WARNING: This post has been rated adult for: language.
Wassup! I’m back. Today we have another chapter of Taker. I apologize for the slow output, but I’ve been super busy, and so I haven’t had a lot of time to write. However, my time has freed up now, so I’ll be writing some more! Also, you guys remember BBB? Well, it’s going to come back, though not in the way you might expect… Enjoy!
Dust floated in the air, unseen in the darkness. Drapes by the window danced in the draft coming through the window. Dawn slowly crept its way along as the moon slipped out of the sky. Ryke lay on his back precisely in the center of the bed, his arms folded across his torso. He breathed slowly and evenly, a measured amount of air entering his lungs with every inhalation. When the first rays of sunlight pierced through the light curtains and illuminated the floating dust, his eyes opened.
He sat up in the bed, loose covers sliding off his muscular body. The light shone on his back, lighting up every hardened ridge of muscle and showing off the sharp contrast of dark scar tissue that crisscrossed the skin. Ryke put his head in his hands and exhaled, clearing his mind.
Living in times like these, one would almost think the Driving Wars have not ended…. Humans have turned against the mutated counterparts they created…. Here, take this. It will help you more than it helped me…. That’s worth a palace surely…. This place burnt down years ago…. Fellow…lived in Temmark…. He stole one of the mutagens…. Couldn’t remember a thing….
Too much in the equation didn’t add up. It was like trying to solve a puzzle without a majority of the pieces. But Ryke’s mind ran on efficiency. He wasted no thought thinking about what he did not know, and focused on what he did. Temmark. That’s where he would find his next clue. Somehow, he was sure of it.
Standing up, he slipped on a jerkin and a pair of breeches. A chainmail vest followed the jerkin, clinking softly as he let it drop onto his shoulders. Two belts secured the vest and ensured that any jingling was minimized. With a practiced motion, he drew a garrote up his left sleeve and wound a chain around his right forearm. Bending over, he stepped into a comfortable pair of boots and sheathed a long, straight dagger in the right one. Four throwing knives went on his belt, two in the front and two in the back. A pair of swords followed on his back, and he covered them with a shield which he buckled firmly in place. Finally, he drew on a pair of gloves followed by some bladed gauntlets, clasped his cloak around his shoulders, threw up the hood, and left.
As he wended his way through the busy streets, Ryke’s keen senses detected a presence that never quite left his peripherals. Somebody was following him, but in the crowd he did not stand a chance of figuring out who the person was. Instead, Ryke hunched his shoulders, lowered his tall form slightly, and quickly dodged out of sight. By slipping down a number of alleys and turning sharply where he could, he managed to evade his shadow, and exited the city undetected.
Aylya threw back her hood and looked around, cursing her misfortune. Figuring out the general vicinity Ryke was in had caused her trouble enough, but finding the actual man proved a nightmare. Instead of continuing a chase that had ended, Aylya decided to head back to the beginning. She retraced her steps, her lithe frame slipping with ease through the choked streets, and found herself on the doorstep of the Drykker’s Den. She entered without hesitation.
Wiping his greasy hands, the innkeeper walked up to her with a sleazy grin. His eyes lingered on her face for a short few seconds before traveling the rest of her body lecherously.
“How can I help you, miss?”
“Has a man checked in recently? Tall, muscular, marks all over his face, dangerous air?”
“Information comes at a price…” the innkeeper said suggestively, licking his lips.
Before his tongue reached the opposite corner of his mouth, she held a knife at his throat. “Man: Tall, muscular, marked, you filthy piece of ponthus ass?”
The innkeeper made a small noise that Aylya could only assume was a terrified yes and an admittance of his own error in judgement. Returning her knife to its sheath, she whirled on her heel and left the inn.
Outside, she glanced once more at the rotted sign dangling in the doorway and committed the name to memory. You’re marked, Ryke. Only so many places you can hide now.
The sun had reached its peak by the time Ryke walked into the small village of Temmark. Much of it had fallen into disrepair, and many of its inhabitants had abandoned their cottages for the big city. Ryke let out a stilted sigh. He’d held some hope that this village might provide more information about his origins, but it looked like he was to be disappointed again.
As he walked through the village, Ryke noticed that many of the structures had been in pieces for so long that vegetation had begun to return. Crackweed and bargrass sprouted from crevices in old masonry. Wormrot had made its way into most of the timber, hollowing it out and disintegrating it into bits and pieces.
Slowly, Ryke made his way through the rubble, half-heartedly searching for anything that might clue him in on his lost memories. A couple of hours later, he’d made no progress in his search. His stomach grumbled and he looked up for anything he could get to eat. In the distance he saw a cottage that still stood, and a plume of smoke rose lazily from its chimney. Surprised to see an inhabited and intact house in the middle of this desolate village, Ryke accelerated his pace and made a beeline for the cottage.
He glanced around quickly, taking in the hanging animal skins and the sturdy structure of the otherwise plain house. Throwing his hood back, he knocked quietly on the door. There was a moment of silence, then his keen ears detected shuffling movement from inside. When the movement continued for a while more with no one answering the door, he grew suspicious, and his hand moved to the dagger in his belt.
Then the doorknob jiggled and the door swung open, revealing a young Ash ember. She stood as straight and tall as she could manage, and looked Ryke directly in the eye.
A moment of silence followed the greetings. Ryke took the moment to study the girl. Large, golden eyes blinked at him with a mix of curiosity and determination. Her platinum blonde hair wrapped around her neck in a ponytail and came to rest on her breast which rose and fell as she breathed deeply, as if she had just exerted herself. He looked further downward and discovered the cause for her heavy breathing. Her feet were gnarled and twisted inward awkwardly. It appeared to be the result of a relatively recent injury that did not heal correctly.
“What did you want?” the ember finally asked.
“I was passing through this village and forgot to bring any food. Do you have any you could spare? I’ll pay.”
“Of course! Why don’t you come in?” She stepped back from the doorframe, and Ryke noted her awkward movement.
Noticing his gaze, the ember explained, “A mad Taker did that a number of years ago. It’s the first thing everyone notices about me.”
“I’m sorry,” Ryke said politely.
Ryke entered the hut.
Kyr-lya sighted down her bow at the Warlock. Ten arrows floated in the air.
With exaggerated patience, the Warlock spoke, “Will you, for the last time, please explain why you are shooting at me?”
“Stay away from my sister!” Kyr-lya screamed, tears of frustration streaming down her face. She loosed the arrow. It sped towards the Warlock before coming to a standstill with the others.
“I did her no harm,” the Warlock said calmly. “She has reached sixty-four seasons now. You cannot keep her locked up forever.”
“I can do whatever I want! She’s my sister!” Kyr-lya let another arrow fly.
“No, you—” the Warlock paused, and all the arrows fell to the ground.
“What?” Kyr-lya asked bitingly, her bow still drawn.
“Someone else has arrived. He is with your sister.”
Without hesitation, Kyr-lya turned on her heel and dashed into the woods. She fired an arrow over her shoulder as she did so. “Stay away from her you damn Warlock!”
The arrow stopped abruptly in the middle of the clearing, then splintered into a million pieces.
Ryke and Kyr-va sat at the table eating farraster stew. As he tipped the bowl back, Ryke slid three copper coins across the table.
“Thank you, Kyr-va.”
Kyr-va protested, “That is too much for one meal. I cannot possibly accept it.” She slid two of the three coins back across to Ryke.
He looked at her for a moment, then nodded and pocketed the two coins.
“You don’t talk much, do you?” Kyr-va asked.
He shook his head.
“What do all the marks on your face mean?”
Ryke stiffened. “I don’t know.”
“Why not?” Kyr-va pressed.
“I lost my memories.”
“I’m sorry,” she said quietly.
Conversation paused as each ruminated quietly, then Ryke spoke. “My turn. How do you survive here, your condition being the way it is?”
Anger flashed briefly across her face. “I make do,” she said, coldly.
Ryke noted the trembling of her hands as she said so. He saw the tendons in her neck tighten. His hand was already moving before she turned into a black, growling monster and snapped aggressively at him. In an instant he snatched the dagger from his belt and slashed. When he dropped his arm from in front of his face, Kyr-va — an ember still — was slumped on the ground, a red line across her neck from which blood spurted. Ryke’s face grew pale. Had she not turned into a monster? What had just happened?
Kyr-lya broke through some brush as she stumbled into the village clearing. She scanned the area wildly, before noting the door to her cottage swinging on its hinges. With a cry, she lurched forward, dropping everything. Inside, she found her sister lying on her back, her hands folded over her breast. If not for the deadly pallor on her sister’s face, she could have convinced herself that Kyr-va was just sleeping.
“No…” She dropped to her knees. “Kyr-va? Chak-va?”
Outside, the Warlock watched the house silently as wails echoed throughout the clearing.