The Last (a)

The front guard holds up his fist, signaling the scouting party behind him to halt.  He spots movement up ahead, where the smoke they saw from the coast has been emanating from.  Cautiously, his feet light and quiet, he creeps to the edge of the treeline and squints into the distance, left hand gripped firmly upon his black-shafted spear.

A gristly field of battle greets him, or the remnants of one at the least.  Between the trees and the fort on the coastal ridge lie strewn hundreds of corpses, the carrion eaters thick amongst them, and the stench thicker still.  A bonfire roars some one hundred yards away, its smoke deep and as foul-smelling as the deceased.  It is near this bonfire that a single distant figure mills about, carting corpses from the field into the flames.  The party holds but a short conclave amongst themselves before agreeing that the corpses on the field are of barbarian raiders, and they neither burn nor bury their dead; thus, the man in the distance must be from the fort, and thus, an ally.

So satisfied, they hustle across the field, calling out to the stranger and making their presence and allegiance known to him.  Swarms of vultures and crows scatter at their advance, only to settle down several yards away and continue their gorging.  As the distance closes, the lone soldier’s features become more plain to them:  a hard face, but more by far is it a weary one, filled with sweat and scars and lack of sleep.  His drab garb of brown and grey leathers matches his expression.  For someone so alone, he does not seem surprised to see them; his hand rests on, but does not draw, his sword at his side.

“Well met, knight,” the front guard greets perhaps too jovially, planting the butt of his spear into the ashen dirt.  “My name is Simen.  We sailed from Fort Wellbury four days ago, hoping to resupply here.  What in God’s name happened here?”

The man canvasses the rest of the company, perhaps assessing their strength, or truthfulness.  He does this for what seems unnaturally long before answering in a gravelly voice marred by mileage rather than age, “Death.”

 

{More to come, or maybe not more to come.  I certainly could do more; this character has been in my head for a while.}

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