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The Eternal Hunt

by Bradley Ramsey (He/Him) 6 months ago in Short Story · updated 6 months ago
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Death and its sweet release shall offer no respite for you...

Photo by Ben Griffiths on Unsplash

“To break this oath is to scorn the Faceless God and its spawn,

Oath breakers shall be hunted from dusk to dawn,

When their blood is spilled, their punishment begins anew,

Death and its sweet release shall offer no respite for you…”

- Excerpt from the Oath of the Forgotten Children

Darwyn Novak was but a humble farmer before he joined the Order of the Forgotten Children. They promised him safety from the encroaching hordes. Unpseakable terrors that poured from abyssal pits across the kingdom, festering like open wounds on the world.

He only had to take their oath, knowing full well the punishment for those that forsake their duties in this life or the next.

He was a faithful servant, but the Faceless God demanded sacrifice. When they came for his wife, he said nothing. When they came for his daughter, he could not abide by their creed any longer.

Raindrops fell hard upon Darwyn as clutched his infant daughter. She was wrapped in a tattered blanket, crying and screaming as he thrashed the reins of the horse he rode upon.

“OATH BREAKER!” a raspy voice screeched.

The sound of its voice shook the very trees that surrounded him. Darwyn knew he could not outrun the emissary of the Faceless God, but he refused to surrender his daughter to their blasphemous rituals.

The creature pursuing him let loose another bone-shattering scream. Darwyn’s horse, startled by the sound, stopped in place and threw him from its back. Darwyn landed in the mud with his daughter. Before he could climb to his feet, the horse darted off into the darkened forest.

Darwyn spotted a trunk with a hole in the center and ran to it. He gingerly tucked his daughter into the crevice where she would be safe from the storm.

“OATH BREAKER!”

Darwyn spun around and saw the thing that was chasing him. A floating figure, clad in tattered black robes, with a face hid just barely by a hood. It wielded a massive scythe, with a blade as long as Darwyn was tall.

It clutched the wooden shaft of the weapon with bony hands. A flash of lightning revealed the lower half of its face, covered in pale skin stretched thin like dried canvas. It grinned through a mouth full of long, thin, crooked fangs as a forked tongue lashed at the air around it.

Darwyn was no fighter, but he would stand his ground. He raised his fists and planted his feet as the creature swung back its scythe. With a deft motion, it sent the scythe flying through the air, spinning horizontally.

Darwyn stood no chance. The blade cut through trees as if they were mist, and the blade soon passed through his torso without a second thought. He felt a trickle of blood run out from within his mouth. The taste of copper was pungent as he looked down and watched his innards spill out from within the wound.

Everything went black.

"GAME OVER"

Derek stared at his monitor as he held the controller with one hand and took a long sip of his beer with the other.

“Gotta turn down the difficulty on that fight,” he said, scribbling a few words into the already packed list of fixes within the notebook on his desk.

Derek leaned back in his chair and thought about the game he had been pouring all of his waking hours into for the last five years. Something about it still wasn’t quite right. It always felt wrong for the game to end when the player died. After all, oath breakers were not granted the mercy of death in this world.

The game returned to the title screen. The Eternal Hunt displayed on a black background in stylized font, while a message flashed beneath it:

"Press X to Break Your Oath."

He looked down at his design notes, contemplating the gameplay loop. He had considered making the title a roguelike, designed to be repeated until you grew strong enough to win, but he hated repetition in games. Even so, he wasn’t about to give up. There had to be a middle ground.

Derek wrote a string of question marks on his notepad and set it down. He pressed the X button and waited for the game to load.

A crash came from down the hall, like something heavy had been knocked over. Derek was alone in the house for the weekend, so it couldn’t have been his wife or his daughter.

He stood up and switched on the light in the hall. On the opposite side, he saw a silhouette standing in the kitchen.

“Hey! Whoever you are, you need to get the fuck out of my house before I call the cops!”

The silhouette turned, and Derek spotted a familiar, pale face staring back at him.

“OATH BREAKER!” It screeched.

Derek stumbled backward into his home office and slammed the door shut. His mind was reeling, wondering if this was some fucked up dream. Was he hallucinating?

The tip of a scythe slammed into the door. Derek stood motionless as it ripped the entire thing off its hinges in an explosion of splintered wood.

The emissary of the Faceless God moved silently down Derek’s hall, it’s scythe barely able to fit in the limited space. The blade scrapped the walls, sending a thin mist of paint trailing behind it.

The figure ducked through the open doorway and loomed over Derek. The smell of sulfur and ash assaulted his senses.

“Listen, I don’t know how this is even possible, but I didn’t break any oath! You’re not real!”

The emissary pointed to Derek’s screen and his eyes darted over to it. The loading screen had finished. The main character was standing in the rain, clutching his child close as lighting cracked above them.

Derek threw his hands up in the air as he continued to backpedal.

“It’s just a game, man! It’s not real!”

The emissary plunged its scythe downward, cleaving it into Derek’s head and splitting it open in the center.

Derek could see his own blood running through his vision. The emissary pulled out the scythe and swung it across in a sweeping motion, cleaving his head from his shoulders.

Derek woke up in a panic, lying on the floor of his office. He reached up and touched his head, then his neck. Both were unharmed.

He climbed to his feet, catching his breath. It was all just a dream. At least, that’s what Derek thought until he saw the splintered remains of his door scattered across the floor.

He rushed to his phone, still sitting on his desk. He picked it up and dialed his wife’s number, anxiously waiting for her to answer as the phone continued to ring.

“Derek? What’s going on, it’s late.”

“Babe, you need to get out of there. Take Phoebe with you and get on the road, now!”

“What? Why?”

“Just call me when you’re on the road, please!”

“Okay, I’ll get our things.”

“Good, thank you. I love you. I promise I’ll explain everything when I can.”

Derek hung up and scrolled through his contacts. While he had done the bulk of the work on his game, he had hired a freelance writer to pen the story.

The phone rang once, twice, and then someone picked up.

“Hey, Derek, what’s going on?” the writer asked.

“We need to talk. Now.”

Short Story

About the author

Bradley Ramsey (He/Him)

Lover of dogs, gaming, and long walks on the beach. Content Marketing Manager by day, aspiring writer by night. Long time ghostwriter, finally stepping into the light. Alone, we cannot change this world, but we can create better ones.

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