Avania Traspiera leapt down from the rock, avoiding the arrow that had come, piercing through the air, toward her right shoulder. She landed hard on the sediment at the base of the boulder, rolling on her shoulder to her feet to soften the fall more than the hard sand ever could. Ducking behind the large boulder, Avania heard two more arrows clatter off of its surface on the opposite side, followed by silence. Crouched there, cold, she wondered who had informed her query that she was after him. Afterall, she was used to her bounties fighting back, but she was unaccustomed to preemptive strikes from their warriors.
Avania had become a bounty hunter when she was merely thirteen summers of age shortly following the murder of her parents. She had yet to actually find the criminal behind the planning of their murder, but Avania always made sure to take missions that had the slightest chance of providing her information on the one who was the mastermind behind their deaths.
As she waited, listening for the softest footstep or speech, she recalled her first hunt. Early summer, five years prior, she had hunted her own brother, who was ten years her senior. Bashtio Traspiera had been the criminal who actually murdered their parents. However, in Avania’s opinion, Bashtio had not possessed much intelligence, and the circumstances of their parents’ murders were fairly advanced for a man of little intellect. Bashtio had been muscle for a local crime syndicate, and Avania had been sure that they had a part in arranging her parents’ deaths. She had used the reward of five hundred gold to invest in weaponry and training that had been handy during subsequent hunts.
Sure enough, as she hid behind the rock, she could hear the footfalls of the one pursuing her. She looked around, quickly surveying the landscape of the area. There were other large boulders scattered about the sandy shore of Hes’arth, the mainland. Hearing the sand roll and crunch a bit closer to her, she silently took up a handful of the fine sediment and waited with bated breath. Just as the archer peered around the boulder at her, she threw the sand into his face, causing him to turn for a moment…but a moment was all she needed.
Standing over his expiring form, Avania smirked slightly. “Who do you work for?” she asked, or rather demanded. She had come to have very little patience for those sent to destroy her for trying to find the truth of her parents’ deaths.
“I…I would never…never tell the likes of you,” the dying man exhaled before his eyes rolled back into his head. Avania picked up his bow and arrows, slinging them over her back before whistling toward the grassy fields that lay adjacent to the shore. While she waited, Avania reached into a pouch that hung from her belt. She retrieved a bandaging cloth and set to bandaging the mortal wound she had inflicted upon the archer. The Agency did not like for bounties to be brought in still bleeding from battle.
Sand spread into the air and cascaded back down to the ground with each hoof-step of the cantering stallion that stopped gracefully at her side. “Tyrian, I was so close to getting more information this time,” Avania said to the horse. “At least the one thousand gold will help in our search,” she said as she heaved the fallen archer onto Tyrian’s back. “There,” she said, dusting her hands off and taking the reins before setting off inland, “The Agency cannot deduct from my reward this time…he is perfectly bandaged.” She paused and then continued, “I wonder who he was.”
There was an outpost of The Agency not far from the shore, in a small and generally quiet village. Many of the villagers peeked out of their windows as Avania entered the village leading Tyrian and the archer that was laying across the saddle. A woman carrying a woven basket filled with linens dropped the basket, and freshly cleaned white linen spilled across the sandy road that ran through the center of the small fishing village. Avania was a bit surprised at the reaction of the people…but she figured that perhaps the local Agency outpost was new and perhaps they were not accustomed to seeing criminals brought through.
Avania avoided eye contact with all of them…especially the woman who dropped the basket of linens. Outside The Agency building, Avania stopped and dragged the body of the archer off of her horse and through the doorway that led into a dusty and stuffy room that had only one small window and the doorway for light. A clerk picked up his head at the desk that was in front of the far wall. “Name of the bounty?” Avania did not know the man’s given name. “He is…was known as ‘The Archer.’”
The clerk coughed for a moment and stood hastily from his chair, rushing around the side of his desk toward her to gaze down upon the body of the archer. “What is your name?” he asked, still seemingly shocked. Avania could not help but feel a small leap of happiness. This bounty was more well known than she could have hoped…she wondered what The Agency paid for the criminals in these parts.
“My name is Avania Traspiera,” she answered matter-of-factly. The clerk pulled his gaze away from the archer and looked up into her face for a moment, as though attempting to discern whether or not she was who she said she was, and as though he could tell just from looking at her.
“That is an…awefully difficult name to remember. Ever consider changing it?”
Avania stared at the man for a moment and half picked up the archer. “I can take him to the city…of course, he will smell by then and you will not receive commission…” She kept her even and hard glare on the clerk, which seemed to make him slightly uncomfortable as he shifted his weight and would not meet her eyes.
“Humblest apologies, Miss Traspiera…” he said, walking back to his desk. Opening a drawer on the right he pulled out a leather pouch and filled it with gold. “Your reward…just leave him, we will take care of everything else. Headquarters will be informed of your capture and the status of the criminal.”
Avania had heard this little speech many more times than she cared to count. She took the pouch of gold, but did not leave. After a few moments of silence, the clerk looked up at her expectantly and she asked, “What can you tell me about him? Any information may lead to the capture of more bounties.”
The clerk seemed to mull her question over for a moment, leaning back in his chair. “If you bring the bounties here, I shall tell you all that I, and The Agency, know of him.” He waited for her reply, still leaning back in his chair.
Avania smirked knowingly. “I will if the information is valuable and true. It would be a waste of both our time to try and hoodwink me just for commission,” she said, adding in her own thoughts that any hunt could be the end of her anyway.