Author: Fragorl PM
In a new world Vryce works as a policeman and is chilled when a particularly violent murder matches the style of the Hunter. He sets out to solve it, suspecting that a chance to use the fae again might drive the exadept back into darkness. Possibly slash.Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Horror - Words: 3,121 - Follows: 2 - Published: 05-03-10 - id: 5943528
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The three years since his resignation from the church had been surprisingly kind to the former Reverent Vryce. The money that remained from his mission would have been adequate to fund at least a few months of well earned holiday, but to his own surprise, he had found himself itching for employment after a mere three weeks.
While he would not hide that it was painful, the knowledge that his old passion was barred to him, well change was never easy. It had been mostly coincidence that he had stumbled on such a suitable job after only a few days of enquiries, but then he was owed some luck, he had decided, after the last few years. And he could not deny that the task of law enforcement suited him, the combination of risk that he had always craved, and the ability to make a difference, and in some small way better the world soon proving every bit addictive as the old one.
It had also been satisfyingly easy to rise up in its ranks. Apparently the sort of experience his travels had brought him, not only in physical combat, but also strategy, a field he was surprised to realise, he had definitely improved in since the old days of rush into the enemy stronghold and shoot until you are the only one alive.
He suspected that the change had much to do with a certain ex acquaintance, a man who was entirely capable of starting a ruinous war just to bring down a single man, or simply for his own dispassionate amusement.
Certainly knowledge of the Hunter had made him stronger, or at the very least more resilient, little as he had suspected it at the time. As if the gradual wave of violence that had accompanied Gerald Tarrant's footsteps had subtly but distinctly etched its way into his soul, working its change on the man that he had been.
Giving birth to a colder man with a harder outlook, who was almost alarmed by his ability to read the essence of some of the more dangerous members of society. That was the one part of the whole thing that he had never confided to Ciani, although he sometimes wasn't entirely sure why he did not ask.
After all when it came to things fae wise there were few who were more knowledgeable, and more practised at neutrality than a former loremaster. And while in the cold light of day it was easy enough to remember that he was being paranoid, and did not want to bother her, there were other times, especially once night had fallen that his motives seemed nothing but cowardice.
Because then more disturbing memories might intrude, of her hands scrabbling against the immaculate clothing of an unmoved attacker as the parasitic bond between them flared, or her writhing against restraints as her body was bathed in the icy illumination of coldfire, once again drawing them together.
And that was just what he had seen; instinct told him, that and a certain proprietary amusement he had occasionally seen in the Hunter's gaze when it had fallen on her, there had been more to their relationship than that. O it wasn't sexual, he knew that even at the time, if his companion had even been capable of such an act, which he doubted, then no woman would have survived him.
But sex was not everything and the sort of faeborn intimacy that an adept might allow another of his kind, that Gerald Tarrant might allow, if only because the woman was so very weakened, in that unique state of understanding and vulnerability, and it amused him to play with her...
She had shared his memories for God sake. It disgusted him to admit it but he suspected that there had only been two other people to share such closeness to the Forest's Monarch and of the other two, one had been insane, consumed by his need for power...and the other was himself...
And while he could not bring himself to regret that connection, not after the way it had all played out, and Tarrant had been persuaded to sacrifice himself, in that dramatic and unlikely salvation of their cause, it still worried him sometimes. That the man he had been was changed, and the one in his place had a noticeably different perspective.
And you are afraid, he would admit to himself sometimes, more often or not a glass of alcohol sitting in his hand. Afraid what she might tell you if you ask. Afraid to see the recognition in her eyes, that all those days spent playing chase with monsters has taken you a step away from the ones you seek to defend.
Whatever the reason, he had swiftly earned the respect of others on his force. While he had been deliberately vague about his past (days spent in service to the church, mostly on the active side, which had lent to eventual disillusionment) they all knew the story of how he had once been sent against a horrifying darkness, and had somehow utilised his faith to end its threat.
He had needed some form of justification, after all, when atrocities that sent the most experienced amongst them backing out of a room, looking decidedly pale, would barely seem to register in his consciousness.
When he would close his eyes, and predict, most often accurately, the sort of move a mad man might make, aligning himself to a psychopath's thought process without that much soul searching. What could he tell them? I knew a man who was merciless, yet brilliant in his cruelty. A man who in his life shaped nations, and in his death ravaged them. I think I absorbed something of his methods...
Vryce closed his eyes. It was bad to be so preoccupied, a symptom of how disturbed this new development had truly left him. Especially in light of the worrying connection...between the discarded body of a murdered girl, and the man he had once known as Gerald Tarrant.
A similarity not just in symbolism – it was not uncommon amidst this upheaval for one of the deranged to fancy himself a disciple of the Hunter – and what would they say if they knew that something of that soul lingered on?
But also hauntingly similar to that man's style; not only in the manner of the death, wounds identical to those on Neocount's unfortunate wife, but also in the feel of the scene. She had died by candlelight, laid out almost reverently, if one could look past the obvious savagery of her death. The discovery on more careful scrutiny that lacerations that took her life were not only terrible, but executed with a surprising efficiency.
In the words of one attendant; 'most killers act in a frenzy of violent passion. This one...it's as if he was a surgeon.' It was a distinctive signature. If such a man had killed before it would be obvious; the profile was not of one who would try to conceal his deeds, but rather display them to the world in a mocking game... Yet the wounds and their placements spoke of experience. 'You could not have done that, not if you had set your mind on it. Not only would he have to be fiendishly strong, to have subdued her in her struggles, but also with the control of a master – one slip of the hand and an artery is cut and it's over. But this...from the look of it, this went on for hours...'
It was obvious why they had come to him. Even without their knowledge of the past connection, this was just the sort of case he had specialised in. Given an edge by the acquaintance of the Master of Sociopaths. But that had been alright, because nothing had come close to the atrocity that the Hunter had subjected his conscience to.
Not brutally, all at once, but subtly and efficiently, like every act the man committed. 'For you I become your greatest fear..' words that had once played menace with his nightmares now returned to haunt his waking mind. Resurfacing the suspicion that Tarrant had played with him, in those early days, and perhaps in those later ones too.
That the adept had moulded him, subtly, o so subtly, so slowly that he had barely noticed, but definitely all the same, shaping him into an opponent who could perhaps stand a chance against the Forest's Master. A challenge who could provide a brief if satisfying distraction against the monotony of eternity.
And his vocation..well what if that had been part of it. After all, what had Tarrant said, on the night that he succumbed to that initial damning bond, 'it has been many years since I tasted the blood of a Priest.' The thought was surprisingly chilling. I have not lost my fear of him, Vryce realised. I came to trust him, it was a necessity; we were working together and we had to succeed. But in other situations... If anything the contrast between the Hunter and the more fallible enemies they had conquered together had just forced home the qualities that made him so very dangerous.
Vryce had underestimated him at the start. He knew that now. It had been courage, yes, and a very large dose of foolhardiness that allowed him to charge into the Neocount's Forest and expect to escape with what he wanted, on top of his life. And he had been lucky. The Hunter had been bound by his honour, and his word, and so they had lived. In another situation...
His musing was interrupted by a knocking on his door. The man who walked in had the appearance of an archetypal officer, he was strong as a bull, and his movements suggested a skill in combat, which Damien knew he certainly lived up to.
But there was also something else about him, an aura of serenity which in the old days he might have ascribed to fae empathy, but now must just be the pleasant quality of a genuinely warm person. It was that, more than anything, which had caused Vryce to speak to him at the beginning of his quickly rising career, and they had become close friends.
A quiet man, but insightful, Damien had found that the two had a surprising amount in common. If you omitted the part about running around with an undead sorcerer and saving the world. Three times. Other than that, Kier reminded him of a variety of people he had known on his travels, many of which had ended up dead, most of which he was unlikely ever to run into again. It made him glad in a way that he had settled down. The idea of a steady friendship, that was uninterrupted by hoards of ravenous demons was a pleasant one. And if there were days when it might make a man feel old; well this was certainly not one of them.
Kier's idea of a conversational opener was one that conserved words.
'It bothered you too.' There was no need to ask what he was talking about. Word of the case had spread like wild fire through the department. For every major criminal in a city like Jaggonath, there were at least a dozen small time crooks, three times out of five never meaning to kill, but doing so through accident or misjudgement before desperately scuttling into obscurity. Usually with the first death it was hard to tell, but there was also the occasional one like this. Where the killing more or less screamed out, I am not the last.
There was anticipation now.
'It was not the work of a beginner.' Vryce speculated unnecessarily, Kier was experienced at his job enough to have worked that out for himself.
'They are currently looking at healers. Or at least medical professionals.' That shouldn't have surprised him. It was the obvious outcome. But somehow the idea of a white robed healer picking up a knife to calmly and collectedly carry out such an act... Although..it's not a healer. At least it wasn't if his theory was correct, and he prayed that it wasn't.
'They are wasting their time,' he finally came out with. 'The man who did this was a newcomer, not a medic, at least if he is he has never practised here.' It was too easy to slip, to make known more than he should know, and that could be fatal. Kier was watching intently, almost as if he guessed there was more here than being said.
'A respectable man,' Vryce finished at last. Struggling to banish the image of a young, olive complexioned young nobleman, who moved with the grace of a former era... Cold discerning eyes, surveying him for a face too young for its assurance.
'Probably from a well to do family. He will stay prominently, not scurrying about like your common criminal, and in that way avoid suspicion. Such a man could probably stroll into an upper class hotel, with his clothing stained by the blood of his recent victim and pass it off as an attempted robbery. He will be beyond suspicion but at the same time very obviously dangerous. He would probably try to pass that off as a consequence of his good connections...'
Becoming conscious that he had perhaps said too much, Vryce let his description come to an uncomfortable halt. Had he become too trusting, in these last three years, letting his guard so far down in the presence of a man with whom he had become comfortable?
Indeed Kier was watching him closely, although in place of suspicion seemed to be something like awe. Damien suppressed an impulse to laugh aloud. He thinks I am brilliant, he realised belatedly. That it is my ability to get into the head of any criminal that allows me to work this out. It was a relief that his secrets were safe, but at the same time a slight disappointment.
It would have been comforting, he realised, to be able to share his worries with someone he could trust. The unaccustomed terror that this was the work of someone from his past, and the almost equal fear that he had simply slipped into insanity. Seeing the hand of a vanished foe in a simple murder just because he feared it might be. He knew then that when he left his office he was well due a visit to Ciani.
He found the loremaster where he expected her. Lying haphazardly draped across her favourite sofa with a complicated book held lovingly in her grasp. It was a nostalgic image, filled with remembered fondness and warmth. But nothing else... The romance that had once existed between them, frail bond as it was had been destroyed by their journey with the Hunter. Sometimes he regretted that, but he was experienced enough to understand that the catalyst had probably just speeded up an unavoidable conclusion. While passionate, their love had never been compatible.
Ciani, sensing him had looked up with an irritated expression which had quickly been discarded on seeing who he was. It was the warmth of her smile that allowed him to dispel some of the tension that had gathered around him since the discovery. She might not be a potential conquest, but Ciani was more than an equal, and if anyone could help him with this situation it was her.
Her playful false disappointed pout only accentuated the deceiving appearance that her craft had lent her; the woman who looked no more than thirty had lived at least one normal lifespan. With that sort of knowledge she could have become indispensible in any job, now that fae induced memory could no longer be accessed.
Indeed when she had shown up on his doorstep two years after the changing of the fae he had expected to lose her quickly to whichever field she chose to practise in. To his surprise she had rejected several extremely lucrative offers (I have more than enough money to get by on, and at my time of life I hardly need the stress.) It was exaggeration he knew, even without constant renewments from the now inaccessible fae she was no more strained than any other woman of her apparent age. Her lifespan from this point would be natural.
The evenings they spent together were a welcome relief from the monotony of his work. And it was nice to spend time with someone who knew everything about his past...He had filled her in on what had happened at the end with Tarrant, and return she had acquainted him with more current events in the rahk territories.
It seemed their visit it seemed had changed more than themselves. The progression from tribal savagery to co-existing community was happening faster than ever. Just to hear Ciani talk about it spoke about her continual fascination. Damien knew that the only thing that had torn her away was an equally fascinating change in the lives of her own people. That conversation, with the particular exchange of information and the chosen topics had reminded him of one they had had shortly after he had first met her. This one promised to be less satisfying.
Ciani was quiet while he filled her in, never once interrupting, and once he had finished surveyed him quietly, her eyes unaccustomedly serious. At last, when her quiet became too ominous he found himself asking, mock lightly,
'So does your vast experience allow you to throw any light on this case?'
Her smile seemed forced.
'I can tell you what you already know. That somehow, the identity that was the Hunter has resurfaced, how entirely I cannot say. At least enough that he can access the man's memories, and perhaps a measure of his instincts. I doubt that he can as of yet wield a fraction of the power of the original, but...'
Here Damien interrupted. '-You think there is a way for him to regain that power?' Ciani shrugged.
'It would seem to be the most likely motivation, for something like this. The newest bargain seemed to prevent it, but if there was ever a man to discover loopholes...'
That was something that had not even occurred to him. And he kicked himself. It should have.
'To do this, something like this, he would have had to accept in at least some small way the past he had renounced.'
'And if you found only one body at the crime scene it would seem that he has succeeded.'