Mutant: Chapter 4: Soroku

by blackrandl1958

Copyright© 2019 by blackrandl1958

Fantasy Story: Monster hunting, and looking for answers in a unique place.

Tags: Fiction  

We had beasts to kill. I wasn’t sure yet what they were, but two children had been attacked. One had been killed and dragged off and one got away. We talked to her and she wasn’t much help. It had been nearly dark and she could only tell us that it had claws, red eyes and teeth. The claws must have been pretty big, based on the size of the slash on her leg. It was suppurating and evidently there were some nasty bacteria on those claws. I told her parents she was infected and that I could help her. They were a superstitious lot and I heard them whisper about “magic” and “devil.” In the end they agreed and I put her into a trance with a maleph sign.

I cleaned away the infected flesh and poured in alcohol and then wine. Serisi was looking a little queasy, but she wouldn’t leave.

“I can help her, Guerin,” she said.

“What do you mean? How can you help her?”

“I can make her blood clean,” she said.

“How?”

“I don’t know. I just can. It’s like how I can burn things, except different.”

“Will it hurt you or her?”

“No, but it’s going to make me tired. I can tell.”

“Do you want to do it?”

“Yes, I can help her. It would be ... wrong not to.”

“Go ahead,” I told her.

She got a cute little frown on her face and her little white eyebrows drew together. She seemed to concentrate briefly and then her knees started to buckle. I sprang and caught her before she could collapse.

“I’m okay,” she said. “I need to sit down for a minute.”

I eased her into a chair and she didn’t move for several minutes.

“I’m okay, now. Let’s leave, Guerin. I don’t like her parents. They think we’re evil.”

“I know. Don’t worry about it, Serisi. They’re ignorant.”

“They’re not just ignorant,” she said. “They’re malevolent. If we weren’t able to protect ourselves they would harm us.”

“That’s a big word,” I laughed. “I know what you mean, though. It’s superstition risen to the level of malice. They’re going to pay us. We’ll get the job done and leave. I’m glad we were able to help the girl. You’re a nice person, Serisi.”

“It isn’t her fault,” she said.

We spent the night a few miles away from town. In the morning we went to where the children were attacked. The ground was torn up pretty good and the townspeople had milled around, obscuring the signs. I picked up a blood trail and we ran down it. I could smell it now. The rich iron smell of blood drew us along and we were climbing steadily through the trees. We came to a stone outcropping and the body was there. Serisi turned quickly and vomited. It was an ugly scene. The child was half eaten and I quickly led her away. I went back and saw some footprints, clearly outlined in the dirt around the outcropping.

I went back to Serisi and she was recovered. She was rinsing her mouth out with water and she spat. “What did that, Guerin?” she asked.

“It’s called a vorca. It’s a large lizard sort of thing. I think there are three of them. They’re not fast, but they ambush. We’re going to have to be careful. I need to carry you.”

“Why?” she asked. “I can help you.”

“I want to cloak,” I told her. “Once we find them we’ll shaft them. I don’t want to get close. They have nasty things on their claws and teeth. If they cut us or scratch us we’ll be like that girl back there. It’s almost like poison.”

We strung our bows and she climbed onto my back. I drew in the shadows and we moved through the trees down the trail. We had gone perhaps a mile when she punched me. I looked back at her and she pointed to her ears. I listened and I could hear it. There was the sound of whistling breath ahead about twenty yards. There was a large deadfall and I could see them. I pointed and she nodded. We backed off ten yards and I let the shadows slip away. The beasts roared and shuffled toward us. There were four shafts in the air before they had gone ten feet. Two more followed and they were down.

Serisi had cast her shafts well. Two were buried in eyes and the third was a near miss. The beasts thrashed, reflexes animating them even though they were dead.

“We’ll have to leave our shafts,” I told her. “They may do this for hours.”

I drew my sword and slashed off a foot to show the villagers. I wrapped it carefully in leather and put it in my pack. The thing smelled putrid and it made Serisi gag. We collected our money and threw the thing in the fire. We didn’t waste any time in the village. I bought some apples and cheese from the merchant and we were on our way.

We journeyed north into the gathering cold and the breath of frost dogged our steps. We were heavily dressed, but Serisi suffered. She warmed herself until exhaustion forced her to stop. The snow fell in a blanket and we gradually climbed into the mountains as the cold grew still more bitter. We sought shelter beneath cliffs and made do with snow-banks. Our tent saved us and we dreaded leaving our blankets each morning. Our horses plodded as the winds whipped across us, and we huddled within our robes as we rode.

She never complained, but I could tell the cold and the stillness wore on her. On the fourteenth day of our journey we came to a high pass and began to descend.

“How much farther do we have to go, Guerin?” Her teeth chattered and her voice was shaky.

“Only a few more miles, Serisi, and then we can rest and recover for our journey back.”

She bowed her head and rode into the teeth of the wind. A crack opened in the rock face ahead and we turned in. The worst of the wind was blocked by the towering walls and we wound up a steep and crooked trail. At the end of a long miserable way we came to the cave where I had encountered the Shoroku. If it was still alive, our journey had come to an end. Serisi made a light, somehow, and we went inside. Her hand glowed and I raised an eyebrow.

“It’s a little thing,” she said. “I can do it indefinitely.”

I nodded and we walked for perhaps a mile into the mountain. The air grew warm and we shed furs. We came to a great chamber and there was a fire and furniture inside. A small form hunched over an armorer’s bench and a hammer rose and fell.

“Albatar, we have come to ask you questions,” I spoke.

He glanced at us. “I know.” His voice was high pitched and rough. “I have no answer you wish to hear.”

“How do you know?” Serisi asked.

“I do not know you,” he said. “Guerin, this is a being of great power. Why have you brought her here?”

“She is ignorant of her power. She wishes to learn.”

“If I teach her, she may break the world,” he said.

“I have no such intention,” she said. “I want to know what I can do so that I can protect myself and those I love.”

“And who are those you love?” he asked.

“Guerin, I love Guerin,” she said.

“What of the Shai? What of your father’s people? Do you feel no love for them?”

“No, I don’t know them. I believe them to be evil,” she said.

“There are many shades of evil,” he said. “I am evil. To many, Guerin is evil. You are regarded as evil yourself by many. The Shai believe you will save them from us.”

“Who, exactly, is us?” I asked him.

“My people. We will attempt to drive the Shai back through the rift.”

“How many of you are there?” I asked. “I doubt you have the power.”

“Perhaps not. We will make the attempt, anyway. I would not aid my enemies.”

“We aren’t your enemies,” Serisi said. “I don’t know you well enough to be your enemy.”

“No? Neither do I know you. I do like the way you think. You refuse to generalize. You make it personal.”

“We’re people. You’re a person. I don’t give a damn about anything but those I know,” she said. “Tell me what I can do so that I can keep the people I know safe.”

“What do you want to know exactly?” he asked.

“Don’t you know?” I asked him. “You can read me like a book. You can tell what I want to ask before I open my mouth.”

“Yes, but her mind is behind a wall and under a mountain. I will do what I can. What will you do for me?”

“We’ll tell you stories, share our wine and food with you,” I told him.

“Yes, I wish to hear those stories, Master Gloom Walker. Come and sit and we will drink wine and eat. I offer you my hospitality. How long will you stay?”

“As long as we need to,” I said.

Serisi opened her pack and we took out 10 bottles of wine we had packed. I had remembered from my last visit to this place that Albatar loved our wines. He had a large bird on a spit over his fire and tubers roasting below where the fat from the bird could drip over them. We ate and I told him of our last contract. He was very interested in the poisons found on the beasts and we told him what we knew.

“How came a mutant human and a hybrid Shai to be together?” he asked.

“Guerin saved my life when I was three,” Serisi told him. “He adopted me and became my father. We’ve been together ever since.”

I chuckled. “I still believe that she adopted me. It was a mutual decision.”

“Do you intend to remain with him, girl?” he asked.

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