Adam prepared a small travel kit after dinner. As he rose the next morning, a bit of tension knotted itself in his chest. He looked at the gently stirring form of Helen next to him. He was just starting to get comfortable with living here and he had to go away for a few weeks!
Adam took a slow breath and eased the tension some. No matter what, going out and helping others was worth it.
‘Besides,’ Adam thought; ‘Helen wouldn’t let me back out now. She’s expecting that coin to help repair the house!’
Quietly chuckling at the thought, Adam got up. Once again, he did his morning exercises, followed by a breakfast prepared by Helen and Vivienne. After that, it was time for Adam to leave.
Vivienne gave him a fierce hug, as she always did before he left. She spoke: “Be careful, okay?”
Adam chuckled: “As much as I can be. See you when I get back, Mom.”
Helen decided to go with Adam and Silber down to the Silver Saviors. The two walked hand-in-hand, savoring the moment before they would part. All too soon, though, they found themselves at their destination.
Helen first bent down and gave Silber a good scratch behind his ears: “Take care of Adam, okay? He likes to take risks.”
Adam felt even more discontent as Silber agreed with Helen. However, it was dampened as Helen gave Adam a radiant smile. She stood up and gave him a quick kiss before turning around and started walking away.
She called back to him: “Don’t take too long or I’ll move out!”
Adam shook his head with a wry smile. He thought: ‘She really knows how to push me.’
He then spoke to Silber: “Come on, boy. Let’s finish this contract quick!”
Adam and the twenty-odd other Silver Saviors Heinrich hand-picked for the contract approached the town of Bellach. They had made rather good time. The normal fourteen days it would take to get there, they had done in ten! They were a little weary from the march, but not exhausted.
As they got closer, the tense atmosphere over Bellach quickly became apparent. Hasty wood palisade walls had been erected around the town. They had taken down all the trees around the town to form the walls, making the area look barren. At various points along the wall, a stick-thin watchtower stood. The men atop them held no bows, as such weapons would be next to useless against a Geisttier that could move faster than any normal man.
As they entered the town through a shoddy gate in the palisade wall, they were approached by a group of militiamen. One of them spoke with hope in his voice: “Are you mercenaries here to help us?”
Heinrich stood at the front of their group and greeted the militiamen: “Yes. I would like to get more specific details about this crazed Geisttier…”
While Heinrich spoke with the men, Adam glanced around. Many of the buildings just behind the palisade wall were broken or even collapsed! There was even evidence of the palisade wall having previously been broken in places. Obviously, their defensive wall didn’t do much to actually protect them. While Adam was examining the area, Silber began sniffing and investigating the area with interest.
Heinrich walked up beside Adam and spoke: “Come, Adam. We’re off of to speak with the mayor. Hopefully, he knows something about why this all started.”
Adam nodded, then asked: “Are you coming, Silber?”
A quick bark told Adam that Silber was more interested in digging through the rubble than following along. He responded: “Suit yourself. I’ll be back soon.”
Adam and Heinrich were led by the militiamen to a three-story tall building, the largest building that could be found in Bellach. It was the city hall where the mayor ruled from. It was quiet, as they entered the building. There wasn’t much work to be done here, as most services had stopped due to the series of attacks Bellach had suffered.
Adam shook his head. The rest of Bellach was similar to the city hall; hardly anyone was walking about and most work had been stopped. He thought aloud: “How could they live like this for weeks?”
Heinrich gave a helpless sigh: “They’re desperate and afraid. I’m not sure if you were able to notice, but the militiamen looked malnourished. Bellach is probably on the last dregs of its food stores. Soon, the whole town will be faced with a decision; leave their home, or starve to death! We need to solve this as fast as possible!”
Adam responded with a firm nod as an older man walked briskly down the stairs to them with hope in his eyes. He asked: “You’re here to help us?”
Heinrich nodded: “I’m a martial artist. With the help of my group, we should be able to take care of the Geisttier one way or another. We wanted to get some more information on it before we head out, though.”
“Of course. Come, follow me to my office. Would you like some tea? It is the only luxury I have to offer during this… trying time.”
Bradley, as the mayor introduced himself, led the two of them to his office while his only assistant went to gather all of the reports made since the first attack. Pouring over the documents, Heinrich wasn’t able to glean much. They were all general reports of what happened after the fact without much eye witness accounts, besides a few mentions.
The Geisttier was a stag, which was already included in the information Heinrich had been given from the contract he took. Beyond that, nothing. The Geisttier just started attacking one day out of the blue!
Heinrich couldn’t help but ask: “You’re sure nothing was done to set it off?”
Bradley gave an exasperated sigh: “We don’t know! It’s ranged through the area for decades and it’s never done anything like this! We hunt from its herds, obviously, but it has never minded unless the hunters culled too much from a herd. One or two hunters have died from its retaliation in these cases, but it has never attacked Bellach before!”
After his outburst, Bradley took a few deep breaths before sipping his tea; “Sorry, this whole thing has everyone on edge. Let me think about it, I’m sure we didn’t leave much out of the reports.”
Bradley’s assistant spoke: “What about Gunter’s report?”
“Gunter’s? Ah, well I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to say it.”
“What?” Heinrich asked.
“Well, despite it attacking us multiple times, hardly anyone has actually seen the Gesttier! It is so fast, we can only catch a glimpse of it before it is somewhere else. Gunter has- had the best eyes of anyone in Bellach. He was hit during the second attack by some debris and died shortly after. Before he died, though, he was mumbling something about matted fur and blood. It could mean he saw an injury on the stag, or it was just some mindless ramblings before he passed. No one has been able to confirm one or the other, as anyone who gets close to that thing dies, so…”
Heinrich nodded: “We’ll keep it in mind. If there’s nothing else, we’ll head out and start tracking it.”
As the two left the Bradley, Adam asked Heinrich: “You think the Geisttier is attacking Bellach because it’s injured?”
Heinrich gave a quiet grunt while he was deep in his thoughts: “Possibly, but I think the more important question is why it was injured.”
“… you think somebody did this intentionally?”
Adam watched as Heinrich’s soul became mired in dark thoughts. Heinrich then said: “I think it likely, but it could still be something else. Let’s get going and find out.”
Picking up the Geisttier’s trail would have been extremely difficult without Silber. The stag could leap in giant bounds, so any footprints it left in the area around Bellach were far and few between. It also moved so fast, its scent was too thin in the air for the regular dogs the Silver Saviors had brought along to catch. On the other hand, Silber was a Geisttier himself. His nose, along with many of his other senses, was vastly improved compared to the dogs. He had already picked up the Geisttier’s scent from picking through the rubble of the buildings it had run down.
Heinrich was extremely happy, as Adam told him that Silber had already picked up the scent: “Hah! This is why I wanted the two of you along! Let Silber lead the way, but let’s go slowly. It won’t due to frighten the Geisttier into a fight if we appear too aggressive.”
They followed Silber as he led them deep into the forest. The further they got, though, the more things started to become… disturbing.
Adam called for a halt as Silber stalled. With his Spirit Sight, he could see what Silber was pointing out. He called out to Heinrich: “Another one.”
Heinrich countenance was rather grim. This was already the fifth deer corpse they had found! Each was riddled with arrows and left for dead. This wasn’t something hunters would do.
Heinrich motioned for everyone to gather around him. He spoke in a grim tone: “At this point, it should be pretty obvious; someone is aggravating the Geisttier! Keep an eye out for patrols or human tracks, I’m not convinced that whoever’s done this has left. Adam, do you think Silber will be able to communicate with the Geisttier? If we could at least tell it Bellach isn’t responsible…”
Adam looked at Silber: “What do you think, can you do it?”
Silber responded with a quiet, but confident bark. Adam in tuned gave a nod to Heinrich; “We’ll do our best to make it understand.”
“Let’s get back to tracking it, then.”
Continuing further into the forest, they found yet more dead deer. The deeper they went, the fresher the kills seemed to be. A few of the trackers even caught a few signs of human tracks about! The tension the group felt quickly began to rise.
Adam could see it in each of them, plain as day. Their souls became taught and brittle, while their bodies were tiring. Despite how tired he was and the strain it would put on his mind, Adam began to quietly hum. He imbued his little tune with a bit of Spirit Essence. Sneaking up on them, a cool breeze began to gently float among the Silver Saviors. It was a small comfort, but it worked to ease the tension the others had. With their minds not as taught, they were able to focus better on keeping an eye out for anyone nearby. It was a small comfort, but it worked to ease the tension from their minds. A little more relaxed, they could focus better on the task at hand.
Two hours later, Heinrich called for a stop. Adam’s cool breeze couldn’t do much for their exhaustion and more than a few of them were weary. Adam heaved a relieved sigh as he gently sat himself down on the ground. Just as Silber was about to join him, he perked up with alertness and turned. It was then that Adam saw it suddenly appear in his Spirit Sight!
Although they had been trying to find the stag Geistier, it had found them instead!