Murderer (Gearchon January Story Submission)

His lie through omission wasn’t against the Codicis Iustus Carnifex, but it did always leave a feeling of restlessness behind. It was an ache that was only made worse by the tiring effort put forth when dealing with nobility. That had been several days now, and both feelings had slowly begun to pass; gifted armor had slowly lost the scent of oils and perfumes that it once held to be replaced with that of earth and blood. He had slept the night previous in a burnt out farmhouse where he was able to barricade himself in a room well enough to be protected and dry. A meal of hard cheese and preserved meat along with his decent night’s sleep made ample preparation for the day.

The sun hadn’t yet reached zenith whenever he had found his quarries’ previous night’s camp. Smoke lingered lazily up through the trees and still warm coals flickered their last dying breath. He traveled faster than the group he was tracking and pushed himself ahead of them throughout the day. It was refreshing to be without the facade put up in Nerrowhaven, and it made his strides long and easy.

Since he had awoken on the beach his world had been twisted into some mirror alternative. Gone were the wars fought in blood soaked city streets and the roaming murder-gangs outside of them. From the Britannia that he knew that was most of what he could remember of that horrible anti-life.

It was nearing dusk by the time he found a break in the sparse trees into into a clearing with high grass. He was well ahead of them now, and adjusted his course so that he would intersect their path. He was upwind, which further worked to his advantage. His heart pounded in his ears and he set his jaw to shift focus away from his trembling hands. By normal standards he was strong and fast, but this mirror-world thrived on it’s heroes and gave them the strength to match. The gentle breeze gave him pause to wonder how this world would see him, and if it would give him strength to match.
He could hear the group approaching before he could see them, but it was time for them to see him. He let the lantern flare to life and give rise to shouts of alarm from prey he stalked these past several days.

He pushed down the tremors rumbling through his hands again, and lifted the hood of the thurible; sweet frankincense smoke spilling out into the cooling night air. He breathed in, filling his lungs with it and letting it burn the core of him. He could hear their weapons now; old, stolen, and rusted rushing for another taste of blood.

The helmet was made from steel and bone with his arming cap already carefully fitted inside. Leather straps held the skull-face to the helmet, and it was a poor substitution for the properly constructed one buried in memory. It fit as made for him, and he didn’t exhale the smoke until he was turning to look at the first of the group to approach him.

Gaerchon, the the name he earned.

The first was only ten paces away when he was finally looking towards them. His heart and breathing slowed to become a metronome to the flow of battle. His sword and shield were taken ready in his hands and his body shifted as the first was three paces away.

Gear, the sea. Both dreadful and holy. He was born again of it; washed of sins in exile.

The first blow came down towards Gearchon from an overhand swing. A clumsy flail from an iron-hafted mace that was met halfway by an upward thrust shield. A slash across the legs of the first pressed momentum to the left; crushed bone folded under the sagging weight of rent muscle to send the first toppling to the ground, screaming.

Hawn, brother. He had stricken it with action.

His shield was lost as the first fell. Feet pressed against the ground as he pushed to clear the distance to the other two in the tree line. The second barely had his sword drawn as Gaerchon routed him around to circle; his left hand slamming against the back of the second’s head and into trunk of a tree. Tension kept the head from bouncing, and the body fell straight down.

Dreadful, Holy Brother.

The third pressed a dagger into his back. It skipped off armor on his right side; he turned and brought his elbow up to toss the third’s dagger away. His blade was across his body to strike out if needed, but he didn’t. An armored skull-mask smashed into the third’s unarmored head to send the body toppling backwards.

Everything sped back up as he exhaled again. He couldn’t remember breathing, but his lungs burned, and his heart pounded to leave a bile taste in the back of his throat. Unconsciously the sword returned to it’s baldric as he steadied from the haze of battle. Three bodies were on the ground now; the first was a young man still clutching his badly wounded leg, the second was a woman with a broken nose who was slowly getting her bearings, and the third was an older man with a splattering, leading into a trickle, of blood on his forehead. He was messy, imprecise, and his atrophied skills shown.

Gearchon stepped over to the second, the older woman, and knelt down beside her. They said nothing, staring at each other in hated silence. Only a moment passed, a single breath, before Gearchon wrapped an armored hand around her head, pulled her sharply to the left across his body and crushed her head into a rock half submerged in the ground. The first blow caused her to spasm, and she died with the second. He didn’t stop until there wasn’t enough bone to hold onto it; wet flesh and hair slipping from his fingers.

He rose only to kick the third, the older man, in the side to prevent him from rising as well. Gearchon’s body dropped, his knee pressing down at the bottom of the older man’s sternum. The man’s hands went to push the knee off of him, and Gaerchon’s hands went to the man’s face. Thumbs pressed into jelly-filled eyes. Eventually his body weight pressed down his arms in a subconscious plea to hasten a process that he had intentionally left linger. Eventually there was only one left screaming.

The younger man, the first, was given a chance to flee with the group’s pack animal, lighter now without it’s saddlebags. It wasn’t kindness, he wasn’t one that was being hunted, he would be crippled, and had to watch as the other two had their feet removed before being strung up between the trees; deformed faces looking down at those below.

Time was once again on his side by the time it was fully nightfall. He cleaned his armor and weapons the best he could for his travel back to civilization. Scavengers would find the bodies quickly, but he had no doubt that the young man would find someone and tell them what had happened. A message left plainly in memorial to their actions; ‘Murderer’ carved into both of their chests.

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