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Huntress and the Prey

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“For the last time, Solas, I’m not doing it!” Her voice was urgent.

“Please, Athras! I have no other choice. She’ll destroy our rebellion if you don’t. Please, this is our only chance.” Solas was bordering on begging her.

Athras gave in, and nodded her head, his gaze drifting to the floor.

She was tasked with travelling to the lands of the great huntress, Andruil, to hunt her halla. It was foolish, at best, and at most, suicidal. It was foolish; the huntress had a certain distaste for Athras, and for good reason, as the two of them had been in more fights than Solas had been in in his several thousand years of existence, and believe me, he had been in a lot. Hunting Andruil’s halla was essentially a death sentence; the huntress had a soft spot for the deer ever since Ghilan'nain.

Solas, as well as Athras, knew that hunting the halla would come with a great cost; if caught, Andruil would almost certainly catch and torture Athras, probably over the space of several years. After all, they were in no rush; they were immortal, so they could draw everything out for as long as they wanted. Thus was the case with Andruil. The evanuris liked to draw out her torture for centuries, and even in some cases, several millennia.

Several centuries ago, Andruil had threatened Solas, or Fen’harel as he was known. She had told him, ‘give me the girl for 3 years, and I’ll spare the lives of your subjects.’ To them, however, 3 years really meant 300 years. Her threats were futile at the time, but over the past several years, she’d been leading patrols of her slaves onto his lands, and ‘dispatching’ the slaves he had freed. Presently, it had been getting worse. Day after day, more and more of their freed slaves had been getting killed, much to the disapproval of both Solas and Athras. If Athras wasn’t given to the huntress, she’d surely bring down their entire rebellion.

“I… alright. I’ll do it.” Her voice was shaky, and for good reason. Anyone in their right mind was terrified of the huntress; she was ruthless when it came to her subjects. Ever since she had entered the Fade and harnessed the power of the Blight, she was worse than ever. She killed wherever she went, and even her father, Elgar’nan, seemed concerned for her.

Solas let out a sigh, “I’m sorry for asking this of you, my love, but you know as well as I, we have no choice.” He obviously didn’t want to send her, but they had no choice.

He leaned forward and kissed her softly, as if it was the last time he was going to see her. It wasn’t the last time, but they both knew it would be a good three centuries before Andruil released her.

“Go now. Don’t give in to her.” He gave her a faint smile. Athras nodded and walked out of the tower.

 

Athras had travelled for what seemed like months, though that was nothing compared to the lifespan of an elf. Elvhenen was vast, and its inhabitants had all the time in the world to walk its wonders. The lands spread across the majority of Thedas, and Athras had to walk the entirety of the way to Andruil’s lands, not that she was complaining; the scenery was a sight to behold.

Andruil’s lands were beautiful, as were most of the lands of Elvhenan. Fueled by magic, the majority of the trees stood tall, much like the elves who lived in them, casting shadows on the beautiful undergrowth. For an Evanuris who seemingly adored herself, there was little in the way of architecture in her lands, with the exception of a statue every so often. Other than that, it was peaceful. Serene, almost. The only time the tranquillity of the forest was disturbed was when Andruil led the ‘Great Hunt.’ You’d think by the name that the Great Hunt was a celebration, where elves participated in a widespread hunt, instead of the monstrosity. You see, Andruil never really liked the slaves that were branded with her vallaslin, and she thoroughly enjoyed hunting, hence where she had come up with the idea for the Hunt. It was a hunt, in a way, but instead of deer, or another meat source being the prime target, Andruil set loose hundreds of her slaves, and chased them down atop a Hart, alongside other elves who were more than happy to participate. This ‘Hunt’ was a celebration of Andruil’s victory of rising to the title of Evanuris, but in truth, it was a massacre. Hundreds of innocent slaves, killed all for the sake of sport.

Athras trekked silently through the dense undergrowth of the forest, her ears perked for any sound other than the mundane chirping of the birds. She froze when she heard the familiar footfalls of a halla. She kept walking, occasionally vaulting over fallen logs, in search of the halla. A few more steps and she found it; the halla was perched amongst some grass, munching on the flowers without a care in the world. Athras didn’t want to do this, but she knew she had no choice.

For the rebellion, she thought to herself. That one thought was what was keeping her from backing out of this. She withdrew her blades from her back and slowly and silently stalked towards the halla. Athras was a trained killer, with thousands of years of experience when it came to hunting. Once upon a time, she was the sole provider of sustenance for her village, so she quickly had to get used to the subtle art of hunting, though she’d never taken down a halla.
She kept creeping forward, until she was right behind the halla. If she reached a hand out, she could touch it. It was so beautiful. She brought her blades up slowly, ensuring her shadow was downwind of the halla, and then struck. Her strike hit true, and the halla fell to the ground with a hopeless bleat. Dead.

She let out a heavy sigh and cleaned her blades on her leg before sliding them back into their sheaths. This was pointless; no one was going to eat the halla. It would be left for the birds that flew overhead.

A loud horn sounded through the trees, and Athras quickly stopped feeling sorry for herself and readied herself. She was sure Andruil would have heard about the halla a few seconds after it fell to the ground; after all, she practically had eyes all over the forest.

Athras turned and ran, running back the way she had come. But she was too late. There was a thundering of hooves behind her and a snort, and suddenly a white hot pain shot through her back. An arrow. Andruil had found her prey.

Athras fell to the ground with a soft grunt, her temple striking against a fallen log, knocking her out instantly.

 

Athras awoke with a loud groan; her vision was blurry, and she didn’t know where she was anymore.

“Ah, look! The wolf is awake. How fortunate. I was getting sick of waiting.” A high-pitched voice caught Athras’ attention, and she looked up with a frown. That voice belonged to Andruil.

Andruil’s features slowly came into focus, and Athras gulped. She tried getting up to get away, but was met with a sharp resistance. She twisted her head and looked behind her. She was bound to a cold, stone wall via a heavy chain. Well, there was no way she was getting out of this mess.

“Andruil, I—“ She was met with a hard slap across the face.

“Silence. Did I say you could speak?” She brought her face close to Athras’.

Andruil was scary on her own, but when you’re chained up and can’t move? She’s terrifying.

Athras growled lightly at the woman and took a short chance to look around at her surroundings. She was in a cave, that much was for sure. There were lines of chains along the walls, and several tables placed next to the chains, embellished with lines of sharp blades, and other various torture instruments. Well, Athras could only guess what Andruil had planned. Everyone in Elvhenan knew that Andruil’s favourite pastime was torture, so why should Athras expect any less?

“Are you scared, da’len?” The false God cooed. Athras glared up at her with a light growl. “No? Shame.”

The woman got up again and stalked over to the table that displayed several sharp blades, picking up a rather small one. She walked back over to Athras and held it up so Athras could see it.

“You see this blade, Athras? I’m going to sink it into your flesh until you scream for mercy.” Andruil gave Athras a menacing smile, and Athras gulped. Well, this wasn’t going to be fun.

Andruil brought the tip of the blade up and held it against Athras’ arm, before slowly sinking it in. It was painful, that was for damn sure, but Athras had dealt with pain worse than this before, so she didn’t show anything on her face; she just kept eye contact with Andruil. Andruil was obviously not pleased with Athras’ lack of a reaction to being stabbed, so she drove the blade straight through with a sickening crunch. Athras let out a soft whimper and looked down, biting her lip hard to stop herself from making any further sounds.

Andruil got up and stalked away from her, back over to the table. She picked up another large blade, this one easily twice the size of the previous knife, and walked back.

These next three years were definitely not going to be fun.

 

“Well, I’ve cut almost every single piece of your flesh by this point, and you still haven’t given yourself over to me. Maybe I should try this…” Andruil held up a large serrated knife to Athras’ eye, and she gulped heavily.

These last three years had only consisted of torture. Lots and lots of painful torture, but Athras was strong-willed, and refused to give over to the huntress. She had only been fed occasionally, around once a week, with a pitiful amount of water to douse her thirst.

Andruil pointed the knife directly at Athras’ pupil, bringing it closer… and closer. She stopped right as the knife tip was around a centimetre away from her eye. Then, she brought it up, stabbing the area right above Athras’ eyebrow. She kept stabbing it in, drawing a thick stream of blood. Athras let out a soft cry, which resulted in a sadistic laugh from Andruil.

Andruil started bringing the blade down, tugging on it with some effort as the blade was imbedded at least two centimetres into her flesh. Yep, that was going to scar.

Athras let out a loud cry, which only egged Andruil on. She kept bringing it down, withdrawing the blade when it reached her eye. She drove it back in, right under her eye. Athras actually screamed, that time. Blood was pouring profusely down her cheek at this point, staining her face like tears.

She withdrew the blade when she passed Athras’ cheekbone, eyeing the now bloody blade, and her artwork on Athras’ face.

“Y-you sadistic fuck.” Athras hissed, and Andruil laughed again.

“I think I’ll just let you marinate in your hate for me for a while.” Andruil smile sickly at Athras and stood up. She walked back to the table and tossed her blade on it, watching at the blood that donned it splattered along the metal of the table.

Andruil walked out of the cave, leaving Athras a bloody, panting mess.
Around a hour later, Athras was bordering on collapsing. The new wound on her face hadn’t stopped bleeding, as it had gone too deep. There were even a few black dots donning her vision.

There was a loud crash from across the cave, which drew Athras’ attention. She looked up and squinted through the darkness, trying to locate the source of the sound. There was a loud cry of pain, prpbably from one of the guards, and suddenly a body was tossed halfway across the clearing, coming to a halt a few inches away from Athras. The body looked as though it had been severely burnt, which confused Athras.

A figure slowly approached Athras, and she squinted again to try and see who it was, but her vision was far too blurred.

“Andruil has worn out her welcome, vhenan.” Athras could recognise that voice from a mile away. It was Solas.

“Solas?” She wheezed. Her voice was raspy and quiet, evidence of her lack of hydration over the past three years.

“It’s me, Athras. Just take it easy.” A soft, but calloused hand gently grasped her wrist, and soon she felt the handcuffs that kept her held prisoner sliding off. She almost let out a cry of relief, but instead, the second the handcuffs were off, she fell forward onto Solas’ shoulder. He wrapped him arms around her, holding her close.

“I’m here, my love. Come on, I’m getting you out of here.” Solas gently slid his hands under Athras’ legs, lifting her up as if she was a small child. He headed out of the cave, breaking out into a run once they were out in the open.

After those past three horrendous years, Athras was finally free of Andruil.