Chapter 10

by Ski Hemulen

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Otmakla felt numb. She was wide awake, aggressive and quick-moving in the night scenery, but she felt detached. Her house was crumbling around her. Her family. It was of no consolation that so was the Romjid house. She couldn’t stop the thought that she’s destroying both her and Romial’s families in one stroke. It was too horrifying to contemplate deeply.

She went on. There was no plan, no way to guide her people or change their course after the ambush. She walked slowly towards the Romjid household. Around her people killed and died. A man came at her, moving in a defensive stance, holding a long knife. He looked inexperienced. She walked on, then suddenly rolled forward in angle, slightly distancing herself from the Romjid man, picking up a long fallen branch and hitting his hand in a smooth motion as she rose. He lost grip of his knife. She closed the distance, and he raised his hands to protect his chest and face. She stabbed him in the stomach and retreated quickly, continuing her walk as he fell to the ground crying. The stomach wound almost guaranteed a slow death. She preferred the neck, but couldn’t take the chance. He was crying like a young boy. He probably was her own age. Maybe Preki cried that way when the Romjid killed him. She wanted to cry herself, but felt so far from it all, in a numb shell.

She sat down in the long grass, then lay there, three hundred paces from the Romjid walls.

What have I done?

Then chance came. Two men walking in a quick pace, one of them cursing furiously. She knew the cursing man. Romjigan. They walked by her quickly. She didn’t move. After they passed she rolled to her stomach and looked. When they were far enough she raised herself to her feet and started moving in a slow crouch, as quietly as possible, after them.

She had to act fast. In a moment he will start climbing the hill and then she’ll be under him if she attacked.

So she just walked quietly, drawing near. It became quite noisy, people shouting and crying further up the mountain.

Honor would not allow her to do what she was doing. Common sense wouldn’t either. They were two, and if they heard her she would probably die.

But she just approached. They were talking, looking up. She ran and jumped on Romjigan’s back, holding his head with one hand and putting the knife in front of him with the other. He gave a scream.

She slit his throat, cutting forcefully and deeply. The scream became a gurgle. He thrashed with his hands in anger and fear. She pushed him away with force.

The other man was shocked. She stabbed him in the stomach and kicked him to make him fall back, writhing in pain.

She went to Romjigan, who was still thrashing on the ground, face down and stabbed him in the back several times until he stopped moving. Then held his hair and started hacking at his neck, severing his head. It was hard work and took her several minutes. It also made her sick. She gagged a few times. At last with head in hand she started walking around and shouting.

‘Romjigan is dead. Romjid, run away and we’ll let your house live after we take a share of loot!’

A few of her house started gathering around her.

‘Stoyanjid, let Romjid who want to run go!’ she shouted.

It worked slowly. The remnant of her house gathered. Nine Stoyanjid men, thirteen mercenaries. The Romjid were leaving, some carrying the wounded.

Tomsh wasn’t among the men who returned. Neither was Fitore. Well, she saw him get hurt. Perhaps he survived. She was too shocked to take it all in, walking, holding the heavy head of Romjigan.

She walked with her people towards the gates. An arrow was shot at them from inside. Her men were quick in braking in, and the resistance was taken care of. They entered the courtyard. She gave orders. They had to take supplies for winter. And weapons. Her house will have to change. She will offer shelter to the mercenaries for winter, but she needed more food for that. Carts would have to be taken. And some livestock.

After the rush of commands she stood among the bodies of the last Romjid guards, staring into space.

Suddenly she felt Romial’s presence. She turned around but no one was there. She felt a rush of panic. He was in great distress, and somehow she knew where he was.

She started running, fatigue gone, fear for the last of her family, or perhaps all of it now, filling her.

She ran through the night until the dim moonlight revealed a man prostrate over an unmoving figure. She rushed over there with a roar of rage.

The man jumped back, holding his pants with his hands. She started running after him when she saw Romial. He was on the ground, unmoving, lower body naked, covered with blood. His face was a mess of blood. She wouldn’t have recognized him. Only the strong feeling of his presence made her certain that it was him. She let the running man flee, and tried to tend to Romial.

*****

Romial woke. He was in a bed in an unfamiliar small and dark room. His face hurt. His mouth hurt. His body hurt. He remembered what happened more or less, but couldn’t understand it. It seemed like he ran and found Otmakla and called her to help him. But that was preposterous, going to call Otmakla to help him while Timotei… His mind recoiled from the memory. He felt bile coming up his throat and turned over the edge of the bed, throwing up on the floor. He spat. He could feel the wounded gap were Timotei smashed out his teeth with a rock. He lost the two left incisors and three teeth to the left of them on his upper jaw, and both front incisors and four teeth to the left on his lower jaw. From the pain he suspected his upper jaw was cracked, and his nose was probably broken. He couldn’t breathe through it. He never thought of himself as a pretty sight but this would make it worse. I would make him look more like what he felt – a filthy, broken and defiled traitor.

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