From Imaginary Ripples · Stories

Fragments IV: The Village Slaughter

The young boy peered through the branches of the bush he was hiding in. He could see naught but smoke until a harsh, piercing breeze tore through the clearing and the smoke was dragged along with it, revealing the burning remnants of his village. As he watched one of the black clad raiders that his mother had told him to run and hide from, dragged a screaming woman from a blazing hut. He couldn’t recognise the woman from this distance from her features but as her screams tore through the air, he recognised her as the mother of his closest friend, Jakob. She was struggling with the raider, kicking and screaming for help. He pulled her along by the hair as she lashed out with her feet. One of her kicks connected with his knee and he stumbled, nearly falling. As she broke free of his grip he tore a chunk of her bright red hair from her head, causing her to unleash a howl of utter agony. She started running towards the forest, heading towards where Michael hid. She had taken a scant five steps when she was thrown forward and to the right by the impact of an arrow on the left side and towards the middle of her back. She hit the ground and stayed there. Michael willed her to stand and keep running, she didn’t move. She wasn’t even screaming anymore. The radier who had been dragging her walked to where she laid and knelt down near her. He rolled her onto her back, snapping the protruding arrow and looked her over.
“She’s dead. You killed my catch.”
The archer replied shortly, “She was hardly your catch, she was getting away.”
“I would’ve caught up to her soon enough. You’ve ruined her now”
“She’s still warm, you can use her once”
The raidier glanced in the direction of the archer, as he considered the archer’s idea. Perhaps it wasn’t so bad an idea; she certainly had been a beautiful catch.
Michael was still watching, tears streaming down his face, as the soldier raped the lifeless corpse of Jakob’s mother.

Michael stayed hidden long after he had seen the raiders mount their brutal warhorses and ride off. It had been dark for several hours when he crept from the bush he was hiding in and started searching for others in the gloom of the new moon through the thin layer of clouds. He found his father near the smouldering ruins of their shack, his head was lying on the ground several feet from his body and he had a series of deep slashes to his chest and belly. His sword was still held tight in his hands. Michael turned and vomited until he could no longer vomit, tears rolling down his face. He stumbled around the village searching for his mother and Jakob. He searched the village without success and headed towards the small clearing by the creek to see if they were hiding there. There he found his mother She was tied to pegs in the ground, naked, with numerous cuts, bruises and slashes on her. She wasn’t breathing. Michael’s knees gave way and he sank to the ground, the tears streaming down his face faster now as he began to sob loudly.

He was still crumpled there, unmoving, when the knights rode into the clearing the next morning. The captain dismounted and cautiously approached him, not wanting to scare him. The other knights also dismounted and set about searching the clearing. The captain looked at the boy, he appeared to be eight, or maybe ten. He was a slim boy but he looked as if he would fill out substantially. He removed his gauntlets and placed them in his belt, as he knelt next to the boy, the boy was trying to cry, but had long ago ran out of tears. The captain placed his large, warm hand gently on the boy’s shoulder, comforting him.
“What’s your name boy?” the captain quietly inquired.
The boy did not respond at first and the captain was about to ask again when the boy stammered his reply “M-Michael, My Lord”.
“Is this your mother?”
“Y-yes, M-My Lord”
The knight nodded his head gravely in sympathy as he pulled his water canteen from his belt and offered it to Michael. Numbly, Michael clasped the flask and drank deeply. For the first time, he looked up at the captain, staring into the captain’s caring blue eyes. He thanked him for the water and sat there, numb to the world until the captain asked him where to bury his mother. At this Michael burst into tears again, stammering out over several minutes that his mother had always loved swimming in the creek and lying on its bank, so it should be there that she was buried. The captain ordered two of his men to dig the grave as he set about undoing the bonds holding the boy’s mother.

The Captain escorted Michael back to the knight’s fortress. There he ordered a novice to take Michael to the kitchen and provide him with a meal and to then organise a bed for Michael for the night. The novice introduced himself to Michael as Tyson as he led the apprehensive boy to the keep’s kitchen. There Michael ate several helpings of a hearty venison stew. Michael was provided a hard, utilitarian but relatively comfortable bed in Tyson’s quarters. A fellow novice had occupied the bed until a week earlier when he had died raising the alarm as marauders, agents of Chaos with no care but for battle and the destruction of all, attacked the fortress.

The following morning, the captain asked Michael if he would tell him about what he had seen at the village, after a large breakfast of warm porridge. Michael told him what he had seen and the captain became enraged with the disgusting acts the boy had been forced to witness by the raiding marauders. The captain vowed to Michael that those responsible would be hunted down and sent to Sigmar to receive judgement for their atrocities. Michael begged to be allowed to accompany him, the captain steadfastly refused this wish. He led his forces out the next day, leaving less than half of the garrison to guard the fortress. Tyson was ordered to ensure that Michael did not attempt to join the knights who hunted the marauders. The hunters returned nearly two moons later, their mission complete and the captain’s vow fulfilled. Michael had remained in the fortress the entire time and was now determined to become a knight himself, so he could rid the world of the threat of the marauders. At first the captain refused, but after Michael’s fifth request, he relented, saying that he would vouch for Michael’s petition to join when he was two summers older. Satisfied with this Michael asked if he could remain within the keep in exchange for working within the keep. The Captain allowed him to do so, making him a stable hand.

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