“I don’t understand it.”
“They’re dead, captain.”
“Yes, I understand that part, thank you,” His voice goes higher, gets a bit shrill. Yavrok knew his new captain was green, but he didn’t realize he was this green: he’d never seen a corpse before.
“What I would like to know,” the captain continues testily, “is why they are dead.”
“Well…” Yavrok chews thoughtfully on a strip of jerky as he contemplates the scene. He is, he is forced to admit, as shocked as the captain. They were sent through the portal to reinforce the River Kingdoms garrison. By all accounts it was a quiet area, with little resistance. The men, women, and genderless things stationed there had been there awhile, growing restless, and needed to be relieved. But when they emerged from the portal into the command camp, Yavrok had nearly been overcome by the odor of death. It hadn’t taken long to confirm that no one in the camp remained alive.
“The one there appears to have encountered an excess of fire,” Yavrok finally offers up. “This one…” He nudges it with his toe, “probably has to do with the fact that his torso’s here and his legs are over there.”
“I understand that!” the captain hisses. “The entire command camp is dead, Yavrok. Say something useful or shut up.” He looks pale. His eyes are wide and his brow wrinkled, but he looks like he’s having trouble focusing. He won’t last a month in the field.
There’s a sound like the cracking of ice floes, and then silence: the omnipresent wind howling from the portal has ceased suddenly. Yavrok, the captain, and the other men turn to face it. They have barely a moment to register the shock before it collapses inward, crackling and crunching.
And then there is nothing. Just air, and a bemused cadre of soldiers. And the unseasonal snow steaming on the warming ground.
“Shit,” Yavrok says.