Humanity was used to being the top of the food chain until vampires came along. The First Hunter is said to be the person who destroyed the Third of the Firstborn, circa 8 ka (kiloannus/kilannus, or "thousand years ago); whether the First Hunter was male or female is unknown now. But this was the beginning of humanity fighting back against those who would prey upon them.

Originally, Hunters (with the capital "H" to distinguish between those who hunt animals for food/sport) only fought vampires, but their fear of the Others led them to branch out. Vampires were then and are now the most common Hunter target, but some would also hunt weres and even, in a very few cases, Witches. Up through the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance, Hunters were accorded a great respect, often paid for their kills by the grateful communities who were "freed" from these "evil" threats, and looked upon as heroes. Hunter families - lineages with many and/or respected Hunters - became famous and well-known, sought after and cherished.

As this setup went on, two things happened to the Hunters: they became, in general, more knowledgeable about their "enemies" and they also multiplied dramatically. Many men and a few women flocked to the promise of glory, fame, and fortune that came along with becoming a successful Hunter, and they tended to stake first and ask questions later. The established Hunters and Hunter families looked down upon these Johnny-Come-Latelys, not the least because they were beginning to learn that it was possible that vampires, the various weres, and Witches weren't always the evil, demonic brutes they had once thought of them as. Familiarity was breeding tolerance, and a code was beginning to be developed about when it was/wasn't appropriate to kill vampires, for example.

The reaction of the various non-human peoples to being Hunted was to hide their existence from humankind. (Of course, the Fey had already been hiding themselves for the most part, so they went on as usual.) Most of them, as the more experienced Hunters were discovering, just wanted to be left in as much peace as possible; hiding was the easiest solution. The Witches held out the longest, of course, because they thought of themselves as human just... more so. As they slowly became the only visible non-human group out there, they became the subject of witch hunts, inquisitions, and the like, mostly fueled by the remaining glory-seekers, scrabbling for what little coin and fame they could still acquire. So Witches, too, began to hide themselves as best they could, and, over time, the general public came to think of these various groups as being myths, nothing more substantial than the imaginative denizens of fairy tales.

Of course, they couldn't entirely disappear or, at least, vampires couldn't. They still required blood to feed on, and human blood was far preferable to animal. And so, correspondingly, the Hunters still had work to do, in their minds. But as successive generations came to forget and disregard these past perils, so they came to regard the Hunters as dangerous kooks. Thus the Hunters - who had been something akin to modern day rock stars once - had to disguise their true selves as well.

The Hunter families now had to find new ways to make coin and put bread on the table. Lone Hunters struggled to keep up with daytime jobs and nighttime Hunting duties. They knew the truth of the world (or, at least, knew that vampires, weres, and Witches existed), but few would believe them. Hunters looking for spouses tended to marry the rare citizen they saved from a vampire/were attack; these people were not disposed to think kindly of someone/thing that had nearly killed them, and so the general Hunter mindset narrowed further. It had already contracted severely over the passing decades as Hunter families (or at least the vast majority of their members) took up other trades and the knowledge of their supernatural foes became lost. When combined with the reactionary prejudice of a near-victim (who took their understandable fear and hatred of their assailant and expanded it to all vampire/were-kind), it became an almost toxic hatred. To be the sort to work all day and Hunt all night, you had to be passionate, after all. Hatred was an easy fuel.

DoVE and its myriad international variants changed things. Different countries have different laws, of course, but most hew closely to the "Do No Harm" standard: so long as a non-human is law-abiding, they are generally to be left in peace. Hunters who dispatch a criminal non-human are not, themselves, criminal, so long as the illegality of the non-human's actions can be proven. The USA is actually more strident about this than most other countries: any Hunter working outside of DoVE is a vigilante and is to be charged as such. Random citizens are, of course, able to defend themselves, their loved ones, and their property, but any evidence of someone Hunting without being an employee of DoVE will see them charged with taking the law into their own hands.

At this point, most of the former Hunter families now work for/with/under the auspices of their local DoVE or its equivalent. They get regular paychecks, benefits, and, in most countries, the promise of a government pension. Stable work hours are another plus, along with some measure of their long-lost respect and honor. There's a lot more paperwork though (nothing's perfect).

Famous Hunter Families (And Their Countries of Origin)

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