"I hate this bloody rain!" announced the guard to his brethren as he climbed into the hut. "Magnol, it's your turn out there, get moving!" With exaggerated slowness one of the Magmars sitting around the central hearth got up, donned his tarred weather gear and vanished into the darkness beyond the door. The guard who had just announced his dislike of the weather here in the borderlands dropped his soaking wet cloak onto a stand and sat down in Magnol's place. "Ghastly weather, I tell you. Even the enemy will stay indoors tonight." This statement was met with nods of agreement and approval by the four other soldiers warming themselves at the fire. "So, is there any food left?" asked the first guard and was handed a loaf of bread and a plate of steaming hot soup by the one sitting next to him. "Thanks, Dragnor." The one addressed in this manner made himself comfortable again and picked up the tale he had been telling earlier. The two fresh recruits that he had been talking to, who were sitting across from him beyond the flames, already had a haunted look on their faces.
"So there we were. I had only just joined the regiment as I have told you. So needless to say we were dispensable. I got stuck in this suicidal command along with ten or twenty lads I had never met before in my life, Magnol and this weird Magmar who was about the same age as us – 15 or so I reckon. He didn’t talk much. And if he did it sounded like gibberish to me. He said he was the last remaining member of some ancient clan or something. But really he sounded like one of those kids you see in Dartrong playing in the gutters, a real street urchin. Anyway, the following week we got this assignment on the Plateau of Silence. One hell of a trip, I can tell you!" He spat in the flames. " We got there by early evening in weather just like this. I must have been about as green behind the ears as you two lads – Hahaha!" He laughed a rough but hearty laugh and reached for his tankard under his chair and took a swig. "Well, I will never forget that night. Not to my dying day." As he said this, a shadow crept over his face and the weariness of a lifetime spent on the battlefields was clearly visible. "All of us boys took shelter in one of the ruins and the old training sergeant that was with us said that camping so close to the enemy would make men of us. We had just about set up camp and the first watch was about to start out when someone shouted "Ambush!" The next thing I saw was the old sergeant's head rolling past my feet. And Humans. A whole squad had surrounded us without a sound. We were done for! I saw the other boys reaching for their weapons only to be slashed in half the next second. Those damned Humans! They didn't show any mercy, they butchered everyone."
In the moment of silence that followed, the hissing of the flames and the drizzle of the rain seemed all the louder. Dragnor looked directly at the two fresh recruits: "Magnol and I were standing back to back in the guts and blood of our brethren. And those cursed Humans were laughing and leering at us. And then the weirdest thing happened." Dragnor set down his ale. "I told you, we were surrounded by this slaughter. Then over the shoulder of one of those despicable Humans I saw it. A shadow! It was only a shadow! But it separated, and there stood this weird boy. What was his name now? Anyway, he was smiling. And boys, I have never seen anything more evil than this boy's smile. Sometimes I wake at night and its image is still in front of me... It's a skull-like smile, the smile of death, I tell you!" He raised a hand and pointed at the far wall across from him, causing the young recruits to turn and stare. "There he stood, plain as day. Smiling. And then he soundlessly drew a sword and picked up an axe. By then three Humans had apparently decided our fate and came towards us, weapons drawn. They had not noticed the boy behind them. This proved most unfortunate. Hahahaha!" Again the deep laughter, but this time it sounded bitter. "They were all dead in seconds. Missing a head, limbs, grabbing their guts to stop them from falling out, falling backwards with their chests split open. And, I swear, the boy... the boy was dancing around and between them. Chopping the pink-skins up good! But smiling, he never stopped smiling..."
Dragnor cleared his throat and took another swig of beer. "Anyway. We went back to the garrison right after that. Magnol and I got a cushy guard posting in Dartrong until we were sent to Chernag a year later. I never heard of the boy again though. What was his name now?" He stared at the ceiling. "I remember his smile like it was yesterday but his name … I think he was trained as an executioner or something … Ha! I got it: Roentarre! That's him, Roentarre!" The guard who had been quietly eating beside Dragnor coughed up soup and breadcrumbs. "You have met Roentarre?!" he exclaimed. "Yep!" nodded Dragnor "That was the chap's name." "You met Roentarre and survived?!" said the astonished guard, who was covered in the remains of his dinner. "That Magmar’s a legend, a fairy tale, a story to tell children to scare the living daylights out of them! He is the lone survivor of countless massacres. He is the executioner sent after you by Sheara if you anger the gods! He can't be real!" Dragnor hotly replied "Oh he can't, can he not?! By Tallaar, as sure as I am sitting here I met him when I was a lad! Magnol was there, too." He turned to the door "Hey Magnol, Magnol come here for a second." - Silence. - "Magnol, quit fooling around and move your behind." - More silence followed and an eerie feeling crept over the men. Each of them reached for their weapons and silently they opened the door and slid into the night.
On the parapet around the outpost no sentry or guard could be seen. They climbed to the ground. Dragnor had brought a torch, which he now held aloft. "Magnol! Where are you?" he shouted into the rain. But still no answer. As they were pacing around the foundations of their post, one of the new recruits fell over something lying on the ground. He had found Magnol. Well, part of him at least. He screamed and the others came rushing over. "By the gods! There must be Humans about." exclaimed Dragnor now drawing his sword. "Yes. There are Humans about." came a soft voice from the darkness. The four guards huddled together. "Who goes there? Show yourself!" screamed Dragnor. The response was a fiery flash and there, not ten feet away from them stood a man, red and blue flames running over his armour. In his right hand he held an axe and he was currently wiping its blade clean with his left. As they watched he turned toward them... and smiled. "Yes, there are Humans about." he said again "And your friend here let them walk right past him. He has already paid the price for the dereliction of his duty. But what about you?" ...
The humans had been beaten back. They had somehow managed to pierce the defences in the night. But they had been beaten none the less. Now the soldiers were sent out in groups to man the guard towers once more. As they came to the most distant, they found a young Magmar sitting between the corpses of five Magmar soldiers. He was rocking to and fro, his hands clasped around his knees, repeating a rhyme or riddle over and over again:
In shadow he will walk
throughout his life alone.
In shadow he will live
forever without a home.
In shadow he will lurk
with ever sharpened blade
Into shadow he will take you
for remorse it is to late.