Sara was a young child when she decided she wanted to be a monster hunter. She lived in an orphanage since she was a baby. Growing up roughhousing with the other children helped her physical strength grow. She was one of the toughest kids in the orphanage for as long as she was there. As soon as she learned of the heroes known as monster hunters, she knew that’s what she wanted to be. When she was old enough to leave the orphanage, she went straight to the nearest monster hunter training camp.
Sara was a talented young warrior, beating her fellow trainees in most challenges. She could outsmart them, outmaneuver them, and overpower them. She prided herself on being the best. Unlike the other trainees who would spend their time hanging out, sleeping, or just exploring the area where they would next set up camp, Sara would sharpen her blades and hone her skills. She would even forge some of her own weapons, rather than take one from the camp storage. Her camp often moved, either to follow a group of monsters or to escape a larger threat that would take the trainees by surprise. Sara was happy with this because it gave her more resources to use to better herself. She’d go out and gather materials for hours. She was just making one such trip when she was ambushed.
Sara sighed and sat down on the ground. She had been walking for a most of the hour and decided to take a quick break. She took out her scimitars and began to sharpen them on a whetstone. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a shape spring out the bushes and rush toward her. She leapt up, battle-ready. Little did she know that there was already a small imp monster jumping from the tree above her. It came crashing from the tree, hitting her full force on the head with a rock it was holding. She was out cold. The shape that jumped out of the bushes picked her up, tossing her over his shoulder and carrying her away like a sack of potatoes with the little imp in tow.
When Sara came to, all around her was nothing but darkness. She seemed to be sitting in a chair, although there didn’t seem to be any restraints on her of any kind. The trouble was she didn’t have a weapon on her. Her kidnappers were surely armed wherever they were. Just as she was about to stand and search in the darkness for a way out, a voice spoke.
“Ah, Sarafina, good to see you’re awake. I hope my good colleagues didn’t put you through too much of a scare in bringing you here. You didn’t seem to have any injuries when you arrived, except for a bump on the head. Which, by the way, we expertly took care of,” a male voice said.
“Who’s there?” Sara asked, eyes straining to see in the darkness.
“Ah, yes. I do suppose your eyes are not meant for dark rooms, are they? Johnny, flip on the lights if you will?” the voice said.
A light was suddenly turned on. Sara was blinded for a second, and it took her a moment to get her bearings. When her vision was once again focused, she found herself in a small room. The first thing she noticed was the plush carpet and elaborately decorated walls; both colored vividly. Then she saw a man a few feet away from her. He was sitting on a backward-facing chair with his arms leaning on the backrest. Sara jumped up and instinctively reached for her scimitars, but only grabbed the empty air at her back.
“Yeah, we thought you might react something like this. Which is why we took your weapons. Can’t have you slaughtering us before we give you our request, now can we?” the man in the chair spoke calmly, unblinking.
“Who are you and why am I here?” Sara asked, keeping her voice even and gaze stoney.
“Getting right down to the meat and bones of it, huh? Alright, I respect that. I, good lady, I am Jones, leader of La Resistance. Nah, I’m just joshing ya. I’m actually the leader of a monster army. You are in fact here to wipe out one of our enemy’s armies. Any other questions?”
“Excuse me? Monster army?”
“Yeah, you know. Monsters. The things you’re trained to kill. I’m one of em. Johnny over there’s another one of em. I’m more good-looking than most though,” Jones said, pointing with his thumb at a younger man behind him near a door. He gave a small nervous wave.
“The concept is simple really. This army has really been a pain in the neck for my men and has been destroying tons of human cities near us, making the humans attack us, and altogether being a nuisance. So I thought, what better way to get rid of monsters than to hire a monster hunter to do the job? Of course, I couldn’t just go to a guild and send a request, or I’d surely be dead. Instead, I just found a camp of trainees and picked the best. You filled the bill, and we caught you with surprisingly minimal effort.”
“So, you want me to fight monsters for you even though you’re telling me you’re a monster? What makes you think I’d do that?”
“Welllllll, I’m glad you asked. See, I’d like to be the nice guy here. If you’re going to be trouble or decide to not go along with this, I do have an extensive army of monsters. Even as good a monster hunter as you are, you would not be able to stand up to a horde. Also, if you do help us, you’ll get a handsome reward and the respect of quite a few humans…” he ended with a high-pitched sentence and then remained silent a moment.
“I mean, monster hunting is in your job description. I don’t see a problem here, right. Kill some monsters, make some money, save some people, win-win.”
“I should kill you here and now. If you are indeed the leader of a monster army, it will do some good to be rid of you,” Sara growled.
“Now, now. I don’t look like much of a monster, do I? Besides, the way I see it, either you do as I say or you are disposed of,” he said, matching Sara’s threatening tone to a tee.
Thinking about it, Sara realized Jones looked extremely human. Johnny had claws that showed he was a monster, but Jones had no telltale signs. Disregarding that information, Sara decided it was in her best interests to follow his orders until she had her weapons and could plan her escape.
“Fine. I see no other option than to go along with what you say. Will I be returned home when I complete your request?”
“IF you complete our request, you will promptly be returned home, probably even conscious this time!” Jones said, fake enthusiasm in his voice as he turned to glare at Johnny.
“Can you give me some idea of what I’ve got to do then?”
“Hmm? Oh, right. I’ll send you off to Nadia I suppose. She’ll take right good care of you and tell you all about what you’ll be up to tomorrow. Johnny, if you would be so kind as to bring Sara to Nadia’s hut?” Without waiting for a response, Jones got up from his chair and walked past Johnny and out the door.
Johnny motioned for Sara to follow him, which she did cautiously. Johnny led her out of the small room and into the dimly lit hallway that laid beyond. He marched down the hall to a large doorway. The doorway was opened, leading into a city-like atmosphere. It seemed to be a crowded marketplace with monsters of all kinds filling the streets. Some looked almost completely human, while others… did not. Johnny wove his way through carts and street vendors, occasionally pausing so Sara would not lose her way. All the while, the monsters around her turned to stare. Some gave unfriendly glares, and others frightened glances. At last, Johnny came to a stop in front of an odd-looking shop with a curtain of beads rather than a door.
“This is where I leave you. You are in Nadia’s hands now. Just go right on in,” Johnny nodded towards the door and took his leave, rushing back into the bustling streets. Not wanting to be outside alone, Sara ducked into the building.
When she entered, she was instantly greeted with a strong musty smell. She was in a shop filled to the brim with old books and seemingly out-of-place knickknacks. From behind a dusty glass, counter appeared an old woman. As the old woman approached, Sara saw that she was actually a harpy.
“Good to see you’ve made it here in one piece! Jones told me you’d be coming around soon. Come in and make yourself comfortable. This way, this way!” the old harpy pushed Sara along through the shop, reaching a small back room that was much less cluttered. Before Sara could even say a word, the old harpy had sat her down on a couch and had a cup of tea in front of her on the coffee table.
“Are you…?” Sara trailed off.
“Nadia, at your service. What, am I not what you expected? Ha, good old Jonesy had enough sense to put you in my custody for the time being. Lotsa folks around here don’t like ya being ‘round too much, what with you being a human and all. And a monster hunter, no less! ‘Spose that’s why you’re here anyway, though,” Nadia rambled, busying her hands with wiping the table and pouring tea.
“Can you please explain what exactly I’ve been dragged into? I’m getting no answers, and I am finding myself in the company of monsters,” Sara huffed.
“Oooooh, yes, yes. Jonesy wanted me to ‘splain all that to ya too. Well dearie, welcome to Vale, a hidden little city, far from what’s known as ‘human civilization.’ Not all monsters live in caves, you know. Jonesy is the leader around here and very well respected. As of late, there have been a growing number of attacks on monsters of this city by both humans and fellow monsters. This is because the higher-ups are not liking how Jonesy-boy runs the city and is sending his own army as well as provoking nearby human villages. Now Jonesy has tried to be peaceful with everyone and has even tried to fight the army. Sadly, we are out-manned, and they are trained much better. Now, this is where you come in. Jonesy figured if you need a monster to be killed, why not hire a monster hunter? So he got some intel, and now we’re in this situation,” Nadia smiled pleasantly and sipped from her teacup.
“Why doesn’t he just do it himself? One human isn’t going to make much of a difference against an army,” Sara said skeptically.
“No? Well, according to the plan, all you’ll have to do is infiltrate the base, subdue the general and bring him back here. Then Jonesy will either hold him hostage until there is peace or slay him and cause panic in the opposing army’s ranks. Personally, I think he’s too soft to do anything of that sort. He’s all bark and no bite. This whole situation wouldn’t even be happening if he wasn’t such a nice guy. But I suppose-“ she began to blabber on again.
“Okay, okay! I get it! Subdue the guy, bring him here, go home. Sounds all fine and dandy, except I’m a monster hunter. I don’t ‘subdue,’ I hunt,” Sara said.
“That reminds me! I have something to help with that!”
Nadia disappeared back into the front room of the shop and reappeared a second later, holding a bundle wrapped in cloth in her arms.
“What’s that?” Sara asked dubiously.
Nadia just handed it to her and looked on eagerly. Sara cautiously unwrapped the bundle. Inside it were her scimitars and a strangely shaped harp.
“What’s this?” Sara asked, holding the harp in her hands.
“A magic harp! I’ve kept it in my shop for years. It’s not much good to monsters, as it only works when played by humans, but it can make any who hear it played fall into a trance. They are completely calm and tame for one hour. Helpful for a mission such as yours. I’ll be teaching you to play it, then you’ll be off,” Nadia said, plopping down beside Sara on the couch. Sara was tempted to grab her scimitars and run, but decided it was too risky. Besides, she could stay and see how this turned out.
Hours later, fingers blistered and brain tired, Nadia decided Sara had learned enough of the harp.
“Good work. You are indeed a fast learner. I’ll make us some dinner to celebrate, then get you set for bed. You’ll have a long day ahead of you tomorrow,” Nadia said, wandering over to a small kitchen in the corner.
“Tomorrow? I’ll be setting out so soon?” Sara asked, rubbing her stinging hands.
“Oh yes. Jonesy wants this fight to end as soon as possible. Such a pacifist, he is,” Nadia said.
“How much of a pacifist can he be? He’s a monster after all,” Sara said, then instantly regretted it. “Oh, I meant no disrespect, it just came out like that-“
“Ha, no harm done. Us monsters aren’t all you make us out to be. Especially Jonesy. The reason this little disagreement between him and the higher-ups started was because he wanted to protect monster-human hybrids while the higher-ups wanted them killed,” Nadia mused.
“Yeppers. They exist. Not everyone is so ignorant.”
“I… had no idea….” Sara was dumbfounded.
“Well, now you know. Makes you a bit more willing to help out our cause, don’t it?”
Sara slowly nodded.
“I think… I think I’ll be off to bed then.”
“Without dinner? What a pity. Well, your mat is in the far corner! Sleep well, monster hunter.”
The next morning, Sara was startled awake by a loud crash and voices.
“M-my bad! I’m sorry!”
“Oh, it’s quite all right, dear. Come, Sara, the monster hunter is right this way, then.”
That was Nadia’s voice. From the front room walked Nadia with that boy Johnny and a girl with two large horns in tow. Sara sat up quickly.
“Here she is, bed-head and all!” Nadia said with a grand motion of her arms. Then she turned to Sara.
“These will be your travel buddies. Meet Johnny and Lindsay, respectively,” she said.
“We should be going as soon as you’re ready. Jones doesn’t want to wait any longer for a resolution,” Johnny said, motioning with his hand for her to get up. Sara did so and followed as Johnny led the way through the shop to the entry. When they reached the bead curtain, Nadia stopped Sara and handed her her scimitars and the harp. She nodded and smiled at her.
“Good luck out there. Don’t disappoint us,” she said, pushing her out the entry.
Shoved out into the street, Sara took in a large gulp of air.
“Come on. We’ve got a couple of horses ready to take us to the general’s base. You’ve been filled in, right?” Johnny asked, clearing the way so that Lindsay and Sara could follow.
“Yes. Sneak in, subdue the general, nab him, come back here.”
“D-did Miss Nadia give you the h-harp?” Lindsay asked, seemingly nervous.
“Yes, she did. It should come in pretty handy when we get to the base,” Sara said, keeping her voice soothing as if she were talking to a small animal.
“G-good.” Lindsay looked proud of herself for speaking up.
“If we hurry, we should be there before noon,” Johnny said, picking up the pace. Lindsay and Sara followed close behind.
The three had reached the horses after speeding through the crowded streets of the city and were now riding on their way to the base. It was just the three of them, so as not to draw as much attention. This was not intended to be a bloody conflict unless completely necessary. Galloping along at a fast pace, Sara barely had time to get her bearings straight. She’d been thrown headfirst into a boiling pot of madness and was about to go almost willingly into the center of the storm.
“We’ll have to leave the horses here. We’re close enough to be detected, now,” Johnny said. Lindsay nodded and slid down from the horse she and Sara were on. They were now in the center of a forest, far off any beaten-down trail. She followed closely behind as Lindsay took the lead, somehow sensing something Sara couldn’t detect with her human senses. There was a snap of a branch, and the three whirled toward it, positioned to defend. Out from the bushes scampered a squirrel. Johnny sighed and kept walking, still jumpy from the scare. Sara was extremely cautious as well.
At last, the base camp for the monster army came into view. There were only a few guards stationed, nothing they couldn’t handle. Johnny reached for the sword at his hip, but Sara stopped him.
“Please, allow me. You didn’t drag me along for nothing.”
Sara grabbed the harp attached to her back and strummed one chord. The guards looked up towards the sound, trying to find the source.
“Johnny, Lindsay, you may want to plug your ears,” Sara said, beginning to strum gently at the harp. The once alert guards began to look sleepy, and one even drifted asleep. Sara walked right past them without them even taking a single step towards her. Johnny and Lindsay looked on in amazement.
They continued on, either clubbing guards on the head or putting them to sleep with the harp. Finally, they reached an extravagant tent in the center of the base camp.
“Well, this must be it,” Sara said, readying her harp.
“C’mon, no time to waste!” Johnny said. “We’ll cover you.”
The three ran into the tent to find the general snoozing at a desk.
“Uhhh…” Johnny stared at him.
“I guess I’ll just play my harp and we’ll get going so he doesn’t wake up?” Sara stood beside the General in his chair. They just shrugged at each other. Sara played her harp and put it back on her back.
“Well, grab him then,” Sara said, stepping away from him. Lindsay came over and threw him over her shoulder like a rag doll. The three began to make their trek back with the general in their grip.
Almost out of the forest with the general and their horses, they suddenly heard a loud crashing noise. The three turned and saw a huge dinosaur-like monster. The horses spooked and threw them off, running away. They scrambled to their feet. Sara took out her harp, ready to knock it out, but the monster swung its tail and hit her, throwing the harp from her hands and leaving it broken on the ground.
“Now what?! We’re no match for it!” Lindsay yelled. Sara stood, a wicked look on her face.
“You guys go. The magic will wear off soon, and it would be better for it to happen in the company of Jones,” Sara said, drawing her scimitars.
“You can’t fight it alone!” Johnny yelled at her.
“Just watch me,” Sara said, leaping at the monster as it roared at her.
The monster clawed at her, but she spun mid-air and slashed out at the bottom of its foot. It roared in pain and bit at her. She landed on the ground and stabbed it in the eye when it got close.
“What’re you standing around for?! Go! I got this! I’m doing what I do best!” Sara yelled at Johnny and Lindsay. They slowly grabbed the general, watching her.
They turned and ran as quickly as they could.
“Now it’s just you and me, monster,” Sara said. It merely roared in response.
Back in Vale, Jones was furious.
“You left her to fight it alone?! Are you mad?!” He yelled at Johnny and Lindsay.
“She told us to bring the general to you,” Johnny said, bowing respectfully.
“And you listened to her?! Idiot! Now she’s probably dead. The General could wait-“ He was interrupted by a loud roar. Lindsay and Johnny’s eyes widened in fear.
Jones, Johnny, and Lindsay ran out through the city, leaving the general locked in the room they had previously trapped Sara in. On the very edge of the city, stood the huge monster. It looked rather injured. Atop its head stood none other than Sara. She also looked pretty injured but had a huge smile on her face.
“I’m baaaaack!” She sang, sliding down the monster’s snout and landing on the ground. She nearly stumbled and fell, but the monster nudged her with its nose and caught her.
“What?!” Jones asked incredulously.
“Meet my new buddy! We were no match for each other,” Sara said fondly, petting the monster. It growled happily, almost like a purr.
“And that made you friends?!”
“Yep. We could use some doctoring though.”
“Oh, yes! Of course!” Jones hurried off. He returned with an unsurprised Nadia.
After Nadia treated everyone’s wounds, Jones looked at Sara.
“So, you ready to go home?”
“Hmm? Oh, I was thinking I could stay here a while. I can’t very well go back with a huge monster with me,” Sara said, grinning widely. “If you’d allow me.”
“O-of course. I didn’t expect such a turn of events,” Jones said, scratching his neck.
“Well, monsters aren’t so bad. Maybe I’ll retire as a monster hunter for the time being.”