by Jordan

Shadows quivered on the wall as the torch flickered, then fizzled to nothing. Sadara could hear his companion unsheathe his sword as the less experienced watchman fumbled with his flint and steel. Each time he struck them together, the cavern lit up, and he could see the light reflected off his own and his companion’s Ardrean steel armor.

As he worked, Sadara could faintly hear movement in the distance, then his fellow watchman moving to stand protectively over him. When he finally lit the torch, the light was blinding as it shone off the man before him.

“Shadowgate!” the other watchman called as he lunged at an unseen enemy, and in an instant, Sadara was on his feet, torch in one hand and sword in the other. As the walls rung with the sounds of battle, he watched his companion fall, and came face to face with a group of dark figures. Some had mismatched pieces of armor, but most wrapped themselves in furs and skins. Their weapons were crueler than any Sadara had seen. Jagged-edged axes, barbed spears, and bows knocked with arrows of bone or stone. Despite their lack of uniformity, the Shadows had one thing in common; each had bright red eyes that reflected the flame with a flickering mixture of amusement and malice.

Turning, the young man tried to flee, but his armor made him slow, and the Shadows’ arrows found the gaps in it with ease. As his right calf lanced with pain, Sadara fell, dropping the torch, which rolled out of reach. Sitting upright, he raised his sword and tried to scoot away from his pursuers, but soon found himself pinned against a wall of stone.

“Spare me,” he pleaded. “I can help you!” but they would not reply.

The largest of the group stepped forward. On his head he wore the three-ridged helm of a Sataryan captain, the visor removed to reveal a grievously deep cut that stretched from his right cheek to the left side of his chin. The cut had cleaved his lips, so his mouth could never fully close, exposing the wickedly pointed teeth of his people. On his hip he wore an axe not unlike those of his fellow Shadows, but in his hand he held a sleek black blade, too long to be a short sword, but too short to be a long sword, and curved to form a mild crescent.

As the torchlight guttered and dimmed, Sadara’s last sight was the horrific sharp-toothed grin on the Shadow leader’s mutilated, coal-black face.