The fugitives’ legs drove forward as he slammed through the brush, trying to avoid the occasional whipping of limbs to his face. Sweat mixed with a little rain poured down his cheeks as he looked back to see if he could get a glimpse of the man who was chasing him. His heart pounded fiercely as he thought about his pursuer. The woods were thick and twigs snapped under foot as the man ran, breathing heavily from his flight.
The ground was slippery with the wet leaves causing the young man to slow his pace. As the fugitive reached a small clearing, he slid down an embankment and splashed his way through a small creek hoping to mask his scent. As the scared man reached the other side, he looked back again but could not see the being that chased him. Resting only for a moment, he was off again and as he climbed the muddy embankment, he once again found himself in a heavily wooded area.
Night was beginning to fall and the lone man knew his pursuer would have a distinct advantage after dark for the Charue bounty hunter had infrared vision and could see better at night. With that thought, the man tried to catch his breath as he carefully made his way, slower through the woods. The wet and dirty fugitive looked for any possible hiding area but he knew the Charues sense of smell would almost match his night vision abilities.
The young man stopped and propped himself against a tree as he began to tremble in fear. Slowly he slid down the trunk until he was seated, his knees pulled to his chest as he began to weep. After several moments the young man heard a twig snap behind him and he leaned out from the tree to see a deer walk past. With a sigh of relief, the young man returned to his previous position and became startled by the presence of the bounty hunter in front of him.
“Are you done running?” the six-foot, two hundred and fifty pound creature asked as he stood calmly in front of the fugitive.
“Please don’t kill me,” the man begged as he raised his palms and shook uncontrollably.
The Charue, with dry green hide and slightly glowing orange eyes looked at the man trembling before him. The bounty hunter wore brown leather pants and tan tunic covered by a long brown leather coat. He had his long black hair affixed in a ponytail. Across his back was a medium sized shield and he carried a three-foot battle-axe in his right hand. Under the jacket, a small crossbow and some throwing knives attached to a bandolier became evident as the jacket drifted open with the breeze.
“I’m not going to kill you,” the Charue stated as he touched his cheek that oozed some blood from a poorly sewn scar that ran from his left ear to the corner of his mouth. The man’s tusks rose upward from his lower jaw with the left one broke at the tip. “Although I should for this,” the man stated as he looked to the blood on his fingers.
“I’m sorry,” the man said shakily as he raised his hands toward the Charue. “I’m not armed anymore.”
“Get up”, the bounty hunter stated as he slid the handle of his axe into a ring on his belt.
“If you’re not going to kill me, than what are you going to do?”
“I’m going to return you to the Boldts so you can face the punishment you deserve.”
The bounty hunter stepped forward and grabbed the young man by the arm, lifting him to a standing position with little effort.
“But they’re going to kill me”, the young man pleaded as he shook in fear, trying to avoid looking directly at the hunter.
The Bounty hunter tied the fugitives’ hands behind his back and looped the rope around the man’s neck twice. “That’s your problem,” the hunter said as he kicked the man forward with a powerful thrust of his brown leather boots.
The bounty hunter whistled and through the woods charged a mighty steed. The brown horse with white patches under the neck snorted as he stopped just shy of the two men. The hunter tied the rope to the saddle and climbed aboard, turning the horse north. With a light kick, the horse started to walk and the fugitive did his best to keep pace.
The cloud-filled sky was bringing darkness early this day and although the rain had stopped, the wind picked up. The bounty hunter rode along as the fugitive stumbled his way along uneven ground.
The woodland was dense but the men soon came upon a path that would lead them out of the forest. The hunter knew at the pace they moved however, they would not be out of the woods before night had totally engulfed them.
The fugitive tripped from time to time and the hunter would have to stop the steed so as not to drag the man along by his neck.
“Please”, the young man pleaded. “Please stop for the evening, I can’t go on.”
The bounty hunter looked at the tattered soul of a young man and against his instinct; he decided to stop for the evening. The young man shook with fear and from being wet in the nights' chilly air. The hunter felt good in this weather for his thick green hide kept him warm.
The hunter left the path only for a short distance and stopped his horse. He did not bother tying the horse in place for the well-trained animal knew to stay put. Leaving his captive bound, the hunter gathered anything he could that was dry enough to burn and he started a fire to warm his guest.
With the fire started, the hunter untied the man and then retied his hands together in front of him to make it easier for the man to warm up by the fire.
“We’ll camp for a few hours, than we move out. If you try to run again, I will reconsider my stand on killing you,” the hunter said as he sat down against a tree.
The fugitive sat close to the fire, trying to get warm. The man’s diminished mental faculties from the damp cold encumbered his thought, so he sat there until his temperature returned to normal and he stopped shivering.
“Do you know who I am?” the man asked as he turned his head to the hunter.
“I don’t care who you are,” the hunter stated in short, as he rose and went to his saddlebag.
The hunter pulled some jerky from a pouch and threw some of it to the fugitive.
“You just send men to be slaughtered and don’t get to know them first. I guess that makes things easier on your conscience.”
“Just eat, shut up, and go to sleep,” the hunter stated as he returned to sitting by the tree.
The young man bit off a bit of jerky and cringed at the meat. “How do you survive eating this?” the man asked, not expecting an answer.
“Whether or not you sleep, we are heading out in four hours,” the hunter stated as he leaned his head back. “If you move from that spot, it may be the last move you ever make.” The hunter closed his eyes to rest as his fugitive lay on the ground by the fire and ate the rest of his jerky.
The horse snorted and the hunter opened his eyes in time to see a flaming stick as it smashed into his face. The man rolled to his side as his fugitive ran for the path.
The hunter stood, rubbing his jaw as he watched the man run. “I guess he has had enough rest,” the man said looking at his horse. “Go get him,” the hunter said as he pointed to the fleeing man.
The horse took off after the young man and soon the animal plowed into the man’s back, sending him sprawling along the ground. The majestic beast stood over the man, not allowing him to regain his stance.
The hunter casually strode up and patted the horse on the neck. “Good boy,” he said with a smile.
The hunter snatched up his fugitive and rebound the man’s hands once again looping the rope over his neck. “You fall this time and I will drag you the rest of the way,” the hunter said as he tied the rope to the saddle.
The man climbed aboard his horse and kicked the beast gentle, and once again, they were off. The fugitive remained quiet as they moved along, contemplating his decision to strike instead of just running.
The sun rose and light dew covered the grass as the two men exited the wooded area. Fog engulfed the region, the hillsides not visible as the men traveled this early hour.
“I need to rest,” the man stated as he stumbled behind.
“You had your chance,” replied the hunter, not looking back.
The man stumbled and fell from exhaustion and the horse dragged him until the rider halted. The man turned his horse to face his charge. “Get up”, he demanded. “Get up or I will drag you by your neck until you are dead.”
The fugitive rolled to his knees, clearly tired. He looked at the man with pleading eyes but found no heart in the glassy stare that the hunter returned. Struggling, the man rose to his feet and continued to walk.
Two more hours passed as the fog lifted and the landscape started to open up before them. Rolling Meadows with green pastures, home to sheep and cattle alike, lay before them. In the distance, mountains jutted into the sky. The hunter knew that was home for him, but he would have to pass them by in order to drop off his catch.
“I need a drink”, the fugitive panted.
The hunter stopped his horse and disembarked. Taking a canteen, he gave the young man a drink. “We will stop for a bit to rest,” the hunter said as he took the canteen away from the man’s lips.
The hunter unsecured the man from the horse and pushed him to the side of the path. With a hard shove, he seated the young man on the ground.
“Can you please untie my hands?”
“We tried that already,” the hunter, said pointing to his face.
“I’ve lost the feeling in them. You’re awake, I’m not going to try anything”, the young man pleaded.
The hunter untied the youth and stood by his horse. (You are compassionate), the horse snorted, the sentiment delivered through empathy. “That will be my downfall,” the man said back quietly.
After an hour, the hunter hoisted the man to his feet again. “Let’s go”, he stated as he refastened the rope and climbed up.
“There is a farm house up the road, can we stop there and get food?” the young man asked as he started to walk again.
“No, I want to get to Sardosa before nightfall.”
The hunter moved on and his fugitive did all he could to keep up with the horse. They stayed on the main path for it would lead them to a residence in the city of Sardosa, where the hunter would finally be relieved of his headache.
The trip was tough, but finally, as night crept toward, the weary souls reached their destination and the hunter bid good riddance to another pest he had plucked from society.