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Copyright © 1999 C.E. by Dustin Jon Scott
[Last Update: June 6th, 2018]

Sunday, Holytide 36th, S.A. 4632

Lodiyu awoke slowly in darkness, unknowing what was about him. A knee in his back, an elbow in his chest, and the coldness of both roused him to horrific awareness that he lay pinned in a pile of corpses. He wrested an arm free, and the other, and strove against the weight upon him to eventually climb free. Blindly he tried to look around to ken his surroundings, but found quickly that his eyes did not avail him. An encrustation held his eyelids shut, which he promptly remedied to find as his eyes slowly stretched open the scabrous crumbs of dried blood on his fingers.

All around were burning small fires and large piles of dead bodies rising like hillocks from a shallow, milky sea of thick fog, clinging tightly to the ground not much more than ankle-high, swirling with a nacreous spectrum of colors that Lodiyu lifted his gaze skyward to find was cast by dancing ribbons of multicolored aurora in a mostly-clear sky. The stars shone with an otherworldly brightness, casting a glinting, silvery sheen on what few clouds there were. Storm clouds, granite-grey but for the dark of night casting them a charcoal-black, flashed with explosive fulgor on the horizon and in those few dark clouds that dotted the otherwise-clear sky. And everything was brightened by the most luminous Full Moon that Lodiyu could ever recall seeing.

Lodiyu looked up at the Moon to discern Her position and perhaps tell how much time had passed. The Moon was no less full then when he arrived, though far higher in the night sky than She was whenas the battle transpired. At least this was still the same night. Inly he thanked The Gods, for only hours had passed. Thunder roared in the distance, and as it subsided Lodiyu could hear a still-living man cry out in the distance, only for his screaming to suddenly stop, followed immediately by the whooping and cackling of hyenas as crows cawed in the night. The scavengers had gathered to feast. If there was still a standing military force, it had moved far from here by now.

His vision still blurry, Lodiyu once again rubbed his eyes to assay for greater clarity, and began to search over himself for what remained of his equipment. His blue cloak was gone but for a tattered ring of fabric around his leather gorget. His crocodile-hide cuirass protecting his torso remained mostly intact, as did the one crocodile-skin cuisse that remained strapped to his trousers, but the other cuisse and both greaves had been lost. His rerebrace and vambrace remained protecting his left arm, but both had been lost from his right, and his steel helm was missing. His glaive and short-sword were gone as well, as were his waterskin and haversack. The missing armor may have lain at the bottom of the pile of bodies he’d freed himself from, but it could just as easily have been scattered beyond any reasonable hope of finding it.

Still too sore and forefought to rouse himself fully, he lay temporarily defeated in his spot, as another thunderclap heralded the start of a downpour. Lodiyu covered his head with the hood of his cowl-gorget as the fog began to dissipate, and as his clarity of vision came gradually back to him, he saw near him as he looked down the face of his friend Komayu staring back up at him with one dead eye, his skull broken, warped, flattened and bent side-wise, face twisted and brains half-spilt.

Lodiyu gasped and averted his gaze downward, seeing now before him the face of his friend Lataya, her glimmering green eyes staring back at him from what of her once-beautiful face now remained, for her jaw had been torn crudely from her, and her tongue hung slack from her throat.

Slowly Lodiyu rose to his knees, trying not to break at the sight.

Shakily he managed to get the sole of his right foot planted beneath him, and attempted to clamber to his feet, but no sooner did he begin to raise up off his left knee than the crunch of ribs breaking resounded as his foot fell fast through with a loud slosh into Lataya’s torso.

Then he collapsed utterly, clenching his eyes and teeth in a desperate attempt to hold back tears and stifle the roiling scream that threatened to burst forth from his lungs.

Then the whooping and cackling of the hyenas began to draw closer.

As the fog in his immediate vicinity finally cleared, Lodiyu could see that he was near the old barracks.

The cackling and whooping of the hyenas drew nearer as Lodiyu realized his efforts to remain quiet had but delayed the inevitable, for the direction the sound was coming from was downwind from him.

Lodiyu scanned the immediate area for a suitable small arm, such as a short sword or large knife, and for some sort of a polearm, such as a spear or a war-sword. The first of these was procured quickly, as there lay at Lodiyu’s feet the corpse of a Mortiferean Knight with a kukri in his belt sheathed. Many a pole-blade about him lay broken, but only a few steps thence he found an intact glaive.

Eyes glowed in the periphery of the dark near the small burning flame of a spilt cauldron fewer than a hundred yards thence. At least three sets moving just outside of the firelight, and away from the light he could make out an unknown small number of hyena shadows moving about in the moonlight.

As the hyena-shadows drew closer, Lodiyu was able to make out four distinct individuals trotting toward the pile of bodies on which he stood.

Lodiyu grabbed up the glaive and readied himself for the attack. The beasts quieted themselves as they approached him up the slopes of the corpse-mound, and soon grew silent. Then Lodiyu heard a snort from behind. Then a brief cackle to his left, and a whoop to his right. Shadows were darting back and forth. The creatures circled him, as if ravening for a meal.

It could not be so. There were plenty of fresh corpses lying about, and hyenas would rather scavenge a fresh kill than suffer the risk and hard work of bringing down live prey that can fight back. Their behavior was territorial in nature, but there was enough food here they might be somewhat easily dissuaded from attack.

Lodiyu thought he might simply yell at the creatures and frighten them off, but thought it best not to give away his location lest someone or something more dangerous than hyenas were afoot.

The rain intensified.

One of the hyenas darted at Lodiyu, and though Lodiyu tried to impale the beast with his glaive, only managed to stab it in the thigh. The creature yelped and limped quickly away to the others that hastened quickly to comfort it.

Another hyena then assayed at Lodiyu, which he promptly slashed at with his glaive. That hyena too yelped and jumped back.

The hyenas retreated together into the darkness, appearing from Lodiyu’s point of view to merge into a single shadowy form as they left his limited field of vision.

They gave up easy. Not much reason to fight when food is so plentiful. Even so, Lodiyu thought it best to press on and get out of the area as quickly as possible, short of running or otherwise signaling he might be prey.

Lodiyu pushed forth, trampling the broken bodies and rent faces of fallen friends paving the path before him.

Heavily upon his mind and heart remembrances of his beloved Kiriya lay, only shortly sith together they’d planned to handfast upon his return from Necropolis -- but he now feared that day would never come. He would die here, it seemed to him, but at least he would die honorably in service of his Gods.

Unsteadily Lodiyu ambled finally to the periphery of the pile of bodies, whence evermore sparsely lay the corpses of fallen warriors, and found thankfully solid footing beneath his feet between the bodies.

His throat parched, his mouth dry, Lodiyu began looking around at the corpses of enemy and ally alike for an intact waterskin. Quickly he came upon one and went to pry it from its place wedged half-under the body of a Mortiferean Knight, when the body stirred and began rousing, letting a moan escape his torn mouth. Lodiyu started and instinctively stomped at the man’s head, again and again until he felt crunching and sloshing beneath his blood-soaked boot.

Lodiyu drank from the waterskin, glutting down even the last drop, and let forth a sigh of relief as he slung the strap from his shoulder so that it hung at his hip, and he marched on.

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