The Barbarian: 5

Mock stared into the eyes of his enemy like he’d stared so many times before. They had so many different coloured eyes, these Paleskins: all different shades of blue and green and grey. Once he even saw violet. So pretty, so weak. But despite the colour, they otherwise looked the same. That same blankness, that same grey film across the widened pupil. Death made brothers of them all. Sometimes all those little blood vessels would burst, turning the white part pink. But not these eyes. These eyes stayed as pasty as their owner’s skin.

Mock thrust the spear into the ground, then shoved the head onto the point he’d sharpened at the other end. He pushed down hard, then twisted it so it faced east. Gripping the spear in his slippery hand, Mock watched alongside it as though they were allies, even friends.

The irony.

He gestured at the scene. ‘So, my friend. What do you think?’

The horizon was painted red, partly from the descending sun but mostly from the blazing fires. Pyres of bodies blackened, curled and melted. Billows of acrid smoke stained the pink clouds grey. The stench was so thick it lodged like a moss-covered stone in Mock’s throat. It tickled and scratched.

How he loved it.

Warm blood from the Paleskin head trickled down his wrist.

‘A fine day. A great kill. Only ten of my men dead. Forty of yours. Or was it fifty?’ He looked at his new friend, then shrugged. ‘I don’t know either. But I assumed wrong: it seems one man of mine is worth at least four of yours.’

Something shifted in one of the pyres. Body parts rolled. There was a crackle, a snap, a flash. A tongue of flame licked. Thick black smoke mushroomed. His brothers didn’t budge, watching as intently as Mock, their bodies flickering in the light of the flames, bloodied and bruised, black with soot and reeking of death. They were satisfied, even joyous.

But not yet redeemed.

Turning his gaze far afield, Mock licked his lips. So much more to be done.

6.