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Desertion - Printable Version

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Desertion - TheGngrNoob - 12-18-2018 08:10 PM

As I have done practically zero hobby all year (although I have a box of goodies to make) I thought I would paste in a short story I wrote. Granted it is for 9tg Age, but it fits

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The light was blinding. Between the sun burning above, and the reflecting light from the pale sand below, the dozen men could hardly see. Yet it wasn’t what they headed towards that they feared. How long had they run? One hour? Two? Henryk prayed it was long enough. But prayer wasn’t dragging him through the desert. Animalistic survival kept his legs moving despite the excruciating cramps.

Onwards they ran. The nearest human enclave was in the shade of the Sky Mountains, yet that was over a days march away. A full dozen had already succumbed to the desert. Johann was the first. Swallowed up by loose quicksand. Poor lad had no chance. Radek was next. He'd lost his mind to the heat. The crazy bastard decided to stand and fight. They left him with weapons and the grace of the Gods. Kamil was still running despite injury. Jakub lead the group on. He'd led them before. But this wasn't guarding a caravan. This was survival.

They had dressed for a warm climate. Not this. Not the Ashen Desert. Henryk wrapped the tattered rags of his uniform tight around his mouth. The sandstorm clogged up already dry mouths, choking at raw throats. Torn clothing intermingled with scorched skin, while feet blistered inside leather boots. Henryk grabbed at his flask and drained the last few drops. Survival was their aim but they had not prepared for this journey.

As they ran the sand shifted from fine sand to rough stones. Kamil fell, his stray arm dragging Henryk to the ground beside him. Henryk could feel the bruising already swelling in his chest. He staggered back to his knees and grabbed the fallen man.

“Come on!” Henryk pleaded, “Get up!”

Henryk tried to pull his companion up. Kamil stood up, shifted his weight, and then fell. Henryk knew he couldn’t wait with the fallen man. He couldn’t afford to lose the group.
“I’m sorry,” Henryk said, already holding his knife. He held his companion, thrust the knife through his side, and left with the man’s flask. It was the humane thing to do, Henryk told himself. In the desert it makes sense to be selfish. At least he wouldn’t be alive when they caught up with him.

Henryk could still see the purple outline of his group. He doubled his efforts to catch up, lest he become separated. Looking back, the whirling desert sand consumed the fallen man.

Another hour had passed. At least that's what Henryk had guessed from the hunger in his belly. The sun lowered in the sky and the wind began to calm. A brief lull from the cloying sand. Yet the respite was over almost as it began. For the shrill note of a trumpet carried along the wind. Henryk felt the blood drain from his face. They couldn't have caught up.

"Scatter!" yelled Jakub.

Legs moved on instinct. Henryk and two others veered left. Four others veered right. Two clattered against one another. Scrambling on the floor, the man had turned his head as spittle soaked teeth crunched into his skull.

Whips cracked and trumpets sounded as the attackers charged through the group. Cleaved in two by a chariot scythe, Janek's top half flopped in a wet mess, staining the pale desert floor. A net swung from the pursuers entangled Merek, a large warhound pinning him to the ground.

Henryk risked a glance back. He wished he hadn't. The double headed hound glared four dark eyes at him, baring wicked rows of broken teeth. In his group of three, Henryk knew he didn't have to out run the dog. Just one of his comrades. Henryk unbuckled his pack, swung it across his body, threw it in front of his friend's legs. The man fell. Henryk ran, the sounds of screaming and crunching forever ingrained in his mind.

He carried on running.
Running until his lungs coughed up globs of sand.
Running until the only sound in his ears was the wind.

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The large fire crackled intensely. The acrid smell of burning flesh filled Thagon's nostrils as he tossed another body part onto the flames. The fire made him yearn for his volcanic home. Fifty years of banishment would not extinguish that spark. Thagon shook the thought away and threw a man's leg into the fire.

In the shadows of the fire, mutated hounds toyed with a wounded man. Nipping at his hands and feet as he reached for a discarded knife. Thagon had seen this in the past. Sometimes the kill was fast. Other times they would play for hours before sinking in the killing blow. In his state he wouldn't be of use as a slave. The snarling hounds, and screams of the man, made for a sonorous assault on the surviving men.

The golden chariot slowed to a halt, wheels slick with human blood. The beast pulling the chariot snorted and lay down. Slave Master Bharkhorth climbed down from his carriage, glaring at the shackled captives.

Bharkhorth stroked his long black beard and took a step towards the nearest slave. He raised his club and brought it crashing into the prisoner's ribs. The man fell hard to his knees, winded. Bharkhorth laughed heartily at the man's pain.

"Did you really believe you could escape?" Bharkhorth sneered, "We could have taken you from the moment you fled the battle. You are our prize to do with whatever we wish."
Bharkhorth yanked the chains, pulling the soldier to stare into his eyes.
"Whatever...We...Wish!"
Bharkhorth released the chains. The man fell forward dragging the other slaves face first into the scorching sand.

"Thagon, mark the prisoners. I would like to be back by nightfall." Bharkhorth turned back to his chariot, prodding the side of the sleeping beast with his club.

Thagon bowed his head respectively. He strode towards the blazing fire and reached for the black iron bar in the flames. As he reached the first slave, he raised the glowing sign. A single eye inset a crown. The revered symbol of Lord Ahkalaz.