Virgil used a hand to straighten his jacket while his other adjusted the pack upon his back, before opening the door of his house and stepping out into the dark night that had enveloped the city.
Virgil yawned tiredly and ran a hand through his messy hair as he made his way up the short path leading through his yard, and opened the small gate that led to the main road.
Before Virgil could exit out to the main street, his loyal mastiff bounded from the house behind him, tail wagging and tongue hanging out of his mouth as he happily barked at his master, who smiled and waited for him.
"Artemis!" The young man chuckled as the dog eagerly licked his hand, petting the animals head before walking through the gate, Artemis obediently walking at his side as the pair made their way to the street, heading into the more populated and crowded area of Surleis.
As they walked, Virgil glanced around to examine his desolate surroundings, as nobody was up as it was very late, almost morning at this point.
Even though Virgil was currently making his way through the agricultural district, where many people kept livestock and animals, the area was dead silent, the only sounds coming from Virgil and Artemis- the scuff of boots upon the cobblestones, clawed paws occasionally scraping against the stones, light breaths and Artemis's panting filling the silent streets as the pair walked along Main Street heading towards the East Bridge.
As a cool breeze swept through the street, pulling at Virgil's hair and clothes, he drew his coat tighter around his body and brought his chilled hands up to his mouth, breathing out so his hot breath warmed up his frigid hands.
As the pair began to ascend the steps of the bridge leading to the slightly higher- and more compact- level of the city, Virgil reached a hand down and rubbed the top of Artemis's head, taking comfort in the fact that his loyal friend was alongside him as he ventured through the dark and dreary city.
Reaching the top of the bridge and stepping out onto the street, 4th Street, Virgil stilled for a second, staring up at the full moon that hung in the sky above him, the pale light shining like a beacon through the pitch black night. Smiling slightly at the beautiful sight, Virgil continued on his way.
Turning off of 4th street and onto a smaller side lane, Virgil caught sight of their destination and smiled, taking quicker steps as he hurried to get out of the cold wind that was sweeping through the city and into a warmer place.
Virgil rubbed his chilled hands together before stepping up to the wooden door, raising his hand and briskly but firmly knocking upon the dark wood, the loud noise seeming out of place in the silent city.
Virgil turned to confirm that Artemis was still at his side, spotting him obediently sitting upon the steps of the home, before turning back as the door creaked open, revealing his friend Patton Morul.
"Virgil!! We were just about to turn in for the night, so this is perfect timing!" Patton grinned before his eyes lowered, and he squealed in delight, spotting the animal behind Virgil. "And you brought Artemis!"
"Virgil. It's a delight to see you, please come in." Logan, who had walked into view behind Patton, opened the door wider as he stepped aside and let Virgil enter, Patton remaining on the porch as he gushed over the dog.
"Who's a good poochie? You are! Oh, yes you are!" Patton crouched as he petted the dog, all the while smiling exuberantly at the mastiff, who nuzzled the man who was petting him.
"Patton, dear!" Logan smiled slightly at his partner. "Please come inside. I'm sure you... and the dog, could use getting out of the cold air."
"Oh yes! We don't want this pooch to be uncomfortable!" Patton chuckled, before standing and walking inside, Artemis happily following, tail wagging excitedly.
As Logan shut the door, Virgil set his pack on the couple's table, opening it and taking out some herbs and wrapped items, setting them carefully on the table for Logan to examine.
The man looked them over, before nodding and smiling at Virgil.
"Looks like it's all here! Are you sure you don't want us to pay you? We have the money and we don't want you to waste your own items on us..." Logan asked, worry clear in his hazel eyes.
"Oh, no, no!" Virgil held out his hands in a placating motion. "It's quite alright! I would have no use for them anyways!" Virgil paused, before chuckling. "You guys know I can't even cook water without burning it!"
Logan paused, before sighing and nodding. "I can't deny the truth I suppose."
"Hey!" Virgil scoffed, acting offended as he placed a hand over his heart. "I'm hurt!"
"Logan don't be mean to him!" Patton walked up, Artemis at his feet, before slinging his arms around his husband's neck and leaning in close to his ear while giving Virgil a wink. "At least not to his face."
"Pattttton!" Virgil wailed, pointing a finger at him accusingly. "Betrayal!"
"I'm sorry Virgil! I love you but your cooking is simply.."
Everyone shared a glance, before chiming in together.
Everyone shared a laugh before Virgil began buckling his pack shut and shouldering it onto his back.
"Well, I should probably head home. If you guys are in the bakery when I swing by tomorrow, I'll bring you some of Lady and Duke's milk!" Virgil smiled at his friends, who thanked him as they walked him to the door, Artemis taking his place beside Virgil. "Goodnight guys!"
Looking at the clock on the wall, Logan snorted as he stood beside Patton. "You could almost say good morning at this late hour. Hurry home, Virgil!"
"Bye Virgil! Get home safe!" Patton smiled, waving to his friend.
Virgil waved goodbye to his friends, before exiting their house and heading back down 6th street, heading for home.
As Virgil began making his way down the East Bridge, he felt a chill run down his back as the hairs on his neck rose, a feeling that someone was watching him washing over him.
Virgil shuddered as he looked around, seeing nothing.
Shaking his head, Virgil quickened his pace, calling to Artemis as he swiftly jogged down the steps, almost breaking into a run as he anxiously swept his gaze around the empty street.
As Virgil reached the bottom of the bridge, he caught sight of his home and slowed down, walking towards his home with Artemis beside him.
As Virgil passed a flickering street lamp, a loud noise echoing across the city, causing him to freeze.
A chilling, unnatural howl, originating from over the wall, in the direction of the Dusk Forest.
Virgil jolted as Artemis began growling, before barking aggressively in the direction the howls had come from.
Virgil nervously called to Artemis, who stopped barking and looked to Virgil, before the man began running to his house, Artemis following.
When Virgil scrambled up to his gate and jumped over it, pulling it open behind him for Artemis, before rushing up his path and slamming open the door, the wooden door slamming against the wall as Virgil waited for Artemis to get inside before shutting and locking the door, reaching to grab the rifle that was held by hooks above the door.
Virgil set his pack beside the door, before moving to his bedroom and shutting the door after Artemis padded into the room. As the mastiff settled on the foot of his bed, Virgil set the rifle on the table next to his bed, before taking off his boots and jacket, before sliding into his bed and trying to calm himself from the unnerving howls that had set him on edge.
Virgil stood in his bathroom, staring into the mirror before him. His eyes were bloodshot, clear proof that his sleep had been rough and filled with nightmares.
Virgil sighed before reached for his comb, taming the tangles in his hair before he reached for a small chunk of coal that was placed upon the counter.
As a child, Virgil had fallen while running with the neighborhood children, and had ended up with a cut that scabbed over directly below his right eye, and as he felt self-conscious over the wound, Virgil had decided to change it to a mark that he had control over. Virgil had taken to smearing black powder in a small crescent moon beneath both his eyes, and the habit just kept with him as he had grown up, becoming a daily morning routine for the man.
After finishing his routine and grabbing an apple for his breakfast, Virgil placed some food in Artemis's bowl for the dog to eat before heading outside to feed his animals, taking a bite from the apple as he went.
As Virgil entered the shed where his two dairy cows, Lady and Duke, were currently eating from their grain trough, he took the last few bites of his apple before tossing the core of the apple into the cows' trough for one of them to eat.
Grabbing his bucket and a small stool from a small shelf in the corner of the shed, Virgil settled the bucket down below the udders of Lady, who swished her tail through the air before returning to her breakfast. As he placed the stool on the straw-covered hay and took a seat upon it, the cow mooed and shifted, before allowing Virgil to begin milking her.
After filling a quarter of the metal bucket, Virgil moved on to Duke, a female cow despite her name, who was calmer than Lady, and let Virgil milk her without any issues.
After returning to the house and placing the milk on the counter while making a mental note to bring it with him when he went to Logan and Patton's bakery later, Virgil left again to feed his chickens, stopping by the cowshed to fill a small bowl with grain before continuing to the chicken coop that was nestled in the corner of his property.
As Virgil threw the grain across the area the chickens had access to, smiling as the animals clucked and bumped into each other as they attempted to reach their food. After checking the chickens' water container and determining it to be full, Virgil made his way to his final animal pen, his beloved goats.
While Virgil kept his two cows and ten chickens for their production of milk and eggs, he kept his six goats, Apollo, Shea, Zeus, Peaches, Pecan and Apricot simply for his own happiness, finding enjoyment from caring for the creatures and interacting with them as he saw the goats as beloved pets.
As Virgil rounded the corner of the cowshed and approached the goat pen, he felt uneasy as he saw Apollo, Shea, Zeus, Pecan and Apricot standing together in a huddle, the five goats pressed against the fence in the corner of the pen, letting out fearful bleats as they saw Virgil approaching.
As Virgil's gaze slid to the other side of the pen, his heart dropped.
In the other end of the pen, in the dirt that was disturbed and marred with deep gouges, almost as if a wolf or a beast with large claws had swiped at the earth, was a smear of red.
There was a bloody smear in the goat pen, and his beloved Peaches was nowhere to be seen.
As a growl was heard, Virgil turned to see Artemis, lips drawn back to reveal his jagged teeth and tense body displaying an aggressive state as the dog let out a deep growl while staring at the disturbed earth of the goat pen.
Peaches was gone, and Artemis sensed something amiss with how the goat had disappeared.
Thinking of the howl Virgil had heard the night before, Virgil felt fear take over his being, before moving to rush inside and grab his rifle, not wanting to be without defense if the wolf that had most likely preyed upon Peaches was still around.