Three days later Ming barged into the room like a gust of wind. Chu was busy on the small desk peering over a map similar to the one Griz had at the Trading post. He looked up waiting for Ming to catch his breath.
“The…the Military have come.”
Chu stood up so quickly he knocked down the chair in the process.
“They just came, I was in the slums when the news started spreading like fire.”
“Lets go have a look. Remember to keep a low profile.”
The boys went out of the compound and joined the line of curious villagers making their way to the north gate. They quickly found a place outside the gates on a small incline near the road. Villagers were scattered around in small groups at the entrance.
The commander of the garrison along with some of his men were at the gate. He was talking animatedly with an old man. The man was dressed in a suit of mail that had obviously participated in numerous battles. Both man and suit seemed to possess an indomitable ambiance.
Chu was confident that no amount of buffing and polishing could hide those scratches and dents. The cloak he wore was tattered and gave the appearance of barely surviving a harsh journey.
Behind him were nine men decked out in the same attire that exhibited similar damages. From the aura seeping out from these men it was obvious that they were too busy in killing to have time to service their armor.
The horses at the side were still frothing from their mouths and breathing heavily. A sign that these men had made haste in the flight towards this village.
In the face of the excited garrison commander who was gesturing and waving with his hands, the leader of this party stood as firm and still as a rock. If Chu didn’t know better he could have sworn the commander was a puppet who was controlled erratically by a novice.
Not long after thunderous sounds of hooves were heard. A little while later another team of soldiers wearing the same armor arrived and dismounted before the gate. Any villagers who were lurking on the road had long since scattered to avoid being trampled.
A young man ran up to the old man and ignored the puppet dancing on the stage.
“Commander Fredijak, Team one and Team two are following the forest from the north and heading west into the forest. From where the scouts found the bodies we have split up. My Team three are waiting on orders to move from here and scour the farms and countryside. We are ready to drag the net southwards to trap the beast either in this village or further south.”
The old man slowly nodded in agreement. After a brief moment of thought he replied.
“Get Captain Hull to patrol around the next village to the south of here. According to the Tower this particular demon will simply see our acts as a challenge. It doesn’t know yet we are aware of it, or it might have escaped. It is not the type to retreat into the forest, instead its craving for humans and confrontation will force it to attack at our core. This village will act as the bait to spring the trap.”
“Yes Commander, that is a sound strategy. I think that in about two more days the rest of our forces with the chosen ones followed by those adventurers and mercenaries and the others will soon swamp this place.”
The old man sighed
“Yes, yes. In war there are always casualties and risk-takers. When the support party arrives they will aid in keeping those unruly adventurers in check. Last thing we need is for us to be without an enticing bait.”
“Yes Commander it will be done.”
Amidst the cheers of some of the crowd, the young man leaped onto his horse and rode away swiftly with his party. The conversation between the two were loud enough for Chu to faintly hear. It wasn’t too hard since the silence at the time was enough to hear a pin drop.
Chu on the other hand screwed up his face into a frown. Since he first arrived until now, he had still doubted that the treatment of the poor was confined to these places far from the Empire center.
This conversation between the two dispelled all his doubts. Being fodder for a demon wolf simply because he was born in the wrong place to poor folks was not sound reasoning. Chu had fully understood the veiled words behind the Commander’s strategy.
Entice the demon by providing a challenge and use the villagers as its prize. He remembered the vision of the figure laying on the roof of the barn patiently stalking them. If it attacked the teams that were circling around acting as a net it would all be good.
But that animal loved keeping a low profile. As far as it was concerned it was still living in the shadows. Dominating those weaker than it was etched in its twisted mind. He was relieved it was dead, otherwise who knows what plans would be hatched by these commanders.
Not to mention, their ability to name their forces and squad sucked like hell. Team one, two,three, was it so had to use names like alpha, wolf, or even rabbit?
The chaos descended from that very evening.
Commander Fredijak booted out the garrison soldiers from their headquarters. This was to make room for those teams to rest during the night. He also had to take care of those chosen by the Military to use the lifestone.
The garrison then requisitioned the houses of those living around that area. Those who had family and friends in the village were forced to squeeze in together. The rest had to seek some form of shelter from the cold. Luckily Chu’s parents home was located closer to the south gate.
The next couple days the situation started getting worse. Adventurers started piling into the village grabbing supplies to head into the forest. The farmers and tradesmen who stayed at the inn during winter to return in spring, suddenly found themselves homeless. Go back to their farms and face the danger, or remain in the village and freeze to death. New faces soon began to make their way in the slums.
Brawls became common for rooms and food. A house was burnt to the ground by adventurers because the owners refused to share accommodation. The garrison was now confined to the village as some form of trouble occurred every hour.
Chu was privy to the gossips within the village. Ming’s ability to socialize with the guards and other people was astounding. His skill in gossiping was top-notch and better than an old woman selling in the market.
From this gossip-monger Chu learned that the Military didn’t simply mobilize all these forces on a simple word from a trapper. When the messenger left the village and went to the town of Karst, a scout stationed at the post there was dispatched with a team.
On discovering the remains and reaching their conclusion from the attack, the message was relayed to the Military post stationed south of Frost City. This team was hence dispatched to neutralize the threat. The chosen ones were the young outstanding military officers who were selected in the event a lifestone was found.
Adventurers and mercenaries who were currently swelling the village population were here for the big money made in scouting and tracking the beast. The Military payment was good, but some of these chosen ones were from influential families. These families would pay top gold coins for information that placed their kinsfolk as being the first on the scene. First preference was going to be given to the one who was present at the kill.
There were also noble families who were lurking in the shadows waiting for an opportunity to snatch away this giant prize for themselves. Adventurers who were willing to risk it all in battle would be awarded huge sums for a lifestone. This was the reason most adventurers congregated at Frost City.
Thus the numerous little games that were played out between these supporters in the shadows began to manifest itself in the village.
Who said ‘a little competition never hurt nobody‘ didn’t witness something like this.
Amidst these rough waves, Chu and his party floated on the back of the Trading post. As one of the most powerful companies in the Empire, only an idiot would dare offend this entity.
Even the now feared Commander Fredijak himself had to pay a visit here when he need to request supplies for his troops. On realizing the status of Overseer Pi and Griz, he became even more cooperative. As for those adventurers, they bickered and haggled but not a man-made trouble in the store.
Everyday a guard sporting the outfit from the Trading post would make his rounds to the home of Chu’s parents. He would loiter around for a minute drinking some porridge provided and then make his way back to the store. On the doors of Chu’s home hung the crest of the Trading post.
Chu had to pay for this service, but the deterrent factor far outweighed the cost. Besides the guards were willing to do it for a hot meal and a few coppers. One night the garrison patrol found a villager dead and his wife tormented to death. That news had Chu on edge for the day.
He was thinking of bringing his entire family into the lodge to share the room. The village was getting more and more unruly as the days passed.
Then two incidents occurred that provided some relief.
The first one was marked as the most horrible and catastrophic incident to ever befall the village.
The lone tavern in the village was burnt to the ground.
When this happened all hell broke loose. The adventurers were banned from the village at night and a curfew enacted by the Military and the garrison. With support from the Military the village regained some form of peace.
The second incident was hailed as the most brilliant plan and innovative thinking known to man.
A pre-ordered convoy of wine brought by the Trading post.
It was at this height of influx that the Trading post second delivery arrived. A convoy of only wine and rum from the nearest city. The collection depot outside the south gate was converted into a makeshift tavern.
During the day adventurers brought in wolves, elks, foxes and other animals captured on their scouting missions for silver. At night they returned those silvers for high-priced wine. Soon outside the south gate was the most lively area in the village.
With so many scouts and Military personnel venturing around the forest during the day, villagers took this time to stock up on firewood. A large campfire was made at the south gate that provided much-needed warmth.
With money and wine flowing freely, the dark side of the society reared its ugly head. Girls and women were sold for a night of pleasure. Daughters were handed out to the highest bidder, wives were rented out for silver.
In two weeks the village was turned into a place resembling the Caribbean’s Port Royal during the era of buccaneers. Chu realized that it was only a matter of time when his group might be caught in the cross-hairs of this vile bunch.
Finally the moment Chu was waiting on came. So far the main way of finding the wolf demon was by using the scouting and tracking skills of the Military and adventurers. In winter where the snow fell nearly every other day, that was close to near impossible. Most of the activities were centered in the forest and the northern grasslands.
The main contingent from the Military had arrived bring with them the Hounds. These dog like animals were larger than the wolf and trained to be vicious. Commander Fredijak planned to see if the animals could raise the scent of the wolf demon for quicker capture.
Just when Chu was beginning to think how he could use this to his advantage, the village was shaken into turmoil again on the appearance of the young masters.