The Hunter peered out from behind the silent wagon. Good. No sign of Kellen or Graden. He'd have to keep an ear out for the caravan guards, but he should have plenty of time. The patrol had a lot of ground to cover.
Grunting, he shifted the heavy load on his shoulder and darted out from the row of shelters, hurrying toward the outcropping of boulders he'd chosen specifically for his task. He ducked behind the boulders and hurled his burden to the ground. A grunt and muffled cry came from the bundle, and something squirmed within.
He's coming to. Good timing.
The Hunter pulled back the canvas, and moonlight shone on Rill's pale, sweat-soaked face and wide eyes. Blood oozed from a wound on the bald man's temple. The Hunter hadn't bothered to be gentle.
"W-What?" Rill's eyes darted around, and his gaze fell on the Hunter. "What is this?"
The Hunter struck the man hard. "Justice."
Rill made to cry out, but the Hunter stuffed canvas into his mouth. "Ironic, isn't it?" His fingers twitched a corner of the thick cloth. "You spend every waking hour stitching up canvas. Fitting that it will serve as your funeral shroud. There was more than enough of it around your area to wrap you up."
The bald man's eyes widened, and he mumbled something through the mouthful of fabric.
The Hunter shook his head. "Better you don't speak. Nothing you say can change what's coming. Best you die with a bit of dignity. Watcher knows you had little enough while you lived."
Soulhunger, sensing blood, pounded louder in his mind, and the demon added its eager demands.
"I never understood men like you, knocking around your women." He squatted on his haunches. "Just doesn't make sense."
Rill tried in vain to shout through his gag.
The Hunter narrowed his eyes. "Did you know there is a special hell reserved for your kind? Those who take advantage of the helpless."
He slipped Soulhunger from its sheath, and held the glinting blade before Rill's eyes. "You may tell yourself she belongs to you, you can do whatever you want." He leaned forward, and his voice dropped to a low growl. "Just because you can, that doesn't mean you should."
Rill's eyebrows shot up, and his expression turned pleading.
The Hunter shook his head. "Save your excuses for the Long Keeper. You'll be with him soon enough."
With a vicious smile, he drove Soulhunger through the canvas and into the man's chest. The gag muffled Rill's scream, but the dagger's shriek echoed in his head with mind-numbing force. Soulhunger's gem flared, red light bright in the darkness. The Hunter grunted as a finger of fire etched a line in his chest.
Power coursed through him, setting his muscles twitching, flooding him with life, and pushing back the voices in his mind.
Slowly, the brilliance leaking from the gemstone faded to nothing, and Rill's screams of agony and terror fell silent. The Hunter basked in the stillness of the night. A soothing breeze washed over him, the chill soothing the burning of his new scar. Glorious silence echoed in his head. The voices had been sated. He had peace, for a time.
He straightened and stared down at the bundled corpse. Perhaps the Long Keeper will have mercy on you.
An image flashed through his mind: a pitiful figure huddled at the entrance to Rill's tent, covered in filthy rags and reeking of blood and coitus. Rill's desire to punish Gwen had made it easier for the Hunter to slip in, knock the fat bastard out, wrap him in his own canvas, and slip out unnoticed. The man's absence wouldn't be discovered until morning. Few would care.
He took a deep breath, relishing the cool scents of the desert at night. He would wait a few minutes until he was certain Graden and Kellen had passed, then he would dispose of the body, bury the canvas, and slip back into camp. Without the voices shrieking and pleading in his mind, he might even be able to catch a few hours of undisturbed sleep before the morning breakfast bell.
Tonight would be a good night.