At present everyone was standing on the small hill looking down to the snow covered plains below.
“Are you sure we can kill that thing?”
Clod whispered, fear ingrained in his voice. Of all them he was the one who wanted it dead the most, but was also the most frightened one of them all.
Ming gave him a healthy slap on the back and a reassuring smile. That was enough to wash away some of the fear. This was a group of children who were crazy enough to hunt in the forest. He was gradually beginning to think that anything was possible with these guys.
“Heh, if boss says it can be killed then it can be killed. Watch this ….OOOHHHHHIIIII”
Ming gave out a holler towards the beast.
As the sound traveled across the plains the demon finally found the source of its troubles. With a feral roar it staggered onto its four feet and broke into a run that covered near forty feet in the blink of an eye. Like a healthy predator it sprang into the air for a mighty jump sprinting across the plains.
Seeing the demon cover nearly half the distance on the plains the brave Ming slid from the front of the pack to cowering behind the back of Chu with nearly the same speed. Everyone else was shocked and frozen in fear. Paralyzed they could only bear witness to the scene.
Midway into the jump the demon froze and doubled up as if having cramps like a rolled up shrimp. With a deafening howl that dwindled into a whimper, the curled body suddenly sprang open in the air like a flat board, stretching out completely parallel to the ground.
Red liquid containing dark solid matter jettisoned out from its rear like a sputtering rocket. It then fell flat on the snow completely sprawled out in exhaustion. Only the whimpers that now sounded like a sobbing child could barely be heard. The children were so shocked that snowballs could easily have fitted into their mouths.
“Holy crap. what was that!”
Amidst the comments the girls were considerate enough to look away from the scene preserving their dignity. The boys however were totally engrossed in the sight not willing to miss a single second. Gone was any inkling of fear from their minds. Presently the overall consensus of the spectators were a feeling of pity for the creature.
‘Who the heck would want to be beaten down to die in such a fashion.’
The beast seemed devoid of energy as it trembled to raise its upper body of the snow. Like a feeble old man shaking to support its weight, it lifted and leaned on one forearm elbow as it stared at them. The other front arm was now shaking as it began to raise its upper body.
One hand was extended as the effort showed in it shaking up and down. The terrible claws were curved as it pointed towards them. Even as a demon, the universal feeling of hate could be recognized spewing from its teared eyes.
Those once proud and dominant eyes were now hatefully boring into Chu’s.
“F!@#! Don’t give me that look! This is the one who caused you to be in that position!”
Chu hauled Ming out from behind him as he looked at the creature and pointed towards the boy with a finger.
“If you want to curse someone before entering the gates of hell, do it right.”
“Hey Chu, am..am.. is that not like me being on the receiving end of karma or something?”
“Shut-up you idiot. Lucy, Miki use it as target practice. Only aim for the eyes. We need to kill it before dark to move it into the barn.”
As the girls stepped forward with their crossbows fully loaded and ready, Clod extended out his arm to stop them. He then came forward to speak to Chu.
“Chu, let me. I want to kill it, I promise not to waste the bolts and finish it quickly.”
Looking at the determined face Chu realized there was more to this than met the eye.
“Why are you so willing?”
“Revenge…I need revenge for my family. This is the demon that killed my family and crippled my leg.”
Amidst the shocked faces and the few gasps, Chu looked at Clod intently.
“Okay, but you only have about fifty bolts to use. If its not dead Lucy and Miki will complete the task. Everyone else will take turns holding the spears in case it regains some strength.”
If any hunter or garrison patrol had passed across the grasslands to the south of the village a strange sight would have greeted them.
A bunch of children were hanging around outside an old barn taking turns loading some crossbows. It would then be passed to a stocky teen who moved with a limp. Like country kids they were cheering as he aimed at a creature lying half in the snow. On its face were numerous bolts buried around its nose and mouth.
Such childish behavior in torturing animals would have drawn the ire of any self-righteous animal rights activist. Upon closer investigation, most people in both worlds would have either pissed themselves in fear or ran away screaming in sheer terror.
Even iron hearted soldiers and mercenaries would have done a double breath and be frozen in shock. The sane ones who knew the consequences of aggravating such a demon would have long fled in fright.
It was in the afternoon when Clod finally managed to let loose a bolt that entered the left eye of the demon, finally putting an end to its misery. At that time it was so weak that it couldn’t even lift itself of the snow.
The wolf demon let out a terrible cry in denial as it slumped onto the snow for the last time. Most of the damage done to it was not from the bolts but from internal damage and blood loss.
If not for the strong bowel movements that threatened to discharge its internal organs onto the plains, a mere bolt would never have been able to injure it. Much less be able to enter its eye to kill it.
A mighty hunter ranked among the top of all the demon beast lone predators. One of the most cunning and calculative of beast to ever emerge from beyond the North mountains. An unstoppable monarch that ruled over its prey among the forest and plains.
A simple flaw of succumbing to its beastly desires to consume meat and animal fat led to its ultimate demise. This was an animal that could bypass the best laid snares of trappers. Only to be taken down by simple primal instinct during a casual hunt.
As for the children ‘playing in the snow. Don’t get the wrong idea that this was a joke and all fun and games for them.
Their cheers were to ease and lift the tension from Clod after hearing his story. Their movement was simply not frolicking but hustling to keep the crossbows loaded and get them to him as quickly as possible. It was just unfortunate that as children they were not that well trained in using weapons.
“Ahhh crap, its finally over. Chu I’m hungry, feed me.”
“Is that all you ever think about? Sakura is Sue done with cooking?”
The little girl ran to the barn and came back quickly huffing. Fog was being released from her mouth as she spoke in the cold air.
“Yup, she says its hot and ready for us.”
“Ming, conduct your dead animal checks on this demon from a distance using the spear. Clod, get the small makeshift sled ready. After eating we are going to drag this carcass into the barn.”
Chu laid out his orders as they returned to the barn. He was not taking chances with such a dangerous creature hanging on to a thread of life for a chance to strike. Only the satisfaction that it was dead gave him comfort.
Too much horror movies where monsters like these possessed remarkable strength in regeneration and recovery had made him jumpy when confronting something similar.
When everyone was full and rested, the demon was rolled onto a quickly constructed sled using some long stout wooden poles as levers. Even with all of them together, that simple act was as if they were trying to topple a car.
Chu realized that even though this demon was built to be lean and agile, its muscles were like coils of steel and its body the weight of concrete. No wonder it was so strong and demonstrated such explosive burst of power.
The density of this thing’s body must have been enormous. No wonder even crossbow bolts at close range was ineffective against its skin. Only those naturally weak spots offered the chance of wounding. The amount of bolts used to actually take this chance in bringing its weakened state down was testimony to how powerful it was.
After finally getting it into the barn, the last thing they did was to board up and repair the damaged barn. Sue and the girls started cleaning the mess inside and soon the barn was free of the putrid smell. This was helped when Clod scavenged for the barks and stems of herb bushes around the farm.
Boiling this in water diffused an aroma that droved away any funky smell and had the barn cleaned and sanitized with hot water and a wonderful smell. Nobody would think that this place was smelling worse than a pigsty just half a day ago.
In the late evening they gathered on the top platform as a small fire in the oven warmed up the place. Miki and Lucy had replaced the torn tent above and were taking turns as a lookout. After this episode, this was a job that none took for granted.
“Tomorrow if the weather is fine, Ming and I will return to the village. Lucy, Miki and Clod will come with us to collect firewood from the stash at the abandoned house. I want to stock up our supplies to last out the winter.”
He looked to Sakura and the others.
“We may spend the night in the village or return in the evening. Lucy and the others will return before us anyway, but I need you girls to pay close attention as lookouts while we are gone. Any problems and simply hang a red sheet from the lookout and hide within the cellar.”
Chu took some time explaining and showing them what to do. The most terrifying thing was the beast that was now dead. The barn was safe from the main threat of winter that were the wolf packs. For animals that could climb and pose threats, the best they could do was hide.
Chu believed that as of now, they were even safer than those living in the village. The little knowledge from nature documentaries watched when bored were now valuable.
He remembered that if larger predators marked their hunting territories, others tend to keep away. With the amount of forced markings around their barn and the incessant howls and growls, any animal in their right mind would stay away.
Tired from exhaustion they enjoyed a hot meal and warm bath courtesy of Sue and dragged into the cellar to sleep.
The one who was relieved the most was Clod.
Tonight was the best night that Clod ever slept. It was like the weight of a mountain was lifted from his back and shoulders. Even though he sobbed and cried in the beginning, they were cries of joys mixed with regret and sadness.
The dreams of terror he had since last winter that ended in screams and cold sweat were gone. The memory of a terrifying beast, the demonic picture that instilled fear was now gone. Shattered completely into oblivion.
Last winter he was the common farm boy on his uncles farm. Together with his father and his cousins they worked hard to maintain a stable income. Although his mother had died giving childbirth, his uncle’s family treated him very well.
This simple life came to an abrupt end at the height of winter.
That night a demon in the guise of a beast broke into their farmhouse. He was one of the first injured as the solid wooden door crashed into him. The impact of the door barricade snapped like a twig and broke his leg. Partially hidden under the door, he escaped the first onslaught. As the demon chased the family one by one playfully executing them, his father managed to reach him.
In the bloodbath that occurred around them, his father managed to sneak out to the small cellar on the outside and lock him in. Through the cracks he could only witness the carnage that followed, as he remained frozen in fear.
The sounds of his father screaming on the outside until death was the last memory of that once happy life. The monster decimated everything of value that night.
The only way he survived was through the smells of the herbs that were stored in the small cellar. These seemed to affect the beast ability to hunt him by smell. It was also the main reason that he had insisted in scattering such herbal plants across the trapdoor in the barn.
This simple action that he was insistent on saved their lives by masking the scent of the smoked meats and their natural odor.
After the destruction of his family he was found a few days on the road to the village by the patrolling garrison. He spent the rest of the winter in the slums. The reason he survived was because the garrison provided a meager meal and some medication to him at that time.
Once winter was over and spring began he was left to fend for himself. He tried to return to the farm only to find it was in ruins after a major fire leveled it to the ground. Everything was now gone. As a child and part of the extended family he had no claim to the land. Even if he wanted to, he was powerless and penniless to work it.
He found work in the Trading post and other business places to scratch out a living. The poor setting of his leg left him with a limp that prevented him from demanding jobs. This physical defect along with the sleepless nights from terrifying dreams reduced him to simply surviving day by day.
During that steady decline into squalor, he had an encounter with other children of the same standing. Similar to him they were struggling for survival in the slums.
Different from him were their vitality and determination to overthrow this helpless situation. Today he understood how crazy they were to risk their lives for a chance of a better life.
He was now totally convinced that these were people who he could live and chance his life. He had finally found a family again.