“Not what I expected,” said Arturo as he paced back and forth. “Not what I expected at all.” He wore a harried expression, like one he’d shown a few times in the years before joining the Order of the Orion, but had kept hidden beneath layers of polite conversation and insincerity since. He could hear crashing in the underbrush not far from where he was. Sounds of battle.

And at his feet, one of the goat-things was writhing and twitching in pain. It wasn’t screaming, wasn’t bleating. It certainly wasn’t acting like a regular man or beast. He still wasn’t sure what to make of it, and now that he had the thing at his mercy, he was at a loss for what to do next.

He’d clobbered it on the head hard enough to send it to the ground with one blow, and he had the means to bind the creature if it were indeed a man, as Alquis suggested. Such a man might make a useful prisoner, might have valuable information. He might be reasonable, might talk.

Somehow, he fought against the desire to run away, even though the thing at his feet was far less fearsome than the serpent creatures he’d faced before. But even those creatures felt far away compared to his current situation. Arturo reasoned what a hero would do in such a situation, but he became lost in his thoughts whenever the goat-thing made a sharp movement and he had to start over again, and again.

Its head was at an odd angle, but he had hit it hard enough to hurt his own hands. If it were a headdress, he’d have knocked it askew, but he hadn’t approached enough to see. He studied the creature for a few moments more, locked in indecision.

Arturo rose to his feet as Nicyes came into view. The warrior was spattered with blood and he had a distinct look of satisfaction about him.

“You managed one on your own, I see,” said Nicyes. “Very impressive for an old man, such as you are.” He laughed, and Arturo molded his face into one of assumed confidence.

The goat-creature lurched on the ground, and the look on Nicyes’s face went from triumph to confusion. “What, you didn’t finish him off?” he asked.

Arturo shook his head, and gestured for Nicyes to do so.

“Then you haven’t seen under their masks, then.” He walked to the goat-thing, seized it by the horns, and slit its throat. He pulled the mask away and revealed a filthy, if otherwise normal, human man.

Arturo felt not even the tiniest bit of relief.