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A Hunter’s Shattered Dream

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Spitting out a mouthful of blood, Linea wiped her mouth on the back of her white cotton sleeve, staining it red.  She cried out from the sharp pain of her muscles as she sheathed her single Blade of Mercy onto her back, the other one she’d been forced to leave behind. Then she gritted her teeth and dug her nails into the rough cobblestones and began pulling herself away from the lantern upon the Great Bridge. Every muscle in her body burned and the puncture wound in her right side left a red trail as she drug herself, slowly, towards a ruined old carriage on the bridge.  It wasn’t safe here out in the open; she needed to get to some semblance of cover.  Truthfully, she knew she should’ve gone back to the Dream, but she couldn’t bear to face it right now, couldn’t go back there... alone. They had cleared the bridge recently, so she knew it would be relatively safe, as safe as a place could be in Yharnam.  Finally, she had safely ensconced herself between the carriage and a pile of rubble where she was hidden from sight. Reaching into the pocket of her torn blue leather coat, she pulled out her last blood vial and jammed it into her leg.  She gritted her teeth the as the blood spread throughout her: stitching torn ligaments, knitting bone back to bone, and pulling her back from the brink of nothingness.  Closing her eyes, she completely collapsed on the cool stones and let out a deep sigh of exhaustion - too tired to cry, too close to death to care where slept.

Three hours later she awoke to the thundering of her heart in her chest and the pounding of her head.  She was alive and though pain still throbbed in parts of her body, she was no longer dying.  That meant she had to get back to work.  Rolling over onto her back with a grunt, she pushed herself up into a sitting position, and rested her back against the carriage.  Drawing her blade from the sheathe on her back she laid it across her lap.  It was still covered in blood, but it mattered little, for, if she had her way, it would be even bloodier very soon.

Producing a whetstone from a pocket inside her coat, she picked up the blade and began to run it along the length of the weapon.  Mud streaked her lightly freckled face, her black leather armor was wet and covered in the blood of the only friend she had in the world, but she paid it no mind.  Her long golden hair, normally bound with fine silver thread in tight braids down her back had come loose, and she absently brushed the bangs away, smearing more mud and blood on her face without much notice.  The movement of the stone was slow and methodical under the sharp gaze of her green eyes as she focused on the feel of it sliding across the metal.  And, she admitted to herself, moving slow was the only way to stem the trembling in her hands.  Terror gripped her in a way it had not done in three years.  What lay before her was no small task, and her weapon needed to be ready, but beyond that, the sharpening gave her something to focus her mind on, to help her push down the raw memories of why she was going back into battle, a battle she highly suspected she’d lose. But that didn’t matter as she’d lost the only thing she ever loved, and she would make Yharnam pay for it, or she would die trying.

But the memories were fresh, strong, and they fought to be seen in her mind, clawing at the edges of her consciousness.  She had saved her again, as she had done many times before, only this time they didn’t both make it out.  Her remaining blade didn’t need sharpening, but she was smart enough to know she couldn’t go back in this state.  The act of sharpening was a panacea to her terror and a temper to her rage, a trick she’d been taught by the one who’d gifted her the blades, the one who’d taught her to use them.  No, this fight wasn’t over. 

“You can’t kill her,” an unnaturally calming voice said to her out of nothingness.  “The two of you together couldn’t kill her, what makes you think you can do it alone?”

“I will try,” she replied without looking up.  She knew the voice, even though it had never spoken to her directly before.  She’d heard it in her dreams – its offers, its promises.  And Ariadne had warned her of the voice and the trickery that came with it, had described it with such precision that it was impossible not to recognize it. 

“Indeed?  You appear to be missing a sword.”

She reached down to her left hip and pulled a bladeless but intricate sword with fine inlay of redwood for the grip.  “I have a lucky backup.”

His eyes widened in surprise.  “Corvo’s sword.  She gave you that?”

“She did, and so I’ll do this with her help, not yours,” she replied in an attempt to stave off any forthcoming offer. 

“You’re hasty to…”

She slammed the whetstone against the blade, creating a loud clang and looked up at the sky, overcast with heavy black clouds.  “Damn you.  Leave me be.”

“Such passion,” he replied with unmasked admiration.

Casting her eyes back to the sword, she resumed her sharpening.  “She told me your power here is weak.  Within Yharnam… you can do nothing to me, certainly nothing worse than this fucking city has already done.  Nor can you help me. So, this is just some game.  I don’t want to play it.”

“No games.  I cherished her too,” he replied, appearing in front of her suddenly.

She looked at him, a handsome young man with black eyes that locked with her green ones. 

“I want revenge too.  She took her from both of us.”

“She turned her back on you, Outsider,” Linea replied, gesturing towards him with the whetstone for emphasis.  “And she was never yours.”

“We all have to make our choices,” he replied with a shrug.  “We all change, don’t we?  Not least of all you.  You were not always Linea, a Hunter of Yharnam.  You changed much from what you were, and perhaps you would’ve changed again and turned your back on her.”

Her green eyes flashed and the tip of the blade in her hand flew up effortlessly and sliced a razor thin cut up his cheek.  “I would not.” 

His lip curled in a sardonic smile.  “Is it so hard for your mind to imagine?  Think how much your life has altered in the span of three years.  Is it so unbelievable to think you might have changed that much more?”

“To some of us,” she said and pressed the stone back to the blade, “some things are inviolable.”

“I have found that inviolable has no meaning amongst mortals,” he countered.  Then he crouched down so that he was eye-level with her, but she did not look at him. “But you did betray her already, whether you see it or not.”

Her eyes narrowed, and the blade flinched involuntarily in her hand.

“She died to save you.  If she’d gone alone, as she wanted, if you had not insisted, she might have succeeded.  She fought with one hand behind her back, because she had to make sure you were protected.  Your weakness betrayed her,” he explained simply, with no judgment in his voice.  “I’m not saying you should be shamed by it, but it is true nonetheless.  Many would say it is no shame to be loved by someone so much they’d give their life for yours.”  

“That’s not true,” she countered, though with less confidence and a tremor in her voice.  “She taught me to fight.”

“You couldn’t even keep hold of both your weapons,” he replied.  He chuckled, “a real hunter are you?  She’d held a sword since she was old enough to pick one you up.  You are a novice compared to her.  That is why she’s dead.”

She continued to sharpen the already razor-sharp blade.

He pressed his finger to the cut on his cheek and then pulled his hand back to stare at the blood on his fingertips.  “Doesn’t matter now.  But, back to the point, her lack of appreciation for me doesn’t mean I don’t mourn her passing.  You can go back to that foul place, fight valiantly and die, or you can let me help you.  You can have what you most want now.”

“You can’t give me what I most want,” she replied and tossed the blade and whetstone on the ground between them.  She buried her face in her hands.  “I was alone for so long.  Now… there I am again.”

“Loneliness, now that is something I do know about.”

She lifted her head.

“You’re right, I can bring no harm to you, even if I wished to, though I certainly have no desire or reason to do so.  Neither can I gift you here.”  He glanced at the ominous sky.  “The malevolence of this place is a strain even upon me.”  He held up his hand and a glowing bluish mist swirled around his slender fingers, giving off slight musical notes each time it touched his skin.

Linea’s eyes widened at the sound, and she stared at his hand.  The light was one of the most beautiful things she’d even seen, and that was because she’d seen it before in her eyes.

“I can’t bestow a new gift on you, but her power, it still lingers.  It was a part of her, and I can pass it to you,” he said with a sympathetic smile.  “You can have a part of her inside you forever.  She can burn away the weakness in you, and the two of you can kill her together.  But I have to know that you are worthy of it.  Worthy of her.”

Leaning forward, she reached out a tentative hand towards the swirling mist.  The Outsider did not pull away and as her fingers got closer the mist slithered through the air as if drawn to her and moved between her fingers.  Tears began to roll down her cheeks.  “I can feel her.”

He nodded encouragingly.  “I haven’t seen her in such a long time.  Sad, that she should end up like her mother and grandmother – yet another in a line of fallen queens.  Sad, that she’ll never understand why I gave her the gift that I did.  So, there’s nothing for it but this:  tell me, Linea, how died Ariadne Kaldwin.”