Oprah’s footsteps echoed in the large underground community of the Hunters. She was urgently invited by Hedge, who was first in command of the Hunters, to join him. At four in the morning.
She kept her eyes on her leather boots as she passed the guards, whose stares they said could freeze a person in place as they drove their lance into your heart. Polite submission was the best way to greet them.
As she approached Hedges chamber, she could hear a woman crying in the room next to her. She peeked in and saw the Lady of Roses, Hedges wife, crying as she talked to her daughter Gretchen.
Oprah hurried on her way, hoping that the Queen hadn’t spotted her watching. One does not eavesdrop on the Queen.
Finally, she entered the chamber, and gasped.
Usually, when she had visited the chamber before, the walls were covered in vines and paintings. Each painting would show a human hunting an animal, or destroying the last of its species. They were there to remind those that saw them their mandate-protect the mythological creatures from mortals. But now there was a large bonfire in the center of the floor, and it was fueled by the paintings. And sitting on his throne, folded in on himself was Hedge.
The king never was unwell. He was alive as long as the creatures needed protection from the mortals. But in front of Oprah, the king was dying. The creatures didn’t need them anymore.
“My lord!” She cried, and raced to his side. “Is it done?”
“Yes,” he groaned, “the animals do not need us anymore. I have called you here so that you could deliver the message. Have the Hunters live with the humans and start their new lives.”
“But lord, most won’t listen! We can’t have them staying on the island if we cannot care for them anymore.”
“Make them listen!” He insisted, and started coughing again. “Go, Oprah.” He said. And she left.
Racing through the corridor, she tried to clear her head. Hedge was dead, and their job was done. She had to tell everyone.
As she approached the end of the hall, a figure jumped in front of her, causing her to run straight into it. She started to apologize, when the figure pulled out a towel and pressed it to her mouth. She started to scream, but it cut short when the figure took off its mask. And then there was nothing