Hello, fellow Fable Adventurers! Quite a spot our heroes are in isn’t it, facing an unending undead dwarven horde? And how about that Marksman facing down his demons? Quite a bout he had there, right? While I know that you are dying to know if the Wizard and the gang can make it out of this one, there is a nip in the air and The Writer has a different story to tell. I’ll put this tome on a shelf, don’t worry, I will resume it once spooky season is over. Now let us look at a time when our heroes weren’t heroes yet, but were becoming such. Hunting the things that go bump in the night…
The full moon shines through the open window, as the wind rustles the linen drapes. A shadow creeps through the window sill. The abomination, quiet as death, slinks across the wooden floor, the only sound being the wind in the window and the click of the monster’s claws on the floor. In the moonlight, an observer could see the monster's ashy, gray, inhuman skin, and the stringy black hair that hangs off of its head. Its teeth, like hundreds of little awls, line its drooling mouth. The beast’s forked tongue runs across its teeth. The monster masks its natural putrid scent with a combination of blue sage and leathery wood, so that its prey never sees, or smells, it coming. An observer would be unable to stand the sight. Of course, there is no observer. The beast preys on the vulnerable, creeping through closets, crawlspaces, and the shadows. This creature is the bump in the night, snatching the young, careless, and the unsuspecting. It has its prey all alone.
The monster stops, as it senses something is off. The smell of the lavender bed sheets permeates the air, but the monster smells something else. This cottage is set in the midst of a town nestled in the forested mountains, but the smell of cedar and pine is unusually pungent. “Must be the sawmill across the street,” the beast growls to itself.
The monster pulls himself up on the footboard of the bed, rising up to its full height, emitting a low guttural growl. This was a child’s bed, the monster’s favorite prey, and their fear makes them even tastier. The monster reaches down, grabs the sheet, and yanks the sheet away with a roar.
By the time the sound of the crossbow string cutting through the air reached the ears of the beast, the arrow had buried itself in the beast's belly. The monster screeched, falling back, and stumbling out of the window, crashing onto the cobblestone street below. The Marksman springs out of bed, pulling back the crossbow string, placing another arrow on the arrow track. The monster scrambles down main street on all fours. The Marksman posts up in the corner of the window, looking down the crossbow sights.
“That wizard’s beard oil almost gave me away,” the Marksman mutters as he tracks the monster screaming through the town. “Great for the ladies, almost gave me away on the hunt,” he thinks. Creating a good shot in this situation is tough, even for a seasoned professional like the Marksman. When the town hired him to take care of this night terror, there were no reliable witnesses to speak to. The town drunkard claimed he saw the beast, and that it ran like a bat out of hell. Of course, his testimony wasn’t necessarily considered legitimate, but now the Marksman believes he was half right. That sure wasn’t a bat. Thankfully, The Marksman had the forethought to have his weapons blessed by the priest. Even though he wasn’t particularly religious, it never hurts to have blessed weapons when hunting creatures of the night.
The night was humid, so the air creates more drag on the arrow. The wind would affect the flight path of the arrow, but after the apex of the arrow’s flight, the wind’s effect would become negligible due to all the surrounding buildings. All these factors were considered in the mind of the Marksman in a matter of seconds. It had to be, because the monster was rapidly moving out of range. The Marksman had measured various landmarks the day before he laid his trap. Dr. Wolf’s practice was about 30 yards from the cottage, the Barkeep’s tavern is 100 yards down the road, and the city gate is 150 yards away, the maximum range of the crossbow. And that’s where the beast was. The arrow sprang down the arrow track and sailed silently through the air. The Marksman lost track of the arrow in flight, the only way he could determine if he was on target was by watching the monster. Sure enough, a few seconds later the monster stumbled, and began to limp as it crashed through the front gate. “A shot to the back tendon, not necessarily a bulls-eye but I’ll take it considering the situation,” muttered The Marksman.
The Marksman whistles and a second later the whistle is met by a whinny, as his horse bursts through the stable door. The Marksman drops from the window to the front portico and then leaps onto the horse. He wheels the horse to where the beast initially fell. The ground is covered in deep scarlet blood, and the subtle scent that the beast cloaks itself with has been replaced by a putrid stench of sulfur and decay.
The Marksman snaps the reins, and the horse springs forward onto main street, the thunder of its hooves echoing off the buildings lining the road. By the time he got to the gate, the town guards had the gate open, which was fortunate, because he wasn’t slowing down. The Marksman and his steed race onto an old, overgrown highway with nothing but his lantern to light the way. The Marksman follows the blood trail until it veers off of the road. He turns to follow.
Normally, hunting a wounded animal, or whatever this is, in these mystical woods at night would be ill-advised, but the Marksman lives and breathes in these woods. The putrid smell of the unholy monster, amplified by the contrast to the forest’s usual smells of cedars, pines, and soft mosses, burns the Marksman's nose. There’s a slight rustling just beyond the reach of his lantern.
“Woah girl,” the Marksman whispers as he dismounts from his horse. The blood trail has increased. He stands quiet, the rustling has stopped, and is replaced by quiet raspy growling. Suddenly, with a roar, the beast lunges out of the shadow, but the Marksman is ready. He draws his hunting knife and swings, as he ducks under the beast’s outstretched arms. The monster shrieks and crashes into an oak tree, as its claw hits the ground with a meaty thud. The Marksman walks slowly towards the slumped-over form leaned up against the tree, leveling his crossbow. The monster stirs and weakly snaps to attention as he sees The Marksman approach.
The Marksman stares at the monster before him. In all of his years of hunting beasts and monsters that roamed these lands, he had never seen anything as evil as this.
“What are you,” asked The Marksman. He was shocked when the monster began to speak. It began to speak with what sounded like a thousand insidious voices.
“I’m the sum of all your fears. The darkest of both human and inhuman imagination. I am the bump in the night and the creak in your floorboards. You may have bested me this time hunter, but you have not prevailed. I will return for you, Marksman, and you will feel my wrath.”
The monster laughed a hideous laugh and melted into the shadow as its disembodied voice said, “Foolish mortal, you can’t kill The Boogeyman.”