• General Ibesa Ra’shasti ran a cloth down the length of his long sword, which glistened crimson. The man who had attempted his assassination now lay without a head next to the camp.
    As he wiped his blade absent-mindedly, his men rammed the severed head onto a sharpened spear and set it out as a sign to all who set eyes on it; warriors are here, do not tempt them.

    The General stood and sheathed his still red sword, drawing in a deep breath and holding it in. Then he burst out into a deep laugh which was almost immediately echoed by his men. His dark skin glowed in the campfire and the sweat on his forehead glistened.

    His tight dreadlocks were gathered into a ponytail and his beard was recently trimmed. He was a hulking man with a deep, powerful voice that wasn’t only for show. The man was a fierce warrior and had killed many before that night.

    His laugh died down and with it the unsure voices of the men, and for the longest time no one spoke. Then the General gathered himself and turned to them.

    “Men, we have been through many trials together, and I thank you, for such fine warriors and dedicated friends are hard to come by these days. But a threat has been issued to Rhodaini, our homeland, with this attempted assassination, and this will not be ignored.”

    He paused, looking at the beheaded corpse that lay fifty paces beside him. His skin was a light tan, which meant he couldn’t be of the fair northern country of Atlivia, where the skin is light and the hair lighter than this thick, dark haired corpse.

    That meant he had to have been sent from the wild country of Byzosin, where an audacity such as this was accepted as a rule of thumb; act now, think later. Ra’shasti calmly walked to the corpse and flipped him over on his stomach; then, carefully, removed his clothing.

    It was a superstition in Rhodaini that to touch a corpses cooling skin in death was to damn their own soul to serve that person in the afterlife. Of course, Ra’shasti did not truly believe in this, but it was always good to be safe.
    The tribe tattoo on the man’s lower back told the war leader what he needed to know; this man was Byzosinian.

    “Take his possessions. Burn the corpse, and I want the head returned to Byzosin as a warning. An attack on us is an attack on the country. Be sure to tell that effeminate lout Omyr Callan that our peace treaty is over.”

    He spat on the corpse and walked away, but not before seeing his men take the corpse by the clothes and drag him toward the fire, not daring to touch his body yet. Those Byzosin bastards had no class, he thought.

    They were all about raw power and didn’t think about calculated stealth, and that may have been the beginning of Lord Omyr’s downfall. A man was only as good as his killer, and if that was his best shot, Ra’shasti knew what the outcome of the declared war would be.

    He turned to a guard. “What have the scouts found to our east?”

    The guard looked unsure for a moment, then replied, “All is well, General. If all goes according to plan, we will have successfully overtaken Myrintheos by next week.”

    The General smiled. Two wars would be most interesting, one planned and the other unexpected. He nodded and returned to cleaning his blade.