The Death of The Slayer
A rush of cold air engulfed my entire body as I laid in the blood covered grass and waited for my heart to stop. They let my arms go once the last of Howl’s limbs stopped twitching with life. I couldn’t feel my arms or my legs and it wasn’t from the cold. I could see the stars from my place on the ground. As a child I always wanted to touch them, I soon learned that it was a stupid dream and that I was meant to stay on the ground until I died.
The sword they stabbed through my gut shortly after Howl’s throat was slit, would take me sooner rather than later. Laying in the grass and seeing nothing but the iron sword through my center when I tried to look down at all, I realized that my former dream would come true. I would touch the stars my mother taught me were unreachable. Howl and I would touch them and run among them as our souls are set free. It was only a matter of time.
I closed my eyes and waited for death to finally take my last breath. But even I wasn’t that lucky.
“Dear child, look how far you’ve fallen,” An almost familiar voice with a new inflection came from the right, where the vampires dumped my body before marching off with their master.
My eyes didn’t peer over and look who it was, I knew it was Donovan’s voice I was hearing. His steps made a soft sound in the wet grass. The sound of him bending down to meet my eyes was something I couldn’t ignore. When we finally locked eyes I saw something else behind his, somehow this wasn’t Donovan.
“Who are you?” I asked the thing wearing Donovan’s face and body.
“Very astute, that must come from your father’s side of the family. You know, I met him once, a nice guy better with his hands than most.” I watched whoever was speaking through Donovan at the moment and grew confused. “I shouldn’t have put it that way, I meant he builds things well, more so than most of the recruits I’ve brought in.” Still confused, I turned my head slightly to meet Donovan’s face.
“You didn’t say who you are yet and why you’ve stolen my former friend’s face,” I asked as my voice began to drift away from me. Things were slowing down now and the world around me began to darken but Donovan’s face stayed in my weakening view.
“Borrowed is a better term and it’s for a good cause. I’m here to save your life.” They put it simply but I still couldn’t follow. “You can’t save someone that wants to die. If Howl’s not on this Earth with me then I won’t be either.” I put it as simply as the sword through my gut would let me.
“All the years you spent with Howl did you ever think she would die of old age? Maybe a vampire attack? Something that would take her away from you before you yourself died?” Donovan’s face asked a good question but I didn’t have an answer for it.
“Howl is special, as are you, and I have a lot of people that need to meet you. Get up.” Donovan’s face demanded and I could only look over and stare at his face. “You see the sword in my gut, right?” I asked him and while someone else was speaking for him I couldn’t look past the classic Donovan smile. My head became fuzzy and my vision blurred slightly while I looked around.
“I miss your smile Donovan, I wished they hadn’t cut your hair. It’s shorter than mine now.” I heard myself mumble out words but I wasn’t sure if they made sense or not. The smile on his face made me think they did but the uncharacteristic laughter from him made me uncomfortable. It wasn’t like him at all and even half-dead me knew that.
“Will you tell me who you are now?” My lips mumbled out another sentence before my eyes began to drift closed again. A rough shake made them slowly open to Donovan’s face again. There was a wicked grin on his face but it was so unlike him I felt my face start to frown.
“How familiar are you with the old gods?” The odd question made my head hurt and the stars began to consume my vision. Logic told me that it most likely wasn’t the stars themselves but the light in my vision going out due to blood loss. I only hoped I survived through the twenty-four-hour timeline so I didn’t have to ask Donovan to kill me when I woke again.
“I’ll take that as an unfamiliar answer,” He started again and I felt his arm brush mine gently as he took a seat next to me in the grass.
“There’s a goddess out there named Artemis. I won’t go into the long details of her marvelous life but she is what’s known as the goddess of the hunt. Sound familiar yet?” His lips curled up into another grin I couldn’t place and then he kept talking as if I was really listening to him.
“The only familiarity of it is that I, too, am a hunter. Or at least I was, before I stabbed and my best friend was killed before my eyes. Now I am nothing but a shell waiting to run out of blood and die in peace.” The words came out rougher than they should have and my chest began to hurt with every breath after.
I began to cough and with each inhale and rough exhale the sword pulsed in my center. The iron dug itself deeper, deeper than I thought it could go, and if I could feel the piercing of my lungs then that was what is happening now.
“You’re still a hunter and with my help, you will be the best hunter that has ever lived. Aside from me, that is.” Donovan shrugged and sat back up on his knees to look at me harder than before. “Take no offense, Donny, but you are not the best hunter. By a lot.” I made myself laugh slightly but hurt everything in exchange. My coughs were drowned out by Donovan laughing almost manically so.
“What’s so funny?” I asked in a wheezing voice as I put a bloodied hand on my ribs to keep them from splitting.
“That you still think I’m your old friend, Donovan. I needed a non-human vessel to communicate with you. Let me introduce myself; I’m Artemis, goddess of the hunt.” Donovan looked to the sky as if he was speaking to them and not me, dying on the grass below it. I wheezed in and out before Donovan looked back down at me again. His eyes shined something different this time, that or it was the light prickling in my vision again.
“I’m here to save you, Redley, and with a little bit of help from my other friends, we can get you into tip-top fighting shape.” My mind swirled with his words. I still didn’t know what was going on but when his hands grasped the hilt of the sword I tried to stop him.
“Don’t, it’s the only thing keeping my insides...Inside...” I tried to communicate with fury to the man pulling the sword out of my body. I needed to wait out the long death coming for me. I didn’t want to turn. “You’re worried that you’ll die, it’s okay. I need you dead first.” The cryptic words pounded in my head as the iron of the sword slowly pulled out of my body. I could feel every inch of the iron as it nearly squeaked out of the center of my body.
I bit my teeth together and gritted through my pain and when the sound of the iron sword fell at my side I tried to take in a breath of relief that it would be over now. That was short-lived because soon Donovan’s hand replaced the sword.
“Wh-what are you d-doing?” I stuttered out and tried to pull his hand out of my stomach but I found my arms without strength and my voice without any more breath.
“You’re going to feel a little dead soon, don’t worry it will be short-lived.” Donovan guaranteed while still feeling around in my open wound. I struggled to find my voice again before it went out completely.
“Don’t let me turn. Ppp-please, don’t let me turn.” I struggled to get out the words but I saw that he understood what I was saying but when he reached forward and moved a few strands of bloody hair out of my face I saw that what the person in front of me said was true earlier. This wasn’t Donovan, I was comfortable knowing that would be my last thought.
“I won’t let you become one of those blood-sucking leeches, you’ll be something more. Something more than human, something more than anything you could ever imagine.” The comforting words of a goddess were music to my ears as the last of the light dimmed from my vision. The only thing the dimming light around me couldn’t keep out of my sight was Donovan’s bloody fist in the air and the sound of chanting coming from the goddess within him as the last of my life drained out of me.