The Huntress

This story is set in a different world called Azure - a world of the most unique creatures from mermaids to unicorns to dragons to another species you must have never heard of - The Hunters. They are an immortal species of ruthless females, extremely proud and emotionless, considering themselves to be above all other species claiming that they do not have any weaknesses. Aria is a great Huntress, having trained for ages. She too considers herself superior and different, not having feelings or any other lame emotion Humans posses, but when Aaron, a young guy from the Human world, stumbles into her world, a lot of things start changing for Aria.

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8. Brave

Aaron looked after the pegasus while Aria and Moira had been chatting away in that incomprehensible language. He had given it some bloodapples to devour (pegasi happened to love them) and soon enough, it seemed all well and fine, trotting about on its newly-repaired limbs and making appreciative noises when Aaron gave it more treats. But when Aria came back to him, looking all ashen-faced and grim, Aaron was distracted. 

"Is everything fine?"

She looked at him with guilty eyes. "Yes," she was lying, obviously. She thought she did that very well and that everybody perceived her as a stony, cold woman with zero feelings but somehow Aaron saw right through all the pretense. He knew there was more to her. There had to be. But she would always remain obstinate and haughty about it and her enormous ego would never let her show it. Aaron hoped she would lose the veil someday. 

"Hey, if this is about the dragon eye thing," he ventured, "I promise I can handle going up there with you guys. You've trained me, Aria. You've got to trust me."

Aria gave him the most pained look ever that for a moment he thought she was going to cry. But, well, who was he kidding? Shedding a tear or two when you are in pain is a menial thing inferior species like Humans tend to do. Not the Hunters. Never Hunters. Hmph.

Without a word to him, Aria petted the pegasus and spoke to it, probably inquiring whether or not it felt alright and whether it was ready go back up again. Judging by the happy noises the creature made, Aaron guessed that it was. He rushed up and mounted it, gesturing Aria to do the same.

"You will ride?" she questioned.

"I took horse riding lessons in school," he said evasively. "How different could pegasi be?"

"You got thrown off the last one," Aria reminded.

"Hey, that one was uncooperative! Besides, this guy here has taken up a liking for me. Now get on, will you? We have a dozen dragons to kill."

Aaron didn't know why he felt so optimistic about this, but somehow, just having Aria behind him was a lot of comfort. He knew that she would make the right choices. He knew she had the skill, the training and the experience to get them all out of this situation. Moira gave her a final meaningful look before the pair of them shot skyward on the pegasus, straight towards the fire-breathing reptiles that dominated the sky.

"Die, dragons, die!" Aaron screamed, much to Aria's disapproval. She didn't seem to like war-cries much. She just determinedly shot arrow after arrow at the dragons, aiming at their eyes but always missing because the dragons had good defense when it came to protecting their eyes. The giant monsters seemed to know that was their weakness.

"ARIA!" Moira's voice shrieked to them. "What are you doing?"

Aria didn't seemed to listen. She told Aaron to swerve left and right and he did just that, ignoring Moira as well. She was the one who had come up with this plan. Now that it was going great, she seemed to have a problem with it. "The sacrifice, Aria!" she kept screaming for some reason. Aaron really thought she should be concentrating on the dragons' eyes like Aria was. Finally after a long while of dipping and dodging out of harm's way, she managed to shoot a silver arrow straight into the eye of a bronze dragon. It keeled in pain and dropped to the ground with a jaw-rattling thud.

Aria immediately asked him to swerve them to safety. She chose a tall tree a meter away and told him to disembark. He stepped on a branch and sat himself on it like she had asked. "What are we doing?" Aaron was quite confused.

"You are not coming with me," she said decisively. "I will deal with the rest of them myself."

"No! Are you -"

"If Moira tries to find you, stay away," she warned. "Stay away from all the Hunters. Hide yourself well and make sure the dragons stay away from you too. Do not come out until I ask you to." And with that, she took the pegasus and rode away to the distance.

Aaron struggled to understand what had just happened. Had he made some sort of mistake? He had been riding the pegasus quite well, why had Aria decided to leave him there? And why was he to stay away from Moira? This was all very confusing.

The battle got heated after that. Aaron watched through a clearing that Aria was fighting hard. She managed to hit two more dragons but only in an hour's time. By now the dragons had started to double their attacks. They shot jets of fire everywhere like lunatic reptiles, perhaps as a final blow before they died. They knew this madly brave girl was to bring them down soon. They weren't retreating though, those stupid creatures. Aria seemed to be fighting alone. The others were searching for something like their lives depended on that. But what? With a horrible jolt he realised they must be looking for him. But why?

"FIGHT, YOU COWARDS!" Aria screamed at them while dodging flames. "COME BACK HERE AND FIGHT! FORGET THE SACRIFICE, FIGHT INSTEAD!"

A few of the Hunters decided to help her and together they took down more dragons. Soon, Moira was the only one still looking for Aaron. Meanwhile, the entire wood was steaming. The situation was under control down in the bushes and brambles, but the top canopy of the trees was on fire and Aaron had to duck in and out of branches to stay in them and also stay hidden. The tree nymphs managed to put that fire out soon enough but the damage had been done. Moira had spotted him.

"There you are," she hissed at him, grabbing his collar. In the light of the red flames her eyes glowed red too, and she looked quite reptilian. Aaron was afraid she would spit fire too. "Come with me, now. We have a sacrifice to make."

"What is this sacrifice?" he asked exasperatedly.

"You," she said simply. "You are the sacrifice."

Aaron's world stopped.

"How do you think you stumbled on to this world in the first place?" she sneered. 

Aaron did not believe it. "Your...it was you?"

"Always," Moira said smoothly once she had dragged him down to the ground from the top branches of the tree. Now she was pushing him along somewhere. "The portal...I laid it there long ago. I believed any Human who was stupid enough to walk right into that ungodly place would be stupid enough to be tricked into this plan. Brilliant, right?"

Aaron felt like his voice box had a load of gravel shoved into it. He couldn't speak. "You...you wanted to use me...as a decoy?"

"Of course. You did not think I actually wanted a Human, a male Human, among us as a Hunter?" she let out a high-pitched laugh. "You were always meant for the dragons. They will take you and they will leave. They will not be back for a very long time. Even when they do come back, I am sure some other Human will have fallen right into the same trap."

"Wicked, you are," he said drily. Death was close now. He should have known all along. He didn't have the time to mourn his idiocy. He should have never walked into that cave. Moira was right. He had been the world's most foolish person to do that. So much for his stupid love for nature. Now he was going to be a dragon's breakfast. But he even knew that Moira's plan would not work for long. A single puny Human wouldn't do the massive dragons a lot of good. They would be back sooner than she thought. Aaron did not voice that. 

Just when he thought it was the end, something else happened. Something that grabbed his attention immediately. Aria, who had been fighting the massive black dragon along with five other Hunters, had now been caught in the chest with a direct jet of fire. She froze mid-combat and plummeted down to the ground. The others screamed some things but remained locked in combat. Aaron knew things were going extremely wrong.

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