Lambs

This is based on something I read years ago in a strategy guide for Ultima IV. It’s been in the attic of my mind ever since, so I turned it into a story. –Malachi

Great plumes of smoke darkened the Magincia sky, omens of what the crew could expect when the ship docked. The knights in the ship’s hold barely spoke, focusing instead on checking their armor and weapons. When they were close enough to row ashore, they could hear screams and fighting from all over the island.

When the Royal Guard made landfall, refugees crowded the boats, desperate to escape the daemons. They came from all walks of life; rich merchants in silks were jostled together with shepherds in simple wool. Their stories came as a jumble of unnatural magic, a dark gate, and endless demonic hordes.

“Who’s in charge?” asked the young commander, expecting the people to defer to one of well-dressed nobles.

Instead, the crowd of refugees turned to look at a young shepherdess. “She’s the one who helped us escape the city.”

She stood at the edge of the water with a few sheep. The grime-covered sheep stood in a protective circle around her and gave doleful baas. The shepherdess was watching the fires consume Magincia, and her pale green eyes were haunted. When the guard approached her, she lowered her head and wiped a tear from her eyes.

“It was good that you helped so many.”

“I wish I could have done more, but we barely got out when we did.”

“Do you think you could get everyone to line up?”

She nodded and started walking back to her people. The sheep at her feet followed.

The knight pointed to the sheep, “We won’t have room for your sheep on the boats.”

“They aren’t my sheep. Mine are gone. This flock was grazing near here. I know they can’t come with us, but they are safer here.” She clapped gently, and the sheep obeyed.

“Who are you?”

“I am a survivor,” she answered as she organized the others to be boated off the accursed island.