A small village is raided. A lone survivor reaches out to Woodmyst for help. Tomas Warde leads a small band of men. Their mission is to rescue the captured women and children. But have they taken on more than they bargained for
Silently and stealthily, they moved over the snow-covered ground with determination. Their intent was malicious. Their prey was close by.
The night air was bitter and the darkness was thick and impenetrable. Everything was working in their favour.
Careful to keep the sound of their footfalls as quiet as they could, the band of thirty men moved towards the small cluster of crude houses. It was a small village still in the process of settlement.
Pausing, crouching upon the crest of a small ridge, they scanned the hamlet warily.
A large campfire sat smoking, slowly dying, in the centre of the clustered houses. The surrounding structures with their snow-covered thatched roofs and walls comprised of stone, wood and canvas appeared welcoming. Friendly.
A few small pens had been fashioned from tree limbs in order to house small livestock. There were no horses from what the men could see; no carts and no well-established constructions of any kind.
It was apparent the small community had probably set up camp and erected their crude buildings before the snow fell. The only recent manmade object, placed after the deluge of white powder, was a large pile of firewood at the far end of the village.
Apart from the livestock in the pens, there was no movement in the settlement. The acrimonious frostiness assured them that most of the village men would be inside the warmth of their beds.
The defences were non-existent and their flanks unprotected. It was easy prey.
The men drew nearer and nearer, looking this way and that for a sentry. There was none.
One of them saw something move and signalled to another at something ahead near the edge of the village. The other placed an arrow onto his bowstring and aimed carefully. The dog didn’t feel a thing.
But the hound was seen as it fell silently upon its side.
An old man had been sitting behind his house praying to the gods when he saw the arrow pierce his dog. He instinctively crawled behind the large pile of firewood to hide from the invaders. There he cowered and froze in fear.
The intruders entered the village like ghosts, unheard and unseen. Each took position outside the door of a small hut.
Waiting for the signal, they stood with daggers ready to push the doors open.
A nod was given.
The doors smashed open simultaneously, splintering and breaking onto the floors covered with skins of beasts.
Confused and bewildered men raised their heads from where they slept as women and children screamed.
Before the men of the village could rouse themselves to challenge the intruders, daggers were plunged into chests and necks.
Women were bound and gagged. Girls from around ten to those of adolescent years also had their hands fastened and mouths covered. The younger girls and newborns had their throats slashed and were left to bleed. The boys of all ages suffered the same fates.
One of the men gave a long whistle.
Many horses led by two men with torches and an enclosed wagon driven by one man emerged from the trees and moved into the village where the women were loaded upon the covered cart. One of the men threw a pile of blankets in with the women who screamed, cried, blubbered and swore at the invaders.
Some of the marauders took what supplies they could from the little huts. Grain, blankets and weapons were confiscated from inside while the swine and goats were gathered and thrown into the wagon with the weeping women and girls.
Two men upon the ground approached the two on horseback and received the flaming torches. The men walked around the village lighting huts on fire before returning to mount their steeds.
All men still in the centre of the small collection of huts straddled their chargers and prepared to leave.
The women and young girls screamed and cried as they watched their homes burn with their men and sons inside.
One man gave a gesture with his hand and all men moved out of the village with the wagon in tow.
The flames intensified and, before long, the village was an inferno.
Listening to ensure they had gone, the old man cautiously made his way out from behind the pile of wood and watched as his new home burnt to the ground.
It wasn’t long before the structures collapsed to the ground with loud crashes. The snow had started to fall again and he wrapped his wiry arms around his body for warmth.
He was glad he had kept his coverings on and the bearskin that he draped over his shoulders as the cold breeze began to blow.
Looking to his dog, he considered burying the poor beast, but ruled against it because of the weather. He was too old to dig a hole through the snow and then the hard ground beneath.
Instead, he pulled the bearskin around him tighter and started trudging towards the west.
He needed help and the best place for him to get that was from his closest neighbours.
The journey would take a day or so. With no food or weapons to defend him, he would need to take care.
So, warily, he made his way towards Woodmyst.
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