Fear. He knew the smell of it like he knew the paths of the world. He knew the ways of things that felt fear when they heard the Hunt Master was searching for prey. This was different, this was something he had never known. He walked in the soft snow of the lands surrounding the people he was to slaughter and he finally understood.
He was afraid. No, afraid was weakness compared to the overwhelming dread that hung over his mind and heart as he stalked the creatures to make sure all of them were accounted for before he set to work. Siobhan, the Dark Goddess, she had filled his mind with precisely what she would do to him if he failed her. He was shown the Darkness that Devours, he had seen It, It had seen Him, and he would never be able to escape from it. Even the fleeting memory of it made his blood run cold and his palms sweat.
He nodded as he saw the last of the ones he was looking for. There was not going to be subtlety, there was not going to be traps and snares and the thrills of the hunt of a cunning prey. No, this time he had a different weapon that he rarely used, but it never failed him.
Cracking his neck from side to side slowly, he simply grew. Ten, then twenty, then thirty feet. Above the trees, at last, he looked down and could pinpoint each of them, their locations locked into his mind as he knew they still did not see him, for he did not want to be seen as of yet. He walked if moving aside trees could be called such until he stood in the center of the village. There was the white of the snow on the tops of the dwellings and they were surrounded by a crude fence, which he sighed in happiness about, it made his life so much easier.
He took a breath, whispering a prayer to the Dark Goddess herself that he finds success and at the moment he remembered the Darkness seeing him with Her, he appeared to them.
A giant, fifty feet tall with blood running in rivulets down his skin, the heat from his body melting the snow. No one moved, no one understood what was going on precisely, but they all knew it was going to be bad. He did not hesitate and, he bent his knees, lowering them to nearly the ground and took in a deep breath.
Looking around once more to make sure they were all there, he let it out in a shriek that was filled with neighing horses and the scream of the eagles. It was filled with the fear of the Hunt, and, most importantly, it was the heat of anger.
The fire instantly destroyed every building, tree, and every single one of the people there in an instant. A circle of destruction spread wider and wider and the Hunt Master let it grow to make sure that no one escaped. He k where the young lady was and she was in no danger at all. He had warded her earlier and placed her deep into a sleep so she would never know the sights of what needed to come next.
He opened his eyes wide, counting each charred corpse and reaching outwith long arms and plucking them from where they had fallen and placing them in a pile in front of him. He counted them, then counted them again, then even a third time and when he was satisfied he had completed the first task his Dark Goddess had set for him was complete, he sat down in the fiery waste of the village to do the part he was used to.
Cleaning the kill.
He sucked the marrow from the bones, ate the flesh off them, tore the clothing off with his teeth until he got to the skulls. Each one he carefully cleansed with a vial of a clear liquid that looked of water but ate away everything save the bone from the skulls. He polished and buffed each one, his workmanship noteworthy on a normal day, but there was so much more at stake.
Satisfied he had done this well, he stood again, the village an ashen heap beneath him. This would not do.
Again he took another deep breath and the scream that came next was clean, it was pure. It erased the village, replaced it with the trees and shrubs that had been there before. It buried their bodies and let the maggots feast and soon no one would be able to tell that there had ever been anything here other than the serenity of a wood.
He gathered the things he needed and walked in strides to where the wee lass lay against the river. Her body broken and so far past the hope of any save the one she would see next when she opened her eyes. He picked her up as delicately as an ice flower in midwinter and closed his eyes and whispered.
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