Background: Winged Reapers

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  • Background: Winged Reapers

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    I write this late at night, having been woken by a frankly alarming
    turn of events.
    When we made camp this evening, one of Gilles’ men found a curious
    onyx bauble in the sand. It was marked with Naptaan hieroglyphs, so
    they brought it to me for study. I deciphered some parts — most intriguingly
    the infamous name Setesh, and a strange mention of “winged
    guardians”. Finding Grunstein in a rare moment of lucidity (the way
    the qat juice blackens his lips is repulsive!), I got him to confirm my
    findings before tiredness got the better of me, and I fell asleep with
    the thing in my hand.
    In my sleep, angelic figures visited my dreams. They reached out to
    me, gently — but as their fingers brushed my face they became talons
    of sharp bone. The flesh shrivelled from their faces, showing snarling,
    inhuman skulls, and I sat bolt upright, tearing myself from sleep.
    To my dismay, the precious artefact was gone. Bursting out of my tent,
    I saw the thief had not got far. It was one of Gunther’s porters, the thin
    boy with the weasel eyes – he was still clutching his pilfered prize as
    he ran. Woken by my shout of alarm, Gilles went to intercept him with
    a dagger in his hand.
    I still do not trust my senses as to what happened next, but I will record
    what I saw all the same. It seemed that something huge dropped
    suddenly from the sky, its wings hiding the moon for a brief instant. It
    landed heavily, blocking the boy’s path, towering over him.
    It appeared only in silhouette, but in the moonlight that filtered through
    its ragged wings I thought I caught the gleam of bone. With a sweep of
    its blade it severed the heads of both Gilles and the boy, then stooped
    down to recover the stolen treasure. With a single beat of its wings, it
    disappeared into the night sky, leaving nothing in its wake but dancing
    motes of sand.
    The camp is now in a state of ferment. Abdullah and his guides have
    struck their tents, saying they will leave at dawn — they say I am
    cursed. Half of Gilles’ guards are leaving with them. The remainder
    I have persuaded to press on — whatever the thing was that struck in
    the night, we have come too far to turn back now.

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