“Wait up! Stop… wait… hey!”
The huntsman stopped and turned around, facing back the village he had only just left, and turning his back to the forest full of danger. His brows knitted into a frown.
“What is it, kid?”
“You forgot this shiny thing of yours back at my place.”
“The Path Crystal! I could have never forgotten such an item, give it back here, you thief!”
“Take it, I didn’t steal it. Promise.” In a rage, the huntsman took the small orange crystal from the boy’s hand and it started glowing stronger than before. “Woah! It’s even more beautiful now.”
“Go home, kid. This thing is none of your business.”
“You said earlier you’d be going on a mission for the king, right?”
“A dangerous mission. Who I’m doing it for is irrelevant.” As he spoke, the huntsman began turning around, ready to leave. However, the boy’s next words made him freeze midway.
“Then I’ll come with you!” You could feel his excitement coming out from every pore. The boy also began jumping happily, already making the first step deeper into the forest. The huntsman turned back around and pushed his free hand against his shoulder to stop him.
“There’s no way you’re coming with me. You’re young and this is a dangerous trip.”
“I don’t care of the danger. I can protect myself!” As if to demonstrate it, he took out of nowhere a beautiful dagger. An heirloom of a royal family long forgotten. Could he be… “Besides,” he added on the sad tone. “Nobody here likes me. They think I’m useless and foolish because I do things differently. I want to prove them wrong, show them I can do something important and do it right! I know I don’t belong here.”
“And so you decided to tag along with me.”
“Yes! I really want to come.”
The huntsman paused to think for a moment, scratching his beard. He gazed once again at the boy, then at the dagger he was holding, then back at the boy again. His grip was firm, and his face serious. He reminded him of himself, not too long ago.
“No second thoughts?”
“In that case, we’d better get moving. There’s a long way to go.”
“So you’re letting me come?” The smile on the boy’s face was the most precious thing the huntsman had seen in too long. He smiled back.
“Don’t make me change my mind.”
Full of excitement, the boy followed, sheathing back his dagger and looking around the forest. So far it was an area he knew well, better than most villagers in fact, but soon they would enter a darker place, one he had never dared venture out to. The huntsman next to him felt his slight fear, and knew how to exploit it.
“Do you know what we’ll be up against?”
“Let me tell you then. There will be wolves, really big ones with fangs like daggers. Luckily, these ones are immune to the common sickness so we don’t need to fear getting sick from them.”
“How come they’re immune?”
“Because they’re in fact werewolves, and they’re so much stronger than normal wolves. They’re the worst of their kind. Then we’ll have to face grotesque creatures like goblins and trolls, decaying corpses that pull you neath the ground, harpies, imps and… show I continue?”
“I think I can picture it well enough.” The boy swallowed as he was trembling, his eyes wide open and fixed on a point somewhere ahead, never looking down to see where he was stepping. To break him from that trance-like state, the huntsman put one foot before him as an obstacle for him to lose balance. It worked, and the boy was close to hitting the ground when the huntsman caught him midair.
“You’re not changing your mind now, are you?”
Standing back up, the boy looked the huntsman in the eye and spoke: “No way. I said I’d be coming. No second thought now.”
The huntsman liked the boy. He really reminded him of himself, back in the days.