RAZE - a weekly fantasy web serial

RAZE – 022 – The Traitor

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We stood on the steps of the Yamurik’s manor. The Tash yelled without words and brandished her spear. Estevo held Yamurik. I stood, my leg shaking, holding my spoils and the sword I’d taken.

The survivors closed on us. They were dirty, cut, bloody. They carried broken kitchen knives, rakes, cutting sickles for the poppy fields. One of them, with the left side of his face all spiderweb cuts and raw skin and pus, held up his sickle. “Yamurik,” he said. “Why?”

“What do you–”

“You’re a dead man, Yamurik. You and your friends.”

“They’re not my friends,” he stammered. “They did this. I had nothing to do with it.”

“You won’t curse them, I see,” Estevo said under his breath. “il-Lonireil, get up. Hold that sword like you just killed the whole household.”

I stood and moved back toward Estevo and Yamurik. I said, “Who are these people, Yamurik?”

“My people. Workers from my fields.” He raised his voice again. “Help me! There’ll be gold for any man who does.”

Estevo and I looked at each other. I put my arm around Yamurik’s shoulder and shouted at the villagers. “Now he’s rethinking his bargain. You don’t think these people can see how your house was left alone while the wind cut through theirs?”

The people below, now near a dozen of them, cursed and shouted. “Why is your house untouched, Yamurik?”

“Why didn’t the demon wind cut you?”

“You wanted all the profit for yourself! Sold us to Lonireil for their gold and Skertah magic!”

“No!” Yamurik shouted. “Shit, no, I’m not–”

“Maybe we should give him to them,” I said. Estevo once again looked at me, then smiled.

“Ah, yes. He’s worth nothing to us. A traitor. He’s served his purpose. What do you say, Yamurik?”

“You dog milkers.”

I called out to the encroachers. “And you? What do you say, should we let you have him? Our purpose is done here. We’ve got Onappa-ka one way or another.”

The leader shook his sickle again. “Give him here. I’ll gut him myself.” His people joined with him, calling for blood. They moved closer and the Tash swiveled with her spear, warding them off.

Yamurik shouted at them. “Idiots! I’m not with these people.”

Estevo pushed the fat man toward me and I held his arm, put my sword to his side. Meanwhile, Estevo stepped down a stair and raised his voice. “Look, he tried to play both sides. He’ll pay. Never fear. We’re to bring him back to our commander and then we’ll behead him. Now, if you all wait, there will be work soon. Fields to harvest, poppy to–” He paused.

“Milk,” I offered.

“Poppy to, ah, milk. There will be Lonireil gold. It’s as good as Yamurik’s, isn’t it? We’re going now.” He took another step, picked up his spear, joined the Tash at the gate of the manor. “Come on, il-Lonirel. Bring the traitor.”

I limped down the first step, drawing Yamurik with me. He cursed under his breath but came along without fuss. Ahead of me, Estevo and the Tash moved out through the gate, holding their spear points up, but ready.

The people–the survivors of the Slaughter of Onappa-ka–kept still. They lowered their weapons, but did not step back. We moved amongst them, the four of us surrounded.

They stared at us with reddened eyes. The dust and blood covered them. Their clothes were frayed and torn and the razor cuts of the knife wind crisscrossed their arms, cheeks, foreheads. Even their hair was ragged, as if chopped away.

Too close. They were too near. We moved through them and the survivors watched us, staring through. I knew the horrors they’d seen. I’d witnessed the aftermath. I’d felt the knife wind flay at my legs for an instant. Could they see me quaking, trembling? I needed the fire that dwelt in me but it was spent, gone, and I shook as I moved amongst them and forced myself to meet their eyes, forced myself and failed. My gaze went down. I heard them breathing.

Just a little farther. I pulled Yamurik alongside me, watched the Tash’s feet in the dust. I bumped someone and stumbled on my wounded leg. The chipped kitchen knife in the hand of the man I’d bumped moved a little. His fist tightened and my breath caught.

Yamurik spoke. “My friends. These are–” He was not allowed to finish.

“You sold us!” A woman leapt on Yamurik with her blade. The people howled. They attacked.

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