We were too late to save them. One of our scouts stumbled into our camp in the middle of the night. He was bleeding from the crown and his left shoulder. His breathing was so heavy from fright that it took us a few minutes to calm him down. Finally he uttered one word, “Latala.”
The scout who was already with us paled visibly. Immediately he began packing his gear, even as his friend sat down bleeding. Balthandar patched him up while I stopped the other and asked what was going on.
“Latala,” he said with finality. When he realized that I did not know what that meant, he shook his head. “Latala are killers, Ocada. They are thieves and murderers who live between the darkness and the light. They belong to no one but themselves.”
“Are they coming this way?” Dionus asked.
“No, Ocada. They are making for my village.”
We packed as Balthandar worked on the bleeding scout. His wounds were light, though they had bled plenty during his flight. The other took off running into the jungle as soon as he had his things together. He was on the verge of failing in his duty. I could read it in him – he was about to fail and he knew it.
We ran after him as soon as Balthandar was finished. We couldn’t have been far behind the scout, but he was much faster in the night than we. I could see the orange glow long before we reached the village.
Everything was burning. What food and supplies they had were gone. Bodies were strewn about the village; most suffered their wounds in the back as they fled. Balthandar found the scout with his throat slit, sitting against a tree. He had died watching his village burn, knowing he had failed to warn them of the danger.
Dionus tested the air and told us they were gone. Whoever they are, they work fast. Dawn broke as the fires began to die down. Nothing burns for long in this jungle, but whatever does is utterly consumed. We moved away from the stench of it all and went to find our two remaining scouts.
Latala. We have new enemies in the Nanten tonight.