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Here There Be Dragons

The ruin of the battle was strewn as far as anyone could see. Lifeless and dying bodies lay tangled and piled, smoking, bleeding and stinking. There were carrion birds and other vermin feasting. Yendor awoke and the smell alone made him retch. As his consciousness came into focus on his surroundings, he fought back another gagging reflex. It was late in the morning, but other than that, Yendor had no idea how much time had passed since he had lost consciousness, but the last thing he remembered was facing three hulking soldiers. They marked the points of the compass in front of him, he realized, so he must have won that contest, but he could not bring his memory to show it to him. Presumably, he had passed out after that. He burned with the sting of a hundred cuts, but none seemed serious. He must have succumbed to exhaustion. He still had the Crescent Moon and all his other belongings on him. Somehow he had been spared by the robbers who swarm the dead for treasure as soon as they feel safe from the bloodlust of the soldiers. He had heard tales of warriors seeing their fallen comrades robbed of their belongings, fall upon the the human vermin with as much gusto as any enemy. There was no other warrior awake in sight. The armies had moved on. He remembered vaguely being told to reconnect with the rebels to the south afterwards, if he was separated. Yendor took a deep breath. He would not be rejoining the army.

He sat among the carnage and contemplated his place in the world. He had been raised a musician. It had been impressed upon him that artists were proudly peaceful members of society. They were honorable. They added value to people’s lives with entertainment and the history and news they disseminated. He had abandoned all that without a second thought when he met Danse. Their short time together was like a distant dream. He had searched for her, he had become a wizard for her. He had become a warrior for her. And he had failed at every turn. What an absolute failure he had turned out to be. The chosen one? Him? He was going to vanquish Incarnate? What a joke. What hubris. He was worthless. He had become a killer, no better than those he called enemy. What was left for him?

He found his way back to the camp. His tent still stood, though the rest of the army had fled. They had left in such a hurry, they hadn’t bothered to try to save or steal any of his things. Was this some kind of pattern? Was their defeat so crushing that no one dared linger? There was the usual abandoned garbage left of the camp, but it was more. They had left in a panic. His was not the only tent left. If what remained was any indication, their army had been decimated. He rolled everything into his pack, and turned decidedly north. Away from the rebels. Away from civilization. Away from his past. Away from everything. He set off towards the wastes. “Here there be Dragons” he muttered under his breath and disappeared into the growing mists.