After the events in the mansion, Azerius and zero made their way toward a well-deserved drink. They both had things that needed explaining with the aid of some strong liquor. The cold was bitter as it kissed their partly exposed faces. The footfalls of their heavy boots crunched in the thick snow beneath. The dim grey light of a full moon only enhanced the beauty of the white covered town of Terafal. Only a few civilians passed them on that street, but none dared look at the hunters. Their long black cloaks and shadowed faces made for an imposing visage in such a place where everybody knows everybody.
The hunters said nothing as they walked, due to a combination of bandana covered mouths and deep thought. Zero wondered for the child’s safety. She was now alone in the world, with her father long gone and her mother dead at the hands of a demon. She had no close relatives either. All she had was her mother and a fortunate wealth. They had left the aftermath of the possession to the authorities. A sheriff’s department that Zero knew well and would not question the story that he had given them. It wasn’t a true one, of course. Humanity wasn’t ready for the truth of the creatures that lurk in the darkness. The story that he told them was of a robbery gone wrong while the child lay sick. It wasn’t the best, but it would work.
Azerius’ mind was a simple one. He thought of nothing but the hunt placed before him. Of the creature that needed to be slain, where to find it and how to kill it. He wasn’t new to the world of the demon, but it was one that he disliked. It is an ancient creature born of nothing but hatred and evil. It has no purpose, no restraint, no control. It is a thing that must be killed before it dominates, for that is all it wants. The domination of not just humanity, but the world itself.
Azerius and Zero soon reached their destination. It was a popular place with the locals. A bar that went by the name of Mountains Call. Immediately, Azerius wondered about the names origin. The doors of the old bar were heavy and crudely reinforced with wood and nail, to hold against the blizzard. The windows, glass smashed on the outside, had been boarded up long ago. The hunter motioned that his friend, Zero, lead the way. The large man could barely fit through the doorway, having to duck slightly and pull his arms close to his sides. It was once whispered among the hunter order that Zero had the blood of a troll running through his veins, such was his strength and size. Azerius followed suit.
The space inside was larger than first thought. Its entrance denied the fact that it was spacious and well-furnished inside. Two open fires roared. Fine oak tables and chairs were scattered around animal fur rugs. It was a hub of activity despite of the blizzard that raged outside. The scent of ale and smoke welcomed the hunters as they entered. All eyes that met their gaze quickly looked away as they approached the bar. The man serving was rugged, much like most of the people that drank there. He wore a thick greying beard and long hair of the same fading shade. He was a large man, not quite as large as zero, but still imposing enough. He smiled as they approached.
“And what can I get you guys?” He asked.
“Whiskey. Lots of whiskey… no ice. I’ve had enough of the cold already.” Azerius said.
“Cranberry juice here, please.” Zero added.
“Seriously?” Azerius laughed. “You gone soft on me, Zero?”
“I don’t drink on the… job.”
“And what job might that be? I’ve not seen you gentlemen in here before.” The barman asked while preparing their drinks.
“We’re working with the sheriff’s department.” Azerius answered. “Seen or heard anything unusual around here lately.” He asked, asserting his position in his fake role.
“You don’t look like any law enforcement I’ve seen before.” The barman queried, a puzzled look on his face.
“We’re a special division.” Azerius winked.
The barman pondered over this for a moment, before answering the question asked. “Nothing unusual around here. Aside from the absence of the mountains call, if you believe in such things.”
Luckily for the barman, they did believe in such things. For such things usually led to the hunt. The barman told Azerius and Zero of the old tale that had been told over a fire pit for years in Terafal. The story after which the barman’s establishment was named, The Mountains Call. An immense formation of mountains shadowed the town of Terafal. It is said that once every month, when the blizzard rages at its peak, a beast calls from atop those mountains. It is not a threatening call, nor one of sorrow. But a calling of reassurance. Reassurance that the people of Terafal are safe. It is said that the beast of the mountain fights a great evil that never relents. The beast stops that evil from ever leaving the mountains. However, the residents of Terafal have not heard the call in almost three months.
Most dismiss the tale as myth, but to some, it is as sure as the sun rising. And to the hunters, it meant trouble. Almost every myth they knew of was born of the truth. It would be too much of a coincidence the demonic possession would become a problem as the mountains call stopped. Azerius didn’t quite know what to make of it, but he would find the truth. The hunter made clear his intentions to investigate to the barman, whom swiftly warned Azerius of the dangers. None had set foot up the mountain trail in years. Not only through fear of the beast and the evil that it held at bay, but also the harshness of the environment. Thick layers of snow covered traitorous paths. Sheets of ice that hid freezing streams. A raging blizzard that never ceased. These were just some of the dangers of the climb. Any human would be a fool to attempt the climb, especially mid-winter. Azerius, however, was not entirely human.
After the hunters had finished their drink, they made their way out. Azerius decided that then was not the time for a casual catch up. They needed rest, and they needed to find the source of the evil before it was too late. The Hunter used their exit as a chance to scan the people there. They were ordinary. Ordinary for a town like Terafal. They were hard workers, as most of the work available involved mining and tree felling. They were a resilient and strong people, due to the weather that they endured every day. They were ordinary, except, those on a single table in a dimly lit corner. There were five of them, all silent, all unmoving. Unlike the others that drank in the establishment, they did not break eye contact with the Hunter. Unlike the others, they wore hooded robes of black. Azerius did not take his eyes off them until they left.
Azerius asked Zero if he had noticed the mysterious characters in the corner. He didn’t. The cold of the snow storm stung their face as the left the warmth. An ominous feeling lingered over the Hunter as they made their way to the Inn for the night. It didn’t take him long to realise why… they were being followed.
To be continued…