Chapter 6: Majority part 3
Elianora Tilly Murtain, or as she was apparently now called Ellie, she snorted at the abbreviated name that he had so casually used, watched as her betrothed mixed with the guests that had been invited to his party. As she watched him awkwardly interact, clearly uncomfortable with the situation he was in she wondered where the suave young man that had been engaged to her had gone, either he was one of the worlds best dissemblers or he really had no memory of any of his past memories, and judging by the fact that he hadn't ever even attempted to covering up his previous lies she somehow doubted that. It also wasn't just that, the Nathaniel Miller she had known thrived in situations like this, where his natural bravado and sureness of his own standing let him seamlessly integrate into virtually every group. That was gone, and in its place was something else, something different.
“It is hard to put your finger on it, isn’t it?” Elianora glanced over, making sure to only move her eyes to look at the woman that had come up to stand beside her. Jillian Miller was a small woman, much Like Elianora herself, but she somehow exuded a sort of motherly aura.
“Are you positive you don’t have two twin sons and this is simply the first time I am meeting this one?” she asked looking over at Lady Miller, who for her part only allowed the corner of her mouth to move ever so slightly.
“No,” she said not taking her eyes off of Nath as he was so fondly called by most people that knew him. “He is one of a kind, and it was a close thing there for-” she broke off and Elianora watched as the jaw muscles on Lady Miller’s face clenched and unclenched before she was able to go on. “I would not blame you if you should wish to break off the marriage,” she sighed, “Lord only knows my son has given you more than enough reason,”
“No my lady,” Elianora said, her nostrils flaring as she spoke, “as I told your son when he offered the same I have given my word before man and God and I will not be the one to break the oath, it is not in my nature,”
“No, I suppose it is not,” Nath’s mother said, “though I must confess there were times that I wish your honor was less rigid, it would have been healthier for the both of you,” this time Elianora looked over at her soon to be mother in law and found the other woman’s eyes staring straight into her own, locking her in place.
“So you haven’t told him about Amos yet then?” Elianora said and watched as Lady Miller’s eyes flashed in grief but not in anger, and Elianora was surprised at how relieved she was to see the lack of that emotion.
“No,” Lady Miller said, turning her head back towards her son, “ I have watched him carefully, though he would never say so I think he only remembers his father and myself, he had no memory of either Cara or of Amos,“ she whispered the name like it was something that could only pass through her lips with the barest of sounds or else it risked tearing her apart. “After all, how do you tell the son who lost everything that he has a brother he has no memory of, and that his soon to be father in law order his death for treason?” she glanced over at Elianora, “that is not an easy subject for me to broach, it is too soon, too raw even this long removed,” she took a shuddering breath. “Did you know that Cara still has nightmares of that night? She worries about losing this older brother as well you know, I have lost count of the times I have found her following Nath around like she is attached at the hip,” she sighed, “In these past two months I have wondered if this was God’s doing if this was the only way to wipe away all of that hate, all of that pain and rage,” she reached out and took Elianora’s hand in her own and gave it a firm squeeze. “All of those things he did, all of those things he said, he did them because of the pain, it was consuming him, and while that does not condone his actions you should know the reason behind why he did what he did,”
“I do, understand the reasoning, but I can not simply pretend they did not hurt me deeply, as was I am sure his intent,” Elianora felt the tears stinging her eyes, tears she brutally forced down with a series of angry blinks. “I just, I just wish we could go back to the days before-”
“I know,” Lady Miller said, squeezing Elianora’s hand even tighter, “I know,” there was several moments of silence, moments that seemed to stretch out into a small eternity as the two women put themselves back together, deep breath by deep breath.
“We will have to tell him,” She said, her eyes locked on Nath’s form as he moved from group to group thanking them all for coming and interacting.
“I know,” Lady Miller said with a nod, her eyes gleaming with unshed tears. “But not today, today is for celebration,” She gave Elianora a smile, and squeezed her hand one last time before letting go and moving into the press of guests, her smile completely convincing as she went about her task as a hostess…
“Well, isn't this interesting?”Nath said as he knelt down and examined the tracks in front of him in the mud. He reached into his bag and pulled out the guidebook, flipping through until he found a matching print. There were two large feet, each with four long, spread fingers that looked to have ended in curved claws. Dividing the left tracks from the right was a line, about four inches thick and swaying back and forth like a river on the flatlands.
It was a Drakynii.
Drakyniis were, according to the book, the smaller cousins to Drogos, smaller being a rather relative term, to be honest, seeing as this Drakynii, judging by the size of the tracks and the distance between the steps, had to be at least half again the height of an average man. Like Drogos they were elemental creatures, though these ones were not attuned to fire, rather the Drakynii were attuned to lightning.
Nath stood up and planted the butt of his hunting spear against the ground, his eyes following the path of the drakynii which led off towards the waterline. His view was blocked by a sort of natural wall made from a line of large rocks that were pitted and hollowed out by years of erosion, wich exposed the layer of flint and limestone that was ever-present in this area, after all, it wasn't called the flint hills for nothing. Down there should be a strip of what could charitably be called beach if the map he had studied was accurate, and likely any number of caves and holes had been washed out and eroded over quite a long period of time. All of which made this an ideal location for a drakynii, apparently.
Nath had never done much hunting before, but he knew that it was almost always a bad idea to fight a creature on its home territory, usually because once you knew it was there it had long known you were there as well. And past that the dens of some creatures would hold multiple of them. This was not an issue with the Drakynii however, Drakynii as a species were a bit isolationists, preferring to have no creatures of any variety in a good five-mile radius or so around its den, not even its own kind. In fact, the females even, after mating would find a stretch of land near the water that was well away from their den, so far the egg’s once hatched would need to find their own way in the world, and would not bother their mother.
So, Nath was dealing with only one drakynii, unless he was really unlucky and happened across a pair mating, though that was unlikely due to the time of year being wrong. Not that it didn't happen, just that the chances of it were about as high as the sun rising in the west one day. He glanced back at Jorona who also had a spear and was still mounted, holding the rains of Nath’s horse. The master at arms was there as his second, a role which apparently meant he was basically watching Nath to make sure he didn't do something stupid and die. He wouldn't actually step in to help with the hunt unless there was a risk of Nath getting seriously hurt or even killed, and he had taken a vow of silence until after the hunt was over, meaning he would not give any advice during the hunt. And he was not the only one present, there were also two others, The mender Holn was along, which was a precaution his mother would not hear any objection to despite the fact that three men were arrayed against her in the form of Nath himself, his father, and Jorona. The third member of his entourage was the officiator, there to bear witness to the killing of the beast and the consumption of essence, but Nath didn't even know this man’s name, just his official title.
Nath slowly slid forward, moving along the path as quietly as possible, the tracks led to a hole, not the cave mouth the thing lived in, but a hole that led through the rock and to a shole of the beach on the other side. Nodding to himself he lowered himself into a rather wet patch of mud and rolled over, covering his body with as much of it as he could, rubbing it into his hair and smearing it across his face as he attempted to dampen his natural scent and the scent of his horse. Once he had finished he pulled the pack off his back and pulled out the wire net. It was made out of a thin but ridiculously strong steel wire, which was woven tightly together to form strands that were maybe a sixteenth of an inch in diameter.
He unrolled the net and placed it over the mouth of the entrance, normally the net would be too visible to just put over the mouth of the entrance, but the sun was currently directly overhead, meaning the entrance was cast in shadows, which with any luck would help obscure the netting. Once he had it in place over the entrance he stood to the side, looking through his selection of animal calls he found the one he needed and pulling out the bone whistle, he put it up to his lips and blew through it.
The sound that came out of it was apparently the call of a dretch, which was a smaller creature that resembled something like an overly muscular dog that had green and red skin instead of fur. They were one of the many creatures that the Drakyn would hunt and feed on. It sounded like a sort of baying but distorted like something was twisting the sound before it went to the ear. He blew it two more times, each time making sure to do three short bursts, which was the sound the dretch makes when it is alone and looking for its packmates, then he settled back into position, stashing the bone whistle back in one of his pouches and put both hands on the spear, waiting for it to come to investigate. Holn the officiator and Jorona were all standing off, far back and out of the way, though Jorona looked tensed and ready to spring forward should he need to.
It didn't take long, Nath heard the sounds of claws scrambling on stone and dropped his stance a little lower, tensing his muscles in anticipation of the pounce. The Drakynii was standing on two digitigrade legs, each of which was tipped with curved claws bigger than his thumbs. It stood stooped over as it rushed through the tunnel, long scaled knuckles nearly dragging on the ground as it moved. Each one of those paws had fingers tipped with claws that could easily wrap around his torso should it get the chance to pick him up. Behind its bulk dragged a large spiked tail as long as the majority of its body from the tip of its nose to the base of the spine.
It was a motherfucking alligator that had long back legs, he had been prepared based on the description, or at least he had thought he had been, but now that he was seeing it he was having real trouble actually believing what he was seeing.
Drakyniis might be bipedal, but they were not sentient, not in the same way people were, they didn't clothe themselves, or create tools, or write or even form communities, rather they operated off of primal animalistic behaviors. He saw the flash of tan scales and rushed forward slamming the tip of his spear into its side as it ran snout first into the netting and got tangled. Thrown off balance first by the netting then by the force of his blow it went sideways falling on its side, claws both on its hands and on its feet flashing out in fury in the vain hope of scoring a hit against whatever had just struck it. The alligator-like head swung back and forth, questing for Nath. As the head turned sideways and one of its eyes landed on him the slit pupil narrowed, leaving behind a thin black line surrounded by golden orbs. It pulled in a breath, the sack under its throat expanding with an alarming rate, and realizing what was about to happen he went in for another stab to a part of the beast that was out of the way of its head.
Lightning erupted from its mouth as he stabbed the spear down, jabbing with both hands and causing the spear point to bite deep into the meat of the Drakynii’s nearest leg at the lower joint as it was already free of the netting there. The spear went into the bone, stopping rather suddenly as it met the resistance, he planted his feet and pulled it free, he had expected a spray of blood, instead, there was only a small flow that leaked down the leg. The lightning hit the netting as it streamed from the creature’s mouth, arching from strand to strand, the heat of it melting the metal of the netting around its face. Sensing its freedom it attempted to push its way through the new hole, only to have the leg Nath had stabbed give out under it. The Drakynii fell down, screeching horribly in pain and rage.
Pulling back he circled around towards the front of the creature and ran directly at its face, praying the book that he had read about it was correct, and that the creature couldn't do its lightning attack again for another two or so minutes, it would really suck if he had simply misread or something. It saw Nath coming and lunged forward, mouth open in an attempt to finish him off in a single bite. Seeing it coming Nath dropped to one knee, planting the butt of the spear in the mud and bracing it against his back foot and angling it towards the Drakynii’s open mouth.
The weight of the creature caused the spear to bite into the inside of its mouth, and slide right through, coming out the top of the head. It didn't slide all the way down the spear shaft, seeing as the two crescent-shaped crossguards stopped it, but they didn't prevent the torrent of blood that poured down the shaft and onto Nath's hands and forearms. It twitched, once, twice, and then moved no more. He allowed it and his spear to tip to the side before pulling the blade free, it was so firmly lodged that he had to plant his foot on its head and heave it out.
“Well then,” Nate said, leaning over and allowing himself to catch his breath. “Let’s see what you got hmm?” he grabbed the Drakyn by one of its large clawed hands and walked over to its other side, pulling the body over so that he could see the lighter almost white-colored scales of its stomach.
“Well done,” Jorona said, he and the others had dismounted and moved forward, mostly because the horses were wanting nothing to do with the smell of both the Drakynii and its blood. “It is a good size,” he said nodding and prodding the corpse with the tip of his riding boot. It somehow looked smaller now, diminished, it was still a massive creature, but somehow it was less. “There it is,” he said with a nod and as Nath watched the air above the body started to shimmer and slightly glow, it wasn't as strong looking as the essence that was in his crystal, but perhaps that was because all the essence was compressed into a small area, whereas this was more spread out.
Nath leaned over it and looked at the ghostly essence as it leaked from the creature, he didn't have much time, a few minutes max, and the sooner he did it the better. He half-closed his eyes and breathed in, willing it into himself, and much to his surprise it started to funnel, swirling towards him like a finger of smoke pulled in by a draft. He breathed it in and it flowed into him, invigorating, rejuvenating, and he wondered what it was that had prevented him from being able to do it before, perhaps it was simply that he hadn’t truly believed everything until now, sure he had been told, had seen the effects essence had on people who became deviant, but he hadn't truly believed, not until he had been the one who had seen the creature, till he had seen the essence.
“Congratulations,” Jorona said and he looked up at the master at arms with a smile. “Now, let's get this thing cleaned and skinned,” he said, handing a knife over to Nath, who looked down at it then over at the carcass, “waste not, want not and all that,” Jorona said with a chuckle and a slap on his back at the rather skeptical look on Nath’s face.