I could hear Mr. Campbell hysterically shouting the girl’s name. It was already difficult to see in this fog soaked twilight and he seemed hellbent on waking the dead. The fog might have provided us cover, but did the same for whatever was lurking about. The fool was trying to get us killed. Traversing the marshland was already a chore, the heel of my boot sunk into the soft Earth with each step and the hem of my dress was weighted down in dirt and mud. The last thing I needed was Mr. Campbell alerting this nasty thing to our location.
I reached out into the fog, grasping for him, but my hands found no purchase. Blast it.
“Mr. Campbell.” I whispered. “Please keep your voice down.” The only reply was his continued wailing. I gathered up the front of my skirt up in one hand, stretched the other out before me and trudged toward the sound of his voice.
My hand found the collar of his shirt and I yanked him close, perhaps a bit harder than I intended. His face inches from mine, pale and terrified. I could feel him trembling. I put my mouth close to his ear. “Mr. Campbell, it is imperative that you remain silent.”
“Miss Wiley, my daughter is out there.” He said in a shaking lilt.
“The element of surprise is paramount.”
“It’s the devil. He has come for us.”
“That may well be, however this isn’t the first time I’ve danced with Old Scratch.”
He bristled. “What sort of woman knows of such things? You a witch?”
I sighed. “I am no witch. I am your only hope.” I let go of him. “Follow me. Stay close and stay quiet.”
Through the fog I could make out little glimmers of dancing flames. I nudged Campbell and directed his eyes to the phenomenon.
“Will-o’-the-wisps. An omen. We must turn back.” Said Campbell.
I shook my head and pulled a revolver from my waistcoat, opened the chamber and slid two bullets, the last two, into the cylinder. Using the oldest of magics, a magus had blessed these shells with my life essence. Costly to make, and more costly to use.
We followed the wisps out of the fog and came to the shoreline of a Loch. Perched on a rock above the slack body of the girl was my prey. Grey skin, haggard and hunched, stretching it’s bat-like wings outward.
Campbell’s eyes widened. “The devil.” He shrieked.
“Not quite.” I took aim and fired, but the beast’s unnatural reflexes caused my bullet to miss the mark.
Pins and needless raced down my arms and legs as my essence loosed itself from soul and I fell to my knees and then again backward, dropping the gun. The cost.
The sluagh roared and charged me, closing the distance fast. I reached for my weapon just as it grabbed my ankle and pulled me out of reach. I desperately clawed for the gun. From the corner of my eye I saw Mr. Campbell race to his daughter.
The beast lifted itself into the air with its wings, carrying me with it. I’d seen it before. This is what the creature does. It extracts the soul of its victim, then drops the lifeless body from a great height.
I swung my body like pendulum as it lifted me and managed to grab hold of the gun, twisted my body and pulled my mud soaked dress aside. I took aim once more. The creature eyed me down its beak-life mouth. I fired.