The Beasts of Anwex
The rolling hills and dense forests of Anwex holds many mysteries. Though the island was colonized a century ago, its rugged interior has stalled any attempts at expansion. Rumours abound of half glimpsed things that stalk the border between civilization and the wilds. Most are simply that, rumours. I have spoken with guards that insisted that wyverns roamed the woods, bedecked with wicked horns and slender legs. While I am convinced these sightings are no more fantastical than a buck caught in the rising sun, I found it hard to chock all sightings up as misunderstandings.
One tale that turns up in taverns across the coast is of humanoid shapes lurking deep within the woods, spotted at the edges of logging camps and mines. Labourers described them as “eight feet tall, broad of shoulder and short of neck”. At first I came to the conclusion that these were but a tribe of ogres, millennia of island life stunting their growth. My initial research seemed to back that assumption, as oversized stone tools were often found when more forest was cleared away.
My theory was tested when I was called into the woods by the city watch. Escorted through a half mile of clinging vines and biting insects, I arrived at a ghastly sight. Gore drenched the tattered remains of a logging camp, bits of limbs and entrails strewn in a sick imitation of confetti. I wretched at the smell, my senses overwhelmed by copper and dung. Once I had regained my faculties, I was told the days shipment of logs had been delayed. Upon investigation, the guards discovered the camp in this sorry state, the workers either dead or missing.
This was clearly the work of some beast, an undiscovered native of Anwex. Being the only expert on fauna on the island, I was tasked with identifying the threat and tracking it down. To that end I requisitioned a number of vials, a pound of plaster and several water skins.
As I awaited my supplies I questioned the guards. The camp had been guarded by two armed and armoured soldiers, well paid sellswords hired by the logging company. Shreds of their chainmail had been found amongst the gore, along with a plated arm. Donning my gloves I turned over the limb, which had been ripped off at the elbow. The gauntlet had been crushed, the glove the only thing holding the hand together.
At first I assumed this was a wound sustained by a club, a favourite of ogres worldwide. Once I examined the palms I saw a number of punctures, which told a much different story. The hand had been bitten, an extraordinary amount of force collapsing the armour like it was but foil. This certainly didn’t rule out ogres, as they are known to devour corpses after a battle. Although most would prefer to peel the metal shell off their prey first, extreme hunger could provide suitable motivation to chew on an armoured hand.
Fortunately I was able to pry free a tooth from the palm of the victim. It was nearly five inches in length, exceptionally sharp with a very deep root, coated in dried black blood. It could have been a tusk from an ogre, although the length would suggest a juvenile. Without a vial to store the find I stashed it in the pocket of my tunic.
Leaving the grisly appendage behind, I surveyed the edge of the camp. The ground was soft and loamy, yet there were few tracks. It appeared that these ogres were more light footed than their continental cousins, perhaps in part due to their smaller size. What tracks I could find were faint.
My supplies arrived in short order, and I set about casting the imprints. While they dried, I examined the tattered tents. Many had been ripped apart, long gashes in their sides. The cuts seemed jagged and rough, perhaps made with crude stone weapons, but no fragments of rock were found.
A tuft of hair caught my eye, hanging onto the supports of one of the tents. I plucked it from its perch, examining it closely. It was course and rough, black as pitch and strong as wire. Ogre hair occasionally grew this thick, although it was a colour I had never seen before. I deposited the sample into a vial before returning to my castings.
As I pried the plaster from the print, I noted how slender it was. It was nearly twice the length of my own foot, but just slightly wider. The toes ended in claws, each two to three inches long. It almost appeared to be the print of a werewolf, only far more monstrous in proportion. I quickly dismissed the idea; not only would this werewolf have to be at least ten feet tall, it would be found further south than any lycanthrope known to man. Surely this was just another example of adaptation.
I gathered my findings and returned to town, my armed escort in tow. I was eager to begin my studies properly. I could be on the verge of a new discovery, a long lost tribe of ogres forgotten by time. I have compiled a list of suitable names for the species, to be attached to my field report.
Note: Let it be said that proper specimen storage is essential. In my haste forgot the tooth in my pocket. It bit deeply into my thigh as I sat, and I had to spend the next ten minutes cleaning and dressing the wound. Fortunately the rest of my evening would be spent at my desk, reading into reports and studying the samples gathered at the site.
It’s odd; in a decade of field work I’ve never felt this giddy. I’m almost chomping at bit to get back out there, and start searching for these beasts. The prestige of finding a new species is exciting, certainly, but the thought of the hunt thrills me more than I can describe. Ah well, they say that a full moon does funny things to people. At least I’ll have plenty of light to work with.
The Beasts of Anwex