The Crimson Blaze
Dark eyes glittered in the pale light of the moon as the figures moved silently and stealthily through the tall grasses, constantly scanning for anything along the river that could pose a threat. A skiff drifted languidly down the river, only the plip and swish of the pole in the water sounding in the night, pushing and guiding the boat through the darkness.
More figures came into view as the trees thinned, and somewhere in the darkness, a twig snapped. Heads twisted in the direction of the sound, one of the tall figures gave two of his kinsman a series of hand signals, and they vanished into the darkness while the remaining figures halted and the skiff slowed its drift.
Sounds of a scuffle came through the trees and a minute later, the two men returned, dragging a third man through the grass, dumping the beaten man at the feet of their leader.
He was young, clad in attire that blended into the environment, though it hadn’t saved him this time. A crimson stain marked his coat as a gash on the side of his head oozed. He started pushing himself up, spitting on the boots of the man in front of him. “Azkaelomin garbage…who let you out off your leash?” The captive’s taunt was met with a boot to his jaw and he toppled backwards from the force, sprawling in the grass.
“Warden scum.” The Azkaelomin sneered in a soft tone, staring coldly down to the young man. “You sneak away from your mother’s apron strings?” He mocked. “You should never go wandering in the Wilds without a guide, little warden.” There was a quiet ripple of laughter from the other Azkaelomin, though no one spoke.
“I’m not alone…” The young warden’s voice cracked, not yet experienced enough to school his expression, and his lie was exposed. The Azkaelomin motioned to one of the others, who stepped forward to haul the warden to his knees.
“Neither are we,” the Azkaelomin leader broke into a grin, crouching to meet the warden’s eyes, his own narrowing as he studied the young warden. “It’s a pity you won’t get to see just how crowded your lands are becoming…alas…” He rose to his feet and drew his sword. “Nobody will know until it’s too late, and the armies of Azkaelom sweep through these lands like prairie fire.” He chortled at the thought. “A crimson blaze that consumes everything in it’s path.”
The young warden’s eyes widened as the Azkaelomin drew his sword, and a gasp as the Azkaelomin’s words sunk in. “You will never succeed…” He stammered, though he didn’t get the chance to say more as the Azkaelomin stepped forward, his long blade plunging into the chest of the warden.
“We already have…” The Azkaelomin murmured as the warden gurgled his last words, then slumped forward as the Azkaelomin began to pull his blade free. The Azkaelomin’s boot pushed the warden back off his blade, and the dead man fell back to land in the grass, motionless.
The other Azkaelomin didn’t wait for instructions, two of them quickly moved to grab the dead warden to move him into a place he wouldn’t soon be discovered, though the wild animals would take care of his remains quickly enough.
“Let’s move,” The Azkaelomin leader ordered and they continued their silent journey south until the river turned West.