The pink glove lay on the ground, almost covered. Galo was panting hard, his face and chest covered in dirt and dust. He slowly bent down, scooping up the small glove with care. Another had been taken, another lost soul had been taken by the beast. He cursed and got to his feet.
“The trail is not cold yet!” Galo hissed.
He climbed back on his horse, racing after the child caught in the beast’s clutches. He could only pray that he could save this one.
Galo Thymos came from a small town in the mountains. They had a good size population, but kept to themselves, preferring not to venture to the forests beyond their quaint cottages, fully content to trade and sell among themselves for the things they needed to survive. Their desire for safety and peace, however, was mostly due to what lay in the forest around them. For among the bushes and tall trees, a beast lurked, always on the prowl. Galo, more than once growing up, had seen it with his own eyes, but just a flash before it was gone.
Those who had claimed to see it said it looked like a bear, large with huge paws, excellent for snatching up small children who weren’t paying attention and massive teeth, excellent for gobbling up anyone it caught. As a child, Galo had always been fascinated by the stories told by the elders, but this was no story, at least not one with a good ending. Growing up, he only knew of two people who had disappeared into the forest, never to return, but in the last six months since Galo had turned 18, the number of people who had disappeared, children especially, had risen to sixteen.
Galo shook his head. There was no time to dwell on the past, he had to keep going. He had been there when the child, a small girl by the name of Annabelle, was snatched by the beast. There was a small lake that the children loved to play on when it iced over in the winter that was a bit too close to the forest. He had gone there to stand watch, make sure they didn’t hurt each other when the beast came. He had been so close to saving her, but at the last minute, slipped on the ice under his feet. He remembered her screams of terror as she disappeared into the darkness.
He had raced back to the town, but no matter who he spoke to, they were all too scared to go after her. The rage boiled in his chest and he had done the only thing he could think to do; grab a horse and race after her.
“We can find her, I know we can!” Galo whispered.
He had only a pitchfork with him, no gun or other weapon he could use to fight it off. He hadn’t really thought this rescue though, if he was going to be honest, but there had been no time. He heard a short scream and pushed the horse forward. They hit a small hill overlooking a clearing and the horse stopped, whining in fear. Galo could only agree.
The beast was much, much bigger than anything Galo expected. The quick glimpses and stories do it no justice. The beast was massive, covered in fur and eyes like the devil. Galo climbed off the horse and stared at the little girl crying. Her jacket was caught in the beast’s fangs and Jesus, even they are huge, but Galo was nothing if not determined.
“Hey!” he roared.
He slid down the slope and stood before the beast, his pitchfork in hand. The beast was growling, low and dark as Annabelle whimpered, her cries quieting down.
“Let her go!” he demanded.
He had no idea if this creature was smart enough to understand what he was saying. He had no idea if this creature even understood his tone, but Annabelle was dropped and he resisted the urge to race towards her. She hit the ground with a cry and laid there, curled up and shaking. He wanted to run to her, but doesn’t. He had no idea if that was exactly what the beast wanted and it will just eat them both.
“Annabelle, Annabelle, it’s ok now. Galo is here!” Galo said and the small girl smiled.
The beast growled and Galo snarled back, pitchfork at the ready. It doesn’t move, but Galo took the chance. He started moving forward, taking it one step at a time. The beast growled low and angry, but Galo doesn’t stop. The sweat, despite the cold, was rolling down his back, but he dared not stop until he came face to face with the creature.
He locked eyes with it, accepted the burning coals as the bore into his before he knelt down. He placed the pitchfork down, accepting that, at any point, this beast could swallow them both whole. It does not, it just keeps watching as Galo scooped Annabelle into his arms and then started to back up. He was defenseless, his only weapon was by it’s leg and he knows he was not fast enough to run, but that does not matter.
He gets back to his horse and helped Annabelle on before sliding on himself. Staring at the beast, he nodded in respect.
“My name is Galo Thymos! I won’t let you take any more people from my home! So leave!” Galo commanded.
He doesn’t wait around, he takes off, racing back home with the saved girl in his lap. The beast watched this all before walking away. The pitchfork was left where it lay.
When Galo returned home, he was greeted with cheers and tears. The girl’s parents sob as she was handed back to them. The town was amazed by his bravery and there was talk of a feast. They believe he has slayed the beast, but Galo corrects them.
“I did not slay it. I just took Annabelle back. It did not harm her, so I did not kill it.” Galo declared.
The townspeople are confused, but still grateful. A feast was held, but Galo couldn’t help, but wonder why the creature let them go. It nagged at him, but he was just grateful to be alive.
The beast struck again a few days later. Another child from the edge of town. Galo heard the screams and raced to the scene, just as the creature disappeared. He doesn’t wait even a moment, taking off after it. The child was crying and he followed it until they hit another clearing. It was smaller than the first, but Galo sees the beast stop once more, waiting.
“Beast! Leave him alone!” Galo roared.
The child was dropped and unlike Annabelle, he was quick to get to his feet and try to run. A single paw grabbed him and dropped him back by the beast’s side and Galo frowned. He does not consider what he does next, he just starts walking. Like before, the beast does not stop him, their eyes are locked as Galo scooped up the boy and cradled him.
“Leave my town alone!” he declared in it’s face.
The beast let out a growl, but Galo growled back in defiance.
“We are not scared of you anymore! So go!” Galo demanded.
The beast sat there before standing up, turning around and walking away. Galo’s heart was pounding, but the creature was gone and Galo had a crying child he needed to get home before dark. The town was amazed when he came back once more, another saved child in his arms. They demand answers, but he has none.
“I simply took the boy back. I didn’t have to fight it off.” Galo stated to the elders.
The head of the elders is a man called Kray Foresight, someone Galo respected a lot. He seemed uncertain, but pleased by Galo’s bravery. They hold a feast in celebration and Galo was happy to see the town come together. Behind his back, however, whispers are moving among the crowd.
The third taken wasn’t a child, but a young woman Galo knew well. Her sister, Heris, came running up to him, tears rolling down her face as she begged him to bring her sister back. He was on the hunt immediately, thankfully it has snowed and the trail is fresh. He finds the beast, once again, in a clearing, but Aina wasn’t some small, defenseless child.
She was cursing, screaming and even trying to kick it with her feet. When she was dropped, she rounded on the beast, ready to unleash hell upon it as she had done so many times to Galo. Galo was sure, even with the fur covering it’s face, the beast was sweating. He grabbed her around the stomach and tugged her away, dodging her swinging fists as he tugged her back towards safety. Yet, at the same time, he was watching the beast.
Again, the beast does nothing. It could have easily torn Aina to shreds in the time it took Galo to get here, but it doesn’t and Galo was confused.
“Why do you keep doing this! What is the point!” Galo demanded when he finally gets Aina across the clearing and to safety.
The beast says nothing, of course, just stares at him. Galo frowned and looked the beast over.
“If you are trying to tell me something, I’m not smart enough to figure it out.” Galo said.
The beast huffed and then turned away. It looked at him and then started walking and Galo was sure it wanted him to follow, but Aina was tugging at his arm and he followed her instead.
There was no celebration this time, only anger and fear. People who once cheered for him now look at him with wariness and suspicion. Aina is reunited with her sister and as they cry together, Galo found himself surrounded by the town.
“What did you do!” one called.
“Are you working with the beast!” another demanded.
“What! No!” Galo snapped, shocked by their turn.
Kray stepped forward and Galo felt small under his gaze. The red eyes seemed to bore into him.
“I do not know what spell you have the beast under, but this ends today.” Kray declared.
Galo felt his world shift. What?
“What are you talking about! I didn’t do anything!” Galo demanded.
Yet, even as he said that, they rush him. Before he can think, he was tied up and he was being dragged out of the village. He found himself being bound to a tree at the far end of the town, unable to escape before they pull away. He struggled, but the ropes do not budge.
“Please, you have this all wrong!” Galo begged as Kray stepped up to his side.
“Let us see if the beast will come for you this time instead. Leave him here. He will either be taken or die.” Kray declared.
Galo’s stomach dropped, staring at the man in horror.
“Kray! Kray, please, you can’t! You saved me once, Kray! Don’t do this please!” Galo called, but Kray just walked away and he was left alone.
The start of the night came cold and fast and Galo quickly realized that Kray was right. He would either be taken or freeze to death. He shivered and shook, trying still to get free, but knowing it was no use. He slumped in his binds, wondering how this could all go so wrong when he heard movement.
His head snapped up and he saw the beast coming towards him. There was nowhere to go, nowhere to run. He was trapped. As the sun sets behind the beast, he watched as something began to change. The huge furry body started to shrink and shift. Fur moved back until a young face was revealed, the fur around the body shifting into a cloak and Galo was left in awe.
“What the hell?” Galo asked as those eyes, the once of the once beast, now human, lock with his.
“So they did turn on you.” the man stated and Galo could only stare.
“You’re… the beast?” Galo asked.
He had never been practically eloquent, but even he can admit that was fucking stupid. The man, however, chuckled.
“You can say that, Galo Thymos.” the man replied.
“You know my name… wait, I told you my name, didn’t I?” Galo shook his head.
The cold was getting to him. Without the sun’s rays, his body’s temperature was starting to drop. His body wouldn’t even shiver anymore.
“Just for future reference, my name is Lio Fortia.” the man, no Lio, stated.
“I don’t really understand what is going on.” Galo said mournfully.
“Allow me to explain then, your town is under a spell.” Lio stated.
Galo glanced at him, confused. A spell?
“A spell…?” Galo trailed off.
“That’s right. Kray Foresight is a wizard I have spent years chasing after. He is the one that cast a spell on me and on your town.” Lio explained.
Galo continued to stare. Was he really going to believe this? That Kray was somehow a powerful wizard?
“I don’t get it.” Galo muttered.
“Kray is using the beast tale to keep the people here, absorbing their energy to make himself more powerful.” Lio said.
Galo’s brain stuttered to a stop. There was something about that sentence that tugged at the back of his mind.
“The children…?” he mumbled.
Kray had once told him he liked to see children running around town, how he enjoyed the energy of their youth. Galo had thought it was weird of him to say.
“Yes, the children. He is feeding off of them the most. Well, compared to you, that is.” Lio knelt down and Galo can feel his warmth from where he is kneeling.
“Me?” Galo asked.
“Yes, you are giving off the most energy out of anyone in this town. He kept you close for a reason.” Lio said as he pulled his hand out of his cloak.
He had a knife that he slowly started cutting through the ropes with. Galo’s brain was racing a bit and finally he spoke.
“All the people who went missing?” Galo asked.
“I got them out. I had to start chipping away at his power.” Lio replied.
Galo frowned and looked away.
“And I ended up helping him. Fuck.” Galo scowled.
The last rope came undone and Galo leaned against him, shivering and tired.
“You did, but now you can help me stop him.” Lio replied as Galo nodded.
“I will save this town.” Galo declared.
Lio helped Galo to his feet and they disappeared into the forest beyond.