Mason, Becky, and I had a very productive night. All through our activities, Mason instructed us in some of the finer points of causing chaos among your enemies. I can't take much credit--most of what we did Mason devised. Becky and I followed orders.
The hardest problem to overcome was the huge advantage in numbers. Ideally we'd have led a pack of zombies right up to the closest encampment, then repeated the process when they finished. Sadly, the one area marauders are very proficient in is clearing out the undead. Fortunately, their trust for one another is nonexistent.
Much like street gangs (and I'm sure groups of marauders in some places originally were gangs) the different groups tend to use specific signs or colors to easily identify members of their own group. So, Mason did what seemed logical to him: made a plan to fan the flames of distrust to a white-hot state.
The three of us infiltrated the smallest camp last night, just eight people. Eight marauders, that is, all men, and one captive. She was tied up in a tent, strapped to a cot. We found her after we'd finished picking off the four men on watch. None of them were really expecting an attack, and we were silent. The first to die had his throat cut by Mason, the second silenced by dual stab wounds to the kidneys. Also courtesy of Mason. You learn a lot of disturbing facts working with him. One being that getting stabbed in the kidney hurts so badly that it effectively paralyzes your throat. It tightens so hard you can't even scream, or move your muscles.
The last two were unaware we'd killed the men on the other side of the camp. Becky and I were only about thirty feet away in the darkness. They were sitting in front of a fire, eyes dazzled by the light of the flames. We might as well have been invisible. Two neat arrow shots to their throats as Mason started working his way into the tents.
I would have had a hard time killing men in their sleep. Oh, I'd have done it; I have before. But I'd have felt terrible and maybe hesitated. Mason may have felt the same, but he didn't show any signs and it didn't slow him down a bit. He did get pretty upset when we found the girl, who had been used for the obvious purposes. Mason was just as enraged as Becky and I, talking about how he wished he'd been able to kill those men slowly.
Can't say I disagree.
I've seen women deal with the terrible wrongs that were inflicted on that poor thing. She was in her late teens, at a point in her life where she should have been worried about which boy liked her. Not which man was going to ruthlessly violate her next. I've seen other women find the strength to overcome what she'd endured, but the truth is that all people have a breaking point. She was well past hers.
When we woke her and she began to understand that we weren't going to harm her, she begged for us to kill her. We tried to explain that we would keep her safe, but that wasn't enough. As I listened to her beg again and again for death, I began to understand.
The world wasn't a place where she could ever feel safe or right again. No amount of security could set her mind at ease, because the possibility, however small, was still there that she could fall prey to the desires of brutal men again. I've always believed that every person should have the right to choose their own time and place to end it if they wish. I can't think of anyone who deserved the peaceful release of death more.
Mason offered to do it, though I could see the anguish in his eyes. The girl was frightened of doing it herself, dreaded making a mistake and going through a slow and painful process. Becky took the lead, then. She ushered me and Mason out of the tent, and a short time later called us back in.
She'd given the girl, whose name we never learned, a massive overdose of morphine. More than half of the supply we brought with us. Should some future injury cause me pain, and Becky is without a painkiller because of last night, I'll consider it bargain. Compared to what she endured, every other pain is minor. I'm actually glad we could help her go painlessly. It still hurts.
We took the time to bury her beneath a willow tree, and that's how I'll think of her. Willow seems as good a name as any other.
That took place after we left the camp, of course. On our way out we left a green bandanna, carefully stolen from a larger camp by Mason, clutched in the hand of one of our victims. The traders that service the camps should be passing through any time now. I wonder what will happen when they see the obvious: the tenuous peace between the marauders was broken by another camp. Eight men killed. There will be panic, anger, confusion.
And hopefully, violence. After the night we had, I hope to hear their screams all day.