25 The Curfew*
"Did you find all of them?"
"We can't be sure. But some of them had more than one animal inside".
"Then...how long has this thing been around?"
"We can't tell. But best estimates are around two years".
Silence befell the room, and Baron Peters stepped forward, "Call a Curfew. Everyone is to be in their homes by the time the sun sets. We can assume from the evidence we've collected that this thing hunts at night...so we'll need a few volunteers to go out and hunt it then seeing as we've been quite unsuccessful during daylight. The rest will have to take turns patrolling the streets".
"Is a curfew really necessary? It hasn't stepped foot out of the forest".
"As far as we can tell. But this thing was smart enough to bury its kills, and well. It was only after Marcus noticed a patch of very fresh vegetation among a dry clearing that we found the first one. If its smart enough to do that, it might be smart enough to hunt outside the forest in other areas," Sir Carter stated, "The Curfew will be enforced from tomorrow night, and we'll need people on watch tonight".
"We can't sustain this forever, Sir Carter. We'll have the full harvest soon, we'll need all the helping hands we can get".
There was silence for a moment before Baron Peters spoke up again.
"I'll send word of this to my contacts in Varkevia. Hopefully, they can send some troops and hunters to help out in a week's time".
This was the best that could be done, so the meeting was dismissed after sorting out the watchers for the night.
Phillip returned to the house quickly, though he would know of the fact that the graves had been found, Rassa wouldn't know about the curfew. Phillip felt immense relief when he found his sun finishing off dinner with his mother.
"Phillip?" asked Anna as she looked up. Seeing the concern on her husband's face, she frowned, "Is it bad?"
Phillip glanced briefly at Rassa before turning back to his wife, "A curfew will be enforced from tomorrow at sun set. There will also be hunting parties scouring the forest at night, and volunteers patrolling the streets to ensure the curfew is kept".
"How many did they find?" asked Rassa.
Phillip heistated, the sighed, "121. They estimated it's been around for two years rather than the few days we initially thought, and they know it's intelligent by how it hid the graves".
Rassa looked away as Anna covered her mouth in shock, "Are we safe here?"
"It hasn't disturbed us yet," Rassa stated, "We'll be fine, mother. The Baron and Sir Carter are just taking precautions, right father?"
Phillip nodded, "Of course".
Rassa finished off his dinner, then took and book and retreated into his room. After Phillip ate his meal, he stood, handing his bowl to his wife, "I'll go and check on Rassa".
Anna nodded, concern showing on her face.
Phillip entered Rassa's room, then closed the door behind him, turning to where his son sat by the window, looking up at the moon outside.
"You're going to say it's not a good idea to go hunting, aren't you?" Rassa guessed.
Phillip sighed, "This isn't something we can redirect now, Rassa. They're following your trail, a lot faster than I anticipated, and it'll only get worse now that the Baron is ordering reinforcements from Varkevia".
Rassa turned to his father, "Did it occur to you that the longer I wait, the more likely I am to kill something else? I have a way to get past it now father, and even if they see me, it's not like they can catch me".
"I realise that Rassa, I just-" Phillip paused, giving a deep sigh, "I just don't want you to suffer at their hands".
"What was it you told me when this first happened to me?" asked Rassa, "New things are scary. But we must be brave and have the courage to push past the fear. To learn from our mistakes. Maybe it's time they learn".
Phillip frowned, "Not everyone will be accepting of this, Rassa".
"I'm well aware of that," Rassa replied, "But the longer I'm like this, the longer I have had to wonder...what if there are others like me? Afraid to step out of the shadows and face the others? Will we decide to remain in the shadows forever, avoiding everyone more and more until we have nobody left but ourselves and are no better than animals, or is all this just the precurser to something greater? To an entirely new race that despite its quirks, has so much to offer the world".
Phillip was silent as he watched his son with sad eyes, then, quite unexpectedly, he felt the door behind him open and his wife peek her head in.
"If it's what you want, Rassa, your father and I will support you as much as we can," Anna said softly.
"You knew?" asked Phillip.
Anna frowned as she looked at her husband, quite unimpressed with his comment. She stepped into the room and cross her arms over her chest defiantly.
"He's my son. As if I wouldn't sense a change in him," Anna grumbled, "As for why he didn't tell me...I'm assuming he thought it would scare me. To be honest, it did. For a long time. But he's still my baby boy, and knowing he was working to overcome his hardships made me see that despite his...quirks...he is the same boy from before that accident. Perhaps even better".
Rassa had frozen in the corner as he watched his mother speak, then without hesitation, he moved and hugged his mother close, "Thanks, mother".
Then Rassa stepped back and took his mother's hand, pointing at the ring on her finger.
"The answer is Anthrite," Rassa said, "I don't know how to explain it other than it saps my strength if I touch it. If I need to be subdued...Tell them".
Phillip was very hesitant. This was the first weakness apart from sunlight that's he'd seen from Rassa. To know that this naturally found element was a weakness...it indicated that whatever Rassa was, there had been others like him in the past, however long ago. Apart from his mother's ring, there was no other Anthrite that Phillip knew of in Cordon. It was doubtful that Rassa had simply developed a weakness to such a random item in three years. More than likely, it was a weakness he'd inherited from whatever had given him his abilities. After a moment, Phillip nodded, reassuring his son.
Rassa then turned and looked out the window, "I won't go if you don't want me to. But the longer I don't feed, the more harm it will do".
Anna and Phillip looked to one another.
"Go," Anna said firmly, "And come back safe".
Rassa gave a small smile, then there was a small breeze that passed by Anna and Phillip. When they looked to the window once more, their son was gone.