Summary: A dark presence has been terrorizing the isolated village of Orbana for over a hundred years. No one has seen it except for the Lord Bu'man, but it has haunted the woods and mountains surrounding the village and kept the village from outside contact for decades. But it soon will not be such a mystery. When Jerik is taken by the dark being, Branon gets a brief glimpse of it, and is horrified by what he sees. He alerts Lord Bu'man, who dismisses it as a bear or wolf. But Branon knows it is something else. So he decides to go hunting the creature himself. Following the bloodtrail of a recent victim, he comes upon a castle in the mountain, where he discovers the true nature of the haunter. He barely escapes with his life. Now that a living man has seen him, Count Balisa will not tolerate the village any longer. But is is Lord Bu'man who must face him in the end, for it was he who killed Balisa when he was yet human.
The woods surrounding the village were silent, cold and dark. Virtually nothing stirred. Young Branon and his friend Jerik felt a cold something around them. "I don't think we should have gone hunting tonight," said Jerik, looking around anxiously. "They say that on nights like these, Balisa comes out!"
"Don't worry about that," said Branon, huffing. "No one's ever seen him before, whatever it is."
"Lord Bu'man has," said Jerik. "He won't tell anybody, though. My family's the only one outside of his to know. He's never described it."
"Just a fairy tale," said Branon, waving it off, and still holding his bow out, ready to shoot anything that should come along. "I'm sure it was just a wolf or something."
"It wasn't a wolf," said Jerik. "He said it was like the devil himself! No wolf ever felt like that."
Branon shrugged and looked up at the dark sky, only partially visible through the trees. "Well," he said, "Balisa or not, there's no game. We might as well go home."
It was at that moment that there came a scream, a most violent, bloodchilling and painful scream. It tore Branon's insides, and he had to cover his ears. The two young men dropped to the snowy ground and lay still. The scream had stopped.
"Let's get out of here!" said Jerik shakily, starting off in a sprint with Branon close behind.
Then they heard something else. A low thump, like the sound of a dragon's wings. It was coming closer every second. "Run!" shouted Branon, not daring to look behind. "RUN!"
Branon couldn't very well remember what happened next. All he knew was that a dark shape descended on them. Branon was knocked into a dark coma, and that was all he knew for a long time.
The Dark One flew out across the snowy forest, away to the mountains with sedated boy in its horrible talons. The wind and snow beat against it, but it barely felt them. All it knew was that it had yet another victim. A petty fool who had dared to venture out into his domain! He would pay...
When Branon finally came to, he could feel soft sheets under and over him. A dim light shown around him, and he saw dark, blurry shapes moving to and fro. Suddenly, a horrible memory rudely re-entered his mind.