October 23

Fictober, Prompt 23 – “This time, do what I say.”

Original fiction, fantasy/horror.

Warnings: monsters/gross monster corpses (no great detail).

I slashed out, separating the head of the last shuffling monster from its body. It collapsed to the ground with an unpleasant squelch. I turned a quick, full circle to make sure that it really was the last one, then flicked as much ichor off my blade as possible before sheathing it.

The suddenness of the attack had startled me, even though I should have known better. I closed my eyes, getting my instincts under control, though undoubtedly my companions would have gotten a look at my eyes and face by now.

The suspicious part of my mind wondered if the one had been trying to provoke an attack deliberately, in the hopes that I would reveal myself. I didn’t think he was that much of an idiot, or that desperate, but I couldn’t be completely sure, not having known any of these people long.

Still, they had hired me to do a job and paid fairly for it, so I would see it done.

But I’d keep my guard up while I did it.

Under control, I stalked back over to where the whole group had, fortunately, listened to my last instruction to take cover.

“Out,” I said brusquely, jerking a thumb. Terrified, stumbling, they made their way out from under the rock overhang, gaping at me and shying away from the monster remains scattered around us. The corpses would collapse fully into ichor, but not for a couple of hours yet.

“Is it now clear to all of you,” and here I turned narrowed eyes on the man who had attracted the monsters’ attention in the first place, “that I am not exaggerating the dangers here?”

They were all silent, wide-eyed…but they all nodded.

“You’re not…” one of the women started, her voice barely a whisper.

“Human? No, not as such,” I said crisply. “That has not changed the fact that you hired me to be your guide, that I intend to do my job, and that I am your only hope of making it through alive. Are we clear on these points as well?”

Nods again, all around.

“Fine,” I said. “If you do, in fact, want to make it to your destination in one piece, then this time, do what I say.”

With that, I turned and set off again, picking my way carefully through the corpses, moving slowly enough that they could match my path, if they paid attention. Once we were out on the clear path again (such as it was), I turned one last time for a headcount.

Everyone was still with me.

I hadn’t yet lost anyone getting through the Barrens, and I didn’t intend to start now.

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