They were gloved in the finest moleskin and sticky with blood, yet the touch was icy cold.
Blood sprayed out across the snow, as red as summerwine. One of the horses reared and had to be restrained to keep from bolting. ▓▓▓▓▓ could not take his eyes off the blood. The snows around the stump drank it eagerly, reddening as he watched.
“He ran.” He looked at ▓▓▓▓▓’s face and laughed. “But not very fast.”
His cloak was blue, the color of the sky on a clear summer’s day, trimmed with a border of crescent moons, but as his blood seeped into it, the cloth darkened and the moons turned red, one by one.
He saw them cut the legs from █████’s mount and drag him to the earth, swords rising and falling as they closed in around him.
▓▓▓▓▓ heard the knight groan as the sellsword lifted his blade with both hands and drove it down and in with all his weight behind it, under the arm and through the ribs. █████ shuddered and lay still.
The sound █████ made when that hideous iron helmet covered his face was like nothing human. His feet hammered a frantic beat against the dirt floor, slowed, stopped.
▓▓▓▓▓ watched his old friend sag softly into the pillows as the milk of the poppy washed the pain from his face. Sleep took him.
▓▓▓▓▓ went through his leather jerkin and the white flesh of his belly and came out between his shoulder blades. The boy dropped the pitchfork and made a soft noise, something between a gasp and a sigh. His hands closed around the blade. “Oh, gods,” he moaned, as his undertunic began to redden. “Take it out.”
The knight’s next cut was at the ▓▓▓▓▓’s ear, so savage that █████'s face seemed almost to explode.
Dimly, as if from far away, she heard a … a *noise* … a soft sighing sound, as if a million people had let out their breath at once. The old man’s fingers dug into her arm, stiff as iron.
She knelt, kissed █████ on the lips, and pressed the cushion down across his face.
Her song grew louder, shriller … then she gasped, again and again, and her song became a shuddering wail, thin and high and full of agony.