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The Tale of Scarlet and New Salem
In the years after the Civil War strange events started happening such as men seeing beasts in the night, ghosts fighting in battlefields, and magic flowing from people. Needless to say people were getting afraid so the government made a small military force who were called “Hunters” to fight the horrors in the night. The Hunters would wander from town to town to slay the foul beast, the daemon, and the heretical witch. Our story does not follow one of these hunters it follows a young miss who runs into a Hunter and his prey.
Our story starts off with a young teen in a settlement out west during the height of winter called “New Salem” where she works with her mother at a bakery called “The Apple of Eden”, her family specialized in making pies, bread, crackers, and sweet breads. The girl’s true name was Scarlet yet people had many names for her stemming from her clothing, soft featured pale freckled face, cool blue eyes, and long almost crimson hair ,but we will call her Scarlet for simplicity’s sake.
One day as she was working a large man came in carrying a rifle, a large silvery knife and a satchel full of who knows what as the man got closer she noticed his features, a scarred face with no signs of hair on his face, eyes grey like the silver he carried, grey hair and a fine chain of silver around his neck. She could hear him tapping his shoes on the ground as to get snow off his boots.
The man asked Scarlet in a steely cold voice “What do you serve here young girl?”
Scarlet answered “Pastries, bread, and the like.”
The man replied “Then may I have a loaf of sourdough bread ma’am?” Scarlet quickly grabbed and wrapped a loaf that she had baked that morning.
Scarlet said “That will be two pennies.” and so the man payed and then prepared to leave, but before he left he asked her if she saw any strange things happening to which she answered that she had not.
The Man asked for her name if he were to meet her later she answered “Scarlet.’ the man then said his name “Jamison, James Jamison.”.
After the man’s departure she prepared her basket, cloak, and put on a pair of heavy boots. Scarlet asked her mother where she would be delivering today.
Her mother answered “You’ll need to go to a strange house on the edge of the woods.”
Scarlet started out the door and made her journey on foot instead of on horseback like she normally would to rush to and fro as quickly as possible. Along the journey Scarlet started to see strange things such as shadows looking at her even though it was midday and intense chills even though the wind was just a breeze, she had thought these were just shadows of trees and the winter weather as she did not believe in things she had not seen. As soon as she got to the cottage in the late afternoon, she saw strange carvings and symbols on the door.
A gruff voice called to her as if pleading “Would you kindly open the door and leave my delivery at the door?”
Scarlet answered them saying “Yes sir.”
As she attempted to open the door she felt as if something was trying to keep it closed so she pushed harder till she heard something like ripping noise as the door slowly opened.
She called out “Sorry if I broke anything I-“
She saw those strange symbols put along the walls leading to the door so she set down his order and left quickly scarlet hair and cape flapping in the wind along with tears streaming down her cheeks.
She ran hearing voices telling her that her actions will have serious consequences.
As she got home at night her mother asked her “Are you okay?” “Where have you been it’s the dead of night?”
She answered her “I was making the delivery but, I saw… something strange but it’s probably not important.”
Her mother eyed her suspiciously, but dropped the question for it was getting late. As she was heading inside she saw the figure of a hooded girl out the door, and so she slamming the door then bolting the locks.
Her mother asked “What has gotten into you?”
She answered “Just thought I saw something.”
Her mother simply glared at her before heading off to her room. Scarlet looked out to see that the figure was gone.She went to her room and laid down to drift off to sleep. Scarlet dreamt of seeing a statue of a wolf with a silver claw around its heart and throat, a statue of an old traditional shaman wearing the symbols that she had seen but his features were obscured by his cloak, and she saw a statue that looked like the man she met today, but he was wearing a large floppy hat and wore a look of malice upon his cold features seemingly directed at the wolf. As Scarlet wandered it felt to her as if she was getting stared at by the statues.
Then she awoke to hear banging at her door. She quickly put on her cloak and fixed her crimson hair to answer the door.
Scarlet opened the door to find Jamison looking as he did in her dream ,but bearing a face of worry instead of hatred.
Jamison said to her “I need you to come with me.”
She asked him in a confused tone “Why, what have I done wrong?”
He answered sternly “You have not done anything wrong I just need you to come with me because we believe you may be involved in a strange murder case.”
She replied shocked and horrified “I’m involved in a murder case, why or how am I?”
Scarlet’s mother walked out of her room with a yawn and asked “What’s going on?”
Jamison replied sternly “Ma’am we believe your daughter may be involved in a strange murder case that happened recently.”
Scarlet’s mother looked as shocked as her daughter she asked “How is she involved my daughter wouldn’t purposefully do any harm to anyone?”
Jamison answered “We found a piece of her cloak at the crime scene.”
Scarlet checked her cloak to see the bottom of it in taters while the rest was fine.
Scarlet quietly said to herself “That must’ve been the ripping I heard.”
Jamison told her “I’ll have to escort you wherever you go as to make sure you do not run into any trouble or turn out to be the horrendous killer.”
The mother began to get angry with Jamison.
She started to raise her voice saying “Now listen here mister my daughter could NOT have done that because she was here last night and went to deliver bread to a client in the afternoon!”
Jamison calmly stated “Right now she is the only lead we have besides some strange symbols possibly from the native tribe around here.”
Scarlet asked him in a worried tone “What did this symbol look like?”
He started to draw the symbol and as he finished he saw the shocked face of the young girl turn to pure horror.
He asked her even more worried “What is wrong?”
Scarlet said horrified “I saw those symbols at the house I went to ,all over the ground and along the walls of the house.”
He told her “Then we must go see this house and the natives and see what is afoot in this town.”
He asked the mother “May I take your daughter to investigate further?”
The mother with a look of worry and reluctance agreed.
Jamison was ecstatic and told her “Do not worry I will bring her back as soon as possible.”
Scarlet went and got properly dressed yet kept on her cloak. She went out to see Jamison on the back of a black horse with a strange bridle and then got on her more modest grey splotchy colored horse.
They went a good while without talking before they got to their first destination: The house or rather the decrepit building with runes along the door and interior.
Jamison said to her “Stay on your horse in case something comes out.”
Scarlet just nodded yes as to create as little noise as possible.
Jamison knocked on the door three times waiting for an answer before slamming his fist three time to which he got the same results.
With a sigh Jamison kicked it below the knob getting the door to buckle then open.
Jamison looked to see runes upon runes in front of him ,but there was also a stench of decay and metal telling him something horrible had happened.
He told Scarlet to stay in place so Scarlet complied. As she waited she saw a figure standing in the woods looking at her then calmly walking to her. She was frozen with fear over who or what it could be as was her horse yet the Jamison’s horse stood its ground.
As the figure finally approached she saw it was a little old native american man.The man’s features showed wear and tear with a few cuts on his face some small while others ran across his face, tan leathery skin, blackish grey hairs that greyed the further they got from his head and dark brown eyes that seemed to still have a fire that would never be snuffed out.
The man said to her in good but not perfect english “What brings you to this terrible place?”
Scarlet said relieved “I came here because we are investigating a murder.”
“We?” the man asked.
“Yes we.” The voice of Jamison was closer than she last heard it finding him close to his horse carrying something wrapped in scarlet fabric.
Jamison asked the man “Why did you come here?”
The man replied “I came here because my tribe has sent their oldest shaman here to lay a rune to keep it held for generations,and some of my people had went missing recently almost as if someone let it out.”
Scarlet felt a chill run down her spine and so she asked him “What is the beast that you speak of?”
The old shaman replied ”I had not spoke of any beast.”
The man continued ”It is not a beast it is a witch known simply as The Skinwalker a being who can change form ,but my people do not talk of them with strangers and it seems someone let him out.”
Scarlet feeling guilty said to him “I released him.”
The shaman said simply “So it seems but that means we must seal it away once again or slay it.”
Scarlet agreed to help.
Jamison quite dumb founded said to the shaman “How do we kill it?”
The shaman said “I will tell you if you bring me with you as my people do not freely give away secrets about this aberration.”
Jamison sighed and agreed to his conditions.
The shaman asked “Whose horse shall I be riding upon for I was not given one because of my task?”
Scarlet told him to get on her horse. The man did and they set off to town.
Jamison asked the old man “So what’s your name?”
The shaman replied “The name I was given as a child and then by my passing into manhood was replaced by the name your people had given to me which is Wolfe.”
Jamison chuckled at Wolfe’s name ,but he did not find it as funny.
When they got to the village they were greeted by the sheriff who told them of two more killings that had happened while the night before and after the arrival of a rich young man.
Jamison simplys asked him where these killing happened and was surprised to find them happening in close proximity.
Jamison set about investigating the scene as Wolfe and Scarlet watched.
Wolfe told him “The creature you and I both hunt is a strange beast one who changes skin from that of beasts,to monsters,to man.”
Jamison replied “Thanks for the heads up.”
Jamison reported the seen in detail: A man and a woman had been in their home getting thing ready to go to bed when they had died as shown by water being heated and light sources being put out ,but then they were both killed by what seemed to be a wolf with needle like teeth, and a strange mark on their chest where their heart should be.Wolfe went about the scene trying to not walk in the blood. He identified the symbols as being that of the beast.
Wolfe’s commented on the scene ”This has been going on in my tribe as well with hunters who would leave to hunt but ones that got lost would be found like this but with a gash below their chest.”
Wolfe checked for it upon the man before anyone could say anything and as he felt for the incision he found the incision below the man’s chest.
Wolfe was preparing to speak when the sheriff cut him off.
The sheriff said quickly ”Night is coming so I would recommend that most of you head home ,except for our hunter who should stay out and watch for any signs of whatever this beast is.”
Jamison nodded in agreement and said “Wolfe stay with me and talk about the beast while we’re on watch.”
Wolfe replied “I should keep up my end of the bargain shouldn't I.”
Scarlet rode to her house with Wolfe and Jamison. When they arrived they found the shop to be open as if Scarlet’s mother forgot to turn the sign again. As they entered the bell above the door jingled and Scarlet’s mother came out shakily holding a revolver.
Jamison and Scarlet in near unison told her “Put down the gun!”
Scarlet’s mother set down the gun with a sigh of relief.
Scarlet asked her “What happened?”
Her mother replied ”Sorry I’ve been a bit on edge since the murder had happened.”
Scarlet told her “Understandably so as well as the murder scene was a rather horrifying site to see.”
Her mother was shocked as to hear that her daughter went and viewed a murder scene as well as what happened this morning.
Jamison and Wolfe bid them good night as Scarlet was locking up the house. Scarlet as she was locking the doors saw the hooded figure as the night before but it was staring away from the house as if it couldn’t look directly at it.
Scarlet went into her room and tried to sleep but after today all she could do is lay there and think about today’s events. She began thinking about all the things she had seen and heard about and tried to string them together. After awhile she got re-dressed and went out against better judgement.
She got onto her horse and quickly went in search of Jamison and Wolfe. She went through the town at a quick pace but not a full gallop and as she was going she saw a figure again near the sheriff’s office.
Scarlet called out to the figure but the figure stood in front of the office knocking on the door. She began to move closer as her horse wanted to move back. She saw the figure of a young girl smiling at her through the darkness of the night while the clouds covered the moon. She was shocked and sat still even though something told her to run back. In that moment of hesitation the figure began advancing upon her but, as it did they could hear someone coming at a full gallop. The figure and Scarlet looked to see Jamison on the back of his horse along with Wolfe who was trying not to fall off the speeding creature.
As they approached the figure attempted to slink further into the dark only to be forced forwards by the sheriff into the light of the moon as the shadows passed. All of this mixed together made the figure attempt to flee the scene by simply sprinting away which was foiled by Wolfe getting closer in his cloak of sigils along with the figure slipping on slush from the previous day which slowed the attempted escape. The figure in broad moonlight seemed to be a young girl in a cloak but, that quickly changed to a man who was heaving at the ground as if he was punched in the stomach after a meal.
Wolfe was the first to speak in this confusing scene saying “It’s strange that he would have gone in the shape of a young girl.”
Jamison agreed while Scarlet and the sheriff stared on seemingly confused.
The Skinwalker through his heaves could be heard saying something in Wolfe’s original language.
Jamison asked what the Skinwalker was saying and so Wolfe translated it to “May you and your families die painfully and slowly at my hands.” which got the witch a firm stomp to the back from Jamison forcing him into the the snow.
Jamison quickly drew his rifle and opened the breech to put in a white dusted bullet. The Skinwalker while watching Jamison loaded his gun started to fidget around as if it was attempting to escape.
Scarlet understandably would be afraid of being shot but she didn’t understand why the bullet was white and so she asked Wolfe “What is on that bullet?”
Wolfe answered “Juniper ash as is used to kill skinwalkers ,but Jamison insisted we use silver as well to “Make it extra deadly.””
Jamison quickly shouldered his rifle and shot the Skinwalker in the chest.
Wolfe said calmly “This is not the end release him after you put in the next bullet.”
Jamison opened the breech everyone hearing the casing fly out and hit the snowy road with a soft thud noise and he reached into his satchel and pulled out another round ,chambering it, and then lifted his foot off the Skinwalkers back. Everyone watched as he transformed into a large wolf covered in snow and slush and began to glare at Jamison and Wolfe ,but he began to back away like a cornered animal and then he ran as quickly as he could away from the scene.
Scarlet asked them “Why did you let him run away?”
Wolfe answered “We will have to wait for tomorrow to try again because Jamison did not have a good shot at his throat.”
Jamison sighed and walked over to Scarlet and gave her something wrapped in cloth along with a small satchel telling her “Make sure you don’t waste it.”
Scarlet was confused until she looked inside the stachel and saw paper things and what she knew were percussion caps for a pistol.
She asked “How do I use these?”
Jamison sighed as if she asked him the dumbest question he ever heard but he showed her how to use the weapon he gave her and told her to head home and wait there.
Scarlet thanked him and quickly went home.
After her horse ride home she saw something strange. The door was wide open and blood and snowy paw prints trailed across the floor.
She quickly pulled out the pistol Jamison gave her and went inside following the trail to her mother’s room to find a wolf slowly approaching her mother who appeared to be injured from him biting her arm. Scarlet quickly let off a shot at his neck which missed but scared him. He began advancing as a cornered animal would, afraid and slowly away from her. She let off another shot which hit him in the right shoulder hindering him in escaping and/or advancing. He started to fall over with nothing left to do but wait.The beast began to take slow deep breaths while waiting for the inevitable. Finally she through shaky hands and terrible aim let off a shot that hit him in the neck slaying him once and for all.
The next morning after cleaning her mother’s wounds and bringing the dead beast outside they checked it to see if what she killed was the Skinwalker. It turned out to be him as they could see the unmistakable mark of a gunshot wound to the chest in the light of the full moon. Jamison quickly picked up The Skinwalker and cut off a piece of it then putting the sample into a metal canister before starting a roaring fire ,dousing the corpse with a special oil from a silver flask adorned with holy symbols, and threw it into the fire.
Jamison said “Another job well done.”
Everyone looked at him with scowls ,while Wolfe simply chuckled and agreed with him.
Scarlet asked Jamison “Don’t you want your pistol back?”
To which Jamison replied “Keep it someday it may be handy again someday.”
Jamison then got back upon his black steed and began his trip.
Scarlet watched as Jamison rode off towards the east where Jamison reported his findings along with turning in a sample and was rewarded for killing such a beast ,but he was reprimanded for giving a civilian government property.
Wolfe was thanked by the town, called a hero, and given a horse for his trip home and so he rode back to his village where he was celebrated as a hero by his people as well and they became more friendly to settlers and those of New Salem.
Scarlet and her mother fixed up the shop and renamed it “The Hunters Den,” where they sold what they always had and they would keep wandering hunters and in the winter sold cakes adorned with juniper berries and juniper berry pies.
The settlement became a town after a while with a reputation for helping hunters and producing a few hunters of their own who specialized in killing aberrations and creatures of native myth.
I may tell the tale of one of these special hunters one day until then this is the end of our tale, thank you good day and good night.