Working rough draft. Still working on title.
|The aroma of burning flesh replaced the familiar odor of morning pine. A deafening silence hung over the forest, where the cacophony of birds waking from the nightly slumber should be echoing through the chilly Autumn air. Instead of the light wisp of fog that lingered in the woods this time of year, dark smoke meandered the oaks in its place.
The outline of a village slowly sprang to life as the smoke followed the wind. Incessant buzzing of flies going from carcass to carcass was the only sound that could be heard. Rivers of blood flowed aimlessly through the dirt road from the corpses that lay strewn about. Death had visited the village and left no witnesses to its destruction.
Keira couldn't move with the body on top of her. Her blood soaked blond hair lay strewn across her eyes. She pushed on the body, but the moment she pushed her left arm burned with excruciating pain. She screamed out as she got the body off of herself. Opening her eyes, she tried to focus through the tears in her eyes. Using the back of her right hand, Keira wiped the water from her hazel and green flecked eyes. Looking to where she felt the pain, she found an arrow protruding from her arm. Dried blood encased the shaft of the arrow to her pale, freckled skin.
Looking around the rest of her surroundings, Keira assessed what had happened. She carefully looked at the body she rolled off of herself. It was her mother with an arrow through her neck. Her mother had saved her by falling on her.
“No!” Keira screamed out as she cradled her mother's head in her lap.
She remembered waking up to screaming and yelling. Keira had gone to the door and opened it to see all the commotion. She remembered the men. There were so many of them; fully equipped with swords and bows. Then, she was spinning and hit the floor. She didn't remember anything after that.
Tears came as Keira looked down at her mother and began stroking her hair. The same graying, black hair that she would braid everyday before her mom went to work in the fields. She knew that she would not be able to hear her mother's nightingale voice that would fill the house while they cooked and cleaned. Sobbing uncontrollably a new feeling sprang to life in Keira.
She kissed her mother's forehead and laid it gently on the floor. She wiped her tears away and stood up. Sadness had now changed to anger. She was going to find those that did this and make them pay. If nothing else, she would die trying.
With anger flowing through her very being, Keira reached the shaft of the arrow and broke it off near the skin. She grabbed the arrowhead and pulled out the rest of the shaft that remained in her arm. Blood began flowing freely again, but the pain was nothing compared to the pain she felt at losing all she had left of her family.
Wrapping her arm carefully, getting dressed and packing some needed supplies, Keira stepped out of the house. She vomited the moment she stepped outside. The sight of blood and body parts strewn all over the road caught her off guard. The smell of death hung over the town and she couldn't believe her eyes. She composed herself enough to begin walking from house to house looking for anyone that may have lived. Keira's anger began to swell as she saw the way all the people she knew had been treated like no more than animals being slaughtered. She carefully navigated around entrails, heads, and random body parts as she continued to look for survivors.
“Help!” said the sound of a boy coming from one of the houses. “Help, please someone help me!” the cry got louder.
Keira ran towards the voice. She new that voice and the house. Entering the house, “Paul, is that you?” she asked.
“Yes!” Paul yelled frantically, under the body of his parents.
“Let me get these bodies off of you,” pulling Paul's parents off of his body, Keira found him soaked in blood. His normally crow black hair was now streaked brown, where the blood had dried. “Are you hurt?”
“I...I don't know,” Paul said as he looked around at his body and surroundings. “Keira, what happened?”
Keira hugged Paul tightly, “I thought you I had lost everyone,” she kissed him, “I see now that I haven't.”
“Keira, what is going on?” Paul asked as he pushed Keira back a bit to look at her.
“We were attacked last night and I think everyone is dead, but us.”
“Who attacked us?” he questioned as he looked around the room, “Are you sure everyone else is dead?”
“I don't know who attacked us. I just saw men with weapons and I was struck by an arrow. When I came to, my mother's body was on top of me and she was dead.” Keira relayed everything else she had seen in town. “How are you so lucky not to have been hurt?” Keira asked.
“I didn't even know we were attacked.” Paul said with no concern, “I woke up and I couldn't move because I was pinned under my parents. They must have protected me before anyone knew I was here.”
Keira's body tingled as if a ghost had walked through it. Something suddenly seemed out of place. “I am going to go look and see if there is anyone else. Maybe others got buried under bodies. Get dressed and you can help me.”
Paul held Keira's gaze for a second, “Sure, let me get dressed and we will look for others.”
Something in Paul's eyes seemed wrong, ”Hurry up,” she said as she exited the house.
Walking outside Keira looked to her left and saw a sword propped up against the house. It was the sign used by mercenaries to identify their own. She hadn't noticed it in her hurry to help Paul, but seeing it there helped her make sense of her bad feeling. Her father was a mercenary before Keira was born and taught her the ways of a mercenary. He let her know that a sword propped up against the house was an invitation to attack, but that any home with a sword was an ally. Tears once again came unbidden and raced down Keira's cheeks. Her dad died protecting the village years ago and now her mom was dead because these monsters were invited in.
She loved Paul. They had grown up together and over time their friendship has developed into love. They were to be wed in a couple of months, as marriages were only allowed at the summer festival. The law also prohibited anyone from marrying before their 16th summer.
It was a coincidence; the sword fell from someone's hand and ended up there. Yet, she knew deep down that Paul had always dreamed of being a mercenary, but his parent's would never allow it and the town would banish anyone that wanted to become one.
Keira walked over to the sword and picked it up. The moment she touched the hilt, anger welled up inside her. She knew that her mother died because Paul had invited the killers into town. It was his way to join the murderers. Yet, Paul wasn't expecting to find anyone alive.
“Paul, are you dressed yet!” Keira yelled into the door.
“I am dressed,” Paul said as he walked to the open door, “ Let's go see if...” Paul's lips continued moving as his head was removed from his body.
“That's one down.” Keira said as she kicked Paul's head into to river of blood. She entered the house to find information where the mercenaries were.