Nathaniel’s boots crunched down on Clover soil. The fields of flowers had grown larger, and more widespread as he’d closed in on it. There weren’t that many wildflowers around Era, it was a slightly harsher environment. Though beautiful, flowers held little purpose, so Nate never really took it upon himself to acknowledge them. In addition to the flowers however, there had been the footprints. Smashed into the earth by his quarry, entire fields of crops gone. At one point he’d followed the tracks, and found signs of slaughtered livestock, further confirming the reports. There were mixed messages coming in, though they all pointed to a giant as the culprit. The type wasn’t clear though, so tracking it presented the greatest challenge. Hill, Rock, Mountain? Couldn’t be Ice, Fire, Thunder or Sky either because they weren’t indigenous to the area or because there were no signs that implicated them. No scorch marks, no felled trees and as of yet, no dead humans. Wasn’t vindictive, but even so any breed of giant could escalate to that if it felt threatened. Boarder dispute perhaps? Didn’t matter, he was just being paid to get rid of it, if the problem arose again, then he’d make another trip, and resolve it again. Wasn’t an ideal solution, but he lacked the time or the drive to permanently resolve the problem, he’d just have to treat the symptoms as opposed to the disease. Not that everything was black and white. He wouldn’t kill, he’d injure by way of a warning, and send the beast packing. At least the time it would take for the giant to heal would give the town some time to reconstruct themselves and reinstate their infrastructure. It was too early in the mission to think about the months that followed.

 

He entered the town and consulted the request sheet, getting the name of his contact, Chieftain Kuro. Clearly the man in charge of the town, or perhaps it was a more informal title. Either way, he had a place to go looking. He reached the town centre, and after asking around a little, he figured out the exact location, and began to make his way there. Time to get the specifics, set his fee and begin hunting the giant down. He met Kuro in the town centre. He hadn’t organised a meeting place and it was sheer chance that one of the citizens saw him walking past as Nate was asking around.

“Chieftain” Nate stopped a few feet away from the walking man. He was an older gentleman, and there was some visible grey hair around his temple. There was a puzzled look on his face

“Yes? Can I help you” Nate held up the request form. The expression changed “you’re here to solve our Giant problem?”

“I am” he lowered the request form “Sergeant Nathaniel Abbadon, at your service.” Out of muscle memory, Nate nearly lowered himself into a bow. He refrained though, needed to maintain some form of aloofness, and clearly outline the power he had. Humbleness was one thing, but a clear distinction was still important. He’d not received that many lessons in humility, Most Knights received none at all.

“Thank god someone finally came!” Kuro seemed to sink a little bit, though whether that was from relief or intimidation it wasn’t clear. Nate didn’t intend to speculate, he was too focussed on the matter in hand.

“Can you give me the specifics, locations where the Giant’s been seen, what it looks like, that sort of thing.” Kuro nodded slowly. The sentence had come in a methodical, calculated manner. This was a hunt after all, not a field trip.

“Ugh, it was last seen in the Western fields, a bunch of cattle went missing, no-one got a good look. It was dark, during the night.” Tautology, it wasn’t going to be a dark day. Nate gritted his teeth, already frustrated, time was being wasted. There wasn’t anything that was really solid

“Anything more specific, type of cows that were taken, anything left behind aside from footprints?”

“Nothing” Nate sighed

“Can you show me the last place the creature was seen?”

“Certainly” finally, something that would give him some information to work with. It was likely that the townsfolk didn’t know what they were looking for, or looking at.

 

It took less than ten minutes for them to reach the site where the giant sightings had occurred. The first notable thing was the huge footprint, smashed into the earth. How could they have been anything but sure? He counted the number of toes, ruled out a few of the options. There were a few clumps of moss in the footprint, making it even easier to tell.

“Hill giant” Nate grunted, straightening up. He’d been kneeling in the footprint’s centre, examining the dimensions with a practiced eye. As a part of his training as a Knight he’d had to learn about Fiore’s native Fauna, and the beasts that roamed the woods, including how best to kill them if and when it came down to it. The knowledge allowed him to be a hunter of both men and beasts. Though the two seemed to coincide more often than anyone would expect. Well, aside from Nathaniel of course. He’d already stared into that particular abyss. He adjusted his coat and started walking towards the treeline, he stopped a few feet away from the footprint, turning back to the chieftain.

“I’ve got what I need to track the beast. Head back to the town, if I’m not back by weeks end, inform the Council, and have them send more Knights.” The man nodded, turning his back on the Knight Sergeant and walking back towards town

“Be careful Sergeant Abbadon.”

“Naturally” Nate replied, rolling his shoulders and trudging off towards the treeline. He should be able to use the footprints and smashed branches to find his prey, resolving the town’s issue would be an equally simple affair.

 

Nightfall, and there was still no sign of the Giant, no hills for it to hide beneath. After a few hours even the footprints had thinned out into nothing, covered up by other intervening factors. The trail wasn’t cold yet though, there were enough other signs to keep him going in the right direction. He needed to set up camp for now though, there was only so much tracking to be done in the dark. Throwing another armful of brambles on the fire pit, Nate seated himself. It was still exceedingly cold, more so than it should have been this time of year. He needed a bigger fire, but that would attract more attention, didn’t want to be attacked while he was sleeping. He stared into the embers, letting the heart of the fire draw him in. The warmth felt more intense the more he focussed. Without looking at his hand, he outstretched a fingertip, and charged it with Crash energy, so that he could carve a symbol into the rock beside him. Once it was finished, he closed his eye and drifted off.

 

When he woke up the following morning he couldn’t feel his face. He’d been forced to get up and slap himself a few times to try and get the nerve endings to start working again. When the cold hit him he realised he didn’t really want the nerve endings working. Just meant he could feel the cold all over again. He picked up the trail, and began to head deeper into the forest. The wildflowers still bloomed, even this far in, though they were different colours, dark purples and blues. It was slightly ominous given thought, not that he gave it too much. Didn’t pay to let his mind wander, not while he was on the hunt.

                The footprints reappeared after another hour’s worth of walking. Leading even further in. Had the giant been running after it stole the cattle? The footprints were a little spread out, as if to support his hypothesis. They were deeper too, smashed even deeper into the ground. Another strong just of wind slammed into him, caused his coat to billow out behind him. It carried with it something else. Blood. Looking up into the tree, Nate made out the dismembered limb. Part of a cow which had clearly gone uneaten, lost while it had been running.

“Close now” he muttered to himself, turning back to the ‘path’. As he continued along the path, he uncovered more remains, lodged in the branches above, portions of it splattered across the ground, mashed into the dirt in the footprints. The mess got worse, and slowly Nate managed to account for every one of the missing cows. There was a slight rumbling in the ground too, Nate picked up on it immediately, and slowly it began to grow stronger. Then came the smell, a foul stench, like a blend between rotting flesh and compost. Deffinately a hill troll.

                Moving swiftly, Nathaniel climbed one of the large rock formations that sprouted up from the ground. His mouth twitched, and subtly shifted into a smirk. He had his prey in sight now. The Beast was slumped over the fire, though perhaps ‘hunched’ would have been a better term. It was sinking its stinking maw into a sheep, something it must have picked up from another farm nearby. It was however unlikely that the monster had run all this way into the woods just to eat. Then he caught sight of the other Giant. Smashed into the ground a fair distance away, battered and broken. From the looks of it, the other giant had beaten it to death, taken over its territory. Must have forced the native Giant to go a little further out in search of food, and found Clover. The angry bastard ripping apart the sheep was the more dangerous one. Lethal force was necessary, otherwise the same situation would repeat itself further down the line. Nate slid back down the rocky outcrop before rounding it, moving into the eye line of the creature. He charged his form with Crash energy, after his body was encased in it, he surrounded his fists with an extra layer.

“Fun’s over” Nate snarled, the Giant looked up from its meal, blood dripping down its chin.

“You, little man”

“Well spotted” Nate rolled his eye and put his hands in his pocket, giving off an heir of nonchalance. “I’d like to say I’m sorry about this, but I’m not. Might be worth turning your back, should make things a little more humane.” Nate lifted his right fist, it was already smoking

“What you say?” The Giant grunted, shifting in order to get up. Nate sighed

“I’m going to kill you, you damned idiot.” Something sparked in the Giant’s brain and it glared down at the considerably smaller man. It pulled its fist back and lined up a solid punch. Nate’s face dropped. “Of course.”

“SMASH!” the fist came down, and Nate punched forwards with his own. Two two met with a splintering crack. Nate winced slightly, something in his arm had just popped, not ideal, but something he could deal with later. The Hill Giant was less lucky, and on impact its hand near exploded. Bone fragments fired off like shrapnel and blood flew in all directions. Roaring in pain, the Giant lifted its hand to its face, staring at the fingers hanging on by strings of muscle and sinew. It stared down at Nate, but the space he had been in was empty.

                Another punch smashed into the beast’s ankle and it lost its balance. The ground shook on the impact. Shaking the blood off of his hand, Nate closed in on its head.
“Ended my damn streak” he muttered. With a snarl, he landed another blow on the beast’s forehead, and the back of its skull blew out. He’d been forced to punch with his left, on account of his right arm being dislocated. He snapped it back into place with a grunt. Hadn’t accounted for the monster’s physical strength, which had outstripped his own and then some. Still, job was done. Time to get paid.

 

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