Herod’s hand didn’t so much as quiver as he held a pistol against the child’s head. The weapon felt like it weighed nothing, a feather in his grip. His index finger was tensely squeezing the trigger, ready to pull the lever at any moment.
Across from Herod, a man wearing a black beret clenched his jaw, so tightly Herod didn’t think the man’s teeth could handle the pressure. The man’s eyes never wavered from Herod. The man sat still as a statue in his chair. He had his arms up in surrender. Gith was his name.
Herod stared into Gith’s amber eyes. All Herod could see was death, brutality, and chaos. The eyes of a tyrant
Gith peered back into Herod’s amber eyes. Gith saw a broken man, one who had suffered and lost. The eyes of a victim.
How the tides have changed, thought Herod. Someone shifted beside him, and he took his eyes of Gith for a moment. The soldier beside him was holding a rifle, trained on the back of a woman’s skull. He was young, no older than eighteen, though it was impossible to tell. He had seen more loss and hardship than some saw in their whole life.
The woman was on her knees. She shook, as she tried to stifle her cries and fear. She knew they weren’t going to make it out alive. They were going to fare no better than Herod’s family had. Herod was going to make sure of that.
Herod met Gith’s eyes again, and he could see the fire brewing inside the man. Herod saw nothing but pure hatred. That made him smile. Now Gith knew how Herod felt.
Gith looked at his son and smiled weakly. He was trying to reassure him everything would be alright. Gith knew it wouldn’t be.
“Be strong my boy,” Gith whispered. They may have been across the room, but everyone heard it.
“Quite!” shouted Herod. His voice seemed to echo back and forth across the room. “I hear one more word out of your mouth, and I swear I will blow his head off.” Herod was more scared than he cared to show, but he never flinched. The barrel never left the boy’s head.
The child was sobbing. He wasn’t even old enough to understand what was going on. Gith grew a scowl and screamed at Herod.
“What kind of man kills a child?” bellowed Gith. Herod couldn’t get over the fact about how similar Gith’s voice was to his own. Herod had said those exact words not long ago.
“I would ask you the same question,” responded Herod. The only memory in his mind was the bloodied body of his son, lying in the dirt, a bullet wound in his head.
“You have no idea who you are messing with here. Do-” started Gith, but Herod didn’t let him finish before he shouted.
“I know full well who I am messing with!” Herod howled the words. He couldn’t contain his fuming rage. He didn’t even want to try.
Herod’s words made Gith scoff. That irritated Herod more than he already was.
“Who are you?” Gith asked, with no fear in his voice. Despite his family’s precarious situation, it seemed Gith still controlled the room. Gith adjusted the black beret on his head.
Herod spat at Gith, how typical that Gith wouldn’t even remember who he was.
“You bastard, you don’t even remember what you did, do you?” Herod held in his cry.
“Please enlighten me,” Gith said without an ounce of fear in his voice. Herod nearly pulled the trigger, he had threatened that he would. If he wavered now, how could he bring himself to do it later? But Herod didn’t do it. He needed Gith to know why he was destroying his world.
“You killed them…” Herod trailed off, as he started to choke up. “All of them!” He roared those last words. It made Gith’s wife jump, and his child screech.
“Oh, I remember now,” started Gith, as he stood from his chair.
“Sit back down,” warned Herod. He pressed the barrel to the child’s temple. Gith slowed his stand but didn’t sit back down.
“You’re from that town, Dark River.” Gith was wrong, and he knew it. He was trying to taunt Herod. “That's not right. We drowned everyone in the river after we tied rocks to their feet. No, with that scar on your face something else happened to you.” goaded Gith, indicating the large scorch mark that stretched across Herod’s cheek. It was the only mark that separated the two men’s identical faces. Gith took a step closer to Herod.
“One more step and your son is as good as dead,” threatened Herod, and he meant it this time. Gith paused, his hands still raised.
“I know exactly who you are.” Gith was unfazed by Herod’s words. Herod didn’t reply, waiting for Gith to continue. “I’ll never forget that night in Red Mill.” As Gith said the words, Herod’s heart leapt. His whole body quivered at the memory of his home, and the state he had left it.
“Don’t you dare say that name,” spittle flew from Herod’s mouth. His legs were going weak, and he wanted nothing more than to sit down and cry. Herod feared that he would. Gith cracked up and chuckled.
“I remember the names of all the places I have conquered, the faces of every life I have taken.” Gith trailed off for a moment as he stepped forward. “Your wife, she was beautiful. Even after I splattered her brains across the dirt.” Gith’s mouth twisted into an eerie smile. Herod’s fingers twitched. He watched Gith through slitted eyes. Fiery anger burned inside him.
Gith continued forward, slow paced, as he spoke. “And your little boy, was he ever handsome. Quite similar to my boy. It is a shame that he had to go.”
“Quiet.” Herod tried to scream, but it was no more than a quiver. A tear rolled down his cheek. Gith grinned.
“Do you know why they and the rest of your pathetic village are dead?” Gith asked, spitting the last words. He was only a few steps away now. “Because men like you lead them. Cowards who aren’t willing to do what they need to do, to ensure their family's survival.”
“Shut up!” screamed Herod. He took his eyes off Gith for a second as he tried to control his emotions. Gith lunged at Herod.
It was too late.
Herod squeezed the trigger of his gun. The shot rang through the room, making Herod’s ears buzz. Everything seemed to move in slow motion as Gith stopped in his tracks and let out a horrible shriek.
Herod’s heart pumped faster than it ever had. He raised the gun again and fired another shot. The burning shell from the bullet fell to the floor as Gith’s wife did the same. The soldier holding the rifle stood in horror as he watched the atrocity.
Gith turned to Herod, his eyes looking like a wolf’s. Herod raised the gun one more time. The final shot exploded into the air. Gith’s lifeless body landed at Herod’s feet, as smoke rose from the weapon’s barrel.
He looked over at the soldier. The young recoiled at the sight of Herod’s amber eyes.
Someone burst through the door behind Herod. It was another soldier. He was breathing heavy, mud and blood covering him head to toe.
“Commander, the- the town is secure.” The person stuttered as they saw the dead bodies on the floor. They hadn’t expected to see the boy.
“Good, good,” replied Herod, as he lowered to a squat. Both men didn’t know what to say to Herod.
“What are your orders, sir?” asked the newcomer. Herod took Gith’s black beret into his hands. It was wet with blood. Herod wiped his bloodied hands on the dead man’s jacket; it didn’t come off.
Herod straightened to a stand. He didn’t hesitate with his reply.
“Burn them all,” stated Herod in a tone that raised no question. The vendetta wasn’t over until everyone was dead. With a clenched jaw, Herod placed the black beret on his head.