The fire crackled as James stoked it. Sparks almost landed on Henry’s leg, but he moved just in time. James hummed a tune as everyone relaxed around the camp site. It was a familiar tune, but one which had not been hummed or sung for centuries.
Though it spun a tale of death and destruction, the fact that an archinian was humming it voiced unspoken hope.
The woods lay still and silent but for the mutterings of the archinians. Humans had been wiped out (along with every other species) long ago; there was nothing to fear here.
But the archinians had long since become too complacent, for their once-warrior senses had dulled over the centuries. So much so that twenty-seven archinians didn’t hear the sharp crack of a twig breaking underfoot; the rustle of leaves being parted; the whispered words of a language which was thought to have died aeons ago.
“So anyway Henry, you know that rabbit I caught yesterday? Well this little rascal set him free.” James ruffled his son’s hair. “Said he was going to live on nuts and seeds for the rest of his life instead.” James and Henry guffawed at this and looked at the boy with fond smiles on their faces.
“Papa, I told you-” The boy began, but he stopped and stared into the inky blackness beyond the camp fire. “I just saw someone there.” He murmured, still peering into the darkness.
“It’s just your mind playing tricks on you, son. You know there’s nothing out there until out Firenzis’ way, and even then there are only a few sproutlings.” James said the words as though they were his old friends; they left his lips with ease. He placed a log on the fire and prodded it deeper into the heart of the flame with a stick. It turned red to black in a matter of seconds.
“You should really listen to Matthew more, James.” The unfamiliar voice that spoke stirred something inside of James. He stopped and looked up. The voice had spoken in Archage haltingly, like no archinian he had ever known before.
He smelled it before he saw it. The scent of meat sweats and sharp cheese filled his nostrils until he felt nauseous and faint. His mind reeled as he thought about the songs sung in the name of that stench.
And then he saw them materialising, surrounding the camp site. All wore rags and menacing smiles; all licked their lips incessantly; all edged closer to their prey – for that’s what the archinians were. There’s no denying that.
“How-? Why-?” James asked. But the questions caught in his throat. Not merely from the shock of seeing a whole pack of humans in the flesh, but also because the man who had spoken rushed over to James with an unnatural speed, pulled him close, pushed his head back so his neck was exposed and bit cleanly into the man’s throat.
You would expect for sobs to be heard from the other members of the camp site, but they had all been dealt with in the same way and at the same moment. The archinians merely let out a bleak, shuddering breath before their eyes turned glassy and their scales turned the dull grey colour of death.
“How-? Why-?” The human mimicked as he held James’ body in his hands. He grabbed the archinian by the wrist and dragged him off the log next to the camp fire, taking his place even though it was soaked with blood. Then he pulled James back towards him by the wrist and took another large bite out of his neck. “Allow me to tell you a story, Jamesy-pie. Nothing beats a dead audience.” Some of the other humans chuckled and joined him at the camp fire, dragging their victims behind them as though they were mere ragdolls.
“You see, it all began after the Death Day of Queen Marguerite the Second. You remember how she was torn from the thrown by your scum-”
And I dare say I will leave their story there. I have already outstayed my welcome; I should have left as soon as the archinians were killed. I fear they will find me if I linger too long, so just take this as a warning that they are back.
No one is safe. Be warned.
I wrote over 3,200 words for work today. Hooray! But my creative writing has taken a hit because of it. I finish at 17:00 and don’t want to write another word (although here I am writing several more). Maybe I’ll try and change up when I write creatively…