"O God! I could be bounded in a nut-shell,
and count myself a king of infinite space,
were it not that I have bad dreams."
The last of the raiders was cornered - the villagers had pulled a barricade across his escape, and his beast had broken a leg in the last trap. Behind the hunter, 5 bodies lay in the dust - one already being dispatched by some village child with a gutting knife.
The only sound, for now, was the sussurus of falling dust, the panting of his own breath, and the whirling hiss of the hunter's weapon as he whirled it around and around.
He'd already watched as the heavy metal ball and chain had wiped out his compatriots. Had watched as the strangely dressed hunter had jeered
them into attacking him on poor terms, and died for their impetousity. Had watched as the hunter had easily dodged the last attack, and snapped the bandit leader's arm with a casual swing.
"You could always give up, you know"
Give up? He could guess what would happen - he could see the sullen villagers watching from windows and rooftops. Some where already gathering stones and heavy tools.
"Surrender? To some outsider piece of shit?" Drawing a dagger in his offside arm and throwing himself headlong at the hunter - he'ld die anyway, but with any luck he'ld take the hunter with him. "Never!"
"Fair enough" And the bandit's skull met a baby's weight of spiked metal coming the other way.
Enlil Ziyatum turned with a little sigh,as the body twitched near his feet. They never did surrender. I suppose, he thought, that that *might* count as a better death then anything the villagers had planned, but it would be nice to take someone alive for a change.
He turned to the audience, still watching silently from every roof and doorway, spread his arms and smiled.
"Smile people - it's all over, the bandits are dead, you have a nice collection of heads for your front gate, and so on..." He trailed off. They didn't even blink. His accent wasn't that bad, surely.
Eventually they did respond. Moving hesistantly at first, then en mass, surging out into the street to tear the bodies apart, with bare hands.
Enlil sat on the edge of the low well wall, and didn't watch. He tried not to listen to the sounds, and thought about everything he could do with the reward instead.
The fire was down to embers when the caravan guard heard the sounds. Spear held tight, he nudged another awake, and crept upright to find the source.
It was the new guard - the one with the strange accent who had signed on near the Phoenix clan lands, for food and safety in numbers.. He was crying in his sleep, head tosing left and right and he gasped "No.. No.. No.. " over and over.
Kashrak poked him in the side with the butt of his spear. Enlil woke suddenly, already reaching for dagger and that odd weapon of his, looking for the threat.. "Oh. It's you. My watch already?"
"You were having unpeaceful dreams."
The human looked frightened for a moment, and attempted to laugh it off "Really? Must have been remembering the evening meal"
Kashrak frowned - gnollish cooking might be too spicy for some, but he'ld seemed hungry enough earlier. Behind them, the other gaurd rolled back over and went to sleep.
Enlil squirmed under the gnoll's yellow gaze.
"So... you have different foods where you come from?"
Enlil seemed relieved at first. "Yes. More pulses for one thing. There's this thing they do with little pumpkins... thing they did..." Enlil went distant, staring off at the horizon, and Kashrak felt a sensation of terrible weight on the human's shoulders.
"Kashrak... have you ever been in a war?" The question seemed to come from a long way away. From whereever Enlil was staring.
The big gnoll nodded. "For a little while - when the Dark Power marched out of that city south of here. You might get to see it if you stay with us - Cynidocea is a big trade town now. That.. that was a big fight. I wouldn't want to do it again. Even if I had to."
Enlil still said nothing. The glow of the dying fire shone red in his eyes. Kashrak felt an urge to fill the silence. "Yes.. some fight. Even the big calavry thing, up from Heiropolis. Didn't last an hour. I thought we we were all on our way to the afterlife, I tell you now. Awful. All those dead. We were lucky. But what choice did we have? Where could we have run that the Dark One would not have followed?" The human still didn't move. "So we stayed and fought. And died, for the most part. But we fought like lions, like lammasu - I killed seven myself before I was taken down. Under a dead manscorpion. Horrible. But we survived, thank Vitus."
Enlil gaze was unmoved. But his lips moved, just a little, to release a voice small and flat, a whisper on the breeze.
"Thank you, Kashrak. Go sleep. I'll take watch now."
The gnoll left him, reluctantly. Somethings should be brought into the open, but there were shadows in the human's heart that no mere firelight would dispel.
Enlil sat, alone as other slept. Holding his flail and watching his memories in the coals, of his life and people becoming ashes in darkness.