The ikuld did not make anything. They stole what they wanted and broke the rest. They weren’t stupid though, when they raided for food before winter they waited until after the harvest was in and the slaughter was done. Pale skins in the late autumn night was what every farm holder feared. Those and unkempt manes of blond or red hair, wrong coloured eyes and thin lipped mouths like animals’ were the other marks of the ikuld.
The ruined farmstead Orinko was standing in was an example of their work. The throats of the watch dogs had been cut, horses had been harnessed to the farm carts and the rest of the animals killed, what hadn’t been loaded onto the carts from the storage barns and the house had been burnt. The ikuld loved fire. The family and their workers were dead, blood sodden heaps of flesh and clothing that had once been people.
“Check that everyone has been accounted for,” Orinko ordered one of the reeves, a local, “and have someone look for cellars under all the buildings, someone might have managed to hide.” The ikuld didn’t leave survivors and this raid, like so many others, had only been discovered when the bonfire of buildings had lit up the night sky.
Sometimes the worst of these raids wasn’t the horrors that the ikuld perpetrated on the farm, though those could give you nightmares. Sometimes they carried off people alive, mainly women of child-bearing age. If the pursuit was quick, then the prisoner could be rescued but the attack on the raiders had to be swift or they would cut their prisoner’s throat. If the ikuld, masters of the night that they were, eluded pursuit then the body might be found several days away, rent from unspeakable acts and life fled. Sometimes the captives were never found.
Orinko ran his hand backwards over the stubble on his head. This was a bad night and there was the possibility that tomorrow would be worse. Nights like this, he could wish he wasn’t the King’s Sheriff.