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Chapter 1: Red Eyes

Description: The traveling merchant Leuven stops his covered wagon by the roadside to take a rest when he hears strange noises coming from the woods. Perhaps it would have been better to stay at home rather than venture out into the dark and brutal world. However, a stranger rushes to his aid. This stranger, however, does not seem to be like a normal human.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5


Part 4

The moon was already shining brightly into the room when there was a knock at the door. Petunia had brought the fresh laundry.

However, this didn’t seem to disturb the sleep of the young merchant. He was too exhausted from the past few days.

Evan was glad to feel his armor on his body again.

He felt much more comfortable in it, even though Petunia had apparently gone a bit overboard with the lavender. She did it at Leuven’s request.

The half-demon walked out into the hallway and carefully closed the door behind him.

Marie was leaning on the opposite windowsill, observing the stars shining brightly in the sky.

“It’s a beautiful night,” she said dreamily, never taking her gaze off the sparkling lights.

The half-demon wandered over to her and leaned against the window frame. “It looks like it’s going to rain”

“But you didn’t see that in a vision, did you?” Marie asked and a smile crossed her face.

“I suppose I owe you an apology,” he sighed. His thoughts were not only on the ghost; he also regretted his treatment of the seer.

She looked deep into his eyes. “That’s just your nature. You simply can’t take people like me seriously.”

“It has nothing to do with me being a half-demon,” he replied, avoiding her gaze.

“I didn’t mean that. You’re a man,” she laughed. “It’s evidently not in men’s nature to accept a strong woman beside them.”

“Ah, I see, you’re painting all men with the same brush.”

“Didn’t you do the same with me?” The seer turned around and leaned her back against the window sill.

“Well, the seers I’ve encountered so far were nothing more than charlatans who wanted to take money from both the rich and the poor,” he replied.

“Do you think I’m a charlatan too?”

Evan fell silent.

“Clearly. But that doesn’t mean I can’t still surprise you.”

Evan looked at her seriously. “Someone must have taught you to control your abilities. Seeing things is one thing; understanding and interpreting them is another.”

Marie put on a sorrowful look. “It was my mother. She was a seer herself. She had suspected early on that I had inherited it from her.”

“She must have been really proud.”

“Not really,” Marie replied. “Not everyone understands this ability. Most people are even afraid of it. One day, I uncovered one affair too many in the village. That left us with no choice but to flee or end up on the pyre.”

“I’m sorry, it must have been terrible.”

“People fear what they can’t understand,” said the seer. “I don’t blame them. I was still a child and didn’t know how much pain I was causing.”

“Still, you have done some good too,” the half-demon cautiously replied.

“That’s true. The miller may not have liked that I exposed his affair, but his wife was very grateful to have certainty,” Marie said, and a smile crossed her face.

“That was probably his last one.”

The seer put on a sad look. “Nevertheless, we had to leave. We moved from here to there. To avoid starving, we took almost any job. But we had to hide our abilities.”

“Why didn’t you go to the wizard academy? They could have surely improved your abilities there.”

“Do you know the difference between a mouse and a rat?” Marie raised an eyebrow at Evan.

“Well, rats are significantly larger. They also look somewhat different. Rats are even more disgusting. I hate them.”

“Exactly. Mice and rats are not the same. Even though they may seem so to the untrained eye. That’s how the sorcerers see it too. Seers have no place at the academy. In their eyes, our abilities are not of high importance. We’re not allowed to enroll at the academy.”

“I didn’t know that,” Evan replied.

“Why should you care?”

The half-demon gazed silently at the night sky.

“And you?” the seer asked. “What’s your story?”

“My story…” he said calmly and softly. “It’s not important.”

“Oh, come on, I’ve told you something about myself. Now it’s your turn.”

Evan sighed and looked at the seer. “Well, I wasn’t always a half-demon. Quite the opposite. I’m looking for the one who did this to me. But that’s easier said than done. Information about him is very scarce.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” the seer replied.

“You can’t help it. At the end of the day, we are alone with our problems anyway.”

“Is that how you see it? – You have Leuven. Even if you are an odd couple, at least you have someone to talk to.”

“Leuven? – No, we just met by chance on the way. He got stranded with his wagon and I helped him. Our paths will part again soon.”

“You just met by chance? – That could be the reason why I didn’t see him in my vision.”

“Doesn’t life consist of a chain of coincidences anyway?”

Marie looked at Evan with a smile. “So you’re turning into a philosopher. But I see it a little differently. Our lives are determined by various important events. How we ultimately achieve them can always be in a state of flux.”

“If that’s the case, then I wonder what I’ve done to deserve all of this.”

“I believe that everyone gets what they deserve in the end.”

A piercing scream sounded, interrupting their conversation.

Evan immediately went on high alert. “Leuven.”

He hurried over to the room’s door.

“Wait!” Marie called after him. She wanted to follow Evan, but suddenly a sharp pain shot through her head.

She fell to the ground, barely managing to catch herself with her hand. She tried to scream. Her mouth was wide open, and her eyes welled up with tears, but no sound came from her throat.

Leuven lay on his bed, his body convulsing under the covers.

“No!” he screamed. “I won’t let you go!”

A dark, shadowy figure hovered over Leuven.

Evan realized that they were not dealing with an ordinary ghost.

“Let go of him immediately!” he commanded.

The shadowy figure seemed to relent, wavering in the air, and Leuven’s body relaxed.

But then, two bright red eyes emerged from the darkness, followed by a wide-open mouth.

Before Evan could grasp what was happening, the shadowy figure lunged at him with lightning speed, and he was engulfed by deep darkness.

A sharp pain pierced his chest, and his screams were nothing but whispers in the chaos as the room around him lit up, and sinister figures gathered.

Their faces were distorted, their voices distant.

Evan saw the flashing knife in one of their hands, and the echoing laughter surrounded him.

Fear overwhelmed him. It felt like a terrible nightmare that repeated itself.

Then he plunged into darkness once again.

A creaking door opened in the background, and a woman’s screams pierced his consciousness.

He turned around and saw two women. One of them was crying desperately in bed, while the other tried to comfort her while holding her hand.

The door slammed shut with a loud bang.

“Why doesn’t my mom love me?” came the crying voice of a little girl behind the half-demon.

He turned around and looked into the sad, wide-open eyes of a little girl with curly hair.

“Why did she do that?” the girl wept.

Evan bit his lip. Was this the girl the lord had spoken of?

“Who are you?” Evan asked, almost growling.

“Why doesn’t she love me?” the girl ignored his words.

“You’re not a ghost.”

The girl fell silent and touched one of her eyes. Blood ran down her cheek.

“Hah!” a smile spread across Evan’s face. “You’re not a ghost. I´m sure.”

The girl’s voice echoed. “You’ve experienced so much pain. The hatred in you is powerful.”

“And you want to feed on my hatred,” Evan remarked confidently.

“So, you’ve seen through me,” the girl replied.

Blood continued to flow down her face. “But you won’t drive me away.”

With a shrill scream, the girl disappeared, and darkness engulfed the half-demon.

A sharp pain pierced his head, followed by deafening noise.

“Evan!” Marie’s desperate voice reached him.

She held his head with both hands and gently wiped her thumbs across his forehead.

She smiled as he opened his eyes.

He quickly sat up.

“Where is he?” Evan asked excitedly.

“He? – Who do you mean? What did you see?” Marie was confused by his words.

The half-demon put his hands on the floor and stood up. “I now know what we’re dealing with.”

Evan left the room with a grim look.

He strode down the narrow hallway with heavy footsteps and climbed the small staircase.

On the corridor, the lord was already approaching him, looking at him with tired eyes. “What’s going on here? What’s with the noise?”

“I now know what’s happening here,” Evan said. “Where is your wife?”

“My wife?” The lord looked puzzled. “She’s asleep. Leave her be.”

“As sorry as I am, but I need to speak with her immediately. The whole thing is related to your wife.”

Reluctantly, the lord gave in and led him through the hallway to a spiral staircase leading up to the tower.

Marie followed him anxiously.

Lord Dancker looked into the burning eyes of the half-demon with alarm as they stood in front of the massive wooden door to his bedroom.

“If you lead me astray, there will be consequences,” he said.

Evan pushed the door open and entered the room.

Methild Dancker jolted and pulled the blanket up to her chin.

Black candles and arrangements of myrrh, lavender, and anise were scattered throughout the room. The window to the courtyard was nailed shut.

“What’s going on?” the lord’s wife said, pushing the blanket aside.

Furious, she rushed toward her husband. “You allow this monster to barge into our bedchamber?”

The lord vigorously shook his pale blonde mane.

Evan inspected every corner of the room.

“Will you finally tell me what’s happening?” Lord Dancker asked angrily. “So, you’ve seen the girl, what happened?”

Evan remained silent and wandered around the room.

The onlookers looked at him questioningly. He seemed to be gathering his thoughts, which were not entirely clear to anyone.

Marie tried to calm him down and reached out her hands to him. “Come on, tell us what you saw.”

Evan stopped. He took a deep breath. Then his thoughts seemed to become clear.

“It’s not a ghost,” he said at last.

“Isn’t it?” Marie looked at him, trying to grab his arms repeatedly, but he resisted her grasp by moving slightly to the side each time.

“So, what is it, stop keeping us in suspense!” the lord’s words sounded like a command, perhaps even a threat to some.

“Lord Dancker,” the half-demon said, looking sharply at him. “You mentioned that your wife had a miscarriage years ago.”

“That’s correct. Methild was pregnant with our child, but she lost it during childbirth,” he explained.

Dancker felt his wife’s fingernails digging into his arm.

Evan also noticed her strange reaction.

He took a step toward the lord and turned to his wife. “Speak. It’s time to tell the truth.”

Methild clung to her husband and nervously looked at the half-demon. “What are you talking about? What do you want from me?”

Dancker, on the other hand, positioned himself between the two and confronted Evan. “Leave my wife alone; she has suffered enough. Away with you! Away, or I will have you executed on the spot!”

Suddenly, the lord revealed his true nature.

Evan knew that he was only still alive because a greater plague had beset them.

He had never believed Johan Dancker’s courteous demeanor from the beginning, having dealt with the lower nobility far too often.

The half-demon took a step back, where Marie shielded him with her hands.

She let go of him.

“You didn’t have a miscarriage, did you?” his voice was calm but resolute.

The wife of the lord looked at him in shock, then at her husband. “That, that’s not true!”

The lord gently stroked her upper arms. “It’s okay. I won’t let him get away with this audacity.”

He looked darkly at Marie. “And this witch, either.”

“You should burn these heretics!” Methild shouted.

Her face was red with anger.

“If you don’t tell us the truth now, you probably won’t survive this night,” Evan said, stretching out his arms. “These things here won’t protect you any longer. The protective spell you cast is beginning to crumble. So, if you value your life and that of your husband, speak!”

Methild turned away from her husband.

“I can’t,” she cried out, holding her hands to her face.

Tears streamed down her wrists.

“What happened?” the lord asked, upset.

“The child was alive, wasn’t it?” Evan wanted to know, but the answer was already clear to him.

The lord’s wife nodded. Her face was pale, and her eyes filled with tears.

“What do you mean, our child is alive?” Dancker’s voice trembled.

His wife wept and sobbed. “No, she doesn’t.”

Evan closed his eyes. So, he was right.

“What do you mean?” the lord asked, grabbed his wife’s arms, and shook her.

“Let her go,” the half-demon commanded and was almost about to rush toward him, but he held back.

“You have nothing to tell me!”

Marie put her hands on the lord´s hands and pushed them away from his wife’s arms. “Let her calm down so she can explain.”

Dancker calmed down and took a step back with a sigh. He shook as if he wanted to wake up from a bad dream.

Everyone watched Methild in suspense.

Her lips trembled, but no words came out.

“We can only help you if you help us,” Evan said after a short while.

Methild lowered her head. “I have no other choice.”

She looked at her husband with sorrow. “We had almost given up hope, but finally, it happened. I became pregnant. We were so happy.”

She sobbed and stuttered. “You kept talking about how much you wanted a boy. How you would teach him to ride and hunt, how you would train him to be a noble knight. It was out of the question that it would be a girl.”

The lord’s face turned as white as a sheet. “But, Methild, I never said that it had to be a boy.”

“You didn’t have to; I felt it. You never considered that it could be a girl. You constantly talked about how much you were looking forward to our son.”

Johan Dancker lowered his head in regret.

“But I, I never…,” he stammered.

Nervously, Methild played with her hands, seeking distraction and the courage to continue speaking.

Breathing was difficult for her. “On that night, when the midwife came to the castle, it was time. Only the midwife, Magda, and I were present in the room.”

“Magda was there?” Marie asked in astonishment. “Did she already lived in the castle back then?”

“She was a foundling,” explained the lord. “She spent her whole life in the castle.”

“And you simply cast her out, why?” The seer put on a grim expression, tension in the air.

“She was just a child,” Methild wailed. “When I heard our child’s cries for the first time, I was overjoyed. But how would you react? A daughter instead of a son? I couldn’t do that to you.”

“What did you do?” Dancker wanted to know, swallowing the lump in his throat.

“I told you I had a stillborn child, but that was a lie. She lived, for a brief moment. It was a moment of weakness, I swear!”

Evan closed his eyes with a snort. “You killed it with your own hands?”

“I didn’t know what I was doing, it was so small, so fragile!”

The lord began to waver, touched his forehead, and fell to the ground.

Marie rushed to him, holding him up by the shoulders.

“How could you?” he asked softly, gazing thoughtfully at the floor. “That was our child.”

“I didn’t want to, but suddenly I saw your disappointed face before my eyes. Before I knew what I had done, it was too late,” Methild fell to her knees.

“And Magda witnessed everything?” Evan asked.

“She did,” Methild replied. “I could silence the midwife with a few crowns, but Magda, she was still so young. I’m to blame for turning the lively girl into such a nervous and fearful young woman.”

“You drove her from the court just before the apparition appeared for the first time. But it wasn’t about Magda stealing anything, was it?“ Evan crossed his arms.

“Of course not. She never stole anything. She was such a kind child. But she had to leave; she couldn’t continue living in the castle.”

“Why? After all, she kept your secret over the years.”

“That’s the thing, she didn’t. She told that bastard. That filthy stable boy. I knew they had an affair, but I never thought she would really confide everything in him. He wanted to make her reveal my terrible deed. When she refused, he hit her. I wanted to help her, truly, but she had betrayed my secret. I had to send her away.”

“And the stable boy? He knew your secret too.”

“He blackmailed me,” Methild paused briefly. “At first, he wanted more wages. He quickly squandered it in the tavern and the brothel. He always wanted more.”

“So you got rid of him.”

“No, that’s not true! – I swear, I had nothing to do with his death. Before he could tell my husband, I wanted to do it.”

“But then he died, and you could continue to keep the secret.”

“That’s right. But I didn’t want that. It was a coincidence. It wasn’t me, I wasn’t responsible.”

The lord stood up on shaky legs. “You killed our child.”

“I’m so terribly sorry,” Methild sobbed.

“And now she haunts us, to our death.”

“Wrong,” Evan objected.

His gaze met those of Methild, Johan, and Marie with surprise.

“It’s not the ghost of your daughter,” he continued. “We’re dealing with a Hintz.”

“A Hintz?” The three frowned.

“Petunia’s cousin mentioned that Magda and Gregor had a quarrel in the stable. It all makes sense now. She told him your secret. I have a question for you, Methild. Did you bury the child’s body under the stable?”

Methild nodded. “How do you know that?”

“I didn’t know, but now the pieces are coming together. A Hintz thrives on death. It feeds on memories and fears. After Magda revealed the location of the body, the Hintz could feed on the castle’s memories and on everyone living in the castle. It took on the form of a little girl to incite fear and drive everyone in the castle to their deaths. Only then can it have a true feast. It succeeded with the stable boy, and afterward, the Hintz craved more.”

“But how did this thing know what our daughter would look like today?” the Lord asked in astonishment.

“It didn’t. But neither did we. It simply created an illusion resembling you and your wife to make the image even more frightening,” Evan looked at Marie. “At first, it triggers pleasant dreams, only to take control and gain strength from the fear of its victims.”

“So, you’re saying an evil demon has visited my castle, is that correct?” Dancker asked. “How can we stop it?”

“Well, to defeat a demon, a half-demon could be quite useful,” Evan smirked.

His expression became serious again. “I’m afraid you won’t like it. But to lure the Hintz out of hiding and distract it, we’ll need to use you as bait. Rest assured, nothing will happen to you.”

“But I’ve already encountered this Hintz; it could have easily killed me on that night,” Johan Dancker replied.

“You should thank your wife for that. Her protective spell is amateurish, but it has kept you safe from death so far.”

Johan looked questioningly at his wife and then back to Evan. “If using me as bait will free the castle from this creature and get rid of it, I agree.”

“Never,” Methild objected. “It’s my fault. If anyone should be the bait, it should be me.”

“Forget it,” Evan shook his head with a determined expression. “It’s safer for you here. You’re the reason why the Hintz has taken hold in the castle. Your spell will keep the Hintz away from you.”

“But you said that the spell won’t last much longer,” the lord’s wife protested.

The half-demon scratched his chin and made a grimace. “That was a lie. You’re not a sorceress, so you didn’t perform the ritual flawlessly. That’s why the Hintz could attack your husband that night, but you’ve done quite well for an amateur. The spell has kept you safe from death.”

Methild looked at him in disbelief and stood up. “You lied to me? How could you?”

“You wouldn’t share the truth, so I had to,” Evan replied.

“You’re a brazen liar, a charlatan with ill intentions!” she yelled.

Evan stared at her in surprise. Did she really mean that?

“Methild, what’s going on?” the lord tried to reach his wife, but it was futile. She avoided his touch and moved away from him.

“Don’t touch me!” Methild told him with anger in her voice.

She had a crazed look on her face, convinced that all of this could only be a conspiracy. “Yes, you wanted to deceive me from the beginning, you and that stupid witch. It was your plan all along to drive me into madness. What do you want? Do you want the castle? Do you want gold and jewels, or do you just enjoy seeing me suffer?”

“Lady Dancker,” Marie tried to calm her and cautiously took a few steps toward her. “None of us want to see you suffer.”

“Stay where you are! But yes, that’s your goal, to see me suffer,” Methild accused.

“Methild, I can assure you that’s not our goal,” Evan stated firmly. “We want to help you.”

“Why would you want that? You’re a demon, and you’re a witch. I don’t know a single story where your kind does anything good. You belong in hell, where you came from,” the lord’s wife hissed.

“Methild,” Johan Dancker said in a soothing voice.

She glared at him angrily and quickly turned around, running out of the room.

“Methild!”

As she disappeared through the door, she nearly pushed Leuven aside, who was peeking into the room, yawning. “What’s all the noise about?”

The lord followed his wife, as did Marie and Evan.

Leuven stood in the doorway with dreamy eyes, blinking in disillusionment as he spotted the many black candles and arrangements made from various plants.

Then he held his head. “Man, what did I dream?”

Methild ran out into the courtyard. It was raining.

Her flat shoes almost sank in the mud, but she continued to trudge through the slippery and uneven ground.

“Methild, wait!” her husband called after her.

She turned around, arms outstretched. “Is this what you want? Did you want to see me like this?”

Evan and Marie prevented the lord from rushing to his wife.

“Methild, you must return to the castle!” the half-demon shouted, but it was already too late.

“Mother, there you are,” a little girl’s voice echoed behind Methild.

Startled, she turned slowly.

“Why did you make me wait so long?” the little girl asked with a feigned friendly face. “Why did you come only now? I wanted to come visit you.”

“You… you… you’re my daughter,” stammered Methild.

Evan waded through the mud. “You need to get away from her!”

At that moment, a black shadow stretched over the little girl.

A deep, sinister voice emanated from her throat. “Why did you kill me? Don’t you love me?”

Methild screamed.

Blood poured from her eyes and mouth. Her silent screams conveyed excruciating pain.

Blood sprayed in all directions as her body was torn apart in mid-air and the pieces fell into the mud.

Evan came to a screeching halt and almost slipped in the muck.

He stared in disbelief at the scattered body parts and blood spreading over a wide area.

The little girl laughed horribly.

“Delicious!” she said with a demonic voice.

Evan pulled his sword out of its sheath. It gleamed in the moonlight.

“Be gone, Hintz!” he shouted.

But the little girl laughed again. “Pathetic human. A sword won’t protect you. I am invincible. As long as there are dreams, I will nest in people’s minds.”

“Invincible, you say? Many have claimed the same,” Evan snorted and extended his blade.

“Begone!” the girl screamed and swiped her small hand in front of her face.

An invisible blow struck Evan, hurling him through the stable door with a loud crash.

“Evan, no!” Marie screamed, standing rooted in the pouring rain and fearful as she glanced at the little girl.

The girl turned to her. “The mother was delicious, but I’m not full yet. Perhaps an arm, maybe a little leg, and then the father.”

Marie attempted to move, but her legs felt like stone.

Paralyzed, she stared at the sinister creature.

Her gaze shifted back and forth between the shadow and the girl.

Their movements mirrored each other. Like a marionette, the Hintz appeared to control the apparition.

The black silhouette raised a massive shadowy paw.

Then a voice emerged from nowhere. “That’s enough!”

The shadow and its puppet turned their gaze to the stable door.

Without a scratch, Evan stood there, his sword embedded in the ground.

He adjusted the straps on his vambraces.

“You really get on my nerves,” he grumbled.

“Be gone from us,” the girl spat. “I don’t want you!”

“Too bad,” the half-demon mocked. “You’ll have to settle for me, or you’ll have to go to bed without supper, I’m afraid.”

“Insolent human, foolish human,” the Hintz scolded.

Evan’s cloak fluttered wildly in the rising wind.

Marie looked around in confusion before another sharp pain pierced her head.

Red, fiery eyes appeared in her mind, a malevolent face filled with wickedness.

She took a deep breath.

“I’ve seen this before. I’ve seen you before,” she snorted.

The Hintz hissed menacingly. “Your sword won’t help you. I don’t want to eat you, but I want to kill you!”

Evan drew a dagger from a sheath fastened to his leg.

The black, serrated blade glistened with each raindrop that fell upon it.

“Insolent human, foolish human,” the girl repeated.

“I am not human,” Evan replied, swung the dagger, and cut a deep wound in his wrist.

Pitch-black blood gushed out, dripping onto the mud and mingling with the stagnant water.

Evan dropped to his knees.

His heart raced wildly and unevenly in his chest. At that moment, he wanted to scream, but his jaw clenched shut.

The girl approached the half-demon with light steps. “Yes, do it yourself, foolish human.”

Evan lifted his head, growling and grinding his teeth, and finally, the liberating scream erupted from his throat.

Marie couldn’t believe her eyes.

Evan’s eyes glowed with a fiery red, like flames in the darkness. His fingers spread apart.

The seer felt the pain coursing through his entire body.

Evan’s muscles continued to grow, his skin turned pale and ashen, and black veins snaked across his neck like the branches of a tree.

She had seen him like this in her vision. That demonic gaze had seared into her memory.

The Hintz stopped halfway.

“You are not a human,” it hissed.

“I told you that,” Evan’s voice grew hoarse and almost as deep as the Hintz’s.

The Hintz laughed mockingly. “I am a dreamwalker, a ghost in your head, a shadow that wanders through the night and cannot be captured. I am immortal. As long as there are dreams, I will nest in people’s minds.”

Evan clenched his teeth, drew his sword from the mud.

“Nothing endures eternity,” he said coldly.

Marie was paralyzed. Was this still the Evan she had known?

The figure of the little girl wavered and dissolved into a black mist.

Swiftly, it swirled in one spot and interwove with itself.

The image resembled a drop of ink sinking into water.

Quickly, the ends of the formation intertwined to create the outline of a young woman.

Evan bared his teeth.

“I can also see into your mind. Oh, what sorrow dwells within you,” chuckled the Hintz. “Ah, I see deep pain, death. Perhaps you are the feast I long for.”

The mist completed its transformation into that of a lovely young woman with silky, dark hair.

Marie recognized that this woman must mean something to the half-demon; his expression left no other conclusion.

Despite his devilish form, she could see the sadness surrounding him and the anger reflected in his fiery eyes.

“Evan,” the young woman’s form said calmly, her voice like an angel’s. “Don’t be afraid. I am here; I will help you.”

“You see,” the Hintz spoke, “she is here because of you. Go with her. Live the life you’ve been dreaming of.”

But more than a tired smile did not cross Evan’s lips. “Cheap parlor tricks. You can see into my dreams and thoughts, but that doesn’t impress me. You’re too overconfident. Do you think you can distract me with that?”

The Hintz fell silent.

“Do you know what I really feel? – That you’re afraid!” the half-demon confidently replied.

“I’m not afraid. I am the shadow,” he said, menacingly.

Suddenly, the woman transformed in a thick fog and reshaped herself.

The Hintz seemed surprised. “What is this? – What are you doing?”

“You want to peer into my thoughts, then look inside. I’ll give you what you want.”

A small creature seemed to form from the mist.

Long ears and sharp teeth became visible. The woman had transformed into a small rabbit.

“Interesting,” Evan said, smiling. “So that’s why everyone sees the little girl. Because the story of the ghost has spread among people. So, you can’t fully control the form. You rely on the images in people’s minds.”

“I am a dreamwalker…”

Evan interrupted him, “Fear and death and blah blah blah. I get it!”

He extended his sword towards the Hintz. “But for you, it’s the end of the line here. It’s time to vanish.”

The rabbit-shaped figure blurred. The Hintz reared up, and in a roaring thunderstorm, the shadow took the form of a massive wolf.

Its intense gaze met the fiery eyes of the half-demon.

A scream, a mighty roar, the sound of metal whooshing through the wind, and thunder reverberated through the night.

A brilliant lightning bolt struck the courtyard, its shockwave throwing the seer backwards into the mud.

She sat up, gazing at the scene with wide eyes.

Evan and the Hintz engaged in a relentless battle.

The wolf form evaded a sword strike and narrowly missed the half-demon with its jaws.

Growling and cheers alternated in a constant dance of noise.

A powerful strike with the gleaming blade hit the Hintz on its snout.

“I am immortal,” he hissed. “I am a shadow. You can’t kill a shadow!”

Evan seized the form by the neck, or at least what could have been a neck.

The Hintz cried out in surprise. “Impossible, it can’t be!”

“You’re not what you claim to be,” the half-demon grumbled. “You feed on bad dreams? – How do those taste?”

He contorted his face in concentration.

The Hintz howled.

The shadows writhed wildly as if the form was contorting.

Evan let him drop to the ground.

The Hintz continued to transform into various shapes. Human, animal, the little girl, the young woman, the rabbit. It seemed he couldn’t control which form he would take next.

“Stop!” the Hintz cursed. “Stop it immediately!”

Evan growled menacingly. “Feast on my dreams and thoughts.”

The Hintz calmed down and appeared in the form of a small black creature with a long tail and a reptilian snout.

It pitifully sank to the ground, cowering like a miserable heap in the mud.

It squeaked and panted heavily.

“You have caused much suffering to humans,” Evan judged and stood over the pitiful creature. “That ends now.”

“I’m hungry, I’m so hungry!” the Hintz squeaked.

Evan let his sword fall into the mud and took his dagger in hand.

A final, shrill squeak sounded, then silence fell.

The half-demon breathed heavily.

His fiery eyes extinguished as he dropped to his knees.

He looked around wearily and ultimately fell face-first into the mud.

Marie rushed over, glided over the slippery ground, and checked the half-demon. “Evan, wake up, wake up.”

Excited, she stroked his cheek and forehead after turning him on his back.

“Quick! Bring me water and a cloth!” she called out to the lord.

However, he crouched over the remains of his wife, howling.

The shock ran deep.

He had probably not yet understood what had happened.

Leuven rushed over and ran briskly to the stable.

He almost slipped several times but managed to stay on his feet.

He quickly grabbed a bucket and an old rag and hurried to help the seer.

Once again, he didn’t look graceful as he slipped through the mud, but that didn’t matter at that moment. He wanted to help Evan, and that was what mattered.

Marie dipped the rag into the bucket and wiped it across Evan’s face.

He opened his eyes with effort.

Marie and Leuven breathed sighs of relief.

“How did you manage that?” she asked, smiling, as Evan sat up and held a hand to his aching head.

He shook himself and looked at them with tired eyes. “Some demons tend to get too cocky.”

He stood up and stretched. A sharp pain coursed through his entire body.

Once that had passed, he felt considerably better.

“They may feel overbearing, but they’re not. Every demon has a weakness,” he added.

Leuven let out a “hah.”

“Evan Dhorne, the Conqueror of Shadows and Destroyer of Dreams!”

“But how is that possible?” Marie asked, puzzled. “How can one kill a shadow?”

“A Hintz isn’t a shadow,” Evan replied. “It’s just a lower demon that feeds on dreams and fears. I thought I explained that.”

“So, a Hintz is a living creature?”

“This one no longer is, but yes. They are like parasites, more appearance than substance. He probably believed he was truly immortal, or he pretended. In any case, his overconfidence led to his downfall,” the half-demon explained.

“And your dagger?” Marie examined it closely as Evan put it back in its sheath.

He looked at her stubbornly. “Obsidian. For humans, it’s just a beautiful stone, a piece of jewelry, but it’s very effective against demons.”

His gaze shifted to the lord, who was crying over the remnants of his wife.

The three cautiously approached him.

“I’m sorry,” Evan said solemnly.

Lord Dancker looked at him with swollen eyes. “You are sorry? – My wife is dead, and you are sorry? You said nothing would happen to her.”

Without another word, Evan turned away.

He wanted to give the lord the time he needed, even though deep down, he knew that the time of pain would never truly pass.

He could not only see the lord’s hatred but also feel it. But what else could he expect? It was his fault, or at least, he felt that way.

Evan walked past the servants who had gathered in the courtyard, glaring at him with fearful and distrustful eyes.

One by one, they stepped aside, creating a corridor for him. Their faces were filled with fear and suspicion.

Marie and Leuven followed Evan into the castle.

“Evan, wait,” the seer called after him. “What do you plan to do?”

“I’m packing my things and leaving, tonight,” he replied without slowing his pace or turning around to face her.

“Well, great,” Leuven groaned. “Now I have to wander through the night?”

“What you do is up to you. I’m no longer welcome here, so I’m leaving,” Evan said.

Marie and Leuven looked at each other mournfully. Did he really intend to leave, even though he had fulfilled his mission?

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5


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Chapter 1
Red Eyes

Description: The traveling merchant Leuven stops his covered wagon by the roadside to take a rest when he hears strange noises coming from the woods. Perhaps it would have been better to stay at home rather than venture out into the dark and brutal world. However, a stranger rushes to his aid. This stranger, however, does not seem to be like a normal human.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Part 4

The moon was already shining brightly into the room when there was a knock at the door. Petunia had brought the fresh laundry.

However, this didn’t seem to disturb the sleep of the young merchant. He was too exhausted from the past few days.

Evan was glad to feel his armor on his body again.

He felt much more comfortable in it, even though Petunia had apparently gone a bit overboard with the lavender. She did it at Leuven’s request.

The half-demon walked out into the hallway and carefully closed the door behind him.

Marie was leaning on the opposite windowsill, observing the stars shining brightly in the sky.

“It’s a beautiful night,” she said dreamily, never taking her gaze off the sparkling lights.

The half-demon wandered over to her and leaned against the window frame. “It looks like it’s going to rain”

“But you didn’t see that in a vision, did you?” Marie asked and a smile crossed her face.

“I suppose I owe you an apology,” he sighed. His thoughts were not only on the ghost; he also regretted his treatment of the seer.

She looked deep into his eyes. “That’s just your nature. You simply can’t take people like me seriously.”

“It has nothing to do with me being a half-demon,” he replied, avoiding her gaze.

“I didn’t mean that. You’re a man,” she laughed. “It’s evidently not in men’s nature to accept a strong woman beside them.”

“Ah, I see, you’re painting all men with the same brush.”

“Didn’t you do the same with me?” The seer turned around and leaned her back against the window sill.

“Well, the seers I’ve encountered so far were nothing more than charlatans who wanted to take money from both the rich and the poor,” he replied.

“Do you think I’m a charlatan too?”

Evan fell silent.

“Clearly. But that doesn’t mean I can’t still surprise you.”

Evan looked at her seriously. “Someone must have taught you to control your abilities. Seeing things is one thing; understanding and interpreting them is another.”

Marie put on a sorrowful look. “It was my mother. She was a seer herself. She had suspected early on that I had inherited it from her.”

“She must have been really proud.”

“Not really,” Marie replied. “Not everyone understands this ability. Most people are even afraid of it. One day, I uncovered one affair too many in the village. That left us with no choice but to flee or end up on the pyre.”

“I’m sorry, it must have been terrible.”

“People fear what they can’t understand,” said the seer. “I don’t blame them. I was still a child and didn’t know how much pain I was causing.”

“Still, you have done some good too,” the half-demon cautiously replied.

“That’s true. The miller may not have liked that I exposed his affair, but his wife was very grateful to have certainty,” Marie said, and a smile crossed her face.

“That was probably his last one.”

The seer put on a sad look. “Nevertheless, we had to leave. We moved from here to there. To avoid starving, we took almost any job. But we had to hide our abilities.”

“Why didn’t you go to the wizard academy? They could have surely improved your abilities there.”

“Do you know the difference between a mouse and a rat?” Marie raised an eyebrow at Evan.

“Well, rats are significantly larger. They also look somewhat different. Rats are even more disgusting. I hate them.”

“Exactly. Mice and rats are not the same. Even though they may seem so to the untrained eye. That’s how the sorcerers see it too. Seers have no place at the academy. In their eyes, our abilities are not of high importance. We’re not allowed to enroll at the academy.”

“I didn’t know that,” Evan replied.

“Why should you care?”

The half-demon gazed silently at the night sky.

“And you?” the seer asked. “What’s your story?”

“My story…” he said calmly and softly. “It’s not important.”

“Oh, come on, I’ve told you something about myself. Now it’s your turn.”

Evan sighed and looked at the seer. “Well, I wasn’t always a half-demon. Quite the opposite. I’m looking for the one who did this to me. But that’s easier said than done. Information about him is very scarce.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” the seer replied.

“You can’t help it. At the end of the day, we are alone with our problems anyway.”

“Is that how you see it? – You have Leuven. Even if you are an odd couple, at least you have someone to talk to.”

“Leuven? – No, we just met by chance on the way. He got stranded with his wagon and I helped him. Our paths will part again soon.”

“You just met by chance? – That could be the reason why I didn’t see him in my vision.”

“Doesn’t life consist of a chain of coincidences anyway?”

Marie looked at Evan with a smile. “So you’re turning into a philosopher. But I see it a little differently. Our lives are determined by various important events. How we ultimately achieve them can always be in a state of flux.”

“If that’s the case, then I wonder what I’ve done to deserve all of this.”

“I believe that everyone gets what they deserve in the end.”

A piercing scream sounded, interrupting their conversation.

Evan immediately went on high alert. “Leuven.”

He hurried over to the room’s door.

“Wait!” Marie called after him. She wanted to follow Evan, but suddenly a sharp pain shot through her head.

She fell to the ground, barely managing to catch herself with her hand. She tried to scream. Her mouth was wide open, and her eyes welled up with tears, but no sound came from her throat.

Leuven lay on his bed, his body convulsing under the covers.

“No!” he screamed. “I won’t let you go!”

A dark, shadowy figure hovered over Leuven.

Evan realized that they were not dealing with an ordinary ghost.

“Let go of him immediately!” he commanded.

The shadowy figure seemed to relent, wavering in the air, and Leuven’s body relaxed.

But then, two bright red eyes emerged from the darkness, followed by a wide-open mouth.

Before Evan could grasp what was happening, the shadowy figure lunged at him with lightning speed, and he was engulfed by deep darkness.

A sharp pain pierced his chest, and his screams were nothing but whispers in the chaos as the room around him lit up, and sinister figures gathered.

Their faces were distorted, their voices distant.

Evan saw the flashing knife in one of their hands, and the echoing laughter surrounded him.

Fear overwhelmed him. It felt like a terrible nightmare that repeated itself.

Then he plunged into darkness once again.

A creaking door opened in the background, and a woman’s screams pierced his consciousness.

He turned around and saw two women. One of them was crying desperately in bed, while the other tried to comfort her while holding her hand.

The door slammed shut with a loud bang.

“Why doesn’t my mom love me?” came the crying voice of a little girl behind the half-demon.

He turned around and looked into the sad, wide-open eyes of a little girl with curly hair.

“Why did she do that?” the girl wept.

Evan bit his lip. Was this the girl the lord had spoken of?

“Who are you?” Evan asked, almost growling.

“Why doesn’t she love me?” the girl ignored his words.

“You’re not a ghost.”

The girl fell silent and touched one of her eyes. Blood ran down her cheek.

“Hah!” a smile spread across Evan’s face. “You’re not a ghost. I´m sure.”

The girl’s voice echoed. “You’ve experienced so much pain. The hatred in you is powerful.”

“And you want to feed on my hatred,” Evan remarked confidently.

“So, you’ve seen through me,” the girl replied.

Blood continued to flow down her face. “But you won’t drive me away.”

With a shrill scream, the girl disappeared, and darkness engulfed the half-demon.

A sharp pain pierced his head, followed by deafening noise.

“Evan!” Marie’s desperate voice reached him.

She held his head with both hands and gently wiped her thumbs across his forehead.

She smiled as he opened his eyes.

He quickly sat up.

“Where is he?” Evan asked excitedly.

“He? – Who do you mean? What did you see?” Marie was confused by his words.

The half-demon put his hands on the floor and stood up. “I now know what we’re dealing with.”

Evan left the room with a grim look.

He strode down the narrow hallway with heavy footsteps and climbed the small staircase.

On the corridor, the lord was already approaching him, looking at him with tired eyes. “What’s going on here? What’s with the noise?”

“I now know what’s happening here,” Evan said. “Where is your wife?”

“My wife?” The lord looked puzzled. “She’s asleep. Leave her be.”

“As sorry as I am, but I need to speak with her immediately. The whole thing is related to your wife.”

Reluctantly, the lord gave in and led him through the hallway to a spiral staircase leading up to the tower.

Marie followed him anxiously.

Lord Dancker looked into the burning eyes of the half-demon with alarm as they stood in front of the massive wooden door to his bedroom.

“If you lead me astray, there will be consequences,” he said.

Evan pushed the door open and entered the room.

Methild Dancker jolted and pulled the blanket up to her chin.

Black candles and arrangements of myrrh, lavender, and anise were scattered throughout the room. The window to the courtyard was nailed shut.

“What’s going on?” the lord’s wife said, pushing the blanket aside.

Furious, she rushed toward her husband. “You allow this monster to barge into our bedchamber?”

The lord vigorously shook his pale blonde mane.

Evan inspected every corner of the room.

“Will you finally tell me what’s happening?” Lord Dancker asked angrily. “So, you’ve seen the girl, what happened?”

Evan remained silent and wandered around the room.

The onlookers looked at him questioningly. He seemed to be gathering his thoughts, which were not entirely clear to anyone.

Marie tried to calm him down and reached out her hands to him. “Come on, tell us what you saw.”

Evan stopped. He took a deep breath. Then his thoughts seemed to become clear.

“It’s not a ghost,” he said at last.

“Isn’t it?” Marie looked at him, trying to grab his arms repeatedly, but he resisted her grasp by moving slightly to the side each time.

“So, what is it, stop keeping us in suspense!” the lord’s words sounded like a command, perhaps even a threat to some.

“Lord Dancker,” the half-demon said, looking sharply at him. “You mentioned that your wife had a miscarriage years ago.”

“That’s correct. Methild was pregnant with our child, but she lost it during childbirth,” he explained.

Dancker felt his wife’s fingernails digging into his arm.

Evan also noticed her strange reaction.

He took a step toward the lord and turned to his wife. “Speak. It’s time to tell the truth.”

Methild clung to her husband and nervously looked at the half-demon. “What are you talking about? What do you want from me?”

Dancker, on the other hand, positioned himself between the two and confronted Evan. “Leave my wife alone; she has suffered enough. Away with you! Away, or I will have you executed on the spot!”

Suddenly, the lord revealed his true nature.

Evan knew that he was only still alive because a greater plague had beset them.

He had never believed Johan Dancker’s courteous demeanor from the beginning, having dealt with the lower nobility far too often.

The half-demon took a step back, where Marie shielded him with her hands.

She let go of him.

“You didn’t have a miscarriage, did you?” his voice was calm but resolute.

The wife of the lord looked at him in shock, then at her husband. “That, that’s not true!”

The lord gently stroked her upper arms. “It’s okay. I won’t let him get away with this audacity.”

He looked darkly at Marie. “And this witch, either.”

“You should burn these heretics!” Methild shouted.

Her face was red with anger.

“If you don’t tell us the truth now, you probably won’t survive this night,” Evan said, stretching out his arms. “These things here won’t protect you any longer. The protective spell you cast is beginning to crumble. So, if you value your life and that of your husband, speak!”

Methild turned away from her husband.

“I can’t,” she cried out, holding her hands to her face.

Tears streamed down her wrists.

“What happened?” the lord asked, upset.

“The child was alive, wasn’t it?” Evan wanted to know, but the answer was already clear to him.

The lord’s wife nodded. Her face was pale, and her eyes filled with tears.

“What do you mean, our child is alive?” Dancker’s voice trembled.

His wife wept and sobbed. “No, she doesn’t.”

Evan closed his eyes. So, he was right.

“What do you mean?” the lord asked, grabbed his wife’s arms, and shook her.

“Let her go,” the half-demon commanded and was almost about to rush toward him, but he held back.

“You have nothing to tell me!”

Marie put her hands on the lord´s hands and pushed them away from his wife’s arms. “Let her calm down so she can explain.”

Dancker calmed down and took a step back with a sigh. He shook as if he wanted to wake up from a bad dream.

Everyone watched Methild in suspense.

Her lips trembled, but no words came out.

“We can only help you if you help us,” Evan said after a short while.

Methild lowered her head. “I have no other choice.”

She looked at her husband with sorrow. “We had almost given up hope, but finally, it happened. I became pregnant. We were so happy.”

She sobbed and stuttered. “You kept talking about how much you wanted a boy. How you would teach him to ride and hunt, how you would train him to be a noble knight. It was out of the question that it would be a girl.”

The lord’s face turned as white as a sheet. “But, Methild, I never said that it had to be a boy.”

“You didn’t have to; I felt it. You never considered that it could be a girl. You constantly talked about how much you were looking forward to our son.”

Johan Dancker lowered his head in regret.

“But I, I never…,” he stammered.

Nervously, Methild played with her hands, seeking distraction and the courage to continue speaking.

Breathing was difficult for her. “On that night, when the midwife came to the castle, it was time. Only the midwife, Magda, and I were present in the room.”

“Magda was there?” Marie asked in astonishment. “Did she already lived in the castle back then?”

“She was a foundling,” explained the lord. “She spent her whole life in the castle.”

“And you simply cast her out, why?” The seer put on a grim expression, tension in the air.

“She was just a child,” Methild wailed. “When I heard our child’s cries for the first time, I was overjoyed. But how would you react? A daughter instead of a son? I couldn’t do that to you.”

“What did you do?” Dancker wanted to know, swallowing the lump in his throat.

“I told you I had a stillborn child, but that was a lie. She lived, for a brief moment. It was a moment of weakness, I swear!”

Evan closed his eyes with a snort. “You killed it with your own hands?”

“I didn’t know what I was doing, it was so small, so fragile!”

The lord began to waver, touched his forehead, and fell to the ground.

Marie rushed to him, holding him up by the shoulders.

“How could you?” he asked softly, gazing thoughtfully at the floor. “That was our child.”

“I didn’t want to, but suddenly I saw your disappointed face before my eyes. Before I knew what I had done, it was too late,” Methild fell to her knees.

“And Magda witnessed everything?” Evan asked.

“She did,” Methild replied. “I could silence the midwife with a few crowns, but Magda, she was still so young. I’m to blame for turning the lively girl into such a nervous and fearful young woman.”

“You drove her from the court just before the apparition appeared for the first time. But it wasn’t about Magda stealing anything, was it?“ Evan crossed his arms.

“Of course not. She never stole anything. She was such a kind child. But she had to leave; she couldn’t continue living in the castle.”

“Why? After all, she kept your secret over the years.”

“That’s the thing, she didn’t. She told that bastard. That filthy stable boy. I knew they had an affair, but I never thought she would really confide everything in him. He wanted to make her reveal my terrible deed. When she refused, he hit her. I wanted to help her, truly, but she had betrayed my secret. I had to send her away.”

“And the stable boy? He knew your secret too.”

“He blackmailed me,” Methild paused briefly. “At first, he wanted more wages. He quickly squandered it in the tavern and the brothel. He always wanted more.”

“So you got rid of him.”

“No, that’s not true! – I swear, I had nothing to do with his death. Before he could tell my husband, I wanted to do it.”

“But then he died, and you could continue to keep the secret.”

“That’s right. But I didn’t want that. It was a coincidence. It wasn’t me, I wasn’t responsible.”

The lord stood up on shaky legs. “You killed our child.”

“I’m so terribly sorry,” Methild sobbed.

“And now she haunts us, to our death.”

“Wrong,” Evan objected.

His gaze met those of Methild, Johan, and Marie with surprise.

“It’s not the ghost of your daughter,” he continued. “We’re dealing with a Hintz.”

“A Hintz?” The three frowned.

“Petunia’s cousin mentioned that Magda and Gregor had a quarrel in the stable. It all makes sense now. She told him your secret. I have a question for you, Methild. Did you bury the child’s body under the stable?”

Methild nodded. “How do you know that?”

“I didn’t know, but now the pieces are coming together. A Hintz thrives on death. It feeds on memories and fears. After Magda revealed the location of the body, the Hintz could feed on the castle’s memories and on everyone living in the castle. It took on the form of a little girl to incite fear and drive everyone in the castle to their deaths. Only then can it have a true feast. It succeeded with the stable boy, and afterward, the Hintz craved more.”

“But how did this thing know what our daughter would look like today?” the Lord asked in astonishment.

“It didn’t. But neither did we. It simply created an illusion resembling you and your wife to make the image even more frightening,” Evan looked at Marie. “At first, it triggers pleasant dreams, only to take control and gain strength from the fear of its victims.”

“So, you’re saying an evil demon has visited my castle, is that correct?” Dancker asked. “How can we stop it?”

“Well, to defeat a demon, a half-demon could be quite useful,” Evan smirked.

His expression became serious again. “I’m afraid you won’t like it. But to lure the Hintz out of hiding and distract it, we’ll need to use you as bait. Rest assured, nothing will happen to you.”

“But I’ve already encountered this Hintz; it could have easily killed me on that night,” Johan Dancker replied.

“You should thank your wife for that. Her protective spell is amateurish, but it has kept you safe from death so far.”

Johan looked questioningly at his wife and then back to Evan. “If using me as bait will free the castle from this creature and get rid of it, I agree.”

“Never,” Methild objected. “It’s my fault. If anyone should be the bait, it should be me.”

“Forget it,” Evan shook his head with a determined expression. “It’s safer for you here. You’re the reason why the Hintz has taken hold in the castle. Your spell will keep the Hintz away from you.”

“But you said that the spell won’t last much longer,” the lord’s wife protested.

The half-demon scratched his chin and made a grimace. “That was a lie. You’re not a sorceress, so you didn’t perform the ritual flawlessly. That’s why the Hintz could attack your husband that night, but you’ve done quite well for an amateur. The spell has kept you safe from death.”

Methild looked at him in disbelief and stood up. “You lied to me? How could you?”

“You wouldn’t share the truth, so I had to,” Evan replied.

“You’re a brazen liar, a charlatan with ill intentions!” she yelled.

Evan stared at her in surprise. Did she really mean that?

“Methild, what’s going on?” the lord tried to reach his wife, but it was futile. She avoided his touch and moved away from him.

“Don’t touch me!” Methild told him with anger in her voice.

She had a crazed look on her face, convinced that all of this could only be a conspiracy. “Yes, you wanted to deceive me from the beginning, you and that stupid witch. It was your plan all along to drive me into madness. What do you want? Do you want the castle? Do you want gold and jewels, or do you just enjoy seeing me suffer?”

“Lady Dancker,” Marie tried to calm her and cautiously took a few steps toward her. “None of us want to see you suffer.”

“Stay where you are! But yes, that’s your goal, to see me suffer,” Methild accused.

“Methild, I can assure you that’s not our goal,” Evan stated firmly. “We want to help you.”

“Why would you want that? You’re a demon, and you’re a witch. I don’t know a single story where your kind does anything good. You belong in hell, where you came from,” the lord’s wife hissed.

“Methild,” Johan Dancker said in a soothing voice.

She glared at him angrily and quickly turned around, running out of the room.

“Methild!”

As she disappeared through the door, she nearly pushed Leuven aside, who was peeking into the room, yawning. “What’s all the noise about?”

The lord followed his wife, as did Marie and Evan.

Leuven stood in the doorway with dreamy eyes, blinking in disillusionment as he spotted the many black candles and arrangements made from various plants.

Then he held his head. “Man, what did I dream?”

Methild ran out into the courtyard. It was raining.

Her flat shoes almost sank in the mud, but she continued to trudge through the slippery and uneven ground.

“Methild, wait!” her husband called after her.

She turned around, arms outstretched. “Is this what you want? Did you want to see me like this?”

Evan and Marie prevented the lord from rushing to his wife.

“Methild, you must return to the castle!” the half-demon shouted, but it was already too late.

“Mother, there you are,” a little girl’s voice echoed behind Methild.

Startled, she turned slowly.

“Why did you make me wait so long?” the little girl asked with a feigned friendly face. “Why did you come only now? I wanted to come visit you.”

“You… you… you’re my daughter,” stammered Methild.

Evan waded through the mud. “You need to get away from her!”

At that moment, a black shadow stretched over the little girl.

A deep, sinister voice emanated from her throat. “Why did you kill me? Don’t you love me?”

Methild screamed.

Blood poured from her eyes and mouth. Her silent screams conveyed excruciating pain.

Blood sprayed in all directions as her body was torn apart in mid-air and the pieces fell into the mud.

Evan came to a screeching halt and almost slipped in the muck.

He stared in disbelief at the scattered body parts and blood spreading over a wide area.

The little girl laughed horribly.

“Delicious!” she said with a demonic voice.

Evan pulled his sword out of its sheath. It gleamed in the moonlight.

“Be gone, Hintz!” he shouted.

But the little girl laughed again. “Pathetic human. A sword won’t protect you. I am invincible. As long as there are dreams, I will nest in people’s minds.”

“Invincible, you say? Many have claimed the same,” Evan snorted and extended his blade.

“Begone!” the girl screamed and swiped her small hand in front of her face.

An invisible blow struck Evan, hurling him through the stable door with a loud crash.

“Evan, no!” Marie screamed, standing rooted in the pouring rain and fearful as she glanced at the little girl.

The girl turned to her. “The mother was delicious, but I’m not full yet. Perhaps an arm, maybe a little leg, and then the father.”

Marie attempted to move, but her legs felt like stone.

Paralyzed, she stared at the sinister creature.

Her gaze shifted back and forth between the shadow and the girl.

Their movements mirrored each other. Like a marionette, the Hintz appeared to control the apparition.

The black silhouette raised a massive shadowy paw.

Then a voice emerged from nowhere. “That’s enough!”

The shadow and its puppet turned their gaze to the stable door.

Without a scratch, Evan stood there, his sword embedded in the ground.

He adjusted the straps on his vambraces.

“You really get on my nerves,” he grumbled.

“Be gone from us,” the girl spat. “I don’t want you!”

“Too bad,” the half-demon mocked. “You’ll have to settle for me, or you’ll have to go to bed without supper, I’m afraid.”

“Insolent human, foolish human,” the Hintz scolded.

Evan’s cloak fluttered wildly in the rising wind.

Marie looked around in confusion before another sharp pain pierced her head.

Red, fiery eyes appeared in her mind, a malevolent face filled with wickedness.

She took a deep breath.

“I’ve seen this before. I’ve seen you before,” she snorted.

The Hintz hissed menacingly. “Your sword won’t help you. I don’t want to eat you, but I want to kill you!”

Evan drew a dagger from a sheath fastened to his leg.

The black, serrated blade glistened with each raindrop that fell upon it.

“Insolent human, foolish human,” the girl repeated.

“I am not human,” Evan replied, swung the dagger, and cut a deep wound in his wrist.

Pitch-black blood gushed out, dripping onto the mud and mingling with the stagnant water.

Evan dropped to his knees.

His heart raced wildly and unevenly in his chest. At that moment, he wanted to scream, but his jaw clenched shut.

The girl approached the half-demon with light steps. “Yes, do it yourself, foolish human.”

Evan lifted his head, growling and grinding his teeth, and finally, the liberating scream erupted from his throat.

Marie couldn’t believe her eyes.

Evan’s eyes glowed with a fiery red, like flames in the darkness. His fingers spread apart.

The seer felt the pain coursing through his entire body.

Evan’s muscles continued to grow, his skin turned pale and ashen, and black veins snaked across his neck like the branches of a tree.

She had seen him like this in her vision. That demonic gaze had seared into her memory.

The Hintz stopped halfway.

“You are not a human,” it hissed.

“I told you that,” Evan’s voice grew hoarse and almost as deep as the Hintz’s.

The Hintz laughed mockingly. “I am a dreamwalker, a ghost in your head, a shadow that wanders through the night and cannot be captured. I am immortal. As long as there are dreams, I will nest in people’s minds.”

Evan clenched his teeth, drew his sword from the mud.

“Nothing endures eternity,” he said coldly.

Marie was paralyzed. Was this still the Evan she had known?

The figure of the little girl wavered and dissolved into a black mist.

Swiftly, it swirled in one spot and interwove with itself.

The image resembled a drop of ink sinking into water.

Quickly, the ends of the formation intertwined to create the outline of a young woman.

Evan bared his teeth.

“I can also see into your mind. Oh, what sorrow dwells within you,” chuckled the Hintz. “Ah, I see deep pain, death. Perhaps you are the feast I long for.”

The mist completed its transformation into that of a lovely young woman with silky, dark hair.

Marie recognized that this woman must mean something to the half-demon; his expression left no other conclusion.

Despite his devilish form, she could see the sadness surrounding him and the anger reflected in his fiery eyes.

“Evan,” the young woman’s form said calmly, her voice like an angel’s. “Don’t be afraid. I am here; I will help you.”

“You see,” the Hintz spoke, “she is here because of you. Go with her. Live the life you’ve been dreaming of.”

But more than a tired smile did not cross Evan’s lips. “Cheap parlor tricks. You can see into my dreams and thoughts, but that doesn’t impress me. You’re too overconfident. Do you think you can distract me with that?”

The Hintz fell silent.

“Do you know what I really feel? – That you’re afraid!” the half-demon confidently replied.

“I’m not afraid. I am the shadow,” he said, menacingly.

Suddenly, the woman transformed in a thick fog and reshaped herself.

The Hintz seemed surprised. “What is this? – What are you doing?”

“You want to peer into my thoughts, then look inside. I’ll give you what you want.”

A small creature seemed to form from the mist.

Long ears and sharp teeth became visible. The woman had transformed into a small rabbit.

“Interesting,” Evan said, smiling. “So that’s why everyone sees the little girl. Because the story of the ghost has spread among people. So, you can’t fully control the form. You rely on the images in people’s minds.”

“I am a dreamwalker…”

Evan interrupted him, “Fear and death and blah blah blah. I get it!”

He extended his sword towards the Hintz. “But for you, it’s the end of the line here. It’s time to vanish.”

The rabbit-shaped figure blurred. The Hintz reared up, and in a roaring thunderstorm, the shadow took the form of a massive wolf.

Its intense gaze met the fiery eyes of the half-demon.

A scream, a mighty roar, the sound of metal whooshing through the wind, and thunder reverberated through the night.

A brilliant lightning bolt struck the courtyard, its shockwave throwing the seer backwards into the mud.

She sat up, gazing at the scene with wide eyes.

Evan and the Hintz engaged in a relentless battle.

The wolf form evaded a sword strike and narrowly missed the half-demon with its jaws.

Growling and cheers alternated in a constant dance of noise.

A powerful strike with the gleaming blade hit the Hintz on its snout.

“I am immortal,” he hissed. “I am a shadow. You can’t kill a shadow!”

Evan seized the form by the neck, or at least what could have been a neck.

The Hintz cried out in surprise. “Impossible, it can’t be!”

“You’re not what you claim to be,” the half-demon grumbled. “You feed on bad dreams? – How do those taste?”

He contorted his face in concentration.

The Hintz howled.

The shadows writhed wildly as if the form was contorting.

Evan let him drop to the ground.

The Hintz continued to transform into various shapes. Human, animal, the little girl, the young woman, the rabbit. It seemed he couldn’t control which form he would take next.

“Stop!” the Hintz cursed. “Stop it immediately!”

Evan growled menacingly. “Feast on my dreams and thoughts.”

The Hintz calmed down and appeared in the form of a small black creature with a long tail and a reptilian snout.

It pitifully sank to the ground, cowering like a miserable heap in the mud.

It squeaked and panted heavily.

“You have caused much suffering to humans,” Evan judged and stood over the pitiful creature. “That ends now.”

“I’m hungry, I’m so hungry!” the Hintz squeaked.

Evan let his sword fall into the mud and took his dagger in hand.

A final, shrill squeak sounded, then silence fell.

The half-demon breathed heavily.

His fiery eyes extinguished as he dropped to his knees.

He looked around wearily and ultimately fell face-first into the mud.

Marie rushed over, glided over the slippery ground, and checked the half-demon. “Evan, wake up, wake up.”

Excited, she stroked his cheek and forehead after turning him on his back.

“Quick! Bring me water and a cloth!” she called out to the lord.

However, he crouched over the remains of his wife, howling.

The shock ran deep.

He had probably not yet understood what had happened.

Leuven rushed over and ran briskly to the stable.

He almost slipped several times but managed to stay on his feet.

He quickly grabbed a bucket and an old rag and hurried to help the seer.

Once again, he didn’t look graceful as he slipped through the mud, but that didn’t matter at that moment. He wanted to help Evan, and that was what mattered.

Marie dipped the rag into the bucket and wiped it across Evan’s face.

He opened his eyes with effort.

Marie and Leuven breathed sighs of relief.

“How did you manage that?” she asked, smiling, as Evan sat up and held a hand to his aching head.

He shook himself and looked at them with tired eyes. “Some demons tend to get too cocky.”

He stood up and stretched. A sharp pain coursed through his entire body.

Once that had passed, he felt considerably better.

“They may feel overbearing, but they’re not. Every demon has a weakness,” he added.

Leuven let out a “hah.”

“Evan Dhorne, the Conqueror of Shadows and Destroyer of Dreams!”

“But how is that possible?” Marie asked, puzzled. “How can one kill a shadow?”

“A Hintz isn’t a shadow,” Evan replied. “It’s just a lower demon that feeds on dreams and fears. I thought I explained that.”

“So, a Hintz is a living creature?”

“This one no longer is, but yes. They are like parasites, more appearance than substance. He probably believed he was truly immortal, or he pretended. In any case, his overconfidence led to his downfall,” the half-demon explained.

“And your dagger?” Marie examined it closely as Evan put it back in its sheath.

He looked at her stubbornly. “Obsidian. For humans, it’s just a beautiful stone, a piece of jewelry, but it’s very effective against demons.”

His gaze shifted to the lord, who was crying over the remnants of his wife.

The three cautiously approached him.

“I’m sorry,” Evan said solemnly.

Lord Dancker looked at him with swollen eyes. “You are sorry? – My wife is dead, and you are sorry? You said nothing would happen to her.”

Without another word, Evan turned away.

He wanted to give the lord the time he needed, even though deep down, he knew that the time of pain would never truly pass.

He could not only see the lord’s hatred but also feel it. But what else could he expect? It was his fault, or at least, he felt that way.

Evan walked past the servants who had gathered in the courtyard, glaring at him with fearful and distrustful eyes.

One by one, they stepped aside, creating a corridor for him. Their faces were filled with fear and suspicion.

Marie and Leuven followed Evan into the castle.

“Evan, wait,” the seer called after him. “What do you plan to do?”

“I’m packing my things and leaving, tonight,” he replied without slowing his pace or turning around to face her.

“Well, great,” Leuven groaned. “Now I have to wander through the night?”

“What you do is up to you. I’m no longer welcome here, so I’m leaving,” Evan said.

Marie and Leuven looked at each other mournfully. Did he really intend to leave, even though he had fulfilled his mission?

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5



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