An eye for an eye

by Chip Dunning

Every day Nah’rim walked along the trail between his village that that of his cousin he passed by the Irillian village that spread lazily over the land that once belonged to his people. Surrounded by a wooden wall and overlooked by a tall stone and wood tower it held within its long arms the berry bushes where he used to gather food for his mother. While his older brothers were away on the hunt, he helped with the chores until he was old enough to hunt.

Then five years ago the Irillians came with their steel soldiers and powerful shaman that drove the Pah far from the Pah Shur. They burned Pah villages, stole their goats, and killed their men. Finally, the villages gave up and moved farther to the south to avoid being hunted by the Irillians and their barbarous rite of stealing an opponent’s ear after battle.

Every morning Nah’rim vowed that one day he would sneak over those walls and burn those bushes so the invaders would never more get any more pleasure from his family’s work. Like the morning fog that thought quickly faded as the reality of the situation caused Nah’rim to hurry up and finish his errand for his mother so that he spend the rest of the afternoon hunting. He still needed some redbird and green piper feathers to complete his marriage wreath for Illith. Their ceremony was scheduled for the next full moon so he had less than a week to finish.

He had spent more time at his cousin’s village than he wanted, so it was almost nightfall when he neared his own village. However he heart was bursting and step light because he had captured enough feathers with his cousin’s help to finish the wreath. All of that good joy turned to ash in his mouth when he at last caught sight of his village, or what remained of his village.

The smell of smoke and burnt flesh hung heavy in the damp evening air as Nah’rim stumbled towards his family’s hut. Bodies pierced by Irillian spears lay scattered about as stones cast by an angry child. Mothers bodies were atop their children who they tried in vain to shield from the death visited upon them by the invaders. Inside the ashen remains of one tent he found where his two young siblings and mother had died.

The children each still clutched a javelin as they sought to protect their mother while she called to the spirits for help. If the spirits answered Nah’rim he would never know as the Irillians were obviously not killed in sufficient numbers as they were able to carry away their dead. Still in a daze he staggered over to Illith’s tent, his heart stopped in sheer terror.

He almost exploded in joy to discover her body nowhere to be found. She must have escaped into the woods where the Irillians would never venture. He sprinted mindlessly through the woods calling her name as loudly as he could. As the sky opened up and the rains came he began tripping over exposed roots and sliding in the slick mud. One such time he slid into a shallow ravine and landed atop a body.

Her hollow eyes stayed the empty thoughts of the dead at him. As Nah’rim scrambled up he saw another and another young woman, naked and beaten at the bottom of the ravine. Killed and thrown away after the soldiers had their enjoyment. His heart sank further when he saw his beautiful Illith atop the pile of bodies.

For four days the rains hammered down as the sky sought wash the last remains of his people from his beloved earth. Nah’rim tended the fire as best as he mixed in something from each villager into his stew. By drinking of their blood and consuming of their flesh they would be intertwined for all time and their memory not lost. Although the ceremony is usually only reserved for direct kin and blood-bonded, Nah’rim took from all fifty people that once lived in the village. It was a sickening act that finally ended on the night he would have wed Illith.

The blood was still dripping from his mouth as the lifted the club he had fashioned from his people. The club was from the central pole that held up his Illith’s tent, which he then covered in tar and rolled into the flint stones he gathered from each tent. On the very top was the boar charm that his mother used to call the spirits. It was a fearsome weapon that would cave in the skull of any Irillian he met.

At the time he should have been dancing with Illith, Nah’rim left his village for the last time and headed towards the Irillian walls. Two hour later he settled down in a small hidey he used to use to watch as the invaders built the great wall. Now he used it to find a place to climb over the daunting structure. Near the south wall he found a spot where the wall itself case a dark shadow across the land.

With the skills of a experienced hunter, Nah’rim crept up to the base of the wall without anyone raising an alarm. Using the small stubs the the cut branches, he quickly climbed to the top and dropped into the courtyard on the other side. The sound of footsteps on the walkway above drove him east along the way until he at last found cover in the same berry bushes he used to eat from as a child.

Nah’rim was getting ready to move towards the inner wall when the door on one of the buildings opened bathing light over the berry bushes. As he hugged the ground praying nobody saw him he heard the sound of girls laughing nearby. As the darkness returned he looked up and saw five young girls carrying baskets approach the bushes.

As the girls began to clean off the bushes on the perimeter the moved closer to where Nah’rim lay in wait. When the dark-haired girl who had never seen her tenth summer approached his bush, Nah’rim leaped up and swung his club with hate and thirst for the Irillian’s blood. The club caught the girl square in the face crushing her head under its weight as the flint shards tore at her flesh. The body of the girl was flung aside as the doll of a spoiled child, crashing into the nearby bush.

The girls were frozen in shock as Nah’rim moved among them like a beast bent upon their destruction. Two more died from crushed skulls before the others recovered enough to run. The younger girls scream died mid-uttering when he caught her and tore open the back of her head. Again the door to the house opened and the eldest girl ran towards its safety, until a rock thrown by Nah’rim hit her in the back and sent her tumbling.

Nah’rim dropped on top of her as the soldier in the doorway with the lantern ran to investigate. The girl held up her arms to keep that murderous weapon away, but it was no use. First her arms broke under its weight then it rained down blows with hatred precision. She had long stopped moving, but still Nah’rim beat upon her until nothing remained of her head by a jellied stain and bits of bone. Bits of flesh, blood, and brains covered Nah’rim when he stood from his deed and faced the soldier from the house.

As Irillian soldier in the coat called for his fellow soldiers, Nah’rim reached out and grabbed a fistful of berries from the nearest bush. He crushed them and used the juice to mark the sign of the boar upon his head. Screaming out the name of Illith he charged the guards.

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