Monthly Archives: June 2016

Cazador, Pt. 7

Iohan stood with his sword raised, one hand on the hilt and one on the blade itself near its tip. If the beast attacked again, he’d be prepared. Swinging his sword through the air would take too long, would be an impractical movement if it grabbed him, but a quick chop might be enough to deter the creature. He could fight with the beast’s paw around his throat, he was sure. He had fought with broken limbs, with open wounds, with a beast’s claw embedded in his flesh and the monstrosity snarling in his face. It wasn’t a matter of fighting an entire battle while incapacitated; it was simply a matter of making the creature unwilling to fight and then regrouping.

Jimeno had drawn his sword, at least, even if he was holding it unsteadily. His eyes scanned the branches of the trees methodically, his ears cocked and listening for an indication of what the beast would do next. Santi, meanwhile, had dropped his blade in his fear, and had not yet bothered to retrieve the damned thing. He looked for all the world like a frightened animal. At least he had stopped screaming.

“Is it gone? Is it gone?” the boy asked, his voice far too loud, doubtless giving his position away to the beast up above.

“Santi,” Iohan hissed through clenched teeth. “Shut your mouth and pick up your sword.”

“It’s gone, right? Oh, gods, it’s gone and it took Bartolome with it.”

“What do we do, cazador?” Jimeno asked.

“What are we going to do? Bartolome’s gone. We can’t even bring his body home to his family.”

“Silence, Santi!”

“I want to go home! I want to–”

Bartolome’s body fell from the branches mere feet away from Santi. The beast’s hands followed, fingers entwining around Santi’s neck. The boy fell backwards, the creature struggling to pulling him into the trees. Jimeno rushed forward with his sword drawn. Iohan pushed him aside.

The boy was too young, not yet trained by spilled blood and the passing of time.

He would try to save his friend. That was a mistake. The first and only goal was to slay the beast.


Cazador, Pt. 6

The world grew darker as Iohan and his charges followed Maria and Pol’s footsteps into the woods. The high walls of the citadel and its castle and the flags that the nobles flew from the towers disappeared through the ever thickening wall of trees. The branches twisted like grasping fingers, like claws frantically reaching out to claim their prey. The ground grew soft, like walking upon the flesh of some massive beast. The air turned thick and cold, and their breath hung and trailed behind them like ghosts.

The nobles’ hunting parties didn’t ride out this far. The paletas wouldn’t venture this deep in search of sustenance or firewood. Not even cazadores, alone or in groups, sought their quarry in such dark and distant places. If these thoughts flitted through Iohan’s mind like creatures scuttling through shadows, then they were surely gnawing at the novices’ with ravenous glee.

“Bartolome,” Iohan said, his voice the first noise other than their own footsteps and the sounds of animals that they’d heard in quite some time. “Get in front and follow the trail. We might as well do something productive with this time.”

“Yes, cazador.”

The boy moved deftly and sure-footedly now that he had been given a task he could focus on. Even as the trail became muddled, two pairs of footsteps presenting a scene that spoke of an argument and a splitting up, Bartolome pressed on with certainty, following the heavier tread for he assumed it to be Pol’s. Iohan watched on, pleased to see the boy’s skill and pleased to have a distraction from the dark thoughts that troubled his mind. The boy would likely never be a great leader, too temperamental and not quite intelligent enough for a field marshal. But he’d make a fine colonel some day.

“Cazador. Cazador, you should look at this.”

“What is it, novice?”

“The trail… disappears, I think. I don’t see any footsteps.”

“What? How?” Santi asked.

“Pol surely didn’t take off his boots and go around barefoot,” Jimeno said with a snort.

“Don’t you take that tone with me,” Bartolome shot back. “I don’t see you up front, brave enough to be the first line of–”

Bartolome’s words ended suddenly, a single wet cough slipping from his lips. An arm, thin and impossibly long, reached from high in the branches of the trees, the fingers of its hand as long as serpents and wrapped around Bartolome’s neck like a noose.

Jimeno was silent. Santi screamed. Iohan drew his sword from its sheath and ran forward, ready to put the blade to work. But before he could close the distance between the two, the arm retreated into the trees, dragging Bartolome’s body up with it.

To his credit, the boy didn’t scream. But Iohan knew that was only because he couldn’t.


Cazador, Pt. 5

Surprise! I’m back from my unannounced two-week hiatus! Well, it was less of a hiatus and more a matter of me being frustratingly busy with my professional and personal life (something I don’t see abating anytime soon, unfortunately.) The situation hasn’t really changed, but I’m annoyed with myself for not posting. And so, here I am! Expect to see posts on Mondays and Friday for the foreseeable future.

The novices were silent. Doubtless their minds were racing with images of Maria and Pol descending upon their wards, hacking them to pieces. The arterial spray of blood bright with life ebbing away, the venous gush, the stink of spilled bowels. Every novice imagined what it would be like to battle a beast and lose, Iohan knew. He certainly had. It was an ending that was easy to imagine, simple to understand. But it was a betrayal of everything the boys had been taught to think that they might meet their demise on the sword of one of their brothers, one of their sisters.

“Return to the city. Facing beasts is one thing, but you don’t stand a chance against a cazador hunting you down, let alone two.”

“I’m not afraid!”

“You can’t send us back alone! What if they’re still out there?”

“Iohan, you don’t know what happened here. You can’t face an unknown enemy without backup. It’s dangerous.”

The boys shouted over each other, each convinced that what they had to say was the most important. Iohan only paid Jimeno’s words any mind. “I know. But I am trained and you three are novices. You will only get yourselves killed if you come face to face with Maria or Pol.”

“And if you come face to face with both of them at once?”

Iohan was silent. The twist of his lips, the frustration he felt at knowing the boy had a point, said more than his words ever could.

Iohan turned his back to the boys and walked deeper into the woods, gesturing with his hand for him to follow. “I suppose you are right. With four of us, someone ought to get in a killing blow before Maria and Pol can kill us all.”


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