They are unedited, written on the fly, and are going to be full of mistakes. And there is a heavy influence from Attack on Titan, Tokyo Ghoul, Nausica of the Valley of the Wind, and All You Need is Kill.
Let me know what you think.
Reclaim (working title)
Hunter Division – Civilian registered hunters who are conscripted to make a temporary new division in the military with the purpose of mass eradication of the Yajukei. Chosen for their pre-existing skills and physical strengths, shortening military training times from eighteen months to six months.
Chapter OneAngrily grumbling under her breath, Briar dumped the animal traps she’d dragged into the Hunter’s HQ to the floor. They clattered to the stone floor of the great hall, echoing throughout the space.
The only other person occupying the space sighed heavily.
“Damned bastards. No respect. No care,” she shrugged out of her hooded cloak. “They just come to our forests and set up these brutal traps which they don’t check for days, days! Not caring about the torture the animals go through. When we catch them, we should torture them the same way.”
“Briar,” Augie tried.
She moved to the table, throwing the cloak onto the bench seat. It felt good, a little violent. “They don’t consider what animals they kill, whether they’re young or old or coming up to breeding season or…”
She jerked her head up. Eyes widening, she realised where she was and what she was actually doing. “’Morning Augie.”
He sighed. “Found more?”
“Yeah,” glancing back at the steel contraptions with their spring tensions and sharp teeth only heightened her anger. “Still no pattern. They show up one day, but not the next necessarily. And not in the same area.”
Augie sipped his tea, carefully blowing across it’s surface first. “It’s going to be hard to catch them.”
Briar dropped to the bench opposite. “All of our hard work; ever time we’ve chosen to protect a species, to let them breed their numbers up again… it’s wasted if these assholes keep poaching.” The anger was taking a toll, zapping everything from her body. Her head dropped, forehead landing onto the table with a solid thump. The impact radiated pain briefly.
Punishment, she idly thought, this isn’t punishment enough for screwing up.
“Want some breakfast?”
“Hmm,” at the mention of food, her stomach grumbled.
Ten minutes later, two steaming plates were being devoured. Augie cringed which made Briar chuckled. She knew exactly how disgusting she was; the loud smacking of her lips as she chewed, the pace at which she was demolishing the food, and the sighs and coos that came forth. The intoxicating smell and taste of the first bite triggered her.
“When was the last time you ate?”
She shrugged. Eaten a proper meal… several days. Grazed on berries or other cold things… last night.
The door to the main entrance opened and the remaining two hunters for the township entered; Jin and Garcia. They took their spots at the table.
Garcia snatched the plate from Briar. “You’re going to make yourself sick if you eat like that,” she warned in her best mother voice.
“And me too,” Jin grimaced. “That’s gross.”
Briar swiped the back of her hand over her mouth. “Then look away, Jin.” She teased.
Garcia passed back the plate, but the regular threat was still there; eat like a human or no more food.
“Whatever,” Jin rolled his eyes.
Four registered hunters sat at the table in the centre of the great hall. Late morning light filtered through the huge windows, highlighting the dust floating in the air. In the middle of the table, the four of them studied the notebook together.
“More traps but from the East?” Garcia frowned at the mess of markings. Reaching over she elegantly marked onto the small map where the last lot of traps had been found.
“They were probably done late yesterday,” Briar chewed her thumbnail. “Different spot to the last two times.” She released her nail and started to trace with her fingertip each place they’d found traps.
Jin snatched the notebook from under Briar’s finger. “Are you positive there isn’t a pattern?”
“Sure, double check,” she drawled.
“They’re not selling the meat in town,” Augie added. “None of the butchers are admitting to taking anything from poachers and there hasn’t been anything officially registered in the records.”
Jin tossed the notebook back to the centre of the table. “So, they’re not registered hunters.”
“Poachers,” Garcia sighed heavily. “Probably selling it on the black market.”
“I just don’t know how we’re going to stop them,” Briar chewed her nail again. “There isn’t enough of us to patrol the forest, the authorities don’t care,” she focussed on the map again, this time looking at the surrounding. “Maybe we can go the villages nearby, see if we can find out about fresh meat being sold on the black market. Someone is accepting from non-registered hunters.”
Jin gave a curt nod. “I’ll go to the Highlands and see what I can find there, tomorrow.”
Briar smiled. “Thanks Jin.”
“I can head South,” Garcia suggested. “Try the villages on the way to the city.”
Briar had to stop her sigh. Why did Garcia always try to take on the most responsibility? “I’ll come with you. We can check together.”
“Guess that leaves me with the East,” Augie laughed.
“Excellent,” Briar grinned. They were doing something, something that could actually lead to results. “We have a plan. Let’s just hope that they’re not taking it all the way back to the city,” she worried her thumbnail again.
All four looked to the door.
Soldiers filed in, taking up space around the edge of the room, led by a short and stout man carrying a ledger. He marched right to the table the four sat at. “Hunters of Alburn.”
They tensed. Briar narrowed her eyes on the man as he slapped the ledger onto the tabletop. This isn’t a good official visit, she thought. What does the military want with us? She shifted in her seat, dread making the skin at the back of her neck crawl.
The official flicked through the book. “There are four registered hunters for this town that meet the requirements.”
“Requirements for what?” Jin burst out.
The official ignored him and continued with his announcement. “Jin, 23, no dependents. Augustus, 19, no dependents. Garcia, 23, no dependents. Briar, 28, no dependents.”
Briar’s stomach dropped away. Shit.
“Under the authority of the King, all registered hunters meeting the minimum requirement of being between the ages of 16 and 45 and have no dependents needing their help for care, are hereby conscripted for a period of national service.”
“No!” Briar slapped her hands to the table, the sudden impact stinging.
Jin followed with jumping up. “Conscription? For what?”
“The last time you conscripted hunters,” Briar barrelled forward. “We ended up with generational gaps in the profession! Look! We’re the only hunters here! And we struggled to get to this!” she swung her hand out and over the hall. Empty tables and benches were covered in layers of dust. “No, you can’t do this again.”
The official paid no attention. He let her rant but then continued with his scripted speech. “You have until the end of the day to put your affairs into order. Return to the Hunter’s HQ for processing. Any who refuse will be arrested and brought before the magistrate.”
Briar was jerked down into her seat. She sent Garcia a seething look.
Garcia hissed, “stop it Bri.” The hand gripping her wrist was shaking.
Shit. Briar gritted her teeth.
Jin suddenly dropped down also, grumbling.
Augie… he hung his head forward and covered his eyes with his hand. Each breath was a deep inhale that jerked his shoulders up.
A satisfied nod and the official left, taking the ledger and the soldiers with him.
Silence filled the space again. It echoed around the hunters.
Augie gasped, his hand dropping from his eyes to clamp over his mouth. Tears broke free and were streaming down his cheeks.
Briar swallowed hard. Shit, shit, shit! “Bastards,” she growled. “Surely they could’ve done… something better than this.”
“Like what?” Jin snapped.
“Recruit only half of us, leave at least two hunters to work for the village,” she yelled back.
“Conscript,” he tossed back. “They’re conscripting us. We don’t get a choice, Briar!”
Her hands curled into fists. “I know that!”
“Stop trying to look for ways to fix everything, then. You can’t fix this!”
“Shut up,” Garcia surged to her feet. “I can’t stand listening to you two argue more.” She gathered her cloak, picking up Briar’s and draping it over her shoulders. “We don’t have a lot of time. We should do what we have to.”
“Augie…” Jin started.
Startled, he turned his face away. “I…”
Garcia tugged on Briar’s shoulder. “We’ll leave now.”
To escape tumbling backwards to the floor, Briar stood and followed Garcia. She didn’t look back at Augie, not to check on him, or to say anything. First, there was nothing she could say, no comfort to be offered. Second, she needed to be stable. The announcement made her emotionally unstable.
She wanted to scream.
Pretend that it wasn’t happening.
At the door, she stopped. Turning back, she marched over to Augie. It tore at her emotions, tears prickling the back of her eyes savagely. Wrapping him in her arms she let those tear fall. “We’ll be fine. Whatever happens, we’ll… be fine.”
Then buried his face into the crook of her neck.
Fine… what would be fine? How?
Briar sagged against the closed door. She felt like she’d just lied to the kid. All that was left to be said was ‘I promise’ and she’d have the biggest lie ever uttered.
They no longer had any control over their lives. Anything could happen and they’d end up dead.
She searched her memory for the latest news mentioned recently; nothing in town had been said about a possible war.
“What are they doing?” she asked her empty room. The collection of plant specimens and stacks of books and notes scattered around the place didn’t answer.
She rolled her eyes. “Shit.”