Updated: Jul 18, 2021
The creature crouches on the slate rooftop, shrouded by the night, silently watching the dark alley three floors below. Like all effective hunters, he waits patiently, unmoving, biding his time. The creature passes easily for human, with perhaps a touch of elven blood to the keener eye, beyond adolescence but aged fewer than thirty summers. Close-cropped black hair frames his narrow, cruel face.
He is in fact neither human or elf. He is the hunter, far older than his appearance suggests, and there is nothing faster, stronger, more deadly than the hunter.
He is relaxed, completely at ease as he waits on the rooftops of Gallas. This ancient city, with its twisted alleys, shadowed waterways and crumbling towers is his domain and he takes what he wants from it, feeding from it. The ignorant city folk are his to consume and he plucks them from the city streets like grapes from the vine to satisfy his hunger.
He hears the scuff of her shoes on the stones long before the woman turns the corner, hurrying down the darkened alley towards the building upon which he waits. He can smell her scent from here, a myriad of rose-water, sweat and the stale ammonia stench from a day spent working in the nearby tannery. She is now making her way home, taking the quicker route, this twisted, shadowed, dangerous alley.
She is petite, pretty, walking with an air of confidence as if in defiance of the foreboding alley, but the creature knows better. He hears her heartbeat speed up, smells the fear in her sweat.
He smirks as she glances nervously behind her. Has she realised? Can she now sense the danger that waits patiently for her in the shadows? Even humans with their inferior senses have some survival instinct.
So, will she turn back to take the longer, safer route home? Or does she continue on, knowing that the night market with its lights and noise and people is a mere fifty paces ahead of her, just beyond that final turn in the alley?
He smirks again as she speeds up. Silly girl. Her footsteps become more urgent. Her heartbeat begins to pound, driven by fear, and her breathing becomes shallow and panicked.
He leans forward as she scurries past, directly below him. The creature leaps from the rooftop, lands silently, barely stirring the debris littered across the alley floor and lunges forward, slamming the woman into a wall and forcing the air from her lungs.
This is not the tanner woman, but another, the one he had been watching all along, the one who had been waiting in the shadows. This woman is clad in dark leathers and a cloak, no doubt a cutpurse or petty street killer waiting for an easy mark. He sees the surprise in her face, this hunter-become-hunted. He grins as her eyes widen in fear, as she sees his oversized teeth and recognises the creature for what it is: the hunter.
She is slammed into the wall by the creature, surprised by both its speed and strength. She smells the copper scent of blood, rotting flesh and death from its cruel, grinning mouth. Its arm is pressed across her chest like an iron bar, pinning her firmly against the alley wall. The creature's maw gapes wide, exposing long, jagged fangs as it presses in to tear out her throat.
A blade springs from the sheath on her free arm into her hand which she rams deep into the creature's gut. It pauses in surprise, then grins, perhaps believing the dagger to be an ordinary blade of steel, harmless to its kind.
But this is silver, and enchanted. Sunlight bursts from the hilt, streaming out between her fingers. More light explodes from the creature's eyes and mouth, filling the alleyway, momentarily turning night into day. Cracks of light ripple across its chest, its face and arms, bursting into flame, consuming the creature until it is nothing but fading embers that shower down onto the cobbles.
Now the creature is nothing more than dust and ash, filth on the alley floor. The woman brushes the last few embers and dust from the front of her cloak, and looks up and down the alley. The tanner fled, by now in the relative safety of the night market and having learnt a dangerous lesson about the nights in Gallas.
The leather-clad woman returns the dagger to its hidden sheath and stalks off down the alleyway, satisfied that another creature has been slain. She has killed others before and intends to kill many more. She is the hunter.