A submission from Brayden Colm of Dublin, Ireland. He wishes advice on where the story should go, and on how to better his writing as it stands now.
It began with two: the man of Light and his hunter.
That is how it had been for three months and it was how, if up to the man of Light, it would continue for the next three.
The desert was barren, cold, lifeless. If Death himself had risen from the ground and asked to shake hands, the hunter might not have even been surprised.
For miles in each direction a white haze of dehydration clouded the hunter’s sight and led him to believe that there was simply no end to the grief the desert had caused. The sand caught in his throat; three days without water was be enough to break a normal man, but to his credit, he was no normal man.
For the hundredth time in the last hour he brandished his canteen, hoping that by some undeserved miracle it would again make the satisfying sound of water sloshing against leather. Though despite his sincere hoping, the canteen remained empty. The hunter grunted; maybe even laughed, although there was no humour to be found. To the passing stranger the ragged man in his late 30s, outfitted with scraps, would look absolutely beaten, or ironically enough like Death.
The assassin had strained and pushed until he was truly running on empty, and the thought of stopping had become almost as exhausting as the thought of going on. It was the very thing he swore to kill that was keeping him alive; the drive behind his deranged and apparently suicidal trek across the wastes was, of course, The Man of Light. Although the very thought of his enemy dripped with abhorrence and treachery, the hatred within him brought back a little of his energy and with it, his pace. With tight fists and white knuckles he began to sing, for in his mind, there was power in words.
These words, however, filled him with a dull ache and longing for a time gone. His feet continued to move as instructed but with a distant groan that spoke of mutiny. The words continued to flow and his body, already empty, continued to protest and move westwards in a wavy line. Towards the pull of his bond. Towards his enemy. The hunter swept his gaze off the desert floor and searched yet again for anything that resembled human civilization.
He wondered how things had gone so wrong, because the hunter was, like all his type, cautious to say the least. He had calculated the necessary supplies and arranged it all perfectly, but his smile turned bitter as his mother’s words ran through his head.
"Perfect? Son, in our line of work the only thing that ever goes right is our retirement. And you know why? Because it begins with our death." He had been six at the time.
But the hunter supposed the personality of one whose heart and mind have been fabricated since childhood, was to say the least, a complex thing. He had often been described as inhuman and callous, but this was not entirely true. He had been built to look dangerous, but his exterior was little more than a protective shell, because inside he knew a little of how compassion worked, despite the best efforts of his superiors. However, the full feeling of this emotion would forever elude him. He could put on a good show, but that's all it ever would be.
The hunter froze, his exhaustion and dehydration suddenly forgotten.
Something had changed.
It wasn’t obvious, but it was there. He felt it. With ears tuned and eyes peeled he began to walk again.
After a few moments on high alert, he began to wonder if maybe he had really lost it after all. Perhaps the shift that he had felt was nothing but the dying breath of his senses; the death rattle of his sanity. He surveyed the options in his head. He could run, although he wasn't quite sure what he was feeling, and was having enough trouble walking as it was.
Second, he could fight, but again, fight what?
Third, he could...nothing. He sighed, realizing there were no other options.
He decided to leave it. His mind was altering, he could feel it, and he was in no way in the right state to deal with whatever it was. He could see nothing of assistance, and none of the water that he so desperately needed if he was to evade death. He hated to think that he could be killed by the desert for where was the honour in that? Where was the last fight he had been so long promised?
He faltered, and with one final scream of agony his legs failed him. His knees struck the sand, sending up a jolt of pain and bringing into sharp focus the reality of how weak he truly was.
Kneeling there, motionless in the sand, the hunter stared into the vast, endless dunes of yellow that seemed to go on forever and was reminded of his training. Countless fights spent broken and yielding before the masters’ blades, and in the later years, their guns. One particular memory came to mind. One of pain. Of him and his mother, sitting together for the last time. He promised over and over again that he would return and do what the others before him could not. He breathed the sigh of a hard life lived, and raised his eyes to the sky.
As he drew his last breath, his final thoughts were of home.