Orion the Bounty Hunter Chapter 3: To Ride

Orion had no issues with the overnight room she was given in the prince’s wing. It was opulent, but that was to be expected. She didn’t bother going to dinner and instead ate some of the jerky from her pack. Soon, it was night, and she simply went to bed.

Wandering around a palace was asking for trouble, especially with a royal family as full of gossip and backstabbing as Malamut’s.

Orion woke up to a cold nose prodding her face. She scrunched her eyes together and blindly felt around for her attacker. Upon encountering a head covered in feathers and fur, she scratched.

Sirius always woke Orion up at dawn—unless she was bribed the night before with a bone. Her animal companion purred and leaned into the head scratches.

Orion cracked her eyes open warily. She still hated mornings, even after years of having to wake up early for school. At least in that set of memories or life, or world—however she was referring to them at the moment—she could sleep in on weekends. In this time and place, there were no breaks in her work.

The bounty hunter wallowed around until she decided to get up properly, dress, and repack. With that done, Orion set out for the stables where she had been told to meet Tam and Bas.

The stables were not quiet. Workers were bustling around doing their regular jobs, but there were also servants of the palace that were clearly there to see the three off.

Bas seemed a bit bleary-eyed, but he was already on his horse. His steed was a palomino, with a golden coat and white mane. Arak, that was what Bas called him, seemed to puff up his chest proudly upon his name being mentioned; he seemed to fit his owner in temperament.

Tam, on the other hand, seemed about ready to fall back asleep. She kept repeatedly yawning and simply stood by her mount—a gray horse that she introduced as Cloud. The stallion wasn’t a spry youngster, considering the white hairs, but was calmer than the other two horses.

As for Orion’s horse, she had mixed feelings. She had been given a dappled red horse, named Gill, that was a bit smaller—something similar to a quarter horse. The only problem was that her horse shied away from her and Sirius. She wasn’t sure if Gill had a problem with strangers or whatever type of creature Sirius was. Either way, a stable worker was holding the reins and passed them over to Orion, sealing the horse’s fate to be Orion’s transportation for this job.

Once all three were mounted on their horses, they set off towards the palace gates.

There were more people waiting outside the palace. They were clearly there for Bas. It was not the full crowd that had been on his side of the throne room yesterday, but a handful of mothers and children.

Bas waved to them, and paused briefly to talk with a few in hushed tones. Tam would always pause when he did, flanking him on the right. Orion did not wait for them; Sirius stuck close to her side.

They rode out of the city eventually. They were taking the more nice path, but there was simply no way to get out of the south side without passing near the stench of the slums that the king liked to ignore.

At the city gates, Tam greeted the guards and Bas waved. The knights on duty were respectful. Malamut was a place where royals and non-royals could lose their heads for the smallest of mistakes.

Orion ignored them. They weren’t leaving with the full pomp and circumstance she expected from royalty, but she preferred this.

Outside of the city, Bas called for a short stop. Tam and he changed their clothes and hid their palace outfits in their saddlebags.

Orion begrudgingly admitted that would help, but their horses were still expensive and Bas was too spoiled to pull off acting like a normal traveler. “Won’t the necromancer know that we’re coming for them?”

“They’ll eventually find out that some people have been sent after them, yes. Thing is, my family will already be talking about something different tomorrow.” Bas slung himself back on top of Arak with the practiced ease of a regular rider or someone who had lessons from childhood. “Alright, alright. Let’s get back on the road.”

———

Around midday they passed a small town.

Bas bought food from a stall and passed Tam and Orion their own share. However, the unusual part was how he seemed to pay for the food without any idea of the appropriate price. Orion could swear that Bas simply judged what coins to hand over off the cook’s facial expressions.

Tam seemed used to this display of wealth.

Orion was not.

———

They had stopped for the night on a small hill and, the next morning, attempted to make breakfast. Tam checked the traps she had set the night before, but nothing had been caught.

“Do you know how to actually use your bow, prince?” Orion questioned.

“Why?”

Orion smirked. “We try to catch stuff until the sun isn’t touching the ground anymore. Whoever has the most or best catch wins.”

“Wins what?” Tam questioned.

Bas pulled his bow and quiver off of his horse’s back. He also pulled on his three finger gloves, less because of recoil and more because of how the days were getting shorter and colder. “How about not having to cook today?”

“Perfect.” Orion was confident she could win. She immediately set out for the swampy pond that was at the base of the hill.

The pond wasn’t that big, but there was water, which was the most important part. Various plants, some glowing and some similar to kelp, grew inside of the pond and the river that ran through it. Outside were patches of grasses, vines with hooks or burrs, and small shrubs.
Any flowering plants had long since gone to sleep for the coming winter.

Orion stopped nearby, looking for any signs of life. Mud squelched underneath her boots. She spotted some small tracks leading to a shrub and pointed toward it.

Sirius launched herself forward. On her final leap, she extended her jagged claws and swiped through thin branches. Underneath her path was a small vermin.

Orion saw the hole that was likely the prey’s burrow. She held out a hand, palm up, and reached for her magic. She imagined the earth constricting to fill empty spaces. As her magic molded the earth, she felt the ground beneath her own feet stir.

A vermin—the mate of the first one caught—chittered as it rushed out of their burrow and into the jaws of a large predator.

Orion was satisfied. It was a bit slower than she liked, but she had gotten the hang of using her earth elemental contract over the past three or so years.

Sirius broke the preys’ necks and handed them over.

Orion repeated the process around the pond and bit downstream, but soon had to go back.

The catch of the three hunters were wildly different. Tam had dug some tubers from the river as she had given up on her traps earlier this morning. Bas had shot down two fat birds. Orion had an odd half dozen types of vermin.

Bas looked at their collective catch and shrugged. “Guess I win then?”

“Fine,” Orion agreed. She wasn’t graceful about her defeat, but she wasn’t the type to dig in her heels and insist when she was obviously outperformed. She glanced over and noticed that Tam looked relieved. She wondered if they dodged a bullet. “What, does he not know how to cook?”

“Bas does. It’s just that . . .” Tam trailed off, obviously feeling a bit awkward. She had already started a fire.

Bas leaned back against one of the trees. He was looking through one of his saddlebags for something. “I’ve lost most of my ability to taste food unless it’s spicy. I’ll just add one of my special blends to my portion.”

“What, burn your tongue too much as a kid?” Orion condescendingly asked. She had pulled her sleeves up and started stripping off the skin of their prey.

Bas laughed. He waved his hands to dispel the idea and explained, “Poison training. I’m immune to pretty much everything native to the Western countries thanks to my mother.”

Orion crossed her arms. “You got poison immunity training, but you never went to an actual barber?”

Bas held a hand over his face, looking down. He was clearly feeling embarrassed.

“A friend of ours cut his hair a few months ago,” Tam tried to explain. She was wincing in sympathy.

Orion raised her eyebrows. Personally, if she still had friends, she wouldn’t trust any of them with her hair.

Bas shrugged and moved closer to the fire. His cheeks were still a bit red, but he was moving past that. “Enough making fun of me; we need to eat and get moving again.”

A/N

The end of the launch update. Updates will be every weekend.

<< Previous Chapter | Index | Next Chapter >>

 

About Ren

Writer of An Unwilling Prince. Longtime reader, fanfic writer, artist, and animator. Ko-fi: https://ko-fi.com/thesilverhunt3r Tumblr: https://anunwillingprince.tumblr.com/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *