Arken awoke with a start. Despite the pain thundering through him and his blurred, spinning vision, it took an instant to see he was in a cell. The walls were made from stone, the bars of iron. It reminded him of the cell he’d been kept in by the Hunters, years ago. He felt the cold iron manacles clasped around his wrists and heard the chains rattle as he writhed.
‘Good,’ said a voice and Arken’s attention snapped to its source. A large, well-built human who seemed in his late twenties stood in the cell with him. His arms were as thick as a troll’s gut, and his features looked like they’d been carved from granite. He was shaven bald, and his thin, scarred lips smirked down at Arken. ‘You are finally awake; I’ve been waiting and waiting.’
The man’s accent was Varmorian, throaty and coarse like his throat was forever inhabited by thick phlegm, but nasally too.
‘Who are you?’ Arken managed through dry lips.
The man hushed him, approached, took out a flask and forced Arken to drink.
‘If you must know, detective Arken, my name is Garron and I, like you am a Hunter.’
‘Never heard of you,’ said Arken.
‘Ohh! How could you hurt my precious feelings like that,’ said Garron. ‘Or I would be saying that if that wasn’t the point. You are not meant to know about me, young Arken. Most of your kind don’t.’
Arken’s eyes widened, and he almost spat out the water, instead, he inhaled it, and Garron had to take away the flask so Arken could writhe in his coughing fit.
‘Oh? What is wrong?’ said Garron.
‘Why?’ managed Arken though his coughing. ‘Why am I here? Am I a prisoner of the Hunters? Why am I a prisoner? Did I do something wrong?’
Garron burst out in laughter, but it held no humour. ‘No. No. You perform exemplary. To above and beyond, even to a fault. We think.’
Arken felt his eyes narrow. ‘What?’
‘You didn’t kill them — the townsfolk. We wish that you did. You would have saved us much dirty business. Much, much dirty business, indeed. We killed everyone. Even the priest. Every bit the hero aren’t you not? Managing to resist the influence of the pillars longer than anyone has before.’
This information should’ve horrified him, but he felt nothing.
‘Obelisk,’ said Arken.
‘It was an obelisk, not a pillar.’
Garron smirked again and pointed at Arken with a wobbling finger. ‘Ahh yes. There it is. You have potential, Arken. It was a shame; I wished we could have sired those people. Would have been great, we could have used more bodies, more vampires for when we finally break the dimensional barrier and start the real war against the Jaroai. But they knew far too much. There are secrets in this world, or worlds, to be precise, that mustn’t be known. Secrets we were created to protect.’
‘I...I don’t understand,’ said Arken.
‘No, young Arken,’ said Garron and his huge hand began to reach for Arken’s head. ‘And I am afraid that you never will.’
Year: 2500 AHV
Age: Late Industria Era
Country: The Republic of Hamar
Arken sat in the interview room, straightening his note papers on the desk. He fingered and thumbed his eyes and blinked up at the light hanging overhead. With a sigh, he took the speaker horn.
‘The next interviewee, please,’ he said. This was the sixth today, and thankfully the last.
He glanced at the notes, knowing that he should check the interviewee’s CV and profile, but he couldn’t be bothered. She was a one-human vampire, that was all he could remember.
A few seconds later the door opened, and she stepped in, and Arken had to fight the urge to drop his jaw.
Like all vampires, she was beyond pale. Her long, pitch black hair was immaculate, straight as straight and fell well past her slender shoulders. It wasn’t just her intoxicating beauty that took him off guard, but she reminded him of Salria, the priestess of Jaroai who’d been his lover during his tenure as king, the priestess who’d been appointed to be his “supervisor” more than a century and a half ago. He was quite the womaniser back then. Like father like son, Arken supposed. Arken was just one of many, many bastard children sired across Hamar, and perhaps beyond, by king Frelkson.
‘HeadHunter, Arken?’ she said, pausing in the entrance way.
Finding himself struggling for words, Arken could only motion for her to sit.
She nodded and walked in. The sound of her red high heels on the concrete floor seemed to echo, resonate with sensuality, confidence. Across every millimetre of her, she appeared the stereotypical seductive vampire.
Arken said nothing, electing to shuffle his papers, regretting now not looking at her C.V. He perused it, then noticed she’d started to smile at him.
Arken frowned. “What are you smiling about?”
‘Oh, nothing. I just can’t believe I’m in the same room with the famous Arken.’
Arken fought back a sigh. He didn’t feel, “famous.”
‘I’m sorry, it’s just in Valandri we’ve heard so much about you. The former king of Hamar. The only...the only-’
Arken’s hands clenched his hands into fists, with such strength his nails dug into his palms they and drew blood. ‘The only what?’
Dalitti’s smile fled from her, full red lips. ‘I uhh the only Hunter in history to kill a Jaroai single-handed. You know? Was it in a small town in Everdeen? Around 2387 or 2388 AHV? Don’t you remember?’
Arken’s fist smashed on the table, causing Dalitti to flinch. ‘Of course, I remember! But it isn’t relevant to this interview.’
Dalitti didn’t reply; she just gaped in shock.
Arken did remember it, he remembered all of it, how disgusting and eldritch it was, how it summoned its Shalazquai slaves and had them slaughter all the innocent townsfolk, how he failed to protect them.
But there was something else, something deep in his subconscious that made him rage whenever anyone brought it up. Arken didn’t know why, but something was just off about the memories, something, subtly strange. Ever since it’d happened, Arken couldn’t even start to understand why. There was also something else which put him on edge. The memories they were perfect, too perfect. It’d been decades since he’d defeated that Jaroai but it all came back with a clarity which even memories only a few years old didn’t hold. Hell, even memories a few weeks old didn’t compare. It was as though, as though...Were they manufactured? Not real?
Arken shook away that train of thought, exhaled and calmed himself. Such a thing wasn’t possible there was no form of magic which could be used to manipulate memories. A ridiculous notion. ‘My apologies, Dalitti. Let us start again.’
Dalitti frowned then seemed to find her confidence.
‘Well, okay then,’ tilting her head aside. Showing her neck was a sign Arken knew it was one of the ways women show attraction. ‘Head Hunter Arken?’
Arken forced a smile; he hoped it didn’t seem too fake.
‘Good to meet you, Dalitti. Let’s get started, what made you leave Valandri for Hamar?’
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