This is an excerpt from an upcoming Splintered Lands story titled Kingdoms in Conflict.
Iudas grumbled when he looked out at the scene before him. It was all just taking too long. Too damn long.
“Gather up those bloody peasants!”
Hearing his voice becoming annoyed, his men moved faster. They had long ago learned what Iudas’s annoyance could do to a person. Soon enough, the villagers had been gathered in from all the little farms that surrounded the hamlet, and tucked into a small mass in front of Iudas. He sighed at the pitiful looks and thin bodies. What a worthless lot of cretins he ruled.
“You have been selected to join me, to fight for me, as we wage war on the horrid beast Inswán! He has invaded our lands, burned down our villages, slain our people! He sends spies to take what little we have, to steal from us! Now we bring him retribution. And you shall be the agents of our retribution!”
One of the peasants looked around, raised a hand, and spoke. “Begging your pardon, lord, but we aren’t much of a retribution. We’re just poor farmers.”
Iudas gestured. A soldier rammed a dagger into the peasant’s gut, then ripped it sideways.
“Anyone else want to interrupt me?”
The peasants cowered in fear.
“You’re learning. Good. That puts you above the village of idiots I burned down. With them inside of it, mind you.” Iudas took a slug of wine from a skin hanging off his saddle. “Soldiers, you know the drill.”
The healthy men were separated out from the rest, and a small cadre lead them off at a fast march, heading in the direction of Gárhéap, Iudas’s capital. There they would be given basic weaponry and training. Very basic, sadly, much as Iudas wished he could do better. But his lands were poor in metal, and what little he had was not going to be wasted on illiterate peasants. They would be little more than fodder against the walls of Abboddóm, anyway.
Once the new recruits were safely out of earshot, the remaining soldiers started pulling attractive women from amongst the rest who stood there. This was their reward, taken from every village captured. The prettiest of them all went to Iudas, although he thought that wasn’t saying much. Mud-covered farm peasants weren’t really his type, but he made do with what he could find on campaign. It was mostly just a form of tithing, anyway.
Shouts and cries began to echo around the little village. Iudas listened for a moment, then nodded. His men had been given strict orders to impregnate as many of the women as possible, rather than to harm them. After all, the world contained far too few people. The Breaking and the plagues that had followed has seen to that.
Pondering over what might have been if the world still stood as it once had, he took the peasant girl by the arm and lead her into a hovel. He was feeling gentle today. Mostly.