Chapter 1: A New Name
The Ritual by Benjamin Agar
Year: 2503 AHV (After Holy Victory)
Age: Late Industra era
Country: The Kingdom of Amartis
‘What name do you think you wanna take?’ said Karetil, grinning up at Alathis. Alathis couldn’t return the dwarf’s enthusiasm, he just pursed his lips and shrugged.
‘I’ve been looking into the history books,’ Karetil said, either failing at noticing or ignoring Alathis’ trepidation. ‘There are so many awesome Hunter-dwarves that I can’t choose.’
Alathis nodded. They were in their large dormitory, the bright white walls and ceiling surrounded Alathis’ small dorm, which was enclosed from the fifteen others around by 1.8 metre tall blue walls.
Karetil sat on Alathis’ single, unmade bed, his short legs kicking in the air. It was childish, foolish.
Alathis fought to hide his disdain. After all they’d been through Karetil should’ve grown up by now.
‘There was one I saw, though,’ said Karetil. ‘A powerful dwarf mage that all by himself took down a whole Isstarssian kidnapping convoy eighty years ago.’
‘How’d he die?’ Alathis,′ chest was tight. He wanted Karetil gone, but couldn’t find the heart to tell him too.
‘He died, when he and a bunch of other Hunters fought off a troll alliance in north Camaria,’ said Karetil. ‘Was overwhelmed by a horde of goblins, but killed heaps before he went down.’
Unlike many Hunter neophytes, Alathis included, Karetil had chosen to specialise as a mage and he was one of the best in the coven.
‘You alright?’ said Karetil.
Alathis turned and approached his locker. With quick hands, he punched the code into the padlock with ’clack clacks’ and swung the metal door open with more strength than intended.
He caught his reflection in the mirror on the back of the door. A few people, many girls, had described him as being ‘cute’ or ‘handsome.’ His jawline was so sharp, he suspected he could use his chin as a weapon. His thin nose was long and like many a Hunter-neophyte, Alathis skin was pale, almost as the white as the walls, from having lived most his life underground. His shoulder length, brown hair jutted out in every imaginable direction. The right side of his face hidden beneath his fringe. He wore the loose, black tunic all last year neophytes wore. Alathis had never even begun to think of himself being better or worse looking than anyone else, despite the mounting evidence. Alathis was determined to never let it go to his head. Looks weren’t worth much. Well, except when they were, for potential assignments or whatever.
Alathis never understood why the Hunters gave them lockers. Let alone locks for them. They didn’t have much to store since after being taken by the church. Five years ago, Alathis, Karetil and eight others, had stumbled in here with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Everything they owned was now ‘standard issue,’ standard issue sleep wear, standard issue exercise books, standard issue toiletries, standard issue wrist time pieces, standard issue shoes. All of it produced in Valandri, the vampire nation. No one had anything worth stealing, nothing personal to protect. To Alathis a locker was a pointless gesture, one not worth the time and resources.
Alathis reached in and took out his wooden practice sword.
‘You going to the training room?’ said Karetil.
Alathis stayed silent, knowing Karetil already knew the answer.
‘I’ll come. You might use a sparring partner.’
The human neophyte snorted and shook his head. ‘You know you won’t last long enough to provide me much practise.’
Karetil shrugged. ‘True. You’re one of the best. You could just go easy on me, just this once.’
‘The best,’ Alathis couldn’t help correct. ‘And remember what happened the last time I bet you?’
Karetil sighed. Karetil had lost his shit and thrown about fireballs, destroying much of the training equipment. They’d then been forced to spend months cleaning the Coven floors with toothbrushes. Alathis was still a bit bitter about it.
’No,’ said Karetil. “But we might not have to. Tomorrow we finally go through the Ritual. We’ll finally be apprentices. Walking the continent, killing vampires.′
The dwarf’s words sent pain shivering through Alathis’ heart. He slipped out of his dorm.
‘Wait,’ said Karetil, who started after him but Alathis stopped and pointed at the dwarf.
‘I’m sorry, but I just want to be alone,’ he said. ‘I’ll be back later.’
Without waiting for a response, Alathis turned and stormed out the entrance way.