June 24th, 2002
The Eyes Have It - By Portilius
They are different. I can see it.
I move amongst the ordinary folk and watch carefully from the shadows.
I used to be good and retirement has not dulled my skills. If I had
wanted them to see me then they would have done so. What are they?
I mingle with the crowds of ordinary people, but my eyes take in those
who interest me. The crowd I move through in this tavern are ordinary
people - they talk and laugh and enjoy themselves. Those two I see
across the room, however - they appear to be the standard sort of people of
this realm. Their equipment is outlandish but the guards of the City
of Medievia hail from all climes as do the mercenaries who infest the
There is a difference, though. That pair have a certain vitality that
those around me lack. Somehow, they are more alive. I cannot explain
it, but there is more to them than any other here. They sit at a table
and talk and I am fascinated.
The eyes. I realize after watching them surreptitiously that their
eyes show their vigor. I donít know why I didn't see it before but I
could recognize their kind anywhere now. Are there more or just these
two? Within an hour of patient observation that question is answered. A
third comes and sits with them.
My ale remains untouched as I watch them from the shadows near the
fire. I dismissed the others in the tavern as being without that extra
life a long time ago. What are these people doing here? A thrill of
suspicion trills through my brain. What are they? Two men and the new
arrival is a woman, she in the robes of a mage and the men in heavy
armor. They all appear competent and comfortable in each otherís presence.
Avoiding suspicion is paramount and I decide to leave the tavern for
some air and a chance to think.
Their table is close to the door and I avert my gaze as I pass, but my
ears catch some of their words - they are planning a trading expedition.
I donít catch all of the words, but enough to know that it is a long
The air is cleaner outside and I pause to clear my lungs of smoke.
People mill around, the normal people that inhabit this City. Merchants
mingle with guards and beggars with mercenaries. Yet amongst them I can
see the others moving - nothing too distinguishing to the untrained
observer but I look at their eyes. In groups or singly they pass by,
hardly noticing me as they go about their business. How many are there?
My pulse begins to sound loud in my ears as I watch with mounting panic.
I try to head back into the tavern - there are but three of them there
and that would be safer. A man in a dark cape accosts me and tries to
sell me a mirror of all things. I am about to push him away but I see
something. I push coins at the gaunt man and take the mirror to one
side and examine the surface closely. What am I? I must know.
With another tankard in my hand, I leave the mirror by the bar and sit
in a corner, brooding. Am I truly one of them? Can they see me as I
see them? The shadows are suddenly not deep enough nor dark enough to
match my mood. I must know more.
Once more I am the hunter, a life I had thought to leave behind. I
head home quickly and collect my equipment from the top of the wardrobe
where it had once been left for good. My beloved asks me what troubles
me but her eyes are not as mine or theirs. I only say that Iíll return
when my business is complete.
They are leaving the tavern as I return and I watch from a distance.
The stables are nearby and I follow their creaking wagons from the trade
post. Wagon drovers rarely look behind - only their destination is
important and I use this, all the while trying to think.
Are these my peers? Am I to live up to their values? What should I be
doing? Should I greet or challenge them? All I can do is to watch and
wait, working out how they act and being ready to copy them. If I am
one of them then I have to know what to do.
The journey is long, but my horse is fit, and I keep them in sight. We
passed Riverton some time ago and I have to wonder as to their
destination. When they camp, I take my rest and they are cold, lonely nights
without a fire. Should I have approached them by now? I do not know, but
I know that I need to find out more about them whether I catch them up
or not. Safety lies in information.
There are forests in the world and the one they are about to pass is
just one of many to the normal eye, but there is something... malign about
it. My quarry can sense it too - a feeling on the edge of hearing that
betrays danger within the barky mass. They start to look around and I
am forced to follow through the brush at the side of the road to avoid
them seeing me. My horse complains, but I have the reins and the need
to go onward.
They wait at the start of a trail that leads into the forest and I
watch with interest as they prepare themselves. The forest is unappealing,
but I have to see them closer where no others could interfere. My
horse refuses and nothing I can do will force it to go closer. I can move
with more stealth myself, though, and I allow it its freedom.
I creep in on a side trail through the forest and hope that I am not
too far behind. What have they come here for? There are better tracks
to follow than this dank place and I have to wonder as to their sanity.
My own briefly crosses my mind, but my need outweighs my self respect.
I ghost through the trees and watch the trail from the side as
carefully as I look behind me. Too many hiding places abound here to trap the
unwary and I have never been called stupid. Not by anyone who now
They come along the trail and I pause as still as the trunks I hide
amongst. There are others here - I can sense them now. My heart - surely
they can hear such a loud beat. Should I warn or stay silent and
undetected? Too late - those I sought are under attack and I am struck with
My quarry appeared competent and their skills proved this as they
accounted for themselves honorably. Their foes swarm around, flashing in
with sudden attacks and darting away quickly. They bleed as they run
and I am heartened to see it. There are too many and they are wearing
the traders down. A myriad cuts are visible on the leading warrior and
the mage looks exhausted. She is pulled from her horse with a scream.
Her companions turn at this and it is a fatal distraction. The enemy,
silent in their victory, swarm forward and I act. There is no reason
behind my actions, just instinct. Am I one of a social race, given to
assisting my own kind? I do not know, but my knife plunges deep into the
back of an unwary foe. The hunter becomes the prey, and he falls
silently. His death gives me time to creep up behind another and he joins
The ambushers become aware of me. Two of their number lie on the
blood-soaked ground by my hand and there are three others courtesy of the
now-still merchants. Three remain - it is poor odds for me but they have
lost too many. Like shadows they melt into the trees and I watch as
The merchants are dead. The ambushers had been trying to remove their
armor as I struck and that had given me the advantage. I examine the
corpses and their eyes are normal now in death. What were you? The
thought passes through my head even as I hear a noise and turn swiftly.
An ambusher, dressed in black, gasps his last on the leafy floor. I
pull him upright to ask questions, but halt my tongue as I see his face.
He is alive in the same way that the merchants were - that I am. I
fumble for the words I need, but I take too long and that life in his eyes
fades and dies.
I take one of the remaining horses, risking time to take all available
coin pouches, and gallop out. Nobody tries to stop me and I am soon on
the road headed for home. I see others of my kind passing in the other
direction, all with that look to their eyes, but I avoid them and
My beloved is overjoyed to see me return safely. My first thoughts are
to check her eyes again just in case, but there is no danger there.
Life like that can only mean danger. She heats the kettles for a bath - I
must stink after a few days in the saddle.
The hot water soothes my muscles and I can relax at last. I am beyond
caring about those who are more alive. I will keep to myself and trust
that they will do likewise. My beloved brings fresh towels and I take
a decision. I know where my best interests, and hers, lie and I shall
not leave her again.
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