Scent of Fate

I went shopping yesterday, a normal exercise for me and anyone else who enjoys eating on a semi-regular basis. Today the bakery next to the local supermarket was baking Swedish coffee bread and the scent hit me with extraordinary force. Suddenly I was nearly incapacitated with sadness, to the point where I had to stop and sit (fortunately there was a bench) and spend several minutes composing myself.

My emotions seldom rise up so unexpectedly, but the scent of the bread brought the past in to the present so suddenly, that and a reply to a commenter a few days ago. I had been thinking of all the terrible things I have witnessed and I was being oh-so-analytical about it, rather like examining a specimen under a microscope. Then: POW!

I had been in that village for about a year, having been traded off as part of a large exchange of goods with peoples far down the coast. I was happy- I could see a good future for me as I was finally in acceptance of my unusual nature and now I could anticipate fifteen or even twenty years of life in a single spot. I remember that morning, the scent of baking bread caressing my senses, so sweet I could taste it on the air. And then the commotion, and the screaming… I dashed outside and I was so shocked to see riders- horsemen!

I turned and the slender lance took me just under the breastbone, hot pressure and the wrenching twist as the rider retained his grip, galloping past and tearing the weapon from my body, I remember tumbling over and over, arms and legs numb and useless until I came to rest against a low stone wall. Everything became detached then, I simply witnessed it through sound and fleeting glimpses of light and shadow- they killed everyone, even to chasing down those who fled without fighting. The commotion quieted, the last cries fading. Men began moving about on foot and one seized me by an ankle and dragged me in to the center of the village. Soon other bodies were heaped atop me and I could no longer see. There were sounds of fire and the receding hoof beats of the raiders as they withdrew.

It took a long time for sensation to return to my arms and legs and by then I was raging with both thirst and hunger. Once I could move at all I began to claw my way out from under the piled corpses. It was midday but the pall of smoke from the still smoldering remnants of the dwellings and barns cast a haze over the ground. I crawled to the well, but I was still too weak to draw any water so I propped myself up against it to catch my breath.


The voice startled me, even though it was so small, so frightened. I turned towards it and saw one of the young boys, a son of one of the fishermen, peering at me from over a stone wall that backed on the forest above the village. He was perhaps six years old.

“Please, water,” was all I managed to croak, my throat terribly dry, and my tongue thick.

I remember it all as if it just happened. I never found out who those men were, never discovered why they raged up the coast, killing all they encountered and burning all in their path. They stole nothing, and I never came upon them again. It was my first encounter with what I can only describe as unmitigated evil. Unfortunately, it was not my last.

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