It always freaks me out when people call me "my dear", but I guess that goes with the whole "Cornerwitch" aspect...
"You summoned me, my Lord." My voice echoed around the throne room, creating a bizarre effect, as if the room were filled with more than merely two beings.
A hacking cough came from the dark corner where the throne was positioned.
I began to rise from my knees toward my Lord's direction, when he spoke. His voice was a harsh whisper made worse by his tone.
"No. Stay where you are, Aeneas." The King scraped over my name. He still insisted on addressing me as Aeneas instead of "Hunter" or "Virgil" as most in his position would do. I always suspected that it was his way of showing me favor. Seeing as I was the most successful of the King's Hunters, that would make sense. But something lay hidden behind that name this time. Regret, maybe even bitterness. Whatever it was, it would stay hidden for I had no wish to delve into my Lord's secrets.
"I have called you here on account of my health." He paused, taken by another fit of coughs.
"I am no physician, my Lord." I said from my kneeling position.
A weak bark of laughte, then another cough. "I did not think you were. No, I want you to find me a cure."
A cure. I had wondered why he had waited so long to send me on that quest. As his best, I should have been the first among the Hunter's to go. But be that as it may, I had not gone. Maybe he had wished to spare me from some terrible fate, or thought that someone of lesser skill would be suitable for the task. But my speculations could not deliver an answer.
"I have waited long enough to send you, my best. But now the time has come."
"I will not fail, my Lord."
"No, you shall not. For if you do, you will share the same fate as your brothers."
His tone was dangerous and I dared not look up. If I did, he would certainly see the fear in my eyes. I had heard what had happened to others who had attempted to heal the King. Every physician and alchemist and witch in the land had tried, and failed. And for their failures... I would not dwell on their fates. For I would not share it.
With this resolve hardening in my heart, I looked up to the King.
I could see his face now, for he had leaned out of the shadows. A smile crept across his tortured face at my next words.
"I will not fail you, my Lord."
After exiting the Throne Room, I made my way to the Hunter's residency.
"Moir!" a voice called from a corner of the small tavern most Hunter's called home.
I turned toward the voice, and a smile tugged at the corner of my mouth.
"Turner. I see you've made it back from the Hinterlands. Did you enjoy chasing the Yeti's up there?"
Turner laughed and pounded me on the back.
"It's good to see you too, Moir. I hear you've made another score while I was gone."
"That depends on what you consider a score. And with your experience, I doubt you consider it much."
"I'd call a Phoenix a score, mate. How in the world did you manage that one?"
I gave Turner a knowing look.
"We Hunter's have our secrets, Turner."
"There are rumors going around you kept one of the feathers. I hear they have... magical qualities."
Before I could reply, a messenger came up to us.
"Hunter Moir, this is for you."
I took the letter and handed the boy a gold piece.
He scurried off, and I opened the letter.
I am afraid I write to bring you grave news. Your father has become ill. Please hurry home as soon as possible.
I felt the blood drain from my face. This complicated things. With my new missive from the King, I would not have time to search for a cure for my father. Unless the cure was the same... or could be found in the same place.
My mind whirred at the possiblities. Maybe... if I could find her... she could deliver both cures... or lift a curse.
"Moir?" Turner's voice shook me from my reverie. "Moir, what's wrong?"
"I have to go."
"What? I just got here and now you're leaving? I hope I'm not scaring you away."
"I have received an order from the King. I am to find the cure, or die trying."
Turner went silent for a moment.
"But it is an order from the King."
Turner looked at me, with a mixture of sorrow and resignation.
"You were a good friend, a brother."
I let a smile creep across my face.
"Turner, we will meet again. Do not despair. After all, I am not called the Moir Hunter for nothing, am I?"
"We will meet again." he said, then I turned to leave.
My life was far to complicated as it was to worry about what fate might await him, but I still sent a small prayer to the gods on his behalf.