In Itsetuho’s Shadow

The sky was mud, and the heavy clouds were just darker ruts in that mud, threatening to pour their filth upon Itsetuho and his horse. He found himself slowly riding towards a lonely seaside town, not sure from whence he came. Didn’t matter anyway – this town would satisfy his needs. Itsetuho sneered. As if in response, the wind blew a rotting breath, foul as fermenting sewage, and his horse reared up in a wide-eyed fear and fury. Itsetuho jumped down, and smacked the horse’s flank with the flat of his xiphos. The horse reared again, and galloped quickly off, away from the town.

At that point a huge crash of thunder sounded, and the sky decided to unburden itself of its load all at once. Itsetuho shrugged wetly, and continued onward.

He walked the small main street through town unbothered, untroubled; all of the village residents had sheltered themselves from the storm. All but one that is, who was crouched upon a chimney top, watching Itsetuho darkly from behind the veil of rain.

Itsetuho found the inn easily despite the lack of visibility, and shoved the doors open. Within, the cliché of the usual cheery banter of drunken sailors and their attentive scantily-clad women was nowhere to be found. There was simply – a quiet beyond the storm’s raging at the roof. The barkeep stood stone-still at his post, both hands pressing on the bar, head raised to the noise, watching. From all the occupied tables and booths, attention was given only to the storm, and not a single eye shifted to Itsetuho. All but one that is, who was perched upon the stairs leading to the rooms for rent, watching Itsetuho darkly from behind the railings.

Itsetuho removed his soaked cloak, and threw it to the floor. No one flinched. He stomped over to the bar, leaving a trail of black footprints. No one cared. Itsetuho smashed a fist onto the thick wood as loudly as he could. “A room!” The barkeep slowly turned his head down to Itsetuho, handed him a small silver key, then looked back up at the ceiling as though nothing had happened, nothing had ever happened. Itsetuho sneered, and then trampled his way up the stairs to his room, no one watching darkly in his way.

Slamming the door behind him, Itsetuho pulled a simple wooden chair into the center of the room. He drew his sword, and sat. He waited for night to come. It wouldn’t be too long, the storm would bring it quicker, blacker, deadlier.

The storm slowly spent itself, and sputtered, spattered its way out. The rut of clouds died slow, and birthed a full harvest moon, the orange of dead leaves crawling with worms. The glow cast a knowing glare into Itsetuho’s room, and Itsetuho smiled wide, so wide the corners of his mouth cracked and bled. It was time.

He raised his short sword, and plunged it deeply into his stomach.

Itsetuho quietly reveled at the scream he heard from the next room as he removed the sword neatly from his stomach. No effort, no pain, no blood. A muffled commotion grew in the hallway. Desperate cries for help, and bashing at the neighboring door commenced. Itsetuho cracked his neck leisurely to the left, to the right, and swung his sword mightily towards his knee.

More screaming, and massive confusion from the hallway. Blood pooled underneath his door. Itsetuho nearly laughed aloud as he stabbed at his throat, and twisted. He cut at his face. He sliced at his wrists.

Screaming, and screaming, and screaming. Itsetuho was ecstatic. He continued on, xiphos raging as the storm raged, until the screaming turned to gurgles, and pained whispers of distress. He continued until there was silence. Itsetuho stood, hung his sword on his door, and went to bed, falling asleep easily, restfully. All others in the inn, and in the village lay dreamlessly, dead. All save one, that is, watching Itsetuho darkly, standing at the side of his bed.

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