The Laid Back Hero of Atlas – Chapter 40: The Mystery of the Hollow Forest

“So what is your favorite kind of book to read?”, I asked Alivia.

“I’d have to say mysteries.”, she said, “I like the mind challenge of trying to solve the cases the characters have to solve. It isn’t unusual for me to attempt my own investigation when things happen here.”

“Like murders, and such?”, I clarified.

“Yes, but there is one mystery I never solved. My aunt went missing a number of years ago with at least ten people in the forest just outside of town. She was on her way back from a visit with our neighbors, the Baron Makerman family.”, she said drinking her tea, “Both families sent out search parties, and some of them went missing as well. Since then no one has been using the woods that much.”

“I see.”, I said, “What do you think may have happened? Bandits, slavers, assassins, or maybe even she ran off with a lover?”

“All of those avenues have been explored.”, she said, “The tracks were on the main road then for no apparent reason run into the swamp near the center of the forest.”

“Hold on here.”, I said putting my tea down, “You say they went into the swamp for no apparent reason. Is the site still roughly the same?”

“Yes, it should be aside from new plant growth.”, she said.

“Feel up for an adventure?”, I said with a grin.

“Well, since I haven’t agreed to your proposal yet I may as well see the kind of man you are.”, she said with a grin as well.

Setting out with four guards we took an hour walk into the forest before reaching the area the carriage ran off the road. Looking around I asked her a question.

“I know you’d have checked the path for tracks, but what about in the outlying swamp?”, I asked.

“We followed the direction the carriage would have gone. I looked nearby in case something was lying in wait on the opposite with no luck.”, she said.

Walking into the muck I looked at different angles before I noticed something that looked out-of-place. Calling them over I had them look at the exact angle I had.

“I don’t see anything…”, Alivia said.

“Do trees only grow big branches on one side only?”, I said, “Look at how the trees appear to take a regular beating from something very large, and maybe ten feet tall.”

Noticing it now she realized she had simply disregarded it as an abnormal tree growth. Looking at it now though only the trees when you looked down the path at this angle could you see it was way to uniform.

“What do you think it means?”, she asked.

“Animals will normally do something to mark their territory.”, I said, “If you think about it maybe that’s how the animal, or beast marked its territory.”

“For something that size though we are sorely under equipped.”, the guards said tensing up, “We are going to need back up.”

Hearing a low growl in the swamp I told everyone to quite down. Lowering myself into the water I saw something in the woods watching us with yellow eyes. Taking a deep breath I smelled a scent I hadn’t smelled in nearly two years. As soon as it hit me I grabbed Alivia.

“We are retreating now!!”, I shout launching a fire blast into the forest.

Not arguing with me the men took of running just in time. As the fire hit its target a loud, ear-piercing roar rang out from the forest. Bulling over tree’s the monster leapt out of the trees. There covered in flames was a Fairvamp a deadly creature I had a nasty encounter with in the swamps of southern Atlas.

“What is that!!”, Alivia said grabbing my shoulder, “I haven’t ever seen anything like that in my books!!”

“That’s because technically your world labeled them as myth!”, I said running down the path, “That is a Fairvamp! They weigh anywhere from a thousand to three thousand pounds, and can rip a baby dragon to pieces if the parent isn’t around to protect them. They are extremely fast for their size, but they are very clumsy.”

“Why do you know so much about them?”, the guards asked me.

“I had the misfortune to run into one both in Atlas!”, I said trying not to slip on the ice, “If your aunt ran into that on here ride back she wouldn’t stand a chance!”

“Why not!”, Alivia said, “My aunt was an excellent fighter!”

“Was she carrying a weapon made of Crystallite?”, I said, “All other weapons won’t be able to kill it. It will just regrow its body parts.”

“WHAT!!”, the five of them said, “Isn’t that a trait very few races like us have?!”

“As fair as I can make of it according to ancient documents that is a former vampire.”, I said.

Looking back at that they shouted at me saying that couldn’t possibly be true.

“It is true! There is a reason your race doesn’t marry certain other races! Your looking at one of them!!”, I said dodging a log that had been flung at us.

Thirty minutes later we were back in town panting for breath. Running to her parents she spoke with them immediately. At first they thought she was just playing till they saw the five of us panting from exhaustion. Pulling out their mythology book they looked up a Fairvamp only to find that their ancestors had recorded sightings in the past though generally deeper in the swamps. Seeing his father’s name in the witness list the baron didn’t argue with us.

“Is it a threat?”, he asked.

“They come out every three years from hibernation to feed in large amounts, mate, and then return to hibernation.”, I said, “Three years ago when it woke up the food supply would have been low so it went looking for a larger territory more than likely.”

“If my sister ran into that thing…”, the baroness said, “I can’t think of the horror she would have endured.”

“So your saying on Crystallite weapons are the only means to kill it?”, he asked.

“In my experience magic was ineffective again them.”, I said, “Swords do okay, but the way I did it was crush it under a massive tree before stabbing it with a Crystallite sword.”

Listening to me the baron ordered his men to find the weapons needed to fight it. I currently didn’t have a Crystallite sword, or ammo to use in combat. At best I could damage it enough to make it easy for them to kill it. Looking over at me Alivia asked me for a favor.

“It’s possible that those who went missing may be alive.”, she said, “We need to go looking for them!”

“Be realistic.”, I said grabbing her shoulders, “Three years in those conditions…do you really believe they could hold out that long?”

“You never know!”, she said, “They were mainly all vampires. If they found a source of blood they could have held out this long.”

Looking to her father he gave his permission if I went with her. With a sigh I agreed to go with her. Once we were ready we set off back into the forest branching off a mile from where we last saw the beast. Roaming around till almost dusk I was about to call it a night when Alivia spotted something. Pulling me along we reached an opening where a rotting carriage lay with a broken axle.

“This is my aunt’s carriage!”, she said opening the door.

Inside we found the corpse’s of three men presumably from the search party. Not seeing her aunt she started looking around the area for any clues. Using her night vision she spotted a large cave. Calling me over I smelled the scent of death in the air. Covering her nose she said that her aunt might be using the cave to hide her scent. Following her inside I almost puked from the stench. Inside were the corpses of dead people, animals, and monsters left here rotting for no apparent reason. Calling out I quickly covered her mouth.

“This might be the home of another monster. Needlessly provoking an attack in the dark is foolhardy. I can’t see as well as you can. Last thing I want to use is magic with monsters nearby.”, I whispered.

Before she could argue something grabbed my shoulder. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t react, but being almost blind I jumped forward looking back. Standing behind me was a woman who looked similar to Alivia.

“Aunty!!”, she said hugging her aunt tightly, “Why haven’t you returned home!?”

Covering her mouth she scolded her as well.

“I haven’t been able to leave.”, she said showing us her injured leg, “I wouldn’t make it far in this condition.”

“Is this it’s feeding den?”, I asked.

“Yes, I hid here because while its sense of smell is good with all the rot in here he can’t smell me.”, she said.

“We need to get you out of here.”, I said in a low voice.

“Agreed.”, Alivia said.

Feeling the earth tremor a bit I grabbed both of them before hiding under a low under cut. Covering their mouths they looked at me angry for a moment before they saw the Fairvamp enter the cave. Relaxing they squeezed together with me. While it fed we stayed hidden from sight, and would have stayed hidden till Alivia broke free of me trying to get a better look. Trying to stop her I was too late. Her eyes reflected the small amount of light in the cave right at it. Stopping for a moment to take a closer look it started growling.

“Damn it Alivia!”, I said launching myself out of the undercut.

Drawing my cutlass I rammed it into its head before hitting it with a bolt a of lightning. Disabled for at least a short period of time I pulled my sword out, grabbed both women, and made my way back to town as fast as possible. On the way back I glared at Alivia.

“Never in my time in this world have I met someone as crazy as you!”, I told her, “Your eyes naturally reflect the light in any dark room!! Had I not attacked it soon enough it would have crushed us under the rock above our heads!! What were you thinking!!”

“I am sorry!”, she said looking upset, “I didn’t remember that in the moment.”

Running in silence the rest of the time we returned to the baron’s residence. Reunited with her family the aunt thanked me before asking for some real food. Happily bringing her some the family discussed things after she had bathed, and had her injury taken care of.

“You have my thanks for returning my wife’s sister.”, the baron said, “With this in mind I am willing to let you marry-”

“I am pulling my proposal.”, I said firmly.

Alivia, and her family looked at me in shock.

“She nearly got us killed.”, I said, “She acts mature when in a library, but like a child anywhere else. I have companions that I have to worry about whose safety is my number one priority. I can’t bring someone who could put us in danger constantly in the group.”

“I can work it!”, Alivia said looking at me with a smile.

“No, after we handle the Fairvamp I am leaving for the capital.”, I said.

“Please reconsider…”, Alivia said, “I apologized for my actions…”

“Did you really?”, I said, “Didn’t I warn you it might be the feeding den? Did I not inform you to keep your voice down? Both things you ignored, and could have possibly gotten us killed.”

Hanging her head Alivia excused herself. Leaving her room her father told me to leave immediately.

“None of your men have any experience fighting it. If I am not here to help you will lose many men.”, I said.

“I will simply request aid from our neighbors. Your services are no longer needed.”, he said firmly.

“Very well…”, I said leaving the table.

Teleporting to Crystal, and Joan as they had a receiver base I found them casually playing a game of cards. Giving them kisses I sat down as they dealt me in. Roughly two weeks later we found out that the local lords in the Hollow Forest area suffered a great loss against the Fairvamp. Three thousand men died directly from it, or the monsters that jumped them in their weakened state. Having to have the capital step it I was sent to kill it which Crystal, Joan, and I had no real trouble doing with the right equipment.

For failing to report the creature to the capital, and causing the loss of so many men the baron’s family was stripped of their title. In addition, he was killed shortly afterwards by angry family members of the fallen soldiers. It was a few days after that Alivia, and her family showed up at our inn.

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