Chapter 2:

A king's favor - Tafiamia

Heart of Stone

          I'm getting closer to the border of Tafiamia...
          "Stop right there!" a guard said, "State your business."
          "Here to visit the king," I said,
          "And who is the visitor might be?"
          "Hunter Audrick; a W'ilm,"
          "Audrick you say?!" he signals the guardsmen above the giant wall that they've built. An iron gate rises giving way to my path,
          "You may go... mutant,"
          I proceed on my path. The King of Tafiamia; King Slotin h'rr Laudrick, asked me once to find his missing daughter. 
          Tafiamia is surrounded by a wall that said to be indestructible. But even walls have weaknesses. 
          I approach a village that is near the capital of Tafiamia; Pesco is the village name.
          As I go through the village I hear someone scream as if they were being burned alive. I quickly go the smoke.
          "Here are the two sorceresses that are hiding in our city." a witch hunter said,
          "We did nothing to you!" a sorceress said,
          "Lies! You bunch are polluting our waters! Children are getting sick because of ye' sluts!"
          "We did no such thing! Stop lying to them and tell them the truth—" she was shot in the neck by an archer,
          "That ought to shut her trap."
          "No! Kylie! You bastard!" the other sorceress said,
          "Had to be done..."
          I arrived at the scene too late. By the time I got here, they are already charcoal like.
          "Good thing the order burned them." 
          "May it cleanse our village and our state," they said,
          I look at the person who's talking earlier. He looks back then breaks away as he smirks. 
          I failed again... I swore to her that I will protect all those who are like her. 

          What a fucked up world.

          "A mutant?!"
          "What is it doing here?!"
          "Is he going to kill us?!" they say,
          As expected, if they see a hunter they think that of a monster.
          The person who's talking earlier is coming...
          "What's going on here?" he said,
          "Kaleb! There's a mutant!" someone said,
          Kaleb, huh? So that's his name... 
          "Hm... he means no harm! He helped the king find his daughter!" 
          "But they killed my friend!"
          "They slaughtered our village!"
          "Burned our houses on fire!" they said,
          "Calm down! The old code of the hunters are now long dead and it will remain that way! Now, they only hunt monsters. Am I right?" he asked,
          "Yes," I said,
          The Townspeople all disperse with angry faces, some looked at me, some spit. That's what you get if you're a mutant. Some get killed, some burned, some tortured.
          I go towards the city... leaving this hostile village...
          I see the capital city... quite the view... never ceases to amaze me.
          The capital city of Tafiamia; Coliegna's the name.
          "Audrick— Hunter!" someone calls my name,
          I look towards the knight waving at me, "Rafe?!"
          Rafe's one of the knights who helped me find the king's daughter. Nothing like the other knights that I've met before. I go toward him...
          "Didn't I say that don't call me 'hunter'?" I said,
          "With the war going on and people killing non-humans? No. Everyone's on edge. Didn't you say 'save your own skin to save the others'?"
          "To save the others not save yoursel— Right... you have a family."
          "Sorry, Audrick... by the way, the king wants to see you."
          "I was just about to see the king myself."
          "Want to go together?"
          As we go through the city, I asked Rafe if there's something new around here.
          He looks down and said, "Yeah... though a bad one."
          "And what's that?"
          "Recently, there are rumours that say that if you are acquainted with a non-human you will get killed by the Murderer of Coliegna." 
          "Let me guess, those aren't just rumours."
          "Guessed right... two of my fellow knight— friends... were killed."
          "Did you track down the killer?"
          "If you're thinking revenge... no... besides... I'm too old for this shit."
          He changed... he's wiser than before. I smiled and said, "How long has it been by the way?"
          "How long since we last saw each other?" he said,
          I nodded he said, "Hm... Like 13 years ago?"
          "That long?!" I said. How times have changed,
          "Yeah... As you can already see... I'm old. You hunters really do age slowly."
          "Mutations... and probably alchemy..."
          "Alchemy? So, is it true that you can make gold from lead?"
          "Plausible, but I haven't heard as such."
          Alchemy... it was doomed to fail... but because of magic and witchcraft... it didn't fail.
          "We mostly use alchemy to brew potions," I said,
          "Like increased strength, agility, focus, and others."
          "Hm... I always wonder why potions are not for humans?
          "Mostly because humans can't handle the extreme toxicity that potions give off, only hunters can handle such toxicity but there's a limit."
          "What happens when you go over the limit?"
          "You start feeling sick, weak, overall just feeling like shit. Worst case scenario... death."
          "Remind me to never touch a potion... ever..."
          "Sure, never see going to see you try it anyways."
          "They say potions can heal you?"
          "Yes... but you feel like shit trying it anyways..."
          "There's an Otherworlder who said that potions are supposed to be usable by anyone... just like RPG's? he said..."
          "RPG's? What's that?"
          "Don't know... didn't even tried questioning it."
          Otherworlders, as they say, came from another world... but they do say some really stupid stuff. 
          Like one time, an Otherworlder said that only a hero can kill a dragon, not entirely true. Greater and Lesser dragons can be killed by anyone. But a King dragon can only be killed by another King dragon.
          Heroes don't exist... they only exist in fairytales and books. Legends about a hero having immense power are nothing short of a work of fiction.
          "Well, that's stupid..." I said,
          After we're done talking we are near the castle. I see a cart delivering a cargo.
          "Doing some renovations?" I asked,
          "No, not that I've heard."
          "How's the king by the way?"
          "He's been busy... you know... with the war and all..."
          A knight surprises us saying, "Audrick?"
          "The king wishes to see you."
          I get down on my horse then proceed. Rafe gets down and said, "I'll come with you."
          "No! The king wishes to see him personally." the knight said,
          "Let's meet on Tisalubia," I said to Rafe,
          He looks worried, "Right... see you there." he said,
          I go with the knight...
          The Royal Court... I was just going to greet the king but it seems like there's more to it.
          Doors open, a red carpet between me and the king, noble and royal people it seems like is next to the red carpet. I walk toward the king.
          "Audrick." the king said,
          I did not bow to the king, "Your Highness." I said,
          The royals gossip, they look at me with anger.
          A noble said, "Do you not show respect—"
          "Enough!" The king stops him, "I wish to speak to him... alone..."
          "Mutant!" A royal quietly said to me with anger.
          All left the royal court.
          "I apologize for the rather... hostile welcome..." The king said,
          "It's my fault, your Highness."
          Silence filled the air, though only for a moment.
          He sighs, "Enough of this formal talk."
          "No! I consider you a comrade in battle and a friend for saving my daughter."
          "Okay. Do you need something?"
          "Ah... yes... I'm sure Virtas gave you a letter."
          "As I thought."
          He looks worried, "Is something wrong?" I asked,
          "Yes. My daughter just finished business from Shami. She is part of the reinforcements that were being sent here and... you know the rest."
          "She's missing... again..."
          "I apologize for all the troubles she brought but please... find her..."
          "Sure, though I—"
          "You don't work for free I know... I'll pay you after you bring her back to me."
          "I'll see what I can do." I left the room,
          As I go outside, a noble-looking man blocks my way, "Do you not know respect?!" he said,
          Other nobles are listening. 
          I ignore him... then he blocks my way again, "I'm talking to you!" he said,
          "I'm not here to entertain this mindless talk," I said,
          As I move past him he said, "You non-humans never learn. You are all the dirt of this society."
          I stopped and said, "If you want me to 'respect' you and the king... you should first respect the so-called 'dirt of this society'. Then we'll talk."
          I left the castle feeling refreshed after saying that.
          After some time, I arrived at Tisalubia where Rafe is waiting.
          I think he would be in an inn,
          I walk in the inn, "Hunter!" Rafe said,
          "Told you to call me—"
          "In a public place like this? No!"
          I sit on the opposite side, "What would you like?" he asked,
          "Evenfil," I said,
          "Ahh... the finest wine!"
          We drank but not fully, unlike the others,
          "You leaving?" he asked,
          "Yeah... a very important contract this is."
          "So, where are you heading?"
          "Something serious?"
          "Yes. though the details are private."
          Rafe stands up, "Let me escort you to the gate."
          "Appreciate it."
          We are near the giant gate, "Open the gate!" Rafe shouts,
          A guardsman shouts, "Open the gate!"
          The gate opens,
          "Thanks, Rafe,"
          "No problem. Stay safe and good luck on the path."
          I leave Tafiamia and set my next destination to Shami.

      NO                     COLLAPSE                YET       .     .            .


Heart of Stone

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