Alma and Cora
Your head is full of cotton as you slowly stand and shake the cold out of your bones. A few hours of sleep has done little to shake off the effects of the wights’ deadly attack. The makeshift camp has changed dramatically in the hours since dawn. The men are erecting a rude shelter and collect wood for fires while the women folk gather what edible tubers and plants they can. Bubba manages to scare up a pair of racoons, taking them both down with a single arrow each.
You have to admire his shot. You think back to the barricade on your first arrival at Tundrein. He had his bow trained on you until his arm shook with the effort. It is a good thing that old Zeke didn’t give him the word to loose at you.
Finding a mossy patch next to a maple tree you string your bow and slump down. Before long Brianna comes to sit beside you with a bowl of thin soup with a dark meat that smells gamey and tastes greasy. It is delicious. You didn’t realize how hungry you were.
The girl says nothing, but sits beside you, the warmth from her shoulder tingling in your arm. Sitting against the tree you slip into sleep, the darkness of last nights dreams banished. It is hard to say how long you sleep, hours maybe. When you awaken the sun is high and there is a bit of warmth in its light. A blanket has been laid over you.
Standing and stretching you feel much better. Strength is beginning to return to your wasted muscles. Examining your hands, your old colour is back. Vigour flows through your veins along with your old desire for action.
The woodsman Kandure readies two horses. Once mounted you ride out of the trees and make overland north, towards Tundrein. The grassland stretches on to the horizon with little sign of change. You ford the creek early and keep it on your right side. Kandure is silent during the ride. From the set of his jaw and the steady squint in his eyes you can tell that he is alert for the first sign of trouble.
The great grey wolf, a skinny beast if you were to judge it, appears on occasion, running beside the horses with its pink tongue lolling from its mouth before darting off into the grasses like a silent streak.
It is an hour before you see the first column of smoke ahead. The smell of burnt wood greets your nostril soon after.
Kandure calls a halt, securing the horses to a massive juniper bush that squats amidst the yellow grasses.
Remember exactly where these horses are. If we need to flee quickly you will not want to be thrashing through the weeds looking for them.
With that warning Kandure stalks forward. It takes another ten minutes before you arrive at the first cultivated field. Ahead, the town stands silent, a steady plume of smoke coming from the area of Pete’s barn with another somewhere east of town.
For nearly an hour Kandure sits silently, barely moving. Though you appreciate his level of precaution, the long wait is beginning to grate on you. When at last you can not tolerate another moment the woodsman stands, slings his bow over his shoulder and says:
The creatures are gone. The town is empty.
Before you can answer, he strides into the field, walking between the furrows of broken soil and marching for the centre of town.
It is strange seeing things from the perspective of daylight. Corpses are piled just where they should be. Doors on several houses swing open while shutters on others are firmly barred. The door to the inn is a shattered ruin and Pete’s house is a mess with furniture strewn about the porch and the window smashed out. There is nothing left of the barn but a pile of ash and a few posts.
Otherwise, the streets are empty and all is silent. It feels like you are the only things left alive in a town that yesterday was a thriving northern community.