Blade's Corner, Maryland - August 22, 1814.

ZebulonRyken, head man and unofficial mayor of Blade's Corner, looked uneasily at the column of soldiers marching up the dirt path that ran between the two rows of ramshackle buildings that formed the center of life for the ninety-odd people who made this hamlet their home. It was market day, and the farmers from the surrounding area had brought their produce to sell, setting up stalls where the path opened up to form a crude town square. It wasn't much of a village, but it was his, and he was responsible for inquiring after the business of whoever came to Blade's Corner.

Soldiers usually meant trouble.

There were about forty of them. They wore the black shako with a white plume, the blue jacket trimmed in white and the white breeches of the American army, specifically the 2nd Columbian militia. Soldiers usually wanted to buy supplies, usually on credit, or with the near worthless paper scrip that the government in Washington now said was as good as gold. Although they always came through with the promised money, it was usually later rather than sooner.

Times were hard, and the people here couldn't afford to wait for the army to honor its debts. They wouldn't be getting any easier, now that word had it that the Redcoats had landed. Again. He remembered the last time, near forty years gone. A bad time, that.

They were big men, tough and rather menacing looking, with dark faces. Most carried the long Kentucky rifle, and all carried big knives and tomahawks. The lieutenant who led them was the tallest, standing six foot six. As his men fanned out throughout the crowd, he approached Ryken.

Subtly, an air of undefined menace entered the square. All around, people stopped squeezing vegetables for firmness or checking chickens to see if they were plump, and looked up in apprehension. Dogs whimpered uneasily. Women hugged their children closer to their legs as they watched the silent, blue uniformed men.

The lieutenant's lips curved up in a smile that did not reach his strange, almost colorless pale blue eyes. He spoke with a noticeable Irish brogue.

"Top of the morning to you, your Honor."

Ryken, still cautious, nodded in acknowledgement.

"And to you. What might we do for you today?"

"We'll be needing what food you can spare for our noble fightin' men."

"Times are hard, but we'll sell what we can."

"I also wish to express my sincere condolences."

Ryken squinted in bewilderment? Condolences?

"Eh? How's that?"

A slight tone of mockery came into the lieutenant's voice.

"You see, your Honor, you and all in your village were unfortunately massacred by those murderous Redcoats. It's so sad."

Ryken looked around him suddenly. The soldiers had quietly surrounded the village, and now closed in, their weapons lowered. He opened his mouth to shout a warning, which turned to a gasp of terrible pain. He returned his gaze forward, and looked in amazement at the massive fighting knife in the hand of the lieutenant.

The knife that was now buried to the hilt in his gut, lifting him off his feet like a worm impaled on a hook.

Zebulon Ryken clawed feebly at the blade, scarlet agony blurring his vision.

The last thing he heard were the screams of the woman and children of Blade's Corner as the massacre began.

The last things he saw were the lieutenant's teeth as he smiled.

They were sharpened and pointed, like the teeth of a predatory beast.

Then he heard and saw nothing at all.

The lieutenant threw back his head and let out a long, animalistic scream, a scream of bloodlust and the joy of killing, a scream that turned to a howl of laughter.

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Last update 18/7/01