22 The Beast in the Woods*
Rassa did not know it then, but he'd taken too much. The Stag had died from blood loss. Despite the fact that Rassa had not drained it dry, by leaving the wound on the Stag's neck open, the Stag had bled out whilst the immobilising toxin was still in its system. An immobilising toxin that also prevented the blood from clotting.
The Hunters had found it the next day, lying in a pool of blood. At first they'd been confused as to how it had died. There were no apparent wounds on it. Then they'd found the two, thin puncture's in the Stag's neck, and been dumbfounded as to what could have caused it. It was a free kill, that much was clear, but the Hunters were cautious. What beast could have caused this? Wolves and bears were far more violent in their kills, and they wouldn't have left a beast whole. There were few other carnivorous beasts in the forest, and it was doubtful the elves had made the kill as they were vegetarian. With limited knowledge, the Hunters carried the Stag back and communicated their concerns to the Doctor, asking for him to examine the body to see if he had any insight.
Sir Carter was also called in, as was Baron Peters. Eventually, in the evening when many had left, Phillip was also called over. Sir Carter rarely called on Phillip as Phillip had insisted he had long left his knighthood and family behind. Considering the lack of contact Cordon had had with the Kildare family since Phillip and Anna had arrived as a wedded couple, Carter was inclined to believe him.
Still, Phillip was more knowledgeable and more well-travelled than the rest of them.
So, when Phillip arrived late at night to find the Hunter Marcus, Sir Carter, Baron Peters and the Doctor surrounding the body of a dead Stag, he felt a sense of foreboding. He knew Rassa had already left for the night to hunt, and he was terrified of what might be conveyed unintentionally during this meeting.
"What's wrong?" Phillip asked.
"We came across the Stag this afternoon, dead in a pool of its own blood with only two thin punctures on its neck. Doc insists it bled out, but from such a small wound? And why didn't it clot? It concerns us as we have no idea what did it, and we were wondering if you have any insight?" asked Marcus.
Phillip looked thoughtful for a moment, "Can you tell me anything else about the wound Doctor?"
"All I can tell is that it was not done by any animal in those woods, and it is very unlikely it was an elf kill as well. In fact, no creatuer I know of could have done this," the Doctor stated, "What's most alarming...and I feel quite hesitant to bring this up...the brusie marks around the two puncture wounds suggest a mouth similar to ours".
"A human did this?" asked Sir Carter, the Doctor had not brought this us before.
"I can't be certain, all I know is the line of teeth marks would suggest these two puncture wounds were fangs on the upper jaw of a human-like creature," the Doctor supplied.
"It certainly does not sound like a beast I know of," Baron Peters admitted, "We don't even know what it wanted? Did it simply make the Stag bleed out? Why bite it and not take the flesh to eat?"
"Oh it was not after flesh, my Lord," the Doctor cut in, "Judging from the lack of blood left in the stag, and the description the Hunter gave me, it was likely that whatever this thing was...it drank blood".
"What kind of foul beast would do such a thing, even wolves take the meat to feed themselves, why only take blood?" asked Sir Carter.
"It is certainly a mystery," the Doctor admitted, "Can you offer us any insight, Phillip?"
The group turned to the man in question, but Phillip simply looked at the wound on the Stag with calculative eyes.
"We have not had an incident like this before in Cordon, correct?" asked Phillip.
"There is no record of one, no," the Baron confirmed.
"Then for now, treat it as an isolated incident. We don't want to cause panic in the populace unnecessarily," Phillip stated, "I have not heard of this creature either, but this could indicate that it is reclusive, and simply passing through. It is better we do not disturb it. If it sticks around...we will determine our course of action based on its behaviour".
The others hesitated for a moment, but agreed it was the best option. Nobody wanted their wives or children to be terrified of a creature they had never seen nor heard of before. After some further discussion, the group dispersed, and Phillip returned to his house where he found Rassa also sneaking back inside. He pulled the boy aside, cautious in the darkness.
"Father? What's wrong?" asked Rassa quietly.
"They found the Stag," Phillip said, "The one you hunted last night, it was dead, died of blood loss".
"But it was fine when I left it," Rassa frowned, "Immobilised, but alive".
Phillip sighed, "You said their was an instinct, one to lick the wound?"
Rassa frowned, then realised his father's line of thought, "You think it seals the wound?"
"Whatever you hunted tonight, you need to go back and check. It would have taken a long while for that Stag to bleed out with such small wounds, and its unlikely that they wouldn't have clotted, so perhaps your venom prevents that as well," Phillip stated, "Go, now".
Rassa didn't hesitated, he moved back to the forest quickly.
However, it seemed he was too later.
The Hunter Marcus had been unable to keep his concerns at bay. He had ventured out again, and this time, found a doe, immobilised and bleeding out. Rassa watched silently from the shadows as the man put it out of its misery, then carried it back as a second peice of evidence.