Captain Trask rode alone along the forest track. The moon cast a ghastly light through the trees that seemed to draw in on him like a malevolent living presence. Trask carried the Elector's commission to restore order in the most God forsaken corner of the principality. Southeastern Holstein was mountainous, heavily forested and remote; the people living there superstitious, ignorant and deeply suspicious of outsiders. The very end of the earth.
Trask was the Elector's 'fixer'. When a district fell into disorder and the local authorities failed to address the issue, indeed were often at the center of the problem, Trask would be dispatched. Ruthless enforcement of the Elector's will by any means necessary was his specialty. Still, the folk up in these hills were a strange, clannish lot. This would be a tough nut to crack.
A few weeks ago reports started reaching the Elector's court of an outbreak of killings in the region. Peasants in their fields and travellers on the roads had been savagely murdered. At first the nature of the killings had led people to believe the victims had been taken by wolves, which are common in the forests of the region, but several witnesses had caught glimpses of figures running upright back into the forest. So, it was brigands then, but why? Reports said that no property had been taken in any case. A feud, perhaps. Those were common enough among these barbarians, but the reports all described extraordinary savagery in the killings. Probably exaggerations. In their isolation from the civilized world these yokels developed vivid imaginations.
Trask decided to dismiss these morbid thoughts for the time being, as they seemed to be making the forest darker and the track narrower. Just a few more miles and he would arrive at the village of Eppstein, roughly in the center of the troubled area. A hot meal and a bed would settle his nerves and he could start his investigation in the morning.