Martin Hooijmans | Lars de Ruyter
“We’re taking them on,” Jon softly grunted to the man next to him. They lay flat in the high grass, overlooking the valley that accommodated the circle of wagons.
“You want to go up against a laager?”
“That’s what I said.”
Jon crawled back down the slope, closely followed by his partner. Once they were far enough, the other one got up and stumbled in front of the dark, cloaked man.
“Listen, Mister Wolff, are you sure this is a good idea?”
Jon regarded him with icy blue eyes. He made for his horse and unbuckled a long-barreled, sighted rifle.
“Last time we engaged these men,” his partner said, sounding nervous, “we lost ten of ours. They lost two. God knows what we’re in for.”
“God knows nothing,” Jon said, and threw the man the rifle. “But I do.” He opened his long, leather coat and took out a small shotgun. Its magazine emitted a soft, warm glow.
“What is it?” the partner asked.
“This is why we’re here.” Jon broke open the gun and removed the shell, holding it up for his man to see. Unlike the usual lead, this particular shell was made out of a transparent crystal. Inside, a small flame danced, seemingly looking for a way out.
Jon’s partner felt mesmerized. “What happens when you fire it?”
The dark man looked up, a thin smile forming on his cold face as he reloaded the gun. “Chaos.”
Maji woke up to the distant howl of a wolf. She felt a chill run through her body. Something was wrong.
“Chetan,” she whispered at the tense figure who stood a few feet away. He turned around, and a wave of comfort came over her. Chetan always had that effect.
“Yes, little sister?” he said. His muscles didn’t relax a single bit, ready to reach for the bow on his back or the knife at his waist at a moment’s notice.
“I dreamed again.”
A shadow fell over her brother’s face. “Tell me.”
“I saw the wolf. It came down from the hill, to get me, just like last time. But this time it was followed.”
“Followed by what, little sister?”
Chetan instantly turned to the wagons, silhouetted against the star-filled sky. His eyes traveled beyond them, scouring the surrounding hillside for any signs of danger. Bow in hand, arrow nocked, he signaled the others before returning to his sister.
“Can you invoke the spirits?”
“I don’t know.”
“Can you feel them?”
The warrior circled the camp. All men were at their posts, rifles locked and loaded. Chetan suddenly sensed the pair of cold, blue eyes, and turned to see the flaring muzzle of a gun, followed by a deafening roar. A man screamed, flew back from his post and was still. In the dim glow of the moon Chetan could see where the bullet had struck. Straight in the heart.
“Sister!” he yelled, and made for the little girl at the bonfire. Another shot rang out, and he flung himself around, coming face to face with a bullet stopped in mid air, enveloped by a thin, white vapor.
He turned to Maji, and saw the same vapor enveloped her. Her eyes were shut. She seemed calm. The vapor slowly crawled across the dirt, headed for the men at the wagons. They were now firing at will, with vain hopes of hitting any of their hidden foes.
Laughter broke the stream of bullets, as a silhouette appeared on top of the hill. His voice seemed akin to the terrible howling of a wolf. He calmly raised his gun, and unleashed a streak of fierce flames that slammed into the bulk of the wagons.
Hellfire mixed with screams, as men were flung by explosions or torn apart by burning shrapnel. No one seemed safe, no one except for Maji, shielded by whatever mystical powers she could call upon. She was surrounded by smoke and flames, protected from the horrors of the massacre. Her entranced state made her oblivious to it, up to the point where she could not hold on any longer. She opened her eyes to death.
“Chetan?” she asked the smoke. No answer came. “Chetan!”
“Quiet now,” came a growling voice she did not recognize.
Out of the smoke walked a tall man Maji only knew from her dreams. His eyes were like ice, his face was dark and scarred, his lips contorted in a horrible grin. Wild, gray hair ran down his crooked back like fur, and could be found on his claw-like hands as well.
Maji could not speak. She could not move. Fear had taken her body in custody. She searched for the spirits, but they seemed as silenced as she was.
“Good girl,” Jon said, tossing her unwilling body over his shoulder. “Let’s go for a ride.”
‘Maji’ is part of an idea Martin is developing at the moment. This scene, now developed as a short story, was the thing that sparked it. He hopes you enjoyed it, and apologizes if it conjured up a thirst for more. One day…