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First Hunt

Updated: May 22, 2023

Prologue

I am most pleased to have this occasion to write to you, and to welcome you into the American Hunters Association. You will risk more than most could imagine, even for so righteous a cause, but should you succeed the bounty will nourish more than just your wallet. The Association has existed in various forms for many hundreds of years, yet its legacy is silence—and a world freed from monstrous, mindless cannibalistic beings; free from those empty, corrupted shells once human now looking only to fill that rotting vessel with your flesh. You will have heard tell of what waits for you in the wilds. Do not underestimate its vile power. I fear that my oath does not allow me to commit further details to paper. Suffice to say we stand shoulder to shoulder in this cause—though warn you I must: not every Hunter would say so, and you must remember that treachery comes in many forms.


In high regard, Philip Huff Jones, M.D. Director of the American Hunters Association and Superintendent of the Louisiana Asylum at Jackson I folded the letter and put it away. I had only read it a hundred times. Twice while I stood here on the train platform.

I had been jealous when my cousin received his a week earlier, then mine arrived and I was beside myself. An invitation from the AHA to go help the afflicted in Louisiana. We would, as I understood it, provide humanitarian aid to the sick, and root out and destroy the corruption responsible. An adventure of a lifetime.

Of a lifetime.



The Hunt Everything around me was exploding, burning, or screaming. Hunters fought and died while I, the newest thing in the bayou, hid in a bush praying no one would see me. Pleading with God to just let me get out of this alive.

I had been on the hunt for less than thirty minutes and I was going to die.


One Hour Earlier It was hard to know what to believe. Seriously, it’s 1895. You’d think we’d be able to separate the hogwash from the hog by now. Even the AHA is telling two tales. Officially, we’re going in to hunt for the afflicted and provide aid. But unofficially we’re just lancing a boil. I’m not all that clear on the goal, but it pays. And if I can help anyone, that’s a plus.

After a stage, two trains, and lots of dust, I’m finally on the last leg of the journey. This stage coach is nowhere near as nice as others I’ve ridden in, but it will get us there. Louisiana is a place of two minds. Most of the state is blissfully uncaring of the epidemic in the swamps. Only the low get sick, they say. Others say it’s just Yellow Fever or the Flu. And still more say it’s bad character and drink. But as you get closer, the feelings change. More ominous. There are barricades and checkpoints. For something not to worry over, someone has done an awful lot of worrying and preparation.

My fellow passengers are a motley crew. I suppose I must look the same to them, but I feel I may have misjudged the goal. I have my father’s Springfield and an axe to cut through whatever needs cutting through. Some bandages for the injured. But little else. These folks…they’re ready for a war.


A man in a long leather duster and a hat that smelled of sweat and old meat ran his hand through his beard and leaned towards me. “What did you say your name was again, kid?” he asked. His breath was an odd mixture of garlic and mint.

“Travis,” I said. “Travis Savchenko.”

The man nodded. “First time, right?”

I smiled uneasily. “Does it show?”

The woman beside me laughed. She was a negro, but very attractive, with haunted eyes. She wore pants like a man, and had a bandoleer of pistols across her chest and a side-by-side on her lap. “It shows. Yes it does,” she said.

“Any tips for a newcomer?”

They both became solemn at the question. “Don’t shoot the Immolators,” mumbled the bearded man.

“Don’t shoot the who?” I asked.

The woman patted my hand. “The guys who look like they’re on fire. It’s because they are, under their skin. If you shoot or stab them, they explode, but still chase after you.”

I stared at her. “They explode?”

“They explode,” agreed the man. “By the way, my name is Lafayette Masonette. You can call me Lafe. You may have heard of me. I’ve done over a dozen hunts.”

“If he doesn’t know what an Immolator is, he definitely hasn’t heard of you, Lafe.”

I couldn’t tell if they were putting me on or not. “How does an afflicted explode?”

“Afflicted? Is that what they’re calling them back East?” said the man. He spit out the window. “Like they’re sick? They ain’t sick, kid. And they don’t get better. Unless’n you count dead as better, which I usually do.”

“I was told it was a form of the flu…” my voice trailed off. It sounded silly when I said it out loud. I mean, who sends Hunters after the flu? And the American Hunter’s Association is Hunters.

The woman looked distant. “No flu I know of can cause a woman to split open and spill out bees. By the way, you can call me Loulou. Loulou Bonneville, at your service.”

I shook her offered hand.


“Hornets,” the man added. “I think they’re hornets.”

“Hornets, bees, no matter. They still try to kill you, same as everything else. Honey,” Loulou said, looking at me again. “If it ain’t me or Lafe, kill it. No exceptions on the Hunt. Kill it first, because it will surely be trying to do the same to you.”

I stared out the window. The landscaped jumped and rocked with the wheels of the stagecoach. But it was already void of life that I could tell. It had been ten minutes since we saw anyone else, and they had all been going the opposite direction. Only Hunters go into the bayou now. And from what I gathered, only the lucky come out.

I thought I would be helping folks, and it was jarring to find out I would not be. But I had other reasons for being here. Money, of course. The bounties paid well, and I was flat broke. I wasn’t really good at anything, and I didn’t grow up with either money or society, so my options were limited. And when I woke up in the middle of the night with the Dark Sight, I knew my destiny was out here. Whatever “out here” was.

Lafe glanced out the window again. “We’re almost there, so let me give you some quick pointers. Like Loulou said, if it ain’t us, it’s on your kill list. There ain’t no innocents left. Stay as quiet as you can. A lot of these things are sensitive to sound, and the other Hunters certainly will be.”

“Wait,” I asked. “Other Hunters?”

Lafe nodded. “There’s no honor among thieves, or Hunters. Get the bounty, get out. Kill or be killed.”

“A simple formula, really,” mused Loulou. “But right now just focus on getting out alive. Maybe hide in a bush.”

Loulou and Lafe laughed. I joined in, but I wasn’t really sure why it was funny.

Lafe continued. “We’re going after the Butcher. He’s a big fat thing with a pig head.

You have to hit him hard because he’s thick, and fire don’t work on him. Just pisses him off more. Oh, and he has a big hook that shoots flames. Try not to get caught on fire.”

I looked at him in disbelief. “Wait..what? That’s ridiculous.“

“Yeah, ain’t it though?”

The stagecoach shuddered to a halt. “This is as far as I go,” shouted the driver from up top. “Someone else will pick you up at one of the designated sites. Good luck, and may God have mercy on your souls.”

We climbed out, our joints cracking from the long ride. Loulou waved the driver away, saying, “I wish you’d stop saying that Hank. It’s bad juju.”

The driver said nothing, just turned the coach around and headed away, in the direction all the sane people took.

“We walk from here,” said Lafe.


30 Minutes Earlier My father had a saying: Everyone has a plan until they start getting shot at. I have my own version of that saying. Everyone has a plan until they are set upon by a pack of wild zombie dogs.

Our plan was simple enough. We’d follow the trail of dark energy until we found the bounty. Go as fast as we can while going as slow as we needed to. Simplicity itself. We were going in quiet, sneaking into a an old slaughterhouse or something. It smelled of rot and wet lumber, and corpses were piled everywhere, human and pig.


Then Lafe stepped on a branch.


The crack rang out like a gunshot and echoed across the compound. They probably heard in back in New Orleans.

That was all it took. There was a beat as everyone and everything stopped and listened to the sound, waiting to see what followed. Then all Hell broke loose on us.

Corpses stood up and began running towards us. Other people, “grunts,” started coming out of the woodwork and stumbling in our direction, with evil intent. They were all in various stages of rot, and many were holding weapons. These were not sick people in need of help. These were nightmares.

Lafe and Loulou started wailing into the grunts with their knives, but quickly switched to guns as the numbers increased. I don’t remember too much about that fight, just shooting and reloading. At some point new sounds entered the fray. A strange buzzing and the wailing of dogs. Lafe swore loudly and I looked over my shoulder to see him go down under a pack of wild dogs. Dogs that should have been dead long ago from their injuries. Loulou was covered in green bees - sorry, hornets - and swinging wildly.

“Shoot the hive!” screamed Loulou.


I had no idea what she meant, but looked around down the end of my Springfield. Then I saw what she must have been talking about. It was a grotesque abomination of life. At some point it had been an old woman. She certainly screamed like an old woman. But she was bent in half where a fucking beehive had burst through her chest. Dear Lord.

I shot her through her face, which was contorted in frozen pain. It was the least I could do for her and the only humanitarian aid I would deliver the entire hunt.

The bees dropped to the ground once their host was dead. Lafe was on the ground flailing an empty pistol at the dogs on top of him. He was leaking blood like a water barrel that had taken buckshot. Loulou quickly shot the dogs from behind.

Lafe was still pulling the trigger on his empty gun. He looked bad. Not as bad as a grunt, but getting there. I grabbed some of my bandages and started trying to stop the worst of the bleeding. Loulou gave him a shot of something. It seemed to help, but he was still a mess.

“Scout the compound,” Loulou said. “Find us a safe place to lick our wounds. But be careful. That noise we made could be heard for miles.”

“Goddam hellhounds,” mumbled Lafe. “I fucking hate those things.”



20 Minutes Earlier Clearing out the nearest barn was easy. Anything in there had already come out to try and kill us. I helped Loulou get Lafe inside. He looked bad, but he could still shoot.

“Check the other buildings, see if there’s anything we can use,” said Loulou. “But be careful. The Butcher’s near.”

I wasn’t sure how she knew about the Butcher. I couldn’t hear anything but the echo of screams and gunfire. But I took her at her word and tried to look everywhere at once as I left the barn and made my way across the compound to the next closest building. It was an abandoned house, probably where the slaughterhouse owners lived. It reminded me a lot of the house I grew up in if you replaced the slaughterhouse with barren fields. But this house had fallen on hard times. It’s recent history was written in debris, mummified corpses, and signs of battle. Whoever had lived here either had no ability to leave, or no interest in abandoning their homestead. They had tried to fortify the windows and doors and prepared for the worst.

The worst came and overwhelmed them. I went through the house, room by room, no longer noticing the smells of mold and decay. I was wallowing in the sadness of the place, which is how he got the drop on me.

He stepped out of the shadows and I heard the hammer of his pistol click back. “Hello cousin. I’m sorry it’s you.”

I turned and there he was. My cousin Grant. Still wearing the hat I gave him as a going away gift. It was a good hat.

“What are you doing, Grant,” I asked, fearing I knew the answer.

“I hunt alone now. Lost my whole team right out of the gate, so I don’t bother with fools. I listen for fighting then loot the corpses and pick off any stranglers. They’re usually wounded or recovering. Easy pickings.”

Grant looked so much older than he had when I last saw him. There was something about his eyes that hadn’t been there before. Something dark and lost. Like he had seen horrible things and couldn’t get away from them.

“So you’re just going to kill me? We’re cousins!”

“You won’t be the first friend I’ve killed, Travis. There’s no law out here. No right or wrong. No God. Just blood and gunpowder and death.” His hand was steady as he looked at me. Almost through me. He was going to shoot, I had no doubt.

“Give me the hat back, you bastard,” I said as Loulou threw her knife at him from the window.

The knife missed, but it drew his attention, and I didn’t miss. I shot him through the side of the head. He made a wuffing sound and fell like a rotted out tree.


Loulou crawled into the room. “I’m usually a better shot with my throwing knives,” she said.

“I’m usually a worse shot with my rifle,” I muttered.

Loulou went through Grant's pockets, taking anything of value. “You did good, kid. Kept him talking until you had the shot.”

“Yeah.”


I couldn’t look away. I had just killed my cousin in self defense. In a house where the dead had risen. Grant was right. God was not in this place.

“Lafe is outside waiting,” said Loulou. “We found the Butcher.”

We left that house without looking back, although I did take Grant’s hat. It was better than mine, and fuck him anyway. It was a good hat.


5 Minutes Earlier The Butcher was in the large building at the back of the compound. There had been so much going on that I didn’t notice the sounds of him banging around in there, but now I couldn’t miss it.

Loulou opened the large barn doors and I just stood there. Something large and carrying it’s own light source moved behind walls, but you could see bits and pieces of it through the cracks. It was a waking nightmare, large and fiery, It came around the corner and I met it’s empty gaze.

Nothing prepares you for the Butcher. The corruption had taken an already large man in a butcher’s smock and bloated him beyond the skin’s normal capacity. But it wasn’t the body of some floater fished from the river. It was far from soft and squishy. It’s hide was thick and tough, with the remnants of the things that didn’t kill it sticking from it’s torso. The corruption had also removed the need for a real head, instead putting a pig’s head atop that fetid monstrosity. And he really did carry a flaming meat hook.

And the smell…Jesus as my Savior it was worse than the carcasses littering the compound. How can something so close to fire never cook?

The Butcher roared, from what I couldn't say, and lumbered at us. It was surprisingly fast, but we were faster. Lafe and Loulou began firing everything they had at the beast while moving in opposite directions. I just stood there in the middle pointing my rifle at it.

“You gonna shoot it or just point it out?” shouted Lafe.

I shot. And shot. And shot again. It was like a bloody dance. We fired and ran, fired and ran. I was running low on ammo so I switched to my axe. But the fat bastard was quick and I didn’t have time to get more than a swing before he would turn on me, sending me scurrying to safety.

We met outside the main door again, breathing heavy. “Ok,” said Lafe. “I have a stick of dynamite left. I’m going to toss it in and get this finished. Stand back.”

Lafe lit the stick as we ran for cover. He pulled his arm back for a mighty toss, and his head exploded.

“Hunters!” shouted Loulou.

We ran around the side of the building as we fired a few wild shots. I could see them coming in low at the fence line. Three of them. At least two had long rifles.

Shots rang out to our left. A second team, and we were pinned between them.

“I shoulda stayed home,” mumbled Loulou as she reloaded.



1 Minute Earlier

It took me days to get here, and it fell apart in a matter of minutes. One moment we were a throw away from getting our bounty, the next we were fighting for our lives and losing. Loulou was amazing, and went out in a blaze of glory. Guns akimbo she fired, dodged, fired, until a lucky shot took her down. She had killed two hunters before they took her.


In the chaos of everyone trying to kill each other, I went for a bush. It was the closest cover I could find, and no one seemed to notice me.


Then it was quiet again. The air was gray with smoke and there were several small fires here and there. The only sound was the thumping of the Butcher. In the end, there was one team standing and two down.


Like Hunters do, they laughed and congratulated themselves. I couldn’t even tell which group it was. To me, they all looked the same. Like the grunts.


Then I heard it. Over the sound of the Butcher and the Hunters. A low, anguished growling.


The Hunters heard it too and pointed. A lone Immolater was running towards them. It was just as advertised. A man burning from the inside.


“Will one of you get that guy?” said a Hunter, leaning on a red barrel. In fact, they were surrounded by red and yellow barrels. Barrels full of fuel and assorted explosive materials. It was nothing short of a miracle that they hadn't been hit by gunfire.


The Immolater ran at them, and the Hunters began taking turns beating it with the butts of their guns, and laughing. I never thought I’d see anyone bullying a burning man, but there you go. Tuesdays in the Bayou.


I fired the last round from my Springfield at the Immolater. He exploded in a fireball, igniting the Hunters and the barrels, which in turn exploded. It was glorious. An enormous cloud of fire and people bits, reaching as high as the top of the slaughterhouse.


I watched the fire burn for a long time. At first from the safety of my bush, then closer as I no longer cared much if anyone else was around.


But it was just me and the Butcher, banging away with fiery indignation. I picked up my axe and went to collect my bounty.



 

This is fanfic about the game Hunt: Showdown. Although I'd love to get paid for writing this, you'll have to take that up with Crytek.

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