One of the guards had fallen into the large front left wheel of the last wagon as he had been dispatched. His arm jutted through the spokes at an odd angle and blood dripped from the end of his hand onto the dusty road.
The scene transfixed Braenor. The steady sequence of dripping blood reminded him of his prayers and he began to recite them out loud. He wondered how long the headless heart would maintain the pattern before realizing that it was no longer supporting life.
As he continued praying he slowly became more conscious of himself and his surroundings and what had just occurred. He began to replay the scene even as he continued to pray.
He had been following the road for several days. He had passed only a few riders in that time and hadn’t even exchanged words with them.
Then, today, he had seen dust on the horizon. In his reverie he tried to determine how much time had passed since he had seen the first wagon approaching, but he still didn’t have full control of his thoughts.
The dust got closer and ahead of him he saw the wagons approaching. Four of them slowly creaked toward him. Braenor recalled thinking to himself that he would be fine, nothing would happen; he would be able to continue traveling on his way.
He moved over to the side of the road as the wagons got close. He kept his head down and sang a quiet hymn.
The first wagon crept past, creakily and slowly. Braenor continued to pray. The second wagon rolled by him.
A single rider broke off from the group and rode up to him. Braenor kept his head bowed deeply, hidden in the deep hood of his monk’s robe.
“You there,” the rider said.
Braenor knelt to the ground bowing his head down almost to the road. He softly started on one of his most calming prayers, but already felt himself starting to lose control.
“You there!” the rider demanded as another rider joined the first.
“What’s going on?” the second rider asked.
“Just trying to find out what this one is up to.”
“He’s just a monk. Let him be.”
“What’s a monk doing alone out here?”
“Looks like he’s praying to me. Come on, let’s go.”
Braenor encompassed himself in his deepest patterns, and felt himself regaining marginal control, taking back the madness from his mind, and reclaiming himself. He allowed his head to rise up a little and he saw the hooves of two horses’ five paces in from of him.
And then he saw two feet land next to the hooves.
The feet stepped closer to him and Braenor tried to pray. Another step and Braenor knew he wasn’t going to be able to control it.
Sighing, he felt his arms pulling back through the monk’s cloak. His right hand wrapped around the hit of the long sword in his belt. He tried to fight the urge, as always, but his conscious mind seemed to become detached from his body.
Braenor watched himself snap backwards, freeing himself from the robe which floated gently toward the two unsuspecting men. As the robe touched the dirt the men looked up and saw that Braenor was free and that their doom had found them.
The guards were taken completely by surprise. Braenor sliced through the throat of the first guard that had approached him before he could even raise his arms to defend himself. The guard grabbed at his throat as the blood spurted out between his fingers.
As the first guard fell to the ground gurgling on his own blood the second guard raised his spear and yelled out in alarm. He was trying to back his horse away from Braenor but the animal was skittish, probably from the smell of blood.
Moving quickly Braenor sliced the neck of the horse before the guard could move it out of his range. The horse reared back and threw the guard to the ground. His spear went flying away and Braenor had him quickly dispatched with a powerful thrust through the light armor and into his chest.
Braenor sighed inwardly as he watched the combat. He was certain of the outcome, these under-trained caravan guards had very little chance against Braenor, no matter how many of them there were.
But the leader of the guards did his best. The other guards tried to coordinate attacks against Braenor, but as they did he left them dead or dying and he moved efficiently throughout the wagons, killing everyone that he saw.
When the people in the wagons saw that Braenor was killing not just the guards but everyone he could get near, they all panicked. The driver of the first wagon drove away quickly. The second tried to do the same but Braenor was able to skewer him through the ribs before he could move the wagon more than a couple of feet. The horses tried to bolt and the wagon flipped, blocking the way.
With ruthless efficiency people died all around him as Braenor’s blade cut through flesh and bone. Everyone that was able mounted a final defense as Braenor approached the last wagon. Braenor could sense the pleasure his “other” self felt when seven men attacked him all at once. Two or three of them were the last of the guards; the others were just common folk wielding daggers and clubs.
Spinning in his baleful dance Braenor cut into them and they fell all around him. He pulled his bloodied blade from the stomach of one man and in the same motion sliced off the bottom half of another man’s leg. The man fell to the dirt road screaming in pain. Braenor looked about and saw that there was no one else to fight. He walked over to the screaming man and stabbed him through the side, penetrating his lung and heart. He quickly stopped screaming.
The Braenor wondered why these men had fought to the last defending the final wagon, but even as he considered the possibilities his body was moving again, climbing up the ladder into the cab of the wagon.
Once he was on the wagon he threw back the curtain that was hiding the contents of the wagon and saw what they had fought to the death to defend. This wagon was designed with four rows of benches for people to sit on. Near the back was a group of women and children huddled in a mass, crying and shrieking.
Just in front of them stood a boy, holding a rusty sword in front of him attempting to protect the mass of wailing humanity behind him. Braenor sheathed his own blade walked toward him beginning to laugh. The boy feebly attempted a thrust with his sword, which Braenor knocked away with his bare hand, sending the old blade through the fabric wall of the wagon. In the same motion he grabbed the boy around the neck with his left hand, spun and sat him down on the first row of benches.
“Watch and live or run and die.” Braenor told the boy.
Braenor’s turned back to the rest of the group, his laughter became uncontrollable hysteria. Someone from the huddled mass screamed when Braenor snapped the neck of the first small girl he got his hands on. He tossed the body to the floor and approached the remaining people. His laughter drowned out the screams as he finished his work.