After defeating a vampire, the intense, ruthless Hunter Jelcine comes across a strange little girl..
A Poor Girl by Benjamin Agar
Year: 2489 AHV (After Holy Victory)
Age: Late Industra era
Country: The Republic of Isstarrsia
Walking along the roadside, Jelcine frowned, stopped and looked over her shoulder. Her huge axe blazed into being in an explosion of white light.
'Show yourself,' she snarled down into the forest. 'I am not in the mood for any shit.'
She was never in the mood "for any shit" but that didn't matter.
For a few seconds Jelcine waited but was answered by silence.
'Whoever you are! I am a Hunter we have the ability to sense magical auras, almost every being emits an aura, I know you are out there! So come out! Or I will find you! And...'
About two metres down the road, a bush rustled and Jelcine readied her axe.
A little girl stepped out. She looked about six or seven, but Jelcine felt she was older. The light, floral dress she wore was unsuited to this time of year in Isstarrsia.
'You...You stopped the vampire,' said the girl. 'You killed the vampire attacking our town.'
Jelcine shrugged, it was a statement not a question.
The girl started to approach Jelcine, looking up at her with wide eyes.
'Can you help me?'
The question took Jelcine off guard but she kept her composure.
'Help you with what?'
The little girl's eyes filled with tears. 'My daddy...My daddy.'
Jelcine had never been particularly enamoured of children but she couldn't help drop into a kneel and take the girl in her arms.
'Your daddy? What happened to your daddy?'
'Help, please,' she sobbed into Jelcine's shoulder.
Jelcine then felt the bloody, ragged opening in the back of the little girl's head as the child went limp.
'Shit!' she snarled, picking the girl up in her arms. She had to find a doctor, she had to get back to town.
'Shit. Fuck. Hold on, kid.'
She started running.
Jelcine stepped out of the clinic, onto the wooden verandah and he was greeted by the noon sun and the busy street. Many motor vehicles, their exhaust pipes spewing black smoke, drove along the main road as numerous locals walked the wide side walks. The doctor was now treating the girl's wounds. She was going to live. Thank goodness. At times like this Jelcine wished she'd learned more healing magic.
Jelcine exhaled a breath she didn't know she had been holding. The doctor hadn't recognised the girl. He said the blow she'd suffered to the back of the head was from a blunt object. She’d been hit hard.
Jelcine fought back her tears and stepped off the verandah onto the side walk. What kind of sick being would do that to a child? A little girl!
Her first thought was the vampire, but Jelcine had slain it a day ago and the doctor said the wound was recent, only about an hour old.
She was going to kill the son of a bitch, whoever the fuck they were.
Jelcine frowned and scratched her head.
It looked like she'd have to talk to the local Jaroaian priest.
She scowled and started down the street.
The large, varnished wooden doors burst open as she pushed them. She didn't mean to, even after all these decades she forgot her strength.
The priest in his gaudy white and gold robes, looked over his shoulder at her, his eyes wide through his half-moon spectacles. He was old, for a human, at least in his late sixties. His white beard was thick and well groomed, his eight pointed star staff held in a red, veiny hand.
'I know you are a Hunter and you are all so special and different. But would you please concede to normality somewhat and open door like a normal person, please,' he said.
Jelcine scowled. She hated having to do this.
'One of your flock needs your help,' she said, trying to keep the mocking tone from her voice.
The priest looked at her.
'What is wrong?' he said.
'Come with me, said Jelcine. 'I will explain on the way to the doctor's.'
They stepped out on to the verandah of the clinic, the priest’s craggy, tanned face was paled.
'Do you recognise her?' said Jelcine.
'No,' said the priest. 'No, I do not.'
Jelcine sniffed. If a Jaroaian priest didn't recognise her that meant she was most likely not a local. Perhaps she and her father had been travelling here and been ambushed by bandits?
'You found her on the road leaving west from the town?' said the priest.
'I did,' said Jelcine, wondering where the priest was going with this.
'We have better go there,' he said. 'Maybe we can find something there?'
Jelcine frowned. 'What makes you think I want your help, priest?'
He glared at her.
'She might not be one of my people, but I am duty bound to help this little girl. Jaroai would demand it.'
Jelcine clenched her jaw, she knew for a fact that Jaroai would not 'demand it' even if he existed.
'As a priest of Jaroai, I am here for the people. Even if they are not of my flock and especially if they are an innocent child. You must allow me to help you in this, as I aided you kill the vampire.'
'Alright,' she said. It could be a Jaroai though she doubted it. If it was one the little girl most likely wouldn't be alive. Jaroai was fiction, but the Jaroai were real. She’d heard many terms over the decades used to describe the. Aliens, monsters but most Hunters loved the term, ‘Eldritch Abomination.’ Jelcine had never got it. They were the real enemy, they were the ones that established the Jaroaian religion through their avatar which led humanity in their conquering and enslaving the elves and dwarves. But you never know, the girl could be bait, she could even be a Jaroai. Those things can shape-shift into almost anyone and anything, sort of from what the Hunters understood it was an extremely advanced from of light magic that only they were physically capable of doing, for some reason.
Jelcine shook away the thought, she was being paranoid. She turned and started off.
'Let's get going.'
'This is the place,' said Jelcine and pointed. 'The girl emerged from the under brush, there.'
The priest stroked his beard as he studied their surroundings. The old gravel road, the brilliant trees which hung with shining green leaves enclosed its sides like walls.
'Did you look where she might have come from?' he said.
Jelcine frowned. 'No, I am afraid not, I was too busy hurrying the girl to a doctor so she wouldn't die.'
The priest frowned back. 'Your sarcasm is not appreciated, Hunter. I was merely asking.'
'Yeah, well. It was a stupid question, priest.'
He sighed. 'You are not the first Hunter to have come here since I became the priest for this town. He was a dwarf and he was overtly hostile toward me as well. Do all of your kind hate us who represent the faithful?'
'Is that a rhetorical question?'
He glared at her. 'If so then why do you? I do not understand.'
Jelcine rolled her eyes. 'Right now, that is not important. What is important we find the girl's father and find out what did this to them.'
He studied her for a few weighted seconds before sighing again. 'Yes, you are correct. But I will find out why. One day.'
'Yeah, good, you do that,' said Jelcine.
She walked past the priest and to the edge of the path. She knelt and studied the trail of broken branches and blood.
'Can you track her?' said the priest.
Jelcine looked over her shoulder at him.
'Yes, I am pretty sure I can,' she sighed.
'One thing,' said the priest ignoring her sardonic tone. 'How did she get out here?'
Jelcine shrugged again, unsure where the priest was going with this.
'The nearest road leaving the town is fifteen kilometres south east of here. How did she get so far?' he said.
'Maybe. Whatever it was that attacked them lured them off the road?' said Jelcine. 'Or forced them there, at gun point, or what not?'
'Do you see any sign of anyone else having moved through the under brush? Where is their vehicle?'
Jelcine looked again.
'No, just the girl's tracks. They could have been stopped a few kilometres down the road, though.'
'You think you can follow it to the source?'
Jelcine didn't dignify that with a response. While she wasn't the best tracker in the Hunters, even a fucking neophyte could follow the trail.
She stood up and started into the forest.
'Wait. Wait,' he said, following her.
'Oh, I'm surprised you're willing to get your fancy robes dirty.'
'I suggest that you watch the track, I'll extend my sense for any presences ahead.'
'Just be careful not to fall on your face,' said Jelcine. 'Because I'm not helping you, if you do.'