Early the next morning they woke to a racket upstairs. He once again took up his sword and left the hidden place to discover that soldiers from the fortress to the north had come. There was a sigh of relief, which was short lived. The soldiers had not come to help. They too were taking advantage of the chaos in the district and were here for their own personal gain. The farmer was not a fool. The bandits he had fought before were a mob, untrained and weak in strength and discipline, with no skill to speak of in the means of combat. Even with that being a fact, they had posed a significant threat and he was lucky to have escaped the assault with his life.

The hardened men before him were altogether of a different caliber. If he were to engage these men in combat, he would not survive past his first blow. He surrendered his sword. To his horror, they pushed him back down the stairs to ask where he had come from. Unbeknownst to him, they had searched the cellar previously, before having caused the racket that had woken him. They knew he had come from some hidden place.

He said nothing. They beat him yet his voice remained silent. They threatened further torture and were about to administer it when one of the men found the hidden doorway behind the casks. They asked what was there. His resolve remained stern despite the blows. They promised him he would regret his rebelliousness.

The knight was particularly impressed with his defiance. He barely spoke, and seemed to be against the actions of his men, enduring it as if mutiny would follow any objection.

When he would not answer, they broke down the door, expecting to find gold or some other great treasure. What they found was far better.

The farmer fell to his hands and knees, begging for them to leave her alone. He offered everything if they were simply to leave. They would not listen. The soldiers laughed and made sure the farmer knew he was about to pay dearly for his disobedience.

They took her from the small hidden room and dragged her to the center of the cellar. There they stripped the woman to shame and ravaged her before her husband.

The farmer rushed forward, but was beaten down. He rose again and was beaten down once more. Four men were needed to hold him as he fought against their grip.

The knight suggested they kill him and get it over with, but the men wanted him to watch. The soldier then taking his turn had become tired of wrestling with the woman and struck at the back of her head with his blade. A deep gash spat blood that matted her hair as she fell lifeless to the cellar floor. The soldier continued his assault, now unchallenged.

At the sight of it, the farmer ceased his insane cries and collapsed. He fell limp in their arms. His head lurched back. His eyes rolled into his skull and a sound not made by men uttered from the depths of his throat.

It all happened in a few seconds. In a moment of sheer disorientation, every man was thrown outward and into the walls of the cellar. All but the farmer and the soldier who had struck the blow were pushed against the casks or the stone walls, as if by a powerful wind. The force was coming from the center of the room, not from the farmer, but from the soldier who was now hanging in the air above the woman. The cellar was once again flooded with screams of distress as all eyes witnessed the soldier being torn limb from limb. His body exploded outward as the force holding the men vanished; blood and entrails rained from the ceiling and ran down the walls. Everyone was covered.

The farmer collapsed, unconscious next to his wife. He woke moments later, being dragged behind a horse along the north road toward the fortress.

His mind had followed the past up to the present to the smell of musk, rotting vegetation and dried blood. He opened his eyes, yet his sight was all the same filled with darkness. His spirit sank.

The End

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