A Town Called Bastion

Prologue

The cattle farm had been in the Richardson family for three generations and, like the other small cattle farms in the area, provided a steady supply of meat and milk to the nearby town of Bastion. It might not have been much, but Frank Richardson – the great-grandson of the original owner – was proud of his work.
Frank was a sheepdog, and like the rest of his kind, had a strong connection to farming. "We bleed soil," as his old man used to say. His father had been full of weird lines like that and loved to pull them out at Christmas after a few too many whiskeys.
Right now, Frank was sleeping soundly in his bed with Nellie, his sweet doe wife, beside him. Outside, the cattle followed their master's lead and slept quietly in their enclosure nearby. Frank sighed contentedly in his sleep.
He'd earned a good night's rest – he'd spent the whole day patrolling the fields with Dirk, the bull who owned the neighbouring farm. There'd been a spate of attacks on livestock recently and they were checking the fences, looking for any possible way a predator could have gotten in.
They had found nothing, as they expected, but it paid to be careful. People were losing animals left, right, and centre and they didn't want to be next. No one knew what it was and everyone was going cra… a loud wailing from the cows made Frank shoot out of his bed like a shotgun shell. Another bellow, this one much louder than the last, tore through the night. There was no mistaking that sound: it was the cry of the painfully dying.
"Sonofabitch!" Frank screamed as he snatched up his trusty rifle and sprinted down the stairs, his wife's frightened cries falling on deaf ears. He stormed out the front door and hurried over to the pasture. The entire herd was at it now and the sound of their panic-stricken cries was deafening.
"I'm coming, girls!" Frank cried. He double-checked that his gun was loaded and kept running.
The herd was in a craze, desperately fighting each other in a bid to escape their unseen attacker. The fence was taking serious strain as thousands of pounds of cattle pushed against it but, Frank was glad to see, it still held. Frank edged slowly around the enclosure, keeping his eyes open for whatever it was that could be causing the cows such distress. He let out a primal yell when he finally saw the carcass of what was his prized heifer.
The poor animal had been brutalised almost beyond recognition – blood had sprayed everywhere, organs had been torn out and flung aside, and limbs ripped off and viciously gnawed on. Frank let out another cry and vainly fired his rifle in the direction the blood trail led off. There was nothing left to do. He'd have to get his farm-hands to help him dispose of the body and then report it to the sheriff. With a sickened heart, he trudged back to his house to break the news to Nellie.