We neared the Tavern as the sun was just setting. It was much larger than I had seen from a distance. We walked in. There was a lot of the wanted men from all regions, and whores to go around.
We all walked up to the bar and sat down. The vaguely familiar bar tender came up.
“What can I do for you gentle men today?” He asked.
“Rooms and a hot meal would be a great start.” Garry said.
I was glaring around the room, every bandit and wanted man inching closer and closer to their blades.
“Any information you can give us about the Red Shadow around here’s be even better.” Harley told him.
“The Red Shadow?” The man repeated, “He comes here a lot after sun down. I can’t guarantee that he’ll be here again tonight. I never can. But I can let you stay here as long as you need.”
“Thanks!” Ash said.
“May!” He called, a young girl with light brown hair turned around, “Take these men up stairs and give them rooms, 27, 28, 29, 30, and 31.”
She smiled and nodded grabbing keys from behind the bar before leading us upstairs.
“So you guys are the famous bounty hunters from all over the land aren’t you?” She asked as we climbed the stairs.
“Oh, there’s nothing much to it, really.” Ash bragged.
“A pretty girl like yourself shouldn’t be working in such a dangerous place.” Garry commented as she stopped in front of a door and unlocked it, “Don’t you have a man?”
She shook her head, “I’m here because the owner saved me from my abusive husband.” She told us and swung the door open.
“They aren’t pretty, but they suit basic needs.” She said and smiled.
Harley sauntered in after thanking her.
She unlocked the next few rooms, and it went like this; Harley, Ask, Drew, Garry, me.
“Dinner will be served at eight.” She said to each of us before heading back downstairs.
After we set bags down and locked doors, we met in Drew’s room to discuss what we though.
“There’s defiantly something going on down there.” I said.
Garry nodded, “Maybe the shadow knew we were coming and set it up.”
“Unlikely.” Harley said, “In the amount of time it’d take for the news to spread this far.”
“We’d have left already.” I cut in, “Word travels faster than you’d think. But if he had even an hour head start.”
“We’re dead.” Drew finished.
“You guys might be!” Ash yelled and jumped up, “I’m not going down that easy! I’ll see you at my wedding!”
And before anyone could say anything he was out the door thumping down the steps.
–In the Bar–
“Alright where is the red shadow!” Ash yelled as he bust through the door going from the hall to the bar.
“We don’t know.” The bar tender assured.
“Cut the bull!” He screamed and marched up to the bar, slamming his hands down in the bar, “I know he knows we’re here! And I know that you’re all working with him! Where is he?!”
“I don’t know!” He defended.
“I do.” A quiet voice said, shutting up the rest of the room.
Both men looked over to a girl with orange spiky hair and drown eyes looking at them.
“I know where he goes during the day.” She said again.
“You Zoe?” He asked.
She nodded, “I can take you there.” She assured, “But don’t hate me for it.”
“Now we’re getting somewhere!” He yelled, “Let’s go!”
She led the way out with a sigh.
“Psst! Jowey!” Zuren whispered up to the girl napping in a tree.
“What?” She mumbled loud enough for him to hear.
“They’re here!” He said still whispering and looking around so no one would hear him.
“Who?” She asked.
“Ash, Drew, Harley, Garry, and Him.” He said.
She nodded, but he couldn’t see.
“Ash will come down in a matter of moments and demand where I am.” She said, “Tell Zoe to bring him to the crystal rock. I’ll execute him there.”
“You sure?”He asked, Zoe was still so new, she was still so young. She was just adjusting to knowing that the dark haired girl she had come to know as a sister was a ruthless murderer.
“Yeah.” She whispered back and jumped out of the tree right in front of Zuren, She straightened up and looked him in the eye, “It’s time she got use to the sight of blood.”
And she left like that. Zuren had just finished telling Zoe what Jowey wanted her to do when Ash came through the door demanding answers.
Now they were walking through the forest, towards the crystal rock. Zoe leading with her head down. She knew exactly what Jowey was going to do.
She stopped just in front of the rock, but Jowey was nowhere to be seen.
“So this is where the Shadow is?” He asked.
“Supposed to be.” She said.
Muffled screams and cries, caused Zoe to turn around.
Jowey had placed a cloth over his mouth and nose, was holding his wrist so he couldn’t draw his sword, and had him pressed against herself. His eyes started to close slowly, he fought less and less. She held him like that for a couple more seconds before she let go of him and he fell.
Zoe covered her mouth at what she saw.
Jowey kneeled next to him and turned him over so he was on his back.
“He isn’t dead yet.” Jowey said, not looking at the orange haired girl.
Jowey started to strip things away from the corpse and hand them to the girl.
“Put all of these in shed around back along with the other’s stuff.” Jowey ordered.
“You aren’t going to kill him?” Zoe asked as she shifted the things around so they were more comfortable.
“I am.” She said, she finally looked up at the other girl, “But not in front of you.”
A small smiled pulled as Zoe’s lips, “Thank you.” She said.
Jowey held her gaze a moment more before turning her attention back to the body before her.
“Once they’re in the shed, run in there yelling wild animals attacked just as you got there.” She ordered, “I’ll make it look like it.”
She nodded and turned away as Jowey pulled out animal bone knives.
Zoe ran faster as she heard the cries of the hunter that was still alive, being carved apart by the woman she admired so much.
Everyone in that tavern loved and admired Jowey, not only for her name and personality and fairness, but the fact that she is a strong and independent woman who won’t let a man toss her around at all.
Ash kept screaming and gasping for air as he looked up at the woman doing all this.
“Who are you?” He breathed out as she lifted her knife up for the final time.
A smirk tugged her lips upwards as she replied, only growing bigger as his eyes grew.
“I’m the Red Shadow.” She said and slit his throat.
–At the Tavern–
“Help!!” Zoe screamed as she came in, crying.
Drew grabbed her to calm her down.
“What happened?” He asked the hysterical girl.
“W-we were heading towards where he would beee.” She told him, “A-A packkk of w-w-wolves were there instead.” She sobbed more, “He held them off as I ran.” She covered her face with her hands, “He’s still out there!”
“Where?” He asked.
“F-follow-w the stream, a quarter mile.” She said looking back up at him, “When you come to an oak with a broken branch, walk west. You’ll see it.”
He instantly let her go and they ran out with her directions.
Zoe sniffled and wiped her eyes as a smile cam on her lips. She pulled up her sleeve and pulled out the thorn that she had plunged into her fore arm so she’d cry and make it believable.
“You did great, Zoe.” Martain said coming up behind her and placing a hand on her shoulder, “I almost believed you.”
She grinned, “She’ll be happy, neh?”
He nodded, “Three kills, one day. I think she’d be ecstatic.”
I heard them running through the thicket towards his mutilated body. I couldn’t throw that on in the pit just yet.
I sat in a tree top, close enough to see and hear them, but far enough for them to remain oblivious to me watching them.
“Ash!” Garry yelled and ran up to the corps, “Ash!”
He dropped to his knees realizing he was too late.
He, dropped to a knee to examine his wounds.
“I can’t believe he let a pack of wolves do this.” Drew said to himself.
“Not wolves.” He said, “Animal, yes. But not wolves. The thing wasn’t even alive.”
“How do you know all this?” Drew asked.
“The cuts.” He said, “They’re rough, like it was a bone that cut through him. But the way these wounds are. It was a bone knife. And I think we all know who killed him.”
“He did.” Garry gripped.
“Hmm.” Harley thought.
“What?” Drew asked him.
“The Red Shadow has never let any of his victims be seen or be left out in the open like this.” He said, “Why would he now?”
“Maybe he was about to get rid of it when he heard us coming.” Garry speculated.
“Or it’s a sign.” Drew said, “I killed one, I can kill the rest of you.”
“Paul where are you going?” Harley asked.
“Back to the Tavern. I want to have a word with Zoe.” He said and left.
The rest agreed it’d be the smartest thing to do. I waited a good thirty, to forty five minutes before climbing down the tree and going over to the corps.
I grinned as I scooped it up and carried it to the pit. Drew understood what I left him there for. But would He understand that I’m him?
Only time would tell. I tossed he body into the pit with all the rest of them. I was at a hundred and fifty seven so far.
In total I had killed three thousand. But never innocent blood of any kind. I save those who were innocent and brought them here.
I was labeled as the murderer, but I was doing justice that everyone else turned a blind eye to.
–At the Tavern–
“Where’s Zoe?” I asked coming in.
The bar tender looked up from the mugs he was cleaning, “She upstairs resting.” He informed, “She can’t handle the sight of blood very well, why?”
“It wasn’t wolves that did that.” Garry said.
“Who or what was it then?” He asked.
“We believe it was the red Shadow.” Harley said.