Like a monsoon. Like a bloody waterfall, thought Isídro. Torrential rain descended on the city and washed out the white from the stone facades, while the clouds breathed fire and struck the earth with light and uproar.
Isídro and his men stood waiting under an arcade where it was still dry. Though the ground was now so flooded, his feet were soaked and his boots rugose.
He was a general, and his king’s minister of war, and he looked the part. Under billowing raven robes was a handsome muscled soldier. A man in his prime. His beard was sharp. His brows were dangerous. And his eyes were a shocking silver grey.
A figure approached the soldiers, noiselessly crossing a field of mud. He stood before Isídro and grimaced. A feeble man with a plain face.
“Cebrian,” greeted Isídro.
Cebrian nodded. He looked around with unease, then back at the black-cloaked leader with reluctance.
“Speak, Cebrian. How many men?”
“There are thirty. Along the wall, and at the gate. And another ten guard the temple.”
“Do they suspect anything?”
“No. They are unprepared for an assault. You could not have asked for a better night, General.”
“Lord Sunai?” asked Isídro as he unsheathed his sword.
The messenger trembled, “He has been in prayer for three days. He knows nothing.”
Isídro ran his fingers over the blade as a bolt of lightning flashed, and said “For your sake, Cebrian,” then holding it up to the man’s throat, “I hope you’re right. Now… lead the way.”
As instructed, Cebrian took Isídro and his men up the sacred hill. Isídro was sure-footed up the steep slope, as though he had dewclaws. And he pulled a hood over his head to block the rain and better see his destination. The walled temple of Naaé.
Though a humble and austere fortress, it kept the beggars out, and the gods in. They were twenty feet high, and armed guards monitored the walls. While they may have been a match for laymen and farmers of the land, they were simple hurdles for Isídro and his soldiers. And the men guarding were barely novice; simply given swords and expected to wield them.
Not that the walls at all mattered. Cebrian led the warriors to a secret passage on the east rampart, which bypassed the main and rear gates, and the watchers manning them. Quietly, Cebrian, Isídro and his men crept inside under the battlements. Evil smiles spread on their faces, as their weapons withdrew.
Isídro signalled to his men with a flick of his wrist and a nod of his head, indicating for them to do what they did best. Kill. Each man fanned out like shadow. Stealth in their blood. Within a minute, Isídro heard screaming as the guards were cut down and butchered.
Perfect, thought Isídro, just imagining the gore and arterial spray. He breathed in the iron and cruor ravenously. And the scent of rain. And as thunder once again rang overhead, he breathed in ozone too.
While his men dispatched those on the wall, Isídro marched on the temple, Cebrian several paces behind. What fires burned from within, shone through the windows and illuminated the hooded Isídro and his swinging sword.
All ten men protecting the temple charged at the general at full speed. With their swords above their heads, rallying their war cry.
The first man came on the left, arcing his sword level with Isídro’s shoulder, though too early, and the man fell forward into the mud. Isídro merely walked on without even flinching.
The second man bolted in, holding his blade like a lance, but Isídro parried and the second man slipped into the muck.
Both the third and fourth guards ran apace with one another, and swung their swords at equal moments. Isídro thrust his weapon with ease into the third’s lower abdomen as he ducked down to avoid their attacks. Blood and intestines spilled over Isídro’s cloak as he pulled the weapon out of the man’s chest and flailed it horizontally as he spun around and sliced off the arm of the fourth man. He collapsed and moaned in pain.
At this point the first man has risen to his feet, stepped over the severed arm, and lunged at Isídro, though the move was deflected. He then quickly reprised, but Isídro had had enough and slashed his neck. Isídro’s riposte was like a pendulum and chopped through a rushing fifth man’s armour and into his flank.
A sixth man ran at Isídro bringing down his sword in a vertical arc, while simultaneously the second assailed from the rear. The general simply sidestepped the attacks, allowing the guards to impale and cleave one another.
The seventh, was big and tall and fearless, and he stomped forward with a halberd. He groaned as he waved the weapon around; a weapon that could easily chop Isídro in half with the guard’s brute strength propelling it. He grunted and came dangerously close on every swing, but missed. The general weaved around as he was slowly forced abaft. Until he at last ducked underneath what would have been a fatal blow, and slashed at the seventh man’s shins. He grunted in pain and toppled backward, and dropped his polearm onto his face. The big man stopped moving after that.
Isídro recovered as the last three men— who had hesitated upon seeing the first seven torn down in a heartbeat— minded their footing and edged closer to the master swordsman. Isídro struck first as he knocked the avant garde eighth man’s sword from his hands and stuck him like a pig.
Because he did not put up a fight at all, Isídro grunted and drove his blade through the ninth man’s skull.
Lightning then lashed out making sparks and tearing a hole in the roof of the temple. The last guard dropped to his knees, threw away his sword and quivered in front of Isídro in fear, begging his life be spared. Isídro laughed before mercilessly hacking off the man’s head with a single swipe.
He looked up into the sky to let the rain rinse the blood from his face, and then used his cloak to wipe even more off his sword. Now he cackled, almost uncontrollably. Like a monsoon. Like a bloody waterfall, thought Isídro.
Finally Isídro continued to the temple doors. And as he did, he smiled back at the spineless Cebrian, who’d watched as Isídro slew his brothers effortlessly.
“Come, Cebrian. Let us say goodbye to your master.”