The temple leht in command of their Lord’s advanced troop made the right decision.
This pitiful village had little to no prepared defenses and its denizens, never mind the heretic’s aid, should’ve been easy to subjugate. However, after the initial success, his two lehta strong force lost fifteen of its fifty warriors.
Dashing with amazing speed, one small critter of alien origin made short work of more than a dozen armored, blessed by Rot’s holy messenger, leht. The rebellious peons also resisted and quite stubbornly so; he’d slain at least twelve wimpy children, who attacked him armed with sharpened farming tools. They and a couple of elderly peons who assailed his personal retinue, foolishly charging out from their stinking hovels. Each of them defiantly screamed something in that filthy Terr’aan tongue as they perished, slain by his zhatarn.
However obnoxious and deranged these heretics were in their pointless impudence, after his crossbowmen felled the hopping alien, all organized resistance quickly crumbled. No matter the casualties, it was a victory and his remaining leht soon broke rank – they were owed first spoils for their gallantry, after all.
He himself was having an urge and, bloodied zhatarn in hand, the noble leht took one good look around. Unsatisfied he roamed these lands since his last visit of Temple’s now desecrated Sanctuary! Now, a mere minute after he scoured his surroundings, he laid his eyes upon the very thing which was once so easily attained.
A little girl crawled between the dead bodies, her filthy hands clutching a babe. All the dirt and blood couldn’t hide her long, beautifully braided hair, well-proportioned face and supple lips.
She looked at him with so much terror, such hatred, yet her almond shaped, red eyes were probably her best feature. The leht hungrily licked his parched lips and walked over the scores of dead, calmly. He felt as if the proper order of things had been restored and he, again visiting the personal quarters of his priestly lords. The place where all urges were always satisfied and his blessed by Rot comrades spent many blissful days.
Wounded, the little girl was unable to run away and yet, he allowed her to try. She made one dozen paces, before he easily caught up and tripped her. Amazingly, instead of dropping her cargo, she rolled and fell on her back, the babe safe in her hands. The girl kept crawling away, little by little, and the leht sheathed his zhatarn, eyes savoring his treat. Her back hit a toppled epes cart; with a happy smile, he stood over her mid street and stated:
“If you surrender yourself to me, peon, then I shall... I will be gentle. My promise as a Temple leht, this babe of yours shall come to no harm, only if you do not resist.”
The look in her almond-shaped, red eyes changed from pure terror to something else.
Instead of pleading for mercy or better yet, simply agreeing for the sake of that useless lump of meat she held in her arms, the girl smiled. Then she laughed victoriously, her hand unwrapping the clutched bundle. Instead of a babe, something which he could use to torment her, break her will and force the girl into obedience, what he saw was a bundle of dry twigs!
“Come at me you slime!”
This crafty little bitch!
She tricked him into thinking that was a babe in her hands, while someone else probably escaped with that shite smelling... thing! No matter – peons were malnourished and weak. Whoever lugged the babe, they couldn’t have run so far away that his leht couldn’t find them. For a stupid peon to sacrifice themselves so some baby could live, was the most useless act the leht had ever witnessed.
The dirty fools could make another one of their stinking things. They bred like desert rodents and no matter how many of them died, there was always more to till the nekhtu fields.
The leht’s calm, sadistic laughter echoed across the covered with butchered bodies street, as his shadow loomed over her tiny body.
“Then you chose the other way, fool!”
“Yes, I made my choice.” – The girl’s smile became wider, and she grabbed a small knife from her belt, pressing its sharp blade at her throat.
A strange, rhythmic thump could be heard in the distance and that sound, it was getting progressively louder. Whatever it was, the leht could not tear his eyes from her face – his warriors could take care of themselves.
So defiant, so rebellious she was! Oh, that new treat of his, he’d make sure it lasted more than all previous treats.
Exactly as quick as it shifted before, the emote pouring out of her beautiful red eyes, changed again. Startled and even laden with faint hope, her eyes focused on something behind him. Was she delusional or was that a poor attempt at tricking him? He could not deliberate further, because another sound joined the thump and this time, it was one which he remembered well.
The brutal, terrifying roar of Terr’aan weapon fire suddenly echoed, multiple booms followed by death throes and then someone shouted in Lothorian:
“Leht, your lives are forfeit! Abandon all hope of survival, for my Terran heart is void of mercy and I will not relent! Not until every single one of you dies screaming...”
This is an excerpt from my Starshatter anthology. If you like what you read, you can grab both paperback and digital copy of A Mandate Of Sword And Railgun here.