fresh ones.
With a curse, Arken packed his gear and began back to the town.
He took a different route back to the tavern, this time past the church. It was one pm, the holy time allotted by the Jaroai for the daily worship of the mindless masses. Arken had always wondered why the Jaroai had dictated that time in the holy book of the avatar. Perhaps it was because it was the time when the sun was at its hottest? That it had something to do with the fact the Jaroai could only use the light and fire magic disciplines? Arken had never encountered a Jaroai, but he’d heard stories.
The thought caused a shiver up his spine, and then he paused in his tracks.
Was that the sound of construction? And was it coming from inside the church?
Arken carried on and the closer he came to the church the louder the sound became. The constant hammering and banging forced him to remember. He watched while his men built a siege tower, Arken’s army had surrounded Hamar’s capital, Valtagan. The tower was over twenty metres tall, one of the largest made by mankind. That was one of the many things forgotten from his legacy after the church destroyed most records of the ‘cowardly king.’
He turned the corner, and the church came into full view; like most of its ilk, it was gaudy, over ostentatious and well maintained. The churches usually ringed in the locals to work for free, due to it contributing to the ‘community spirit’ and ‘in the of service Jaroai.’
This despite the wealth the churches held due to the donations were given by its parishioners, they could easily pay them. Arken would be more inclined to use the term ‘sheep’ when in his more bitter moods.
What made him pause was the beautiful stain glass windows were boarded up from the inside.
Two men stood guard at the large double doors — big bastards trying their best to look intimidating.
This didn’t stop Arken from approaching.
‘Uhh, excuse me!’ Arken said. ‘I am visiting from Symbalmark and here for daily worship. What’s going on? Is the church closed?’
‘It is,’ said the man on the left, his beard as thick as his huge arms. ‘Church is closed for renovations.’
Arken nodded. ‘D-do you have another place for replacement?’
The two guards exchanged glances. ‘No, not yet, sorry,’ said the one on the right,
Arken wasn’t sure how his false persona would react to this. Most of the sheep would lose their minds, being so brainwashed. But his character was faced with two large thugs him, and cosmopolitan Everdeenians weren’t known for their faith.
‘I don’t understand,’ said Arken.
‘There ain’t much to it, to understand,’ said the right thug. ‘Go and pray at the inn.’
‘The book of Jaroai says-’
‘Yeah it does, but unlike you city folk we don’t have a place big enough,’ said left thug. ‘Everyone is doing it by themselves.’
Arken said nothing, frowned, but nodded then turned and walked away.
What could they be doing inside the church? And the strange thing was, he couldn’t sense the aura of the local priest. Could the locals be rebelling? It would make sense they would kill their priest. But the absence of the elves and dwarves put paid to that theory.
This couldn’t be good, not at all.