Ava smiled in spite of herself as she reached the city of Talesin. She had ridden hard for two days, trying to catch up to the doppelganger. It left a trail of animal corpses in its wake, all of them ripped open in the same manner. It wanted her to follow it to Talesin, but no matter how hard she rode she never caught up to it. After the long hours spent riding through the forest, both Ava and her mare were on the verge of collapsing. She needed to rest.
A few bricks and stones were scattered along the ground where the city walls used to be. Houses and buildings were clustered together making paths and alleys throughout the town extremely narrow. Few merchants attempted to peddle goods in the streets, but most remained within the perceived safety of their building. People crowded the streets, most dressed in large cloaks that concealed their identities, picking the pockets of unsuspecting travelers. One unlucky pickpocket was caught in the act, catching a dagger in his back as he tried to flee. No one turned to look or seemed to care as his dying shrieks echoed over the noise of the crowd.
Ava pulled her cloak over her head, concealing the red ringlets framing her face. She held a knife in one hand, concealed within the sleeve of her cloak, while she led her mare with the other hand. It had been years since she traveled through Talesin, but she hadn’t forgotten how to survive here. There wasn’t a more wretched hive of scum and villainy in the seven kingdoms. Most of the businesses in town were nothing more than a front for some other illegal form of activity, usually gambling or slavery. The few honest businesses that cropped up were eventually bought out or their owners met an early death. There was incredible profit to be made in Talesin for those willing to gamble with their lives. And good bounty hunters like herself were always in high demand.
One bandit was daring enough to try and get close enough to Ava to pick her pockets. Her dagger flashed in the light as he closed in, convincing him to seek an easier target. She kept vigilant watch as she pushed through the mass of people, making her way toward an inn where she could rest and listen for any signs of the doppelganger. Amidst a row of rotting buildings was a large, colorful tavern. Ava smiled as she tethered her horse in the stable. The Drasnian Prince was still in business after all these years, and it seemed to have flourished. She hoped the innkeeper, Radek, would remember her fondly. After all, she saved him from several assassination attempts the last time she was in Talesin.
As she left the stables a figure stepped out from the shadows behind her and grabbed her, pressing a knife to her throat. “Look who decided to come sneaking back into Talesin,” a familiar voice said as he tightened his grip on her. “I thought you would have learned your lesson the last time you were here.”
This is another installment in the Monster Hunter series. You can catch up on Ava’s adventures by following the links below.