My name is Lurx. My clan lives in the Asuran hills. We are not attracted to the technology of the cities. We do not believe in the exploitation of the Eternal Alchemy. We chose to remain in hills, not because we were less intelligent, as the intellectual elitist of my race may say. No, we simply shunned their disregard for nature. They pollute and pervert everything around them. They disgust us; they have no respect for our living Tyria. We were the few who saw the destruction created in the wake of their “progress” as a plague on the land and not the sacrament they profess. For centuries, we were left alone, simple outcast to be ignored. This was fine for our people, this is all we wanted. Everything was perfect until the humans started another war. The humans, always at war with some race, always entitled to every resource. After nearly wiping out the Charr from Tyria, they turned their sights toward the Centaurs. Their war caused the Centaurs to push into our hills, this is when everything changed. They are as ruthless and hateful as their human counterparts. Tyria would be better off if those two races wiped each other from the face of our world.
The night of the stampede was the worst time of my life, and since then, it’s never gotten better. I was asleep next to my mother, sister and father in our hallowed out Tyrian cave. Most of us Hill Asurans lived in caves that we dug out ourselves. They kept us warm in the winter and cool in the summer. We could cook inside without fear of attracting Tyrian predators. We lived underground, so we didn’t hear the fire crackling of wood, or the hoofed stomps of the soldiers.
The screams started coming from a single person, a woman.
“No, Please get it out, get out of here.”
My mind shouted, “Cantina!” I grabbed my pitchfork and bolted out of the cave. I sprinted across to the encampment, ready to skewer the wolf attacking my friend. I must have ran a hundred feet before I realized there was no wolf, this was a raid. The orange glow lit up the camp like a morning sunrise. The heat bounced off my cheeks, as it warmed my skin and the cries enveloped my ears like a blankets. I stood paralyzed, trying to understand what was happening. A bellowing voice boomed from the largest hoofed horse man. Centaurs everywhere, galloping after people, throwing torches in our homes.
“Drop the bodies over there near the center fire.” He pointed to Cantina’s family home ablaze.
At the base of the fire were at least a half dozen of my villagers, stacked upon one another. The fire reflected the flickering flames in their dead eyes. Cantina’s face, frozen in a painful cry, poked out from the bottom. My stomach dropped.
“Lurx, Lurx, where are you, oh God Lurx,” my mother screamed from the cave. I turned and began running back. One of the centaurs chased after me. Like a bad nightmare, my feet slipped in mud and felt heavier and heavier with every frantic step, I couldn’t get away. Time slowed down around me, I could think entire thoughts in milliseconds. He easily strode towards me. I glanced back and saw his smile. He was enjoying this slaughter, he was enjoying it all. My fear turned to anger; he was not going to catch me. Then I heard the clopping hoofs grow louder, and suddenly, I could only see stars. He continued past me and straight at my mother. My father jumped out from the house swinging a garden hoe. He missed the beast’s neck by inches. The centaur reared up, kicking his hoofed monstrosities. One caught my father’s temple. His body dropped like an empty bed sheet.
The centaur dropped back onto four hooves. In one swipe, he slammed his club into my mother like he brushed off an annoying fly. Her head caved to one side, her jaw torn open into an agonizing scream. My sister sprinted out of the cave toward the woods. I tried to yell, “Maddie.” Blood gurgling pops were all that left my mouth. The centaur looked at her with a face twisted in a sneer. He gritted his teeth and ran after her. She began closing in on the forest, freedom. The centaurs head ducked down a bit and he sprinted harder. The beast’s hooves nearly clipped Maddy’s heels when she dove to the side. It was an embankment to the creek. If she could reach the confluence, she could get to the deeper river. Maddie is a smart kid, she can avoid the skale there, she always had on her clam digging days. Centaurs can’t swim, everyone knew that.
Maddie fell, scrambled and ran down every creek drop-off and rock. Tree roots tangled her feet into their fingery projections from the washed away embankments. She could hear the hoof stomps crack tree limbs above her on the creek bank. He followed her downstream, patiently, and methodically.
“Asuran, stop running. If you quit now, I will let you live to be my slave. If you keep running, I promise you, I will kill you.”
Maddie began crying, or trying to cry between her panting breaths, “Please, leave me alone. We don’t hurt anyone. Please, leave me alone.”
Maddie slipped on a rock and tumbled down a short drop-off. She chocked on brown water, her chest heaved cough the water out of her lungs. A low quivering growl emerged from a water cut in the bank. Maddies eyes widened at the site of the emerging Skale. Inches from her face, she knew this would be it. Maddy closed her eyes just as the blood sprayed her face. Flashing her eyes back open, she seen the silver point of the spear an inch from her nose. It protruded from the skale’s eye socket.
“Get up here asuran. I am tired of chasing you around.” The centaur pulled his spear from the the skales head. The releasing spearhead popped from the skull with a sucking sound, the skale’s head flopped into the water. Maddie put her head down and dug her fingers into the mud. She began climbing up the slope pulling on any root or rock jutting out from the mud.
“You can live serving centaur masters, you asuran rat.” He turned abruptly back toward the camp. Maddie looked off at the wider river channel only a couple hundred feet further. She looked back at the burning village, then looked back. Maddie, in her last desperation sprinted toward the river channel for safety, for freedom.
The centaur heard the pattering steps running away from him. He looked back, now the fire reflecting in his eyes was anger, he yelled out to the sky in frustration then sprinted after her. Branches slapped her face and dragged across her cheeks in streaks of red stripes. Her shins kicked fallen limbs and logs, painting her legs in bruise brown patches.
“Asuran, you have forfeited your life.”
Maddie, feet from the river bank kicked a dark rock. She couldn’t see it in the dim moon light. She slammed into the terra-firma with a stunning force.
He caught up to her and kept running, crushing her body underneath his hooves. He stopped, turn around and stampeded her once more. He then picked up her limp body, hanging like a wet noodle, by her foot. He tossed her like a sack of potatoes on top of the other villagers.
He looked over the larger centaur, “Commander, I think that’s all of them.”
“Are you sure lieutenant?”
“Yes sir. Forty-eight was the number that our recon reported. Should I tell the troops to form a hasty security and start pulling sleep shifts?”
“Yes lieutenant that is a good idea. You boys did well tonight.”
My heart skipped, I was the last one? I laid motionless a bit more until I could figure out where each of the centaurs were stationed. I knew I could sneak out soon, but had to before the sun rose.
My body shivered and my eyes snapped open. “Oh God, I fell asleep,” I thought. I slid my head around, none of the centaurs were in the center camp, in fact, I couldn’t see them anywhere.
“Now I had the problem of accidentally bumping into one of them,” I thought.
Sliding very slowly, trying to keep as quiet as possible I moved toward the cave. Every grind of gravel sounded like an avalanche of rock fall. I thought for sure I would wake the hoofed beast. I crawled slowly to my mother, her skull was opened up to the sky. I could see everything spilling out into her brown hair. I tried not to cry, but my body began shaking, then I lost control. I pressed my face into my arms to control my sobbing. Inch by inch, I moved away from her. When I reached my father, his skin was still pink. I touched him with my fingers, his cheeks were still warm.
No answer. “Dad,” I whispered again. I reached out and pushed my fingers into his cheeks. “Dad, wake up, dad.”
I grabbed a handful of his leather coat and began to pull him as I slid. We passed along the side of our cave; I tried to stick to the darkest patches. Some of the houses still burned, most were piles of glowing embers. All these homes acted as a canvas of wavering orange shadows, each of which could give us away.
“Oh God dad, I can’t drag you out of here.” I lowered my head in defeat. Leaving my father is unthinkable. Rumbling along the parameter, figured out their various positions where the centaurs were sitting. After a few shuffles and twig snaps it was obvious they encircled the entire village.
“They must be facing out, away from the center,” I thought.
Lurx looked around and noticed one of the orchard trees have fallen during the raid. It was close enough to drag his father inside. Maybe they’ll leave in the morning once they stripped our village. I could use the tree like a blind, the way we camouflage to hunt Moas.
The orange warmth of the sunrise began to cut the dark night shadows away. Just in time to beat the dawn, I got my dad deep enough in the fallen tree to be safe. Slowly, one by one, the centaurs began to rise and look over the destruction they caused the night before. The filthy beast killed more than my family and people, they killed my soul and my compassion. This was how my dark story began. I am Lurx, and I am the thief of Asura.