Rain pelted the thatch and wooden roofs of the village, draining away to the ground and turning the earth to mud, which the peasants tracked in on their feet. There was an air of dread and misery about the place, for their livestock had been slaughtered by a beast of the wilds.
The village elder, desperate for aid, sent to his lord for troops to kill the beast. There was no response. That was until two weeks later, someone arrived, trudging down the road in heavy boots, two swords strap to their side. The figure wore heavy plate, blackened darker than any in the village had ever seen. They wore no chain, leaving their upper arms and abdomen exposed, revealing scarred, ruddy skin. A red plume stuck out from the crown of their helm, and their cloak was set with metal rings. A pack could be seen slung over their shoulder, made of worn leather and sewn with extra pouches and pockets.
The villagers whispered, rumors flitting about in hushed tones they prayed the figure wouldn't hear.
"A single mercenary? Could the lord not spare more men?"
"Who is he, and where from? He bears no coat of arms, could this be one of the rumored Black Knights?"
"Black Knights? They're legend! I hear they're demons, possessed by bloodlust…"
"Bullshit, that man's no demon… but look at the size of him!"
The Black Knight came to the Elder's house, the wood of his porch creaking under the weight of the Knight's heavy armor.
The Knight knocked twice, then stood still in waiting. A moment later, the Elder opened the door, crying out in alarm at the Knight's appearance. He shrunk back, fearful, then slowly peeked at the figure before him.
"Ah, m-my apologies good sir Knight, you startled me. Please, forgive this old man." He said, keeping his head low.
"Your monster. Tell me what it looks like and when it strikes." Came the Knight's reply, their voice a rough whisper.
"Certainly. The beast has wings, and four legs. It hunts at night, so the men have not had better chance to see it." The Elder explained.
"Hmm. Has it left any corpses in the field? Or has it managed to drag off each of its prey?"
"Aye, indeed, we have one of the poor sheep a bit away from the barn. Jean can lead you to it." The Elder said, pointing out the young shepherd. The boy nearly wet himself seeing the towering black shape stomp over to him across the road.
"Sheep Carcass. Now."
Jean gave a simple nod and led the Black Knight to the animal's resting place. The body had been soaked in blood at the neck and belly, and had begun to stink. Flies buzzed around the wounds, glad of the free meal. Bending down to examine it, the knight brushed away the stained wool, seeing that the gashes on the belly were long and thin, caused by four claws parallel. The wound on the neck, however, was two curved cuts, one bigger than the other.
The Knight groaned.
"What is it? Is something wrong?" Jean asked.
"Chamrosh." The Knight stood. "Are there any special trees around here? Ones in places trees don't grow?"
"Aye, the Stonewood. Sits atop a boulder in the midst of the spring. Why?" Jean looked to the Knight.
"Leave it to me." The Knight replied, trudging off towards the spring.
They arrived at spring, shaded by a copse of trees that had sprung up around the fresh water. A huge boulder sat in the middle of the pond, and upon that boulder stood a great tree, its roots wrapping around the stone to get to the water below. The Stonewood stood taller than the rest of the trees, its leaves a more vibrant green, its trunk a stronger brown.
The Knight sat by the roots of one of the trees near the edge of the water, taking off their pack and setting it down at the base of the trunk. They rummaged through it, pulling out a half-full flask of oil. They grunted, finding a length of cloth and coating it in the oil, then shoving it into the flask's mouth. Then, placing the firebomb on the ground, they searched for their flint and tinder.
Then came a rustling from the leaves above…
"Fuck." They dropped the tinder, reaching for a sword. The Chamrosh leapt down onto their back, beak throwing sparks off the armor as it attempted to bite through. Its claws scraped across the plate, trying to find purchase and eventually snagging the Knight's left bicep. Quick to repay the wound, the knight grabbed the beast's foreleg, pulling it off their back and swinging it round, slamming it into the nearby treetrunk.
It gave a pained yelp as it got to its feet, revealing its form in full. It had the wings and head of a desperate bird of prey, and the body of a great, mangy hound, body thin and malnourished. It circled the Knight, its growl a strangled mess of cawing. The Knight drew their sword, widening their stance and raising the blade parallel to their eyes. The tip remained pointed at the Chamrosh, waiting for it to strike again. Blood dripped from the Knight's wound, watering the ground beneath their feet.
It barked at the knight, attempting to force the interloper to back off. The Knight stood their ground, grip tightening around the sword's hilt. The Chamrosh leapt at its foe, beak aimed at the bloody wound it tore. The knight reacted quickly, dodging to the right and flicking their blade upwards as they moved, catching the beast's wing, cutting through the vulnerable flesh hidden beneath the feathers. The Chamrosh landed, then leapt again. Letting go with their left hand, the Knight raised their gauntlet, letting the beast clamp down on the metal.
The Knight then raised their sword and bashed out the beast's left eye, causing it to recoil, squealing in pain. They stepped towards it, swinging their blade downwards. The Chamrosh dodged, leaping forth and using their claws to slice at the Knight's abdomen next. The Knight grunted, feeling that the wound was deep, and would soon begin to sap their strength. They turned, slicing once, twice, thrice, eventually carving a gash across the beast's chest. They went in for the kill, but the beast unexpectedly grabbed the sword's blade in its' teeth, twisting sharply and breaking it off at the hilt. It then began to flap its wings, lifting up off the ground in an attempt to flee.
Using a good deal of their remaining strength, the Knight hurled the hilt at the right side of the beast's head, taking advantage of its blindness. The handguard crashed against the Chamrosh's skull, knocking it off balance and forcing its flapping wings into the branches of the nearby tree. There it was caught, the wing breaking as the beast fell back to the ground. It landed on its side, stunned by the pain. The Knight put a hand to their wound, pulling it away covered in blood. They growled, pulling out their second sword. This blade was far shorter and wider, with runes in an old tongue carved upon the blade. It had no handguard, as its purpose was not to lock blades with another.
The Knight approached the beast as it raised itself up. They stood, arms spread wide, in the hopes that the desperate beast would take the opportunity. It lunged, screeching, as the Knight dropped down, driving their sword into the Chamrosh's chest as it passed overhead. The beast yelped, flying into the shallows at the edge of the spring. It was still, and blood tainted the clear water. The Knight panted, wiping the blood off their sword on the bark of a nearby tree. They sheathed the blade, returning to their bag and bandaging their wounds. They picked up the oil flask, lighting the end of the cloth. As they stepped into the water, they noticed something green leaking from the Chamrosh's fatal wound. A poison. Beast must have been driven mad, attacked when it was supposed to guard. But just as the blood and poison began to flow into the water, it vanished. Neutralized by the power of the Stonewood.
The Knight heard a coo and turned their head upwards to the branches of the Stonewood. There they saw the spirit of the beast, looking down at him. The eyes were peaceful, the canine body free of mange and well-fed. It nodded at the knight, then took off into the sky, fading out of view as it left the tree's branches. The Knight looked to their firebomb, and squelched the cloth, putting it back in their pack. They then dragged the Chamrosh's carcass from the water, grabbed their pack, and carried the corpse out of the trees. They then took their sword and cut the head from the body, bringing it with them back into town as proof of their kill.
The Knight dumped the bloody trophy at the Elder's feet, eyes watching him through the slit in their visor. From the Elder's mouth came a flood of gratitude, though the Knight cared not for it. He raised his hand to silence the man, the turned.
"The next Chamrosh will be born soon. Make sure to bring it tribute for your crops." They said as they left, walking down the same road they came in from. They returned to the lord's manor to receive payment, then continued on down the road heading south, seeking new monsters to face and foes to kill.