Harvester, Reaper, Build Me a God


Luke E. Richards

In the distance, rock formations seemed as copper spires, and the meadows were an ocean of gold, rolling as far as the eye could see. The sun would soon set, and a jaundiced glow hung over the west, slowly kindling the sky alight.

Thomas stayed on the road. His wagon trailed behind as he walked at a calm pace over the beaten dirt, leading a mule by a strap around the beast’s muzzle. He breathed deeply of the fresh Autumn air and took the time to appreciate a steady, cooling breeze.

A short time ago it was harvest. Thomas Brenneman, who had recently taken untimely possession of his father’s farm, had travelled to the nearest city to deliver some of their finest goods. The journey home was easy. No small weight in corn had been traded for a respectable pouch of money.

God rest his father’s soul. This harvest had not been as plentiful as they used to be. Thomas did not yet have the skill of his father, but in time he would learn. Now he was the man of the house, as well as the farm. He was determined to be a good provider.

Up ahead the path coursed through a grassy moor. The tall grass swayed in the gentle breeze, no doubt concealing other creatures appreciating this fine day. Thomas thought for a moment of how he would spend his money. Perhaps he would save it, and invest in a helping hand for the next harvest.

Without even the slightest sound of warning, a rock crashed against Thomas’ side and he fell to the dirt with a startled cry. He saw his mule catch another rock in the head and be brought down.

He panicked, but could yet notice the unusual size of the rocks. He could not imagine the man who could throw such a thing at that speed, but he did not have to. Instantly four men rushed from the cover of the grass and bore down on him. They worked in businesslike silence, tying Thomas up and carrying him Southward without a single noise. Thomas cried futily for help. Despite his battered shoulder, he kicked and punched vigorously at the giant of a man who carried him, flopped over the shoulder like a potato sack, but it was useless. The man ignored him. He did not even grunt.

After a long journey through the moor, the party came out into open land, and Thomas was flung roughly to the earth among no small throng of other victims, tied together with chains around their necks, connected to one another by bits of strong looking rope. More giant men surrounded them, and they soundlessly added Thomas to the chain.

‘We go,’ one said suddenly, breaking the silence such that Thomas jumped. They forced them to march two to a file. The shock took a long time to wear off. By the end of it Thomas decided that they must have marched twenty miles.

It was dark.

The prisoners groaned and complained from time to time, but each complaint was met by a single slap around the head by one of the large men.

At one point an old man fell to the earth and refused to move. The procession stopped, and took the chance to rest their bones to a horrible sight. Their giant captors, without a single vocal sound, beat that old man to within an inch of his life. How he ever stood to walk again after that pummelling Thomas did not know. His face was swollen and bleeding. His eyes were swollen shut. Nearly all of his body was purple and raw.

Glaring eyes and pointed fingers were the only commands the prisoners were given as the procession started again. It was all that they needed. Not a one of them made another peep.

Thomas noticed that the man marching along his side, to his left, was the only one not to rest when the old man had been beaten. Thomas looked him over. His hardy limbs and solid figure seemed tireless. Thomas had seen such a physique only once before, when his father had given lodging to two men who had claimed to be travelling warriors, heading to the capitol to offer their services.

Whatever he was, he looked like a weakling compared to these men who had captured him. Each one stood two heads taller than the average man. In total, including width and musculature, they must have been twice the size of any man Thomas had ever seen.

There could be no other explanation than that these men were from some foreign land, which inhabited men with the size, strength, and communicative habits of oxen.

When the night was thick the precession stopped to rest. Thomas was exhausted, but his mind was full of fear and panic.

His thoughts were jumbled and void of order. He would die, that was certain. He had to tell someone his name. He could not stand the silence any longer. He could not die next to a man without having ever shared a word. He had to speak. Even if it cost him his life, he had to speak to the man next to him.

‘My name is Thomas Brenneman,’ he finally whispered as quietly as he could, his eyes shut tight against the repercussions he feared. But none came.

‘My name is Kamoor,’ the man replied in a voice so quiet it strained the ears to hear. ‘And do not worry so. Save your strength.’

That slight kindness gave Thomas courage. Still worried and frightened, he ceased panicking. He would die, surely, but if this stranger could die with courage he would do the same. He would die as a man, and would make his father proud.

It was still dark when the captives were woken to a rough yank of the chains about their necks, and forced to continue their seemingly endless march South.

Mountains stretched to the West and East. To the North sweet home was a vague and fast fading dream. To the South the great mountain ridge, hiding the ocean, harboured a network of caves and flat clearings, upon and within which rudimentary settlements could be seen, like that of a bandit tribe.

The giant men pushed the group up a rugged mountain trail, hurrying them along now as if in eagerness. They had remained almost wordless since the outset. Eventually other great bulks could be seen among the encampments, and thus populated, the deathly silence of the place was haunting and filled with implications of menace.

Thomas had been herded along with the rest for several days and nights. The old man who had fallen had eventually died of exhaustion. His corpse was left for the vultures. Now, as the march seemed nearly over, relief mingled with a renewed panic. The march had been constant, steady, changeless. Now he did not know what new horror awaited, and that drove him to knew heights of terror.

He should have been home by now. He should have been showing his mother the full money pouch. She would have been proud of the price he fetched. He had a knack for business, his father had always said.

After a hard trek uphill, a clearing stretched away to the left. They were led into it. The sun was high overhead and the sky was clear, making everything keenly visible. The settlements were rudimentary, but not barbaric. Sombre giants sat cross legged, or stood still, interrupted from labour, as they surveyed the captives with an evil glare in their eyes. There was some kind of malice there, yet it was difficult to place. Whatever it was, it froze Thomas’ blood.

The band were forced to sit as the groups came nearer. The gaze of the giant men was scrutinising. Thomas felt as though he were being appraised.

Finally they resumed their tasks. A fire was being prepared. Weapons were being made. Great wooden spokes, thick and brutal, presumably intended as spears. One of them came near the throng, and lifted the heavy bonds off of Thomas’ shoulders. He instinctively stretched his neck in relief, closing his eyes, and he was taken by surprise as the same giant scooped him up and carried him off. He pounded on the man’s back without shouting, for somehow to break that silence seemed a deadly sin.

Thomas found himself carried into the total darkness of a cave, and through that pitch black haze of fear for some time until finally a glow caught the wall ahead. Turning the corner, there was a woman, the first he had seen among the giant men. She was of normal stature, and roughly middle age. Her voice broke the silence like a thunder clap.

‘Leave us, Oliver.’

Thomas was shocked. He stared back at the great bulk of a man who swiftly disappeared into the darkness of the cave.

‘What were you expecting?’ The woman sneered. ‘An Ogre’s name, like in a children’s fairy tale?’ She laughed mockingly.

‘I have never seen a man like that before,’ Thomas spoke in a frightened whisper.

‘So you had expected a foreign name? Never mind. You are unimaginative. You will soon learn that ancient legends harbour certain truths, if one is inclined to look.’

‘What are you going to do with me?’ He asked, knees knocking violently. He should have been at home.

‘You are going to glut the Gods, boy. You are to be sacrificed.’

Thomas screamed, in rage and fear, and was instantly spurned to panicked action. He rushed at the woman, clutching for her throat, intending to kill her and retreat from this nightmare.

He froze, and the woman seemed to him as a giant, towering above him, gaping at him from heights of power unfathomed by mortal men.

‘You must learn to know and fear the darkness within before I let it consume you,’ her words came from no mouth. They echoed in his mind. ‘Behind the world of men, behind the assumptions of your civilisation, dark truths have brooded for countless millennia.’ She returned to her original form, and spoke from her mouth once more. ‘You, boy, ought to be enough to raise my powers.’

‘Are you going to kill me?’

‘Petty criminals kill, boy. You will soon learn of fates worse than death.’

In a flash too quick for Thomas’ eyes to follow, she had plunged a dagger into his chest. He looked dazedly down at the ornate handle, feeling his senses fall from him, before she ripped it away and Thomas’ life was drained from him, spilling upon the cold stone floor.

The day had stretched into the pale colours of dusk, and the sun was just kindling the sky into its pink western blaze as the bandits finished their preparations.

A great fire pit had been prepared. Several wooden pikes had been sharpened and polished. Strange ceremonial masks had been carved and painted.

The intricacy of the work was both impressive and strange, and Kamoor wondered at the meaning of these ornaments, and why they should only be created now, as if in celebration of their captive’s arrival.

Orphan child of a warrior tribe on the North-eastern fringe of the Song-Lyn Empire, Kamoor had been chosen by one of the village elders to receive the education of the Taeal. Versed in history, military tactics, strategy, and the arts, Kamoor was more than a highly educated man. He had been trained since boyhood in an ancient art of combat, utilising knowledge of body mechanics and the science of fighting that had long been forgotten, save in that small mountain village from which he had come: Aa-Gaeal.

For years Kamoor had wandered as a hired sword and bounty hunter. In a town called Jarato, he got word of bandits raiding the local countryside, and citizens disappearing. He offered his services and was commissioned by the mayor to dispose of the threat. He had promised to return with the head of the leader.

Though he had not expected such giant barbarians as these, Kamoor was not daunted. He was a master of combat, and had only once met his equal in a fray. Although fighting is always dangerous, Kamoor had emerged the only living soul from frays versus twenty on more than one occasion. He was one of the world’s most deadly men, and he knew it.

He had watched with burning eyes as the brutes had beaten an old man to near death. Revenge was close. He could feel it. He needed only wait for the right time to strike.

Several of the brutes were chanting, while others lit the fire. Each chanter wore a mask, though the pile of fresh masks still lay untouched. A gentle, almost sultry voice sang clearly yet faintly to his ears. It seemed to come from farther up the mountain, but it was felt as much as heard, and its dreamlike quality left Kamoor dubious as to its existence.

What he saw next shook him to the core.

Two of the giants came to the prisoners, who were still chained together as they had been for the journey. Dancing and chanting in barbaric murmurs, each selected one captive and removed him from his bonds.

Neither man had the energy to fight back, but as the great pikes were lifted and the chanting quickened its pace, and the singing in Kamoor’s ears grew from sweet to ecstatic, and one of the ornate masks were placed upon each man’s head, a horror dawned upon him.

The men screamed as they were spitted alive, dying in horrific agony and violation unimaginable. They were roasted over the flames, the crackling of their flesh faintly heard among the din of chanting and singing. The stench of burning bodies putrefied the air.

There would be no waiting for the right moment to strike. Kamoor watched horror struck as the giants ripped the cooked men limb from limb, consuming the flesh of their own kind with unfeigned, lusty relish.

Thus glutted, the brutes slept prostrate in the open air, and the dead silence returned, though marked by a more sinister aspect.

It did not take long for Kamoor to work his wrists out of the ropes about them, and the wooden collar about his neck broke under his desperate strength with a loud snap.

As one, as if under the influence of one driven mind, the giants sat upright and glared at him.

Kamoor bolted into the night with silent pursuers stomping after him. His inferior size became an advantage, as he could move with far less noise. In the tense and soul splintering chase, hiding in the bushes and shadows, listening for footsteps and shallow breath, running with careful steps for hours, Kamoor managed to escape. This job was meant to be easy for him. In years roving the Song-Lyn Empire, offering his skills to the highest bidder, he had rooted out small gangs of bandits on several occasions. Already a superb fighter, he had learned the arts of silence and assassination through the necessities of his work. Now as he watched the giants from a high crag as they disappeared back down the mountain, presuming their catch to have escaped, he felt sick.

Kamoor lay low, pressing his body against the rock and brambles, peering over the ridge.

He had watched them all day, and these strange giants seemed never to speak. Indeed, when they were not ripping flesh from the limbs of one of their victims, they seemed constantly lost in silent introspection.

The men practised fighting or played a strange game with rocks that looked reminiscent of backgammon. All the while they were wordless. They did not even grunt. The day passed on as Kamoor watched, learning of his enemy, awaiting an opportunity to attack.

He could not fathom the anomaly of these giant men. They were roughly twice the size of the average man of southern Song-Lyn. Although in the south the people tended to be smaller than in the north, there was no accounting for such a difference. In all his travels, he had never seen men like this. They each stood roughly eight feet high, and in the proportions of a bulky, broad shouldered and muscular man. Their size seemed inhuman. The only rational explanation was that they belonged to some race of people Kamoor had never seen.

Kamoor had, however, learned that the rationality of Song-Lyn did not account for many things. Remnants of the ancient world remained, and things hid underneath that which was taken for granted which could make civilisation itself shrink in terror. Indeed, Kamoor was a living example of such a thing.

He was a rare embodiment of the ancient saying of his people. In the ancient tongue: Ega ne Incante tu Remoor ana Frealon. In the language of Song-Lyn: Reality does not make sense unless the unexplainable is something tangible. This ideology carries with it the knowledge that humanity will never know perfect truth.

There was a stream up the mountain. Kamoor had positioned himself between the encampment and the stream, in the hope that a giant would travel alone to fetch water, allowing him a captive to question.

At the very least he might diminish their numbers.

The day was blisteringly hot, and Kamoor smiled.

Finally his chance arrived. Two of the bandits made their way up the trail. Kamoor followed noiselessly. He clung to the walls and shadows as well as he could, but with the sun so high the shadows were scarce. Regardless, the giants seemed so confident in their strength that they scarcely looked in any direction but forwards. The idea that the escapee might return had obviously not occurred to them.

And why would a normal man return? It would be suicide.

At the stream, each of the giants filled a barrel of water that caused Kamoor to ponder again. Even a man of their size ought not to be able to carry such a heavy burden. It was a barrel that would break the back of an ox.

But thoughts and worries are a poor homage to times for action, which this was. Kamoor leapt over the bushes he’d been hiding behind and bolted with soft footsteps towards the two giant men.

Before they could turn around Kamoor’s hands found one of their throats. His iron fingers gripped the man’s throat hard and Kamoor whipped his limb to the side, simultaneously jarring his fingers closed like a vice, crushing and ripping out the larynx.

The other man turned just as his companion fell to the ground, dead. He swung a heavy fist to Kamoor’s head, but he telegraphed the movement with a lifting of the shoulder, and Kamoor had no trouble dodging.

He moved forwards with his dodge, gripping the man’s limb at the wrist just enough to straighten it, pulling him off balance and attacking the exposed elbow joint. He smashed into the joint with his forearm, but it did not break.

Kamoor was a man who could break a square foot block of ice with such a blow, but he did not let it startle him out of action. As soon as he smashed into the joint, he twisted the man’s wrist into a lock in the other hand, but the giant brute was still struggling free.

As he pulled his arm by brute force out of the lock Kamoor landed two kicks into the man’s head. Another punch was thrown and this time Kamoor ducked low, twisting to send a brutal strike upwards into his enemy’s genitalia. The man did not stop fighting, and Kamoor had to avoid a downward, double handed blow by tackling the man’s legs, sending him to the floor.

Kamoor did not allow himself to go to the ground with him, but instead leapt over the man’s legs and stomped down into his solar plexus, knocking the wind from him. Only then did he fall down onto the man’s chest, locking his legs about the hips for control, and he rained down bone shattering punches into the brute’s face.

The man’s resilience was shocking. Kamoor was certain that if he had taken a single blow of those giant hands, he would have died. Never in his life had he pummelled a man to such an extent. One punch downward into a man’s skull, when the back of the man’s head was pressed against the earth, was normally more than enough to kill. He usually pulled his punches in such situations, and now nothing was enough even to knock his enemy unconscious.

‘What are you?’ He demanded, gripping the man’s throat in the same manner he had killed the other and staring into his battered foes eyes with furious malice in his own.

The man’s bleeding mouth split in a grizzly smile.

‘You are a mote in the Black God’s eye,’ he said. ‘I am a burgeoning seed.’

With that he lashed out for Kamoor’s skull, and died just as his throat was crushed. Kamoor stood as soon as he had felt the snap.

Upon capture, the enemy had taken his cloak and weapons. Somewhere among the camp he would find them, and by the look of it he would need them. He hid the bodies and returned to his eyrie.

He would wait. This foe seemed stronger with everything he learned of them.

The day wore on.

In the afternoon, as the shadows stretched and the sun still blazed, Kamoor watched. Several of the giants practised a fighting form in unison. It seemed reminiscent of a Southern style he had seen before. It was powerful but a little too colourful, and lacked the refinement of Kamoor’s art. The forms were acrobatic and did not require internal skill. Power was generated from external body movement, causing the practitioners to lose balance easily.

Kamoor’s teeth bared in a wicked grin. He knew how he could surprise his enemy. Fighters trained in that Southern style tended to expose their abdomen. It was a trick, because they trained their stomachs to be as hard as armour, and used a breathing technique to keep the lungs from collapsing. A strike to the abdomen tended to expose the head of the attacker. But this was a perfect example of the lack of refinement in their art. They knew nothing of how to transmit power. Kamoor could hit that iron abdomen in such a way that would pulverise all the organs within. The bruise would not show on the stomach, but on the back, and the man would die almost instantly.

He studied the movements of the form, analysing the style and determining the strengths and weaknesses of his opponents. He was lucky to get a chance to see it. The foremost fact: he could not let those men touch him. They were too strong. A single blow, be it a kick, punch, knee, elbow or head butt would be lethal.

Finally spotting his belongings among a heap of rags, he knew where to run when the fight began. His opponents would swiftly be armed.

In the late afternoon Kamoor was tiring of keeping watch. No one had gone up the mountain to investigate the two missing men. Just then a sight caught his full attention. A woman came from a path that lead further up the mountain. Dressed in black, and in her middle years, she walked like a queen, her black hair flowing down her shoulders like silk.

All business stopped and all eyes fell upon her. The giants stood at attention like soldiers. She did not utter a word to them, but strode up to the fire pit and drew a pouch from inside her robes.

She twirled and danced about the pit, intoning words in a tongue Kamoor did not recognise, but he recognised the voice. She had sung the previous night, providing a melody the barbaric chanting and murderous gluttony of the men. From her pouch she threw things upon the fire. It seemed merely like dust and debris from Kamoor’s high vantage point.

The woman did not change size or shape, but suddenly her stature seemed enormous. It was as though the rest of the world had shrunk in fear around her. Her visage absorbed and enveloped the light of day, and the world was painted in the hues of dusk. Her body took on a skewed, ethereal aspect, and her arms swooped like gnawing shadows towards the captives who shuddered in fear. The strange intonations grew more fierce, and seemed now to resonate from within.

One man cried out. His voice ceased abruptly, and as the woman pulled back Kamoor saw an empty husk lying where the man should be. It was as if all blood and being had been stripped from him. Once tanned and muscular, he was now white and thin to the point of looking skeletal.

The woman’s shadowy arms stretched to the sky and threw something unseen upon the fire pit. Kamoor would swear that some ungodly spark lit as whatever it was struck the waiting kindling. It was no fire of the mortal realm, and as the woman walked back up the mountain shadows seemed to follow her, stretching away, as if attempting to keep a grip on the world of light and being pulled unwillingly by this woman. When she was gone, nothing could be seen in the fire pit save for wood, but somehow, as the hair still stood on the back of his neck, he knew that something more was there.

His eyes were drawn to the corpse of the man she had touched. Life, like some tangible, visible aspect of being, had been withdrawn from the still cadaver. It was not the sacred image of a dead man who lay there, but a twisted object. A vile parody of death.

As the sun was falling, beginning to scorch the sky, Kamoor understood. The masks, the chanting, the woman with her rituals and sack full of debris. The cannibalism. It was magic of a like that ought not to exist. The woman was creating these men. These giants. They were being made.

Human sacrifice and the devouring of human beings were sacred in horrid rituals of cannibalistic tribes. Kamoor was enough of a student of history to know that. Cannibals believed that the devouring of human flesh... No. The devouring of humanity, gave strength and power to the eater.

What was taken from the pitiful cadaver was more than his life. It was his essence, his soul. What the men were eating was more than human flesh. They were eating human essence. What the witch had thrown upon the fire pit was a kind of vile alchemy. She was building men of more than mortal power. She was building Gods.

Kamoor’s stomach churned. In a way, he was glad that he had discovered this evil. The same honour-bound will to fight that drove him on, despite the hopeless wandering of his own existence, made his blood burn with life at any sense of purpose, and he certainly had a purpose here.

He had intended to fight a paltry band of kidnappers, but what he met was an ancient ritual reborn: the darkness rising behind all that the great Empire of Song-Lyn had taken for granted, just as had been predicted.

They had to be stopped. With every man they ate, they became stronger. He could not allow it to continue. Had he the time, he might have fled and returned with a mercenary army, but these captives would die in that time, and the enemy would only increase in might. He had fought with two and won. He might live. Regardless, there was no time like the present.

Kamoor bolted from his vantage point and ran straight for the black bundle which he knew to be his cloak and sword. Upon reaching the flat expanse where the prisoners lay next to the fire pit, sweating and babbling in fear, the giants noticed him.

One ran in to tackle him and he leapt over the brute’s head, stomping down hard into the back of the man’s neck in mid air.

Another stood between him and his pack. There was no time to lose. The man left his stomach exposed as he threw a quick punch, as Kamoor knew he would. He stepped inside the man’s guard, avoiding the blow, and whipped a palm strike with all the force he could muster into the man’s abdomen. He collapsed, dying and vomiting blood, as Kamoor sped past, leapt and rolled in the earth over his belongings, coming up with sword drawn.

His enemies were swiftly finding weapons as well. They came at him, silently and swiftly. Kamoor knew he had their respect. There would be no more foolish mistakes to exploit. They would no longer assume their superiority.

He side stepped a downward swipe with an axe heavier than a man and crashed a kick into the enemy’s knee while simultaneously stabbing for the throat of a man in front of him.

His enemy dodged by leaning from the waist, and Kamoor was unable to capitalise on his lack of balance as he was forced to run to the side to avoid being surrounded. He kept moving at all times.

They rushed at him like an inexorable tide, and only his skill saved him from instant annihilation as he side stepped another swing and, with his spin, landed his sword deep in the belly of another assailant.

In the moment it took him to withdraw the blade they had him surrounded, and it was too much luck for comfort that allowed him to escape that fray, ducking between two of the giants, raking his sword through the back of one man’s knee and pulverising another’s innards with a strike of his palm.

Instantly he lashed out with a vicious kick, sending another of the giants reeling back, toppling into two others. Kamoor deflected a blow, borrowing the man’s force and throwing his limb off to the side, slitting his throat in the process.

He felt himself grabbed from behind and gasped as his bones were slowly crushed to the breaking point. He forced his way downwards and attacked the groin and knees but it did not work. He only found himself in a headlock. The lack of balance in his enemy’s fighting style was the only thing that allowed Kamoor to throw the giant over his shoulder, creating distance between himself and the fray.

He took his chance to run.

He bolted up the mountain path with the enemy in full pursuit. Spotting a cave he ran inside, thinking that he might defeat his enemy if they had less room to move.

The cave was pitch black, and Kamoor pressed through the darkness silently, forcing his breath down to a slow, quiet pace. His heart pounded and his blood raced. The enemy were in pursuit. He could hear their footsteps behind, but they were too wary of him to charge recklessly into the darkness, much to Kamoor’s disappointment.

Suddenly, the sound of footsteps behind ceased, and Kamoor looked back, seeing nothing in the pitch black. He pressed on, rounded a corner, and there was light. He would have thought it to be the light of day were it not for its lurid flickering. He heard the footsteps again, though this time diminishing, and he knew what he had found.

This was the witch’s lair.

Kamoor grinned. This was what he wanted. If he were to die, he would die with the leader’s head in his hands.

He stepped around the corner with renewed confidence. What he found made him stop in his tracks.

There stood the witch, but above a broiling, strangely odourless yet somehow revolting pot, was the boy he had marched with, Thomas Brenneman.

The boy stared as if from gulfs of empty space at Kamoor. He could see that the fire of life had dwindled. Though the body bore no visible marks of torture, Kamoor could see the marks of torture within. Suddenly, the witch spoke.

‘You, seeker, have come to me at last.’

‘Yes,’ Kamoor replied coldly.

‘Your eye is strange,’ the witch spoke in a whisper. ‘You have been tainted. You can see the world behind. Tell me, do you see what I have built here.’

‘Am I supposed to be impressed that you can see what I am? You are building a vile parody of life. Yes, I can see it. I can see the taint of things thanks to this old wound, but I am not impressed.’ Kamoor pointed at his eye. The pigment was ruined by an old wound, and a scar was raked along his face. Dark magic had poisoned him and nearly killed him, and the healing process had been imperfect. Kamoor’s eye was lost to the darkness behind that which is gleaned by mortal eyes. He could no longer see with that eye. Rather, he perceived.

‘Soon we will have the power to carve a kingdom of our own in this land. After that, who knows? This boy will serve my own needs well.’

‘You make pacts with demons, and sell your humanity for your desire to conquer! You are weak and worthless! You can not even stand on your own. I know that children are special in human sacrifice. I know what you are doing, but it will stop now.’

‘Come to me, then, mortal. The more honour within you, the more for demons to toy with. You, warrior, will make a fine sacrifice!’

She lunged at him, growing in proportion. The entire cave seemed a thing of her bidding; an aspect of her being. In a flash far quicker than mortal movement, her arms sped towards Kamoor like shadowy tendrils.

Without moving in the traditional sense, Kamoor was upon her. Outside of time and space he stepped, and, as though he had stopped and started time in a different position, his blade was instantly imbedded in the witch’s breast.

She gasped as her power folded inwards, and Kamoor found himself stabbing a woman, rather than the violent, writhing darkness that had filled the cavern only moments before.

‘What are you?’ She gasped.

‘I am a master of an ancient art. I did not show you my true colours when fighting your men, for I knew you would be watching. I am a relic of a dead age, and a herald of forgotten wisdom. I am the shadow stepper.’

‘You are a demon!’

‘No. The ancient darkness you toyed with runs far deeper than you know. I am a man.’ He thought of what was left of the man she had touched by the fire pit, that twisted mask of agony. He thought of the two men he had watched spitted alive, roasted, and ripped limb from limb. He thought of Thomas and the scars of torture he could see within. ‘Your dream was despicable,’ he said to the woman. ‘I will kill you without even asking your name, for you gave up humanity long ago, but I will tell you mine. Carry it with you to the underworld and give the Devils my regards. My name is Kamoor. In the ancient tongue of my people it means "The Nameless One". There are powers other than that of evil, hag, though they are largely forgotten. Know this: your dream dies with you.’

Her eyes widened as he moved, but she could not react. He ripped the sword from her heart and blood spattered the far wall. Before consciousness left her, he whipped his blade through her neck and severed her head. She would make no more soldiers, and Kamoor would collect his bounty.

Thomas Brenneman woke to find himself carried in a man’s arms. The night was dark and moonless, but the stars were out in force. As his senses slowly returned, he recognised the man he had marched beside.

He felt as though he was returning from some infinite gulf of pain, like an endless nightmare, but he could not remember.

What was the man’s name? Slowly he recalled.

‘Kamoor. I can walk now.’

He was still dazed.

‘Where am I?’ He asked.

Kamoor pointed Southward.

‘You see those mountains?’ He asked. ‘That is where we were. You must travel far to return to your family. Can you do it alone?’

Thomas gazed at the ground. His family. He could remember. As if his mind were slowly picking up pieces lost deep within himself, he was remembering who he was.

‘Yes. My family. I have to return.’

Suddenly he felt inside his pockets. The bag of money was still there. It was a miracle.

‘It isn’t your pouch they were after, young Thomas,’ Kamoor said. He still wore nothing but a loin cloth. In his right hand was a naked sword, caked in blood. The man’s arms and legs were bruised and bleeding.

‘Are you alright?’ Thomas asked, instinctively reaching for Kamoor’s arm.

Kamoor pulled away.

‘It isn’t my blood,’ he said. ‘But no. I am not alright. This region is not alright. I must return to the mountain.’ He pointed again.

‘If you can walk home, do so,’ he continued. ‘If not, wait here. I must return. There are more people up there, quaking in fear and about to be eaten. I must save them, and I must rid the world of the despicable things that haunt that mountain.’

His eyes clearing, Thomas could see that in Kamoor’s other hand he held a human head. Thomas gasped and was about to scream when iron fingers locked about his mouth. Kamoor hid the head behind his back.

‘Do not look upon it, Thomas! Some things are best left forgotten. Now run. Run from this nightmare and do not wake until you are safe in your bed.’

With that, Kamoor turned and walked back towards the mountain. A vague and disturbing chanting could faintly be heard far in the distance to the South. Thomas watched Kamoor go for a time, and then turned and walked, alone, to the north. It would be a long walk. He would struggle to find food and water. His eyes drifted skyward. The north star blazed overhead. He bundled his cloak tightly about himself and began his trek. It was going to be a cold night.


© 2007 by Luke E. Richards

Bio: "After studying Sociology at the University of London, I went on the run from the laws of reality for a while before joining the labour force. Recently, I quit my job to become a full time writer. For many years I have trained with the Chief Instructor of the Ghurkah Infantry and Senior Instructor of the South Korean Special Forces." Luke has also written a novel featuring Kamoor, the ultimate warrior and hero of 'Harvester, Reaper ...'

E-mail: Luke E. Richards

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