Leaping even before the sampan had beached onto the bank of the sacred Merbok River, the messenger from the iron smelting village at Batu River landed on the muddy bank, his feet sinking knee deep into the soft gluey mangrove mud. He struggled through the clinging mud to reach solid ground. He immediately sprinted hard for the realm’s Kuala Muda Citadel bearing grim news of another vicious attack. Another family of 6 had tragically been dragged into the night.
The mood in the palace, the assembled nobles, was somber with trepidation. The young towering prince stepped out proudly amongst the assembled, to volunteer to lead the hunt. He summoned his household guards and set forth in haste. They rowed upstream Merbok River into the meandering Batu River to reach the village.
The victim’s hut was located further inland at the outskirt settlement of the village, at the fringes of the thick forest at the foot of the majestic holy Jerai Mountain. As they strode towards the hut, the usually well-lit and lively path was dark, gloomy and quiet. Everyone was cowering behind closed doors. A few peered out through small cracks of windows and there was fear in their terrified eyes.
The prince entered the hut, the first thing that hit him was the sweet smell of blood and death mixed with rancid food and sour sweat. He paced around the upturned furniture, knelt down and touched one of the dark crimson pools with his index finger. He rubbed his index against his thumb, the cold coagulated blood was still sticky while his severe gaze followed the trails of blood splatters left by the dragged bodies into the distant darkness. His insides stirred, the boar was taunting him to follow.
He stood up slowly his gaze darkened fixated at the dark and foreboding forest ahead. He quivered imperceptibly from the soft waft of the night’s cool breeze, a sense of foreboding. He closed his eyes momentarily, his lips muttered a silent prayer and the hunt was on.
The prince kept up the hunt at a punishing pace and his men followed hard as they tracked silently through the grueling uphill forest in darkness interspersed occasionally by shafts of pale moon light wherever there were cracks in the forest canopy aloft. They had to hike uphill and crested the mythical petrified upturned keel of a ship before laboring into the haunted valley and finally scaling the sacred mountain.
The wooden ship had turned into stone and capsized into myth by an unintentional curse cast by a grieving mother when she was shamed and disowned by her wealthy but impious son. The ship’s rigging and sails broke when the ship overturned and came to rest petrified on the slope of Jerai Mountain.
After almost 6 hours of relentless and exhausting pursuit they arrived at the bloody creek. They knew the boar’s illusive lair was nearby. The air reeked not only of rotting vegetation but stank of putrid flesh, and the environs felt not just eerie but deathly.
Gruesome piles of old bones, bones scrapped clean of muscles and sinews, large bones cracked and sucked dry of their delicious marrow and skulls hollowed of succulent eyes and brain, all bleached white and dry with half eaten fresh ones, bits of putrid human flesh and hair, yes including the latest unfortunate 6 victims were strewn all around. The vegetation particularly trees in the vicinity seemed to flourish more than the surrounding forest probably from the abundant of crimson nourishment from the slaughter.
Truth be told, these trees were merely suffering from a certain benign fungal infestation and the constant exfoliation of their leprous crimson bark was some sort of defense mechanism and had stained the Teroi Creek and downstream Sri Perigi Waterfall crimson blood even until present day.
It was almost dawn, grey and surreally quiet, windless. Nocturnal critters and creatures had disappeared into the foliage. White mist hovered on the forest floor, a thick blanket of cotton, oppressively humid but gratefully refreshingly cool. Perspirations beaded into rivulets stinging eyes in the thick humidity. Yet in the eerie silence, the air was infused with both excitement and fear.
The prince silently parted the overhanging leaves in that fateful dawn. His intense eyes peered through the small cracks amongst the leaves and focused on their quarry. A slight nod, index and middle fingers pointed first to his eyes then towards their target. He then pointed his index finger upward, twirled it around twice and clenched all his fingers into a fist They understood his signal and quietly surrounded the lair, dug in their heels and raised their spears, ready for the kill.
The hunted was in deep slumber oblivious to the impending threat, surrounded by his family, mighty and majestic. His chest rising and dropping in rhythmic stupor, nostrils flaring with each guttural exhalation and bowel bloated from the previous night feast, his bloodied white tusks glowed menacingly in the twilight. No living creatures, human and animal alike, had the temerity to invade his domain, up until now.
With a roar, all spears were launched in unison at the giant boar, the same wretched boar that had tasted human flesh and lusted after human blood for many moons. The same accursed boar that had terrorized the realm, preying on the inhabitants for food and pleasure. Although surprised by the attack, the boar sprang up immediately in agitation and anger. His family spooked, scattered helter-skelter but he rose proudly and stood firm for he feared nothing and definitely no one. A quick defiant sniff, he immediately crouched ready to attack the intruders. His red eyes stared murderously at the intruders, exhalations misting as if he was breathing smoke and fire through his flared nostrils.
He was surprisingly quick and nimble for his lumbering muscular bulk but he was a tad too slow that moment, groggy from the preceding night’s feast. Fortunately, most spears deflected off his thick battle-scarred skin not from lack of strength behind them but magic as he truly believed.
One however, the sharpest and most familiar, found its mark and was lodged deep his left shoulder but not mortally deep enough to find his heart. He clenched the shaft between his molars and wrenched the spear out, hurled it away and snorted not in pain but in indignation and fury, and charged contemptuously towards the prince who hurled that spear. They had met and faced off each other on many occasions but tonight seemed ominous as if only one will walk away alive and let this spear be his last.
He thundered forward scything through the thick foliage and launched himself straight for his arch nemesis who had anticipated the charge. The prince calmly knelt on his right knee, dug in his toes and tightened his grasps on another spear, anchoring it into the ground and raising the sharp end. His fierce intense eyes remained focused on the huge boar charging towards him. He shifted his aim for the boar’s heart and braced for the impact. The boar exploded through the bushes and crashed into him, the spear shaft splintered and both tumbled backward violently.
He was thrilled when he tasted blood in his mouth as his enormous 9-inch tusks plunged into flesh and bones. He heard a deafening scream of excruciating pain. He smelled fear in his sweats. He wanted to retract his tusks to plunge them again and to end their quarrel tonight. He inhaled to snort in victory but suddenly his head and body went limp. Then he felt the acute pain. He did not feel the spear piercing into his pounding heart. He cursed the prince. He will return from beyond the River to exact his revenge. Then a final spasmodic jerk and it all went silent and dark.