Iris Hale: HUNTER *NaNoWriMo Draft 2016*

*NaNoWriMo 2016*/
Periliares are a crafty bunch. You might know them as 'demons'. They hate that word. The idea that all of them are evil is idiotic. The same way all humans aren't evil, not all periliares are evil. Just top of the food chain. And a lot of them have superiority complexes. That's where I come in. Most of them view themselves as gods, which is fine, whatever. But the second they think they can kill more than their fill, I have an issue.
My name is Iris Hale, and I'm a hunter.
/©Molly Looby

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17. Seventeen

I jerked awake at the station before Crowshall and let out a deep breath. My bandage was still cream-white, and I was alive, so the worst was over. For today at least. Though there was another fight with Sylvie coming, I didn’t have the energy to be worried about it. I didn’t have the energy for anything.

Staggering off the train at my stop, I messaged Erin to see if her offer of dinner was still on the table.

My luck was looking up as Erin replied, telling me to come over whenever as she was finished whatever it was she’d been doing. It felt like I was walking for miles, but just over half an hour later, I was knocking on Erin’s door again.

She answered, this time with a big grin on her face. It soon dropped off when she clocked my expression.

“What happened to you?”

I shook my head and followed her up the stairs as she shut the door behind me. Collapsing on her bed, I shut my eyes and let out a long steady breath.

“Are you okay, Iris?” She gave a little gasp. “What happened to your arm?”

It killed me to lie to her, but I didn’t have a choice. “I cut it on something sharp sticking out of a wall where they’re doing some building works.”

She put her hand to her face. “Oh my god.”

“Yeah.” I sat up.

“You can probably sue or something.”

“Yeah, because a company would lose to a schoolgirl. It’s all right.”

“It’s not all right. You might get an infection. Did you clean it?” Her catering really came in handy where this stuff was concerned.

“Yes,” I lied again, but I knew the Teneculum had been clean and perfect before it’d touched me.

She came and knelt next to me on the bed. “Let me see.”

I handed her my arm, and she unwound the bandages. She held her breath as she took a look. The cut itself was dark in the middle and red on the outside, but it didn’t look as bad as it felt. The pulsing was still swirling around my body.

“God,” she breathed. “Does it hurt?”

“Loads.”

“Are you sure you don’t need stitches? It’s pretty long.”

“Nah, I’m fine. These sticky things will be enough.”

She chewed on her lip. “Are you sure? I’ll go with you.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’m fine. Just a bit shaky.”

“I’ll get you some water.”

I shuffled back on her bed until I was resting my head on the wall. My heart had only just slowed down to normal.

Erin returned with a glass of water, paracetamol, and a clean bandage. She was an angel, and not to mention a thousand times better at wrapping a bandage. Though to be fair, I had been doing it one-handed. With my left hand no less.

“You really are out of luck, aren’t you? Last weekend you fell down the stairs and now this.”

I grimaced as she gave me my arm back. “Sylvie’s not going to be happy. She’s already annoyed at me for falling down the stairs.”

“But this isn’t your fault.”

I shrugged. “She’s just worried I’ll end up killing myself.”

Well, you better not carry on like this. I don’t like it.”

“I promise I’ll try not to hurt myself anymore.” And I meant it.

After a delicious dinner at Erin’s house, I decided I should go home to Sylvie instead of hiding in Erin’s room for the foreseeable future. She was out when I got home, so I cleaned the Teneculum before sitting myself at the kitchen table to welcome her.

She jumped when she let herself in the front door and made her way into the kitchen to see me sitting there.

“You scared the life out of me.” She put her hand to her heart. “What are you doing sitting there all quiet?”

I swallowed and looked her straight in the eyes. “I broke my promise.”

Her face dropped.

“But not in the way you think. Please. I’m sorry.”

She crossed her arms and shook her head. “Iris, I don’t know what to do. How are we going to continue if a promise doesn’t mean anything to you? What am I supposed to do, chain you up in your room and bring you meals? What? What do I have to do?”

“I’m sorry.” My voice was weak. I’d already lost.

“Sorry doesn’t mean anything. And I don’t think you are sorry.”

“I am.”

“Are you? Because if you were you wouldn’t have gone out hunting. I assume you did?”

“Yes, but—”

“And you lied to me. And Cait. And Erin.”

“I didn’t want to. And I didn’t go out hunting.” Something was building up inside my chest. “I questioned a periliare about something.”

She rested her hands on the table and clocked my bandaged arm. “Oh did you? What’s that then?”

“He wanted to take advantage of me, but he left me alone and I left him alone. He’s still alive. I didn’t hunt anything.”

“But you did get hurt. Again.”

“It got complicated.”

“Everything’s complicated with you, Iris. At this rate, you won’t live to see your sixteenth birthday.”

“I’ve never been that unprepared before.” It came out as a shout. “But I had to. I’m worried about Erin. I couldn’t leave it.”

Her eyes widened. “Don’t you shout at me. You have no right to disobey me, Iris. I’ve done everything I can, and I don’t know what to do any more.”

“I’m sorry.” I felt like if I said it enough times she might hear it. “I didn’t want to lie to you. I didn’t want to go out at all. But I’m worried about Erin.”

She sighed and dropped into a chair opposite me. “You can’t blame this on Erin.”

“I’m not blaming her; I’m protecting her.”

“From a periliare?”

“Yes!”

She gave me a stare, and I shut up. “Why didn’t you talk to me about this first?”

“I couldn’t. I knew you’d act like that. I knew you’d stop me.”

“Of course I would. You don’t seem to understand how dangerous this all is.”

“I understand plenty.” I couldn’t hold in my anger any more. It burst out of me. “I’ve been out there so many times, and every time I’ve come back. I’m not dead yet because I’m smart. Smart enough to walk away from a fight I know I can’t win. A cut on the arm is a small price to pay for my life.”

“Yet,” she said it soft, quiet.

“What?”

“You said yet. You said I’m not dead yet. You know this’ll catch up with you. And you still do it.”

“I don’t have a choice.”

“And here we are again. I can’t keep fighting with you about this. We never fought before you were given that bloody thing, and now it’s all the time. You promised me you would stop.”

“And I will stop. After I’ve got this one I’ve got my eye on.”

“No.” She shook her head. “You’re stopping now.”

“But Erin’s in danger. That boyfriend I told you about? I think he’s a periliare. I think he’s going to reel her in at some point, and I can’t let that happen.”

She seemed too calm. “You know that for certain?”

“Well, no, but—”

“This might be some kid, Iris. You can’t think everything you don’t like is a periliare.”

“But it’s so weird! It doesn’t make sense. It’s too much of a coincidence.”
“Coincidences happen. This could be nothing. Just because someone else is taking up Erin’s time.”

It felt like she punched me in the stomach. “That is not what this is about.”

“It’s not?”

“No. I don’t care what Erin does with her time or who she speaks to. I care that she’s safe. She’s my best friend. I’d have nothing without her.”

Sylvie gave the saddest smile, and it was like she’d ripped my heart right out. “Nothing? All right.” She stood up, scraping the chair across the floor.

“No. I didn’t mean it like that. Don’t be like that.”

“Like what? My niece, my daughter, is acting like some creature that may or may not exist is more important than the life I’ve spent the past almost-sixteen years building.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. I didn’t think.”

“Exactly. You didn’t think. And that’s what scares me most about you.” She pinched the bridge of her nose. “Bring me your knife.”

My stomach dropped to the ground, and my body felt as though it couldn’t hold itself up. “What?”

“Your knife. Bring it to me.”

“No, I—”

“I don’t trust you with it anymore. I’ll look after it.”

“But, I—”

“No. No arguments. This stops now.”

It felt like she’d reached into my gut and was squeezing all the life from me. I couldn’t give up the Teneculum. It was the only power I had. She wouldn’t take that away.

“Iris.”

I shook my head.

“You can stare at me all you want, but I’ll just wait here until you hand it over.”

My heart broke. Tears welled in my eyes. And I gave up. Gave up everything.

“It’s upstairs,” I whispered.

“Come on then.”

I followed behind her trying not to cry. I wouldn’t let her see me cry. She sat on my bed as I pulled the box out from the bottom drawer of my bedside table and handed it to her.

My protection. My soul. My strength. Without it, I was nothing.

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