Summary of Previous Chapter:
The Hunter's Year Chapter Four is the 4th installation of my story The Hunter's Year.
In the third chapter, Persi met with the brothers only to discover a heinous plan is brewing in the Underground. No one seems to know what it is, but with Andrew as a vampire, James as a Lycan, and their mother as the Fae, it seems this plan is well under way. Persi must decide if her loyalty is to the Hunters or to the brother that never got a say in their future. Only before that can happen, Persi is reminded of her place in the Hunters, and the reality that maybe she will just be a delere.
The Hunters Year Chapter Four
My head was so dizzy after portaling back, I was having an issue standing up straight. I wobbled my way back into the School without tact or grace. It was usually how I walked, but at least now I had a reason.
Andrew had opened a portal for me. I know what you’re thinking. “Big risk, Persie, any other bright ideas you got back there?”
I knew he could have taken me anywhere. A coven’s den, the middle of the ocean, the jungle. But something told me that Andrew wasn’t the bad guy here. Well, he was obviously. All vampires were. But it seemed like the only thing he cared about was his brother. He wanted James safe and un-tormented. Whole again. Kinder. More receptive to Andrew’s attempts at friendship.
My guilt added to the sick feeling. Was I really going to push them both off the edge? Was I even capable of that? It was a question I didn’t have time to answer. Not at that moment at least. First I needed to get back into the School.
I sneaked in through the kitchen door and a row of line cooks turned towards me. My favorite was a man named Angelo. He was big, Italian, and his accent was superbly New York. I’d asked him a few times how he’d ended up with the Hunters and it was always met with silence and another plate of food.
“What the hell are you doing?” He said, coming up to me.
I touched my head and tried to make my feet stand firm, “Mushroom hunting?” I said more like a question.
He turned me around and dusted off my jacket, “Yeah, right,” he said and faced me. “Persi, you can not let those kids get you down.”
I stared at him, “What?”
He shrugged, “I heard about Xavier’s kill. Only see, I don’t think he really killed anyone ‘cause I saw him digging out the back dumpster for a stake and it happened to be the same dumpster you were dropping something in at four in the morning last Thursday.”
I stared at him, “You saw me?” I said with my brow pinched up high.
He shrugged, “I stay up a lot,” he said. “Found a way to get past the wards here and I’ve taken up infomercials as my new hobby.”
“You’re buying from infomercials?” I asked.
He shook his head and jerked his hands out and up, “No,” he said. “Of course not, I’m learning about what I need to do to take my ideas to the big time.” He leaned in and put his hand to the side of his mouth, “I ain’t just a pretty boy chef, Persi, I got dreams like anybody,” he said. His belly shook as he laughed. Then it stopped and he looked at me, “You killed something, didn’t you?” He said.
I looked down.
“Ah,” he said and slapped me on the back. “That’s my girl. Stronger than people know, smarter than anyone here, and a force of nature.”
I looked up at him and chewed on my lip, “No one knows it was me. And I didn’t kill him, I just stabbed him.”
He threw his hands down, “Forget about it. Your time will come. Now get upstairs and get changed ‘cause we’ve got breakfast in twenty minutes,” He said.
My eyes went wide, “Breakfast?” I said and scrambled for my cell phone. “What time is it?”
“It’s six,” He said and made a face. “What, you hit your head getting those mushrooms,” he said and then danced his hands around as if he didn’t believe my story.
I tried thinking of any reason my meeting with the brothers had taken over eight hours. It was impossible. Portals were instant travel, so it couldn’t have been that. Andrew was too new to use mind control. James was too erratic to have done anything. What the heck was going on?
“I don’t want to hear shit,” A man screamed. A metal bowl slammed into the ground and bounced a few times.
I wanted to cover my ears and wince. Instead, I looked to Angelo, “What’s that?” I said.
Angelo put his finger over his mouth, “I know better than to stick my nose in that,” he said. “Go change, Persi, I’ll make those eggs you like.”
I nodded and heard more shouting coming from down the kitchen. Angelo might have been too wise to poke his nose in, but I was just dumb enough.
There was a room off to the left of the kitchen covered with a single line of fabric as the door. It was thin enough that I could see Collins and Xavier’s dad Ricks inside. I hid beside the door frame and listened in.
“You do that again, Mary,” Ricks said. “You tell anyone, you let this slip, you fight me on any of this and it’ll be the last thing you do, you hear me?”
Collin’s squared her jaw, “I was just-”
Rick’s hands cocked back and slapped her across the face. She let out a yelp and her body twisted from the impact. She landed on the floor and gripped her cheeks.
My hand was slammed over my mouth to silence the scream caught in my throat. I wanted to tear him apart. I wanted to save Collins and stop him. But I knew that was a surefire way to get us both dead.
Collins bent her head down and her shoulders started shaking like she were in tears.
Then the laughter started.
“You think you own me don’t you?” She said with a smile. She looked up at him. “You think I’m a slave to you in all this. That I’ll do your bidding until the end of time.”
“Oh, I know you will,” He said. “Because this is your last stop. No one else wants you, Mary. You’re lucky you're pretty or your ass would have been tossed out years ago.”
I was so flat against the wall, I almost melded with it. My mind was racing and trying to piece together what they were talking about. This is the love affair everyone gossiped about? This is what had the girls dreaming about a moment with Ricks? I swallowed and shook my head.
Collins grew quiet a moment and then spoke with a new firmness in her voice. “Fine,” she said. “I’ll make the call. I’ll put your little plan together, but when this goes to hell, you remember it was me who told you it was a mistake.” She scoffed, “Remember that when you pin it all on me too.”
He sighed, “I’m not pinning anything on you,” he said.
I heard her smile, “Yes. You will.”
Another silence passed and Ricks tore out of the room. He froze. Turned back. Locked eyes with me. His shoulder fell and disgust bled into his face. “Unbelievable,” he said. He shook his head and pressed forward.
My hands dropped from my mouth and ran into the room with Collins. She was on the floor with a fresh bruise forming on her cheek. Blood ran down her face from her brow to her jaw. She didn’t even look up at me. Just went to her feet and slapped the floor’s dust off her pants. “Yes?” she asked.
I lost my nerve for a moment. “Are you okay?” I said.
She nodded, “Always,” she said. “Why aren’t you in bed?”
I swallowed and looked at the time on my phone. “It’s almost breakfast. I was waiting for the line to start,” I said.
“Great,” Collins looked at me finally. “I guess that’s why you snuck out last night and didn’t come back until just now,” she said. My eyes went wide. “And don’t tell me you were mushroom hunting. In fact,” she said, shaking her hands, “Don’t tell me anything. You get a free pass, whatever you were doing, don’t do it again.”
I looked at her and raised my jaw. “He’s an asshole, Collins,” I said.
Collins looked at me for a moment in silence. “He’s your leader, Persi. He’s my leader, that earns him a little respect,” she said. My confidence was squashed. “GO get breakfast. Then training,” She said. “Today you’re taking on Anna.”
Yep. All my confidence– squashed and compacted.
“Okay,” I said and started backing up. “Yes, Ma’am.”
When I turned towards the door, I could feel Collins staring at me like she wanted to say something. She didn’t though and I was out of earshot before she got the nerve.
Then it was to the lunch room.
Breakfast was a quick affair. Angelo made me eggs the way I like them. Poached on toast with some avocado. It helped a little in the face of taking on Anna, but nothing could prepare you for getting your ass handed to you in front of your entire class. It was better than the whole school, granted, but I’d also done that before.
It helped getting your ass kicked if you were full. Not if you got kicked in the stomach, but just a good punch to the jaw? Plus, if it got broken you’d already eaten so you didn’t have to worry about it for a few hours.
“Persi,” Anna called out when I got to the training room.
My eyes focused on the room. Tension built up in my chest as it always did when I was there. It was a lot of padding, lots of weapons, lots of guns and bullets, swords and shields, brass knuckles and knives. And I sucked at all of them.
I went over to Anna who was sitting with Xavier and Tess. Xavier was fuming off to the side. “Hey Polka-dot,” He said. “Glad you could join us.”
I grimaced and then let my face fall. Being called Polka Dot was worse than Candy Corn. I could always change the color of my hair or get a new body shape if I tried hard enough. Changing the sparse red moles on my body was another story.
Anna stood beside me and put her hands on my shoulders, “In Asia, she’s lucky for having those spots. What are you lucky for Xavier? Being born to the biggest jackass in the world?” she said.
I almost seconded that and fought the urge to look at Anna. She’d never really defended me before in a genuine way. Not really, and not without adding her own insult to me at the end.
Tess even looked at me with soft eyes. “They’re not really ugly,” she said and then paused. “Well, not gag-inducing at least.”
I looked down at a single red mole on my arm. It was just a dot on there like I’d marked myself with a red pen. My neck flushed red as I lost patience, “What do you guys want?” I asked.
Anna looked at me, “Where the hell were you last night? I had to cover for you with the nerd alert watch patrol,” she said.
I turned around and saw Ennis Waldfrom walking into the training room. He wore a small badge on his chest that let people know he was a watchman for the elders in the school. Bed checks, morning wake-ups, food retainment. The only comparison I have is the nerdy high school hall patrol in Hollywood films. Annoying little rats are what they were.
“He’s not a nerd,” I said, trying to defend him.
“You’re right, that’s mean to nerds,” Anna said. “Even you didn’t become a watchman. That’s how you know it’s dumb.”
I looked at Anna and felt like the balance in our relationship had been restored. “Great,” I said.
“So?” Tess said. “Where did you go last night?”
“She went to Calpoosa,” Xavier said.
My eyes went wide and Tess and Anna gave an audible gasp.
“What the hell?” Anna said. “What’s the matter with you?”
It was a defining moment for me. I could either act like a badass. I could tell the truth. I could make something up.
“I wanted to make sure the vampire was dead,” I said.
Tess’s eyes blew up, “Wh-” she said and finished. Nothing else came out.
Anna stared at me. “Why didn’t you ask me to go?” she said.
Because we’d just fought? Because you said I was useless? Because you said I was destined to be a delere?
I shrugged, “I needed to go on my own,” I said. It was true enough.
Xavier stared at me, “Is it over? Is he dead?” he asked.
I nodded, “Yeah,” I lied. “I saw his brother and he’s–”
“His brother?” Anna asked. “The Lycan? The Lycan is his brother, what does that mean? Did you talk to him?”
Oh Shit, I thought. Leave it to Anna to be a sniper with gossip details.
“Anna,” Collins called. We all turned. “Get ready for sparring. You’re going to demonstrate today,” she said. Her voice lowered, “So are you Persi.”
Anna turned back to me and smiled. “Later losers,” she said then turned to me. “This isn’t over, Persi. I want an answer.”
Xavier got up and walked past me. His shoulder rammed into me and I rocked back.
“Wow, I love seeing him pissed,” Tess said with a smile. “You made him open a portal, huh?”
I stared at her, “Can we not pretend like we’re friends, please?” I said.
She smiled, “I can teach you to open it yourself, you know? Pretty simple once you get the hang of it. None of my students have ever cut themselves in half.”
I sat next to her, “Tess, I’m not messing with Biters. I know how that ends,” I said.
She made a face, “Just ‘cause your mother was too weak to handle it, doesn’t mean you’ll be the same way.”
I stared at her with a dropped face.
“Oh come on, Persi,” She said and leaned back on her arms. She was sitting on a stacked row of mats with her feet hanging off the side. “That’s not even a tenth as bad as what’s been said about her overall. Or you for that matter.”
I looked down.
“Your mom was weak,” She said. “So was your dad. They gave into the bitters instead of using them to help themselves and that’s weak so they’re weak and probably why you’re weak.”
My eyes would have flashed red if it were possible. “Tess?”
She looked up at me, “Yeah?”
“Screw you,” I said and then walked away.
Jake was coming up at that point. He paused and looked at me, “Did I miss something?” He said.
“Candy Corn’s sensitive,” Tess whispered to him.
“Ah,” He said as I walked further away, “Sorry Persi, Tess has a mouth on her.”
“Excuse me,” Tess said, and sounded like she hit Jake.
Every time I walked into that training room it was like my body became something else. Something weaker and destined to fail. My entire personality shifted. My mind went duller. My legs were heavier. My entire body felt like lead weights.
Then there was the added pressure of Anna, Xavier, and Tess. I never knew which was the worst out of them. Jake wasn’t so bad, he was just led by his hormones. Anyone who was lead with their brain couldn't stand Tess for more than a few minutes but, once again, she had the boobs.
Anna had the fighting skills. Xavier had everything else. Even Jake was middle-top of the class and they were all idiots. What was wrong with me? I was smarter than all of them put together? I knew the fight patterns better. After all, look at what I had done in the field. Look at my success there.
“Persi,” Collins called out.
I looked at her, a bolt of ice water in my chest. No, no, no, no, no, no, I said to myself.
“Get in the ring,” she said.
Snickers went around the room and my body was frozen.
My phone vibrated in my hand and I looked down at the screen pleading it was a message that would get me out of this.
It was Andrew.
I need to see you. Now, the text message said. And hurry.
I Swallowed and looked back up. Anna was hopping in place, her veins popping out of her hands like a champion. “Come on Candy Corn,” she called out to me. “I might go easy on you this time.”
“Hurry up, Colt,” Collins said.
I dropped my bag and went into the ring. My chest was tight. My muscles were ridged. My mind was torn between meeting Andrew and not looking like an idiot.
Anna stepped towards me and patted my shoulder. “Come on, be a badass again,” she said. “You’ve got this.”
I nodded. Yes. Yes, I did have it. I’d staked a vampire in the last week. I’d talked to Others and lived to tell the tale. I was going to ruin a major plot in the Subground. I had strength. I was independent. I was a badass.
“Go,” Collins yelled.
I lunged for Anna, all my strength giving over to ripping her apart.
Her hand swung out and punched me in the face.
I rocked back and fell. My butt hit the mat and my eyes lifted to Anna in a daze. Blood squirted from my nose. My ears were ringing. My face was hot and red.
Collins sighed and put her head in her hand. “Okay,” she said. “Who’s next?”
Note from Author: This is was the first chapter I've written that was almost entirely dicatated! Not bad for the first run. Stay tuned though... it's gets better. Find out next week what happens when Andrew meets Persi and what it means for both of their futures!
Aight, Stay Saucy,
XOXO - Kate