So, read the title. I need reviews to see how good or bad this is. If anyone seems interested, I'll start posting the chapter drafts next.
The stench coming off the corpses was worse than anything that had been scented in the forest before. It hung over them all like a heavy cloud, causing a few of the company to retch quietly into the sides of the clearing. Blood had pooled around then dried, caking the grass and the bodies with brown smears. Glassy eyes stared unseeingly at the cheerfully blue sky.
A man squatted beside the dead, his dark blue-flecked green eyes flashing dangerously as he studied them. Muscles shifted beneath his leather armour. His beard was black, although the shaggy hair on his head was streaked with grey, and he had a scarred face with a crooked nose. He was a light brown, not just with tan, but by race as well.
All was silent, with only the song of flies in the still air.
The man rose with a sigh, callused hands rubbing his strong jaw beneath the beard. Another, clearly his brother with the same eyes, face and countenance, but younger and with browner hair, raised an eyebrow.
The first, older man nodded to a couple of others in the clearing. “They were right. Bodies have been here for three, four days at least.”
The people who stood in the clearing numbered eleven; an assortment of men and women, all dressed in dappled leather armour and armed with bows, hunting knives, axes, and swords. Three of them were clearly younger than all the others; two boys, and a beautiful girl, all looking to be around seventeen or eighteen. The others were full-grown men and women. The same number of horses stood by their masters patiently.
The second man shifted uneasily as the smell wafted in his direction. “Their killers?”
“I can’t be sure, Endion,” his brother said, “but I don’t think this is the work of ordinary bandits. These shepherds wore the black and green of Eruza; any outlaw of these parts knows not to take our village lightly.” He turned to the youngsters of the group. “Temu, Titon, Lozan. Head back and tell Luna we won’t be back for a few days, and tell her to warn our folk against heading out in small numbers. We’re going after the killers.”
The girl, Temu, scowled. “Why are we being sent back? You know Lozan’s one of the best archers we have, Titon’s a brilliant Healer, and I can carve up any bandit with my knives. Or is it because-”
“Don’t question his authority, Temu. He may be your and Lozan’s father, but now he is our Lord Daemon.” Endion said reproachfully.
She cast her eyes down, abashed, while Endion’s own son, Titon, looked grim, and Lozan carefully blank. All three of them looked like Endion and Daemon, with green eyes, light brown skin, and black hair. Temu was beautiful and lithe, with lustrous, straight long hair pinned back by a simple yet elegant wooden brooch. Lozan was her mirror image, albeit with shorter, shaggier hair and better build. Titon looked like the cousin he was, broadest of the three and with a large satchel slung over his shoulder.
Daemon pulled Endion aside and spoke softly to him for a moment, then turned back to the main group and gave the signal to mount and leave. The riders melted away into the rusty dusk, leaving Lozan, Temu and Titon alone.
Lozan moved first.
“Idiot. You know how he gets at moments like this.”
Temu snorted. “Don’t be a sissy, baby brother. Didn’t you want to go on the hunt, too?”
“Yes, but I don’t argue with father when he’s already made up his mind. And I’m not your baby brother.”
“You were born after me.”
“By a few minutes! And-”
Titon knelt by a corpse. “Stop it, both of you. This isn’t the place or time to banter.”
The siblings fell silent, reminded of the three bodies and the people they had belonged too.
They all shivered then, not from the gathering cold, but the thought of how all three bore the unmistakable marks of torture.