The Beautiful, Immortal Hunter Isobella, the Slayer of Suns Contest Submission #55

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Name: The Beautiful, Immortal Hunter Isobella, the Slayer of Suns by Jason Massatt

While hunting a mighty Gorm, Isolde and her hunters discovered the body of a dying woman, strangely dressed, in the darkness. As her last act, the woman pressed a pale blade and an infant girl into Isolde’s arms. After the hunt, and having lost the ability to have any more children of her own, Isolde brought the miracle child back to their home near the forest, the small settlement Beacon Stone, where she raised the child, Isobella, as her own.
Though Isolde and her daughter Isonna loved the new member of their family, the survivors of Beacon Stone were an untrusting lot, and life was hard on children at the best of times. Most of the settlement distrusted this strange infant found in the darkness, but as Isolde and Isonna were two of Beacon Stone’s greatest fighters, there was little to be done openly. Isobella, however, was subtly ostracized; referred to behind closed doors as the outsider she was, and if she got the lesser cuts of meat from the butcher, or perhaps the weapons doled to her were more fragile, or the armor loose at the seams, well, it was never quite open enough to offend Isolde.
Despite it all, Isobella became a great hunter. Her shoddy, fragile weapons forcing her attacks to be more precise. Her loose, weak armor making her more nimble on her feet. She learned to tailor her own armor, being unable to trust her people, and upon coming of age, Isolde gave Isobella her birth mother’s fine pale blade. As she grew older in the tiny settlement on the edge of the forest, Isobella also grew more beautiful, a fact that was not lost on her. Counter to her own ethereal beauty, Isobella began to see the ugliness all around her; the men leering as she passed, the women judging and jealous, and around her the whispers of otherness and mistrust all while they feasted on the flesh of beasts she and her family hunted, that she, most likely, had slain.
As Beacon Stone got larger and stronger, and it’s warriors better equipped and more numerous, as it relied on Isobella’s family less and less to survive, its people began to more openly vilify her. When she refused to choose a partner and increase the population, the murmurs grew. As the murmurs grew, Isobella shut herself off even more. The survivors of Beacon Stone became more jealous and hateful of this young beautiful girl who would not follow their ideals, their convictions. They despised and lusted after this amazing hunter with her almost inhuman grace and golden hair. The girl who hunted monsters at every chance, yet never returned with even a scratch. This Incredible, Invincible, Beautiful girl.
And one dark night, after a great hunt, when much drink was drunk, when many flowers were eaten, one of Beacon Stone’s favorite sons, a powerful and courageous man, attempted to lay with Isobella by force…
…so she killed him,
and dragged his corpse into the forest…
…where she left it to rot………
Isobella did not realize that she had gone mad, that she had begun to think of her own home as another monster in the darkness.

The day following the murder, Isobella departed Beacon Stone beside Isolde, Isonna, and her niece, Isolbeth, to celebrate her niece’s first hunt. They were to go fishing, one of Isobella’s favorite hunts.
While tracking the sun beast, the party discovered the body of a stranger laying between two identical pillars of stone. The only possession the stranger seemed to have was a small book. When the family later took rest in a quiet and peaceful spot, Isobella began to read the book. It was filled with tales of a different settlement. Tales of romance; tales of courage. A settlement that took pride in love and children and heroics. Isobella did not really realize that other such settlements existed.
Suddenly, without warning, a massive shadow loomed across the hunters, catching the experienced warriors by surprise. A massive cloaked figure stood before them, disturbing smiles on its twin moon face. The mysterious stranger held out a crooked hand full of oddly shaped stones and passed them to each hunter.
Isobella could only watch in horror as first the great Isolde, then Isobella’s sister, Isonna, rolled their stones, and fell to the floor, dead. The Gambler merely bent down and picked up the rolled stones. The Gambler then turned to Isobella’s little niece. Isolbeth was frozen, staring into the lifeless eyes of her mother and grandmother. Before she could even roll the stone, the young girl’s eyes rolled into the back of her head, and Isolbeth, too, fell to the floor, her young body wracked with violent seizures, her mouth frothing.
The Gambler merely stepped over the small shaking body and turned his gaze on Isobella. She tossed the strange stone, and when it stopped rolling, there was a tiny picture of a lantern looking back at her. The Gambler closely inspected both Isobella and the strange stone, then it smiled it’s bizarre dual smile, patted Isobella on the head, flipped the strange stone to her, and vanished into the darkness.
Isobella fell to her knees, lost among the bodies of her family. She spent a long time digging graves for her family. She picked up her mom’s mighty black blade and strapped it to her side. She searched the stone effigies until she found three that reminded her of her family’s faces, and on a whim, one more that reminded her of herself. She pried the stones from the earth with her own bleeding fingers. Isobella stitched the stone faces into her armor, and inscribed them with war paint from her family’s blood. With her family dead, their lanterns sputtering embers in the darkness, Isobella knew only one course left. She strapped the three dying lanterns to her belt and strode forth to find the sun.
The last thing little Isolbeth’s shattered mind registered from beneath the earth was the cackle and clapping of the Gambler as it watched her aunt walk into the darkness again.
It is said, by those who tell such tales, that Isobella found that sun, and that a battle of epic levels ensued as the Beautiful Immortal Hunter faced the mighty beast alone. It is said that, alone, impossibly, Isobella slew the beast, and as she sat there among its remains, she thought back to that book left behind, and to Beacon Stone at the edge of the forest, and to the two blades she now carried, and to the two mothers they represent, the three lanterns, the four stone faces. She thought of all of this and more, then the Beautiful Immortal Hunter, Isobella, slayer of suns, picked herself up and walked into the darkness, never to be seen in Beacon Stone again.

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