Bloodline Hunter

-


"-rip out your hearts. With those claws of his he can easily kill in a single blow, or drag it out to cause more pain. It depends on his mood at
the time, and whether he's feeling particularly sadistic or not." Reaper was explaining, while at the same time his green eyes were taking in
every detail of the cavern. These wannabe warriors had a nice place to crash, and more than enough room for their large number. He kind
of envied them.

"He's only killed two of yours, which means he's choosing his kills for specific reasons. Maybe they were his enemies, maybe they were
meant as a message or warning. This guy doesn't just pick and choose without a reason." Reaper's gaze now drifted back to Morgalis, who
he had gathered to be the leader of this group. He was a little young by the looks of it, but the Hunter wasn't about to judge him on age.
Many great warriors had been young. "So who'd he kill?"

"The first was one of our own, in this very cavern. A Magic who had been with us from the start. The second was an elder Raveen, one not
quite right in the mind. He was an informant of sorts, we went to him for knowledge when nothing else gave us answers." Morgalis replied.

"Hm. Yeah, I'd say he chose those two for a reason. This Magic's been with you for a long while, that in itself means he was trying to pass a
message on to you. Probably a warning just to scare you and make his hunting of you more fun. The second.. Well. I can't quite explain
that one. He's never killed any damaged Raveens before." Reaper frowned, deep in thought. "Any of you meet with this Raveen before he
died?"

"As a matter of fact," Uunagari had seen the prompting glance from Morgalis to spill the information, and was responding to it quickly. "Two
of us had met with him when he was still alive."

"Oh?" Reaper's frown decreased a little. "What were you meeting about?"

"I was seeking answers as to who killed Louunza. I was here at the time of his death, but my knowledge of the event is.. lacking. I had
asked him who killed Louunza, and he began speaking of masks and death." Uunagari was only sharing that bit of information in case it
meant something. He had already thought it could of, when he first heard that this Doomcry wore a mask. Perhaps Tauur, also known as
the High One, had seen his own death coming.

"Masks and death, huh? Sounds like this fellow was a Seer. The Doomcry does indeed wear a mask, and he does deliver death. Perhaps
he was killed for the sole reason that you went to him for answers. A warning from the Doomcry not to pry further." He shrugged, not really
sure of his response. "He's watching you, keeping tabs on what you're doing. He obviously didn't like you going to a seer, probably thought
you'd be getting too close to the truth."

"So he killed Tauur." Uunagari paused to process this information. "Just because he was a threat. The old Kat had never been a threat to
anyone - he was so lost he didn't even leave that lakeside. I don't get how anyone would picture him as a threat."

"Ah, but you see the fact that he was a Seer was threat enough. A Doomcry doesn't like prophecies and all that, because a prophecy is
what first told the downfall of their bloodline. So him killing a helpless Seer isn't farfetched at all." Reaper replied.

"Perhaps you should tell us more of what we're up against. Or, perhaps, why you are hunting this Doomcry." Morgalis spoke up.

Kiya was listening to the conversation as best she could, but her attention was scattered. To her left she could see Sen, and he didn't look
well. Somehow the black Raveen looked paler. He even seemed to be staring in to nothingness. She was worried.

"Why am I hunting the Doomcry? It's a long story, but I'm summing it all up for you as quickly as I can. I apologize for the lack of great
detail, but that, my friend, would make the story more complicated and time-consuming." The sandy Raveen took a breath before
launching in to the reason behind his life-long hunt.

"The Pride of the Doom Cries was an old Pride, one of those Prides which still followed that name-tag tradition. Everyone born of that pride
carried the name of Doomcry, and a set of lethal claws. Every member of that Pride was blessed by Demon Gods, twisted in to mortal
representations of the same Gods. They all carried different traits, some more mutated than the last, but the claws were always there.
They became thirsty for power, or just wanted to spill blood on the lands, I'm not quite sure. All I know is they started to massacre a number
of Valleys, and left more bodies in their wake than anyone should be able to kill in a lifetime.

My birth Pride swore vengeance on the Doomcry line, and that was where the hunt began. Since thousands of years ago, my bloodline has
been seeking to exterminate the Doomcry line. A lot of us died along the way, but they lost a chunk of their number as well. Before anyone
knew it, we had exterminated over half of their line. After that it was easy to kill off half of what remained, before the survivors scattered.
We had to begin hunting them individually, and that wasn't good for us. Those Doomcry Kats are excellent at close-combat when fighting
one-on-one. My own bloodline sacrificed a lot of their number just to kill a few of them.

Now there's only me and the last Doomcry left. He took care of my Brother, and rendered me the last Hunter. I've been hunting him solo
ever since, but whenever I've gotten close the bastard has only taunted me with mock-battles and hints on how to better track his
movements. He gave me this lovely scar on my face for repayment of the scars I gave him, choosing not to kill me at the same time. More
of his joking around, telling me that I needed to keep my eyes more open and that maybe I could've done so if he tore off my eye lids.

He didn't, of course. I just ended up with this scar, but the bastard was fully intending on shredding my lids to pieces. Anyway, I've been
following him since up North. He killed a few Raveens up there, and left a trail of death that led all the way down here. He's been busy,
killing Raveens left and right. I'm surprised, really. It's like he wants to die." Reaper divulged the story to the group, choosing to keep out
some minor details. Like how the Doomcry had messed with the mind of a Fire Mix Coto, and apparently been in league with one of The
Seven who later dealt the killing blow.

The bastard had taken great pleasure in that one. He had made the poor warrior suffer for months before pulling him from the illusion, and
having his ally toss him over a cliff. The Fire Mix hadn't stood a chance, even if he had seen that attack coming, but Reaper still felt sick at
the knowledge the Doomcry had gotten pleasure out of that. He wasn't at all used to the idea of a Doomcry messing with someone
mentally, and he really didn't want to grow used to it.

"So he's not one to be taken lightly." Tarvuulf commented calmly.

"Not at all. You let your guard down with him, he'll run you through." Reaper nodded.

"We wish to remove him from this land." Morgalis said, flicking his ears back.

"I can help you with that. Provided I get one thing in return."

"And what would that be?"

"The chance to kill him if we find him. A one-on-one battle, just me and him. No outside interference."

"That can be arranged, but you must promise me something in return."

"Name it."

"While in this land you have to follow my orders. You can hunt the Doomcry here, but you must do so with someone from my group. And
you must allow us to question this Doomcry before you kill him."

"Deal."

...*...*...*...

Neiarishta wasn't impressed by the progress of the gathering. Her summoners had been sent out to bring back all sane - in other words,
still loyal - Demons to the coast. She needed to see just as how many minions she had left in this territory.

Needless to say the results were less than pleasing.

Instead of the five-thousand followers she had brought here, only five-hundred were gathered. And many of them were lesser Demons,
Demons which relied heavily on their Lords for power. They would be useless in battle, nothing more than poor shields for the more
powerful warrior-types.

It was perhaps, then, a good thing that she wasn't planning a physical attack on her enemies. With this minimal force standing behind her
she wouldn't even be able to take over a Valley inhabited by just one Keeper. It was a shame how many of her followers were now on their
own, lost to her influence. She could have done with a large force, if only to send them all to their deaths for a moment of amusement.

Five-hundred wasn't enough for that. They'd be dead too quick, pulverized or cut to pieces in mere seconds. Hell, even a group of cubs
had a good chance of standing up to this force. They were pathetic.

"Is this all there was?" She didn't even try to hide her annoyance.

The summoner shrunk back, quickly averting his gaze to the ground. "M'Lady, there were no more." Like all Neophytes, his voice was
hollow and echoed as if from beyond the land of the living.

"I see." She was gritting her teeth together now. "How.. disappointing."

It is a good thing you do not seek to kill them with this.. force of yours. Shura put in, her red on white eyes scanning over the frail Demons.
Even I could kill them in a single breath.

"Do you have something to offer other than your words, Shura?" Those deadly cyan on red eyes were focused on the Corrupted Mage,
who visibly flinched under the gaze. "No? Then perhaps you have a suggestion, or an offer to throw yourself in with them?"

I apologize, Mistress. It's not my place to judge. Shura bowed her head, but did not take her eyes off the Great Evil out of fear of being
attacked. Neiarishta may not be at full power, but Shura knew even one form of the Great Evil could easily remove her from existence.

"Then keep your silence, you insolent worm. I've no use for followers who point out the obvious flaws. I have eyes for myself, and I do not
make such petty mistakes. Unlike you, dear Shura, I do not leave room for mistakes. I may have liked more than this number, but this
amount will do. They will serve their purpose." Neiarishta paused, before adding bitingly; "Unlike some."

If you require something of me, please make your request. I will do whatever my power will allow. Shura replied, in an effort to save face
with her Master.

Neiarishta quietly studied Shura for a moment, before a twisted smirk made it's way across her features. "Perhaps I have use for you yet,
Shura."

Whatever it is you wish, I will do. Was Shura's obedient reply.

The Great Evil's gaze turned toward the forest, and the land that she knew to be beyond that. For the first time in a long while, Neiarishta
looked wholeheartedly amused. "Indeed you will."


...*...*...*...

Shortly after Reaper had finished spilling information on the Doomcry, Kiya had made her way over to Sen's side. The Guardian hadn't
changed for the better during the remainder of that conversation, and if possible his ebony fur now looked gray. His eyes were faded,
misted over by memory.

"Sen?" She tried quietly at first. When no response came she lighted nudged the Raveen's wing, "Senbotsuusha?"

That had at least gotten a response. The Guardian blinked a few times, his eyes slowly coming back in to focus. "Hm?"

"Sorry to disturb you, and I feel like I've asked this a lot lately.. But are you okay?" Kiya cautiously asked, her ears flicked back in
uncertainty. "You're not looking well."

"I'm fine." Sen replied without thought, the response sounding like a pre-recorded answer.

"You don't like fine." Kiya's green eyes softened a bit as he met her gaze. At least he wasn't trying to ignore her. "Is something wrong?"

"No." Again, the reply sounded vacant and void of any real input.

"Are you sure?" She pressed, the worry clear in her eyes. "You look like you've seen a ghost."

"I'm fine." He repeated, breaking away from her gaze. Kiya frowned, once again feeling rejection at her attempt to comfort the Guardian.

"No you're not." The prior gentleness that had been in her voice had faded away, replaced by frustration. Frustration at his lack of truthful
answer, frustration at his attempt to shut her out. "Tell me - what's wrong? I'm not going away until you do. And trust me, I can get pretty
annoying after awhile."

"It's nothing." He replied, his eyes fixed on a suddenly interesting groove in the rock he was on.

"It's something. I can tell, Sen. Whatever it is, its bothering you, and I don't like it. Please just tell me what it is."

Slowly his dusted lilac gaze rose to meet her innocent green orbs, and the Guardian frowned at the odd sense of familiarity those eyes
gave him. They reminded him of someone he knew long ago, and his heart twisted painfully in his chest at the similarities. "I.."

"It's okay, Sen. It's okay to tell me."

"The Doomcry." He tore his gaze away from her own again, and found his attention drawn back to the rock.

"What about him?"

"I've seen him before."

"When? Are you remembering the attack?" Kiya's worry had now replaced her frustrated completely. She moved closer to Sen, as if afraid
that the answer would be whispered.

"No. Not that." Sen shook his head lightly. "I saw him before. Out in the clearing, before you came."

"Before we met? But you were alone when I found you, Sen."

"He was in a tree. I noticed him when he dropped out of it. We were studying each other.. Then he was gone. Like the wind, he vanished
just as quickly as he appeared."

"He was just studying you?"

"I.. I have a feeling that all of these deaths are because of me."

"Why would you even say that?! I told you Louunza's death is not your fault."

"I may not have killed him, but I think I understand the Doomcry's words now. He called me a warrior.. I think he was voicing a challenge. I
think all of these murders have been the Doomcry's way of calling me out. Letting me know that I'm his current target, and he's closing in."

"..." Kiya didn't exactly know what to say to that. After what Reaper had said, it sounded like Sen could be on to something.

...*...*...*...

It was the afternoon before Reaper and Morgalis had finished a private conversation, and the two were now beginning to talk with the rest
of the group. The hunt for the Doomcry would truly begin now that they knew what they were after. With Reaper's offer to help, the warriors
would find their quarry in no time.

At least, that's what Reaper had said anyway.

"I was tracking him last night, but I lost his scent in the grass. He probably teleported away when he realized I was following him, but rest
assured that doesn't mean he's gone from this area. The Doomcry doesn't run from danger. If we set out now we might be able to find him
before nightfall, or even just after. A Doomcry moves around mostly at night, and during the day stays mainly in one territory. We should
find his trail no problem." Reaper said to the group at large, although his attention seemed more focused on Tarvuulf. He was silently
reaching out for an offer from the other hunter to help with the tracking, and Tarvuulf's nod seemed to give him a positive answer. "Right.
We'll set out in two groups. Best to stay in large numbers, because like I said.. One-on-one combat is the Doomcry specialty. If you get
caught alone with him, you're dead before you know what hit you."

"Ah, a good old challenge. I won't mind getting my paws dirty over this. Jus' be glad ya were found to be good Guardeen. I woulda gotten
my paws dirty dealing with ya instead." Xauutyn grinned over at the Guardian, who was standing between Uunagari and Kiya. The Magic
ignored the comments, but Kiya flashed a deadly glare in the Purgatory's direction.

"I say it's best to return just after dark if you don't find anything. Don't want to be out there too long with Demons hanging around too."
Reaper began to separate the group in to two separate parties - one led by Tarvuulf, the other by himself.

"His scent is.. well. You won't miss it. He smells of the mountains. It shouldn't be hard to track." The Hunter said quietly to the bleached
yellow-eyed Raveen as he passed him. "Just watch your back."

Sen had been sorted in to Reaper's group, along with Uunagari. Kiya, however, had been placed in Tarvuulf's group with a mumbling and
freshly wounded Xauutyn. Morgalis chose to accompany Reaper, although he exchanged a few words with Tarvuulf before his second
in-command left with his group.

"Now.. Let's get this hunt underway, shall we?" Reaper offered a large grin to those unfortunate enough to be in his group.
.The Downward Spiral.