Spies and Sentries
I stopped. I wasn't alone.
The full moon shone brightly overhead, causing my copper axe to gleam wickedly. I
didn't want to look suspicious, so I bent down and studied the ground. Of course there was
nothing- the snow had stopped falling under an hour ago, though now the skies were crystal
clear. A foot broke through the snow behind me, which had already gotten a kind of crust atop it.
A shiver ran up my spine. I felt as if Death himself were following me. My grip on the
axe tightened until my knuckles went white.
There was no point in pretending anymore. I knew who they were. I knew they were
there. And they knew it. So there was only one thing to do. I thrust my unfinished bow into the
snow, and twisted around. I bellowed the traditional challenge: "The great Tihnay-er as my
witness, I slay you in defense of me and my own!"
Now they couldn't hide. They couldn't just sit now, not without asserting my power over
them. I waited, my spear rubbing uncomfortably on my thigh. Remaining alert, I undid the strap
at my waist and let it fall to the ground, where the snow absorbed all the sound. Every muscle in
my body was tense. But nothing happened.
After a full minute passed, I began to relax. 'You're too paranoid,' I told myself, pushing
my long, grimy hair out of my face.
But, then again, why shouldn't I've been? After all, I was a spy. 'Oh, how did we get
ourselves into this?' I asked myself, knowing the answer full well. We coveted their land. But
why couldn't we just have come to a peaceful agreement? We never even entertained that idea!
But before I had the time to think on it farther, two figures burst from the snow, fully
clad in white. One thrust with his knife, and I threw out my hand to stop it. The knife cut through
my hand between my thumb and forefinger, causing an explosion of pain. I dropped the axe and
cursed, then stooped down for my spear. The pain was nearly intolerable. But I succeeded in
pushing it to the background, then cursed myself for allowing myself to be caught unawares. But
it didn't matter. Another knife came into my vision and I deflected it with the butt of my spear,
parrying with a swift slash to the gut. The other's blade swept right over my head, and I thrust
the butt of my spear into his chest. He staggered back, but took my spear as I attempted to pull
away. In one swift move, I rolled over for the axe. We circled, him with my spear, I with my
copper axe. The moon smiled wickedly overhead, proclaiming that death had come that night. In
its light, my axe appeared to have a coat of shining blood.
Suddenly, he charged. I dodged and went down for a parry. He jumped my blade and
swung a vertical strike, which hardly missed my head, coming into contact with my arm with a
sickening crack. When I looked, I saw my arm was bent at an awkward angle in the middle of
the forearm. But I didn't even have time to scream in pain, for he was pressing the attack. I
played defense for a while, blocking his advances. Finally, I got my chance. He raised the spear
over his head, and I swung with all my might. The axe split straight through his abdomen,
spraying blood and guts everywhere. But the spear was still falling. I twisted and covered my
head, so the spear slammed into my back. I could already feel the bruise starting.
I stood over the two halves of his body, panting and shivering. In the sudden calm, I
realized just how terrified I was. I felt a tingling in my hand, my arm, and (to a lesser extent) my
back. My breathing steadied, and I stood fully erect. I looked around.
Something was wrong. I couldn't pinpoint what. I tried to recall exactly what had
transpired while I was fighting, but it was all a fuzzy memory. Then it hit me. I looked around
urgently for the second body. Gone.
And my bow was gone with it.
Kkkkh. The snow gave way behind me. I dropped my axe in favor of my spear. I fell over
in an attempt to grab it, and hardly managed to block my enemy's first strike. He must have lost
his knife, because his weapon was my unfinished bow. He struck again and again, the force of
the blows pounding through my arms as I blocked them with my spear. I couldn't keep it up
much longer. He swung at my head, and I ducked, thrusting my spear into his ribs. I heard the
crack before I knew what was happening. Bow raised over his head, blood started to dribble
from his open mouth. He coughed and sputtered. I looked a little higher, straight into his eyes.
The grotesque image held me fast. I saw his contempt, but also something beneath that.
Fear. I saw the fear that was overwhelming him in his last moments. I only hoped it would never
happen to me. Through his obvious hate, I saw... Pleading. He seemed to be beseeching my
forgiveness. Not only that, but it seemed as if he thought that somehow I could keep him from
death. His eyes got colder and dimmer as I watched, horrified. His blood was dribbling all over
my hands, but I didn't take any notice. I continued to stare into those almost-lifeless eyes for
what seemed like eternity. Finally, his look became utterly vacant, and the bow slipped from his
limp hands. He fell farther onto the spear. I stood and slid him off, the image of his
obvious terror gripping me. In a haze, I gathered all of my things and started to head out. I was
I kept walking.
After several hours of walking by the light of the moon, I sat down to brood. Oh, the
horror in those eyes! It haunted me. More even than the vivid image of the other man's body
split in half. I shuddered.
Then came the sudden pain. Something had come flying through the air and penetrated
my skin. All the muscles in my left shoulder were shredded, and I lost all use of my left arm. I
grabbed my knife from its sheath with my good arm and turned. I saw a figure coming towards
Then came a sudden inspiration- I decided to play dead. I fell over, face down in the
snow. The figure came closer. My muscles tensed, I couldn't even breath, and I knew I was
dying. But I also knew that if I was going to die, I'd take the man who did it with me.
He bent over my body curiously. He raised up my right arm. With the adrenaline rush,
I'd forgotten about my arm, but just holding the knife hurt. Now stabbing pains ran through
every particle of my being. It was all I could do to not scream.
Then he came closer. I pushed with all my might, thrusting my knife deep into his chest.
This time, I didn't look. I couldn't bear it. I pulled the knife out, got up, and walked
about 100 yards farther. Now I could feel my arm. It was throbbing painfully. I whimpered and
cried for a little bit, but I knew it was no use.
I was dying. But I would have to suffer first. The pain overcame me. I couldn't see. I
When finally the spasm was over, I organized all my stuff, in case by some miracle I
survived. Then the lightheadedness kicked in. The pain receded, and I was all woozy.
I recalled the fear in those eyes. Oh, God, it was painful even to see it there in another's
eyes! I began to wonder, 'What now?' What's after this? An inescapable fear gripped me. I
became terrified. I prayed and prayed to the god of mercy, Raiohun, but it was to no avail. The
tears falling incessantly from my eyes like a waterfall, I sat there and formed sounds with my
lips that never came into being.
Eventually, I fell unconscious. I was swallowed into the void, the endless pit, the place
where all must go, but none has ever seen. The void of naught. The abyss some call death.
The cadaver lay there in a spreading pool of red ice, never to move again. The wind
mourned and swept down to give the vacant face one final goodbye kiss. Its furs twitched
slightly, as if to give the wind their eternal thanks. Presently, the wind abated and snow began to
fall. It seemed as if all were at peace.