The Huntress
By: Stephanie Bardy

The candles flickered and danced as she swept silently into the great room. The shadows were her friends now, and she melted into them. Unseen, she could glean as much information from the unsuspecting, as she needed. Close enough to them to feel their breath, she reached out. With her mind, she was able to release things that most kept hidden deep inside. Secrets were a powerful weapon to her, and what she plucked from the darkest recesses of the ones she sought, made her quest much more tolerable. Never had she harmed an innocent. Never would she, but sometimes innocence hid the evil that beat inside. By probing deep inside their conscious, she could release those demons, open the closed facets of their soul, and bring evil forth.

Breathing in their scent, she closed her eyes. A pointless act, as they could not see her, but it gave her comfort in doing so. This one was harder than the rest. He held his secrets close, his demons well leashed. But he was a man, they were there, she was sure of that. All men had evil in them. All men she had crossed paths with in her twenty-four years had proven that the heart of a man beats on an evil drum.

Though many may profess purity, peace, and honor, underneath rage, anger, and evil lay waiting.

Further she pushed. He seemed to turn towards her, almost as if he could feel her presence. Backing off a bit, this puzzled her. No one had ever felt her before. Fading back into the shadows, she watched him. Laughing and conversing with the others, he seemed harmless enough. Almost human, but flashes of the child danced before her again. The terror, the pain, the broken spirit. This was the one who was accused of that damage. This was the one she was sent to find, to feel, to punish.

Again she delved deep into him. This time it felt as if she was pushed back. Focusing her eyes on his, he stared back at her. That was not possible! He could not be one of the aware. No one told her he had the powers as well.

Pulling back completely she faded into the shadows again. She needed to return to her books. Fighting evil was easy when it was human, fighting one of the Chosen was another battle all together. The Elders hand picked who would Be. She was a natural, born of it, but some were Chosen. Never had she come up against one of the Chosen as the hunted.

Slipping into her cabin unnoticed, she became flesh again. Draping her cloak over the chair, she quickly pulled out her Book of Shadows. Thumbing rapidly through the pages, she found what she sought. Scanning the page, she took in all the information. What he was, how he was, and how to banish him back from whence he came.

Closing the book softly, she sank into the chair. Battling a Chosen was a dangerous endeavor. Not only could you be harmed, even destroyed, but the Elders had to be dealt with as well. Very rare was evil in a Chosen. Not impossible and not unheard of, just very rare. The Chosen she had encountered was strong, but he was evil nonetheless. Bowing her head, and saying a silent prayer to the Guardians, she began her preparations. Her silver dagger slide easily into the leather sheath strapped to her forearm, herb bags tied to her waist cord. She slipped her amulet over her head and it hung snugly between her breasts.

Glancing back at the Book, she closed her eyes. Touching the amulet, she whispered, "Guide me Wise One, protect me in what I am about to do, and allow good to overcome evil once more."

Wrapping her cloak around her once again, she slide back out the door, and into the familiarity of the shadows. Reaching with her power, she found him easily. Almost as if he was waiting for her.

Standing alone in the hall this time, she approached him from behind. Deep inside, she again searched for her weapon. Nothing.

Suddenly her whole head was filled with the most maniacal laughter. Scrambling back, she clutched her head in her hands, almost gasping for breath at the intensity and the volume.

"Your powers are weak young one, uncontrolled. Come back when you are more of a challenge to me" he said to her. Words spoken softly, but heard louder than thunder, inside her head.

Knowing that he could see her, she revealed herself. "I may be young, but I have the power of sight. I have the power of clarity. I HAVE the power of birth. You are a Chosen, therefore, powers given, can be powers taken away."

He spun surprised to find her behind him, thinking she was in front. Watching the look of uncertainty skitter across his face, it gave her a little more hope. She had unnerved him, if only for a moment. A good indication that he was strong, but not completely confident in his abilities. Older was not always better.

Placing her hands on her temples, she closed her eyes, focusing on the child. Pulling the terror from her, the ripping pain, she built it up inside herself, holding it. Rolling it around in her heart, adding her own anguish. She then opened her eyes. Pinning his with hers, she released all that which she held back.

He staggered back from the sheer force alone, balanced himself, and sneered at her. "Is that all young one? The child put up more of a fight than that."

Anger boiled up in her throat like bile. She pushed it back down hard, she must keep her head, for to let him rile her would be to lose. Anger and pain are what he thrived on, what made him strong now.

She had figured out why she hadn't been able to read him. Being Chosen, made him protected, but welcoming evil, had made him virtually impenetrable. Virtually. Now that she knew what he was, she knew how to open him. Letting her fingers fall to one of the bags that hung at her waist, she began chanting. Older than time were the words, but she spoke them as if they were her own. Again, he laughed at her. Repeating an incantation of his own, she suddenly found herself unable to speak. Gagging and choking, she almost released the bag.

"NO!!" she screamed in her mind. Gathering her strength, she calmed herself, and was able to breathe once more. Finishing the first spell, she watched him reel back. Her hand reached for the second bag as she began again.

He opened his mouth and let out a shriek. Fighting back, he tossed her back against the wall behind her. Flicking his hand, she was whipped around and flung back to the floor, never once releasing the bag.

She moaned from her prone position on the cobblestones. Walking towards her, thinking she had lost consciousness, he stopped at her head. Kneeling he heard her mumbling. Leaning in he began to make out the words to the final spell.

Standing abruptly, he stumbled back. Murmuring the last of the words she pulled herself up. Raising her left arm, she revealed the sheath. Again, he tried to toss her back, but this time, he was blocked. She had successfully bound his powers and banished his ability to hunt the innocent. Now she must finish. The evil must be released and sent back.

He continued to retreat until his back was greeted by the wall. Cold stone pressed against him as he tried to blend. Real fear began to show in his eyes as he watched her approach. Pulling the dagger from its home, she stopped inches from him.

"No child will ever know you again. No nightmare will begin and end with your face. No pain will bear your name, from this moment on. I banish you, and I send you back. Do not return to this realm, unless to face me again."

With that she slid the dagger deep into his heart. The force of evil escaping him propelled her back onto the floor. Backing into a safe corner she watched. Unemotional. Jet black hair began to fade. White replacing the glossy locks. Smooth skin began to wrinkle and crease. Once beautiful hands were now gnarled and claw like. Vainly attempting to pull the dagger from his chest, his life force flowed out of him.

Rays of light beamed from the wound, then as she sat in attendance to his demise, a brilliant glow surrounded them both.

The Elders had arrived. As the bodies began to take shape, she stood.

They stood and watched as one of their Chosen returned to dust, as he once was. Grasping hands, the three Elders began to chant. Watching Evil swirl and fight, it was drawn into the circle of the three. Then as suddenly as they had appeared they were gone. Taking it with them. Not a word was spoken to her, but she knew that they were pleased. Glancing over to where the Chosen had been, she saw the small pile of ashes. Walking over she brushed them into a vial, sealed it, and tucked it into her skirts. This would be buried deep into her garden, with all the others.

She was finished here. Until again she was called.

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