It was the first whisper of morning with just a promise of light coloring the sky and all Megolyth could think of was murder. He’d thought about it all night, rehearsing, smelling and tasting it, and now he was ready. It was a sureness in him; a confident surrender to the fickle will of destiny which dictated this killing would have to be now.
The victim of this assassination was to be High Lord Halcion, their reigning chieftain. The reason was simple. Today, Megolyth was finally of age to challenge for leadership of the band. Leadership was what his band desperately needed. Up to this point, their chieftain had led them from the fringes of one kingdom to another, endlessly searching for a place to call home. Megolyth knew he could do better.
With quiet reverence, he rose from the small altar in his tent, his knees cracking. The stick incense continued to perfume the space with a mild vanilla scent, its thread of smoke drawing frosted swirls in the air.
His leather tunic and steel cuirass smelled of fresh oil and polish as he stepped out into the darkened camp. Tents in vibrant colors of rust and bronze peppered the landscape around the central bonfire, their walls billowing in the gentle breeze. It was too early for almost anyone to be awake, especially Halcion. Megolyth walked down the short sandy path to their chieftain’s tent, observing it typically unguarded as he approached.
It astonished him that the man had managed to live so long and be so careless about his own safety. Even now, with Megolyth having come of age to challenge, Halcion still posted no guards outside his tent. Someone less scrupulous could easily slay him as he slept and never even offer the opportunity to defend himself.
He passed an old woman stripping a carcass for the morning meal. "Good morning to you, young Lord," she said as he passed.
Megolyth nodded a greeting to her and smiled. His nostrils filled with the sweet aroma of fresh meat and he noted the woman’s hands covered in fleshy grime. The sight excited him, rushing his soul for a hunt.
He arrived at the chieftain’s tent and paused. The warm scent of Halcion’s wife, Anna, hung in the air just inside the threshold. He thought of slaying her as well, but in a second of reflection, he decided to let her live. She was still young and attractive and posed no threat to him, besides it was foolish to anger both their families.
His youth was baiting him, driving him to hurry, but he held back. He breached the tent with nimble care.
Inside laid the silver-haired chieftain, his breathing heavy with sleep. His much younger wife lay on her belly half draped across him, her exposed back partially obscured by a brown leather throw.
Megolyth circled to the old man’s side of the bed. He crouched down to his chieftain’s ear in the darkness, leaning in close. "It’s time, Lord," he said.
The old chieftain startled and scrambled away from Megolyth. His abrupt action woke his wife, and she groaned in protest.
Megolyth stood and stared down at them. "I’ll be waiting outside," he said and stalked out.
In a few moments, his chieftain emerged looking ruffled and unfocused. A group of spectators gathered around them, tasting a battle in the air.
Halcion searched the crowd for a friendly face. His countenance was desperate and haggard. "This should not be," he said, addressing the swelling crowd. He stretched his arms out, pleading. "He’s barely a man. Do you truly want to be lead by someone with so little experience?"
No one spoke. Many avoided looking at him not wanting to be associated with a man they believed was soon to die. No one wanted his doom to rub off on them.
The twin suns cleared a low ridge to the east as he spoke, dazzling everyone with brilliant light and delicate heat. Megolyth pulled his bastard sword from its scabbard and waited as the old man continued to stall. Megolyth hoped he’d die better than this when his end came. This would be a hard kill for him. The old man had always shown him kindness. Megolyth, however, had come to realize Halcion’s kindness was cowardice in disguise. Today was the day the marauders would have a new future, finally shedding their nomadic past.
The old chieftain was turning now, searching the eyes of his audience for help or pity. This was an enormous mistake. Weakness of any kind was regarded as unmanly and an embarrassment. No one seemed willing to help. Defeated, the chieftain finally pulled his saber.
Megolyth charged him, taking two heavy strides forward and raising his weapon. The older man stumbled backward as though surprised at the attack. He clumsily raised his weapon in a feeble attempt at defense, but Megolyth was already on him bringing his saber down in a quick horizontal cut to the neck.
The chieftain’s head came off in one smooth slice. Blood sprayed from the wound as the body fell like a crumbling tower. The chieftain’s wife gasped in horror and fell to her knees, clutching the blanket around her tightly.
Megolyth was showered in blood. He stepped over the body twitching on the ground and plucked the head up by the hair. Taking a spear from a nearby warrior, he jabbed the severed head on the tip and stabbed the staff into the ground. Slick crimson gore glistened on his face and armor as he turned his gaze to the crowd.
"My brothers and sisters, although our veins pulse with royal blood, we live like savages, scraping the wilderness for our survival. Today, that has come to an end." He paced slowly, meeting each listener’s eye, and then moving on to the next. "As I speak to you, there is an AEssyrian kingdom with no king. Soon, we will make it our home and put an end to this migrant savagery."
Megolyth waited, ready, wondering if his rise to leadership would be challenged. As everyone lay silent, he caught his grandfather’s gaze and the man smiled at him. It was a proud, supportive smile, an encouragement to continue his choices so far.
The sound started low, a gravelly rumbling that grew in volume with the number of people who joined it. Soon, it rose from the clan; it’s hard, demanding rhythm accompanied by the pounding of feet and spears.
Megolyth shook the blood off his blade and raised it to salute them. A few bloody smears still clung to its shiny surface. It gleamed in the aura of sunlight. The steady bellow of the crowd was the most compelling thing he had ever heard. The noise thrilled him swelling his pride.