The heat was unbearable. He stood there, his eyes in a half-squint, as he stared at the flames, which leaped and twisted like an injured animal. The dancing tongues of heat roared and crackled in his ears. There was the sharp splintering of a wood beam breaking under the stress of the heat. It fell to the ground, its charred mass digging into the soft dirt and sending up a shower of sparks.
He flicked his eyes to the left, to study the other buildings burning. The whole village was now up in fire, and people were rushing out of the buildings, carrying belongings and weapons. Men bellowed and drew their swords. One, clearly a leader, formed a group of warriors and shouted orders at them.
“Find the one who started this fire! We’ll gut him like a fish!” he roared, spinning on one heel and rushing through the blazing village.
The man at the edge of the village, watching the flames, was not alarmed when he saw the men scatter to track him down. He simply wrapped his dark red cloak tighter around him, to shield his body from the scorching heat, and tucked chunks of flint, steel, and a cask of oil into his belt. He pulled from a pouch on his belt a sketch of an old man, an old woman, and two middle-aged men, smiling and laughing. The man studied the picture for a long moment, before tossing it swiftly up into the air. The scrap of paper caught the wind, swooped through the dark sky, and rushed straight into the flames of the village. It was burned immediately into ash. Just like how they had really died, when these people, these monsters, had swooped their dragons down and raided the small, peaceful village of Yalseod. Their dragons had wreaked havoc upon the people, their fire sweeping across the village and scorching the villagers. The man’s family, those in the sketch, had been burnt alive and not made it out. The man had survived though—barely. And now it was time to give revenge to these bandits. First their town—now in flames. Then the man would track them all down, one by one, and give each their rightful share of justice.
The man turned away from the flames, his eyes dry. He had wept bitterly days before, when he had watched his mother, father, and two brothers die from the flames of the bandits. But now there were no tears left. It was not the time for mourning. It was the time for action. For revenge.
The man slowly walked from the town, the smoldering remains of the buildings crashing down behind him, sending up waves of sparks into the night sky. The man continued to walk, even when bandit warriors ran past him, searching for the maker of the fire. They ignored him though, a cloaked nobody that shuffled forward, head down, shoulders bent. In the action of the moment, the bandit’s eyes swept right over the stranger and kept right on going.
The man at last reached the fringes of the forest, several yards from the outskirts of the town. Without a single look back over his shoulder, he walked slowly into the trees and was swallowed into the shadows of the night, a silent, cloaked figure, who was so easy to overlook. But not for long. Not for long.
Copyright © 2020 Caleb E. King
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