Nikink/Hunted

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Hunted

I Dream a Dream of the Second Age.

My name is Xiao Diao-Tzun.

I know this.

A voice is calling my name.

Large hands are shaking me.

I open my eyes.

"Xiao! You must awake! We have been betrayed!"

I focus on the creature above me. A large feline man. Moonsilver patterns trace intricate mandalas over his fur. It is Night-Fang.

My friend.

He is wounded. And I feel fear.

Struggling to my feet I feel pain shoot through my leg. A large gash is bleeding through bandages.

"What is going on, Night-Fang?" I ask as I struggle into my boar-hide armour.

"The river god must have betrayed us to the Hunt. They are nearly upon us. The men are readying the horses, but I do not think we will make it across the river in time."

I look out of the crude leather tent that is my home, and see the men scramble to break camp.

In the distance a horn blows, and a great shout goes up. It is the Wyld Hunt.

"Leave these things! Get to the horses and ride! We meet to the South in three days!" I bellow to the men, limping into the camp.

It is raining. Low thunder rumbles across the sky. It drowns my whistle, but Hantaru, my horse, comes galloping to my side anyway.

"Night-Fang, I will ride North..."

"That is madness!"

"I will ride North! The hunt will follow me. You go South with the men. They are yours now. They will follow you."

"You cannot..."

"I can and I will! I have the finest horse in Creation, they will not catch me. In two weeks we shall meet again. And over ale I will regale you with tales of my cunning and the foolishness of Dragon-Bloods. Then we shall take vengeance upon little gods. Now go!"

I struggle into the saddle and begin to ride. Trees whip past, lashing my face and hands, but still I urge Hantaru faster. Hantaru, Soul-Mistress, is surefooted even in the mud along the riverbank, and is faster than the wind. One of the Marukani Swift would be hard pressed to keep pace. I begin to glow. I feel the essence ignite my anima. Drawing the Hunt's attention to myself. The Anathema.

I ride through the morning and into the afternoon. The unceasing rain obscures my vision, but I can make out the tall forms of two Warstriders flanking me. In a flash of lightning I can see a cloud with two people following close behind.

At least I have drawn the exalts.

Arrows strike the trees next to me. I feel relief for the cover and offer up a prayer to the forest lord.

And then everything goes red with pain.

I hear Hantaru scream. I feel her rear up.

I feel myself hit the mud and slide into brambles.

Grunting through the pain I look up and see Hantaru gripped by the throat by an accursed Dragon-Blood.

I know his name.

Ragara Jinel, Stone-Breaker.

With a casual flick of his arms, Hantaru's flailing legs are snapped, and her agonised body is contemptuously thrown into the muddy river. I struggle to my feet. Blood is dripping into my eyes but with a fluid familiar motion I have a bow in my hands, and an arrow knocked.

It is not my bow. I crafted it when I was but 15 foalings old. It is made of Horse-hide and Bone. It is mine, but in my heart I know it is not mine.

I loose three arrows in quick succession at the Dragon-Blood, and am unsurprised to see them shatter against his gleaming white jade armour.

He is laughing now, and reaching behind a tree. Seeing a chance I leap high into the branches of the trees, and call upon the Unconquered Sun to hide me from sight, and guide Hantaru's soul into Yu-Shan.

The tree shudders.

Stone-Breaker is levelling the surrounding forest with his mighty jade tetsubo. I know his weapon from a previous age. Memories intrude into my consciousness. But I do not have the luxury right now. I leap from the tree just as it begins to fall under Jinel's blow. I know I can make it over the river. Then perhaps I can stay hidden.

As I land I feel a weight upon my back. It is the Jade dragon from the tetsubo come to life! It snaps at my neck as I tumble to dislodge its hold. I keep my back to a tree and my eyes upon the beast. With a feral cunning it growls and hisses. I can see Jinel wading through the river, his tetsubo now smooth and featureless.

My breath is beginning to burn in my lungs. My head is swimming with pain.

The dragon lunges forward with a savage snarl. The tree shudders at the impact, but I am no longer there. I am further up the bank, among the bushes and trees. Hiding.

Jinel strides up the muddy slope with ease.

"Come out, Anathema. I will ensure a swift painless death for you! Your soul will return unto the Dragons from whence it came, and be judged into reincarnation freshly untainted from the demon-seed within you now."

From among the plants I can see him.

He stands still for an instant before I feel the ground shaking.

Large chunks of mud begin flying upwards from the vibrations. Small animals flee in terror.

I see the jade dragon coil around his weapon with a sinuous motion, unperturbed by the surrounding agitation.

Now stones and large rocks are freeing themselves from the hold of the earth. They orbit the motionless Dragon-Blood with a fury, smashing into trees and each other with a deafening clamour.

I begin to edge away, but it is too late.

I am blinded momentarily by a chunk of muddy clay and do not see the stone that hits me in the face.

I fall backwards with the momentum, the clay choking my scream, but I know I've been found nonetheless. I slide uncontrollably back down the riverbank. The ground alternately pushing and assaulting my body as I fall. I feel the cold rush of water wash the mud and blood from my face as I come to rest at the edge of the river.

I look up through the rippling dirty water...

I look up through the turbulent earth filled air...

I see Jinel calmly heft his weapon high with both hands...

I see the sun burning behind the rain-filled clouds...

I see no more.

Comments / Notes

Funnily enough I stumbled across a Mandarin Names pages and discovered that Xiao means filially pious. This prompted me to see whatthe other parts of the name meant... well:

  • Diao
    • literal meaning: penis
    • colloquial meaning: cool / outrageous
  • Tzun
    • meaning moment of time something is happening (Hoyloy)
    • Either forever or spring based on 'Wing Tzun' meaning "Forever Spring'

So that makes an interesting transliterated name...

  • Filially Pious Outrageous Forever
  • Filially Pious Penis Spring ... er... wtf?!?!? :)
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