Vengeance Vindicated

  • Baron

    Previous Story! -

    Sipowae was always surprised at how fragile the body truly was. The thought struck him as his knife opened a ragged tear down the side of the fleeing farmer. The man fell to the rain-soaked earth and screamed the final moments of his life away. The Kaiaomoch Warchief strode onward into the inferno that was a village just moments before, watching as his Warriors rounded up able-bodied survivors to be shipped back to Kaiaomec for Slaves and Sacrifices. Sipowae didn't understand the Moch custom of capturing rather than killing opponents, he didn't understand most things the Mochs did. His tribe had lived free of them for generations - but when several thousand Mochborn refugees arrive on your land and command you to federalize or die, well, what choice was there? Sipowae was no fool. Joining the refugees and forming Kaiaomoch was the right choice, he could see that now. Life in the Moch was far easier than the squalor his tribe had lived in before, not that his tribe really existed anymore. Sipowae absently touched his cheek just below his left eye where his Moch Mark was tattooed, a diamond pattern denoting him as Chief Caste. Like it or not, they were all Kaiaomoch now. Drops of the same storm. Tears of the same sorrow.

    Sipowae's thoughts were ripped away when he came across the body of a young girl, no more than a dozen winters old. The corpse reminded him of his daughter, though she would be far older now than this girl had been. She had been captured years ago during a Twi'la'moch raid. Sipowae grimaced at the thought and rolled the body until it was facedown. Twae willing, his daughter was dead by now. He would never know what became of her, and her screams would always haunt him; More frequently lately they would come unbidden to fill any quiet moment. Maybe that was his punishment. For all the lives he had destroyed.

    So be it.

    He wiped his blade on the girl's moccasins and stood, taking stock of his surroundings. The fires had burned low, sending pillars of black smoke to mix with the overcast sky above. Sipowae noticed several of his Warriors watching him. Now that the captives were secured and heading north, they were anxious to move on as well. He brought his hand to his mouth and let loose a series of trilling Tiquini whistles that cut through the clearing.
    Time to move.

    At once his War Crop melted away into the forest with practiced ease.

    "We've seen no Twi'la'moch Warriors. Just a few dozen Watchmen who take shifts when they arent working the fields. There is a garrison here, and here." Tehl said. She squatted beside a replica of Hnouchi built from mud and sticks and rocks. Sipowae noted that the Mound at the center of the village, despite rising only a hands width from the earth in this replica, had been built with great care. Tehl led the War Crop's Pathfinders. She commanded their respect, if not their admiration. Sipowae could tell she was a Predator. Just as he was. Put in this prison to kill and nothing else. She continued on talking, pointing out choke points within the village, where and when the Watchmen changed shifts, who had passed through recently. Tehl had returned from her scouting mission at dawn, leaving the rest of her Pathfinders to watch Hnouchi.

    Sipowae leaned forward and eyed the miniature village carefully. "Any sign of the Twi'la'moch Warriors on nearby trails?" He asked, flexing the cold stiffness out of his still-awakening hands.

    "No, Chief. And no unusual traffic has travelled the area for a dozen tides." Said Tehl. She tugged on a shoulder strap of her bronze fish-skin armor before continuing. "I see no reason why we shouldn't encircle the village and drive them to their central plaza. There we could easily capture the entire-"

    "No." Interrupted Sipowae. "There will be no captives. We can't risk one escaping and bringing the Twi'la'moch Warrior Caste down on us." Sipowae picked up a stone being used to represent a longhouse and inspected it before tossing it aside. "We will kill them all."

    The few dozen Crop Leaders at the meeting erupted with a cacophony of harsh whispers. It was so much like the Chief Council back home that Sipowae almost laughed. Almost.

    "Enough!" He barked, bringing the Warriors to silence. One of them, Akich, one of the men who fled Saskitchemoch in the Exodus, cleared his throat. "Chief," He began hesitantly, voice wavering at Sipowae's gaze. "Tioteche desires Captives for the planting season. . ." Akich trailed off as Sipowae's face twisted into a glare.

    "I shit on what Tioteche desires. He is a Bloodchief and should learn his place. We will kill them all. There can be no escape." Sipowae said slowly, barely keeping his words from becoming a growl. The Warriors balked at his brazen insult, their faces of hostility, disbelief, and confusion forming a disjointed mosaic that stared back at him. Twae soak them all, Tioteche gambled with their lives day-to-day and they still idolized him.

    One of the Warriors, an elder woman he didn't know, spoke up from the crowd. "Tioteche saved us. You weren't there, you can't know what it was like. We owe him everything."

    Sipowae carefully met each Crop Leader's eyes, drinking in their expressions, his glare deepening. "The difference between a Savior and a Tyrant is a shift of tone and words left unspoken." He said to noone in particular. The Warriors quieted, mulling over his words. After a prolonged moment Sipowae spoke again. "You are dismissed. Relay my orders to your Crops, and have them break camp. We depart for Hnouchi at Noontide." The Crop Leaders shuffled off towards the makeshift tents marking where the bulk of the War Crop had been bivouacking for several weeks. Tehl nodded at Sipowae with a slight smile as she passed, he returned the nod. At least one of them understood.

    Sipowae stood alone looking down at the mock village, lost in contemplation. The denial of captives wasn't to protect them from retaliation, and it wasn't to fracture Tioteche's power over his Warriors. He could never voice true reason for his decision, some things a man wouldn't admit, even if the truth gnawed at his mind at every moment of weakness. He knew what would come next, he could feel it welling up inside him. A river set to burst it's banks. He didn't fight it this time, instead he welcomed it. He wanted to hear it, needed to hear it. To strengthen his will for what he would do next.

    The frantic screams of Sipowae's daughter boiled to the forefront of his mind, the memory so potent it brought tears to blur the outlines of the village replica. . . He would kill them all. It's what they deserved. There would be no survivors, he would make sure of it.

    Sipowae stalked through the underbrush on all fours, body painted in the cyan Warpaint of Kaiaomoch. This was no petty raid like those of his youth. This time he wasnt leading a handful of overeager farmers. Behind him, stalking through the Ghostwood undergrowth the same as he did, were three hundred Mochborn Warriors. Trained since birth in Twae'ii -The Philosophical and Martial Arts.

    Silent and practiced, Sipowae and his War Crop took out the perimeter guards and spread out to encircle the village. Hnouchi had no Warriors that he could see. There were Workers. Workers working guardposts. Sipowae had mixed feelings about this - Not for the first time the Warchief wondered if he'd fallen headlong into some trap. Sipowae had never claimed to be a clever man, but his God had deemed he'd be an excellent killer.

    After a few minutes a watchman from the village let rip a Tiquini whistle - right on schedule. Tehl's Pathfinders had already watched the Hnouchi guards for several days and memorized their Tquini codes. Sipowae looked to Tehl and nodded. The woman brought her hand to her mouth and made the answering call, a complex series of trills - a unique word. Sipowae waited for an alarm to sound, exposing their subterfuge. When none came he waved his hand and motioned to the Crop Leaders to his left and right, starting a chain reaction around the entire perimeter. The signal meant one thing - It was Time.

    The quiet forest sorrounding the Hnouchi suddenly exploded with motion as Kaiaomoch Warriors leapt from the underbrush and released an onslaught of screams whistles. They poured into the village from all sides like a flood of flesh, killing anyone not painted Cyan that they came across. The villagers ran screaming for an escape they wouldn't find. There could be no escape. Sipowae would make sure of it.

    Earning his title of Warchief in every way, Sipowae led a knot of Warriors, Tehl beside him, straight to the Mound at the heart of Hnouchi. Sipowae carved his way through the meager defenses, a whirlwind of inescapable death. He attacked recklessly, his two knives and a wanton sense of self destruction were all that stood between him and oblivion. A group of villagers fled up the Mound steps as he arrived at the central plaza. Sipowae tore after them, nearly outpacing his entourage in the process. If this Mound was fortified, even by Workers, this battle would shift from minutes to hours. Fighting up a steep slope while arrows and javelins rained down upon them would certainly even the odds in his quarry's favor.

    Sipowae took the mound steps two at a time, tripping a fleeing man as he passed him and sending him tumbling into the waiting blades of the Warriors below. At the top of the mound a group of women and children scrambled into the too-small doorway of the Chief's longhouse. The Chief stepped out as the last of the stragglers crammed themselves in. The Chief was past his prime, with graying hair and sagging muscles. He held a Tulthwe in one hand, each end of the double headed spear trembling in his grip. Sipowae didn't stop running when he hit the final step of the staircase, instead he charged directly at the ailing Chief with his bare hands.

    The Chief raised the Tulthwe at his barreling enemy, but Sipowae was too quick, backhanding the shaft of the spear and throwing a fist at the Chief's wrist - causing him to drop his weapon. In the same fluid motion, Sipowae drew a bronze knife. It was all over. He thrust upward once, twice, three times - opening the Chief from neck to naval and tossing him aside into a pile of his own innards.

    Sipowae drew a second knife and stalked into the Chief's Longhouse. He was met with the bone-chilling wails only those who knew they were dead could make.
    Their screams and his daughter's bled together until he could no longer tell where one began and the other ended. And in that moment, Sipowae did not find Vengeance.

    He emerged from the house, so soaked in blood that his moccasins slid on the flagstone walkway as he made his way to edge of the Mound.

    He sat there, his feet dangling over the side, watching his Warriors round up and kill the Twi'la'moch Workers far below. The battle was over, Hnouchi belonged to Kaiaomoch.

    And he didn't care.

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