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Two Hunters– Ghoul Hunt

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Grace Masters

Grace makes her way into the forests, out of sight of civilization, her demeanor rather different than the last time anyone’s seen her. It’s like a switch has been flipped, one that makes her silent and stoic, one that makes her almost forget she’s still human. And even with her hands kind of full, she’s still managing to avoid most obstacles, limbs and rocks and the like. Call it luck, or call it skill, whichever you prefer. Near the edge of a clearing, she pauses, setting the bag on the ground and scrambling up a tree. She’s surprisingly agile, for her height and weight, sitting on one of the limbs and gazing over the clearing. Not here. But they’ve been here. She can see the marks in the grass where something’s been dragged and feet have clawed at the dirt beneath. Good to know. They might be close. She drops from the tree, landing in a crouch, and she turns to Byron. “They’re not in this clearing, but they’ve been here. Can’t know how long it’s been until I get a chance to look at some of the blood I saw on the grass.” She picks up the bag. “But, if this is a frequented spot, we can use that to our advantage. It’s not so enclosed that they’ll overwhelm us. And I don’t know how big this pack is just yet.”

 

Byron Magrath

Byron settled his trunk on a group of low hanging branches, keeping it up off the ground and out of reach of any who weren’t actively looking for it.  The hunter’s demeanor had changed the further out into the forest they’d travelled, his eyes turning from a bright blue to an almost flinty ice color. Little was said until Grace had finished scouting and hopped back down from the tree, and Byron pulled his facemask down to take a deep inhale through his nose.  “No rotting flesh smell just yet. Unless they are downwind, the ghouls won’t be anywhere within a mile. Let’s take a closer look and then start setting out the bait.”

 

Grace Masters

Grace nods, slipping her hand beneath that jacket of hers to draw her pistol. Better than going out with just her knife, that’s for sure. She’s not that worried, though, knowing just what’s going to happen if she’s caught out here by something. She might get hurt a little, knocked around, but /something/ will happen that keeps her from dying. Story of her life. But with that pistol at the ready, she feels only a little more prepared as she moves to the drag marks in the grass and kneels next to them. She rubs her fingers along the grass, frowning. The blood is dried, but not /that/ dry. She grumbles for a moment, making a split second choice that might screw her over in the long run. A mutter might be heard, but it’s most definitely not in English as she sucks in a breath. Pain shoots through her right arm, and there’s a tingle of numbness starting at the brand on her shoulder this time. Well, at least she still has her hand. She stands up, shaking her head and moving back to the tree where she has the mace and the bag. “Good news and bad. Good news? They’ve been through within the last twelve hours. Bad news? They were dragging one of their own behind them. So they’re onto…. semi living targets. Probably one that got injured by someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.” She folds her arms. “I say we set up the traps here. They’ve been through recently enough, they’ll come back. Ghouls are nothing if not reliable in their habits.”

 

Byron Magrath

The black clad hunter pulled his face mask back up and pulled a number of traps from out of his trunk, most notably a set of what looked like bear traps.  These were slightly made of a darker metal than steel or iron though, and the teeth of the traps were almost needle-like and curved inwards to prevent removal and hold the victims tightly.  Alongside the modified bear traps were a number of what looked like stripped down flintlock pistols, each mounted on a base that would allow them to be set and triggered with wire. While Grace prepared the bait, Byron began setting the traps around the center of the clearing, hoping to kill or maim as many of the pack as possible before the real hunt began.  Each of the flintlock traps he had prepared were loaded with a heady mix of exploding needles and small flechette, perfect for ripping through partially or fully dead flesh. Even if a limb wasn’t blown off, the rounds would make most any area struck almost useless from the muscular damage.

 

Grace Masters

Grace takes a moment to watch as he sets up the traps, vaguely considering wearing a mask herself when she works. But that’s for another time. She reaches into the bag, pulling out legs, feet, just random bits and organs of animals that no one can really eat anyway. They were on sale, after all, and she’s not one to pass up a deal. She starts with slicing open one of the stomachs, letting the remnants of the fluids spill over the ground near the edges of the clearing, creating a trail right up to the traps themselves. She’s been down this road plenty of times. Always use the most pungent of bait pieces. It makes the smell carry better. Once that’s done, she moves back to the side, covering the bag in some of the underbrush, and grabbing the mace. She points up the tree, falling silent once more, and she launches herself upwards to grab onto the branch with the mace draped over it to act as a lever. And with a swing of her legs, she’s up on the branch, making her way higher so she can keep her eyes on the clearing. And now? The waiting game.

Byron Magrath

Once the trap was baited and set, Byron went to the treeline on the other side of the clearing from Grace to find his own spot to wait.  He leaped up into the leafy foliage and landed on one of the branches, using the momentum of it bending under his weight to launch himself up higher still.  Once he was up high enough that there was no chance of the ghouls finding him easily, the shadow of the leaves making his black outfit blend into the background, the hunter settled in to watch and wait for the prey to come sniffing.  In his right hand, Byron had already pulled and readied his axe, while his left was wrapped with a length of wire that lead to the flintlock traps, the wire hidden under the grass and bushes below.

 

Grace Masters

She doesn’t bother with a cigarette this time, knowing the smell would give her away. But she does slip that flask from her jacket pocket, taking a swig as she catches sight of Byron getting into his own spot. Instead of crouching on the branch, she sits, having picked one just wide enough for her to use. She turns sideways, almost, slipping the flask back in place, and wrapping her legs around the branch for support. And just as she’s almost gotten comfortable, she catches the first whiff of death. Perfect. The pistol is replaced into its holster, the knife being drawn this time. Another flex of her right hand to make sure that she can use the hand, and she can see the rotted corpse-like being near the edge of the clearing. Right where she’d left one of the trails of organs. It has no eyes, exactly, its face swollen to a point where the eyes are swollen shut. But its mouth is certainly not sealed shut like its eyes. It stretches from one side of the face to the other, filled with razor sharp teeth and black saliva dripping from a tongue way too long to belong to a human. It’s tall, shorter than her, but tall enough, most of its body wiry and lanky, save for the distended stomach and the hunch in its back. There aren’t fingers so much as there are needles on its hands, and slowly it makes its way across the clearing. The fuckers are smart, she thinks to herself. The pack is sending one to check for safety of the clearing, smelling the dead flesh spread throughout the area. She focuses herself, glancing in the direction it came from. She can only count five others, but she knows there’s a chance the rest are spread out. There’s no way that this pack is only six. But as it gets further into the clearing, she can see the other five moving into the area as well, the smell growing stronger. And just when they think it’s safe, the first one trips one of the bear traps, letting out a screech that might even put a banshee to shame. Grace takes this as her cue, hopping from the tree, watching as the other five look around in confusion, lifting their faces and trying to scent where the attack is coming from. And her stomach sinks as another eight burst from the forest. Fourteen. That seems a little more viable. But fuck, this is going to be difficult.

 

Byron Magrath

As soon as the first of the monsters had been caught by the trap, Byron knew that the others would be soon to escape.  He pulled the wire wrapped around his fist, setting off the flintlock traps and firing the storm of explosive needles and sharpened metal at the six ghouls who had made it into the center of the clearing.  Partially dead flesh was split and torn, as the traps viciously maimed all of the ghouls that had already been inside the clearing enough that fighting would be difficult for them. The pair of hunters would have to make sure that all of them were properly finished off, but that could wait until they’d dealt with the eight other ghouls that had managed to remain untouched by the traps.  Leaping from his tree perch with axe outstretched, the black clad hunter dropped like a meteor toward the closest of the unblemished monsters, the sharp blade cleaving through the creature from should to opposite hip with unnatural ease. And then Byron was ducking back behind the trees and coming out from another angle, utilizing hit and run tactics to do devastating damage to the pack without allowing himself to be hit in turn.

 

Grace Masters

As Grace ducked a little lower, charging in with the blade held close, she finds herself getting headbutted by a ghoul. Okay, these were either really smart ghouls, or that’s not what these are. Either way, she brings up a knee, cracking into its skull with enough force that it flies straight into the nearest tree. Okay. She hasn’t been able to do that. Ever. She’ll focus on that later. Probably the modifications her real employer did. She can feel the bruise starting to form on her chest, meaning these things have a thicker skull than most ghouls. Which leaves her with one other choice. She doubles back, slipping the knife into its sheath, and picking up the mace as she swings it right at the ghoul who headbutted her. That actually smashes its head in. Which leaves nothing more than a writhing heap of flesh and grey matter. Okay. “Go for the head!” And she’s right back into the fray, swinging that mace and lashing out with her iron plated gloves when she can.

 

Byron Magrath

Byron heard Grace’s call to aim for the head, but the black clad hunter was too busy to follow the advice at the moment.  Three of the ‘ghouls’, though they looked nothing like what he’d seen of a ghoul before, had managed to keep him from retreating back into the woods to continue his hit and run tactics.  As one of them lunged at him, Byron blurred to the right to avoid the blow and brought his axe down on the creature’s extended arm, lopping the limb clean off. Each time one of the monsters tried to attack him, the hunter made them pay dearly for it, until they were too crippled to keep him from burying his axe in someplace decidedly more vital.  Stomping down on the last of the three’s head, popping the skull like a melon, Byron sprinted toward the next group of flesh eaters, eager to continue his vicious hunt. Already his front was splattered with the half rotten blood, and each blow against the creatures seemed to only make Byron hit harder and move faster, his blood boiling and heart pounding in his ears as the bloodlust took control.

 

Grace Masters

Four of them have her cornered, but she just grins. Oh, this is perfect! Grace sighs, watching as the four creatures step closer to her, hissing and screeching. She simply takes that infamous Zippo from her pocket, dousing her hands in the fluid, and striking the flint against her skin. Her hands burst into flames, but still not enough to burn her skin, and she grabs one of their heads. Screeches filled her ears as she burns through its flesh, picking up the creature and using it to smack into the others. Once they were out of the way, she twists her feet to the sides, letting spikes extend from the heels of her boots, and she brings one down into where the eye would be of one of them. She’s covered in their blood herself. But that doesn’t stop her from taking that mace and smashing into those four repeatedly, until their bodies are nothing but pulp against the grass. Want the job done? Make sure it’s done.

 

Byron Magrath

As the last of the undamaged ghouls started to run, trying to escape the death that had greeted so many of its pack, Byron was hot on its tail with a wild look in his flinty blue eyes.  He leaped as he got close enough, bringing both feet onto the monster’s back and snapping its spine as it fell to the ground. The bloodied axe was raised up, then brought down over and over again, sending blood spraying over the hunter and the surroundings.  More and more the blade sunk deep into the dead flesh, until the ghoul was left as nothing more than a splattered mess of chopped meat. Then those intense blue eyes turned on the maimed monsters that had been caught by their initial trap. Slowly, the black clad hunter started stalking toward the injured ghouls.

 

Grace Masters

She starts moving towards one of the other ghouls, but there’s one that snags her ankle, tugging her to the ground. “Mother /fuck/,” she grumbles. Even as she kicks at it, there’s just something that keeps its head /just/ out of her reach. Okay. Plan B time, then. Her honey colored eyes darken, the black taking over as she draws the pistol and fires off round after round right between its eyes. That makes it let go, its head no more than…. well, tatters, really. She stands, brushing off her pants, and she reloads the pistol before stepping towards one of the injured ghouls herself. But she doesn’t just put it out of its misery. No. She looks at it for a moment, expressionless face and black eyes staring down at it before she reaches down, picking it up by the throat. And she starts slamming it into the ground, waiting until its lower half is useless before firing a round between its eyes. And with a smirk, she starts to move again, putting bullets in anything that looks like a ghoul and starts to move.

 

Byron Magrath

As Byron moves up alongside Grace to start dealing with the injured ghouls, he pulls his favored blunderbuss from the holster under his coat and presses it to the head of the nearest of the creatures.  With a massive bang, the ghoul’s head disappears in a spray of blood and brain matter, shredded by the unique shot loaded into the seemingly antique weapon. It too less than a second for Byron to reload the gun and start toward the next corpse-like body, executing them efficiently until it was just he and Grace left standing in the center of the field covered in blood.

 

Grace Masters

She takes a minute, once the ghouls are done for, panting softly. She’s starting to feel the pain in her stomach where the one headbutted her. And the pain where one gripped her ankle. It’s something she ignores, though, since neither created an open wound. Just bruising. She glances over at Byron, flicking the last of the lighter fluid off of her fingers. “Thanks,” she mutters. “I might have actually been fucked if I’d have tried this alone.” And there’s that weirdness she’s known for. She’s just as covered in blood as he is, but she mutters something in Latin to burn it off of her exposed skin. Ghouls carry disease, and she’s not taking chances. There’s a slight flinch from her as she moves to holster the pistol once more, picking up the mace. 

 

Byron Magrath

“For those of us who hunt the darkness, to find company is rare and excellent in equal measure.  There is not enough of us as is, and too many of our enemies by far.” Byron’s voice was lower than normal, almost growling as he fought back the bloodlust that the hunt had brought out of him.  Kneeling by the bodies and not caring even slightly of the blood coating his form liberally, the black clad hunter pulled another of the syringes half filled with green liquid from his materials pouch.  Jabbing it into one of the ghouls and pulling back the plunger, the black and red blood mixed with the green and the potion started going to work purifying the noxious liquid for Byron’s use.

 

Grace Masters

She’s quiet as she watches, her left hand rubbing at the fingers of her right, and she picks up the closest, intact, body part she can find. A hand, it seems. Well, this will be enough to get her pay. She moves back to the bushes, grabbing that burlap sack and shoving body parts into it. “Yeah, well, it’s helpful when a client is honest. Guy said there were no more than eight in this area. I counted fourteen.” She drops the sack, folding her arms. “That means, either they weren’t paying attention. Or someone wanted me to come out here and get hurt. But, they probably didn’t count on me bringing a little help.”

Byron Magrath

Once the liquid in the syringe had turned green again, Byron jammed it into his thigh and injected the cocktail directly into his bloodstream.  Like fire burning through his veins, the potion spread throughout his body and started adding the new traits to him, making the black clad hunter grit his teeth with a growl from the pain.  It almost wasn’t even worth it, as the ghouls had only granted him a minor boost to his strength and speed. But every step was another taken toward overpowering the monsters. “You get paid for your hunts?”

Grace Masters

Somehow, her flames had missed a bit of the blood along her jaw. But she cocks her head to the side for a moment as she watches him. She’s trying to push that moment of weakness in her psyche back. Every time she loses her control, it’s harder to regain it. And she’s stupid for letting it happen. But, to answer his question, she nods. “Most of the time, I do. At least, when it’s bigger prey. Like that creature whose skull’s up in my room at the tavern? They knew no one would take on the job if there wasn’t hazard pay.” She sighs. “But this time? Nah. Ghouls aren’t that hard to take out, and the town asking for them to be taken care of is too poor to afford a /real/ hunter. So, I stepped in.” She sighs. “Didn’t like the idea of one of these fucks deciding a kid would be a good snack, y’know?”

 

Byron Magrath

He nodded as he stood, returning the empty syringe to the materials pouch on his belt.  “Then either the person who gave you this information was incompetent, or this was a trap.”  Byron was not unfamiliar with the practice. All too often, a particularly charismatic monster would turn humans to its side and use them to try to entrap him, in an effort to destroy the last Magrath in any way possible.  “Know anyone who wants you dead? Besides the monsters, of course.” His blue eyes turned to her then, eyeing Grace’s blood splattered form even though she’d burned off much of the blood from her bare skin. Deep within the black clad hunter’s mind, some small hint of the werewolf instincts he’d stolen from their blood whispered that this was what good mate material looked like.

 

Grace Masters

“I haven’t been around this place long enough for anyone to want me dead.” She tugs off her gloves, shoving them into a pocket on her jacket before pushing her bare hand through her hair. “I mean, I’m sure a couple of people want to smack me for being a snarky bitch. But that’s nothing new, and it was the same back on Earth too.” She blinks, groaning. “Unless, of course the Coven back home decided to finally stop biding their time and actually come after me.” She stares at a corpse for a moment, though, thinking that over. “No. If that were the case, they wouldn’t use ghouls. They’re not that stupid.” She taps her heels together, the spikes retracting once more. “I’m willing to bet that the original person who spotted them only saw the first six. I’ve never seen ghouls think tactically before, but you saw how they hit us in waves. The first six were scouts. And the last eight were the ones we needed to worry about. That’s probably why the guy didn’t think there were that many. He probably only saw the scouts.”

 

Byron Magrath

“That too is a possibility.  I’ve never seen a ghoul act like that before.  Nor have I seen a ghoul that looks like these. I had thought it was just the difference between the ones on my world and the ones on this one.  What say you?” Byron pulled down the face mask, showing that the seemingly cloth mask was actually waterproof, as his face was clean of blood. Between his mask and hat, only a small streak of blood had managed to get smeared over his upper face.  

 

Grace Masters

“The ones where I’m from mostly just look like dead people. Sometimes they’re injured, sometimes they’re not.” She crouches down, examining what’s left of one of the corpses, using her hunting knife to actually poke at it. “Matter of fact, I’ve never seen anything like this before. And ghouls where I’m from don’t have skulls like this. These guys have slits where their eyes should be. But there’s no actual orb there. Just a flat piece of bone.” She frowns and looks up at him after poking at the face of one. “One of my actual employers is a specialist in biology. Maybe they’ll be able to shed a little light on what this is. Otherwise… everything I know has to be updated and tossed out.” She stands up, moving a little closer to him, her own adrenaline starting to wear off. “I… ghouls back home aren’t smart. Their brains have rotted, leaving only the drive to eat. This is behavior I’d expect from a vampire or a werewolf. Even a demon. But a ghoul? Never.”

 

Byron Magrath

“Same as mine then.  Whatever these creatures are then, they definitely aren’t ghouls.”  Byron narrowed his eyes at the dead creature, as if he was trying to glare it into giving up its secrets.  “If your friend finds anything out, please let me know. Information is much of our battle as hunters.” He subconsciously stood up straighter as Grace stood closer to him, the sense of a powerful female further battering at his minute werewolf instincts.  “Where do you plan to go after this?”

 

Grace Masters

“I’ll have these parts here put on ice or something for now and get a shower.” She grins. “As fun as the hunt itself is, the fact that I smell like rotten flesh is not fun. After that? Well, who knows what I’ll do. I’ve got another twenty four hours or so to kill until my employer needs me again.” She shouldn’t suggest what she does, but to hell with it. Company is always better than being alone and stewing in her fucked up thoughts. “If you want, you’re more than welcome to come back up with me at the Blue Moon. Get a shower too?” But that’s as far as she says it. She’s pretty quick to flirt, normally, but she’s leaving it all up to chance this time. That, and she leaves the potential flirt open to interpretation. “My room there’s not much, but I don’t usually settle anywhere too long.”

 

Byron Magrath

“A shower would be most welcome.  I can only be thankful that my hunting clothes will be clean by the time the shower is done.”  The outer layers of the outfit were made of a leathery material that would absorb the blood and use it to repair any tears.  “Shall we get to work? The sooner we get these pieces on ice, the sooner we can get cleaned up.”

 

Grace Masters

She nods, grabbing up the mace and the bag, slinging the bag over one shoulder. And the mace rests against the other as she turns herself back towards the Blue Moon for that greatly needed shower. Luckily for her, the clothes she has are all cotton and denim. They clean easily enough.

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