Rob Does Words
Treating fiction poorly since 2019


I don't have a father; he died some time ago. According to Mum, it was while doing something stupid. Thanks to her, I’ve never had the best image of him in my head.

She never went into any details, of course. Just vague stories and admonishments and a lot of comparing me to him when I did something stupid.

I grew up with her and a succession of people who had no intentions of replacing my real father. These guys never lasted longer than a few months. That was also his fault, but since he wasn't around, I took the blame. I grew up with a lot of things “wrong” with me.

But things get better. I grew up and made my own way out of the mess my mother had made for me. I met the rest of my family including, rarely, someone from Dad’s side. The small conversations I had with these people – who were effectively strangers to me – told me that the tales about him that I had grown up with; all the stories of neglect and abandonment and idiotic behaviour weren't true. At least, not in the explicit ways Mum had taught me.

Learning this made me all the more determined to not end up like her; trapped in a well of guilt, or shame or anger at things that were beyond her control; taking it out on whoever was nearest.

I also made the decision to learn as much as I could about my father.

My life is so much different compared to the life I left behind once I learned the truth about my father. I've met family members who had no idea I even existed. I've heard stories about Dad that even a few months ago I would have considered fiction. Not that I am believing these ones based on nothing. There are photos and videos and first hand accounts of the sorts of things he used to do.

And the one thing that is common to all of them, the one thing that every person I speak too independently verifies, is that the story I had been taught about how he died is wrong.

Sure, he had a habit of doing stupid things that should have maimed him at best, but he had a lucky streak the size of a planet. No matter what ridiculous thing he cooked up to try, it would always fail without harming him badly. Which is why he left. According to one of his sisters, one of his attempts at something – she wouldn't tell me what, exactly – had gone wrong and someone had died. Someone close to him – again, no details on who exactly. She wouldn't tell me anymore. She was almost afraid of the story and she wondered aloud whether or not it was a good thing to tell me as much as she did.

There was an image I had been building in my head, a jigsaw of the person my father was. I had all the superficial stuff; what he looked like, how old he was and so on. That was easy to get. The harder stuff was what he did, where he went, and importantly, who he worked for. According to the others, it was his job which allowed him to be stupid. I should mention here that it is me who is calling these things stupid. The people I spoke to never judged them like that. They never said what they thought of the antics he got up to, but they did say the weirder and more likely to harm himself he went, the more he got paid. They also joked that the death of whoever it was must have made him a millionaire.

I'm not completely oblivious. I know the history of our world. I know the darkness we crawled out of and some parts of what we all used to be. There are gaps in my knowledge which I can now see clearly thanks to the conversations I'm having with my father’s family and friends. Gaps which my father apparently operated in.

It’s a strange feeling to know that your father was involved in some of those activities and as little as I know about them, I do know where you go when you want to take part in them yourself.

Which is why I came here. The only city worth mentioning outside of our borders. It has some fancy name “Fortress of Something or Other.” Everyone calls it the Hunter’s Temple. It’s a joke, if I’m understanding everyone correctly. I don't get it, but I've never been outside the walls before.

It isn't a place you come to if you have anywhere else to go, but it’s the most likely place my father would have come if he thought Mum wouldn't take him back.

Within the walls of the city, which are stupidly thick, it looks and feels like I've stepped into a history book. Everything is almost the same, like I could tell you what most of the things around me did. I was almost disappointed in how familiar it all was. That is, all except the towering cathedral in the middle.

Like the town I grew up in, the buildings in this city were all made from the stone that had been quarried out of the mountains off in the distance. The cathedral was not.

While it looked like stone, it was pitch black and slightly glossy. I heard someone call it “lava glass,” but they wouldn't elaborate. None of the books I had read mentioned it.

I ran my fingers over it. It was smooth, mostly, with little pits and bumps here and there. I found the entrance after a while of walking around it and admiring what must have been years of carving to make such a structure.

The doors were wide open and a group of people milled around the doorway. Someone told me they were hunters waiting to head out into the wilderness.

I didn't have to ask what they would hunt, as the preserved heads of their prey hung along the walls of the building. Massive corrupted animal heads.

At the very far end of the doorway, in pride of place, hung the head of a tiger. Except, instead of being orange and black, it was a deep red and purple. Even hanging there, dead, the colours seemed to shift and move along the fur. I knew what it was straight away: it was one of their familiars. That meant that someone had got close enough to one of them, one of the necros, to kill it and bring it back here.