It was the middle of the night on the far side of Onaria. A small farm sat in a field of grass, its interior dimly lit by several candles. A dirt path, surrounding by wooden fences, led up to the farmhouse. A figure walked up the path, his shoes making crunching sounds on the dirt.
The figure was Max Greybeard, leader of the Ten Rings ever since Father Lancaster's death. It had been three weeks since he; Calene, and Thayra had journeyed down into the Tomb of Syethis, trying to get the second Shard before The Goatman could.
The Shards were three objects, each containing a part of the soul of Tiamat, a great and powerful dragon who had been killed by the very first monster hunter and founder of the Ten Rings, Father Altima. They had been hidden all across the world, because if someone were to recover all three Shards, they would be able to resurrect Tiamat in psychical form. Tiamat would then bring about the end of all things. Unfortunately, The Goatman, an old servant of hers, had successfully found and recovered two of the Shards.
Since the hunter's failure to stop Thanatos, The Goatman's minion, from stealing the second Shard at the Tomb of Syethis, the Ten Rings had been searching for the final one. However, they had no luck so far. Max had been unable to help for a week, as he had been badly wounded in the Tomb and had to heal. Mendel had given him several healing potions, and the hunter had thus recovered faster then a normal person probably would. But when at last he was fit, Max still had no luck.
The hunter's still had jobs to do though, and a monster had been reported at this farm. Max had decided to go, as he hadn't been out of Castle Altima in three weeks. He had left early this morning and had at last arrived.
Reaching the farmhouse's front door, Max rapped lightly on it with his left knuckle. After a few moments, the door was pulled open and a woman stuck her head out.
She was a very large lady, with a massive belly and a fat chin. She had blonde hair and was wearing a mud-stained white dress. She looked Max up and down, before speaking.
"About time you got here, hunter!" She yelled. "If you had gotten here earlier, my George wouldn't have gotten hurt."
"My apologies, madam," Max said, bowing low. "But the Ten Ring's castle lies far away and it is a long trek to your house. But now, I will aide you is disposing of the creature that has been plaguing you for the past several days. Can you describe the thing to me?"
"'Fraid not," The woman grunted. "I can't see the beast. But I know its there. Its been killing off our livestock for the past several days. The first time I heard it, I was milking my poor old cow, Daisy. One minute, Daisy was standing upright, mooing. The next second, there was horrible cutting noise and my cow's throat was cut open. Blood got all over me, and I watched as something invisible tore open Daisy's belly. Then, there was a sucking noise, and I saw blood disappearing out of my cow. Whatever killed her, it was sucking her blood. It went like that for several days. We lost two more cows and three pigs. All had their blood sucked dry afterwards. George went to go check out this situation, seeing if he could scare the thing off. But the creature attacked him, giving him several bad wounds, and now he's recovering upstairs."
"Hmm," Max said, scratching his chin. "I'd say we're dealing with a ripper."
Rippers were a type of malevolent ghost. They were believed to be the spirits of animals, having no intellect, only a single drive to kill and feed. Rippers were invisible to the human eye, but could attack anything they so desired. They hungered for animal blood, attacking anything they could come across, and then sucking out the poor creature's blood dry like a massive leech. Rippers could only be dealt with in two ways. One was to perform an exorcism, which Max was not very skilled at. The other way was easier for him, but much more dangerous.
"Bring me salt and a piece of iron," Max said. "I'll wait for you out back."
"I hope you know what yer doing," The women grumbled, turning around. "Cause I'll kill you myself if you mess this up, hunter."
Max climbed over the fence, and move across the grass alongside the house. Several tomatoes and herbs were growing in the dirt next to the house's walls. A couple looked ripe. A couple of trees were spread out across the field. A herd of cows was several yards away, chewing on the grass. A chicken walked past the hunter, cocking its head toward him before moving off.
The lone hunter stood by the back of the house, next to a back door. After several minutes, the woman came through the door, holding a pouch of salt in one hand and an iron slab in the other.
"Here," She grunted, shoving the two objects into Max's hands. "Give me a shout if ya don't die out there."
The woman then moved back into the house, slamming the door with a loud bang. Max shook his head and moved across the field, toward the herd of cows.
The cows looked up at him lazily as the hunter approached, but quickly went back to feeding. Max stood by, opening the pouch and dumping a bit of salt into his right palm. He then stared intently at the cows, waiting in silence.
Then, without warning, there was a wet tearing sound. A brown cow near Max reared back, giving off a loud moo. Its throat was suddenly torn open, blood spilling out onto the grass. The cow fell to the ground, its eyes rolling back, and was dead in the next moment.
It was quiet again for a few seconds, before the cow's belly was ripped open. Guts spilled out, and there was a noise, sounding like something digging around inside the cow. Then, there was a loud slurping noise.
The ripper had struck and now it was drinking the dead cow's blood. It was necessary sacrifice, in order for Max to trap the ripper once and for all.
Slowly, the hunter moved over toward the dead cow, positioning himself in front of it. The loud slurping noises continued. When a ripper began to feed, nothing else in the world mattered to it. If it had been more self-aware, it might have killed Max by now.
The hunter lifted his palm holding the salt and hurled as hard as could. The salt struck the spot where the ripper was feeding. A loud howl split the air, ringing Max's ears. The slurping noises stopped.
"Howl all you want," Max said. He grabbed the iron slab and slammed in down in front of the cow's corpse. There was another angry howl from behind the iron slab, but it was over. The ripper was trapped.
Salt was an effective weapon against rippers. It stunned them for a few precious seconds, enabling a hunter to trap it. Iron could burn rippers if they crossed over it, even destroying them. Thus, the creature was trapped within the area of iron slab, unable to leave, unless someone else removed the iron.
Max walked back to the house, and rapped lightly on the door. It swung open, and the woman gasped upon seeing him.
"Yer alive!" She yelled. "Did you kill it?"
"You can't kill what is already dead," Max answered. "But I've succeeding in trapping the ripper. It can't move from the spot now. Just don't remove the iron slab from the field."
"Now," Max said, reaching out his hand. "My payment."
The woman reached into her dress, and pulled out several gold coins. She dropped them into his hand. Max counted them, and smiled.
"It has been a pleasure," He said. "Good luck with farming." The hunter turned away, beginning to make his way back to Castle Altima.