him, deferred to Tobin when it came to the bow. Since injuring his ankle, the long range weapons of the Kifzo had become the focus of his training. Tobin could still fight hand to hand better than most but with unsure footing it only made sense to cater to his strengths.
Tonight Kaz opted to lead the second group from the coast. With little cover, they easily faced the highest risk. Tobin caught the significance of Kaz’s choice for his group; taking Durahn as well as several others caught chuckling earlier at his brother’s expense.
Always thinking, eh Kaz? Punish the ones confident enough to challenge you by giving them the most dangerous position. And if they should fall tonight, you’ve cleansed the infection before it spreads.
Tobin took a moment to review the positioning of his warriors one last time. Including himself, the most skilled archers waited in back and occupied the best vantage point. They would hold their position the longest. In front of the lead archers, Tobin organized the Kifzo according to experience.
Satisfied with the formation, he made one final check over his equipment, examining his bow for any cracks, though he already knew none existed. He notched an arrow, crept into position, and locked his sight on the animal pen. Walor came up behind him. The two exchanged a nod.
Tobin waited for what seemed like hours when, in fact, he knew only minutes had passed. Anticipation had always been his least favorite part of an attack. During the time when all one could do was wait, his mind drifted off to images that so often haunted his dreams. Corpses of all ages, shapes, and sizes—men, women and children alike. Each of them stabbed, slashed, gored, or mutilated. Their eyes seemed to hold just enough life to pierce his soul deeper than any sword thrust could.
The images didn’t frighten him like they once had though. He had grown accustomed to their company years ago. Yet it never made his nights any more restful, or the moments before a battle any less unnerving.
His head turned at a sudden movement and he saw the second group far closer than he would have expected them to be, still unnoticed. Their lookouts are useless. We’ll be lucky to get more than a couple shots off before they’re engaged at this rate.
A war cry filled the night and Tobin concluded that Kaz had reached a similar decision as the once creeping warriors rushed the village at a full sprint. Loud clanging erupted from the animal pens and Tobin saw villagers scrambling to ready themselves. He aimed his bow, shouting “Now!” without looking back. A hail of arrows rained down, striking man and animal alike. Screams echoed across the landscape. The archers fired their second volley as men charged down the uneven slope, crying out in unison. Between the second and third flight of arrows, Tobin spared a glance and saw the first group of Kifzo fast approaching the hut clusters on the opposite side of the village.
The remainder of Tobin’s group released four rounds of arrows before the charging Kifzo engaged the villagers. Tobin signaled his men to fan out as they made their way down to the action, pausing here and there to pick off anyone escaping. Despite their numbers, the outmatched villagers died in droves. Tobin found little joy in slaughtering fishermen, but it was his task, and a life of blood was all Tobin knew.
Moving in close, he saw Kifzo already searching huts, a sign that the worst was over. As if the bloodied bodies were not evidence enough. So many dead in so little time.
Soon after entering the clusters, piercing screams reverberated in his ears, women and children crying out, some for help, others for mercy. Tobin knew neither would come.
Unable to turn away from the scenes of entire families being murdered, raped, or both, his stomach lurched and he swallowed back bile. Devilish grins filled the faces of those warriors already satiating their lusts, men he’d known and trained with most of his life.
Sadie Grubor, Monica Black