by Joel M. Traylor

Gunter roared like thunder as he charged down the hill, slipping and stumbling, the broadsword pulled back over his head. His blond hair flew wild, his eyes crazed. They had killed her and now he would kill them. This he knew, and this was all that mattered. They would pay. He was the mad angel of death. And so his vengeance descended upon them.

The bandits scrambled to their feet, their greasy clothes barely more than beggars’ rags. The bald one had been fumbling to start a fire as the sun set blood red behind him. He abandoned his sticks and his flint and scrambled for a weapon. The two others had already stood up to face Gunter’s lunatic charge. One man carried a small sword, barely bigger than a knife, and he wore more scars than skin on his cheeks. The other one with greasy dark hair held only a simple axe, like a farmer would use to chop wood. He smiled. Gunter decided he would kill this man first.

Gunter let his rage carry him between the trees and over the rocks, sliding down the dirt ridge on an avalanche of stones into their campsite. But he didn’t bring his sword down in time, and instead his shoulder crashed into the axe-wielding man. Something bit his back as they both tumbled to the ground.

The pain tore into him, and he swallowed the scream and forced himself up. Another bite, this time in the shoulder, and he knew he had dropped his blade. He stumbled around.

“Idiot boy,” the scarred man said. “What d’you want?”

Gunter tried to speak, but he only spit blood. They didn’t know him. They didn’t know her. They didn’t remember what they had done, or they didn’t care.

The metal licked his throat, and he lifted his hands to the wound. The strength went out of his arms, and he fell forward into the pile of sticks. The wood turned red, and the ground darkened. He tasted dirt. He couldn’t move.

“He’s bleedin’ on our firewood,” one of them said.

“So get some more wood.” Some other voice now.

They didn’t know what they had done, and he could never tell them. Gunter’s rage had betrayed him.