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The Nature of Brador

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The Nature of Brador

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Arqueira kneeled over, about ready to vomit out her stomach’s contents for the second time that hour. She had felt her stomach churning the moment she entered the hellish, bloodied, corpse pile pit, and she had felt it again after she had spoken to the severed head of Ludwig, the Accursed.

Arqueira honoured the fallen hero, yet she couldn’t help the nature of her shortcomings, and she had to reach a gloved hand over and cup her nose as she looked down at the yellowed, chipped, crooked, and broken teeth of the beastly Ludwig.

The auburn-haired huntress was relieved she had pushed her hair back beneath her old hunter cap, wondering if she smelled as horridly as the entire pit did. She knew deep down the answer was yes, and she closed her heavy light brown round eyes as she watched the head sigh and moan in pain as it looked up at her with sad, yet hopeful eyes.

"Good hunter, have you seen the thread of light? Just a hair, a fleeting thing, yet I clung to it, steeped as I was in the stench of blood and beasts…”

Yeah you stank, alright. She resisted the urge to smile beneath her covered mouth.

“I never wanted to know, what it really was. Really, I didn't."

To her horror and amazement, he began to whine, neigh, and make all sorts of hellish noises, so much that it annoyed her, and she slammed her Kirk Hammer down on him a few times before he finally exhaled his last breath and was out like a snuffed candle.

I’ve put you out of your misery, you freak!

“That’s enough out of you.” She wished she could clean off her old hunter garb and her weapons, but she wanted those around her to see the blood of Ludwig the Accursed on her for the purposes of earning their fear and respect.

Arqueira collected the Holy Moonlight Sword from where the head had disappeared, and she made her way up the stairs and towards the left, where a large door had opened, leading to a dark hallway.

She took off the cap, and her straight, long auburn hair fell down, cascading past her shoulders like a waterfall. She had been wise enough, and had possessed the foresight to turn on her lantern, leaving it at her side by her belt, when she heard the rhythmic, and sickening sound of a dull “thud”, “thud”, thud” to her left behind a large, dark brown cell door.

Arqueira pulled on the door handle, only to find it locked.

“Of course.”

"Shrouded by night, but with steady stride. Colored by blood, but always clear of mind!”

She had almost missed the voice, as it had been rather muffled by the large door, but she caught it nonetheless.

Arqueira put her ear against the door, and peered in through the little open space to find the back of a prisoner (or perhaps hunter?) facing her, and he had been smashing his forehead and bashing it repeatedly into the wall his hands were resting on as he chanted in a perplexed, anxious voice.

Arqueira yanked and pounded on the door handle, wanting to get a few words out of the man before he bashed his brains in.

“Hello! Please! I’m here to help you!” She cried, wedging her thin, perfectly shaped nose through the bars.

The prisoner resumed his bashing, as if he hadn’t heard her.

She spoke nervously, “Ahh, I suppose you don’t know where the key is, do you?”

“Proud hunter of the church. Beasts are a curse, and a curse is a shackle. Only ye are the true blades of the church."

Arqueira’s golden brown thin eyebrows rose on her forehead and her jaw dropped.

“Yes! That is me, I am indeed a hunter of the church!”

This seemed to work and break his strange spell, for her stopped smashing his forehead into the wall, and he turned around quickly. Almost seeming to move out of time and space, the prisoner appeared before the huntress in a quick flash, and he gripped the bars of the door, his dark, pained eyes looking deeply into hers as their noses touched.

“Beware the horned hunter of the church, young one. He guards the secrets and the past alike, and he will bury you here in this hunter’s nightmare.”

He gasped suddenly, and he backed away from the door, though his hands lingered on the bars, clutching, as if he were clutching for his life.

Arqueira’s eyebrows rose up so far she felt her forehead and face aching from the strenuous activity, but she wanted to hear what this prisoner had to say, despite how insane and mad he appeared to be.

She looked up to see that his forehead was caked with blood, and she wasn’t able to make out what his hair colour was in the dim light she had been provided with in the little, narrow hallway.

“The horned hunter of the Church?” She repeated, not entirely forgetting his warning.

He nodded, and his eyes grew wide with fear, and they darted from side-to-side, as if the devil himself were listening.

“Yes…heed the warnings, heed the toll of the bell…”

His hands slid slowly down from the bars, his fingernails and knuckles dragging their way down the door.

“Heed the toll of the bell…the bell…”

“What bell?” She shrieked, wondering how hard he had hit his head.

The prisoner backed away into his cell and sat down in the right-hand corner, covering his head and face with his hands as he chanted over and over to himself words Arqueira couldn’t make out.

She turned and faced the rest of the hallway, trying to train her ears for any strange noises, particularly that of a bell. She waited for a few minutes, but she heard the whistling of the wind through the doors. 

Deciding that the prisoner may have just been mad, Arqueira shook her head, and pushed herself off and away from the cell door. She walked down the hallway and looked to the left, where a large, brass cell door was wide open. It almost invited her in, practically, and she headed down the little flight of steps, facing yet another cell door.

“No doubt this is locked, too.” She whispered under her breath, wondering just how useless this entire place was, when she heard a very faint bell sounding from beyond the other side of the cell door.

Arqueira felt her blood freezing in her veins, just as it had in the same way when she had first laid eyes on the blood-drunk wild hunters as they viciously swung their Beast Cutters and Boom Hammers at her with their bright yellow and red eyes.

This, was a much more dangerous and sinister situation, and she had her guard up, regardless of whether the door was bolted and locked or not. She put her Kirk Hammer away, and instead donned a much deadlier and faster weapon; her Blade of Mercy. She had finished off many a beast and foe with them, and she mentally thanked Eileen the Crow for honouring her with the privilege to wield her weapon after she had put down her finale foe, the Bloody Crow of Cainhurst.

Arqueira had knelt by the old huntress’s side until she passed away, leaving in the aftermath only a large pool of blood behind her. She had cried for hours, for she had looked up to Eileen as something of a mother figure, though she had never admitted it to the older woman.

Eileen had taught the young huntress to be strong, brave, and to keep her hands clean, most important of all. She had shown her just what happened to hunters who foolishly lusted after the blood of other fellow hunters, and Eileen usually had put an end to those blood-addled hunters, until recently…

Arqueira was certain that if the Bloody Crow of Cainhurst hadn’t leant a hand in Eileen’s demise, she would have gone mad herself through her never-ending, highly-driven ambition to end all madness before her fellow hunters.

Arqueira heard the bell ringing again, a long, droll tone, and she stuck her pale face in between the bars of the door she stood before, and squinted. She wasn’t able to make anything out, so she dug in her pockets for her Monocular. She couldn’t remember where it was, and she fumbled for minutes, dropping her shining coins, and making all sorts of clatter and noise outside the cell door.

“Are you a hunter?”

She froze once she heard the man’s voice. It was a low, yet gently soft tone of voice, which shocked her, as she hadn’t been expecting any of the prisoners to speak with such softness and gentleness.

“Yes I am…” She tried answering back confidently, but she knew it came out as a small hushed whisper instead. Strangely, the prisoner’s ears caught her words.

“Well, that's very odd. Do you hear the toll of the bell?” His question was simple enough to answer, but she kept fumbling for items and she nearly dropped her Blade of Mercy, her fingers catching it at the last second before it connected with the ground.

She swallowed, this time making sure she spoke with confidence. “Yes, I hear a bell.”

“Hmph. Liar.”

“I DO!” She couldn’t help the immaturity that flew forth then. She hated being put down, called names, and mocked. If this was some sort of game or joke, she was missing it and had no time for it. It was always better to come out with the true intentions in the beginning, in her opinion.

A single ring came from the other side of the cell door. “Such pettiness will be your undoing.”

Arqueira leaned against the door, reaching in her back pocket for the Monocular.

“The beasts you seek will not be found here. Go back to your hunt, and if you have the chance, put this night behind you.”

“I wasn’t lying…”

She had finally located it, and her little fingers curled around it in her pocket, and she brought it up to her eye, and peered at the owner of the voice.

Inside the cell, by the feet of a fallen, broken bed, sat a man with his head slightly lowered. He wore black pants and dress shoes, though they had blood stains smeared on them, and he had a beast hide garb. On his head, he worn a large set of antlers, much resembling the Cleric Beast monsters the huntress had seen so long ago when she began her journey…

Her eyes widened and she choked back a gasp.

This had to have been the horned hunter of the church the other prisoner had been referring to! She had never felt more certain of anything else!

Though she suddenly began wondering just how much of a threat this man could be behind a closed, locked cell door…

She reached down and grasped the handle, just to double check.

Locked.

“...Places better left untouched, secrets better left alone...only a fool would so brazenly roam...” His voice seemed to almost warn her against something, though she couldn’t place her finger on it, and it irritated her.

Arqueira pounded her fists a few times against the cell door angrily, peering through the bars at the strange hunter inside.

“I’m no fool!” Who the devil was this maggot who dared refer to her as a fool? Arqueira was a fiery young lady, and she’d do anything to hold onto her pride and ego, and she didn’t dare deny it either, for that matter. She felt that what set her aside from the rest of the beasts and creatures in this horrid town was the fact that she had such a high level of dignity and pride. She wasn’t going to let some horned prisoner mock and jest her when she had beaten and triumphed over the most difficult and skilled hunters! This man before her was a joke!

"Bear in mind: some places are better left untouched, and some secrets are better left alone.”

He didn’t seem to share in her anger or pride, and he only seemed to want to dish out more warnings, which infuriated her. She was a grown woman past her twenty-first birthday, and she had gained more experience with concepts of life and death ever since she ventured forth into Yharnam. She didn’t need a false reminder that she was immature and beneath anyone, and damn the imbecile who dared to mention it.

“...Only fools do brazenly roam..." His whispered tone did little to soothe her ire and hatred, and she proved it by turning and walking away from the locked cell doors.

She would try anything it took, risk anything she had, all in the name of proving this strange horned hunter wrong. She was unable to keep out the repetitive, haunting tone of the bell out of her mind and ears, even when she had reached the beginning of The Research Hall. 

The chime of that evil, deceitful bell rang on in Arqueira's ears and mind, almost seeming to guide her murderous, skilled hands as she cleared her way through the wandering, pained patients who had been put through such ghastly and heinous experiments and studies. 

Though she felt a great and deep sense of pity for them, Arqueira knew that the deed had been done, and the damage was far too great for her to attempt at fixing. She silently prayed for the redemption of everyone's soul as she spilled countless pints of blood about the walls, ceilings, floors, shelves, and upon her own garb. Wherever she went, she seemed to literally bathe in the blood of her enemies and victims, and by the time she reached a small door at the bottom level of an elevator she had ridden down on, she was faced with a large chair at the end of the room, and a patient tied down to the chair against her will. She rocked from side-to-side, moaning and writhing in her own sorrow and agony. The sight of it was absolutely horrid to behold, and Arqueira had wanted to pass through undetected, for the Enlarged pink head sat grotesquely on her shoulders, weighing her movements down partially. 

Arqueira tiptoed by the patient in the chair, and she had nearly made it to the door, fingers outstretched for the handle to unlock it, when her boots tripped over some empty bottles lying on the floor. The sound was deadly within the silent room, and the clattering and shattering of the bottles and glass made the patient gasp, and she ceased her pained movements on her chair, her neck and head tilting upwards in the direction the sound had come from. 

"Lady Maria? Is that you?"

Arqueira didn't even breathe through her mouth as she stood at the door, her back turned to the patient. 

The patient seemed to smell and scent the air, however possible for someone bearing no distinct, regular human features, and she suddenly sighed a sigh of relief as she sat back, relaxing in the chair. 

"No...you're someone else."

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

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“Come closer, dear, kind hunter…let me speak to you.”

Arqueira knew it was far too late to deny the request of the patient, and she walked forward until she stood a few inches away from the patient in her chair.

“Please, could you do something for me?” She implored the young huntress, her enlarged, bulbous, pink head tilting ever so slightly upwards at her.

Arqueira wished she could deny this patient, but something ate away at her inside, and urged her to do whatever bidding the patient had. She didn’t want to argue with that side of herself, so she cleared her throat softly.

“Y-yes, I will.” She wouldn’t go back on her promise now, even if it bothered and troubled her to the ends of the Earth. Arqueira valued more than anything, her own integrity, and she wouldn’t be foolish enough to abandon it now, despite whatever task she wanted to carry out instead.

The patient sighed in relief, and she ceased rocking distressed in her chair.

“I need Brain Fluid. Murky, mushy Brain Fluid...”

Arqueira raised both her eyebrows at this mention of the odd request. She’d learned of many odd things throughout her journey thus far, but never had she come across anything as bizarre and strange to be labelled as “brain fluid”…she began trying to conjure up images and thoughts relating to what the thing could indeed be, but her mind kept shooting down the thoughts and ideas, and she was eventually left in her perplexed, puzzled state.

“I don’t understand…”

The patient slightly shook, but otherwise remained calm.

“You’ll soon see, dear hunter. You’ll hear the sticky, sweet sound for yourself…”

Feeling perturbed, Arqueira left the patient, unlocking the door, and she headed out, mentally preparing to locate and retrieve the brain fluid, whatever it was.

Locating and bringing back the first brain fluid had been an easy task. Arqueira had located a small, round pink head on a wooden platform she had rolled onto while exploring. She had accidentally fallen onto the circular head, and her weight had crushed it. It emitted a loud, high-pitched scream, causing Arqueira to panic and feel sorry for the pain she unknowingly caused it, but then a bunch of clear, sticky, muddy fluid dripped forth from the deflated head.

Arqueira gathered it before it all either dripped away, or dried up, and she concluded this had to be the brain fluid the patient was requesting.

Bringing it back hurriedly, she offered it to the patient, who injected it hurriedly, gobbling it down quickly, her head expanding and growing slightly in a needy manner which made the huntress shudder at the sight of it.

“Ohh... it's wonderful…” she began in her gratitude and appreciation, slurping away at the very last bits.

“And, oh! I hear the sticky sound. Do you hear it, too?”

“I do not, I’m afraid.” Arqueira answered truthfully, hoping she wouldn’t unnerve or offend the patient.

“Oh, I know. Will you have my blood, as thanks?”

Arqueira hadn’t been expecting that as a gift offering, but she was absolutely certain that if she refused, she’d offend the patient this time.

She took a step forward, crossing her arms, wondering how she was going to accept the patient’s blood…

“Well?” The patient prodded verbally, her head tilting about as she waited for the response.

“I…I don’t wish to cause you more pain…as wonderful as your blood could be, I couldn’t dare ask for such a rare gift.” Arqueira sighed, looking down at her boots. She had already previously accepted the blood of Arianna, woman of pleasure, and she didn’t wish to trouble the already disturbed patient. Everything had a time and place, after all…

The patient chuckled, “It’s nothing uncommon, brave hunter.”

“No?”

“I'll have you know: I was once a Blood Saint, too.”

Arqueira felt her interest peak, and she dropped to her knees, listening intently to the patient’s story.

“Pray tell, what is your name?” She asked as she studied the bindings which practically ate into the skin of the patient.

“I’m Saint Adeline, former Blood Saint of the Healing Church.”

Arqueira gasped.

“What exactly did you expect, dear hunter?” Adeline giggled again, “…now please, accept my gift…”

The huntress stood up, ready to shake her head, when Saint Adeline interrupted.

“But I cannot move. Look, on my right arm.” She shook her arm as best as she could, despite the binding, and Arqueira noticed that on the Blood Saint’s right arm, there was already a needle present, ready to draw blood.

“I'm sorry to trouble you, but you don't mind, do you?”

Arqueira fought the urge to tremble, not wishing to lay a finger on the patient, but she didn’t want to offend or trouble her. She leaned forward, lowering her hands to the needle, and she drew blood from the patient slowly and very carefully, not spilling or wasting a drop.

“That makes me happy.” The patient cooed as the needle filled up.

“I beg your pardon?” Arqueira asked, carefully filling an empty vial with the blood she’d drawn.

Saint Adeline didn’t have a face, but for some reason, Arqueira was positive she was smiling at her. She looked directly at the enlarged head, and she felt and pictured her smile, and she knew that once upon a time, Saint Adeline definitely possessed one of the most enchanting, beautiful smiles. Oh how she’d have loved to see it for herself…

“It makes me happy that you’d be so willing to accept my blood, kind hunter.”

Arqueira smiled back, and she felt and knew that Saint Adeline would be able to sense and feel her smile, same way Arqueira felt and sensed Saint Adeline’s pleasant, invisible smile…

“Of course, dear Blood Saint.”

{;;~``~;;}

She’d faced Lady Maria of the Astral Clocktower with some difficulty, yet she had diligently carried out Simon the Harrowed’s suggestion of ending Maria’s life in order to unveil the secrets she guarded dearly with her own flesh and blood.

The mysterious hunter stopped her in her tracks once she had walked out of the Astral Clocktower's large, heavy doors, nearly frightening her out of her skin when she felt his warm hand upon her shoulders.

She raised her Blade of Mercy, and it found its way expertly and viciously to his throat, poised and prepared to strike. She panted and breathed heavily before him, covered from head-to-toe in her own blood, sweat, tears, as well as Lady Maria's.

Simon offered her a proud smile, and he raised two fingers up at the sharp blade digging into his skin, and he brushed it aside, lowering it down without any fear or worry.

"I had faith in you, huntress." He assured her once she panted less and the promise of murder and bloodshed disappeared from her beautiful eyes.

"It's done." She said once, pulling from beneath her garb the Celestial Dial, and holding it before him.

"Now you carry the burden of the secrets of this horrible hunter's nightmare, though you once told me found nightmares fascinating, no?" He toyed with her, walking around and placing his fingers on his forehead, eyes closed in contemplation and thought as he hummed low in his chest.

Arqueira shrugged, "I haven't changed my mind, if that's what you're after; I still find nightmares intriguing."

"You do..." He muttered to himself, walking through the Lumenflower gardens, a heavy stride to his walk, his gait and stance rather...different...

"I'm not allowing you to deter me from my set path, if that's what you're intending to do." Arqueira stated decidedly, shoving past him through the large garden, and disappearing away from the conversation and situation which was starting to get on her nerves.

She didn't hear him respond, not even when she'd abandoned him without another thought or care.

After she’d obtained the Celestial Dial, Arqueira patched her wounds up, counted her blessings that she had been successful in her hunting of Lady Maria, and was able to make it back to The Research Hall, where she greeted a distressed Saint Adeline.

The patient looked uncomfortable and troubled, rocking and shaking the chair with her tormented movements, the legs of the chair lifting off the floor enough as she fell down onto the seat, lowering the legs to the floor and repeating the motions and patterns.

“Hello, hello, is anyone there? Please, somebody, I need help…I'm trying, but I'm afraid the sound is fading...”

The huntress soothed Saint Adeline, and stayed with her until her movements were less desperate and frantic, though to her amazement, Saint Adeline didn’t cease her pained struggles.

“Please, oh please, I need Brain Fluid!”, she whined desperately, her voice stretching out to Arqueira in a last-attempt chance. “The sticky sound is fading fast! Please, bring me Brain Fluid!”

Arqueira rested her gloved hands over Saint Adeline’s cold skin, trying to provide comfort and security in the darkness that she no doubt was living in, currently.

“I promise, I will bring it for you, Adeline.”

“I must have it... that sound, it is all that guides me...” she turned her head about on her thin, boney shoulders, moaning in pain and anguish so much that Arqueira had to back away from the sight of the wretched patient.

“Without it, I'll be sent back...to my former, lesser years...” she whined in misery, and Arqueira could stomach it no longer. She ventured forth to obtain more, which she did, rather successfully.

Only when she was certain she had placated and comforted the Blood Saint once more, did she continue her journey into the Fishing Hamlet.

Arqueira passed through the watery, murky, dark, rainy Fishing Hamlet, not aware of the pair of eyes which followed her, mapping out and tracing her every little move…

{;;~``~;;}

The little Sinister Resonant Bell chimed twice in the dark cell, and a red glow appeared a few feet away from the cell door. A darkly clad figure emerged from the shadows, the light behind him fading away, and he stepped towards the center of the cell.

“Glad to see you again.”

Brador looked up, a small half-smile painted on his older features, as he looked ahead at the dark figure in the room.

“What do you want of me?” The young voice inquired softly, though it seemed rather perplexed.

“She’s making her way through the Fishing Hamlet, I fear.” Brador hissed, eyes closing as he remembered the thin huntress, almost as if she were behind the door right now. He felt his heart burning with hatred and malice, and knowing his duties, he looked past the figure, out the door beyond.

“So she is.”

“Hmm.”

He beckoned the figure forward towards him with his index finger, almost mockingly.

It appeared that he had either offended the dark figure, or he had worried him, for the figure took a reluctant step forward, but only one step was taken. No more, no less, and the room was chillingly silent.

“Stop her.”

“You mean end her life?” The question was asked obviously.

Brador chuckled, teeth shining in the dark fiendishly.

“Burn her, skin her, bash her, defile her very name from this land, I care not about the manner in which you choose to do this task.”

“Very well.”

“Just see to it that she doesn’t breathe another breath.” He lowered his head, smiling down at the floor, or perhaps his bell, though he made no move to ring it.

The figure watched him hold the bell in his fingers for a while before speaking up.

“She’s been fraternizing with the Blood Saint…”

Brador didn’t look up to meet the figure’s eyes.

“Ahh, so she has.”

Silence responded to his statement.

Brador shook the bell once between his fingers, and it chimed hauntingly within the quiet cell and darkness.

“She doesn’t move another step, or else you’ll have to answer to me. Have I made myself clear?”

The figure didn’t move for a long time, as the bell chimed and rang many times over.

Brador looked down at it with amused eyes, ringing it a few more times before closing his eyes and chuckling.

“Clear enough.”

Brador nodded once.

“Soon, she’ll understand what it means to fear the toll of the bell.”

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Chapter Text

Chapter 3

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Arqueira nearly fell off the long, wooden gantry extending from the top of the tallest building in the Fishing Hamlet to another set of houses and buildings. Her little fingers found their grip and purchase in the rotten, molding wood, and she slowly and carefully pulled herself back up on her two feet, panting from exhaustion and relief.

She had exited the Lighthouse hut moments prior, not sure where she had to go from there on. She had nearly missed the little pathway, her attention mainly being trained on the light rain above in the sky, and the white-blue clouds parting and sailing above every so often creating a shadow and making her feel and believe she was being watched.

Arqueira gathered her nerves, putting away her weapons once the rooftops had been cleared of fish guards and horribly grotesque guard dogs. The only thing accompanying her was the rain, which she shivered from, wrapping her arms around her body as she sat on the walkway, thinking of her duties.

She had wanted to abandon them all at the moment, but Simon’s words burned through her heart and her mind; there was plenty of work to be done.

The huntress looked to the sky, and she knew not what the time was, but the ache in her legs and bones told her and encouraged her to seek refuge and rest. So she listened, and stood, turning back to the Lighthouse hut where she had started the second half of her journey.

Low thunder echoed behind her as she entered the hut, and she quickly gathered a few small twigs and leaves, in order to prepare a small campfire to bed down for the night. She had started her fire, and the room was illuminated, when she looked at the floors before her, and fell back, a horrific cry of terror and pain emitting from her red lips.

Against the wall across her fire, was Simon. But this wasn’t the captivating, mysteriously engaging Simon the huntress had been first introduced to; this Simon was lying cold and immobile on his chest and stomach. He was almost flat against the ground, which was probably why Arqueira had nearly missed him. His face was hidden from her, and she wasn’t sure whether or not he was breathing…

Despite her initial reaction to flee, Arqueira inched closer to him, her hands outstretched to gently hover over his back, where they hovered in the air for many long minutes.

Her eyes were glued to his back, and she prayed he would stir, but he didn’t.

A few times his name died on her lips, and she felt her voice had been stolen, for she tried calling his name a final time, but her breath came out in a soft wheeze.

As if on cue, Simon inhaled a deep, long breath, and his chest and back inflated, rising upwards against her hand.

She screamed in shock and fell back, but then regained her faculties, and placed her warm hands over his wet, cold back.

“You’re cold as death!” She whispered fearfully, her hands skating up and down his back, trying to breathe life and warmth into him.

He moaned, and lifted his head in the slowest manner possible, his eyes heavily strained and exhausted when they met hers.

“…Oh, you, I’m afraid, I’ve made a botch of things…” he coughed, lowering his head slightly, but then looked back up at her.

Arqueira rubbed her hands furiously over his back, and then looked to her bonfire, as if it held the answers they both sought out.

“Shhh, come by the fire, Simon, it’ll warm you up!” She pleaded and looked down sorrowfully at him, her auburn hair slightly damp and matted against her head.

Simon shook his head, gasping in more pain, “…I can hear the bell, now…” he lifted his head, his ears bloodied, and Arqueira noted the bloodstream running down his ears, onto his cheeks, and drenching his clothing in blood.

“What happened?” She gasped, wanting to hold him, but fearful that moving him from his spot would doom and harm him more.

A low, monotonous ring sounded outside the hut, though it seemed far away. It caused both the hunters to gasp, freeze and lock up in their movements, and they listened as it rang once more before dying down.

“The bell!” Arqueira gasped, trying to locate the sound source.

She was brought back to Simon’s side, when he gripped her gloved hand in his and shook it gently.

“Arqueira… …The beast-hide assassin, he’s after me…again and again…” His whines broke her heart, and she grabbed his hands in hers, leaning down to peer into his horrified, traumatized eyes. She knew not the story they told, but she was going to do her best to find out and get to the bottom of the matter.

“Simon, who did this to you?” She whispered her question, feeling his breath against her nose, but it seemed so weak and fragile…much like himself right now…

“…It never ends!” He moaned and closed his eyes, sobbing and coughing his way through his misery, which made Arqueira both enraged at the fool who had caused her friend this pain, but also broke her heart and spirits to see her fellow hunter at this level.

“I need a name!” She cried loudly, cupping his chin in her hand and gently prying his neck upwards to gaze into her mad eyes.

He refused to open his eyes, though he answered: “The horned hunter of the Church!”

Arqueira never had any reason to doubt her friend and comrade previously. However, she wondered how mad and horrified he had been driven that he had begun hallucinating now. She truly felt pity for Simon, but she still wished to know who she had to hunt down and make pay for this crime.

She shook her head, “But how can that be, Simon? He’s locked away in a cell! I haven’t the key!”

“It was the beast-hide assassin!” He yelled desperately, looking at her now, and his eyes bearing no lies or secrets anymore. This was a direct contrast to how she had first met and seen him; he had always hidden his eyes from her, and always lowered his head, as if he didn’t wish to reveal to her the true nature of the nightmare. She had been encouraged to slowly unravel the mysteries and secrets, and Simon had encouraged her to harken to their call. But now, it was no time for that, and she needed to hunt for blood. Damn all the secrets of the nightmare! She wouldn’t have it, anymore!

“He was in his youth, he was courageous! I’ve never met such a foe…” His eyes and head drooped, resting against the warmth her palm provided, and she shook his shoulder with her other hand.

“I refuse to believe it was he!”

“Believe what you want, the truth will never change.” Simon closed his eyes, and Arqueira felt his head growing heavy as it weighed down in her palm. She gently guided his head down to the wet grounds, and sat up quickly.

“I’m going to be right back, Simon.”

She raced all throughout the Fishing Hamlet, searching the abandoned, empty cabins and homes until she found one with a bed and sheets still about. She dragged them all the way back to the Lighthouse hut, wrapping Simon’s fallen body in them, and adding more sticks to her bonfire.

“What’re you doing?” Simon wheezed painfully at her.

“You should be out there looking after yourself; not me…I’m unworthy.”

Arqueira threw him a glare, even though he wasn’t looking at her.

“Don’t you dare speak like that! You rest, now.”

She stood and left the hut only when she heard him lightly snoring, fast asleep and hopefully comfortable as he could be in the warm hut.

She tip-toed her way down the gantry once more, eyes set aflame, and she paused as soon as she was halfway down the gantry, when the awful, terrifying toll of the bell hit her ears.

On the rooftop, across from her connected to the gantry, a small red glow appeared a few feet away from her, and a figure rose out of thin air.

He rose to his full height, his head slightly downcast. He wore a grey beast-hide garb, with blood stains and splatter spread across in odd places. His dress pants were black and slightly blood-stained, though his black shoes were oddly shined and polished relatively well.

Arqueira glared and silently promised him a long, torturous death, once she noted the antler-covered head of the garb.

{;;~``~;;}

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He had never seen anyone like her. The moment he materialized before her on the rooftop, he was absolutely certain he didn’t want to cause her pain or harm. He stood before her, directly facing her, and he peeked at her beneath the top of his testimony hood.

She was phenomenally, radiantly gorgeous. What a creature he’d come across and found! It was a rapturous day for him, and he silently thanked the gods and Great Ones above for bestowing him with such a rare, unique gift!

He observed her silently, taking pleasure in her feminine form and beauty. She was perfectly shaped, and her bosom was one of her greatest assets. How he wanted to wrap his arms around them and feel her heart beating beneath her left breast…

He remembered he had a job to do, a purpose. He reached into his long beast-hide garb, and withdrew his Bloodletter. He would perhaps try to scare her off, and he hoped she would heed his warnings…he didn’t want to damage that pretty face…

He extended the dangerous weapon, impaling himself on it, and the old, familiar, thrilling feeling of pain seeped into his chest and stomach as he hunched over and shoved the Bloodletter through himself.

He adored and fell in love with her even more once he saw her reaction; she paled, her mouth opened in fear and awe, and she took a half-step back once her eyes followed his blood exploding and spraying forth.

He removed the Bloodletter from himself once it had bathed and enriched its skills and secrets in his blood, and he healed himself up instantly as he raised the weapon high into the air before bringing it down around himself at his feet with a heavy, solid ‘slam’. His blood dripped from the spikey tips, all the way to the end of it, soaking into the rotted wood. Such a waste…

He took a step towards her, the weapon acting and serving much like a walking-stick at his side, though he relied on it for a far more malicious, sinister purpose…

“Your hair, like fire. Your eyes, like the soil of the Earth…you’re magnificent.”

She hadn’t been expecting to hear that, but his words were clear as day. Studying his features more intently the closer he drew towards her, she observed a youthful face, completely absent of wrinkles or lines anywhere, dark, fine, short hair on his skull, and matching fine hair on his chin, a thick beard. His eyes were full of life, and his posture and stance promised he had far more energy than when she had seen him in his cell, all drooped over and toying with his bell.

How could this be?

Simon hadn’t been fibbing or wrong; it was indeed this very same beast-hide assassin who’d harmed him! She remembered her purpose here, and she stopped gaping at his masculinity, and clenched her Blades of Mercy in her hands, breaking them off into twin blades, and hoping they threatened and warned him of her own prowess and strength.

“Do you know who I am?” He asked her gently, his tone almost excited and pleased to be within her presence, as he smiled at her, his lips full and pink…

She nodded, scoffing at him, “You’re a damn monster.”

He winced, though it was dramatized and over-exaggerated.

“Ouch…I don’t think I’m fond of that title, Miss…”

She took a larger step towards him, hearing the groaning and creaking of the wooden planks as they supported both their weight.

“I care not where your fondness lies; you’re a horrid monster, and deserve to be finished like one!” She felt her blood boiling in her veins, and this fueled her on.

He tsked her childishly, waving an index finger at her. She noted the fresh blood on his armbands.

“You’re a lady, are you not?” he toyed with her, winking playfully at her as he advanced further, “why not behave like one, then?”

She roared angrily and attacked, leaping up into the air with her blades aimed and pointed dangerously at him.

Instead of dashing away or ducking like majority of her enemies had, he simply reached into his pants pockets, dug out a little bottle, opened the cap, and gulped down the syrupy, gooey substance.

At once, the huntress slammed into an invisible, hidden barrier, and she was thrown back onto the shaky, weak, old platform. She felt as if a Great One had hit her, and she coughed and heaved in pain, standing up slowly, fingers tightening around her twin blades still in her grip.

"Unending death awaits those who pry into the unknown..." he warned her gently, then before she could realize what had transpired, he leaned down and grabbed her by the front of her garb with one strong hand.

She saw the watery bottom of the Fishing Hamlet below, and the many dead bodies she had slaughtered viciously hours ago. They appeared like small dots as he raised her higher and higher, and then he stopped once he lowered her gently so she was directly before him, their eyes aligned.

She felt transfixed, as if the worst spell had been cast on her. She was unable to avoid his gaze and look elsewhere, and she felt she no longer had control over her own body. Her mind was still her own, and it was trapped in her paralysis as he grinned at her.

“You’re so very pretty, Missy…” He yanked her forward, and bit down hard on her lower lip.

He drew blood, and she snapped back to attention then, once the searing pain flew through her lips.

She reached forward with her right hand, and she threw off her glove. Her fingernails acted like claws, and she scratched him with all her might across his left cheek, cutting the skin from his cheekbone down to his upper left lip.

He released her lips then, roaring in anger.

“You turn me on like no other, too.” He flung her down then, far below past the rooftops and buildings, all the way to the bottom of the Fishing Hamlet.

He leaned over the railing of the connecting gantry, sighing as he looked down at her in the water, a sloppy, dopey grin across his face.

“I love a woman who can draw my blood without the use of a weapon…”

He sighed happily, resting a closed fist beneath his chin as he peered down at her, chuckling to himself.

He saw her stirring down below, and he moved quickly; leaping down from the gantry to the ledge of a rooftop, then down on top of a few empty barrels, breaking them with the weight of his fall.

He placed his hands on her shoulders and back, cooing and hushing her pained gasps and labored breathing.

“Shhh…now, now, you know very well that you were the cause of that,” he spoke calmly and gently to her, a direct, odd contrast to the show of violence and force previously, “…I’d never treat a lady in that manner regularly, but I must say, you do bring out the animal in me…”

He leaned down, sniffing the top of her hair and head, then burying his nose in her wet hair.

“I don’t possess many things I happen to stumble upon and find, but I really want to call you mine…you are mine!”

Arqueira screamed in pain, and she threw her head back and upwards, the back of her skull connecting with his nose, causing a loud ‘crack!’ sounding from the force of the impact.

His hands flew to his hit nose, and he fell back, moaning in pain.

Arqueira took this as her chance, and she grabbed the Blades of Mercy once again, sliding forward in the water and digging one of the blades into his shin.

She missed at the last minute, for he pulled back, standing up.

She looked up to find his long, wet, pink tongue licking up, to the side, down to his chin, almost like a serpent. He was licking away the blood she’d spilled…he almost appeared blood-starved and hungry, lapping away at the blood as he peered down licentiously at her.

His eyes bore nothing but lust and desire, and she felt sickened as she forced herself to look away from the sight.

“You’re disgusting!” She shrieked, limping backwards, hands still holding her only source of protection.

He chuckled, “You’re fucking beautiful…no one has ever impacted me in such a way…you’ve no idea, really…do you?”

He dove forward, discarding the Bloodletter in the water, and he landed directly on top of her.

He sent them both into the watery grounds, her weapons lost in the dark water, and he yanked back a large bunch of her hair, forcing her head upwards to look into his eyes.

Arqueira closed her eyes, and he roared. He proved his displeasure by slapping her across the face twice, and she cried out in pain, involuntarily opening her red-teary eyes to meet his lust-filled ones.

“So beautiful…”

“Just kill me, please!” She cried hysterically, looking at his chin, anywhere except his monstrous eyes.

He gasped, then changed his behaviour completely; stroking her hair and cheeks softly and lovingly, and he kissed her cold, wet forehead, his lips oddly warm and gentle…

“I would never do such a thing, even if every ruler and King in the world ordered me to do so!”

He kissed her cheeks next, lips trailing about her face, and his eyes raked her facial features up and down, eating her sight pleasurably as he moaned in gratitude and appreciation.

“You mean so much more to me than this beastly, ghastly hunt…”

His tongue darted out next, and it was the very same sickening tongue which had slithered across his own lips and chin, soaking away and licking up his own blood…Arqueira bit down on her tongue, willing herself not to throw up.

She felt his tongue poke and prod at her cheeks and upper lip, and she recoiled, her head turning to the left side, and she felt the cold water surround her ear and cheeks. She didn’t care; she would willingly drown herself a million times over than let him touch her…

This again displeased him, but he didn’t react violently; he merely dipped a finger into the water, finding her cheek, and he gently pushed her head back up to face him directly.

“Anyway, this is no way to begin our courtship, my love. Let’s get you out of these wet clothes…”

She didn’t fight this time, even when she felt his large, vile hands wrap around her waist and neck, pulling her against his chest.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

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The steady toll of a bell was what roused her, and she sprung up in her bedding, only to be pushed back down by a strong, warm hand.

 Arqueira gazed upwards with heavy eyelids that barely could conceal how exhausted and depleted she really was. She felt her eyes searing with a burning sensation, indicating the sleep she had gotten hadn’t nearly been enough to recuperate her, and her entire body felt stiff and in pain.

The hand on her chest was bandaged and bloodied, and she felt herself retching when she looked up to see the dark shadowed eyes of the Church Assassin above her. His hood was still on, sporting the horns, and his eyes gleamed at her in the few candles that surrounded them.

“Where are we?” She nearly fainted at the sound of her voice; it sounded so much different than usual, so weak, fearful…it wasn’t like her. She prayed and hoped he wouldn’t resume his torture and abuse upon her, and she knew she was at her most vulnerable state before him…he could do anything he wanted to her…

“We’re somewhere safe; somewhere he won’t be able to gaze upon.”

Arqueira wasn’t sure what he meant, nor did she have the energy or time to entertain his wild imagination and notions. She needed a straight-forward answer.

With whatever strength she somehow conjured up, she swiped upwards with her right hand, snaking her little fingers past the dark hood, and she gripped thick hair. She pulled his head down until their lips were inches apart, and she glared into his dark, mysterious eyes.

“Where the hell am I?” She hissed her question like a viper, eyes flashing dangerously in a warning which he smirked and scoffed at.

He wrapped one hand around her own, and shoved her fingers away from his hair expertly, almost. She watched her weak hand fall lifelessly down onto the cold bedding at her side.

He grinned down at her viciously, “Only a whore would be so forthcoming and lay her hands on a gentleman.”

Arqueira felt her anger burning furiously within her, but she knew she was too weak to engage him in combat. She could only supply him with what she hoped was a dangerous, threatening sneer of her own as she looked up at him.

“I may be weak for now, but I will regain my strength, and I will kill you and put an end to all this.”

He winked at her, “Is this a promise?”

“One I will take with me to the grave, so help me.”

She felt her insides churning with regret and worry, especially for Simon. But she knew better than to allude to the fact that her friend was still alive…well…had been when she had last seen him…oh how she wanted to attend to him and together they could slay this wretched monster!

She suddenly remembered that he had mentioned another man, a ‘he’ who was gazing upon them? What had he meant?

Her thoughts were halted when she watched him sit back on his rear, his legs drawn up, hands loosely around his knees, and he peered down at her.

Moments of silence passed between the two; she glaring at him in anger, and he studying her features fondly.

The room was a small, tight one, with a lower ceiling, a few old, decrepit beds which had blood-stained sheets and mattresses, feathers and linen thrown about messily, as if the occupants of the room had left in a hurry, once upon a time. The room seemed to tell its own depressing story, but Arqueira wasn’t interested in it…for now…

“Take it off.” She shifted her eyes to the horned hood, and she nodded once at him.

He snickered, clearly misreading the request for a joke, but when her eyes didn’t leave his, his grin died down on his face.

His hands slowly rose, but they did not shake or hesitate, and he very carefully grabbed the back of the hood, and pushed it back and downwards until it was off his head.

In the dim candlelight, Arqueira saw him as he was: short, thick soft black hair slightly messy and matted stuck upwards in a few odd angles, dark, round eyes gazing around her features, a youthful face sporting white skin, and a stubbly face that bore a few days old of a small beard. His lips were thin and set in a line as he looked down at her, a small flush forming on his cheeks the longer she stared at him.

“Hmm.” Was all she said in the awkward silence of the room.

“That’s it?” He laughed, sitting back and discarding the hood beside him.

She gave a half shrug, wincing in pain immediately after.

He cocked an eyebrow up at her.

“Do you find me appealing? Attractive?” His question was ignored, and she breathed deeply, the pain in her back dying down.

“I expected a monster; not a man barely aged twenty-one.”

He chuckled, “You’re no older.”

She shook her head, “No, I’m not any older.”

He gave a slight pause before wetting his lips with a pink tongue.

“Would you ever think to lay by me?”

She wasn’t sure what he meant, and she frowned in confusion.

He rolled his eyes, “As a woman does with a man.” He spoke as if it were the most obvious and natural thing in the world right now.

Arqueira still was confused, but she turned her head and looked at his feet instead of his eyes or face.

“We’re not acquainted, and I’m not your wife.”

“Who said only a wife and husband have to fuck?”

Silence stretched on uncomfortably for a while, the air growing heavy and foul-smelling all of a sudden, and she closed her eyes, trying to drown it out.

“You killed Simon the Harrowed.” She didn’t even need to accuse him; she was well aware of his bloody handiwork by now. Wherever he went, death followed, and there was no room for doubt.

He nodded, “I told you, unending death awaits those who pry into the unknown.”

She wished she had all her weapons with her, so she could bury each and every one of them slowly and painfully into his skin, until he was a walking monument to the hunt, to her hunt. She would proudly hoist him back into the Hunter’s Workshop with glee and satisfaction, and perhaps mount that hooded head on a wall…yes, that would do quite nicely.

He shrugged then, scratching at his stubbly face with a few fingers.

“Ah, tarry not, it’s done and long gone. We should focus on the company of one another, not him.”

“Simon?” She asked softly, eyes still tightly shut.

“No…him…”

Arqueira wasn’t a foolish girl; she knew that this man was likely afraid of someone else, someone in a higher position of power or authority, and she knew that today he had likely strayed from his tasks and assigned duties, and he had to keep his own secrets from his “masters”.

She sighed in exhaustion and pain, “You fear someone…”

He frowned, but lowered his head, awkwardly looking down at the bedding and sheets for a few minutes.

“I don’t fear anyone.” His tone definitely suggested otherwise.

For a few seconds, Arqueira thought of how young he looked, his flushed face and concerned eyes bearing a weight upon his shoulders only he knew of, as he stared down absentmindedly. Regardless, this wasn’t just any man; this was a cold-blooded raging fiend, and he was no less a beast than anything else she had slayed with unending passion and violence.

“You’re a liar, sir.” She hissed calmly, and it shocked him, for his head snapped upwards, and his hair fell slightly over his forehead.

His forehead bore a few lines, as his dark eyebrows rose upwards in surprise and shock he couldn’t conceal in time.

“You’re calling me a liar?” His tone was still soft and almost more like that of a young boy than a man, but she wasn’t going to be made a fool of…again.

She nodded.

He smiled slowly at her, and it frightened her deeply, for she sunk back into her sheets and bedding, eyes slowly closing, almost as if she feared he would strike her face…

A warm hand reached out and cupped her cheek, his fingers stroking her soft, delicate, cold skin a few times, just casually caught in the rhythm of the motions as he gazed down at her with an expression that seemed approachable, but definitely held an air of malice in it.

“I won’t let him find you.”

Arqueira was once again at a loss for words, and her curiosity threatened to spill out of her mouth in a sea of questions she knew he wouldn’t answer. He was a master at evasion, and it was starting to drive her mad, but she knew all efforts of seeking her questions to be answered were for naught.

She turned her head away, trying to slide his fingers off her skin, but he cupped her chin and stroked it with his thumb up and down a few times.

“He will soon know you’re mine, and mine only. He won’t dare claim what’s rightfully mine.” His voice turned more eerie by the moment, as his breathing grew quiet, a direct contrast to how strongly and evenly he breathed from his nostrils at first.

She didn’t share his zeal and enthusiasm, and she shook her head, but his grip on her chin tightened, and he yanked her head to face him directly. When she looked at him, she saw his eyes peering dangerously into hers, a silent promise of pain, torture, and death withheld in them if she didn’t obey, if she didn’t harken to his every wish and demand…this was no way to live…

“Just be mine, and no harm will ever come to you. My word is my bond, my love.”

He spoke strongly, confidently, and it appeared that no matter how much or how hard she protested, his mind was made up for the two of them. Arqueira didn’t know how she was going to win back her freedom, her life, but she knew that if she angered the violent man, a less than swift death would befall her. She knew he would torture her, and he would enjoy it immensely. To survive, she had to do the only thing she could think of: bond with her captor.

She nodded at him despite her mind clouding with hatred and violence for this man, but he didn’t seem to notice it.

She didn’t stop him from stroking her hair and her face, cursing him every time his hands and fingers wove their way around her auburn locks, and almost combing through the tight knots. She didn’t try to fight him as he undid her corset, leaving her bare before him in the lights around them. If she wanted to, she knew she could land a few nasty blows in, but it was far too late into the night for that, and he was so very warm…

She didn’t protest her discomfort when his warm, supple lips marked her body, mapping out every inch and she didn’t try to show her disgust when his tongue soon accompanied the wanderings of his lips.

Nothing stopped him from seeking out and tasting her musky wet scent for hours into the night, though she didn’t encourage or voice her pleasure or displeasure. She kept lifeless and silent as his tongue sought out private places she couldn’t believe a man she wasn’t betrothed to knew.

She hid whatever noises that threatened to come out of her biology, and out of the curiosity of something novel and new that was happening to her. She didn’t stir; she allowed him to entertain himself with her breasts until he cupped the warm, flesh mounds one last time, and fell into a deep slumber by her side.

 

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Simon was certain he was finished. He was certain he had finally left the realm of the waking world, and he was beyond any possible plane of existence. He felt his body detaching from his soul, like an empty husk or a shell of what he was once, and he felt himself lifelessly floating upwards. He wasn’t cold, he wasn’t warm, wasn’t even exhausted; he wasn’t even alive…

He closed and opened his eyes without a hassle or struggle, and he heard no noises surrounding him; he just knew he was not here.

He closed his eyes again, not feeling pressed for air, and when he opened them, he saw a shadowy figure surrounded by a faint orange glow approaching him.

Time seemed to be unimportant suddenly, for the figure seemed to float, and then lose and gain distance, until in an instant, it was inches away from Simon’s eyes.

The figure didn’t move or bend down to Simon’s hunched level; it merely stood and Simon closed his eyes again, basking in its presence. It wasn’t warm or cold; it just was, and he just was.

Although he felt and sensed nothing, Simon felt attune and turned to the figure, and he didn’t move as he heard the far-away yet ever-so-clear softness of the masculine voice above and beside him.

“You have forgotten the adage, Simon the Harrowed.”

Simon didn’t move, still, but he smiled slowly, his face entirely numb.

“I am finally unable to reason or feel anything; I feel no pain, no joy, no sorrow…I am hollow, I am nothing and everything.”

The figure shifted and it swayed, but then it grew still.

“You’ve betrayed yourself.”

Simon frowned suddenly, but he stared off into the white areas of the new existence they were in, and he felt his thoughts echoing back to him in a warning suddenly.

“Everything wasn’t clear, but it is becoming clear.”

The figure didn’t speak, but it seemed to silently request Simon to continue.

“I was saving my strength to cut off the damn assassin’s head and watch the flesh rot away into the poisoned wind, but now I know what I have to do; I have to save Arqueira.”

“If not from him, from herself, but save her, you must.” The figure guided him to be strong and sincere in his hunting, and Simon smiled knowingly, not stirring from his seated position.

“Yes, I will do it. I may lose my life, but I have to do it…” He knew what had to be done.

“Remember, Simon, your eyes are yet to open, but they now will.”

Simon leaned back, feeling his body cave downward, and he relaxed into the fall, slipping away one piece-at-a-time until he felt gone. His thoughts swam with his heart, more so than before, but he felt his face slightly warm. He closed his eyes and smiled, hearing the voice dying down as he flew through the air.

“Fear the old blood.”

He awoke. He was back on the cold rotting wood of the Lighthouse Hut in the Fishing Hamlet where she had told him to wait.

He stirred, feeling his strength still not fully gained back, but he was becoming more like himself by the minute. He grasped his knees, slowly stirring up and standing on two shaky feet.

He supported his own weight with one hand tightly grasping the walls, and he limped past the doorway, stopping to gaze up at the cloudy, rainy sky.

He smiled, his baggy eyes brightening.

“I promise you, Laurence, I will do what’s to be done.”

Chapter Text

A Hunter’s Greatest Virtue

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They fell into an odd ‘dance’ of a routine for the following weeks afterwards; she helped him plot and hunt any other trespassing and curious hunter who dared to tread through the Fishing Hamlet, while he rewarded her with his obsessive form of ‘love’.

Arqueira was no fool; she knew she had to allow herself to be coerced and manipulated into abiding by this mad man’s bidding, lest she desired herself a wonderful trip to the hunter’s dream, her quest fully ending and being forever branded with the mark of a ‘failure’ upon her brow, stamped for all to see.

She merely played the role of a submissive servant, constantly following the blood-starved assassin everywhere he went, obeying him with few words spoken, and more actions performed. He soon began trusting her more, at first not even allowing her to leave the large caverns deep within the heart of the Fishing Hamlet. After a week or two, she’d proven herself worthy enough to be allowed a small trip out of the caverns, but with him escorting her, of course.

Arqueira paid the price whenever she asked too many questions of him as he was planning to slaughter new hunters venturing into the Hamlet, and she was beaten mercilessly and tied back up in the wet, dank, dark caverns and left for days on end in the dark all alone.

Soon however, he switched back to his calm, collected demeanour, and allowed her to join him as he feasted in his lodgings by a small fire. He mumbled out apologies to her and confessions of ‘love’, though she didn’t believe it. He forced her to promise him she wouldn’t ever betray or question his actions, and he wouldn’t allow her to utter any other words until she had agreed with his strange demand.

Arqueira felt as if she had been living with polar opposite doppelganger twins. He could go from a raving lunatic, completely driven by insanity and a wild, abandoned impulsiveness that border lined the beast hood curse, and then in an instant, he would switch back to the character of an average young man in his early twenties. He would laugh, regale her with stories of his most successful hunts, funny memories of obstacles he’d thought were a challenge and overcame, and then he’d comment on her womanly features and assets with a cheeky grin and deep chuckle.

It baffled her, how odd his behaviour was, but she had learned quickly to keep to herself and remain silent at all times when he was in a particularly foul mood. It was all over quickly, the odd few tantrums he pulled, and he ceased lashing out at her after some time and would just go off somewhere to stew in his anger.

There were days when he disappeared on his own, but then there were days were Arqueira felt as if he’d been ‘called’ or ‘summoned’ away…it had happened on more than a few occasions; they’d be slaughtering the aquatic fish-men hunters scattered as they hid about in the Hamlet, when the faint toll of a bell would sound off out of nowhere. Almost immediately, he would turn rigidly straight, and his eyes would grow dull and wide. He’d abruptly leave as quickly as he could without saying a word to her or regarding her, and she never knew when he’d return.

Arqueira would wait for him after she’d finished the duties they’d assigned wordlessly and whenever he returned, he would always seem tired and wiped of all his mischievous energy and he’d just sleep for almost what felt like a full day…

She couldn’t just ask him about it, so she resumed her duties or would take rest herself until he’d unceremoniously awaken her with a kick to her legs or a splash of ice cold water on her head.

There were many days when Arqueira wondered if she could just end her own life when he was ‘called away’. Anything else was pure torture, and she began feeling a sense of guilt mounting on her shoulders the newer young hunters stumbled into the Hamlet after being snatched up and thrown in the Hunter’s Nightmare.

She wondered when they could draw the conclusion that they weren’t meant to pass through without a cold embrace of death. She wondered when they would just return from where they came, ending their lives and effectively leaving the curse of the nightmare forever…

She felt a swift, hard kick to her back as she sat by the fire in the middle of the damp cavern, water spraying her back as she was kicked again when she hadn’t responded the first time.

Arqueira looked up and frowned once she was met with his cheeky smug face. He’d been growing his beard longer in the past, but she could tell he’d recently shaved it with a sharp blade, some cuts on the clean skin apparent in the dim lights. She wished she could add many of her own cuts to that wickedly handsome face…

She nearly slapped herself once she’d dare thought of his evil appearance as anything remotely close to ‘handsome’. She was probably growing ill, and she shivered, getting to her knees as she watched him grab the horned beast hood off the seat of an old chair a few feet away from her.

“Get up, you lazy wench; we’ve got some new visitors, and I think it’s time you welcomed them with our initiation practices.”

Arqueira froze once he’d hissed out the order. Normally, she’d always watched and silently observed in sheer terror as he’d stalked the unsuspecting hunter, and then quickly turned the tables on them and turned them into his latest victim as he drove his insatiable bloodletter through them many times.

She’d help him heave the body back to their infernal abode, her eyes mostly closed as she allowed the tugging of his movements to guide her while the stench of blood and death nearly made her vomit.

Just when she’d grown somewhat accustomed to that, he’d decided to make her the hunter and stalker?

He didn’t let her collect her thoughts more than she’d already been sifting through them, and he growled and grabbed her arm roughly and violently yanked her up to her feet.

He got close in her face and hissed dangerously low, a tone which she hadn’t heard often, but knew wasn’t a good sign whenever she did hear it.

“You’ve got to earn your keep, right? I can’t simply let you eat and drink and use my shelter without paying me.”

She felt her caution thrown to the wind as she nearly bit back her reply too aggressively, but then took a small breath and reminded herself to stay calm and pretend she was a submissive partner in crime.

“I’m your prisoner, Sir, and what’s more, I don’t even know your name after you’ve laid your lustful hand upon my flesh numerous times already!”

While he’d never fully penetrated her yet, she feared he’d soon lose that bit of control, too, and completely ruin her. It wasn’t entirely unheard of for blood-drunk hunters to engage in carnal sins of the flesh, and Arqueira wished to at least die with her maidenhead intact. Surely the gods would give her that bit of dignity, no?

He leaned into her, and headbutted her gently, his breath low on her lips, making her shiver in spite of the warm heat he gave.

“I don’t even know it myself,” he began, breathing softly as he wrapped a hand around her neck and played with her hair.

“…it seems long forgotten to me now, and where I’m from, names don’t mean anything.”

 Arqueira knew this was the most she’d get out of him, but her curiosity got the better of her, and she gently reached up behind her neck and pried his hand away from her hair.

“Where you’re from?”

He was about to answer, when they were both interrupted by low howls, thumps, and explosions from above the ground.

They stared up and then back down at each other, and he gave her a mighty hard push towards the exit of the cavern.

“Don’t waste my damn time, woman, and don’t take me for a fool!”

She knew she had to get moving, and she ordered her feet along, though her mind held onto her question as she walked into the rain and wind once again.

{;;~``~;;}

It wasn’t long before they’d spotted a young hunter treading carefully along the abandoned huts and houses in the Hamlet, a Ludwig Rifle in his hand and an extended Boom Hammer in the other.

He was barely visible in the dark atmosphere, the clouds and gloom of the afternoon appearing to be akin to the beginning of nightfall. He wore a black Church Set, the cap drenched in rainwater and dripping onto his nose as he shook and quivered, ducking away and effectively taking out wandering fish men and their mutated pale dogs.

Arqueira watched with the beast-skin Church Assassin at her side, his hand on her shoulder, threatening her should she do anything else except deliver a painful death to the wandering hunter.

He leaned close to her and pushed her hair behind her ear as he whispered with a hint of lust in his tone.

“Remember the plan, and everything will be fine.”

He backed away without any other words said and disappeared.

She was left to her own devices, and she watched from her spot in the dark, abandoned well, her eyes peering above as the young, fearless hunter made his way through the hamlet, spilling the blood of the vicious monsters that surrounded him wherever he went.

She covered her tracks quickly, just like he’d taught her, and she watched as the hamlet’s tricky nature confused the young hunter as it had with her, and he was soon lost as he stumbled and tripped inside the hut he was meant to be trapped and slaughtered in.

A few fish men and a giant hunter shark had unwittingly guided him inside it, his stamina drained to keep on fighting them, and he chose instead to run in and close the rotting door behind him.

Arqueira descended from the roof, landing quietly on her feet, simply watching as the young hunter reloaded his gun and gasped for air.

Only a coward would attack a shaken, distressed hunter, but she knew she had to act, otherwise she would be skinned along with him.

Perhaps she could save herself and him, and she knew she had to take the chance. There was a possibility that she was being watched by her captor, so she knew she had to give out subtle signals and pray and hope the hunter would get them.

She stood once she was a few feet in front of him and withdrew the hunting knife he’d given her. It was a mild sedative, slicked with poison, meant to drain him of his stamina completely while she could prolong the torture and then end his life in cold blood.

He’d spotted her, though the plan was set so that he had to see his killer, first and foremost.

“Who’re you?!?”

He backed away, holding his weapons tightly, aiming them at her with shaking hands.

She knew it was not just from the cold wet rain, and it made her movements towards him more painful and she hated herself as she spoke the lines her captor had recited to her hundreds of times.

“I’m here to deliver a message.”

She held the poison knife in her hands tightly, knowing fully well he’d seen them and was shaking more as she spoke in her cold, malicious voice.

She spoke slowly, but firmly, knowing they were being watched, and she hoped she could make it all look and sound convincing as she advanced on him.

“S-stay back!” The hunter’s warnings and pleas were ignored as Arqueira raised the blade up higher, her hand not shaking in doubt, unlike his.

“Unending death awaits those who pry into the unknown!”

She flew forward and buried the knife in his shoulder…

The blade was held pointing upwards, the handle slammed into his shoulder.

He screamed, however, which was exactly the reaction she’d been going for as her hands burned and seared with pain as she wrapped her palm around the sharp blade and tried holding back her moans of pain.

“What’re you doing?”

His wavering voice was quiet, but she knew if he kept speaking, he would betray them both, so she whispered quickly in between heavy laughter.

“Just trust me and don’t do anything unless I say so.”

Unfortunately, the young hunter was too frightened to comply or heed her warnings, and he shoved her aside with both hands, face no longer distorted in pain, breathing back to a normal speed.

“Get away from me, you insane woman!”

She shook her head, eyes wide in a silent plea that he listen one last time.

“Don’t fight!”

He raised his weapons and was about to attack, when his chest exploded before her. Blood sprayed forward in her face, and her skin was soaked in his warm blood as she gaped in horror, unable to do anything else.

The sharp end of the bloodletter poked out of his chest, and he could only cough and gape as he reached down with a shaking, pale hand, and gathered some of the blood in his palm. He brought his hand slowly up to his eyes and they rolled back in his head as he slumped forward and fell with a dull, heavy ‘thud’.

The Church Assassin stood glaring a most foul, murderous glare at Arqueira, not caring much about the gasps of the dying hunter at her feet.

He slammed the blood letter into the ground, and it retreated in its un-extended form as he pointed an accusatory finger at her.

“You disobeyed me and didn’t do as you were told.”

She felt the hunter at her feet grab onto her boot, and she looked down for half a second before looking back up at the menacing beast of a man before her.

“I-I…” She stammered out in shock and fear of what was to come next as he kept advancing slowly like a predator.

“I’m sorry my dear, I have no other choice.”

His cold words hit her ears slowly, and before she knew it, he’d grabbed her and roughly backhanded her across the face.

She stumbled backwards, and her head slammed against a broken, old table, and she was out cold before she could understand what had happened.

{;;~``~;;}

She felt the rough rope cutting into her skin as she slowly opened her eyes.

She went to reach up and wipe her eyes, but she noticed she couldn’t move them one-at-a-time as single units…

Her hands were roughly tied together, and she bolted up straight immediately.

She was resting on heavy blankets on the cold hard floor of a little cramped jail cell, and she began to immediately panic.

Candles lit the room around her, and she was careful not to roll into them as she wriggled her way to her feet and slammed her bound hands against the iron black bars of her cell.

“SOMEBODY! LET ME OUT!”

She slammed her hands repeatedly on the jail door, but it wouldn’t budge, and she knew she was locked in for good.

Screaming into the night seemed pointless as her throat soon began to burn and she swallowed, feeling as if her entire neck and throat had turned into raw meat.

Soon, as if in response to her cries, a heavy door opened, and footsteps sounded as someone entered the room.

Arqueira backed away and curled in a small ball in the farthest corner of her cell, wrapping her arms around her knees as she closed her eyes and wished whoever was now opening the door to her cell was friendly and a helper instead of her captor…

It appeared that no one was interested in her silent prayers, for she could smell the thick and heavy masculine scent that was him before he even spoke.

He reeked of tobacco and gunfire, which suggested he’d possibly done more than merely torture the young hunter they’d captured.

He was quiet for some time, simply observing her and breathing softly, but in an instant, that changed, and his breathing grew more strained and he almost began panting in front of her.

She opened her eyes and was met with his dark, cold ones. He was a few inches away from her, and her natural reaction was to back away, as she hadn’t been able to predict it when she’d opened her eyes.

On her hands and knees, she’d hurriedly sprawled and scurried across the floor, but she had only crawled a little bit when two strong hands were on her delicate hips, and she was dragged back viciously with a low growl echoing behind her.

Arqueira’s mind registered finally that she was only wearing a chemise and white dress beneath that barely went past her hips.

Her weapons were gone, clearly, and she wriggled as she dug her nails into the blankets, desperately trying to hook onto something as the mad man dragged her roughly until her backside hit his lap.

Arqueira felt herself gasping in fear when she felt something hard and heated resting along the back of her thighs, and she soon felt a hand pushing her skirt up.

Her clothing beneath the skirt was torn right off and she screamed as his hands turned her over and flipped her onto her back, practically slamming her against the floor as he grabbed both her hands in one of his tightly, while the other held her chin as she cried and screamed in fear.

“Stop moving, you stupid whore!”

She knew he was either going to kill her, or torture her until she lost what was left of sanity…perhaps both…

Arqueira had to act quickly, and she opened her tear-soaked eyes, wearing an expression she hoped was innocent and soothing, and she calmed herself down as she spoke softly.

“But I had to, I had to get him to trust me, you see…”

The mad man didn’t seem to hear her, and he leaned down and bit her exposed pale neck, but not as roughly as she thought he would.

She hissed in pain and bit back her sobs.

“Please, my dearest, I know I upset you and didn’t go according to the plan, but I did it for you! For us!”

She begged as he bit along her neck, mapping out a path as he rested a hand on her thigh and trailed his fingers over the top of her sensitive, exposed mound…

“PLEASE!”

When he showed no signs of stopping soon, Arqueira tried one last thing her will to survive conjured up.

It was as if her lips were no longer her own, her words no longer spoken on her own accord, and she closed her eyes and wailed.

“I LOVE YOU!”

Her trick had worked, and he’d stopped assaulting her immediately.

His hands loosened their grip on her, and they slid to cup both her cheeks.

He forced her to open her eyes and look at him as he shook her head in firm shakes. She felt her head banging repeatedly against the cold hard floor of the cell, but at least he wasn’t hurting her or raping her…

He wore a small smile on his face that made him appear only slightly less insane and dangerous, and she looked away and held back the rest of the tears that threatened to spill forth.

“What did you say?”

She didn’t answer, but he didn’t react in explosive anger like he normally would if she wouldn’t respond at his beck and call right away.

He just smiled wider, and she feared him the more he showed his white teeth through his thin lips that were curved upwards.

He looked like a child, and an overly excited one filled with hyperactivity threatening to spill forth, but she knew he was far from an innocent child; he was a murderous psychotic mad man who’d been responsible for many deaths time and time again.

“Do you really love me?”

He didn’t let her respond, even when she took a breath to, and he just threw his head back and wrapped his arms around her in a tight embrace.

“Finally you’re honest with me!”

His warmth upon her was sickening more than comforting, and she refused to find any solace in it, despite the fact that she was soaked and cold to the bone.

He threw his head back and chuckled deeply, then ran a hand through her long auburn hair.

“Say it again, tell me again.”

Not wanting to be subjected to the embarrassing false confession ever again, Arqueira again decided to use her feminine charms on him, and she reached up and grabbed the back of his head and neck in her hands and pulled him on top of her.

Every part of her screamed ‘no’, and she felt her stomach recoiling in disgust, but she knew she had no other choice.

He was faster, stronger, and he seemed to always know what she was going to do next.

There was no way she would ever win; not without pulling horrible tricks and games.

Her lips were pressed to his firmly, and she felt like stabbing herself over and over again as she felt him force her lips apart with a sharp nip to the lower one, and she gasped as he slid his snake-like tongue in her mouth.

Her body betrayed her when she felt his tongue licentiously stroking hers, and she moaned against his lips.

She wished she could turn back time and stop herself from reacting that way to omit such a horrible sound in the first place, but in the end, it was probably better that she had.

Her sounds seemed to make the situation more believable to him, and he broke the kiss and nuzzled against her neck like a loyal, loving dog.

His breath was against her neck and cheek, and he gave her a small peck as he smiled down at her, eyes beaming proudly in the dark.

“You’ve earned everything, my dear, and I apologize for my foolishness before.”

She forced herself to smile.

“It’s all forgotten now…”

He sat up on his knees and withdrew a knife.

She felt herself panic as her stomach dropped out, and the color left her face, turning her pale.

“Oh no, please!”

She held up her hands in defense, crying out and losing her composure as she tried backing away from him.

The knife swished and cut through the air, and she closed her eyes, feeling it slide downwards and slice away at the rope that bound her hands. The pressure of the rope disappeared once it fell apart in pieces at the floor, and relief flooded her veins.

His expression turned to confusion, and he set the knife down and grabbed her hands in his.

“Hey hey, shhh, still yourself, my dear!”

She shook her head wildly, and his lips were forcibly pressed on hers, silencing her effectively.

She cried on, but allowed him to kiss her for a few minutes, and then she felt her palm forced open, and the cold hard handle of the knife was soon against her skin.

“I told you I trust you, my gorgeous brazen darling.”

His smiles were most chilling and venomous, and she truly understood the horror and fear that nearly drove her friend Simon into madness as he warned her about this horrible creature long ago.

She hadn’t taken his warnings seriously then, and she had let her guard down by assuming she was a skilled, strong hunter adept at preying upon anything and anyone that got in her way. She was far too young and childish, and soon this man was going to teach her the error of her ways.

She watched him kiss her bandaged wounded hand she’d sliced open with the poison knife.

“It’s healing, fear no more and save your energy, my dear.”

She coughed up a small laugh she hoped would be convincing enough that she wasn’t frightened.

“Save my energy? Whatever do you mean?”

She looked at him with blood-shot red eyes, but she was too tired to close them and rest for even the slightest of moments. This was a man she could never trust or take her eyes off of.

He grinned as he stood, brushing his beast-garb of dirt as he held open the jail cell door widely for her.

“Use your strength to skin the trespasser, and we can then be together forever, my love.”

It took all her strength not to faint as she watched him turn his back and lead her up the stairs out of the cell.

“One last death, to prove your worth to me, and we will be left alone, and he will finally let me be free of this curse, this nightmare!"

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Chapter Text

A Heart Bleeds Betrayal

Arqueira cursed herself that night. She’d not only allowed that demon of a man to force her into skinning and flaying a fellow hunter and bleed him out, but she’d allowed him to take her to bed.

She counted her lucky stars yet again, as he hadn’t raped or taken her maidenhead, but he had lavished his attention unto her with his slithery, slippery tongue, and his fingers danced upon her body for hours before slipping inside her and coiling within.

She didn’t understand why her body chose to react to any of it, for her mind knew he was a man unworthy of any seduction, and she wasn’t seduced; yet she had reacted by voicing her loud moans of pleasure into his ear when his fingers pressed firmly against the bud of her sexuality.

Out of embarrassment, she’d rolled away from him, facing a wall until he’d wrapped his arms around her and pulled her to rest against his firm, naked chest. Her reaction had been to flush deeper, and she’d sobbed to herself softly while he’d fallen into a deep slumber, seemingly comfortable and forgetting the violent and sexual acts they’d performed not even a quarter of an hour ago.

His snoring had roused her from her sleep. She’d peeked up at him momentarily, before spotting her dress and garments a few feet away from him.

She’d found a way to maneuver herself out of his grasp, and she tiptoed over to her clothing, hurriedly dressing before exiting his bedchambers.

She’d made her way down a long, old spiral staircase, unsure where to go and how to recollect her weapons, when she heard footsteps thudding softly behind her.

Arqueira barely had time to turn around when she was slapped roughly across the face. She bit back a pained cry and her tongue tasted metallic blood pooling in her mouth.

She glared up at her attacker, and it was none other than the monster of a man she’d spent so much time with.

He stood to his full height before her, his short black hair a mess, and his eyes tired, as black bags formed beneath them.

“I thought I had made myself clear that you weren’t to wander aimlessly without my permission and without my accompaniment.”

He rubbed his tired eyes, his hand sliding down and lingering on his growing stubbly beard, until it fell limp at his side.

“Get back to bed, now.”

She shook her head, and his eyes widened.

Defiance?

“No, please…” She backed away, holding her hands up as she cast her eyes downward.

“How fucking dare you, wench!”

He raised his hand and it appeared as if he was getting ready to backhand her roughly, but she pressed herself against the wall and cowered in fear.

“I just need to see Adeline!” It had been a truthful statement, as Arqueira had found herself missing her odd friend. It had felt as if months had gone by without a word from the Blood Saint, and this troubled and worried the young huntress.

She had to hide her worries and fears when she had fallen prey to this cruel, cold, evil man, but she could stomach it no longer. She felt deep in her gut that something was terribly wrong with the Blood Saint, and the sooner she ventured for a visit, the better she could ease off the sensation and growing concerns.

Her cruel companion gaped at her with a puzzled expression on his youthful face. His thick dark eyebrows rose high on his brow, and he stuttered for a moment before closing his mouth and humming deeply, as if in thought or considering where her thoughts and feelings were at the moment.

“Why on Earth would you want to see her? She’s terribly sick.”

Arqueira wouldn’t exactly identify the Blood Saint as ‘sick’, but she knew that he had a valid point; Adeline wasn’t looking so well the last time she’d laid eyes on her. Her bulbous head had swayed about, and she’d been rocking viciously side-to-side in her chair, moaning in pain and begging for more Brain Fluid…

“Yes, but she’s something of a friend to me, and she’s not some contagious leper!” Arqueira shook with anger and fear, partly wondering if her angry outburst would earn her another lashing in the face, or perhaps worse…

Her companion chuckled, stroking his chin with a few fingers as he looked up, seemingly deep in thought.

The room spun and swam the longer he kept her in suspense, and Arqueira truly felt she understood what insanity was now. This maniac knew exactly what he was doing, he knew what he was planning, and he was toying with her on purpose, testing her damn patience.

She shifted her weight off the wall and tried standing straight, but her legs gave way, and she swayed and stumbled into his chest.

Cruelly, he didn’t hold her or reach out to stop her from falling, and she landed roughly on her palms and knees, scraping the pale delicate skin on the stone stairs as she grit her teeth and hissed in pain.

He peered down at her, wearing a playful smile on his face, his teeth poking out from beneath his thin lips. They looked particularly sharp in the light, as if he were some monstrous vampire, and it made Arqueira quiver and recoil in disgust. She was already bracing herself and mentally preparing for him to mock her, perhaps kick her while she was down…

He didn’t do either of those things, and he kept thinking, humming as he rubbed his chin with his fingers, smile still present on his face as he looked down at her.

After some time, he bent down and placed his hands on his bent kneecaps and tilted one hand up to bunch a fist tightly and rested his chin on top of it. His head was tilted to the side, eyes wide, and a small smile planted on his face as he looked at her on the floor.

She was tempted to spit in his eyes as he smiled wider at her, appearing as if he was smiling down at a puppy dog.

“You look like a baby monkey, you know.”

This had completely shocked her, and she showed how taken aback she was after hearing his statement, which he’d spoke out loud in a happy, goofy tone of voice.

She frowned deeply and darkly at him, and gathered herself back up on her feet, finding purchase in the wall, gripping it tightly as she rose to her feet.

Oh how she wanted to kick him in the face as he still sat bent on his knees, staring at her hips somewhere, his eyes glazing over with lust and happiness. She had no doubt it was from her misery and pain more than anything else, and she wished she could carry through with her real emotions and kick him repeatedly.

She had to silence and calm the warrior within, and she offered him a dull glance as he rose to his feet, towering over her as he smirked with malicious intent behind his eyes.

He placed his hands on his hips, looking deeply into her eyes, his expression suddenly difficult to read as his eyes turned dark and blank.

Arqueira despised him most when he turned this way. She was absolutely unable to predict his next action, and she hated it. He could deliver a fatal blow at any given moment or bestow upon her lips a kiss so sweet she could feel like a fairy-tale princess. It was all just a matter of his mood, and how merciful he chose to be.

“Very well then, let’s go visit your Blood Saint, my love.”

His words had pierced through her state of shock, and she froze to the spot, wondering what sort of new game he was playing. She eyed him carefully, trying to sense deception or malice, but he seemed ‘genuine’ (as genuine as she’d ever witnessed him to be), and he soon frowned when he noticed she had yet to get a move on.

He reached out a strong hand and gave her a hard shove down the stairs.

“Get going, I said.”

She didn’t need to be told twice.

{;;~``~;;}

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They’d found the Blood Saint in the exact same spot as she always was; in the dank, dark room, firmly placed on the old rickety chair, rocking back and forth and heavy head lolling back and forth, side to side.

Arqueira knew she was in severe pain, and she rushed to her side, placing a warm hand on her shoulder.

The Blood Saint jumped and flinched, but then seemed to almost immediately recognize Arqueira.

“Ohhh, please,” she began, moving with great strength to the side, nearly knocking herself with the chair over onto the floor.

“…brain fluid, I’m going to drown, and I will have failed you, Lady Maria!”

Arqueira visibly flinched at the sound of the Old Hunter she’d slaughtered weeks prior in the Astral Clocktower. It had been a fight she’d never forget, and she knew that her sadistic, cruel companion also recognized the Hunter of Hunter’s by her title as well.

He smirked, but stood back, leaning against an old bloodied gurney, a corpse still upon it, a dozen medical operating instruments embedded in the bulbous head and arms, sticking out like needles.

“Shhh, I’m here now.” Arqueira comforted the Blood Saint, or at least attempted to, and it seemed that her words barely scratched the surface, for Adeline began wailing like a little lost child within minutes when she realized she wasn’t being administered the brain fluid.

“I need brain fluid!!”

The statement was repeated over and over again until Arqueira turned and spat at her captor.

“Help me find it!”

It appeared as if he hadn’t heard her, but she knew very well he was merely ignoring and playing ignorant.

He looked down at his fingernails, sighing with an extra air of drama and flare.

“Find it yourself.” He shrugged her request off as if he was swatting an annoying bug away.

Arqueira threw caution and disgust into the wind and raced to his side. She grabbed his face roughly in both her small hands, and stood on her toes, placing her lips on his.

He reacted as she knew he would have; by biting her so roughly she flinched backwards.

She felt a warm, wet substance gathering on her lips, and she wiped her lips with the back of a hand, feeling them burning and stinging from the vicious bite.

“Please…” She begged with pleading, fully round eyes, but he smirked coldly, her crimson blood smeared on his lips and chin.

“What do you think I am? Some delicious treat for you to suck on whenever it pleases you?”

He licked and lapped away at the rest of her blood, humming as he wiped his lips with his gloved hands.

She shook her head, not sure of how to respond.

“Please, I need your help, sir…”

He advanced quickly, taking many long steps at a time.

“You’ve not even asked my name yet, Miss, and you’re assuming we’re fully acquainted,” he snickered, “…how like a whore.”

Arqueira nearly slapped him across the face, but she controlled herself and held tightly onto her composure before it flew away in the wind like a forgotten breeze.

“Forgive me, sir, but we’ve already carried out many actions that befit those who are beyond regular acquaintance!”

He chuckled deeply, placing a hand under his chin.

“And pray tell, what actions may you be referring to?”

That bastard.

She flushed deeply, feeling the heat and anger rising off her cheeks, knowing he wasn’t going to abandon the topic until he had ashamed her and made her recite exactly what had occurred in his bedchambers.

She lowered her voice drastically, knowing the Blood Saint wasn’t deaf.

“You know very well what I’m referring to, please don’t-”

“Ah yes, I think I remember now…your lips were quite delicious, I must say,” he grinned darkly at her, nothing but cruelty crossing his features and making him appear demonic, especially with the horned garb upon his head.

“…both sets of your lips, I might add…”

She fell to her knees, fully ashamed now that everything had been announced out in the open.

Surprisingly, the Blood Saint only moaned behind them and uttered: “brain fluid…Lady Maria…”

Arqueira felt tears rolling down her cheeks, and she hurriedly wiped them as she heard him walk towards the door on the other side of the room and fling it open wildly.

“Well, get a move on, then.”

Arqueira took her lead to follow him, but she stayed behind him a few feet, repeatedly picturing herself burying a heavy hunter’s axe deep into the back of his head, cleaving his skull in two. She would then pour viscous fluids over his split open skull, and fully erase any evidence of his existence. Such a vicious monster as he should have been treated no less in such a horrific manner. He wasn’t even worthy of a dignified, honourable death.

It seemed as if those thoughts were the only kind that comforted her as they climbed a large spiral staircase, avoiding wandering, unattended violent patients of the Research Hall as they swung their thin, lanky arms at them.

Her companion easily brushed most of them to the side with the help of his infamous Bloodletter, while Arqueira ignored the screams and spray of blood as it painted the walls and floors with a new color.

She was all too accustomed to his violent, abhorrent ways, and she was thankful he wasn’t abusing her currently, though she wondered how soon her luck would run out.

They walked up to the top of the Research Hall, locating an old ladder resting at a platform after they’d successfully made their way to the top of the staircase.

He gestured for her to climb up first, giving a short, curt nod up at the ladder.

“Hurry up.”

She climbed one ladder ring at a time, her skirt swaying as she made her way up slowly. She didn’t understand when she’d grown to fear heights, but she closed her eyes when she’d accidentally looked down at the bottom of the Research Hall, noticing how tiny the wandering patients appeared, as if they were little ants scurrying about.

Suddenly, without warning, she felt a warm hand inching up the length of her inner thigh, and she felt a few warm digits brush against her undergarments teasingly.

She gasped, and she soon felt his hand slithering over the top of her underwear, pushing the bit of it to the side, and hovering over her exposed femininity.

Arqueira didn’t dare to look down as his hand wandered lower down.

“I wonder if you can feel how cold it is…”

As if on cue, the perverted man seemed to have summoned the billowing icy breeze of the Research Hall, and it hit her naked, damp center, causing the hairs on her body to stand still as her flesh was covered in little bumps involuntarily.

She felt those hands moving downwards to her plump buttocks, and he grabbed fistfuls of her pink meat in his palms, and slightly spread them.

She bit down hard on her tongue while he explored, and then she felt his hands swatting her once firmly on her buttocks.

“Look at me.”

She opened her eyes slowly, looking back down at him as he’d ordered her to, and she flushed in shame when she met his concupiscent gaze. He seemed to peer through her modesty, willing her to cast it aside and join him in his licentious affairs. How shameless could a man be?

“As much as I’m appreciating the view before me, my arms are growing weary, wench.”

She practically leapt up the ladder two rings at a time, balancing herself on the long, perilous pillars and walkways covered in dust and cobwebs.

He was soon on his feet behind her, and they stood in silence, gazing around the top of the Research Hall.

She watched him look down, and for a moment, the thought of pushing him down to his demise crossed her mind, but Arqueira was afraid of what was to come next. She didn’t wish to be left entirely alone, and she knew that this man was absolutely successful in his plan of completely capturing her and isolating her. He wanted her to depend on no one other than himself, by taking away her companion, taking away and shredding her faith, her modesty…nothing else was left, and she knew she had to stick with him until she could find something to believe in.

He finished his gazing and motioned over for her to get moving.

They could both hear the murmuring of some patients who’d managed to get up at the top of the Research Hall; one of them at the far end of the tower, gazing out the windows, but bashing his head repeatedly against the glass instead.

“Listen close!”

They watched and listened as he gave a painful bash which splattered some fluid and blood on the wall.

“Listen close, and you, too, will hear...the sound...of water...”

They didn’t have time to decipher what he meant, for they’d located at the back of the tower top a small enlarged head sitting alone speaking and singing to itself.

The head seemed to have its own consciousness, for it ceased humming and sensed their presence.

“Lady Maria, I'm a robin. Will I ever curl up and become an egg?”

Arqueira looked down in pity at the detached head, already regretting what she knew she had to do.

“What say you, Lady Maria? Lady Maria?” It continued, laughing gleefully without a care in the world.

“Say something, anything...”

She felt the warmth of his hands upon hers, and soon an item was placed in her open palms.

She peered down at the Bloodletter he had handed her.

Soon, his warm lips were pressed against her ear as he pushed her hair aside.

“Make me proud; show me what kind of a fearless huntress you are…”

Without hesitation, she raised the Bloodletter high, and struck.

{;;~``~;;}

Although it was technically easier descending the ladder and the spiral staircase, in practice, it proved to be a dangerous feat.

Naked, emaciated patients soon charged up, as if they knew Arqueira had spilled fresh blood.

She tucked the jar of brain fluid in her overcoat, moving to the side as the patients angrily swung at her and her captor, growling at the top of the lungs.

Her keeper slaughtered them in a flash while she tried moving to the side, and she looked down at the very bottom of the winding staircase to notice more of them making their way up.

A few isolated Carrion Crows decided they wanted to take a part in the slaying, and they soon crawled and inched their way towards the bloodshed. They soon dove up into the air, their large black wings flapping madly.

One of them hovered around her keeper’s head while he tried fending off a patient who’d managed to leap on top of him.

It was almost a tug of war battle; him trying to use the Bloodletter as a shield between the patient and himself, while the Carrion Crow attacked his head, nipping and poking at the horns atop his skull.

Soon, another patient flung his thin body at them, and Arqueira knew this was more than likely her best moment to flee.

While her captor was distracted, she could make her way to an elevator they’d unlocked not even half an hour prior, and she could rescue Adeline and leave this horrid nightmare behind!

Gazing at the elevator, and then back at her captor, she knew she had to make her decision quickly.

He groaned as he nearly fell, a patient grabbing onto his legs and viciously tugging and pulling at his clothes.

Arqueira could have helped him if she so desired, but she didn’t. Why would she help this creature? She wasn’t obligated to save anyone else except herself, and she could only be of good use to others if she made it out of his clutches alive.

She took her chance, and held on tightly to the brain fluid, speeding down the staircase, practically flying past the patients.

They hadn’t taken notice to her, thankfully, but her captor screamed after her as if his life depended on it.

She pulled the lever of the elevator swiftly, turning back to watch as he threw a patient off himself successfully, and impaling another on the extended Bloodletter. More were making their way towards him, soon circling him like greedy, hungry sharks.

The elevator made its way up to her, the door creaking open slowly, and she flung herself inside, nearly slamming against the walls painfully.

“STOP!”

His screams didn’t make her cease, and she closed her eyes tightly as his screams echoed around the Research Hall as the elevator quickly made its descent to the first floor where the Blood Saint sat waiting.

Arqueira threw herself out of the elevator, and she cracked open the brain fluid jar by bashing it against a wall and scooping it up as she held it up to Adeline’s head.

“Adeline! Take it! I have it!”

The Blood Saint didn’t immediately react, and this caused her more fear than the angry, blood-curdling screams above.

“PLEASE!”

She shook her softly, and finally, the head rose, and it seemed as if Adeline was looking directly at Arqueira.

She’d consumed it within a few seconds, and it had disappeared before Arqueira could blink.

“Ooooh, it’s wonderful! Thank you! Thank you!”

Arqueira waved off the praises of gratitude.

“Come with me, Adeline! We must flee now, otherwise we’ll both die here!”

She reached down and began tugging at the bindings on her wrists and then her feet, but she was unable to make progress and even loosen them; they were practically implanted deeply into the floor and skin of the Blood Saint. Tearing them off would surely mean tearing the skin clean off Adeline, and Arqueira wasn’t able to take such a drastic risk. She was already responsible for spilling the blood of so many others, and this was the last thing she could bring herself to carry out.

“Adeline, please!!”

She could only beg, and soon, the Blood Saint chuckled.

“I can hear it, yes! That sound that guides me…I promise to do good now, Lady Maria, I promise…”

The closed door behind them soon rattled with a great force that flooded Arqueira with a great sense of fear. She knew that her companion’s screams of terror above had definitely grabbed the attention of the blood-starved patients, and they were banging and pounding on the door violently.

Arqueira wondered how she would be able to fend off a dozen patients who’d gone mad with rage and trauma from the terrible experiments which had befallen them, and she looked around the room for any weapon she could wield.

Though the noises behind the door increased, and the intensity of the banging did as well, the Blood Saint appeared calm and collected.

“Thank you, thank you so much. You have saved me.” It appeared that once she’d had the brain fluid, she was off in her own world of pleasure and heaven. Arqueira only wished she could physically travel to whatever plane of existence Adeline was in currently.

The Blood Saint moved, and from between her fingers, something soon fell and clattered to the floor beneath.

“Take this charm. Lady Maria gave it to me, but it is all I can offer, other than my own blood.”

Arqueira peered down in the dim light and noticed a large key of some sort at the feet of the Blood Saint.

She bent to grab it, and that was when the door caved in and gave way finally.

As her fears had confirmed, over a dozen patients barged in, destroying jars and flinging books off the shelves, items clattering about as they stormed over with outstretched hands clutching and reaching for something to tear apart.

Arqueira screamed as she shielded Adeline from their grasp, and she closed her eyes, awaiting imminent death.

Overpowering her feminine screams, a loud, masculine roar pierced the air. It was deafening, and it instilled fear in everyone. Adeline stopped moving, and the patients drastically lowered their growls and cries.

Soon, a thundering boom echoed in the tiny room, nearly blasting the walls and ceiling apart from its force.

Arqueira forced herself to open her eyes, and she was met with the beast-covered garb, the back of her cruel captor facing her, and he had extended the blood-soaked Bloodletter and held it high in his hands.

She watched in awe as he turned it upside down, and planted the pointy, sharp ends in the middle of the patient crowd circling them, and the weapon slammed into the ground. With it, a small, reddish glow and shock-wave soon exploded, and it physically sent the patients reeling and flying backwards from where they’d came.

Their bodies soon exploded like grapes, one-by-one, and they fell apart to their feet, the room flooding with blood and screams unlike any Arqueira had ever heard before in her young life.

And then, it was as if it had never happened, and as if he’d never been there.

The room was silent, and he fell forward on his knees, the Bloodletter clattering down beside him. He clutched his head with both hands, ripping off the horned hood as he rocked back and forth on his knees and grit his teeth in pain.

Arqueira couldn’t believe she’d thrown herself at his side, her arms coming around his shoulders as she cradled him against her chest.

She believed she’d truly gone mental as she comforted and hushed him, cooing softly as she held him tightly.

As much as she didn’t want to acknowledge and admit it, he had saved their lives. Arqueira wasn’t one to deny anyone gratitude, despite whatever her training and experiences had shown and taught her. Regardless of his intent and reasons, he had saved two lives in a mere second, and she was grateful.

“S-s-stay back! It’s f-frenzy!”

He groaned and shook violently, and it didn’t take long for Arqueira to understand that he had administered and delivered a most powerful move from his weapon.

She knew well of what frenzy did to men, and she couldn’t help but feel more pity and sorrow for him. He had really saved their lives and nearly sacrificed himself for them…

Arqueira shook her head, momentarily abandoning her conflicted thoughts and she held him tightly and tried comforting him as he flailed himself about in a fit.

It took many long minutes before he lay flat on his back, his breathing slowly regulating, his eyes still clenched tightly shut.

He gave out one final hiss of pain before he pried one eye open and looked up at her.

His other eye opened next, and he breathed heavily and deeply through his nose, his eyes bloodshot and sweat pouring down his forehead and on his nose.

“You…you didn’t kill me?”

His question went unanswered, and she hushed him softly, cupping his stubbly cheeks and running her fingers soothingly up and down the skin.

He groaned as he tried rolling over to stand, but he barely fell to the side.

She held tighter onto him, wiping away the sweat and running her fingers through his hair.

“Why?”

Again, she didn’t know how to answer the pained question.

All she could do was place the key Adeline had given her in the center of his right-hand palm, and she closed his hand and held it in her own.

“Don’t speak, just rest.”

He sighed and closed his eyes, head shaking slightly, and it appeared as if that caused him more pain than ever.

“I-”

She leaned down and placed her fingers over his lips, effectively silencing him for a moment as her lips rested on the top of his head. She couldn’t believe she was showing such warmth and tender kindness to this monster of a being, but she couldn’t just leave him to die after he’d saved them; it was entirely against her nature.

Perhaps she could placate and tame the monster in him with her kindness, although she would come back to that notion another time, another day. For now, she held onto him and looked at his pained face as he'd finally regulated his breathing.

When she felt his heartbeat slow down and calm itself, she felt relieved and knew he was going to survive.

She looked deeply into his eyes as he opened them and gave her a tired glance.

“Brador.”

She’d nearly missed what he’d said, and she raised a thin eyebrow down at him.

“What?”

“Brador…that’s my name, I’m Brador.”

His deep, soft voice was barely audible as his head lolled to the side, and he closed his eyes and fell into a deep slumber.

She could only smile as she watched him recuperate, fully relaxing in her comforting arms.

“I’m Arqueira, and I’m grateful to you, Brador.”

The Research Hall grew dark and quiet around them, almost falling asleep with them, so it seemed, as the foul spirits were put to rest after years of torture and pain.

“I’ll always be grateful, Brador.”

 

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