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A/N: This is an original concept and characters dumped into Tamora Pierce’s Tortall universe. Sort of a continuation of ‘Eli’, I recommend you read that ficlet first if you are thinking of reading them both.

 

Hunters

 

            It was dark, and it was good.

            The call of an owl drew his ear and Mesa haMinch returned the query with an owl hoot of his own. It was time and Special Group One, the Hunters, moved in. mesa couldn’t help but recall a verse written by one of his previous subordinates.

            ~Through the forest and under the brush,

               between the trees, leaving the hush,

               silently creeping without a flash of steel.

               Bandits will die tonight.~

            It as the death of that subordinate that brought the Hunters to the Vassa for the week; her and many of her group mates had perished in a surprise attack. That subordinate had also been Mesa’s fiancée.

            ‘Eli…’ he thought mournfully as he, like the eight others with him, leapt and swung into the trees as delicately as squirrels. Up ahead was a campfire that had been preceded by drunken songs. Mesa checked inside his shirt on the eight glowing pendants that monitored his groups’ health.

            Creeping forward with the silence of spiders, the Hunters let out small trills that mimicked the bats of the area and raised their right arms when they were in position. This action made their sleeves slip back to reveal the slender bracelets they wore with embedded glowing stones. Mesa’s was aquamarine and he marked eight other similar pinpricks of light across the canopy. Quickly he brought his glowing wrist down to leap forward through the trees towards the fire, from the slight rustling he heard, his group mates were doing the same.

            As they leapt out of the trees without a shout, each Hunter pulled out their preferred weapons. On Mesa’s art, he emerged with two long daggers that went clean through the throat of an apparent sentry.

            From there on in, it was a massacre.

            As Hunters, Mesa and his group mates were not only the Queen’s best-kept secret, they were also allowed the deal retribution as they saw fit. For the death of their colleagues, this bandit group had been sentenced to annihilation.

            As they swept through the encampment, steel flashed, weapons clashed and poison seeped. By Mesa’s hand, throats were slit, stomachs eviscerated and bones cracked. Contrary to the passive expression they all wore as they wove about slaying, each felt the contained fury and hatred that truly separated them from their Rider counterparts. It was not only their skill that made them Hunters, but their self-control as well.

            As they neared the end of the massacre, mesa nearly lost that precious self-control. He saw her ring. Identical to the one laced onto a necklace he wore, the delicate silver knot work band was shoved onto the little finger of a particularly dirty-looking bandit emerging from his tent bewildered. With a forbidden yell of frustration, Mesa effectively cut down the two beings in his way and jumped off a third to grab at the man.

            Grabbing the man’s neck from behind with animalistic savagery, Mesa threw him into a tree.

            “You…” he whispered hotly, throwing a knife the  man’s right shoulder to pierce him to the tree. “You killed her…didn’t you!?” he cried, as the man poured sweat with pain and fear, as he pulled at the dagger feebly.

            Slipping back into his discipline, Mesa delivered a roundhouse kick to the jaw of another bandit, before stepping up to put a foot onto the dagger, the beast once more. He leaned his weight onto the dagger’s hilt, driving it in further, eliciting another gasp of pain from the man. Mesa reached down to the man’s limp right arm and showed the dying man his little finger with the ring.

            “This is mine.” He stated coldly, before driving his other dagger through the joint to sever the finger. The man cried with agony once more, seeming to be the only sound left in the encampment, as dawn approached.

            But mesa didn’t care if the retribution had been dealt; he had found the man who…Tears welled up in his eyes as he yelled, “Did you think you’d get away!? That we wouldn’t find you!? That you wouldn’t pay for what you’ve done to us!? To them!? To Eli!?”

            The man, barely clinging to life, weakly shook his head.

“Damn you! Bastard! Why didn’t you bloody think before you hurt her, before you took this!” here mesa showed the bandit the bloody ring that Mesa had retrieved. The man began to close his eyes and Mesa yelled in anger, the red of his hair seemingly to reflect in his eyes. He pushed off the tree and dagger at the slight touch on his arm, to face the massacre behind him and the silent face of the small archer beside him. He looked on as the others dealt silent mercy blows, avoiding eye contact with the enraged haMinch. Soon the archer was amongst them, slitting throats with a slender razor.

            “Do none of you care!?” he cried at them, before whipping around to lodge the bloodied dagger between the mangled bandit’s eyes. Aware of the trained passive eyes watching him, he felt ashamed. He had violated the rules of being a Hunter, by allowing a situation to become personal and by speaking aloud.

            “I’m sorry,” he apologized quietly, before walking over to the dead man to remove the two daggers and wipe them down. As he did this, he took in the devastation around and noticed the two bandits felled by arrows that could have potentially killed him in his rage. He looked up to the archer again and bowed his head in thanks. Looking away from the horror they had caused, Mesa inspected his necklace of glowing pendants. Each still shone evenly and brightly, that all nine of them were in working condition.

            “Our work is complete.” Mesa stated monotone. ‘And our duty down.” The other joined in on the same toneless statement sheathing their weapons, before they sprang back into the trees.

            ‘It is done Eli…you have been avenged.’ Mesa thought before sending a quick prayer to the Black God to judge the bandits fairly and according to character. Now that the death had been dealt, Mesa felt strangely at peace with himself and the world.

Renewed and…happy.

 

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works~