Chapter 17: Ghul

          Adam once again awoke in the middle of the night. This time, Adam could tell there was something wrong! The wolves were howling again, but they weren’t calling out. They were whining in pain! Behind it, vicious barks could be heard in the night! Hansen was already up and rasping on their tents: “Up you lot!”

          Many ‘What’s going on?’ questions came from Alfred and the others as they were startled awake. Hansen merely responded: “Don’t know, just get ready!”

          The camp was already abuzz with activity as the Silver Saviors roused from their slumber. Quickly, they took up their weapons and made themselves ready for a fight! Isley came by: “Start packing up! We’re leaving as soon as we can!”

          Hansen questioned: “We’re leaving in the dark?”

          Isley shook his head: “It’s too dangerous when we don’t know what’s got the wolves like this. We’ll be leaving as soon as the morning starts to lighten up the sky.”

          Adam scrambled with the others to pack up the tents and other supplies. Since many of the Silver Saviors were forming a protective perimeter around camp, they had to pack up their gear as well. Not long after they started, the cries and barks of the wolves died down. But, the Silver Saviors didn’t relax their vigilance nor did they tell Adam and the others to stop.

          It took a couple hours on their own, but they had finally packed everything up. All that was left was to sit and wait for enough light to safely hike through the forest. While they sat, they talked among themselves: “We haven’t heard anything from the wolves, recently. Shouldn’t everything be alright now? I just want to go back to bed.”

          Isley overheard them and said: “Why do you think the wolves have been quiet?”

          They turned to Isley with a questioning look: “What do you mean?”

          “The wolves have been quiet yes, but why? It could be that they are all dead!”

          They froze when they heard that. Isley continued: “If that is the case, we have to continue watching out for whatever got them. If the wolves won, on the other hand, they might go out on the prowl to remove any intruders from their territory, and we’re definitely in their territory.”

          Another three hours passed before the sky finally began to gain some light. After talking with the others, Isley came over: “It’s time to go. As we walk, try to be silent and don’t talk. We’re going to be making a slight detour to head over to where we heard the wolves.”

          “Why!?” Franklin was the first to get his frightened question out.

          “Because we don’t know what happened. If we know what caused that ruckus, we can prepare for it! If it sneaks up on us, we won’t be surprised by whatever it is. The road is still roughly in the same direction, so the danger won’t really escalate by much. In fact, it would be safer since we would know what else is out here with us.”

          Without having any room to debate it, they silently followed the Silver Saviors into the forest. An hour later, the sun had started to light up more of the sky, and they could fully see the ground at their feet. With this much light, it was much easier to pick out wolf tracks and follow them to their source.

          They all became tense when they finally found the Wolves’ den. Littering the area, were their broken forms! Many bones in each of the wolves were broken to pieces and blood pooled around their bodies from open fractures that pierced through their skin. The sight was ghastly and Derek couldn’t help but ask aloud: “What could have done this!?”

          The crumpled forms of the wolves were downright disturbing in a way that was far worse than when the Silver Saviors killed the boars. There was something that just felt unnatural about it. A few of the Silver Saviors quickly scouted the area while the rest kept a wary eye out.

          Adam cast his Spirit Sight about the area with a disturbed look. The Death Essence claiming the wolve’s bodies could no longer be clearly seen. It had already mixed with the other Spirit Essence in their bodies, turning them dim. Looking at all these dead forms, Adam’s skin began to crawl. It was as though tendrils of death caressed his skin looking for a way in! It was wholly disturbing.

          Having found all the evidence they needed, the scouts whispered their findings: “There are large bear tracks all over, so it was definitely a bear that did this!”

          “No normal bear could do that to a wolf!”

          The scout nodded: “We fear… it is a Ghul!”

          Everyone paled when they heard this! Adam recalled what he had learned of Ghuls at SIH. Ghuls were creatures that came to have a large amount of Spirit Essence somehow inhabit their body. This Spirit Essence would rage within them, causing them to go insane and kill others. Their very blood was transformed by the Spirit Essence causing anyone that had the blood entered in them to become a Ghul as well. There were three ways to kill a Ghul; cut off its head, pierce its heart, or if all else fails you bleed it out. Ghuls are a plague that, if left unchecked, would spread and corrupt not just living creatures but the land itself! However, if the bear was a Ghul…

          Someone asked: “If it was a Ghul, why haven’t these wolves turned too?”

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          The scout pointed at the wolves: “Just look at them! They’re practically mushed to a paste! So many vital bones broken and leaking blood everywhere, there’s nothing left behind to turn into a Ghul!”

          Hansen added his thoughts in: “It doesn’t matter. It’s some kind of large bear we don’t want to cross. Now that we know, let’s get the hell out of here!”

Only allowed on

          Everyone agreed. Just as they turned to leave, Adam noticed something amid all the dead wolves! Just inside the burrow that the wolves were using as a den, there was a wolf on the ground. Underneath the wolf, there was a glimmer of life! A lone shivering pup that had somehow survived what killed the rest of its pack. Maybe the dead wolf on top of it… protected it from being seen by the Ghul!

          That pup’s family had been ripped from it by a Ghul. Adam immediately felt a sense of kinship with it and there was no way he was just going to leave the poor thing to die on its own. Running over to the burrow, Adam told the others: “Wait!”

          Adam taking off like that gave everyone a surprise. Hansen recovered from it and quickly caught up with Adam: “What are you doing!? We need to leave.”

Adam gently rolled the dead wolf off the pup. The pup looked positively scared as it yipped at Adam while scampering backward. Adam quickly caught the pup and held him to his chest. The pup promptly bit down on his hand, to which Adam grimaced. While it hurt, it wasn’t terrible. Turning, Adam said: “Okay, let’s go.”

          The Silver Saviors didn’t waste any more time as they headed out. They kept a careful watch out for what they suspected was a Ghul Bear. Staying on constant alert like this was far more exhausting than a normal hike. It also took longer, as they moved slowly.

          The pup in Adam’s arms grew tired from trying to bite his hand and merely shivered in his hold. Adam felt sorry for it, but there was no time to make its situation better. Whether food or even a blanket, they would have to be unpacked and it was far too dangerous to stop and do that.

          Suddenly, someone at the front threw up a hand signal. Immediately, almost everyone stopped. Adam and the others were a step behind since they hadn’t been taught anything about hand signals yet. After a moment of silence, Franklin asked: “Why’d we-”

          “Shush!” Hansen glowered at him!

          Franklin immediately stopped talking. After another moment, everyone could hear a heavy crack! Off in the distance. Another hand signal was thrown up and the Silver Saviors moved into a defensive circle. Isley whispered to them: “Stay in the center and don’t interfere!”

          Trepidation grew among everyone as they all thought the same thing: ‘Was that the Ghul!? Is it coming towards us?’

          It didn’t take long to get the answer to that question. A giant looming form in the shape of a bear could be seen walking through the trees! It was just inside the range of Adam’s Spirit Sight and what he saw gave him a small fright! The bear was filled to the brim with madly swirling Earth Essence! It was as though a raging tempest was blowing inside the bear! Just looking at it gave a sense of oppressing might!

          Everyone tensed, but they all kept still and quiet. The bear was moving parallel to their group and had yet to notice them. They didn’t want to do anything that would make the bear notice them. Then a small breeze blew past the Silver Saviors in the direction of the bear. Those smart enough to know the consequence of this mentally cursed: ‘S***!’

          The bear lifted its large head and sniffed the air. Then it turned its head to find a group of men not too far off! It gave off a low hissing huff before running at them at a speed you would think was impossible for something its size! The Silver Saviors quickly formed a defensive formation with their spears leveled at the bear. At the same time, Isley shouted: “C’mon, we need to run while they hold the Ghul off!”

          Adam and the others looked shocked. Alfred quickly asked: “We’re just going to leave everyone?”

          Hansen barked: “Do you think you can do anything here? All you’ve got is that skinning knife. Move!”

          Under Hansen’s aggressive orders, they started running away while still heading towards the road. As they ran, low hanging branches began to scratch their faces and brush snagged their clothes.

          Adam did his best to protect the pup who seemed to have given up on life. First, that monstrous Ghul killed its pack. Its own mother lied dead on top of it to protect it! Then, it was abducted by a strange creature it had never seen before! The Ghul then once again appeared and then the strange creature carrying started running away! It was now being jolted left and right as the creature ran while the world was racing by almost faster than it could see. It was all too much for it to handle so it gave up everything. Whether figuring out a way to escape the creature or even just trying to comprehend what was going on, it was done.

          When they finally made it to the road, they were all out of breath and looked a sorry sight. They started to catch their breath while looking back. Franklin asked: “Do you think they’re okay?”

          “They’ll be fine.” Isley answered. “They only needed to hold it back so we could escape before retreating themselves. We’re ill-equipped to take out a Ghul, especially a bear so they won’t even try.”

          While they were talking, Adam gave the pup in his arms a worried look. It seemed to have lost all its spirit. He tried petting it, but it didn’t even seem to register.

          Isley walked over: “So you retrieved that pup from the den? Can I take a look at it?”

          Isley briefly inspected the pup before handing it back to Adam. “Well, it’s a boy. He doesn’t seem to be infected by Ghul blood. However, I don’t know how long he’ll survive like that. I think he received too much stress from what happened.”

          Hansen piped in: “Should we continue moving?”

          Isley nodded: “We’ve rested enough. We’d better get back to the city and tell the guard what’s up. The others will meet up with us there too.”

          Together, they took off down the road for Hessler. It wasn’t until late in the afternoon that they finally reached the gates. Isley decided to part with them here: “I’ll talk to the guards about the Ghul. Why don’t you just go home and rest. You can worry about dropping off your packs with us later.”

          Everyone relaxed at the thought of returning home. Isley then directed to Adam: “That pup needs to eat something within the next day, or it will die. Try some milk. If it won’t have anything, bring it over to the Silver Saviors. Our dog handlers might be able to help, but…”

          Adam merely nodded in response as he petted the unresponsive pup. He really didn’t want it to die. Adam started on his way to Madame’s: “Let’s get home quick!”

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