He was a wolf, barely human. The stench of death clung to him like an old scab on an infected wound. A rag that might have at one time been some sort of trousers was wrapped around his thighs leaving the pale milky flesh of his gaunt and starved upper body exposed to the snow now falling steadily in the dim light of twilight. His tiny hands were wrapped around a short sword that must have come from one of the bodies of the soldiers lying dead around the burnt remnants of the small village.
Benjamin took a step toward the boy, but stopped when the child let out a low growl and shouted something in the silky language of the Hakuro Gozu. The boy could be scarcely more than eight, and his long black hair lay as a tangled matted mess across his shirtless back. Through the mud on his face Benjamin could make out a long wound from the boy's right shoulder down to just above his navel. The wound didn't look to be deep, but was red from infection. Through feverish eyes, the boy stared, both fearfully and wild, like a cornered, wounded dog.
Benjamin looked around the destroyed village and felt a small pang of pity for this wild animal of a human. The Hakuro Gozu were known to be the most frightening warriors on the battle field possessing an unnatural quickness and fluidity of motion and dexterity. Their strength, dexterity, and natural acrobatic fluidity made even the youngest of girls a weapon that a battle seasoned veteran wary. Yet in the end even that hadn't saved them from the empire's growing reach. Even though there were ten of the soldiers of the Hand of the Emperor to every one Hakuro Gozu, the Emperor had again managed to eradicate the last known threat to the Kingdom. Everywhere he looked, Benjamin could see bodies lying in the street while the last glowing embers of what used to be their proud village lay smoldering. Looking up Benjamin watched the first snow of winter fall gently on the destroyed village slowly covering the rubble and the bodies as if the gods themselves were trying to hide the scathing wound in the earth.
A small commotion brought Benjamin back to his senses. From underneath a crude shelter, that was easily mistaken for just more rubble, a young baby crawled out. Malnourished to nearly the point of death, the young child crawled feebly onto the snow and looked up slowly at Benjamin. Hallow, empty, brown almond shaped eyes stared like a dried up pool of water leaving only mud at its base. Too weak to even cry, the child sat next to the boy. The boy looked down at the child and instantly moved directly in front of him as if to protect him from Benjamin and his group.
Finally Benjamin sighed and turned to his second in command. "Take them, if you have to club the older one then do it, but keep them alive." The small mousy man nodded and walked toward the two children. Trying to make soothing noises to the child he bent down to pick up the younger boy, but the older child screamed something and took a swipe at Gerald with his sword managing to cut deep into his left shoulder. Before Benjamin could do anything, Gerald roared and drew his own blade and swung at the boy. Even with being half starved and already wounded, the boy managed to jump back and bring the short sword right into the man's thigh. Giving a groan of pain Gerald stepped back dislodging the sword from his thigh and stumbled and fell to the ground. As he did so some of his blood fell upon the boy covering his mud covered face and body making him look more of a demon. With another scream the boy charged the injured man and brought the sword up, preparing to swing at his head. Benjamin quickly grabbed a broken piece of wood from one of the burnt houses and clubbed the back of the boy's head. The boy laid there in the snow, a small trickle of blood dripping from his matted hair and starting to stain the fresh, white snow crimson.
Benjamin motioned for one of his men to come and help Gerald back to one of the wagons, while he bent down and carefully picked up the motionless body of the boy. As he did a small cry pierced the silence of the falling snow. The child had crawled to the unconscious boy and with tiny hands clung hard to the cloth of the older boy. Bending down, Benjamin managed to scoop up both children and carried them to the caravan.
Behind them snow continued to fall on the destroyed village of the Hakuro Gozu as if the gods themselves were weeping their holy tears. Benjamin grunted in distaste. The tears of the gods were like the snow, cold, uncaring, and only covered up the pain of the earth for a season.