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The Coward of Herot

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The evening festivities had been lively, the joyous music still rang in my ears as my companions and I settled into our rickety beds for the night. The snores echoed through the cool stone corridors, a sound so loud that it could wake the dead. It took only a moment to realize that this noise was different than the snoring I had become accustomed to. This was a steady pounding that shook the floorboards beneath me and brought a deep dread to the pit of my belly. Laying still for a moment, I waited to see if the quaking would stop but whatever beast was causing such a racket seemed unyielding.

The first scream pierced through the night skies of Herot, paired with the snapping of bones that broke as easily as twigs in the strong grasp of the predator hunting in our halls. Countless more howls for help clouded my mind as I tried to rise to the aid of my brethren but I remained paralyzed in my bed. The intense scent of blood hung in the air as the sound I had come to recognize as footsteps crept closer to where I lay incapacitated. The beast grunted out with a wild lust for blood as he ripped into his next victim, an insatiable hunger for death and destruction. I tried to call out to the unaware men sleeping nearby, I wanted to yell for them to run while they still could but only a strangled silence escaped me. This was the cowardice that my people rose above, this was a disgrace.

When the demon exploded into the room where I laid he lunged straight towards a neighboring bed, jagged claws dug into the man I considered a friend. I watched in horror as my comrade was ripped apart piece by piece and all I could think about was escaping to save myself. In a spur of the moment burst of energy I sprung from my bed and dashed towards the door while the monstrosity’s back was turned. For just a moment I believe that I could do it, the threshold was within reach as I was swatted down to the floor as easily as one swats a fly away from mead. I laid there in shock as I stared back into the savage eyes of the beast looming over me. Then, as the demon ripped into me just like the others, I greeted death like an old friend.