by Andrew, with contribution by Thomas
Lord Haryk leaned over to retrieve one of his many arrows upon the battlefield. His hair draped over his brow. He placed his boot upon the shoulder of the deceased, and with his right hand grasped the arrow’s end, just below the tailored feathers. This particular arrow he had made himself so he was happy to see it sticking into his enemy’s abdomen and not in between the ribs like so many others.
It had ended the life of a creature he had only seen once prior and then in battle as well. A beast with hooves like a goat, and with horns sprouting from it’s furry chin. It’s carcass now lay before him, a bloody mess which had stained the short grass under it. The isles were said to crawl with these demons. Creatures of the night. But here it was in the light of day. He could feel the wind whipping up off the sea cliffs down below the plateau where he now stood. The sun was just rising. He guessed this thing, like the other he had killed, would be the same. It’s body would simply burn in the sun like an egg upon a hot plate in the fire. Fading into legend, this beast, like the last, would hide it’s vulnerability to sword, or spell, or one of his well strung and accurate arrows.
A creature of Ket. Of the deep abyss where the darkness and it’s many eyes waited, impossible to see, incapable of death. The wicked demons of the good folk’s nightmare. Lord Haryk knew better though. He could see the look of pain upon it’s face. He could see the eyes, still open, scared. Anxious. The look on the face of an enemy one has killed. The look that says I wish I had stayed home today.
Surprisingly, the tip came out cleanly. Blood was red, nothing new to see here either. Inspecting the shaft, he ran his hands along it in his customary fashion. The arrow was still good for use. Perhaps even better. The blood congealed near the front, adding just an ounce or more to the weight of the wood. In close quarters, he thought he noticed a slight increase in effectiveness.
Logical. Deliberate. That was Lord Haryk’s way. He had learned it from his father, a man of precision. In thought about the flight of an arrow slightly more dense due to the presence of blood from one of his enemies, he walked to the next one. And the next. Of his couple dozen loosed during the engagement, he had recovered a score. Not a bad haul.
The ship’s bell rang out. Captain Hariklon must have received the all clear from his subordinate officer. He was punctual as usual. This isle, although small, was now ready for a colonial expeditionary force from Far Realm. Placing his final reclaimed arrow back in it’s quiver, Haryk motioned to his men for them to make their final searches. The Archers were his command. And in this assault, they had made the difference. To the victors go the spoils.
Always a natural archer from birth, Haryk had found himself rising up the ranks in the expeditionary Lighted Infantry. He had been the sole brother to join, after he and his four brothers had left Yardale that is. He told the others he would that day, as he stood with them one last time on the foothills of the mountains that edged his family’s province.
But that was long ago now. And he didn’t often think of the last few moments in those foothills.
Haryk looked out past the island treetops and into the blue which was now pale, instead of dark. A few other peaks were visible above the clouds to the North. To the East, a front. But still far out to sea. This isle was small, but it was near enough to New Perrin and Dreadproper to be defensible. He imagined a Temple Mount right here in the blood stained meadow where he now stood. Another light in the darkness of the dread isles. Another jewel in the crown of the king, Lord Borindin.
“Dilly, dilly,” he whispered not being able to help himself. He remembered his father’s last words. He could never choose when his mind wandered back that day which most struck him. Was it the sheer surprise at his father’s way to fade back into the darkness, to disavow his family in such a way? Or was it knowing in just that instant he had lost his lands and titles?
He was never sure.
He started towards the ship, calling to the others who seemed finished and satisfied with their collections of artifacts. A simple stroll now. Nothing like the climb under the duress it had taken to ascend this rise. The winds swept around his cloak from the East. A good wind he thought. The gathering of a storm, but blowing in the right direction and still far enough away to be irrelevant now.
They’d need not oar at all until they came into Far Realm’s harbor. By the time the tempest that Hariklon worried over would hit the port town, he’d be having a tankard of his once family’s label. He could spend his new coin and gamble even. Perhaps, he’d put something down on one of the parties assembled for Taryn’s Bane. He figured the rumors that Governor Canton had not selected a party to compete were false. Rumors though had a way of becoming real in the isles.
Of that, he was sure.