Mystery Assailant – A Short Story

He moved so fast, I didn’t see it coming.

One swift strike to the side of the head and I’m virtually out to it, non-responsive, with a ring-side seat to what transpires next.

He charges at the next of my men, Balian, a steward, an honest old man but hardly a warrior of any merit.  

Balian is hit twice, first in the stomach and next on his bearded chin, enough to knock him completely senseless.

I try to move but my mind feels a million miles away from my body, I feel like I weigh a thousand pounds, I’m helpless, I’ve let them down, I’m going to watch my friends die.

I crumble inside, aware of but not resigned to my fate, I can’t let my friends die like this.

The man seems to be gathering momentum with every blow he delivers, he moves so well, he looks so strong, he’s an inspired killing machine, yet to land the first devastating blow.

He glides across the sand and he readies himself to engage again as more of my men approach.

Balian groans on the ground and the man acknowledges it, pulling a dagger from his left thigh, a mercy kill perhaps?

I’m still here though. He must think I am already dead.

A sharp object slices its way through the wind as the man’s dagger hand is met with an arrow, only seconds before Balian was due to meet an untimely end.

The man snaps the arrow in half and attempts to drive the dagger into Balian’s throat, but his wrist is met by the hands of Haynes, our best fighter and a worthy opponent.

Another arrow pierces the air and this time it lands near the man’s heart, a killing blow for many, but not for this agent of death.

He grimaces in pain and tussles with Haynes who manages to overcome him, rolling him off of Balian, who now attempts to assume a commanding position over this colossus of a man.

A quick kick to the chest from the colossus sees Balian tumble over once more, undoubtedly for his own good.

Still engaged with Haynes the man turns on his side, and another arrow infiltrates the skin, this time it is the heart, sudden death.

Haynes lays down, exhaling fiercely. Balian kneels over, overcome with relief after cheating death.

I lay there, dizzy and defeated, I don’t care that I feel the way I feel, I care that other’s almost died because of my inability to act fast enough.

“I don’t miss twice Haynes!” a voice cut through the sand.

“Don’t miss twice?! I can see three arrows here you stupid boy!” Haynes spat.

Arthur, young, clever and an artist with a bow, he marched down to where the man laid, pulling out two arrows from the dead skin, they made a squelching sound as they left the body.

“Well I had to have a little fun, I couldn’t let you two enjoy it all.” He laughed.

I watched Balian cast a look of disgust at Arthur, one I had seen many times before, as the old man staggered his way over to me, placing his hand on my forehead.

“Are you okay sir?”

“I’m fine thank you Balian, just some bruised pride that’s all.”

“Ah we can all use that every so often, providing we dust ourselves off again.”

Balian always had a way of making you feel as though a lesson had just been learnt, no matter the circumstances.

Right now I didn’t want to hear it though, people had almost died because of me, himself included, yet here he was holding no ill will, a loyal and faithful man to the very end.

If a lack of combat nous didn’t kill Balian, loyalty would, he knows no end to it, but I’m forever grateful for it, God knows where I would be without him.

I still feel dizzy as I lean forward on one knee, mentally shot, I run my hands through my long brown hair, it’s curly and full of sand, I’m a leader but a failure, how can they possibly trust me in the future?

This disposition I have of myself is my biggest downfall, I’ve always been a brilliant fighter and a loyal friend, and I was chosen to lead for a reason.

But self-sabotage is my arch nemesis, one I can’t shake nor expect other people to understand, now there’s a realisation this self-doubt may get others killed.

Get it together you fool!

The others join where the man lay. We are a party of eight, and we come from the city of Halucia, a prominent place and a location where some of the wealthiest humans continue to reside on planet Odon.

As part of Halucia’s governing law, we are required to tend the needs of surrounding smaller cities and villages, providing they plead fealty to us.

The small village of Erazmus had requested our aid, reports that close to a dozen invaders had attempted to seize control of the village overnight, the invaders attempted to flee upon our arrival, but we hunted them down, it was the right thing to do after the innocent lives they had taken only hours earlier.

We were almost back at Halucia when the unknown figure attacked us, and how we didn’t see him I’ll never know.

“Did anyone see where he came from?” Haynes said.

“We don’t get snuck up on like that. How did that happen? We are better than that.”

Haynes stands slightly below me in height but casts a far more intimidating picture.

He has short brown hair and blue eyes, he’s strong and a hunk of muscle, fast when he needs to be and rarely beaten in one-on-one combat.

“I-I don’t know where he came from.” A man with long black hair strode over to the body of our fallen enemy, stroking his beard in search of answers.

“It doesn’t seem like anyone does Lockhart.” Balian replied, staring at the body on the ground.

“For goodness sake someone must have saw something!”

Haynes was growing impatient, not only frustrated that someone could come this close to killing one of us, but also frightened that they almost did.

It made me nervous seeing Haynes nervous. I finally rediscovered my ability to talk again.

“What does he have on him? Anything that can help us determine where he may be from?”

“Nothing, it seems sir, he had the dagger, he has a sword, these robes are completely plain also, nothing special about them,” Lockhart determined.

“Should I have not killed him?” Arthur said, now sitting on the sand, eyes fixated on the cleaning of his two arrows.

He no longer seemed interested in what had happened only moments earlier, for a skinny blonde-haired kid, you could argue he was the bravest of all of us, or perhaps simply the most foolish.

more to come?

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