Most of the people of Greystone scattered and ran. Some of them, the hungry and desperate looking, the brash and the angry, looked at me like I was a free meal. Twenty sovereigns was a lot of money, even in Greystone. This is all wrong, I thought. All wrong. I was going to lead these people against Osman and the Unblinking Eye. There would be an uprising. The people would take up their picks and their shovels as weapons, and they would turn them on the Unblinking Eye. Instead, here they were, taking up those tools and turning them against me.
I didn’t hesitate. A man charged at me and I threw a dagger end over end, the tip embedding itself in his chest. He fell to the ground with a scream, but two more took his place. I bashed them aside, paying no heed to where they fell. A few more came, and I dealt with them in the same way.
“Look!” Osman shouted out. “This man’s a fraud. He didn’t come here to help you. He doesn’t care about you. He’s killing you!”
I wanted to shout curses at Osman, to rush towards him, climb to the rooftops, and throw him broken and battered into the streets, but I didn’t dare take my eyes off of the gathered crowd. All it would take was a moment of distraction for me to find myself mobbed and unable to fight back. I had to watch Osman as well, for there was little doubt in my mind that if the opportunity presented itself, he’d bury a crossbow bolt in my back and be done with it.
“Keep at it! He can’t fight forever!” Osman shouted down. He was right. I couldn’t. I could fight longer than any human in Greystone, I was certain, but their numbers were limitless and it wouldn’t be long before my reflexes began slowing down. There was only one thing to do. I dropped back into a defensive stance and bellowed, spittle flying from my mouth, lips pulled back from my fangs, a short blade clenched in each hand. The humans in front of me paused, their eyes going wide with terror.
And then I ran.
I barreled through the crowd, pushing past confused and frightened humans. Some of them swung at me clumsily, and those I had to swat at with my weapons, but for the most part, no one did anything to stop me. Behind me, I could hear Osman screaming, “Catch him! Gods damn you, catch him!” Once I was free of the crowd, there’d be no stopping me. The humans who had fled wouldn’t know what was going on, and they wouldn’t be brave enough to face a hulking, green-skinned, fanged monster on their own.
I burst into the open streets of Greystone, and quickly formed a plan. Find a blacksmith, grab a suit of mail and a better weapon than these pathetic daggers. If I was lucky, there’d be a bowyer nearby and I could arm myself there as well. Steal a horse or a mule, if I could. Some beast that would help me put distance between myself and Greystone. And then I’d head north, into the woods, and I’d bide my time. I’d gather allies. I’d gather resources. I’d plan. And when I was finally ready, I would come back and have my revenge. When the Unblinking Eye were defeated, when they were fleeing back to wherever the hell they had come from, I would stand there laughing, my hand tight around Osman’s throat, choking the life from him. Not for Maman, not for the people of Greystone. No. I would do it for myself and myself alone, all because he had beaten me. I didn’t even get a shot at a fair fight, but he had still beaten me, and I couldn’t allow that.
I grabbed armor and weapons. I threw them into a sack. My mind wandered. Osman controlled the people of Greystone better than I ever could, like his own squad of irregulars. If I were going to beat him, I needed an army. Loyal. Obedient. Unquestioning.
I leapt astride a horse, kneed it into the ribs and sped into the woods. I thought back to the wizard in his tower, and an idea came to me. A cold grin spread across my face.
I knew just how to find such an army.
And so concludes Tusk’s tale for now. Be here on Tuesday for flash fiction!