Chapter 2

Chapter 2

I’m up three hours before we’re supposed to meet at the bus, I can’t sleep. I double check all of my equipment. New gloves I already broke in; my fingers slide easily into the brass knuckles I favor. I’ve cleaned them for the occasion. Before today that had been gathering dust in my closet for almost a year. I suit up in my protective gear. Guns are generally forbidden unless special permission has been granted. I had to jump through a lot of hoops to be allowed to use them. I’m okay with a staff, or escrima, still I favor the weapon no matter how brutish the eremites may consider them. I keep them hidden and locked away unless I have a job that I’m working on, but the twin pistols are here tucked neatly in their holsters today. They’ve been cleaned, and I’ve taken target practice recently. I’m ready. I finish my loadout with more weapons they consider brutish, grenades, a combat knife, and a few throwing weapons. I throw on my bright red robes with the school’s emblem in white that covers my entire back.

I never understood why they chose to wear bright red robes, almost neon. It draws the attention of whatever we are hunting. It doesn’t matter if we’re after vampires or werewolves. We stand out like sore thumbs. I much prefer black, as I can blend in better. But it isn’t my call today, so I wear the robe. I sure I’m probably a bit rusty, but I didn’t have time to get back into fighting shape. They may be hoping that I slip up, but I won’t. I’ll rely on my training. Nothing flashy and everything will work out fine, it always has. I won’t be briefed on the mission until we get on the bus, but I’m sure they wouldn’t throw me back in with anything to wild. I have a cup of yogurt and an apple, something small before the mission. Leaving my apartment, I make my way through the monastery and towards the bus.

I pass Mother Dalia’s office and peak inside; she hasn’t arrived yet which is odd of her. She always told me it was best to be early not late. Still, I may have done a number on her yesterday. Nobody can blame her if she’s taken the day off. I’ll be sure to apologize next time I see her. Still, this early in the day, the monastery is quiet, even down here in the town area. The monks haven’t even began ringing the bells in the temple, and nobody has set up in the market. You almost forget how much goes on within the walls here every day.

It’s like a small city, but nothing like a real city. Everything is built around the temple at the top of the hill, where the eremites pray to their various gods. Down below, a school, medical facilities, apartment complexes for families and individuals, a big open-air market. I used to wonder how people could spend their entire lives here. We’ve got technology, but so much of this place seems to be the same as it was hundreds of years ago according to the history books. That’s why I would sneak out and try to visit the nearby city so much growing up. Now that I’m over eighteen I can just fill out a pass to take leave for the city nearby, but with my record they get rejected all the time.

I’m the first one to the bus, so I knock on the door for the driver to open.

“Really? They’re going to let your loose on the world, again,” the driver laughs as he opens the door.

I don’t respond, I’m not looking for trouble today. I take my seat somewhere in the middle and wait for more to arrive. Slowly the bus fills. Father Elser finally makes his way onto the bus last. I suppose he will be leading today’s excursion. He gives the driver instructions and we begin to drive away. Once we’ve been in motion for nearly half an hour Elser stands to give us the briefing of what we’ll be doing today.

“I see a lot of fresh faces here today, and an old face returning as well,” he pauses his monologue to lock eyes with me. I nod back showing there’s not much more that needs to be said. He continues, “Usually we don’t bring this many new people to a mission. But this is a search and rescue mission. There has been a string of abductions in the area lately. Can anyone tell me which nuisances abduct people? “

“Vampires, Changelings and Hobgoblins although their abductions are for less nefarious reasons,” a young blonde boy answers with a smile. Trying to earn brownie points with Elser, anyone could have answered that question.

“Yes, that is correct. However, these abductions have all been linked to a forest that Werewolves use as a hunting ground. The Rimbury Woods are named after the family who originally owned the land. It became a hunting ground for Werewolves as several of their family had been turned. That is where we will be heading today. Our goal is simply search and rescue. We’re going to arrive during midday. While it is not strange for Werewolves to be active during the day, many prefer the night. Still, remain on guard. Any questions,” Elser concludes.

“What if we encounter a Werewolf,” a mousy red-haired girl asks. The shaky voice lets me know this is her first time out.

“If you encounter a Werewolf, you are to fire off your flair and avoid engaging at any cost. The rest of us will arrive and exterminate the beast,” Elser says with a smile.

I never got the exterminate first, ask questions later, style that Elser favors. I’ve met creatures of all kinds that are friendly, many live on the grounds of the monastery, study in our schools or stop by to pray at the temple. Sometimes talking can work just as well as fighting. That’s one of the things I learned here. Sometimes my anger gets in the way, but at least I know the lesson. Still, I bite my tongue, wanting to avoid any trouble today.

The rest of the ride is uneventful. We slowly file out of the bus and await our orders. We’re ordered to pair up and I’m left unselected. I hadn’t noticed we had an odd number of people before.

“Oh, Isaias, it looks like you’re the odd man out. No worries, you’ve got more experience than most of today’s group put together. You’ll be fine,” Elser says with a smile before wandering off.

Many of the new recruits enter the forest by taking to the trees. I never had much affinity for magic. Some of the basics, I understand. I can’t do the more advance things like casting spells or firing off blasts of fire. I certainly can’t transmute objects. Still, I can walk up walls and trees like the rest of them; I’m great at using magic to mask my tracks. That’s almost second nature for me at this point, masking my scent, making my steps silent and keeping a bubble of silence around me. I do that even when I’m not on a mission these days. In a fight, enhancement magic is what I can rely on. Still, I don’t have a huge natural reserve so wasting it to jump through trees would be pointless. I slip on my gloves then head in on foot.


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