The forest was always silent at night, it was usually just a calm silence filled with the ethereal chirp of unseen insects, and the soft song of the birds taking their flight at night.
That night, however, had a silence that would give even the deaf a chill and a sense of foreboding that crawled across one’s skin. The leaves on the trees rustled as the wind caressed and brushed past branches and leaves, entering a labyrinth of its own design, purposed towards the leave’s gentle song. Water pooled and flowed as it coursed, blocked by occasional branches and stones, rippling the stolid crystal surface.
Touriel nestled at the top of a large birch tree, while his friend Vondoe clung to a tall oak opposite him. A full moon eclipsed the night sky, bathing the clearing beneath them in a dense silver, purifying light. Glinting off a little pool of water between them, slithering throughout the clearing revealing immense overgrowth and moss which smothered the fertile land.
They sat there, the two hunters, each in their own ecstasy of spirit, waiting for their prey, each as silent as the night that lie ahead of them, their eyes and ears trained on the reality around them. Not a single hoot from an owl nor a single firefly dancing upon the stars. The land around them seemed completely devoid of wildlife, there was no sign of life passed themselfs and the plants that enveloped them. Even with everything missing, everything else remained. Water flowed carefree. The plants reclaiming the earth behind them, settling in their own little hearth. In the sky so high lay the eclipse of a full moon and all that lay beyond.
Touriel sat atop his birch hold, his bow unsheathed, an arrow clung in the notch just waiting for his cue to pull, he was tempted to angle his bow just so, to let it fly off in an arch to hopefully scare some game towards them. He drew back his bowstring, the arrow snug between his fingers, letting it go without a second thought. It flew with a quiet howl singing off into the moonlight overhead with task and meaning. However he regretted it the second he did it; something just felt wrong.
“Don’t be silly,” he muttered to himself, in a tone weightless of sound. He shivered as the cool nights frost finally reached him, after its endless climb to the tip of the trees. He didn’t mind the cold or dark that entailed his hunts, he rather enjoyed it. The sensations reminded him of life’s cruelty. The hunts themselves would go on for a long time, or at least until they got a kill. Sometimes they went the whole night without so much as a mushroom or herb to bring back.
This night isn’t going to be one of those nights, Touriel thought. There was a rustling underneath the trees next to him. Stopping every so often, but always starting up again. It continued like that for a few minutes, steadily getting closer until an elk emerged, snout first pushing through a large mass of overgrowth, followed by its large antlers moving around branches and leaves as it brought its hulk of a body through. A smile crept across Touriel's face. Finally, he thought, a kill. He pulled the arrow back and aimed up his shot, lining up the arrow so it’d hit underneath the elk’s front shoulders, giving the beautiful creature a quick death. but an inclination stopped him from firing. Something wasn’t right, apparently the elk thought so too. Its head shot up and its ears twitched as if looking for something. A faint crack reached Touriel’s ears.
Something didn’t feel right, then he heard it, a faint rip, it sounded like the tearing of meat. Followed by something falling from a nearby tree, breaking branch after branch as it fell and landed on cold moss and stone. At first he couldn’t tell what it was, some kind of creature? But it wasn’t moving, It lied still making some kind of choking noise, followed by heart aching whimpers. The commotion startled the elk, it made a start for the bushes again, but its escape was short lived.
Out of the tree where that thing fell from, came something else. It’s speed unimaginable, it’s grace unnatural. It dashed straight for the elk and with one swift slice, separated the elks head from body, cutting sinew and muscle from bone, tearing the flesh with ease. The creature had an eerie beauty to it. Silver moonlight shined off its smooth onyx skin, like sun glare on water's surface. It’s body was elongated and undeniably flexible, yet shaped as though it was almost human. It bore six limbs, four of them were forearms, they were long and slender, bending at multiple places giving the illusion of them being broken, at the ends of its hands were long, jet black claws covered in blood. It had two hind legs, which seemed to bend like a dogs making it undoubtedly quick, the feet were long and thin with curved claws. It kept looking about, making little click noises.
What the hell is that! Touriel thought to himself. His heart began to pick up pace, his lungs felt heavy, and adrenaline corrupted his brain.
It circled around the dead elk, making sure nothing would interrupt it and its meal. After it was satisfied that nothing else was about, it began consuming, biting with enough force to chew straight through the bone, the teeth gently slicing meat. Its head was horrific, it had a rounded skull that seemed to droop, coming from the head was some kind of elongated muzzle filled with barbed teeth that skimmed through the moonlight. Something still felt wrong, and it wasn’t this creature that came from… where did it come from?
Touriel broke his eye contact with the creature to look at the direction that it came from. His eyes scanned the moonlit ground for the mass that the creature dropped earlier. There, lying on the cold, moss ridden stone, was the mass. The mass looked familiar in shape but Touriel couldn’t quite place it. There was something shining on it that caught his attention, it looked like gleaming metal, a bunch of it.
Then it hit him, the metal like objects lying on top of the mass were arrows. The mass was Vondoe! Touriel was horrified, this was his friend laying on the cool hard ground, a puddle of crimson blood slowly pooling around him. Touriel began to cringe, how would he tell Vondoe's family, what would he tell them? “Sorry some weird creature snuck up on him.” That wouldn’t cut it. Touriel was filled with rage, he wanted to take his fellow hunter home, after all maybe he’s still alive. Although he already knew he couldn’t be, after seeing what the creature did to the elk.
The creature. His attention must remain on the creature, less it get the drop on him like it did Vondoe. Touriel scanned the ground looking for the dead elk, but there was nothing to be seen. He looked back over to where the creature had taken the kill.
there just just rocks... rocks that have antlers? No it was the elks bones, or what was left of them. That thing ate the entire elk, except a few tidbits here and there. Yet the creature was nowhere to be seen.
Touriel’s heart began thumping, his body went cold, fear and anxiety took control of him. He was dealing with a potent foe, one so quick and strong it easily took out a seasoned hunter. But he too was a seasoned hunter, I’m more experienced and skilled than Vondoe, were anyone to come out on top it would be me. The only issue he had though was how to find the beast. The only thing going on around him was a faint clicking sound, the sound seem to whirl around groping at everything, outlining the world around him. It’s obvious this creature was keen to hiding and sneaking, it’s speed was unmatched, and its shear strength could probably take down the tree he was in. He needed to weed it out, lure it somehow.
Touriel drew his bow back aiming the arrow he’d been holding, at a rock next to Vondoe’s body, hopefully this will get the creature's attention. He let the arrow fly, it’s head glinting in the moonlight as it traveled to its destination. Then the satisfactory cling he waited for. Nothing, nothing happened except for a faint echo of the arrows arrival. He had failed, his only idea failed, now what was he to do. Wait there? Move from his hiding spot? Both ideas seemed like a death sentence.
Thankfully fate decided for him. He heard a faint groaning noise come from Vondoe’s direction, then saw Vondoe’s body begin to move. That's the moment where everything would change. Right now it was survival of the fittest, and he had two options. Rush to help his friend, or he could leave Vondoe there as bait, a lure to attract the creature. In the end it seemed obvious what he should do. Vondoe was already wounded, and lost a lot of blood, at most he could maybe make it a mile. And their camp was about 8 miles down the nearby river.
He left Vondoe to struggle, watched him do his best to crawl up the surface of a rock by a little puddle of water. He heard Vondoe’s cries for help, each one killing a part of his pride, and his past. Then he saw it, the creature as it slowly came about. It hugged against the mossy floor, walking as slowly as it possibly could, like a cat about to pounce. He waited till it was upon Vondoe, grabbed another arrow from his quiver, and aimed his bow. He waited till he had the arrow lined up with the creature's head, and drew back. He let the arrow fly, it whizzed through the air, colliding with the creature's skull with a loud thud. He watched the arrow break off into pieces, shards of metal flying through the air, mocking him.
The creature turned its head towards him, and lifted its body preparing to run at him, Its hind legs buckled as he lunged coming to kill this little pest of a thing. Touriel closed his eyes, not wanting to see his own death coming for him. He always thought he’d die a hero, but in the end he was going to sacrifice a friend, just so he could live and be the one to bring some new, deadly creature back to his tribe and show off, letting them all know who the best hunter was.
He braced himself for the creatures attack, fully prepared to accept his fate. Yet it never came. He slowly opened his eyes, wanting to make head or tails of what just happened. Then he say a sight he wasn’t expecting, Vondoe was holding his dagger in the center of the creature’s chest, while it’s limp body hung there. Touriel breathed in deeply then sighed, while Vondoe held the dagger in place, he cocked his bow one more time, aimed it at a target that it would actually penetrate. Then sent the arrow flying, hearing the satisfying sound of flesh being torn and the sound of meat smacking stone.
Touriel climbed down the large birch, landing on the soft moss below. Walked past the carcass of the poor elk, glancing at the majestic horns lying against the skulls remains. Walked towards the stream of liquid crystal, leading to the moonlit pond. He came up to the creature's body and looked it over.
Whatever you were, you’re dead now. He looked over to where his friends body was, he was full of regret for what he did. But Vondoe wouldn’t have survived the journey back. That thought made him feel better about what he’d done. He managed to tear his eyes away from Vondoe, and went back to the creature's body. looking it over one last time. From close up it smelled of putrid fish, maybe that was just from the wound. The oddest thing about this creature was the fact that it didn’t have eyes.
“Wonder how this thing hunte...” he began but was cut short The creature with what life it still had in it lifted its forearm, stretching its claws out, thrusted its hand into Touriels stomach. Using up what reserves it had left, just laid there.
Touriel Fell to the ground next to his friend. Vondoe’s cold stare never ceased looking at him, seeing his own pain reflected through the mirrorous eyes. He pulled away from looking to assess his own wound, the creature's arm still in it. Its funny how when something hurts so much you don’t even feel it, the pain itself to unimaginable. He watched his stomach pool with blood. The blackness of it darkening the silver hue of the moonlight. He turned to his friend one last time. Filled with pain and regret he whispered with what little breath he had left.
“Goodbye… old friend.”