A short story by Michael R. Lockridge
Lisa hid in the barn, making her final preparations. Three days and nights she had stayed here, watching and learning. Patience was always the most important quality in the hunter. Her grandfather had taught her that, in the long ago days when he had taught her the art of the bow. More important than the shooting. Patience brought the hunter to the place where the shot could be made.
She hid the pack and gear under some hay. Nothing inside would lead back to her people. They were already dead. None were left to take revenge upon. They had all been taken from her during the war.
As she tied down her loose clothing, preparing to move in stealth, she remembered them all. The invaders had killed her grandfather, her father and her brother outright. Seven men, veteran fighters, had taken their home, their land, and their lives. They had spared her mother’s life. They had spared her own.
It was only a matter of weeks. Weeks that seemed like years. They helped themselves to the fruits of their little farm. They helped themselves to her mother. Most of all, they helped themselves to her. Time after time. She retreated within herself, became like the walking dead. She remembered that darkness.
She checked her bow. She selected three arrows, her best. She would only need one, but her grandfather had taught her to be prepared for a missed shot.
As she waited for first light, she remembered her mother. The men had required her to work, as well as serve as a plaything. Her mother could not hide inside herself. She suffered in full consciousness, slave to the men who murdered her husband, her father, and her son. She had found strength to try to comfort Lisa, even in her own suffering.
Lisa shed a tear at the memory. It slowly coursed down her cheek. She was lost in the memory, and paid the tear no mind.
Her mother did not last long. Not being as interesting as her young daughter, she often was subjected to pointless abuse. One day the playfulness of her captors was too much, and she died. Lisa was not even sure of the cause. Something just broke.
Her mother was not buried. Like the rest of her family, her mother was cast into a ravine.
No longer just a plaything, Lisa became the servant of her captors. They were less abusive toward her than her mother, but still demanding. The change of duties brought her back to herself. She began plotting revenge.
A patrol of local men came by one day. Lisa was bound, gagged and held by one of the men in a back room. The others arranged themselves in ambush. Though killed to a man, Lisa was proud of her neighbors. They reduced the number of her captors to four.
With fewer of them, she was less often busy meeting their carnal needs, and more the servant girl. She heard them talk. She learned where they lived. She learned that they were the lesser-trained tail of some aspiring emperor’s army. Their task was simply to occupy and pacify the local populace, preventing organized resistance.
They were just thugs, terrorizing and murdering.
After a seemingly infinite time had passed, the men had a meeting. It was agreed that three would go out and seek news from the emperor’s forces. One would remain to keep their little nest warm and safe. He would insure their captive remained where they could continue to enjoy her hospitality.
They were gone two days when her opportunity presented itself. They did not know that her grandfather had taught her to keep and use a blade. She had been a part of the occasional slaughter of chickens and lambs from the time she could handle a knife. She could keep a blade sharp, and use it well.
She did use it well. Complacent in his martial skill and superior strength, he attended too closely to the meal she had made him. He bled his own gravy onto his plate, his throat slit clean and wide.
Lisa took only as much time as was necessary to get her gear together. She found her grandfather’s best bow, and clutch of arrows. To this she added what other arrows she knew of around the farm. She dressed in her brother’s clothing, grabbed her gear, and then made her way into the woods.
Her enemies were now reduced to three. She waited and watched on the edge of the forest for two days. Her remaining captors returned at close to noon on the third day. She watched them enter the house, and then run out again. She had left the man she had killed sitting at the table. They ran about, searching for her.
Not finding her, they settled into their captured house. She continued to watch from the woods, living on cold foods she had brought out and stashed in the woods. No fire, nothing to give away her presence.
The next day she watched them leave early in the morning. They were apparently going home. The little band of three made their way toward the road that would take them back to their own land. They had come, raped and murdered, and now were just leaving!
Lisa made her way quickly through the woods. She knew of a good vantage point over the road. Her vengeance was not yet complete.
She was in hiding for less than an hour when the three passed below her hiding place. A clear shot presented itself, and she took it. Now there were only two.
They searched hard, coming close to the place she had hidden on two occasions. When they finally tired of the hunt, they vanished into the woods. They were headed back in the direction from which the came.
After some time had passed, Lisa went to the road to strip the body of her enemy. She was not surprised to find that his companions had already done so.
Lisa began working her way slowly through the woods, parallel to the road. Several times large knots of soldiers came along, and she had to hide. Over the course of several days, the groups became smaller. Never so few that she could pick one off with any safety. Never did she see her quarry hidden in the herd.
She continued to move steadily along.
A week on the move brought her to a small village. She lurked about, eventually learning that this was the village of one of her captors. Three days of lurking, hidden sleeping places, and stolen meals brought her at last an opportunity.
Her quarry wandered drunkenly from an inn at the edge of town. From her hiding place under a wagon she watched him lurch out of town toward some farm in the distance. He never made it home. She left him with two arrows in his back, laying face down in the mud and dung.
Lisa came slowly out of these dark memories. Two more weeks it had taken her to find the village of her last captor. The last couple of days taught her his location and habits. The light coming in through the barn door told her it was time.
She made her way slowly toward the barn door. She waited for a cart to pass, and then ran low to the cover of a wagon in the yard. Under the wagon, up against the fence on the other side. She could see the door clearly. It opened, as she knew it would.
Her quarry stepped forth, looking back and waving to somebody. He had not even turned when the arrow pierced his neck. She let him turn and look at her before she loosed the second arrow. It pierced his chest, and he fell.
A scream broke the morning. Shutters flew back, and heads poked out of various windows in the little village. A woman, round with child, stepped out of the door from which her quarry had just come. She looked down at the man who had been Lisa’s tormentor. She looked up at Lisa.
Their eyes locked. Lisa heard the sound of two more lives breaking. Two more victims of the evil that had engulfed her.
“Vengeance is not sweet.” Said Lisa, the bow dropping from her numbed hand. “It is very, very bitter.”
Lisa drew her knife, and turned the blade in her hand. Throwing herself forward, she fell upon it. Another scream rent the morning. Lisa realized it was her own.
She longed for satisfaction, but it evaded her as the darkness overcame everything.