A month after the groups were reunited, Shelar bore forth a son. The couple were immensely proud, naming the newborn Senus, meaning “serenity in the midst of chaos”.
A stoic child, Senus rarely cried; rather, grunts and one syllable utterances relayed his hunger or any other need.
Six months passed. All the families working together had completed their little underground village. One morning, Thelis went out to draw water from the well. When he didn’t return, Rangor sent Kentur to find him.
A yell from the courtyard brought all the men forward, each having drawn their weapons.
“Father, no!” Kentur tried to warn them before they emerged, but to no avail. One by one, arrows pierced them as they emerged.
* * * * * *
The Nomads had been moving across the sands, double file at a leisurely pace, and were surprised when the scouting slave came running back to inform them of the evidence of a small populace.
They’d spurred on, and the slave led them to the edge of the large sunken courtyard. A young man came out of the opening on the south wall, but a quick thinking archer silenced him before he could alert any who could be inside.
Of the 50 men, fifteen archers positioned themselves at the rim while seven descended into the excavation. Another youth emerged and was captured, but not before he could call for help.
Upon hearing the commotion from inside, followed by the distinctive clang of weapons being gathered, the archers above were signaled to draw and take aim. As they emerged, against the warning of the captive, seven men were brought down without a single clash of steel.
The prisoner had been forced to watch as the men of his family and friends were murdered, then felt the sting of the sharp blade held against his neck as it slid across, the warmth of his blood flowing out, and the cold left inside before darkness claimed his vision and he crumpled lifeless to the ground.
The leader of the Nomads motioned for those in the pit to investigate the habitat. From inside, the screams of the women and children echoed out before being forever silenced. When the invaders emerged, one carried a bundle, a small arm protruding and ineffectually beating at the man carrying it.
“A new slave to serve, my Lord,” the man said.
“Excellent,” the chieftain replied. “In a few years, he will be ready for training as a scout. Give him to one of the slave girls for now.”
Several of the others had re-entered the domicile, searching for supplies to replenish as well as valuables to sell or barter as needed. When the pillaging concluded, they resumed their trek across the sands.