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Something Must Be Done...

Part 2: Rumors

2007 Sonja Torres
 

The view from The Pouch was clear and vivid after a fresh spring rain. Greywarden's eyes tracked the road and took in the varied landscape around him. The flat brown and lighter green of a few small farms broke the deeper green of tall stands of evergreens. The mountains lay beyond, their secret passes hidden deep among their winding valleys. Snow still covered them, but at their feet, the crisp green of spring was making its annual climb upwards. In places, the evergreens gave way to alder and sturdy maple, their tender young leaves not yet fully open, and they in turn gave way to strips of grassy meadows.

And yet, Greywarden knew that this tableau was not what it appeared. Somewhere out there, something was hiding, something that killed and destroyed. He scanned the scene again, with death on his mind. Maybe that was what made him notice the oddly colored patch in the distance, at the edge of stand of evergreens that sheltered the trade road. Dead trees, fringing perfectly healthy ones? He wasn't sure, but further on, was that another one?

*   *   *   *   *

Elsewhere on the trade route, a day or two distant from the Merchant Guild meeting, the Crossroads Inn was unusually quiet. A sullen mood hung in the air like the stench of death. The shopkeeper absently wiped a glass, the same glass he'd been polishing for the past 5 minutes, as he looked over his nearly empty inn. Instead of the bustling crowds of traders that always heralded spring, there were only 2 small groups, their few wagons too small to be called a caravan. The merchants’ faces were careworn, and those of their guards were haggard with the strain of too much wariness and too little sleep. Their conversations were hushed, as if speaking too loudly might call upon them the doom that had befallen their missing peers. The innkeeper did not need their words. He'd heard the same whispered story for a month now.

"Nothing left but splintered wood. And blood."

"No bodies or survivors, just signs of a fight. There were some broken arrows. And those weird prints..."

"Hell no we didn't track them. Whatever it was, as long as it wasn't coming after us, we weren't going to look for it. I just need to get this stuff to the city."

And unspoken upon all their lips, one thought: I hope we make it...

 

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 updated 4-13-07