Already dressed, the hunter sharpens his sword against the whetstone, the nearly silent scraping filling his cabin. The sun still falls, the sky dancing on the edge of night. Pouring water over his blade, he stands, his back to the window. Looking into the polished steel, he watches the reflection of the setting sun. Under the veil he smiles.
Finding the sheath with his foot, he kicks it into the air. Holding the sword upward, he closes his eyes. Like magic, the sheath falls onto the blade perfectly. Opening his eyes, Stanley loops his weapon under his belt, tying it securely to his waist.
The last swordsman leaves his tools to the floor of the barren room. Throwing open the door, he steps into the shadowy twilight. The messenger is there—what’s he doing here, Stanley wonders—waiting on him. His cup, full of jobs for the hunters at the base of the mountain, rests at his side. He’s holding out a strip of bamboo. Frowning, Stanley almost asks the youth what he means by this. Catching himself before breaking the vow of silence in front of the delivery boy, he snatches the strip of wood from the child’s hand and reads it.
The first line says it all, a mission failure. Gritting his teeth, he salutes, not even looking up from the bamboo at the messenger. Turning, the acolyte jogs down the mountain path, the deliveries jostling as he disappears into the shadows. Stanley reads on: “Mission failure, hunter dead.” He scans the job for a name. Finally, his eyes settle on it, “Richard.”
“The orphan,” the swordsman says to himself, a forbidden whisper on the mountainside.
Click here to finish reading the next installment of Wolf Head: The Party
Part 1: The Job
Part 2: Foreboding
Part 3: Aftermath
Part 4: Into the Night
Part 5: The Struggle
Part 6: Expelled
Part 7: Out From the Bones
Part 8: Respite
Part 9: Sunset
Part 10: Transformation
Part 11: The Shepherd
Part 12: The Party