September 19, 1880

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It’s time for fear.

I’ve been gentle enough with them. Those few I’ve talked with refuse to acquiesce to my demand that they leave my Cross alone.

Well, it’s time for a lesson or two.

The riders that left town after I killed the women in the rigging have yet to return. They’re still chasing the false trail I left behind. I did not think they’d be so poorly skilled in trail-craft, not after fighting my kinsman and his dead dog.

But he appears to have been one of a few. Or, if I’m lucky, the only one.

Still, I won’t count on luck.

The town left a few sentries on the outskirts, old men patrolling with Berdans that they’ve let go to hell.

They didn’t last long under my knife.

In a short time, I’ve cleared a path for myself, tucking the bodies away and hiding any evidence of my presence. The air is dry, and the wind is steady from the north. With one ear listening for the hooves of the horses and the boots of more sentries, I set about my business.

It takes me an hour to prep the wood, and when I’m finished, all is ready.

From somewhere close by, I hear the riders. The jingle of tack and harness, combined with muttered curses and steady complaints, tells me they’re almost back. Settling down behind a large oak tree, I watch and wait. The patrol returns, the men sagging in the saddles and the horses walking with a tired, sodden rhythm.

They enter the town and are greeted by a few men and women.

As they talk, I pick up a pine branch, around the end of which is a length of fabric torn from a dead sentry’s coat. The cloth is covered in pine resin, and with the strike of a match, the fabric begins to burn.

It’s a moment’s work to slip forward and touch my burning brand to the tinder set against the houses. Flames dance up and around the dry wood, racing toward the roof.

The townsfolk realize too late what it is I’m doing.

A few try to run toward the fire, but I gun them down as the flames leap from house to house with the wind.

The riders and the remaining residents flee, not only from the flames but from the Berdan tucked into my shoulder.

It’s a joy to watch them die.

#horrorstories #fear

Published by

Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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