The hamlet was haunted, so fable lay claim; / And home to a horror with no face or name. / The fore'gners knew nothing of village's infamy; / Sent in their scouts to take conquest's inventory. / Fourteen days later, not one had returned; / They must have deserted with salt that they'd earned. / The clerks were insistant - the papers must show / As to what they had gotten and where it would go. / Several soldiers marched in, holding true to the word / That the pen's fortitude was more so than the sword's. / They spread all about looking through the small village, / Not looking for death but for what they could pillage. / Their leader, he waited, and sat all alone / In the taut canvas lodging he'd learned to call home. /  He was losing his cool at the end of day two; / His hand-picked fanatics had failed him too! /  Holding pilum in hand, he strode into the night, / And was merc'lessly killed without showing a fight. / Back at the camp the commander was furious, / His men had been killed - as to HOW he was curious. / Formidable, Imperial legionnaires / Whose prowress at war would become legendary. / Masters of tactics, and armed head to toe; / What then in the town could be killing them so? / He's risk no more men; a grim lesson he's learned. / Archives be damned, that small town would BURN! / He stood on the hill overlooking the town; / The foul fumes of pitch wafted slowly around. / His cloak caught the edge of the night's errant breeze. / His men worked below with the semblance of fleas. / The barrels were scattered, all ordered and neat / In strategic locations, the work was complete. / Trenches were dug for a precaution wise; / Palisades raised when - a sudden surprise! / While still occupied, all alone in the dark, / The village exploded in cinder and spark. / The single centurion standing aloft / In the oily black smoke knew that all had been lost. / Donning breastplate and greaves he strode into the flame / To confront the cruel beast which had caused him such pain. / The oily black form paced up, blacker than black / And the captain crouched down, all prepared to attack. / The shadowy maw in the midst of no face / Swallowed him up, leaving nary a trace. / And so they were gone, the entire brigade; / Lost evermore in the Shades of a Shade.

-- ansi by mage, lit by cthulu.  click here for the original ansi released in Mistigris March 1996 --