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My name is Smirnie from the race of Premivals. I am a hunter in the village of Altruives, where my people have been living for the last 400 years.

 

I was born into a family of hunters. We've followed this occupation since my great great grand Premival. I am the head of our current family, with my father dead on a hunting mission and my mother dead off natural causes. Four years ago, my first and second born son left to hunt the same monster that slay my father, never to return again. Now all I have left are: my eldest daughter who is also a hunter, my now eldest and only son is too young to join in any of our expeditions, but it won't be long and my last child, my precious daughter who is 3 years old and too young to decide on her life's path. My dear wife who had blessed me with such amazing children had made me promise when her sons died that the rest of the children will get to choose their own path. My eldest daughter was already a hunter by then, and my son old enough to express his want to follow the footsteps of his great ancestors and elder siblings. Only my youngest daughter, who was born after the tragedy that befell my family four years ago, is doted on by everyone and will not be made to undergo hunter training while she is young.

 

The village of Altruives, mainly gathers food in three ways. There are the farmers who have small fields to plow and raise crops. There are hunters, like me, who go into the forest to bring back small to medium-sized animals. Then there are gatherers, who either go alone, or in packs with the hunters to retrieve herbs and fruits and other edible material from the forest.

 

Hunters hunt in packs. It is not a rule, but over time, the number of solo hunters reduced to curb the casualties in the dangerous forest. My daughter also has her own pack of 3 that she makes excursions in.

 

As for me, ever since I lost my partner in a scuffle against a Badasaur, I go out alone. Badasaurs are giant beasts with thick hides that are impossible to pierce without high quality swords or spears. These massive creatures have short legs so they are easy to escape from, but if you get hit by its charge even once, you are done for. They are at the top of the food chain in the forest, second to only Sheraja, the beast I lost much of my family to.

 

Having a hunting experience of more than 30 years, I know the forest like the back of my hand and have no trouble maneuvering through the thickets. I have seen enough fights to know when to butt in and when to flee. Yet the spectacle in front of me was one I had neither seen nor ever expected to ever see.

 

It was a handful of minutes ago that I heard a devastating sound from the direction of the Badasaur’s territory. It sounded like a number of trees or branches breaking. The trees in this forest were so thick, they were nigh indestructible unless burnt. I know better than to barge into their territory, but those things have very low agility and crappy detection capabilities so I am confident in my ability to escape even if something were to go wrong. Not seconds after I started my stealthy run, I heard the unmistakable footsteps of one of those large beasts and from the sounds of it, its destination was the same as mine.

 

I carefully maneuvered to a couple of dozen meters behind the creature. It was best to get behind these things, for over the sound of their own footsteps anything that was not in their vision, did not exist, as far as these stupid creatures are concerned. Though, as I reminisce back to that memory 15 years ago where my partner died, I am reminded once again not to underestimate these beasts. We tried to use a simple tactic where my partner would aggro it and just like now, I would stay at its behind. My task was to take down its hind legs. Taking out a single leg would make it immobile and then eliminating it was simply a matter of time. After about 15 minutes of leading it around by the nose, I had managed to bring it down to the ground. As my partner had went to stab the beast through the eye, it made a small leap with the last of its strength, as a huge amount of blood sprung from its hind legs, and before I knew it, my partner was chewed and swallowed. In my moments of misery, I couldn't even finish off the beast.

 

Shaking my head, I tried to disperse my thoughts. That was in the past. I now hunt alone so a similar mistake does not happen again.

 

I looked again and the beast exited to what appeared to be a clearing. I hurried after and peeked out from behind a tree.

 

“What in the heavens……?”

 

I couldn't think of any creature in the forest that could've done the manner of destruction that lay before my eyes. The Bandapeds that swung from tree to tree and branch to branch? No. The Chidanis that could fly at high altitudes with their giant wingspans? No. The Badasaurs couldn’t reach that far up. So… None.. The trees were destroyed from the top and no creature that was powerful enough could reach it and those that could, were not powerful enough.

 

I was brought back to my senses as the badasaur started to run. From my position, I couldn't see whom or what it was running towards. I took a turn to the right to go around the clearing.

 

“AAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!”

 

I heard a scream.

 

I immediately hid and took a look.

 

(Human!?)

 

I had never seen a human before, but I could tell it was one of them with their round ears at the side of its head.

 

(How is a human here!?)

 

The nearest human settlement was a couple of months journey at best. No human in their right mind would travel here, especially none so.. Weak? Alone, on top of it?

 

The human lay on the ground rolling and screaming while holding its left arm. It was most certainly fractured. In its craze, the human didn’t even register the badasaur opening its jaw onto it.

 

I turned around to walk away from the inevitable. It was certainly a mystery as to how and why a human was here. I will notify the guards in the village to look out for trouble. But there was no reason why I would try to help it.

 

I haven’t even taken full 3 steps when…

 

*boom* *splat* *splat* *splat*

 

I immediately ducked and looked towards the only possible source where the sound could’ve come from.

 

“What in the heavens….?”

 

It was a scene of blood and gore. The badasaur's stomach had exploded and chunks of its flesh had flown to distances painting everything in its vicinity in the colour of the beast's blood; violet and black. The beast slowly but surely fell over, most certainly dead.

 

(What of the human!?)

 

I sprinted to the scene of gore in hopes that I could save a life, even if it was a human. But the human had magically disappeared, nowhere to be found. There was a strange long object that I almost missed due to the Badasaur's blood.

 

“Is that a leg?”

 

The human's leg was in the vicinity, bitten off from the looks of it.

 

(The human is inside the badasaur!?)

 

I reached up close to the beast, taking precaution in case it was still surviving. I pulled open its jaw and down fell the human, one less leg than it should've been. I dragged it out and took its pulse.

 

“It’s alive…..”

 

I was in a dilemma what to do. I could possibly save its life if I bring it to the village. But should I? For a human to be here, I couldn't fathom its intentions. If it harbored hostility, I would be putting my whole village in danger. Though the human did seem weak and harmless from its movements, the burst open body of a badasaur was unmistakable. Probably as well the cause of the breaking of the trees.

 

I decided to save it..him. It could be decided later what to do with him. For now, I ripped up my shirt and wrapped it tightly on the human's cut leg to reduce the bleeding. I gently picked him up and ran back to my village at a pace where it wouldn't cause his wounds to aggravate but still be fast enough to hopefully be able to save his life.

 

I could hear a few beasts on their way to the scene of chaos, brought by the smell of blood. My run also left a trail of blood but it couldn't be helped. I took a path a little longer but it was smoother which in the current situation I assumed was what was necessary, considering the wounded passenger on my back.

 

A minute later I was able to spot the village boundary. I rushed up to the gate and slowed in front of the guards.

 

“Take care of the blood trail.”

 

The guards recognized the situation was dire, hence, didn't stop me to ask questions. I straight up went to the village healer.

 

*bang* *bang*

 

“It’s Smirnie! Open fast! It's an emergency!”

 

I could hear the sound of hurried footsteps. The door opened to show an aged Premival with glasses, emitting an aura of kindness and scholarship. We knew each other well, hence there wasn't any need for words. His eyes went wide for just a moment as he realised the man I was carrying was of the human race, but immediately returned to that of a professional. I followed him inside and lay the human on an empty bed and left. Inside that room, I was nothing more than a hindrance.

 

I contemplated whether to first go to the village chief or my family. I decided, to my duty as a resident of Altruives, I had to notify the village chief of the situation foremost. The house of the head was right next to the healer's house, so I reached it in less than a minute and was met with another aged Primeval, though there were almost no similarities between the two’s outlook. The village head was a retired hunter. His body toned with muscles, he looked like he could still take down a Bhalaboor or two, but alas, in a fight against a horde of Chamkas, he lost both of his eyes. Though he managed to survive the ordeal, he couldn’t continue to hunt without his vision.

 

The chief’s face took on a grave look as I proceeded with my explanation. When I told him the human was most certainly an amateur, unsuited to the perils of the forest, he showed me a complicated face, as if struggling to believe me. Certainly, even I had my own doubts, as to how a lone human ended up here, hundreds of miles away from the nearest Human settlement. There was a high chance there were other humans lurking around in the forest, but as to why they would come here, moreover bring one so physically weak and leave him on his own against a beast of such great might. It certainly didn’t look like an elaborate plan to infiltrate our village. How could they have planned that I, or any of our kind, would find him. On top of it, would we even save him? In the first place, if not for that weird phenomena, would the human even have lived. It seemed like a stroke of luck, considering the situation I found him in. He could have most certainly died even before I reached him. And that phenomena… There was no other explanation other than that the cause was the human himself. I cannot start to imagine how he did it, but there is no other way. That alone strengthened a small possibility that the human could have managed to journey here alone.

 

We discussed all of this, and the chief asked for my opinion whenever necessary. Later, he called one of the guards and told them to set up a patrol. He told me to organise a hunter’s party and look for any signs of other humans and any trails as to how and from where this human could have ended up in the forest. We were told not to engage unless provoked. There was absolutely no way they could hide from the Primevals who have lived in this area for centuries. The chief also said that should the human survive under the care of the village healer, he would be my responsibility as the one who brought him here. As such, the human would be shifted to my house after his treatment. Should I choose to kill him, work him a slave, or help him back to his settlement, it was my decision. He assigned guards to the village healer for the while and dismissed me.

 

I was uneasy about keeping the human among my family, but there was a good chance that the human would die, so maybe it would never come to it. I made my way home and told my family of what had transpired. My wife gave me an uneasy look when she heard we would have to keep him in case he lives. The children, on the other hand, were looking forward to seeing a human. I cannot remember when was the last time any ancestor of ours met with a human. We had been told stories about the different races as children, and there were several mentions of the humans, so there must have been some contact at some point of time. All the stories didn’t portray the humans in a condemning light. Many a times, the lead Primeval who went on a journey to defeat a mighty Dragon or slay an evil Demon Lord was accompanied by human partners. But those were stories of the legends and shouldn’t be used as a standard for general human mentality.

 

I felt like I needed a bath to clear my head. I left my children to their fantasies of meeting the human. At this point, I was almost hoping he wouldn’t survive.

 

The next day.

 

The human was alive. His condition was extremely bad, but it had certainly stabilized. And as per agreed, he was transferred to my house. The children huddled around the bed where the human lay with a peaceful look on his face, poking and feeling his body as if a toy. I noticed my son lifting his lower pants to look underneath, so I scolded him. I ordered all three of them to go out and were barred from entering this room until further adieu. They uttered their rounds of dispondent “awww…” but listened, and left the room. I felt bad, but they were children and were taking this too lightly. Certainly, Perripi, my eldest daughter was 18, but it was times like these where I had to be firm and tell them off. Moreover, I knew my wife wanted to talk about what to do next.

 

“I will take a few days off to stay at home, till he wakes up and we can decide what to do with him. The chief has assigned 3 guards to our house, so we have help in case the human is hostile.”

 

I told that before she could say anything. The chief had told me to organize a hunter party but my family took priority. I would set up the party, give them the details but stay here where I could watch over the human.

 

“Dear…”

 

She looked worried but even she could tell the human was incredibly weak, and now further without a leg, there was no way he could win if he started a fight. Even my son who was 12, could bring him down. I just needed to be wary of that weird phenomenon, but I dared not mention it in front of my wife, for it would only cause her more worry. I could feel though, that she was taking pity on the poor man and was more than willing to take care of him. I had mixed feelings about it, but I let it be.

 

“If he indeed is hostile, I will personally put an end to his life.”

 

“Hah, I know.”

 

My wife heaved a sigh and gave an understanding look. She left to prepare supper, and I was left alone with the man. I stood up and looked at him. Unscarred and a clearly untrained body; he was no warrior. I brought my hand to his neck. It was thin. I could snap it like a twig. I squeezed. A few seconds later his face got red due to the blood unable to leave his head. I released my hand, and he resumed a heavy breathing, still unconscious. It was easy to take his life, and I realised I was a little scared. Should something go wrong, it would be my fault. I was the one to bring him here. But.. what if he was a good man? Irrespective of whatever circumstances that may have led him here, who am I to deny a simple man a chance at a decent life?

 

I looked away from his neck with the imprint of my hand. I would be ready to strike him down immediately should he try anything. The moment of truth arrived 2 days later and thankfully I was right beside him when he showed signs of waking.

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MrScabbyCreature

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