The crossbow was as ugly as its purpose. Its function was shooting steel-tipped wooden bolts, but its purpose was death. No thought or energy had been expended on either style or beauty during design and construction; it was a crudely formed contraption roughly cut from an ominously dark and heavy wood. And as with the men who made it, the Dogman soldier wielding the killing device knew no subtlety. Its dreadful purpose was perfectly clear to him as he chose the defender on the walls whose doom he sought. His decision flowed instantly from thought, through finger and trigger to string. The bolt left the crossbow almost as quickly as the mental impulse that was the catalyst of its release. Lowering the weapon he watched its flight through the eye slits of his dog-head helm as the rain dripped off it to slide down his neck.
In contrast the sleekly smooth bolt was not at all ugly, though equally purposeful. It shot over the bare sandy mud of the wide beach as its trajectory took it towards the top of the walls of Castle Hurriden. It smashed through raindrops turning them instantly into spray. It hurtled towards the soft flesh of its target that would provide little more resistance. The wind pushed the bolt slightly off course as friction and gravity pulled relentlessly and it started to arc downwards. Another force then acted on the speeding slither of steel-tipped wood. It was an unseen force like the wind, but the controlling power behind it was not the chaotic complexity of weather; instead it was the pure and malign intent of the man standing behind the soldier who was wielding the weapon. The dark-robed Dogman concentrated and exerted his will, both hands raised, as he muttered inaudibly. The bolt changed direction slightly. More than that, it extended its already long flight, resisting both wind and gravity until it found the target it was created for. It penetrated skin and flesh to deliver the message of its purpose. A body tumbled off the high wall as the controlling mind enjoyed a surge of elation.
During a siege of a castle as mighty as Hurriden, the killing of one defender is but a small victory; so small as to be sadly insignificant. However, the means by which this was achieved was a great deal more important. The attackers were merely testing their abilities, but by this one act, doubt and fear were sown. The defenders had seen a hint of outlawed magic. Had the Dogmen breached all law and religious doctrine by deploying wildminds?
Copyright © Clive Anthony 2014
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