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Acrid smoke drifted across the battlefield. For once, it was free of scavengers; those who had fallen were not wrested out of their boots for the reward of good leather. Their pockets remained unpicked.

Instead, a brave few volunteers were carrying them to their pyres. Fires such as these had not been seen in centuries. It was hoped that the flames would cleanse them; that this would be the end of it.

The smoke, choking and thick, roiled through the air as if dancing to some devil’s music. It didnt seem like it was cleansing anything. The captain made a note to put the volunteers into quarantine; brave men or not, if this new plague was contagious beyond death they could not be allowed to pass it on to the civilian population.

“An effective way of ending the war, no?”

The captain lifted his visor. Beside him stood a small man, thin with even thinner hair and with eyes that darted nervously from place to place, never settling for more than a moment.

“It was dramatic, I’ll grant you that,” he said. “But I don’t believe this is an end to anything.”

The thin man laughed, a sound that grated like fingers on a chalkboard. “Oh, it is an end,” he said. “An end to your way of fighting wars. An end to the world being run by the men with the biggest swords and the biggest-”

“An end to chivalry,” the captain snapped. “An end to honour. By rights I should end you, and end all this right here.”

A slow smile crept across the thin man’s face. “Oh but you won’t. You won’t. Your honour won’t let you kill an unarmed man.”

The captain clenched his fists as the poisoner walked across the battlefield, smiling as the acrid smoke of his work stained the sky.

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note: The Three Word Wednesday prompts this week are Acrid, Dramatic and Quarantine.)

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