Chapter 4

Dawn broke across the landscape, the sun broke through the clouds like a radiant fruit, offering its richness to the trees and flowers. It cloaked the sky in a soft yellow light which danced across the gently flowing river that ran between the mountaineous valley and the lakes of glisteningwhite water like a giant scrying glass.

In the distance was the sea, tranquil in the soft blowing winds, on the right, a deep green forest ran into the horizon, gently dancing from side to side in the calm breeze. The forest ran around the cliff onwards were a muddy track slashed through the dense canopy.

To the left were long stretches of meadow, fields for cattle and fields of long wild grass and flowers. To the left was another forest that followed the track. The last wisps of smoke from a fire long burnt out.

Towards  the wreckage ran a group of men and women.

In the lead was the barman and his wife who with her sharp eyes had spotted the smoking pile of charred wood and ash.

Behind ran the gruff man with the lanky guy and behind them the lady with a long frock, dazzling pendant and long blonde hair in a tight bun with her maid, a pretty, asian girl with cocoa brown hair and deep black eyes.

Finally at the back, walking leisurely for sport was Brakken, with one eye on Wood at his side, the other taking in the surrounding trees and foliage.

"See, Mr. Wood, notice the crushed vegetation... something heavy must have ran through it... an animal, of some variety," is one of the infuriating things he would say.

Time seemed to slow in the overgrown woods, bordering the dirty old track, as if they had all stepped back in time and were slowly returning.

The low, steadily rising sun cast long, dark, creeping shadows as the gnarled old trees hung ragged and bent like a crooked old man. The dark browns of the woods and leaves dominated their eyes, as did the long dead trees and mouldy rocks jutting up like jagged fingers from the dark ground.

Yet overhead, the sky burned like a blue sapphire, with not a cloud, and on the floor, before them, lay the corpse of a fat, balding old man. They noticed his position, careless, splayed out and unmoving. On the back of his head, all that was visible was a large gash, dried up with old blood over his head and on the floor.

"See," began the barman, "this is what would be classed as the less subtle means of murder," he looked at the group, at Wood.

"Humour is not appropriate at this moment in time, 'tis a moment to show respect and dignity Mr. Lord," reprimanded the gruff man, who looked sternly at the barman. He broke his gaze and looked here and there.

"And yet you stand there drinking in the scene like you're favoured ale Mr..?"

"In- Mr. Ward thankyou, and I am simply, naturally curious, like all," explained Mr Ward to Brakken.

"And yet all would look rather to the bright pleasing sky, the dark foreboding trees, than the festering carcass," and with that Brakken stepped over to the body.

Rolling the lump of a man onto his back, they noticed several cuts, burns and bruises across his pale, once exuberant face, now a twisted mask of horror, and portly arms. His waistcoat was torn to a rag hanging limply from his shirt, slightly teared but otherwise fine.

A black waistcoat, trousers and white shirt showed that this man had once had the wealth of the world, and if he was wealthy, he wouldn't be walking. All looked upon him impassively, other than Mr. Ward staring excitedly, taking it in, and Brakken who looked bored and impatient.

Wood made no show of his emotions, he suddenly became withdrawn whilst the Lady had her hand over her mouth, troubled yet unperturbed, her maid silently shuffling her feet, scraping modd into a mound. Mr Lord and his wife looked annoyed, "that wretched Hunter, done it again!" and the thin man looked troubled, indifferent to the spectacle.

"We are entering a dark zone here, us who stand afore this man here in the grip of the beast, anyone may be next, and let it be known, if it shall be me, I shall at least leave knowing I had my way with it, and even I shall pity the beast on my final breath," Brakken threatened.

An ominous silence fell over the crowd as Brakken stood in unmatched power. Slowly, innocently, he brandished his cane.

The End

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