• Nighttime had fallen. The boy shifted his hold on his longbow. It was beginning to become clammy with his sweat. He and the other two sentries who sat there atop the small wooden wall that fortified their village had been sitting at their posts for over four hours. They should have been relieved by now.
    The two other farmers, the ones who had beards and who were full-grown, were getting tired of waiting. “Damn it,” one shouted finally in frustration, striking his leg since nothing else seemed within striking distance, “when will they get here!?” he turned about and looked towards the thatched roofs and small clay chimneys that housed the villagers, and then to the boy. “Listen, go to the barracks and find out why we they haven’t sent anyone. Us two will stay up here and watch.”
    This was a big task for one so young. Normally a boy his age wasn’t supposed to wake full-grown men at all, and would probably be beat for it. The boy looked up with wide eyes at the man. “M-me sir?”
    “Yes you! Tell them that I sent you and get going!”
    There was nothing to it. It was one thing to wake a man from his sleep, but to question a direct order? The boy bit his lip, nodded a little to his elder, and began walking at a quick pace towards the ladder that would lower him from the wall. When he got there he put his longbow down and quickly descended. His feet landed in a puddle of mud. It squelched as he stepped onward.
    The night was chilly and the sky was dark blue. Dawn would be in about another hour but the moon was full and it shone bright and clear. When the boy knew he was out of sight from the other sentries, he sat down for a minute. Mesquitoes buzzed in his ear. His legs were sore from standing, he was tired, and now his foot was wet. He began to fiddle with his oversized helmet, became frustrated, and removed it. He sat there for another minute and then forced himself back to his feet.
    The ‘barracks’, which were really just an old abandoned barn that sentries reported to before going to their watches, was right around the corner now. In it would be the Orchestrater, whose job it was to mind the sentries and to tell them when their time was up. Most likely, he had become weary and had fallen asleep.
    The boy paused at the door. It was slightly ajar and swung slowly back and forth because, it seemed, of the breeze. What if the new sentries had passed the boy on his way here? Maybe he should just go home and let this sort its self out. He was tired. Besides, he didn’t want the Orchestrator to beat him. Then again, the Orchestrator was weaker than the sentry up on the wall. It was better to be beat by him now then the big man up there in the morning. He took a deep breath, sighed a deep sigh, and pushed the door open.
    It was a harder push than the boy had expected. The great wooden door swung inwards and struck the barn’s wall with a resounding thump. The boy darted back out in fear and hid behind the other door, clutching his helmet over his pounding heart. He waited there in complete silence, breath held, muscles tense, for what seemed like five minutes. He edged back towards the entrance, and then peered slowly around into the room. The boy let out his breath. The Orchestrater was asleep still, just as the boy had thought. There he was, in the middle of the floor, sprawled out face down, sleeping! What a joke. The boy smiled with newfound encouragement and walked in towards the Orchestrator. “Sir,” he said loudly.
    There was no movement. Then man must’ve been sleeping deeply. “Sir!” said the boy again, louder. There was no response. The boy shook his head, smiling, and went down on his hands and knees. “Sir,” he said a third time, gently shaking the man, “sir, wake up!” A second and third time he shook the man, the third time violently, and still there was no response. Curious. The boy rolled the man over onto his back to inspect his face. His neck was a bloody mess. The red leaked from a large gash running across his Adam’s Apple.
    The boy stood up, eyes larger even than when Marjory Mariotte had kissed him for the first time. His helmet dropped to the ground. One thought occupied his mind. They’re here. He turned about and ran into the street. There was a distant scream from one of the sentries, and another cried, “Harpies!!” before he was silenced by their arrows. Now the boy could see them, their dark, ragged wings dashing across the bright moon, silhouetted. He scurried back into the barn as the roofs nearest to the walls began to glow with fire.
    He had to find a hiding place. He looked about. To his left, to his… back to his left. The assassin sprung towards him and clutched the boy’s jaw.
    “My poor, poor boy. You must be so tired. Here, let me help.”

    Another village had fallen.