Not long after the hunting lodge of Sarmej struck out and devastated the village of Ilajescu, a strange traveler appeared. He was clean and well-spoken enough that many took him for another noble or well-heeled member of the Imperial bureaucracy–notions that he did little to dispel. The stranger said that word of Ilajescu’s tragedy had reached him, and that he, a former soldier in the Imperial army, was willing to aid the villagers in striking back. He would do this without recompense, he said, and would feed the town with provisions purchased from their neighbors.

While some were skeptical of his generosity, the stranger nevertheless found an enthusiastic audience in the grieving folk. He aided them in building basic fortifications, making passable weapons and armor from farming implements, and drilling them in basic formation fighting. The process took all winter, but in the spring, the denizens of Ilajescu were ready for their attack.

Approaching Sarmej from the north, a group created a diversion to draw its inhabitants out while another moved in to cut off their retreat. Seven villagers died, but at the end of the savage combat all five of the Sarmej hunters lay dead. Other than being rather pale and finely clothed, they seemed rather ordinary nobles save for the quality of their weapons, which was extreme. The stranger congratulated the townsfolk on their feat and bade them to camp for the night, promising to help them occupy the lodge at first light. When some from Ilajescu insisted on entering Sarmej at once, the stranger argued persuasively that it might be booby trapped and that it would be better to have the light of day to make their investigations. The townsfolk reluctantly agreed, though one or two of them still stole into the lodge to collect small items in the dark.

The next morning, the stranger had vanished–and with him the lodge and the bodies of the dead. Only a stone foundation remained. And over the next month, every villager who had managed to acquire something from Sarmej–a weapon, a trinket, even a bit of stone–was burgled. Those who had hidden their treasures well and retained them soon wished they had not, for a terrible wasting sickness took them before the year’s end.

By the conclusion of the affair, Ilajescu was severely depopulated and was abandoned not long after. The great hunting lodge of Sarmej was never seen again.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!