Fear cost them their lives.
The two men saw me and ran.
They sprinted, weapons cast aside, courage and honor forgotten as they sought to outrun my vengeance.
They need not have worried about me.
I saw that which they could not: the sure sign of something else hunting the landscape around me.
Since early morning, I’d heard it. A whispering, sliding sound as though some creature of hideous size and form was dragging itself along the ground. I found swaths of flattened grass, crushed trees, and churned earth.
I am still ignorant as to what, exactly, made those marks upon the earth, and I suspect the two men lived long enough to wish they had tried their luck with me instead.
Following their trail through a swamp was easy enough. They made no effort to hide their passage or to hide from me. Perhaps, if they had, they might not have run into the creature’s maw.
In my long life, I have learned not to race headlong into the unknown. Yes, I still do so upon occasion – experienced I may be, tempered I am not – but I am pleased to say that I did not chase after them this time, and I know it saved me a great deal of pain.
Less than a minute after the men disappeared from view, I heard them meet their end, and it was not a pleasant sound. The noise was reminiscent of a great sucking sound, such as a giant suckling hog might make.
When I reached them, I could see that they had died badly.
Both men, I discovered, had suffered the ignominious end their cowardice had afforded them, the fronts of their skulls caved in and their brains removed.
I doubt it had been a pleasant experience.
As I made my way around the edge of the bit of standing water they floated in, one of them rolled over and spoke to me in a voice low and grave.
“They were the last of their kind, Duncan Blood,” it informed me. “You are all that remains here upon which we might feast.”
The water rippled as I let my hands drop to my Colts.
“Go home,” the corpse laughed. “This world is nearly done.”
The bodies sank beneath the water, and I left.
I missed the comfort of my bed.
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