*Note- this is a continuation of the Elemental series (find the first edition in the archives page)! A new perspective has been added to spice it up. Hope you enjoy! For all my Twitter users, remember to hit the Life and Lemons logo in the corner to visit the actual site (if you aren’t already on it). Happy reading!
This is the end. His heart pounded, a deep, thundering pulse that he could feel in his fingers all the way down to his toes. Dread was a panther, a shadow lingering just out of sight, following him as he watched the little boat speed off down the glass-like water, leaving an ominous trail of ripples in its wake. He could see her eyes in the water, hazel turning a jaundiced yellow with fury. His fine-tuned ears heard her violin-song voice in each sputter of the engine- a melodic, slightly husky sound that he had loved for so long. A voice had been (and always would be) disappointed in him no matter how many sins he committed for her.
Somewhere in his shattered heart he knew he should hate Artemis. She had made him his mercenary out of punishment for a crime long ago, made him do unspeakable things: fight, battle, kill, sin for her. Always for her. Always.
But even as regrets swirled like a whirlpool in his heavy heart, watching the captives jet across the waves, surveying the burned shreds of their bonds on the boat… Orion still loved her. Always her. Always. No matter how many times he heard her voice lower in disgust when he entered her sight, no matter how many innocents he had hunted or how many times she had turned away from him, he would always love her. The sound of her laugh, the flecked amber of her eyes, the gentle curl of her auburn braid against the nape of her neck.
Orion was the hunter, she was the huntress. It was simple- written in the stars, but never to be. Artemis had lost some of her humanity over the centuries; he had seen the spark of mercy fade from her eyes since the first time he had met her… yet still his adoration never faltered. She was the maiden goddess, and he was a man; sometimes forbidden love isn’t passionate, but rather something cold, red-hot like smoking dry ice. Artemis had ordered that they not kill any captives, but he didn’t care if this decision sealed his fate- Orion would do anything to serve her. His love (that was pure and sweet as a flute serenade long ago) had become something raw and twisted. But it had never faltered. Never. He wouldn’t fail her now.
Orion sucked in a breath, drawing an arrow from his ancient leather quiver. Other mercenaries shouted at him, fumbling with the wheel to pursue the young goddesses, the ship diving bravely ahead through the furious waves. Men were tossed from side to side on the deck, the ocean bending under the Sea girl’s blood-stained fingers. Orion never moved an inch. With a misplaced faith burning hot in his heart, the hunter slid the string back, the deadly silver tip glinting as the arrow itched to fly. Aiming. Her muscled, black-clad back in sights. The softest twang, the quickest motion, the strongest desire. Always. For. Her. He closed his eyes and let the arrow fly.
For the longest second, I felt nothing but the sea spray on my face and the tickle of wind in my flying hair. We were doing it. Miraculously, I hadn’t bled out on deck. Selene had smiled when I had asked her why that was, replying in the simple, regal way she always did, “The sea is right below deck, is it not? I don’t see a reason why it wouldn’t want to heal you.” My swimsuit that I practically lived in for all my life was torn, bloodstained, battered- but now it was finally drying in the whipping wind. Running on adrenaline, I was strong enough to mess with the sea and the sailboat in pursuit, sending Artemis’s mercenaries toppling. Sea salt barraged my nose, my new friends beside me, hope on the horizon in the form of… the actual Cape of Good Hope.
For the longest second, it was paradise. Then it wasn’t. A sharp, precise prick on my back. It felt like a needle for a fraction of a second, piercing the edge of my skin. But then it just kept going. And going. I could feel veins snapping, my bones cracking. I’ve been shot. I’ve been shot. Distantly, Kenna screamed. My vision blurred as I felt the now-familiar wet gush of blood down my back. I toppled forward. The crystal clear water blossomed with red. Zara shrieked, the dark girl veering the boat wildly. We careened around a corner, zooming past the Cape of Good Hope.
Through the smudged-watercolor haze, I saw Selene’s pale face above me. Strands of her glittery black hair tickled my cheeks like the brush of an angel’s wing. Somewhere in the sea of pain, I let go of my hold of the water. Talia’s blonde-framed face crumpled as she stared off into the distance. I could only imagine the sailboat surging ahead, hope fleeting away with the flap of a hummingbird’s wings.
“Daria? We’re going to Kommetjie now! Hold on!” I nodded weakly, but I was already sinking deep into the black depths. Kenna said something, but it was far away like a voice speaking above the water when I was way far under. Garbled. Quiet. Hopeless. Hold on.
Warm blood seeped down my back in gushing bursts. The metallic scent of blood smelled like vanilla and cinnamon as memories of birthdays and Christmas Days past flitted across my mind’s eye. Instead of feeling sad, or happy, there was a strange nothingness. There was something calming about letting yourself sink when you should be trying to swim.
I watched helplessly as the life started to drain from her eyes. “Daria?” The word was taut as a fraying tightrope, desperation sinking its malicious jaws into my voice. “We’re going to Kommetjie now! Hold on!” Even as she gave a weak nod, I saw her slipping, body starting to go limp. The blood-slicked arrow protruded angrily from her back, just missing the heart. Daria had already been weak from the previous injury. There was no way she would survive without divine intervention or serious doctors. Kommetjie was the closest town, the closest hope. And Artemis’s mercenaries were hot on our tail, inching closer each second.
“Gun it, Zara!” The girl nodded, engine roaring even faster, sputtering pathetically. It wasn’t made for this. Kenna splashed water onto Daria’s lifeless figure as best as the rippling current would allow, splattering all of us with wet droplets. Talia motioned for her to stop, scrunching her brow in concentration and clenching her fists. There was a storm coming, I knew. Talia may be meek at times, but her power was unrivaled. Panic flared her nostrils, thunderous black clouds clumping the sky into a dark mass. A column of rain lightly sprinkled down on Daria, but I could see the sheets of hail pounding the mercenaries on the horizon.
The small boat’s engine sputtered again, screaming like a banshee on a cold winter night. But we were still too slow. The sailboat was gaining, fueled by the storm’s wind. Struggling to manage the rain, hail, and wind, Talia squinted her eyes in effort, pushing her hand out and shifting the wind with it. Kenna clamored to the back of the boat, surveying the struggling sailboat for the sniper. I saw him before she did.
I pointed. Kenna’s face fell. A muscular, towering man with a crown of golden hair stood on the bow, unperturbed by the rocky sea and howling winds. For a brief second, I made eye contact. Before I could blink, his bow was up.
“Get down!” I screamed. A silver blur whizzed through the air, shearing a strand of hair from my head. Zara shrieked, ducking at the last second as another arrow rocketed towards her. He fired rounds of them with lightning-fast motions. There was hard fury in his stare, a devotion that sent each arrow pummeling through the sky with purpose. I wasn’t sure if he was bloodthirsty, dumb, or completely insane. With each shot his lips quirked up into a smirk, watching the arrows graze us: Talia’s arm, Zara’s leg, my hair- and with each barrage of silver blurs flying through the air, he looked up to the dark sky, lips moving like a silent prayer.
Dodging and ducking in a trance of movement, my eyes kept wandering over to Daria’s slack face, the trickle of blood down her back, the lethal silver arrow embedded in her back. All we could do was protect Talia… and have faith in the storm.
Faraway I heard screams of pain. Selene’s voice saying my name. Wind roaring, a struggling engine. A groan that held effort, a groan of someone trying to hold on. I clawed at life, reaching blindly in the blackness for an angel’s touch. Prayers flowed like a river in my head, but I couldn’t move my lips to let them free. Life was above the surface of the water. The mercenaries’ yells. The whizz of an arrow. A steady drip somewhere on my body. Kenna’s rough whisper, “We’re here.”
They’re in Kommetjie. Hold on. Hold on. I could feel death gripping me. Sensations were growing softer as my will started to melt away. The pressure of the arrow in my back was like an echo, detached. Rain tapping on my back in a cold pitter-patter was the only little bliss on my body. It didn’t matter. I could feel myself leaving my body behind, sinking deep underwater. Death coerced me down with each feeble attempt to kick upwards. I didn’t quite let go. I couldn’t quite release my grip.
Every book I’ve ever read, every movie I’d ever seen depicted this exact moment as one of panic. Clawing desperately, fighting to stay alive, veins tingling with emotion and sensation! But I just felt detached, like my spirit was calm as my earth body panicked. I went numb to the world, losing all sensation of my body. There was only darkness. And yet, I didn’t quite let go. Why? Because hope fluttered in the dusky world, a dancing flame lighting the black. I followed the light, and didn’t look back.
Orion nodded to his fellow mercenary to dock the boat, a young-looking man with bright green eyes and a shock of red hair. He looked jubilant and young, about early twenties with an unwrinkled face. He looked happy and youthful. Of course, looks could be deceiving. Orion himself, the huntsman, had been around for hundreds of thousands of years but didn’t look a day over thirty. He still remembered, somewhat wistfully, how life had been as a human before he had met Artemis. Hunting in the woods, laying in the meadow at sunset watching the blaze of red and yellow brushstrokes fade into dusk, naming each constellation in the night sky without a clue that one day he would become one of them… it didn’t matter now. His love had changed him forever, altered everything he had ever known, thrown all his morals away like dust to the wind, carried away with each silvery word from her lips.
“We’re docked!” the young man called. Orion wondered what Artemis had done to him to make him indebted to her. Was he in love with her too? The thought made him cringe… both out of jealousy and at the fact that technically, he laid no claim to her heart. No one did, of course. But it still hurt.
Orion blindly pushed down the pain. It was swept away by a wave of devotion, the dog-like desire to never fail her taking over everything else. He gracefully hopped off the bow with the light footedness of a panther prowling the jungle. He could see the black-haired girl turning the corner at a run, disappearing into the tangled streets of Kommetjie, Cape Town with the bleeding young woman in tow.
Even surveying the blood-spattered cement, Orion couldn’t find even a pang of sympathy in his heart. It had been broken every time he saw her face disappointed, every time she rejected him… every word that she spoke shattered him with hopeless longing. After a while, his heart had stayed shattered, never quite healing. He had never tried to fix it. In the end, he knew he would fall right back apart the next time he laid eyes on her, so what was the point mending a hurting heart? Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the blonde girl scamper off after them, straining to maintain the rapidly growing storm. The dark girl slipped around the corner too, pain written plainly across her face- both from the small arrow wound, and, he suspected, from a deeper emotional hurt buried beneath.
He smiled in spite of the grim sight, drawing his bow and bouncing off after them down the sidewalk. A twisted emotion resembling happiness rose inside him, one that only came from the fresh blood of a new hunt and the rush of a chase. He may be broken-hearted, merciless, foolishly in love, but more than anything, Orion was a huntsman. It was time to hunt.