This is a little excerpt from a little piece I’m working on. Get Sureshot Rises today!
Griss, family fleeing as fast as they can towards safety, sat in the homestead he built with his own hands. He was stoically drinking from a goblet at the table he also built. He stared straight ahead at nothing, seeing past the walls of his homes at oblivion. The man’s eyes were red from crying but no tears were left and only the dried salty stains on his face were evidence that they were ever there. The sounds outside did not stir him. There were screams and cries from the other homesteads but they were just hints of the inevitable and he was already beyond worrying about fate. He drank liquor that he fermented himself. The taste was terrible but the drink was comforting and drowned his nerves.
Riders approached and surrounded Griss’ homestead and called out but there was no answer from within. The Dirkan farmer merely continued to sip his goblet and wait. The Rozkol riders were about to toss torches onto the structure but their leader halted them, wondering whether there was any need. The lieutenant called once more but there was no answer nor any sound. He dismounted and approached the house with a sword drawn.
The warrior crept slowly toward the door of the homestead as his men waited with bows ready in case it was an ambush. The Rozkol lieutenant peered through the window and saw only the solitary man seated at the table drinking. Griss saw the rider through the window but did not react. Instead he looked back to the goblet in his hand as if searching for his fate in the reflective liquor.
The Rozkol officer pushed through the door and stood in the door way studying Griss, looking for a sudden movement. The veteran recognized the resolutions in Griss and so he sheathed his sword and stepped to the table and took a seat.
“May I have some?” The soldier asked Griss with a thick accent.
The farmer slowly looked to skin that contained the liquor then to the foreign soldier seated at his table.
“Are you here to kill me?” Griss asked in a low and resolute tone.
“I am,” replied the soldier, “But there is time to share a drink. I am in no hurry.”
Griss considered the words of his executioner but the sentiment didn’t make sense to him. Still, he reasoned it would do no harm to share a drink with the warrior so he tossed the skin to him. The soldier saw a small cup, a child sized one, near him on the table and drew it closer. He untied the skin and poured some liquor into the cup then tasted it. The soldier grit his teeth as the drink burned his throat and belly. Griss chuckled.
“It is strong,” the farmer warned too late.
It took a moment for the warrior to let the sensation pass then he responded with his own laugh, “It is indeed. I imagine it is a good companion for a moment like this.”
Griss agreed but just snorted in approval and took another sip.
The soldier looked about the home and noted the number of seats, cups and the like. “You have a family?” He asked.
“Aye,” Griss answered.
“Where are they?”
Griss thought about his wife and children and hoped they were far away by then. “I sent them away.”
“That was wise. You seem a good man.”
Griss looked up and met eyes with his visitor for the first time. “Why do you say that?”
The soldier stood, still gripping his cup and took another sip. When the burning passed he replied, “Because you did all you could to protect your family. And you remained behind. No doubt you knew they could travel faster without you. So many here have their wives and children huddled together with them. Some men haven’t even bothered to fight to protect them. You, however, you did what you could to save them and you honor them with your sacrifice.”
Griss felt a lump form in his chest while the rider talked of his wife and children and those of the town. “Will you kill them anyways?” Griss wondered.
The rider turned and looked out the window at the farm surrounding the homestead. “Depends,” he began. “Which direction did they go?”
Griss considered lying. He winced thinking that perhaps the man wanted to know where they went so they could run them down. Then it occurred that it probably wouldn’t matter. If they wanted to pursue them, they could. He chose honesty in his last moments, “They went south. Towards Junatum.”
“That is well farmer. We are going to continue east. Your wife and children will not be killed by us. You have done well.”
Griss found new tears knowing that he had given them a chance at life. The rider turned to him and smiled as he stepped closer to the farmer. Griss’ mind was flooded with images of the ones he loved more than anything in the world; even life. He bent over and laid his head on the table and sobbed. The soldier stood by as if guarding him while he grieved.
At last the Rozkol officer comforted Griss, “My friend, you will see them again. You did well.”
Griss lifted his head and looked in the determined eyes of the warrior who greeted him with a smile.
“I am sorry you are suffering. You did all you could,” the soldier added. “Rest now,” he commanded as he drew his sword and plunged it into Griss’ chest severing his heart and pouring his blood all over the home he constructed for his family. They needed it no longer. Now it was his tomb.