"Free us, and we will fight until either they are dead, or we die in the act." The man spoke with such passion that I was tempted to acquiesce to his demands. But just looking at his condition, I knew that he would fall towards the latter path and die.
"If I let you fight, you will die. You're too weak to fight, rest, my men and I will handle it from here." I said and to my shock his eyes seemed to come alight. Fixing me with a stare as hard as steel he spoke again.
"Give me a sword and I'll fight. You will not deny me this, you can't."
I wasn't sure what to do, on one hand I didn't know this man and didn't really care if he lived or died. Yet I also knew that if I did what he asked he would die. Well, if he really wants to die, then who am I to stop him?
"Very well, old man, I will free you." I said as I unshackled him. There was simply a nail keeping him bound to the walls so all I had to do was remove it.
Once the man was freed, he shakily stood to his feet. I went to give him aid but he brushed my arm aside. He clenched his teeth and slowly rose to his feet. He was wearing nothing but rags but he stood tall and proud. He nodded towards me and made his way towards the woman in the center.
I watched him walk slowly at first. But eventually his stride became sure and when he reached the woman he knelt beside her. Whispering words to her that I could not hear. He treated her with such gentleness, I'm guessing that was his wife. Or maybe his daughter, I couldn't know.
"Please sir, free us as well."
I looked back to the others and noticed the fire in the eyes of the two younger boys. They too seemed to want to fight. Now that I look closer, the two had the same dark eyes of the old man, and the same black hair. They must be his sons.
"Are you sure? You might die." I said to the two.
"We will avenge our mother." The oldest looking spoke first.
"We have to save our sister." The youngest looking one added.
"As you wish." I said to the two and unbound them.
Once freed, they made their way on wobbly legs to the old man and the woman, who most likely is their mother. I looked towards the other two men expecting the same demand, yet when our eyes met they just shrunk back and averted their gaze. I shook my head at their display and unshackled them regardless.
Standing to my feet I turned towards the trio and noticed the younger boy silently weeping while the older had a hand on his shoulder. The old man leaned down and placed a kiss on the woman's forehead before closing her eyes. As I neared they seemed to change. The old man stood and his eyes were hollow looking. Yet they still had the will to fight. The two boys however had a savage and vengeful look in their eyes.
"Come, we go to battle. May your blades strike true and your enemies fall to despair at the sight of you." Saying my peace I led them out the room and they grabbed a sword each that was lying around the center of the chamber.
As we made our way to the path in the center, Gentle and Gunnar looked at me questioningly. I simply nodded for them to proceed and they dropped the matter. Gunnar and Gentle led the way, with me in the center and the two boys beside me. The old man was right behind Gentle and Gunnar, sword in hand and walking with a measured gate.
As we neared the end of the path, we began to hear boisterous laughter. Accompanying the laughter was the cries of women. They begged for them to stop, they plead to the gods or whoever to save them. My stomach dropped at the sound.
"Daddy, please save me!" A shrill voice seemed to break through the cacophony and I noticed the old man stiffen slightly.
"No One's going to save you girl, ugh, ugh, and sure as hell not that old man. Ugh, ugh, ugh, but don't, ugh, worry, ugh. I'll be your new daddy, hahahahaha." The words being spoken ignited something within me. A calmness descended upon me and I looked to my side and noticed the two boys with a blank look on their face.
As we made it to the end of the path and into another room, what I saw made me question the goodness of the world. The innate humanity that resided in all people. This was my first real look at the cruelty of this world. And the capacity for evil that laid in all men.
Rugged looking men, practically feasting on a bunch of women. The sight made me sick. Before I could even say a word, the old man ran into the orgy taking place. As he passed, any man in reach of his blade was cut down as he passed. His actions were like the gunshot at the start of a race. Despite his age and seeming frailty he handled his sword with expert precision. There weren't any wasted or exaggerated movements in his bladework. Just quick and precise strokes, like a painter, his sword, his brush.
This wasn't some ordinary old man. He moved too surely, perhaps he fought in a war or two. Maybe he was a knight, as crazy as that seemed. Either way, the man moved like he was possessed. His destination, the rear of the room, where a man and a girl laid.
We all ran into the room and laid into the men. I lost track of the others, so lost in my cold yet furious removal of the scum from this world. The first man I passed was relentlessly pounding into a woman below him. She screamed for him to stop but he wouldn't listen. He just grinned down at her while he went about his business. Her face was in a sorry state as she had a severely cut lip and a swollen eye.
My blade whistled as it made its way towards the man's neck. It descended like a hawk about to catch it's unsuspecting prey. In the moments just before my blade met flesh, the woman and I locked eyes and in her eyes I saw hope and gratitude.
My blade connected with the man's neck and easily passed through flesh and bone. His head took to the air as blood spurted from his neck. His body fell forward on top of the woman and I proceeded to kick him to the side. I spared the woman a second look before making my way to the next scum.
The bandits were slow to react to the sudden attack and intrusion of their communal activities. Those that were nearest to the doors were butchered before they even knew what happened. Those that did, fumbled to disengage themselves in time before they were put to death. The man that stood before me now had just stood up from the woman he had on her hands and knees. His pants at his ankles and his little prick flagging in the open.
With utmost savagery, I smashed my crossguard into the man's face. As he fell, blood, spittle and teeth flew from his mouth. I drove my sword into the man's gut and twisted before pulling out. He would die slowly so I moved on, yet as I looked up, there were no more enemies. Dismembered bodies laid scattered around. I looked towards Gunnar and Gentle and they both were covered in blood, yet they didn't have their common savage grins. Their faces were hard and lacked any enjoyment at their actions.
I looked towards the rear of the room and saw the old man embracing a young girl who couldn't have been older than thirteen in his arms. She wailed into his chest and beat her fists against his body. The old man just held her tightly as she screamed and cried. The two boys knelt beside the old man with their heads down, tears falling from their faces.
I had come here expecting a good fight. To leave this place in good spirits, telling the others back at the village of our triumph. Yet all I feel now is disappointment, not in the outcome, but that we couldn't do more to make these men suffer. All this did was leave a bitter taste in my mouth and it is something I won't soon forget.
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