They were gone.
Two days prior, I had left to hunt fell creatures in the forest, and when I returned with a haversack full of scalps, the men were gone.
There had been two hundred of us encamped here. I had walked past the smithy and the quartermaster. The horses had been stabled on the edge of the field, and the drummer boys had been practicing.
Smoke had risen from the chimneys as men cooked their rations, while others lingered outside their quarters, smoking pipes and playing checkers. It was life in a military camp, and I had seen a hundred iterations of it before. The familiar nature of it was calming, and something to which I looked forward to each time I left.
Yet the familiar was gone when I returned.
The canvas coverings had been torn down, and the horses lay dead in the fields. The drums of the boys were punctured and scattered about. Blood was splashed across the grass and the smithy’s anvil appeared to have been used as an executioner’s block. Bone fragments and still wet bits of brains were splattered upon the walls.
I searched everywhere I could, and while I found evidence of violence and a fierce fight, I did not find any survivors.
Not a single one.
There weren’t even any tracks into or out of the encampment. It was as though the enemy had descended from the heavens and devoured my comrades.
And who is to say they didn’t?
I have seen stranger sights.
For a short time, I stood there, listening to the horrific silence. Then, I took out my pipe, packed the bowl with fresh tobacco, lit it, and set off for the nearest unit.
I had no time to mourn the dead. There was always more killing to do.
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