Author's Note 9/25/2012: This is old stuff. I write much, much more proficiently than this now. Just figured I'd throw this in here for nostalgia's sake since I wrote it long ago with VTFE and for all you fans, you deserve a bit more back story, regardless of how poorly written it may be. I promise one day I'll go back and sharpen up both this short story and Vent Thy Fury East when I have the time. Until then, enjoy.
Also, check out the (much better written) official sequel to Vent Thy Fury East here: s/8552183/1/Vent-Thy-Fury-East-II-Dawn-of-the-Firewalker
The Offerings, a Vent Thy Fury East short
The second we touched down I had a chill run down my spine. Like I just knew something bad was going to happen. Thick, hot, fog licks at my face. It's the dry season here in the swamplands of Minegarde, yet my hunting party and I are anything but dry… My Tigrex armor reeks of sweat and grime. I might as well be wearing the Death Stench armor that the Hunter who tipped us off about this "crystal scorpion" creature was wearing. I'm not positive on what he called it, Akura, Akiru, Akumu Vash-something like that, I don't know. Anyway, the man was shady to say the least… He was always smiling, and had these piercing red eyes that I've never seen before in my life, along with short, silver hair. Another distinct feature which only furthered my suspicion of him. That didn't matter to her though.
As soon as my right hand man, or woman to be more precise, heard that name- that Akara Voshama or whatever, she went berserk. Promised me that the hunt would be worth my while. And to me, there is nothing in this world more tantalizing than a good hunt. And I find it hard to ever say no to her… My partner Faye.
"This is some mean heat…" I comment before plopping down onto a molded stump.
"True, but I can assure you this. As soon as we find Akura Vushima, you will never doubt me and my sources again," Faye attempts to reassure me.
"Didn't say anything about doubting you, Faye. Now your sources… That's another story. I don't like that guy. Anyone who walks around Allsburg using a human skull as a helm has got something wrong with them. Even his name sounds fishy. We know just about everyone that there is to know in Allsburg, and I haven't once heard of this guy."
"Shinu?" She says, so innocently. "You're just being paranoid."
The name itself brings with it an unfathomable evil. I can't explain it using words alone, but I know… I have a knack for these sorts of things. I am a Monster Hunter after all; my senses are honed to perfection. And right now, they're telling me that this "Shinu" character has bad news written all over him.
My name is Dormin. I guess you could say that I'm rather popular and a very influential figure in the Monster Hunting community. My fame is right up there with the great dragon slayer Emery, and that lone wolf Clodinus who's always out hunting on his own. Faye is the same way, fame-wise. We're both known for our expertise and hunting prowess. Hell, a few more hunter ranks and they might start making t-shirts with our faces on them.
We've been out in this swamp for hours. Lurking in holes, skulking in darkness. And for what? Because some nutcase with scythe told us we'd find a giant crystal scorpion? The whole ordeal seems like a waste of time to me. Especially considering Los and Ian mating season is coming to a close and I need plates for just about every armor piece and weapon that I own. Ha, nothing new in the world of Hunters. Nothing new for this life risking profession… What we're doing now is borderline illegal when looked at with standard Guild rules and regulations. This isn't a quest given to us by a Guild barmaid or another important official. We're merely out and about on our own terms, hunting what we want to hunt without the consent of Guild higher ups. Simply accepting this hunt alone is dangerous enough, but Faye ensures me that this creature will be the most dangerous foe we've ever faced. Bold statement coming from the woman who helped me to fend off a Kushala Daora at the Allsburg city gates. I've never really cared for the Guild's laws on hunting and quest initiatives, but now is not the time for politics. Now is the time to keep my eyes and ears open, and my body poised and ready for anything.
This bad feeling refuses to leave me, entrenching itself within my psyche. I don't know why but… For the first time in years, since I first started out on my journey to become a Monster Hunter, I am draped in fear. Ha! Imagine that? The one known to many as Dormin, the Fearless, is scared? And of what, pray tell? A crystal scorpion? If only it were that simple. I try and steady my breathing as Faye and I crunch over dead foliage and duck under incoming branches. If only my fear resonated from that which eluded us so, the Akura Vushima. Instead, I find myself enwrapped within a terror that I cannot quite put my armored finger on. This beast doesn't frighten me. Whether it be a Kut Ku, or that myth Fatalis, no beast can send wavering chills down my spine. No… I fear man. Then again, who can testify to being the ultimate demon, other than man himself?
I was in a trancelike state for a little while. Faye stops and looks back to check on me.
"Yeah, I was just thinking. Guess I was kind of on autopilot for a little bit there…"
"Well wake up," she snapped at me. "I think we may be here."
I reach back and grab the sturdy stock of my Steel Ice Hammer, an ancient weapon infused with Kushala parts. We found ourselves deep within the swamplands, at the dead of night, standing before a small cave entrance.
"He was sure to inform us that we would find it southward, past the decaying forest and into a small, cavernous opening that would lead us right to its lair. This looks pretty cavernous to me. Shall we take a look?" She asks me this as if I would say no to her. I can't recall a time I have ever said no to her.
I continue to follow her like an obedient dog as we ventured into the darkness. I was close to pulling out my torch when I noticed the bioluminescent crystals which clung to the cave walls like natural furnishings. If it were me, I would just be hacking away at the walls like an idiot, but instead I follow closely behind my comrade and longtime hunting partner. She studies the environment carefully with the utmost precision of an adept Hunter. I do the same, while admiring her cunning and beauty. Her Hypnoc armor glows slightly due to the crystals and I see her hands open and close slowly, ready to reach back to her ice attributed Giaprey dual swords and unleash fury. We were both on our toes.
As we ventured deeper into the cave, my paranoia heightened to a level I had never experienced before. It was beginning to drive me crazy. I finally confronted Faye about it after we made our way to a larger, more accessible area with a spot to rest.
"Vushima is known to borrow underground and stay there for hours on end, leaving only its massive crystal tail exposed and popping up out of the ground. I can only assume that is what we will be searching for for the duration of this quest," Faye says without even bothering to lay eyes on me. She was always so serious, even when we were kids… No playtime for her.
"Faye," I manage, wiping the sweat from my face and holding my Tigrex helmet on the lap. "I have a bad feeling about this, Faye."
"I know you do," she said, standing immediately. "You were sure to tell me that the second we made our way into the swamplands."
I say nothing, and roll a few pebbles around in my hand.
"…Dormin? What has gotten into you?"
I can see with my peripheral vision how concerned she is, even if she didn't want to show it. I stand up, keeping my helm under my arm and clenched to my side.
"Forget it, you're right. Let's press on. The more time we waste, the further away this thing gets."
I took the lead and began our descent further into the blackness. Faye remained silent for longer than I can remember. We both drank our hot drinks to keep our stamina from plummeting and continued through the dampness. This was by far one of the larger caves I had been in. The only difference was the lack of life. Usually you could find a pack Genprey stalking in the shadows or swarms of Vespoids gathered near the bioluminescence, but in this place… There was nothing. Only the cold, the dark, and a few drips and drops every now and again. It all amounted to a much eerier atmosphere than I had anticipated. I could only begin to wonder how Faye felt, especially now that she knew I was frightened… And I know that she knows. That's what that look was for earlier. She didn't need to say it, but she was beginning to doubt her decision to drag me out here. I enjoy the silence now, not because I don't feel like talking. But more because I am afraid of what she may have to say…
"You're scared… Aren't you?" She asks the inevitable.
"That's right," I say, stopping dead in my tracks and turning around to face her without warning. "And what of it? Am I not allowed to feel fear?"
"Then what of it!?"
My voice echoes throughout the cavern and I can see the look of shock in her eyes. I have never raised my voice to her. She doesn't respond to me.
"I'm sorry… I'm just not feeling well, that's all Faye. Let's just kill this thing and go home."
I start walking again only to stop to hear her voice, so soft and subtle that if I were to continue on, my own footsteps would drown out the sound of her words.
"You're right. You are allowed to feel fear, and it's only natural… It's just that- since we've been together, I haven't once seen you like this. You're quiet, pale, dazing off, just… Like some sort of ghost. The reason I became a Hunter was because of you, and now…"
"I'm not changing. I'm still the same old Dormin."
"Dormin the Fearless?" I could see her eyes beginning to water. This was the first time that she had ever so much as showed even the slightest bit of affection towards me, if you could consider it as such.
"Yeah," I said with a smile. "Dormin the Fearless. Now come on. We've got a scorpion to slaughter."
If you could choose the last words that you would say to those you loved, we would live in a much more brighter and less confusing time. A lot less things would go misinterpreted, and heartfelt confessions would be made to send one last, meaningful goodbye to those who cared for you in the past. The world would be informed, instead of being lost in doubt and remorse. If only I would have known that my last words to Faye were to be my last... if only I knew…
Dozens of twists and turns later, we found ourselves back out into yet another lightened chamber, this one far bigger than the last. We both glanced around cautiously, most likely coming to the same conclusion. The ground was loose, meaning that something had been burrowing in and out of it on a daily agenda. The walls were rounded just perfectly, and claw marks and engravings scarred their canvases, as if something had been gradually making the chamber larger to accommodate its size as it grew. Pieces of crystal the size of my pinky finger littered the floor and crunched beneath our greaves. This was definitely the right place. Maybe that Shinu character wasn't so bad after all. Merely seeing all of these tall tell signs of a crystal giant helped to calm my nerves and relax me a bit. At least we knew what we were getting ourselves into.
As we approached the center, Faye pointed from behind me, over my shoulder to an enormous crystal the size of an adolescent Aptonoth jutting up out of the ground. Faye unsheathed her duals and fell back slightly, giving me enough room to cock back my hammer and charge up an attack. I could feel the power swelling, and just at the right moment, released my swing, sending my weapon crashing down onto the large crystal. And to my surprise, it shattered upon impact. Shards went splintering through the air like a beautiful explosion. For a moment my heart leaped with satisfaction, and I took a step back. I awaited the beast to emerge from hiding, yet… Nothing. I feel fear, yet again. Instinctively I whirl around, and yes, just as I had feared- she was gone.
My eyes dart around frantically, but there is nothing. No trace of her ever being there. What in the hell is this!?
"Hey, Faye! Faye!" I cry, throwing the hammer over my shoulder and clicking it into place on my back.
No sound… no nothing. Just as before. There was no hum of Vespoid wings, no screech of Genprey packs. Just silence. I begin to sweat a cold, perspiring sweat through my pores. This wasn't happening. I began sprinting back from where I came, retracing every step. I was a Hunter, finding my way back from where I started on my quest was no problem. There would be signs everywhere, like footprints, hot drink containers, broken roots, anything! But as I made my way back, gasping for breath and clasping to the walls of the cave, nothing seemed familiar. I was losing it! Was I being… Toyed with? My fear warped to anger, and my anger back to fear, spiking at different moments. I didn't know what to think or feel. This had to have been some sick joke.
"Faye!" I continued to shout, "FAYE!"
Still nothing. Oh god, what I would do for an answer, anything. Just to see her again, just to know that she was alright. How obsessed I must be, to be separated for only an instant, yet to be so concerned. Most people would assume that their friend was playing a trick on them, or at least something less severe than the terrible thoughts currently racing through my head. But deep down, I knew that there was something more to this. It had to be much more. I knew it the moment we got here! What kind of coincidence is that? It's too much of a coincidence. I am a Hunter, and to be regarded as such, you must have extraordinary sense. Superhuman by most people's standards.
Suddenly, I stop. I'm lost, I know this. But that doesn't frighten me. There is still the possibility of the Akura sneaking up on me, but that does not frighten me either. I begin to walk forward slowly, as I am in a place completely new to me. To most, all of the caverns must look the same, but Faye and I had yet to travel to this section. I walk slow… My mouth agape, dropping my helmet to the floor. In front of me, I cannot believe my eyes.
One of the greatest Hunters whom ever lived, Emery the dragon slayer, or Dragon God Emery, had not made an appearance in Allsburg, my hometown, for the past month or two. Of course this didn't raise any suspicion, considering he never embarked on a quest, so it's not like he could have been killed on the battlefield. Yet now, staring right back at me with maggots for eyes, laid one of the greatest men I had ever met in my entire life. I cover my mouth in disgust and anger as his body lay firmly, sitting upwards with his legs sprawled out and back against the cave wall. His head was tilted, leaning onto his right shoulder with his metallic armor rusted, and damp. There was an enormous hole cleaved in his chest. The sight was unbelievable. I fall to my knees and wonder what Clodinus would think if he were here to see the great Emery reduced to such a sight. How had he got here? He had not embarked on a quest, I knew that much. So what was he doing all the way out here, in his armor, if the Guild had not sent him!? He wouldn't have come out here unless someone had provoked it. Not unless someone had convinced him to… Oh dear god.
"Heh, heh, heh…" I hear a low bellow from behind me and twist around immediately, unsheathing my hammer. And there he stood. The man who I never trusted from the beginning, staring back at me with those lifeless, ruby-like eyes. He was holding Faye's dangling body under one arm, smiling at me.
"You bastard!" I cried, beginning to charge up my hammer. My heart was racing faster than ever. Was there any demon greater than man?
"Calm yourself," he said effortlessly, grabbing Faye by the hair and showing her face to me. "She is still alive, famed Hunter…"
"Shinu you- who are you!?"
His face turned from a childlike smile to a blank expression. He dropped Faye facedown, onto the cold floor. I was tempted to run to her aid, but there was no telling what he was capable of and what he might do to her. So I held my ground.
"I am the Hunter, Sir Dormin the Fearless." He paused for a moment and studied me. "Or should I refer to you as Dormin the Delusional?"
I say nothing, and swallow hard, gripping my weapon tightly.
"I am the Hunter known only as Shinu. But as we are calling each other by our true selves, Dormin the Delusional… You may refer to me as Death."
I let out a small breath and widen my stance.
"That's right Dormin. Death. Do I not appear as such? I thought I chose my attire quite flawlessly. The Death Stench… The Scythe of Menace… I don't think I could have been more accurate!" He cackled, lifting his head towards the ceiling. I thought I might make use of this moment to take hold of Faye, but it was still too risky.
"What do you want?" I demanded.
He returned to his blank expression, resembling that of a devil. And without a word, he pointed to Emery's corpse, staring down on me with those demonic eyes.
"What do you want!?"
He suddenly reached downward and grabbed Faye by the hair again, the sight of it making me cringe. He slowly withdrew his Scythe of Menace and placed the blade to her neck.
"D-don't!" I cried. He laughed at me.
"Ha, ha! You see? Dormin the Fearless, how preposterous… You feel fear just like every other one of those putrid souls inhabiting Allsburg, Loc Lac, Bordertown, Outpost, all of them! Then again, you are different, aren't you? Yes… Yes in fact I believe that you fear more than any other man I have killed…"
"You killed Emery," I sputtered.
"A bullheaded man with an ego to match. I dueled with him in clean, sophisticated combat. And as you can see… The result." He nodded back to the corpse.
"You lie, there's no way that you could have taken Emery in a clean fight. He's more skilled than myself," I blurted out without thinking.
"Ah, well…" He smiled once more. "Food for thought."
There was a tense silence. Until he broke it yet again, as if waiting for me to mentally prepare for another one of his cryptic volleys.
"You're weak Dormin. Far more so than that any other man I have yet to face. And do you know the reason why? It is your fear, Hunter… You fear-" he paused again, pushing the blade into Faye's neck, almost breaking the skin. "Losing her. You're like a child. Anything that she does, you comply with. Anything she says, you agree with. Anywhere she goes, you go as well. Do you see the pattern? And if only you would have told her 'no,' this time around. The one and only time in your life you have felt true, exquisite fear."
"How do you know that!?" I shouted.
"If only you would have held up a finger, and let her know how you truly felt ahead of time. To tell her that deep down, you knew how this was going to end."
"In a sense, Dormin the Fearfully Delusional Puppet… This is all your fault."
"What? What is!? What are you going to do to her?" I dropped my hammer in agony. I could no longer take the abuse. He was right… He was so right. I would do anything for her, and he was going to play me like a fiddle.
"You would do anything for her…"
I would go to the ends of the world for her.
"You would go to the ends of the world for her."
"Stop it! Dear god, stop!" I fell to my hands and knees once again. "I beg you, I'll do anything that you ask of me. Just don't hurt her any further."
He dropped her to the ground once more.
"Fair enough, Hunter."
I watched as a rusted Hunter's knife clanked onto the floor in front of me. I looked upward and saw him standing above me, smiling. I reached for the knife, and held it in front of my face.
"That's it." He hissed. "You must free yourself from her control. You must repent. All your skill, all of your heightened senses… They count for nothing here. Especially when you lack the initiative to make decisions for yourself. If it weren't for that one vital flaw, you might be as great a Hunter as say… Clodinus?"
"You want me to kill myself…" I squeaked, the knife shaking in my hands.
"I want you to take your own life, yes."
"And if I refuse?" I asked with utter stupidity.
"Then I will kill her. And use your body mop up her blood as you mourn, and wilt in my presence." He unsheathed his Scythe once again and put it to her neck.
"Well? Hunter. What will it be?"
I gaze into my skewed reflection from within the knife… My heart stops racing. My breathing slows. My mind is cleared, and for the last time in my life. I feel no fear. At least I can die with a dignified title.
"I'll do it," I say reluctantly. "But I must ask…" I put the knife to my exposed jugular and stare the demon in the face. "Why? I'm no fool… There's a reason why you want us great Hunters out of the picture. Tell me what it is before I leave this world, and leave her safety in your hands."
He smiled once more, this time pulling the skull mask over his face. It was far easier to look at than his demonic smile.
"If you only knew what your offering meant towards the greater good of Minegarde…"
"Enlighten me," I laughed, pressing the knife to my throat a bit more.
"I… am the Hunter. And as such, I will baptize this world with the fires of chaos and despair. I will begin the world anew, serving it's one, true God, for eternity."
"And who might that be?" I pried, one last time.
I could still see his scarlet eyes peering through the open holes of his mask. Just staring back at me, with deep meaning, but no expression. What was my death to this man? And the death of Emery? At least I would die knowing that I preserved her life, and with it, my meaning to live. At least she'd be safe, I hoped. That was it. I knew that he wasn't going to tell me anymore. I knew that he would kill me if we were to fight, or kill Faye. That was my intuition, my amazing senses still kicking. And as I came to terms with that fact, I felt the rusted blade tearing through my flesh, sending warm fluid down my neck, filling up and pouring over my Tigrex chest piece. The pain is immense, and it's impossible to take breaths, leaving me gurgling and embarrassed as I fall to the floor. My vision blurs, and I watch as he removes his mask yet again, revealing his smile. And with one last ounce of strength, I turn to view my beloved, the one that I loved so much but could never find the courage to admit to. And I swore I could see her smile as well, one… last… time.
Emery was classified by the Guild as a missing person after one more month of absence, never discovering his body. Dormin's body was found at the base of a cliff near an extremely active volcanic area of western Minegarde, close to the charred lands of the ancients. Faye was never seen again, and also reported as missing. Shinu is still seen wandering from city to overpopulated city, wearing only his one set of armor, complete with his Scythe of Menace, never to be suspected of the crimes that he has committed.