The class sung as one.

“A, B, C, D,”

***

The girl painted her message quickly and accurately, at home with a brush as much as she was a bow.

She had carried the scar and had been cast out of her tribe. She had almost died before she found a Hunter to train her.

As it always was.

I waited outside the Inner Sanctum. As her Storyteller I was not privy to the goings on of Hunters. All her life I had recorded, taught to others and performed.” The storyteller paused to drink, wipe his mouth and say, through his swallow, “Hers and those before her.”

It was true, he hadn’t been allowed into the Inner Sanctum of the Temple of Light but he was allowed some artistic license.

“She placed the pages in front of the assembled elders. They looked; thought; grunted and scratched before, finally, giving their response.

A simple nod…”

The door to the Sanctum opened slowly.

She strode from the room, pulling her quiver on, and adjusting the position of her bow. The Storyteller handed her her knives, which she slipped into her boots, belt, and the middle of her back.

She nodded. It was enough to take the colour from his cheeks. She placed her hand on his shoulder and gripped in a way to reassure her hold companion.

He grabbed her and hugged her, hard.

The hand  obviously hadn’t worked.

***

On their journey many strange beasts passed their eyes, ancient civilizations welcomed them but nothing game them pause and, a year after the nod, in the middle of a desert, they gathered together the final storytellers.

They prepared during the day, mostly at noon, rehearsing, practicing.

Preparing.

When they were ready, they built a circle of smaller circles, each one holding a fire.

In the middle would be an unprotected area, an area of darkness within the circle of light.

They drew on the sand, pointed, grunted, stamped feet and plotted. Despite the spread of fire, the Darkness had managed to claim many lives. 

Tonight it ended.

The sun set, and the storytellers took their places. They mumbled, grunted and scratched. Anything to take their mind of the task ahead but the air full of fear and anticipation.

In the middle, in the shade, just before a planned circle of darkness, the Hunter stood defiant, with Bow and Sword, the scar on her arm visible.

It was time.

She stepped into her circle.

The Darkness moved swiftly and deadly. She barely had time to force the breath from her lungs before being plucked from the circle, lifted and thrown away from the lights. She landed heavily, but preparation was the key.

She remembered the descriptions. Pictured one – A Tall Man with the Thin Legs.

With a howl of frustration It came. A pale figure stalking from the darkness. As tall as three men upright, it was ghostly, almost slick. And glowing. She notched an arrow and let it loose. A second and third flew soon after.

She turned and ran, heading for the fires. They had to see. They had to tell the story.

She glanced over her shoulder as a roar ripped through the night. It had decided on a new form, and the pitch black dragon took to the air. She rolled, landed on her back, watched the dragon circle, it’s wings spread as wide as her eyes. She forced the fear aside.

The tribes had prepared her for this event, prepared her for years before she approached the Sanctum. 

Hidden at noon, outside in the sun, they had formed sounds; applied them to things. Nothing was written, nothing drawn. It was all spoken. There could be no proof.

The Hunter took a deep breath, opened her mouth and whispered, “Wolf.”

 

The Darkness felt it like a blow, The First Word, and was bound to its new form.

In the sky, where the dragon once was, a wolf now fell.

She was on her feet again running for the light. That fall was going to hurt it, but it wasn’t going to stop it.

She head the crunch, wet and heavy. Felt the cold on her. It had lost form, become Dark again. But it was confused. They had just drawn first blood.

She reached the circle, drew her sword and spoke its form in halting, malformed words. With a hiss, the pale man – spindly, and spiderlike – walked towards the circle. Behind it one of the storytellers lit a small well of oil. A line of light pushed the Dark closer to the Huntress.

Which was where it wanted to be. Lightning fast, it slashed out at her, raking nails across her chest, opening her skin, smelling her blood. She drove her sword up and into its arm, returning the pleasure. Its blood, black and thick, dripped form it. The sand below hissed and steamed as it fell. Whatever was in its blood, she didn’t want it on her skin.

Not that it mattered. Not in the long run. Neither was walking away from this.

The battle raged. She used her words to change its form, it attacker her with all its strength. She weakened with every blow it landed. It never slowed, never stopped. 

Victory was in its hand – It could destroy the last of the line and end the cursed Hunter’s family.

The murmuring started like a low wind. It hadn’t heard them until it was too late.

The Words.

The storytellers were telling their tale. Weaving it strong enough to hold them both. The Story of The Huntress – The Warrior of Light and her epic battle against The Dark.

She welcomed the construction, but it resisted – thrashing at the edges, breaking the narrative, stretching the credibility. If if couldn’t be believed, it couldn’t be held. 

Seeing its distraction the Hunter leapt and drove her sword into its chest.

They both froze. The storytellers extinguished their fires plunging the desert into darkness.

***

When dawn broke, four hours later, there was no evidence anyone had ever been there.

The storytellers spread their language – each with a new dialect, a new way of talking. With it they told, and retold, the story – their Spell. Each casting of the language keeping the bonds in place. Each telling gives it a new form, a vampire, and demon, another woman plotting to steal the heroine’s boyfriend.

Darkness bound in fiction.

***

“X, Y and Z. Now we know our ABC. Next time won’t you sing with me.” The teacher smiled.

“Good children. And with these building blocks, we’re going to teach you to Spell.”

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