Exhausted, Guilhem tossed down his spear and sat heavily
on a stone in the swamp. The small party of surviving savages
took notice of his mood and warily drifted away from their
aggravated leader. Weeks ago the Master had ordered him to
increase the tribe’s attacks into the human cities, but now
they had been forced to settle here, defeated. He had known
going into the fight that the odds of holding even one of
the cities were slim, and he had tried to express that to
the Master. But once an order was given, it was expected to
be followed to the letter. Guilhem had seen the penalty for
disobedience and had no desire to again, especially from the
victim’s point of view. He wondered again what the penalty
for failure would be and shuddered.
When the Master had first given him this assignment he had
almost been insulted, although he had dared not show it at
the time. Lead an unimportant tribe of primitives into the
orc lands and drive them away. Live as one of them, gain their
trust. To his surprise, after his time with the tribe, he’d
become comfortable. He had learned their customs and traditions,
even made friends. Never before in his life had he felt guilt,
but now it consumed him. Guilt for being the instrument that
led the savages away from their home and into the slaughter.
Absentmindedly he rubbed a few flakes of his kin paint off
of his itching chin. He would soon need to reapply his tribal
markings. The itch manifested itself on his arms and then
spread down to his legs and soon encompassed his whole body.
Within seconds his skin was numb and he could not move or
speak. Light faded from his eyes and his mind went blank as
the sensation of movement filled him. Reality blurred and
he lost all concept of time. Then slowly, he could feel his
thoughts return and feeling prickled itself back into his
flesh. He was no longer in the swamps. He lay on cold stone.
Around him he could hear a slight clicking sound and lights
danced on the other side of his closed eyelids.
“Guilhem, I trust I did not interrupt anything vital?” said
“You were to report in weeks ago! Explain yourself!” barked
the Master’s lackey.
Fighting the initial shock of his journey, Guilhem pulled
himself upright and into a standing position, shading his
blurry eyes from the bright lights in the room. Despite his
dislike for the Master’s servant, he carefully kept his face
free of any disdain. If he was going to report a failure,
he wanted to keep every chance of living through it.
Guilhem responded steadily, “The humans took the cities back
from us in days. They were too powerful; the tribe had no
chance of success. We were forced to retreat to the swamps.
I beg forgiveness for my failure, Master; my only wish is
to serve you.” He knew the last words were a lie even as he
The master paused for a moment and then spoke. “Guilhem, you
have performed well. I do not consider your distraction a
“Distraction?!” Guilhem cried, trying desperately not to let
his anger show. Hundreds of the clan, perhaps thousands were
slaughtered… all for a distraction. “A distraction, M’lord…
I do not understand… You sent orders that I was to take the
tribes into the cities and hold them. We were defeated.”
“Indeed,” said the Master. “Your primitives occupied the Britannians
quite well. Our efforts here were not discovered, thanks to
“However, our assets are far from secure.” A deep voice took
Guilhem by surprise. In his nervousness he had not noticed
a figure standing in the shadows, concealed by a dark cloak.
“We still have the issue of the renegades.” The stranger spoke
in low tones, but with an air of power behind his words. “They
have been making attempts almost daily to expose us. If the
humans found the city now, they could shut down production
of our forces. The savages did distract the Britannians, but
it is still too soon for us to be discovered. We need more
Guilhem stood tensely. He had never heard anyone speak that
way in front of the master, as if they were an equal! He had
seen men die for far less a transgression. To his surprise,
the Master responded to the stranger, “What do you suggest?”
“That we launch the golems now. The Britannians are still
unfocused after the chaos caused by the orcs and savages.
The renegades remain a nuisance. Enough golems have been produced
to afford us the ability to have the Controllers both search
for the renegades and divert attention away from our work.
That should give us enough time to establish our security
There was a long silence as the whirring sound increased and
then settled. “Phoseph, notify the Controllers of our new
plans. They are to begin as soon as possible.” He paused while
the lackey made some notes on a scroll and then left the room.
“Guilhem, step forward.”
Guilhem knew as he stepped forward he could not hide the slight
shaking of his legs or the look of anxiety on his face. His
mind raced with anger and confusion. He tried not to look
in the direction of the dark stranger who was moving silently
across the room. He stopped behind Guilhem, casting a slight
shadow over him.
“Guilhem, don’t presume to be able to hide anything from me.
Although you performed your task well, your growing fondness
for the primitives is clear.” The Master spoke in his usual
“I… I have come to know them, M’lord. My purpose remains to
“Your purpose is mine to decide, as is your reward. You still
wear the marks of the primitives. You wish to live as one
of them.” A dark blue light enshrouded Guilhem and he rose
a few inches off of the cold floor below him. He tried to
scream but his face froze in astonished horror. “And you shall
die as one.”
Guilhem felt the warmth of his own blood running down his
body as he was impaled from behind by the dark cloaked stranger.
Through the pain of his spine breaking in two he imagined
the home of the savages and let himself have a quick, bloody
smile before slumping to the floor.
“I have matters to attend to elsewhere. We are not yet secure,”
said the dark figure, not giving a thought to the blood on
“For the moment,” replied the Master. “But soon we shall be.
The Britannians will not be able to withstand our forces.
The renegades shall soon be found. The land will be ours.”
Silently the figure moved out of the room, leaving a small
trail of crimson droplets behind him.
From the Britannia News Network - The Journal of Ultima
Online, September 27th, 2001.