Why would I let go when we were already falling? Who could give up on something so right, regardless of the wrongs? In our age, it wasn’t right. In a world of half-breeds and monsters, we were most unnatural. But he felt right. After so long, how could I let something, someone like that, go?
Because the gods said so? I never believed in them. I never worshiped or fell to my knees to beg for a blessing. I never had a love for things that treated me with such cruelty.
Kings were chosen by the Gods. I suppose they had reason to believe. Then again, whether it was love or hate in a person’s heart, those deep emotions proved belief more than anything. Why did the Gods always favor such assholes? Kings never settled for well enough like the rest of us. Castles, land, fruit, and wine could never be enough if there were more to be had.
My village, a small mud pie of a place, was the more. Like every other settlement on the North side of the world, the King came for my home. He decimated the life of countless souls, so I couldn’t call myself unique. If anything made me different, it was my privilege to see the day after the last. I was too young then. Witnessing my parents' bodies being felled like trees left a lasting mark on my soul. I could never be loyal to the King. I could never worship his God. I could not live without a constant war against the crown raging in my heart.
But I couldn’t leave.
I had to grow up in that hell as a prisoner without chains. I had ambitions for a single goal, perhaps two. Become someone of name and title mighty enough to kill the King or escape his kingdom altogether. I failed at the first, but the second was doable.
That’s what brought us together; me and Tucker. He wasn’t the King, but he grew to have my loyalty. How could I have known a stranger of such “odd” properties would be the one to bring light into my winter? That night, the first night of autumn, was something special, though it felt mundane at the time.
He was a unique individual.
I first noticed his bare feet coated in mud up to his heels. The sound they made on the hardwood alerted me of his arrival. He wore simple clothes, but his blue cloak was immaculate with its detailed embroidery and the metallic ring clipped at the hem of the fabric that culminated at his chest. His eyes lacked pupils and glowed a hue of blue, like storm clouds that seemed to smoke. His hands were dirty, so dirty, the tips of his fingers were nearly black, much like the short, bewildered hair hid under his hood. Despite his wilder aspects, Tucker was handsome. His lithe body was far from barbarian, but he carried definition that at least matched my own. As he wandered around the bar, I knew he was there for me.
I was seeking a mage to accompany me as my partner. After weeks of waiting for anyone to answer my calls, this person, this boy from the deep woods, was the first to seek me out. I knew not to expect professionals. I knew not to expect the experienced. After all, I was but a boy myself. At the ripe age of 23, the only mature thing about me had to be the sword I carried on my hip, or perhaps the red bush between my legs. I tempered my expectations, but that boy, he was more than a few bricks short of a house.
Still, I was desperate.
“And your name is?” I asked, while my new friend took a seat across from me at my otherwise private table.
“I am Tucker Belenus,” he answered while extending his hand to me across the table.
I shook his hand. Perhaps there was hesitation, but any successful partnership needed respect. While our palms held one another’s, I received a strange sensation. My body felt light as air, and for a brief moment, everything around me was made of light. When Tucker retracted his grip from my own, my spirit fell back into its body.
“Apologies,” he said.
He was a mage; there was no doubt about it.
“You know why I need a partner, don’t you?” I asked, while reevaluating the world around me.
It took a moment to gather my bearings.
“You wish to become a hunter,” he answered.
His eyes, the way they smoked at the edges, and his calm, welcoming tone, all felt unnatural. Somehow, it worked for him. It worked for me. I was incredibly naïve at that time. I couldn’t sense my attraction.
“I am a hunter, but it’s more than that. The guild is planning to journey east across the ocean. Registered members with a team are eligible to go,” I explained.
“I see. I am to be your ‘team,’” he followed along.
“My partner,” I corrected.
He looked through me most casually. His lack of pupils made it near impossible to know where his attention lay. Waiting for an answer or any sort of response, I couldn’t help but notice other patrons sitting behind Tucker’s back. They were engrossed in the sight of us together. Perhaps their attention was on the mage, but they couldn't ignore the fact that I was sitting with him.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t,” he finally answered.
“What?!” I exclaimed.
“I cannot be a hunter,” Tucker said, but he didn’t wait long before explaining, “I am a Seer, and my vow dictates that taking life, even that of a beast, is forbidden.”
“Then why are you here?” I questioned angrily while I stood from my seat.
He didn’t move; only his head tilted slightly to allow his eyes to peer into mine.
“I need your help,” he said.