That was our first true encounter with the Soldier and his Beast and it was a terrible revelation of the power of our enemy. The Perchten was incredibly dangerous, could heal rapidly, and it held within itself a host of enemies. This alone was dreadful, but unbelievably that was not the worst of it.

 

The Beast was guided by a soldier’s intuition. This attack was not one of happenstance, for they had come upon us when we were exposed and distracted with no true means of escape. It would have been a successful ambush save for William’s incredible efforts and my lucky shot. 

 

If we were caught unawares again, my dear, we would certainly perish.

 

Yet we still had to make progress, we still had to save the people. After much debate, we decided to continue our pursuit of the spirits in the wilds, but caution was to be our byword. If ever there was doubt, if ever we feared an ambush, or even believed we felt someone watching us, we would retreat.

 

We traveled by secret ways, using magical disguises conjured by Mrs. Amsel, and stalking our prey while being stalked ourselves. Our progress was incredibly slow, my dear, but we still managed to free some of the people, often leading them away from the mountains to safer regions where we could enact our plots. 

 

Jakob spotted us several times, and there were some uncomfortably close calls, but thanks to our obsessive planning, we managed to escape. Thus a dangerous, grinding equilibrium was formed as we saved the Valley soul by soul, until, after a month, we managed to free eleven more men and women. This number was nowhere near where we wished it to be, but it was still progress. 

 

Indeed, there was a very clear sign of our progress, one that both encouraged and distressed us in equal measure. One day, after scouting deep into the mountains by himself, William returned to us greatly troubled.

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Fairy-Stories – Part Four

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You can also buy the novel The Grand Tour, a story about William Bridgeman’s journey across Europe during the twilight of magic.