The woods were pitch black but years of navigating in the dark had all but rendered the darkness obsolete to Arthurs eyes. As he dashed between the trees towards the Birch woods he thought of his time growing up in the village and how often he played in these woods they would play hide & seek, follow the leader or hide the rope for hours, even after they were said to be haunted.
Growing up in the village there were often tales of a Revenant that lived in the caves below the village and the forest surrounding them. The Revenant was said to be a merciless evil spirit that killed without remorse, devoured the flesh and meat of animals and was covered head to toe in a thick impenetrable hide. It’s scales we large as your hand and when it moved it scraped along the ground as if it was not meant to move. As a child the stories terrified Arthur and only now, running through the dark woods searching for a murderer did the thought of the Revenant creep back into his mind.
He had just passed the Sheer Wood when he stopped dead in his tracks. A cold creeped up his back and there, standing before him was Charlie; the same as he had seen him in the Alley.
“Charlie?” He asked quietly, almost to himself.
He nervously took a few steps towards the him but the ghostly figure only turned and began walking away to the right of his intended direction. Initially Arthur stumbled forward as if continuing on his way but he stopped after a few steps and looked towards the direction where Charlie walked. The woods were thicker and darker in that direction but it wasn’t that which enticed Arthur in the direction Charlie walked, there was something else; a scent in the air. Arthur looked towards the Birch Woods and against his better judgement strayed off course in hopes of following Charlie’s spirit.
After a short sprint Arthur pushed through the thick brush and came upon a cave entrance. He stood there suddenly overwhelmingly aware of the world around him, the forest was quiet and wet from last night’s storm, the glistening rocks of the cave shimmered in the moonlight and after a deep breath he entered the cave.
The cavern was blacker than night and the scent of moss and stone overwhelmed his senses. He paused, allowing his eyes to adjust to the darkness and quietly he crept further into the cave. As he walked he ran his fingers along the walls and touched the ancient stone as if asking for safe passage through it’s hallways. After a short venture into the cave he began to smell it again, a foul stench akin to burning flesh and as he rounded a jutting rock his eyes began to ache as light seeped into the darkness blurring his vision. He heard a sound that made him stop in his tracks; a sort of scraping and sharp snapping.
Peering over the rocks he saw what lay before him; an open room as bright as the sun and in the corner a creature hunched over covered in orange fire and stone. Arthur swallowed hard and hid again behind the rock to gather himself. Fear greedily consumed what little courage he had left and he stared into the dark passage he had come from, telling himself to flee. That was until he saw Charlie again, standing in the darkness from which he’d approached. He closed his eyes and for a moment convinced himself to just leave this all behind and head back to the village, but when he opened his eyes the dark passage before him was blocked. Charlie’s body hanged by his feet in the tunnel before him, just as he was when Arthur first saw the lifeless body of the boy. Arthur knew he could not let the Revenant live and with new found purpose he peered over the rock again.
As the creature moved the large fiery scales shifted as well changing their colour & heat as if being controlled by the creature themselves and as it moved away from the fire the scales grew darker and more stone-like. Arthur stuck to the shadows and slowly entered the main part of the cave moving around the side & sticking to the shadows to avoid being in the creatures direct line of sight. As he passed behind it he saw large runic markings on its largest scales depicting twisted and obtuse images.
Slowly he unsheathed Henry’s blade and closed his eyes for a moment before attacking. In the darkness of his closed eyes he found solace & an understanding with the universe, he readied himself for death and cleared his mind of all guilt. When he opened them he attacked.
He lunged at the creature and with all his might and stabbed it deep within its thick hide. The blade danced between the large scales and pierced the soft underbelly of the creature as it let out a howling scream which reverberated off the walls of the cave. With a sharp scraping the creature clattered onto it’s back revealing it’s hideous face; devoid of all expression, featureless and cold with nothing but slits for eyes and from behind it came horrible screams came an empty language.
Arthur stood over the creature ready to stab again but he stopped himself as the creature held out a single five fingered hand in protest as if to say, “stop.” Arthur paused for a second and looked down at the creature who, with its free hand, removed a sort of shell from its own head. Underneath was an aged man with a grey beard pleading for his life.
“S..s…stop! P…please…” The man said as he lay on his back, the crackling fire illuminated his aged complexion showing the lines in his face and the years in his voice. Arthur just stood there studying the man and then turned his attention to the room itself. There was a bed-roll, a large shining scale-like object next to a large version of the blade Arthur now held in his hands and sitting next to it on the floor a large Wooden Spike stained with dark blood.
“You are the creature?” Arthur asked him in the dark. His head was swimming with questions about the tableau drawn out before him, “You are what has been murdering our people and killing our children? Just a man?”
The man’s face grew white as a wave of realization and fear washed over him. Arthur looked at the blade in his hand and took a deep breath drawing in the fragrant aroma of Human blood he’d been without for at least the last few hours and began to lick the blade.
“You’re just a human.” Arthur said with surprise toward the quivering man on the floor before him. He tossed the blade aside and bent down biting down on the man’s soft flesh and began draining the blood from his body as he writhed beneath Arthur’s hold.
As the man died Arthur thought of all the terror a simple man had caused their village and after he was dead and completely drained of all blood Arthur sat back with a sigh of relief. He stayed in the cave until the next night so as not to be caught in the sunlight and the following night, travelled back to town to share the good news of the towns freedom from the monster in the cave. Although he contemplated the idea he ultimately decided never to tell the town that it was just a Human who terrorized them for all those months as it was more important to Arthur that his fellow Vampires continued to believe that Humans were harmless.
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