Chapter Five

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The bloodlust of a million battles rages in its consciousness. Vaguely it remembers the ecstasy of war and the glory of victory then it emits a primal roar. Its victory was stolen. An anger has been burning within the creature since its creation at some violent betrayal it cannot remember. It is driven now by instincts not fully understood but followed all the same.
**
Shinae took each step carefully, examining the ground to ensure that she was stepping on wet leaves which would not make a sound, and not on twigs or other forest debris. She couldn’t afford to be heard. The air about her felt unusually warm and damp against her flesh but she paid it no mind as she and her squad drew closer to the tribesmen’s campsite. The scouts had said there were about fifteen people located there with an array of weapons: bows and arrows, swords and the strange metal whips carried by a special class of tribal warriors.
After decades of constant conflict one would think the scholars and tacticians of Elam’s military elite at the Galemnai Academy would know something more substantial about the tribesmen than just the name they called themselves. But the savages had proved both difficult to capture alive and fanatically dedicated to silence on the rare occasions on which they were captured. It was common for them to carry poison capsules embedded somewhere in their skin. When in danger of imminent capture they would strike the capsule violently with any nearby rocks and be dead within seconds. A favourite spot for these capsules was the forehead. In an earlier engagement Shinae had seen one of them bang his head onto his own knee to release the poison stored beneath the skin of his forehead.
The tribesmen called themselves Kyv-aaun. Some Elamese soldiers posited that it meant ‘crazy bastards’.
Though likely wrong, the translation had stuck.
Now in position, Shinae waited patiently for her superior’s move. The plan was that Third Order J. M. Raven would lob a firebomb to the far back of the encampment where the sleeping tents were, forcing the crazy bastards out and into the open, where a volley of arrows from his ten archers located in the trees above the clearing would pick off as many as possible. Any tribesmen who escaped that barrage and tried to flee into the forest would be cut down by the waiting swordsmen who surrounded the clearing. Shinae saw the lit fuse of the firebomb soar lazily out over the clearing, and heard it land with a thud and chug of liquid, then the back of the encampment lit up. Some of the liquid exploded onto sections of tents and within seconds there were sounds of clatter and confusion as tribesmen were rudely shaken to wakefulness.
Arrows began to rain from the canopy of trees above Shinae. She knew the archers would kill most of the crazy bastards but hoped that at least one or two would make it into her section of the forest. She held her sword with a firm grip, her blood coursing red hot through her veins-and she waited.
**
Once more into battle!
A fire lit somewhere in the creature’s field of vision and it heard the screams of dying warriors. It could smell burning cloth, flesh… and hatred. Yes! Speedily it followed the intoxicating call of revenge, covering miles in seconds. It passed undaunted through the shrubbery and trees, even through living animals- a shadow without a body to inhabit.
The scene was one of carnage. A well-laid trap had just been sprung and the creature paused a moment in admiration… until it once again caught that scent. It circled the clearing slowly, pausing to inspect each soul it passed until it found the one. She wore light armour and thick leather combat boots. Her sword was razor sharp and focused as she sliced mercilessly into the neck of a fleeing enemy. Another attempted to rush her to no avail.
**
With her sword arm still behind her, in the motion of withdrawing her blade from one crazy bastard’s throat, Shinae pushed her off-arm elbow first into an oncoming tribesman’s face, feeling the crunch of bone on bone. She completed her withdrawal and arched her arm forward, swinging her blade into the shoulder of the tribesman she had just assaulted with her elbow. As the one behind her fell with a dull thud to the ground, this new one screamed in agony as he felt metal slicing through him and touching his heart. His last sight was of a woman splattered with his own gushing blood, smiling a vile and tormented smile as she watched him fall.
He didn’t see her shudder and convulse as a shadow entered her. He didn’t see her heave violently and crumple down to her knees. Nor did he witness her eyes turn the colour of boiling blood and hear her deathly howl before she finally collapsed next to him.

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