Hero of Corsindor
The Hunter’s Quarry butted up against a cliff. Small and large gray-black stones scattered around the clearing. Aspen trees grew close together and guarded the quarry. Sunlight dappled through the trees, leaving spots of shadows and light.
Silas opened his eyes to the light. His head pounded and his mouth was dry. His stomach burned. The demon must not have been taking care of him because he had lost a lot of weight. It felt like he hadn’t eaten in ages.
Next to him was a burned out campfire. There were stones around it as if someone, probably him in one of the spells, had built it. He groaned as he rolled over. Pebbles dented his skin. He stood up and dusted off the dirt.
The horses and mule were gone. He studied the area looking for a sign of the animals. There were no hoof prints in the dirt. He couldn’t remember anything except for the few lucid moments before he read the note.
A note on the ground caught his attention. He tried to move away from it, but he could feel a compulsion moving him to that spell.
When he looked down he caught sight of his hands. There was hair growing from the knuckles and his forefinger was clawed. It shocked him.
He must find a way out of this mess. It wouldn’t be long before he was one of them. He walked away from the note. It was like there was a noose around his neck. He pulled away and felt himself choke. He fell to the ground and clawed his way toward a small rock pile.
Just before the noose snapped, he saw the shadow of a cave opening. The next moment he was in front of that note. He hated himself as he picked it up. Then his memory was gone.
The next day he was by the same campfire. It was burned out. This time he put his hand on it and felt a small bit of warmth. Once again he pulled away from the white note that was on the ground. This time when he felt the noose tighten, he slight the back of his hand with the one claw.
Silas didn’t look, wouldn’t look, at the new hair growth on his arms. When the noose became too much had his body tried to go unconscious, he made another slice.
This time he made it to the cave opening. The opening was too small for a grown man to slide into— but had lost so much weight that he was able to slide through. The rocks sliced his body and when he reached the interior of the cave, the compulsion suddenly stopped.
Silas took a deep breath. He reached into a side pocket and pulled out a bit of candle. The relief was immediate. The demon hadn’t taken anything. He touched the wick, and the candle lit.
Silas started to shake. He didn’t have magic. He shouldn’t have been able to light the candle with his hand. He didn’t have time to be scared. He pushed this to the back of his mind with the other things like his heart being bound to a demon.
Through the flickering candle light, he thought he saw moving shapes on the walls of the cave. He looked closer. The pictures were of cats hunting and playing.
When he glanced away and looked back, he saw one of the cats that had been lying down was now leaping on a stag. Its claws had ripped the hindquarters of the prey.
Although the pictures were interesting, his attention was caught by the back wall. He could tell that the pictures had been drawn of him and the demon. Here Rhali was capturing him. There was another picture of Silas gradually turning into a nightstalker.
The next picture Rhali had torn out Silas’ heart and eaten half of it.
Silas touched the pictures. His fate was sealed. He felt moisture gather at the corners of his eyes. “What should I do?” He whispered in the silence.
“You must find his heart,” a small breeze whispered to him. Silas turned around suddenly, but no one was there.
“If I kill him, I’ll die.”
The breeze whispered back, “If you have his heart, you can command him to give yours back.”
“Where should I look?” he asked. He felt a small flicker of hope in his heart.
In the cave wall next to the pictures, a small ruby heart worked its way to his hand. He tried to catch it, but then it disappeared. His heart dropped.
The candle sputtered. A small spark from the dying candle landed on his right hand. It burned.
“A gift,” whispered the breeze. “It will help you find the heart.”
It was time to go. Silas needed to read the note before Rhali found out about this cave. It would be his secret.
He crawled out of the cave, then hid the entrance with brush. It was the best he could do.
When he looked up, he saw that the sun was lower than he thought. He brushed off the debris from his clothes and rushed to the campsite. Rhali was already there.
“Where have you been?” There was anger in the demon’s voice. Instead of waiting for an answer, the demon made some finger movements and Silas yelped. His heart burned.
“Ummm,” Rhali looked at him carefully. “You are still mine.”
Silas went to the note. Rhali took it from him. “You don’t need that, boy,” said Rhali. “Get some wood. I will need a lot of it.”
Silas was terrified that the demon would find out his secret. He hurried to the edge of the aspens to look for firewood. He didn’t know if he would find the heart or even if he could survive the demon.
His mind muddled, he thought on the character of demons. They looked like us. How could anyone tell who was a demon and who was not? He tried to calm down. He dropped a branch and bent to pick it up.
“Pssst,” said a small voice. Silas jumped.
“Shhhhhh,” the voice said again. “Calm down.”
Silas couldn’t move. Was this another demon? His terror increased until he almost screamed. A hand went over his mouth and he dropped to the ground.
The words didn’t make sense. “Lad, we are here to help you.”
A young woman had her hand around his mouth. She had blonde hair and long long legs encased in hunter’s leather. The little man who was talking to him was dressed in forest green.
He was so small that his head barely reached the young woman’s waist.
“Come with us,” he said.
Silas shook his head, no. The young woman lifted her hand and waited for his answer.
“I can’t,” Silas said. “He has my heart.”
“That’s rough, lad,” said the little man. The little man looked at the young woman, then said, “We’ll find a way. Get back now.”
Silas left. Now he had two secrets.