Fear the Dawn: Chapter 5

It was dark. A black shadow crept silently through the night. Treading carefully amid the tall grass, it disturbed nothing, a moment after it passed there was no sign it had ever been there.
The shadow stopped to sniff the air. High above the trees, smoke bellowed up into the sky, taunting the shadow, challenging it. It padded onwards.
The laughing voices of the campers could be heard from a hundred feet away. Circled around the fire, they joked and sang, disrupting the night. They knew no fear, but they would soon.
One of them broke away from the others. He walked out into the bushes on his own, out of sight. The shadow took him from behind before he even had a chance to scream. His blood spilled out onto the grass from a gaping hole in his neck, and he lay still forevermore. The shadow crept closer to the campsite, watching, waiting.

They were talking about something, perhaps about the one who hadn't returned. They nodded to each other, and one of them stood up and walked towards the bushes where the shadow was hiding. Just as he bent down to inspect the bush, the shadow lunged, and in an instant, it was upon him. The others screamed as the fearsome black panther tore out the man's throat, spraying blood everywhere. He tossed his kill aside and started towards the others, who scattered chaotically. One of them tripped over the fire, spreading burning branches everywhere, and the entire campsite went up in flames. Still the panther padded onwards. The clumsy one tried to get away, but the flames surrounded him. He made the mistake of turning around, and the panther pounced, pinning him to a tree and digging his claws deep into his chest. The panther raised its dark head, stared right into the man's eyes, and opened its mouth.
I am the hunter”, it said, its terrible jaws looming over his face, “and you are my prey.” The stranger's eyes widened, pure terror painted across his sickened face. With brutal efficiency, the panther lunged forward and sank its teeth into the stranger's throat, and everything went dark.


He languished about in the water for a little while. It was cold, but he didn't care, he felt euphoric this evening. The thrill of the hunt, the intensity of the slaughter, the taste of the stranger's blood on his tongue, the look of pure terror in their eyes... it didn't get any better than that. A short swim was no price to pay for that kind of fun. He cast his head back and howled up to the stars. “Let them come”, he declared to the world, “No one can stand against me.”

When his skin started to go numb from the cold, the hunter finally grabbed onto the ladder and dragged himself up onto the deck. He shook the water out of his fur, and dried himself with a towel. Banshee glanced at him, silently, then turned back to look out over the waves. He wondered if she had killed tonight. Probably not, she didn't seem to be very competent, he doubted that she could actually hurt anyone.

He walked over to the helm of his ship. He hadn't found that ship from the previous night again, but it didn't matter, there was no shortage of fresh prey to be had. He idly took the ship's wheel in his paws and turned it back and forth, scanning the waters ahead for any sign of action, but the ocean was quiet tonight. He climbed up mast, where he could fade away to nothing against the giant black sail, and felt the cool night wind against his face. He closed his eyes, reliving the excitement of the morning's hunt.

Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap. A quiet but incessant tapping sound brought him back to his senses. He hopped down from the sail, landing silently on one foot. The tapping was coming from Banshee's tail, which was whipping back and forth, striking the railing of the ship as she watched out over the ocean. He put one foot up on the railing and looked over the water, and in the distance, he spotted a tiny speck, which might be a ship. “Perhaps she has a hunter's instinct after all”, he thought to himself, as he hurried over to the helm and swung the ship in that direction. “Could it be that that ship has come for a rematch?”

As he drew closer to the other ship, he turned his ship to the side, to allow him to circle around behind them, but to his surprise, the other ship mirrored his movements.
Interesting”, he said to himself, stroking his chin. “They are coming for me. Very well then.”
He lowered the rear and front sails, slowing the ship to a mere crawl. None of the ships sailing the ocean at night had cannons, he had learned, so if they wanted to get to him, they'd have to board the ship. He would be ready for them.
You should get out of sight”, he said to the white one. She ignored him and kept watching the approaching ship expectantly.
He put his paws on her shoulders and tried to drag her away from the railing, but she dug her claws into the railing and held firm. She was a thin, wispy thing, be she could be surprisingly wiry. “Fine”, he said, leaving her. “Maybe they'll get you and then I won't have to put up with you anymore.”
He climbed up the centre sail, disappearing into the dark cloth, waiting to see who would come.

The other ship eventually pulled up alongside his. The black-furred hunter carefully watched from the sail. A board was extended over to his deck, but it slipped and fell in the water with a splash. Someone poked their head over the railing of the other ship and looked down. “No one saw that”, he declared, and disappeared from view again. The hunter's eyes widened at this display of sheer incompetence. Could this really have been the one he had fought with the other night? Another board was placed across the two ships and it stayed in place this time. The same person stepped up onto it and walked across, stretching out his paws for balance like a careless idiot as he did so.
It could be a ruse”, he reminded himself, narrowing his eyes. Perhaps the visitor was merely acting dumb to catch him off-guard. He would not be so deceived.

Banshee was waiting right there to greet their visitor. He was about the same height as she was, and he had cream-coloured fur on most of his body, but his face and paws were brown. “Good evening, ma'am”, he said to her. She looked up at him and held her paws in front of her chest, but said nothing. “Are you all alone here?” She just looked at him. “Don't say much, huh? You're my kind of gal” He took one of her paws in his and lifted it to his face. She tilted her head. “Sit tight for me, chatterbox”, he said, looking around the ship.
Who is this moron?” he wondered to himself from up on the sail. It seemed increasingly unlikely that he was putting on a clever ruse.
The visitor walked towards the sail, looking around the ship. “Anybody home?” he asked, glancing upward.
The visitor was suddenly pinned to the ground as the black one pounced on him from above. Banshee held a paw to her face and looked on in horror. “You should not have come here!”, he bellowed in his most intimidating tone of voice.
Oooooh”, the cream-coloured thing said, spreading his paws apart. “Very spooky, I love it”. He sat up, knocking the black one onto his backside, and brushed himself off. “You've got the whole ghost ship aesthetic going on here, very cool.”
This ship will be your doom”, he said, standing up and holding his paws up menacingly over his head.
Oh, now I get it”, said the cream-coloured one. “You must be Anubis, and this is the mummy!”
A new what?” he asked, momentarily distracted.
But you know what would make this even more convincing, is if you painted this ship gold and covered it in that crazy lettering. You know, like a bird, and an eyeball, and an eyeball with a bird in it. And then when people are all like 'what does that mean?' you pounce on them and say 'it means beware of falling cats'”. He laughed for some reason.
He gave the visitor a strange look. “Just who do you think you are?”

The visitor looked taken aback. “Oh, I completely forgot to introduce myself. I'm Line. Put 'er there!” He extended his paw. The moment the hunter moved, the annoying cream-coloured thing pulled his paw away. “Too slow!” he exclaimed, happily. Banshee clapped her paws.
The black one had had enough. “Do you have any idea whom you're dealing with?” he demanded.
Well, no, I don't, you haven't told me your name yet-”
I am the hunter who rules the night! All should cower before me!”
Unbelievably, he laughed. “Oh, you're not so scary. I bet you're a big softie on the inside.”
I am NOT a big softie!”, he insisted, simultaneously angry, confused, and a bit offended.
Anyway”, the nuisance continued, ignoring him, “I've got to be going. Keep working on your act, it has potential.” He turned to Banshee “you did great, sweetie, we'll have to talk more next time”, and with that he walked back over to his ship as the black one stood completely dumbfounded.

The visitor reclaimed the board and waved to them from his ship. Banshee waved back. “What is wrong with you?” he sulked, but she ignored him, and the other ship pulled away. He retired to his cabin and tried to think about hunting, but he was too frustrated to concentrate right now.

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