The land was savage and wild. People were ruthless, if you let your guard down, just once, you were dead. It had been that way since the breakdown of the great society over a century ago. Where once there was peace and plenty there was now pain and suffering. The rules were simple, every man for himself, if you could take it you could keep it, as long as you could hold it. Some had risen in power and prominence, they were bad people, hard and deadly. They gathered followers, people too scared to make it on their own, people that sought safety in the shadow of oppression. For Harken that was no way of life, he could not bring himself to bend to the will of others and he had no inclination to rule.
A bead of sweat made its way down the side of his face, it irritated his skin but he ignored the sensation, this was no time to give away his position due to carelessness. There was a time when he considered this area as exotic, experience had taught him otherwise. Crouched in the long grass, he waited for the patrol to pass him by. The kill lay still warm at his feet, it meant meat for his group, a small smile crossed his face as he he pictured them welcoming him as a super-hero returned. The smile was short-lived as the patrol stopped.
Something had spooked them, he held his breath, time ticked by slowly. The sound of his blood pumping in his ears was deafening, surely they could hear it? The long grass initially had seemed to offer incredible cover, now he felt naked, totally exposed. He let his breath slowly out, why were they still standing there? He could hear the murmur of conversation, it was too low to make out words but he could see they were becoming more agitated. Another second passed, followed painfully slowly by another, still no movement. The pressure was too much, the urge to run was building, he considered making a break for it but he knew he would not make it far before being caught. It was not the being caught that scared him, he had been caught before.
Harken closed his eyes and concentrated on being invisible, his body wanted to betray him, each ache was magnified, each breath he took designed to betray him. Desperately he fought for control, he could not give in to his fear, the battle felt epic but the outcome was taken from his hands. A sudden gust of wind parted the long grass just long enough to give him away. The captain of the patrol shouted out and Harken opened his eyes, each member of the patrol was looking at him, twelve spears raised and ready to be thrown. Standing, he raised his arms to show he was unarmed.
He was visibly shaking as he walked towards the captain, he could hear the laughter but refused to feel shame for his fear. These men had no concept of why he was so scared, he had been here before and he knew what was to come. The shaking became more pronounced and they laughed harder at him, he could barely put one foot in front of the other. He wondered how pathetic he must look to these men, cowering in the bushes and then struggling to walk. All they could see was an unarmed man, alone and vulnerable, someone to provide them with entertainment.
Finally he stood quaking in front of the captain. It was close now, he could see it in the eyes of the brute staring at him, contempt and malice. The rest of the patrol started to egg the captain on but he did not need any encouragement, he drew his arm back. Harken could see the blow coming only peripherally as his eye were locked with the captains. He could not understand the blind rage he was confronted with, he had done nothing to encourage this.
Harken watched that look change as it had on previous occasions to shock, pain and then fear as he effortlessly caught the blow and answered with one of his own straight to the throat. There was no fear now of what was to happen, he was committed. These men had seen a man with no weapon and obviously scared. They had seen no threat, now they would pay the price for their arrogance and hatred. Harken did not carry a weapon, he was a weapon. He was fluid death, flowing through their ranks. Not one man was left alive, Harken looked at his blood soaked fingers and cried, for the lives he had taken and the stain on his soul.