There is nothing worse than feeling alone. There is nothing that can compare to being alone. In the quietness of the mind, madness is born anew. On the wings of chaos and carnage the past invades relentlessly. Every mistake is on glorious display in the theater of the mind.
“Once more, with gusto!”
I picture the narrator as a carnival barker, aloft on a tree stump, dressed in a wildly assorted clothing that was washed in the colors of the rainbow. She sports a neatly trimmed mustache and beard, her voice gravelly from too much booze and a cigar or two. Her presence and demeanor is like that of a large, feisty cat that has been caged for far too long.
She is the picture of madness.
Every day is not maddening, but there are days when all has fallen into it. Days when the world seems a cold, uninhabitable planet, or an inhabitable planet filled with moronic life forms. Alas, not every day is a bad day. Although I fear that we now live in an ineptocracy.
What is an ineptocracy?
It is when a society chooses the dumbest among them to lead. In a land of zombies, and you cannot say we don’t live in one-just look around in a restaurant the next time you visit one and notice how many people are entranced by everything, but their company-I am alone.
I am a monster that hunts monsters. My name is Jayce, you can call me Jayce. I am a human, which on Tennersilvia is the lowest of all races. If you are a human, you are either a criminal, a monster hunter, or cannon fodder for the military. I chose to hunt beasts.
Nothing grows on this frigid rock. As a society, we know nothing of agriculture- we know warfare. Because of our warlike nature, we have soaked the ground with the blood of our enemies. Crops need water and sunlight, not blood. The sun has vaporized the water, and we have too much sunlight.
I live on Tennersilvia, our food is imported from Ashsilvia our nearest star. I was not kidding, I hunt monsters. It takes one to know one. On Tennersilvia our society is diverse, too much so. The Stranged are a race of Elves. They are intelligent, and stick to governing, politics and on some occasion’s religious theory. Hundreds of years ago, they prophesied the doom of the universe. They named it Rianna’s Tearful Chalice.
The Righteous Dwarves are another race that populates this planet. The Righteous have built massive cities underneath the surface of Tennersilvia. They are an economical bunch. They deal in mining, smithing, and on occasion, they seek fortune and fame by searching for-and discovering- fossil fuels.
Of course, The Shunned are also dwarves, but unlike their Righteous brethren, they are the outcasts. They are criminal minded, and they are not permitted entry into the Righteous Dwarven cities. Humankind and The Shunned band together.
I, Jayce Wellspring, hunter of beasts whether human, dwarven, elven or other, never considered Rianna’s Tearful Chalice to be real or what would happen when the prophecy became true. As it is written in the year of 2875: “On the dreadful day that the Chalice is filled with bitter tears, the world will cease to be.” It was not much as far as prophecies go. Maybe that is why no one was worried about bitter tears being shed.
As I said earlier, nothing grows here on Tennersilvia. The ground is saturated with blood. Food and water are imported. The only food found here is the flesh of beasts. Even then, it is mostly inedible due to the high acidic content of the beasts. Thus, we mostly survive on the importation of goods from Ashsilvia.
Monsters are varied. Sometimes they appear human, dwarven or elven and come in the form of bandits, assassins, or some other ‘criminal’ type. Of course, monster hunters are considered the lowest form of scum, especially if they are human, and we are only accepted because we perform a needed service.
Such are the way of things here. Once upon a time we were funded by the government of Tennersilvia. Our funding has dissipated in the vapors of wasteful spending. Now, we only accept contracts that are hung in the long shadows of alehouses, cathouses, and other places of ill repute.
I hunt alone. There was a time when I had a partner, Winston Smith was his name. We were successful as a team and had conquered many beasts in the plains of our home. That was long before our split, but that is another story for a different time. My success came more infrequently as most beasts require at least two people to overcome. Thus, I have hunted small contracts that have smaller pay.
It was a moonless night when I first heard of Rianna’s Tearful Chalice. Quinter Xi, an ex-hunter, sat at the bar of The Horseshoe and whispered the tale to me.
“Jayce, listen to the tale of Rianna’s Tearful Chalice.”
“Rianna’s what now?”
“It’s a prophecy, nuglet.”
Nuglet is the slimy quasi-solid waste of certain monsters that spit acid as a form of defense.
“Alright. Tell me the tale.”
“Rianna was a former princess long before Tennersilvia became Tennersilvia. It was the home of The Stranged. She was loved by her people but was betrayed by her sister for a jeweled chalice. Some believed the chalice to be magical. These individuals believed the chalice would change the contents into immortality.”
“Let me guess, Rianna cursed it.”
“Yes,” Quinter Xi said as he sipped his drink. “Just before she left this life, she whispered that the Chalice would only hold the bitter tears of the world.”
“It could not have been filled with laughter or heavy sighs. No, it had to be bitter tears.”
“Hush your disrespect, nuglet.”
“I’m just saying.”
“It’s no joking matter. The world will cease to be if the Chalice is filled.”
“Ah, come now. Where exactly is this cup of bitter tears? How do you know when it is close to filling? It sounds like a load of unwanted crud.”
“The cosmos itself bears witness of the Chalice.”
“So, there are signs of our impending doom then?”
“Aye, but I can’t remember them.”
“Then, what good is worrying about the spilling of this mystical Chalice?”
Quinter Xi finished his drink. He uttered not another word about the prophecy and Jayce let it go. He had far more important things to worry about. Winston Smith had walked into The Horseshoe. His six-foot frame was filled with tight muscle. He waved at the owner of the pub; a Shunned Dwarf named Kei Benner. He was a good-natured Dwarf and found the humor in all things. Kei waved at Winston.
“Hey, Winston. Did you get your monster?”
“Sure did, Kei. It was so disgusting I thought it was part of your family!”
Kei let out a loud bout of raucous laughter. The rest of the pub shared his laughter, except for Jayce. Winston and he locked eyes across the room, the tension was thick enough to cut. No words were said, none were needed. The hate each felt for the other was written upon their faces.
“I’ll catch you later, Quinter.”
“See ya, Jayce.”
Jayce slipped out of the Horseshoe like a shadow. He stared at the contract in his hands. An escaped convict from one of The Shunned Mining Prisons had killed her way out of said prison. “It should be easy enough. She will be trying to put enough distance between her and the guards.” Of course, Jayce forgot that the guards would want revenge for the murder of their friends.
The contract had listed the convict’s last reported position as the hills of The Weeping Lady. “Great. Impossible terrain for any other than the surefooted Dwarves. Crags so deep she could hide out in there forever.” Jayce had been raised at the base of the Weeping Lady, thus, he had intimate knowledge of the area. He made his way to his old home. “How many tears were shed in this dump? They were probably collected and dropped in Quinter’s chalice.”
He walked into the home and sat in the dark. A series of caverns led to one exit, and it came out at the house Jayce hid in. At dawn, he caught a glimpse of a shadow moving from the entrance of the cave. Jayce slipped from his hiding place and fired a warning shot over the silhouette’s head.
“Don’t run. You won’t get far.”
“Let me guess, you’re a bounty hunter.”
“A monster hunter as a matter of fact.”
“What’s the difference?”
“Bounty hunter is a higher class and has better pay. Plus, they have guilds.”
“Yep. Turn around and place your hands behind you back.”
Jayce stepped from the shadows and saw that his quarry was not Dwarven. She was Elven. “Wonderful.”
“Who are you?”
“I am Shia Ashli.”
“And what are you doing out here, Shia Ashli?”
“I am looking for you, Jayce Wellspring.”
“How do you know me? I have never seen, much less heard of you.”
“I am the Keeper of Rianna’s Tearful Chalice.”
“This crap again.”
“Do you know the prophecy?”
“Yeah, I have heard of it.”