Kirin tried to look at anything but her boots. She’d already been told a half dozen times by the more experienced hunters around her that staring down was as good as giving your neck to one of the blighters. But her stomach was churning and her head was running the many possible terrors that she’d experience before the sun started its slow climb back into the sky and she kept rousing herself from daydreams staring at her damned boots. Truth be told she was scared. Which she thought was curious, given how ready she was to die before the church had found her she hadn’t thought she’d balk at the danger. Probably because there are worse things than death out there tonight.
The young woman rolled her shoulders and glanced around at the group getting ready around her. Many were drinking, taking long pulls from flasks and bottles and grimacing before passing them along. Some were sharpening weapons and taking stock of gear. Others were praying, preparing their souls for whatever they’d find out in the black tonight. None of them were quiet, whether they were sharing rowdy laughter or making their covenants with The Renegade, they were doing it as though they were the only ones in the room. Though a naturally quiet individual herself, Kirin had grown accustomed to this strange quirk after living amongst them for a few weeks. It’s easy to take the sounds of life for granted until you’re holding your breath creeping through tombs. The members here certainly didn’t take any moment for granted.
Kirin snapped back to the present as the hum of activity around her suddenly stilled and the Lord Redeemer took his place before them. He was grizzled and covered in scars of varying severity, which wasn’t uncommon for someone in the service of Octanoss, but he was also old, and despite her lack of experience, Kirin knew this was not something often seen among their ranks. Going on the endless raids that their oaths required meant not only keeping your body intact but your soul and mind together. No easy feat in the face of the undead and demonic creatures they were asked to destroy. He surveyed the group for a moment, letting the heft of his gaze silence tapping feet and drumming fingers before he addressed them.
“You are the Battle Saints of Octanoss. You do not fear death, for a true death is a gift from the goddess above.”
“One that we guard in her name.” The return was automatic and Kirin took comfort in the way her mouth formed the words without needing her assistance.
The Redeemer continued, “Tonight you will go into the crypts of the old city, forgotten and tread upon by the people that we protect. They do not know what is growing in the darkness below them and when you destroy it they will continue on in blissful ignorance. But you will know that you have risked oblivion to keep them free from corruption and Octanoss will see that you continue her righteous war and she will open the gates for any of her children who fell in the doing. But don’t too damn many of you fall because we’re running low on new recruits.”
The gathered warriors laughed and Kirin felt an uncharacteristic blush flood her pale face as she was clapped on the back by those around her.
“Now go get the bastards!” She barely heard the Redeemer’s roared final directive over the beating of her own heart in her ears, but she joined the chorus of return yells and yips of the women and men around her and stepped into the cool night air.
Despite everything, she had a good feeling about tonight.
Featured Image: The Strange Crypt by Alyssa Christensen