In small town a rumor of a monster is spread abroad. Is it just a myth?
|the Within small town of Wrethmire situated just outside the castle walls in the kingdom of Nephaal, all was going as usual. Lately though, rumors around this place were spreading. Strange cattle deaths were occurring at other settlements throughout the realm. Large bite marks showed that something with a big mouth and large teeth had fed on them. The occurrence of human deaths had been restricted to outside provinces. Nevertheless, people were sure to be indoors by dark and did not go into the grain fields at that time. One dreary night, a person with a huge gash on his lower right torso came limping through the town square. The individual was male and had eyes that boggled like a drunkard. The poor soul struggled to walk before finally collapsing holding the wound. A trail of blood stopped where he lay.
“My word!” said a guard who had been patrolling in the darkness. He ran and knelt beside the wounded man. “I’ll get the physician. Hold on!”
The physician returned to the dying man. “What happened?” asked the doctor.
“The monster, it got me!”
“In the alley, Ugh!” then the man was silent.
“The poor soul,” said the physician. “This is the second attack done in this manner. I did not think this one would occur so close together from the first one. ”
“You speak of the rich man who was accused of conspiring to kill the prince and then was declared innocent in court. I remember carrying him to your quarters. I recognize this man as well. He was put in the dungeon four days ago for committing murder. He must have escaped,” said the guard.
“We must take him out of the square and to the mortuary. People will panic if they see this.” Both of the men grabbed the corpse and walked quickly. The physician dropped the cadaver then opened the door. They entered and put it on the ground next to a closet full of hanging burlap sacks. Both men were sweating with nervousness as they slipped the cadaver into one and put it inside a casket.
“What will we do about the blood?” asked the guard to the physician.
“We must rinse it away. We’ll use water from the well that is near the blacksmith’s forging place. It is less than a block away.”
The men used two large buckets and filled them with water from the well then returned to the scene. They splashed away the trail of blood that began at a narrow alley not far from where it ended.
“I will inform the king when he wakes,” the guard said. “It is imperative that we hunt this beast down.”
“Very well,” replied the physician. “Ensure that only the king knows of it. If the people do not see him hung for his crime, they will ask questions.”
The next day at dawn the king rose from his canopy bed and walked to a large balcony. He heard a knock coming from his chamber doors. He stretched and walked back inside. “Enter,” he said.
The guard from the night before opened the door then shut it behind him. “Your majesty, I have grievous news.”
The king frowned. “What do you speak of guard Nestor?”
“The monster seen in the various towns of Nephaal has invaded Wrethmire. A second killing occurred last night to the malefactor named Cadnier. With his dying breath he said he had been attacked. I and the court physician heard this when he died near city square.”
The king put his hand to his chin and started to pace around anxiously. “This is not good at all. I trust you have kept it between us three and the guards only?”
“Yes, king Lorian.”
“This killing occurred only five days apart from the first. I want patrols throughout Wrethmire out two hours before twilight.”
“Yes, My Lord.”
King Lorian walked back to the balcony and feared for the townsfolk. He looked at the homes and the peopled bustling about in the markets. The king studied the innocent children and busy adults from above. Their modest apparel of brown tunics and long dresses expressed their happy lives and meager wealth. The houses of the commoners were quant and small, big enough to contain a kitchen, living room and a few rooms, some of which were at a second story. In one such home, a mother and her child were going about the usual daily life.
“Mother, I have a simple solution. If we bore a square hole at the bottom of the door and put a latchet there and place a hinge lock at the top, the dogs could come in any time they want. Then at night we could lock it so nothing can come in at dark.”
“Just make sure the lock is tough enough. There is no telling how strong or big that monster is.”
“Before that, you need to go to the market to get some vegetables for tonight’s dinner. Here is some money; off you go,” she told Erin as she opened the door and put five small silver coins in his palm.
He stepped outside and spun to his left to the market street. Shortly after, he arrived to the many kiosks with people behind them selling goods and meats. Just as he was about to approach a potato seller, he was grabbed by the arm and yanked inside a dark alley. Three older teenagers with malicious grins surrounded him. One of them pushed Erin against a wall.
“Look here small one, it would be smart to give us any money you have.”
“I don’t have any money,” whimpered Erin.
A different bully struck him across the face. “Liar! No one would be in the market but to buy,” the antagonizer said. “And you don’t look poor enough to steal.”
“Alright! Here is all I have!”
Erin reached into his pocket and gave them the five coins. “Now let me go,” Erin pleaded.
The one who struck him took Erin by the throat. “Do not breathe a word of this to anyone.”
“Okay, I won’t!” the poor victim said as he nodded his head.
“Good kid,” said one of them as they cackled walking deeper into the alley.
Erin wiped his tearful eyes. Just as he turned to go out of the alley, he heard faint screams where the bullies had walked off into. Erin stood unsure for a few moments. An anxious sweat ran down his right temple. He squinted in the darkness.
“Hello?” he said in the shadow of the alley as Erin walked deeper into it. His eyes widened in fear as he saw three bodies torn to pieces. He stepped back and his heart raced. Erin ran back out into the open market running straight for a guard.
“Please, something happened in an alley! It is horrible! I think it was the monster!” Erin spat hysterically.
“Another person has been killed? Where!?” demanded the guard.
“This way,” Erin said as he led the man to the scene of the slaughter.
“The beast is attacking in the daytime now,” said the guard said anxiously. “I’ll be back with help to take away the bodies and get rid of the blood.” Then he sternly spoke to Erin. “See that you don’t tell another soul about this. Now go home.”
As he walked off, he remembered the task he was supposed to do. “Oh no, what will I tell mother? I’ll have to tell her at least.” Erin said to himself.
Erin strode home quickly trying to hide his fear by not making eye contact. He mumbled incoherently as the fear ran through his mind. When he got to his home, he jerked the door open and shut it hardly.
“Mom, there has been another killing!”
“Killing? What do you mean?”
“The monster!-it killed three teenagers just now!”
“You actually saw it happen! In broad daylight!?”
“It happened to three thieves who tried to steal from me. I heard them scream and then there were three bodies all torn up in a puddle of blood!”
Alain held her son tightly rocking him. “Thank goodness you’re not hurt. Did you tell someone?”
“Yes, a guard.”
“Well, you are safe now. Maybe you should go cut that hole in the door. It will to get your mind off it and calm you.”
Erin went to work on the project. He used a saw to cut the square hole and hammer a metal hinge to attach the latch. Just like his mom said, it helped to focus on something else. When he had finished the hole with the latch and put the lock in place, Erin trudged upstairs and into his room then fell on his bed. Although the panic had abated he was still worried about the monster being in town. He approached his desk then reopened a book he was reading. He got lost in its pages about the politics and wars that happened decades ago and an hour later, he dozed off.
When he opened his eyes it was nearly dark and people were closing their shops and going home. Only the guards remained outside. Erin walked down stairs and saw his mom on a wooden chair reading a Bible in front of a bright fireplace.
“It’s too late for stew so we will have to have some bread I made yesterday,” Alain said.
“I don’t feel like eating. Can I go lay down?”
“Of course son, sleep well,” she said.
Erin retired to his bed and fell asleep. He was woken by an empty stomach and realized he had forgot to lock the dog door. He trimmed a lamp and went to the kitchen and quickly ate. A fire was still going and his mom was sleeping in her room upstairs. When he did not see the dogs in the house he called for them.
“Cole, Lucy come in.”
The two dogs came in through the square hole. Just as he was about to approach the small door, he dropped the lamp. Then he heard the sound of claws on wood. He saw something shift in the shadow and he retreated into the light of the fireplace. The figure halted and the click of claws scratching stopped. Erin ran for a kitchen knife.
The frightened boy’s hand shook and his voice trembled.
He was horrified as a voice emanated in the darkness. It was subtle and soft but carried an air of wickedness. “Hello child. There is nothing to fear.”
Then the source of the voice was revealed as it ebbed slightly into the light. Erin saw it to be an enormous serpent’s head with horns and scythe like teeth stained with blood.
“You’re the monster!”
“Oh, but I only devour evil people who deserved to be punished just like those boys who took your money. And I am called a serpent dragon.”
“But you killed them!”
The creature stepped closer to him. It was a dragon with four legs and a snake like body. The creature reared itself higher six feet into the air.
Erin gripped the knife tighter and cringed his teeth. The beast slowly moved closer as “Put down that knife. You are in no danger.” It gargled. “I have come to return the money they took from you.”
Suddenly, three guards broke through the door. Immediately a tall lanky one lunged at it with a spear.
“Hurry, before it becomes invisible!” exclaimed another guard.
The veil of mist surrounded the dragon and it vanished from sight. However the sounds made by the beast were still heard. They could listen to it scamper out through the doorway with the clinking of its claws on the stone floor.
“Blast it! He escaped us again!” the guard said.
“When did you discover it could turn invisible?” asked Erin.
“Another guard saw it cloak itself like it just did in a puddle, and then he saw water splashing as it ran away.
Alain ran down the stairs as confusion and fear welled up in her eyes. They glossed over as they darted all over the horrendous scene. “What happened!?” she exclaimed.
“Your encountered the beast. He’s lucky to be alive.”
“I don’t think it meat to hurt me. It said it was here to return my money that the thieves took.”
“It spoke to you?” said the guard. “That means it is smarter than we thought. If it talks it can reason, it can plan how to evade us. The situation has turned more volatile.”
“Didn’t you hear me?” said Erin.
“It may have been putting on a front. It’s time to leave.”
With the guards words they left. In light of the broken door and the situation, Erin and his mom stayed at an inn. At the start of the morning he contemplated the dragon’s words and what would become of the creature. His reflections carried throughout the week. But he was distraught one Friday dawn when his worry for the being came to pass. In the town square the dragon’s carcass was hung up on one of the gallows.
He approached a guard and inquired how they snared the animal.
The man answered with no regard of the beast’s intentions. “When we realized it was attacking lawbreakers and such, we let a mass murderer loose. He thought he had escaped but it was planned as I said. We followed at a distance and it appeared. Then we struck it down with a crossbow.”
Erin did not know what to think. The dragon was killing, but it was not done to the innocent. However some acts like theft did not warrant death. But on some level, the “monster” was doing a service by not letting malefactors escape justice. But killing outside organized methods took precedence.
And so it was that the kingdom of Nephaal was liberated from its fears. The beast had been slain and people rejoiced knowing that the nighttime was no longer a thing to shun. The king declared that day to be a holiday. For years to come Beast’s Bane day would celebrated with mannequins made to look like the Dragon were paraded up and down town square then pierced with swords. But every year Erin would shed a tear not knowing if the beast should be demonized like it was. Yet to the rest of the populace, the jubilation was the legacy of a curse that ended just how it should have.