Zhill awoke slowly, the sounds of water rushing against the shore and the gentle rocking of the boat drawing him from sleep. He wondered how long he had been unconscious as he shielded his eyes from the bright afternoon sun. Though his thoughts were still muddled, he could hear a distorted babbling off in the distance. Sitting up in the craft, he sensed that his body had rested well from the previous encounter, and it was just as well.
Turning his eyes to scan the horizon, Zhill discovered that the current had carried him into some sort of bay that was much too close to a village for his comfort. The sound, taking shape much like a blurry image drawing near, turned out to be the hustle and bustle of a small dwarven community. Instantly and noiselessly he exited the boat and perched in stillness next to a large tree. He was far enough from the ancient stone structures that he had not yet been seen, yet he realized that, in order to get safely away, he would have to remain undetected.
As he began moving eastward towards a mountain pass that would lead him to safer regions in the south, he was relieved to discover that most of the local populous stayed close to home. There were a few men in full suits of armor that seemed to either position themselves at certain points on the outskirts of the village, or patrolled up and down the road that ran through the area. But otherwise the landscape was serene. And still, not one observed even the slightest trace of his passing.
When he had finally reached the entrance to the high mountains that served as the entrance of the pass, he allowed himself a moment of self-praise. Though the trip had taken him several hours due to the slow stealthy speed at which he had traveled, and he had been keenly focused nearly to the point of paranoia, he was now completely reassured. Underestimating the distance from his position to the pass, Zhill allowed himself to relax as he stood; an act he would regret for the rest of his unnatural life.
He did not understand the words that had been spoken, but he knew their tone: righteous fury. Turning, Zhill saw a stout dwarf pull down the face guard on his helm as he charged in wielding a large blade that was nearly as long as himself. By the markings on his armor, Zhill immediately recognized him as a paladin, a knight dedicated to holy service. A short distance behind him was an elven woman carrying a staff with a holy symbol at the top: a priest. The pair caused him to seethe in rage. As the dwarf closed to strike, Zhill pulled a small pouch from his belt and threw it to the ground were it exploded in a cloud of pale yellow smoke. Though the paladin swung his blade with great fury, it found no target.
Zhill, as if carried by a streak of lightning, suddenly appeared behind the female, striking her head violently with the hilt of his dagger. He watched with ravenous delight as she fell to one knee. Visibly dazed, but only for a moment. It would be enough.
With a few short, powerful strides Zhill had covered the distance between himself and the dwarf, who continued to slice through the smoke at an enemy that was not there. Zhill found it almost too easy to position himself behind him and slide his blade between the plates of his armor where it pierced some internal organ. He guessed it to be a lung.
Though wounded, the paladin turned with a start and thrust his sword powerfully forward, violently spearing Zhill cleanly through his side. As Zhill clutched at the blade, attempted to slide it backwards out of his stomach, the dwarf took the opportunity to deftly remove his helmet as he coughed up blood. He began speaking again, sensing that he had won a great victory.
The paladin had paused, and that was all Zhill needed. Still impaled by his sword, Zhill looked up with a wicked grin. The blow had been significant, and he though he had suffered more serious wounds before, there hadn’t been many. However, none had yet stopped him cold. As the dwarf’s face twisted with confused horror, Zhill slashed his dagger across his throat in a blur. He continued to stare menacingly as hot sticky blood sprayed from the dwarf’s throat covering his pale white face. The blade had been poisoned, but this one would not live to be wracked by its effects. The paladin fell to the ground clutching his throat with both hands as blood continued to spray in a pulsing sputter from the gaping wound. Zhill’s smile only grew more broad as his mouth opened and his tongue began to slither out. The dwarf tried to mutter frightened curses but his voice had gone. Tears began to form as though he knew what was about to come, and he mouthed the word “mercy”. Grabbing the dwarf’s beard roughly and pulling his face close, Zhill shook his head from side to side slowly, indicating how much mercy he would give.
With mouth opened, Zhill bit furiously at his face, his teeth sinking deeply into his right cheek. With a twist of his head, he tore away flesh and began to chew on it as the paladin’s right eye fell from its socket. Even though his mouth was nearly full, blood running sloppily down his chin, Zhill prepared to continue his meal but he was knocked to the ground by a sharp burning blast at his shoulders.
Standing quickly to retaliate, he saw the elf ready herself to attack again. Zhill, however, considered that she may not have ever seen a companion chewed up like jerky, as a look of terror swept across her face. Not wasting a moment, Zhill flung his arm forward, hurling his dagger with deadly accuracy. Yet, instead of striking the woman’s throat as it should have, it bounced harmlessly off some invisible shield. Burning with an insatiable desire to kill, he charged recklessly at the woman as she fired another white bolt at his chest. It seared with a pain greater than anything he had before experienced, but his momentum carried him forward. Clawing wildly, his hands were deflected by whatever invisible force the woman had summoned. Though she tried to avert her eyes, the elf looked back at Zhill when he ceased his flailing.
Spitting the contents of his mouth at her, they both watched in silence as the bits of skin and spittle slid slowly down the magic shield towards the earth. “You can not hide from the Shadow of Death,” Zhill threatened in a raspy voice. Though he was content to wait her out, the shot from a rifle drew his attention. Looking in the distance, he saw a group of dwarves running to the woman’s aid. Knowing this was not a fight he could win, Zhill casually retrieved his dagger and walked over to the paladin who still lay on the ground convulsing. Reaching down and ripping more meat from his face as leisurely as one might pick an apple, he turned back with a smile and said “A snack for later.” The woman, stricken with fear, looked back to see how close the others were before readying another blast. But when she turned again she was alone with her dying companion.
Sprinting silently through the mountain pass, Zhill popped the bit of dwarven flesh into his mouth with a smile. He would live to kill another day.