Once again Owen dreamed. Three men were running across a field, hoods covering their faces. One of them had a pack on his back, and the rest carried bows and swords. They dove into a grove of trees, looking behind them.
“Have we lost them?” one of the men whispered.
“That’s how it looks.” said another. “We are almost there.” The third man turned his head, exposing a ragged beard.
“Are you sure everyone will be there?”
“I hope so.” At that moment a short cry came from the pack on the man’s back. Then the scene shifted.
This time, he saw a child, about three or four years old, sitting on a stump crying. In his hands was a broken stick, which he could tell was meant to be a bow. He sobbed and cried, looking at the precious broken toy in his hands. A much younger Rory knelt beside him. “What’s wrong little man?” he said. The boy just held out the broken bow, trying manfully to hold in his tears, but for all his trial, one trickled down his face.
“I can fix it for you, and it will be good as new.” He held out his hands for the broken bow. “Here, let me have it and it’ll be good as new in no time.” The child’s eyes lit up, and he gave Rory a hug with all his strength before running off towards the cabins, wiping his tearful eyes on a sleeve. Rory watched him go, and then muttered “A good lad, that,” before walking off toward his own cabin.
Owen wondered, half asleep. “What do these mean?” They were a confused jumble in his mind, and he tried to fit them together, but it was a puzzle that’s pattern was beyond what he could understand. It hung by a thread, just out of reach. He thought as hard as his aching brain could, but still it eluded him. He slipped slowly awake.
His head throbbed. His side stung, and he lay, his eyes shut, not moving, trying to keep the pain from exploding. He could hear someone else nearby, and he thought he could recognize Kallan’s steady tread as he walked up next to him. A gentle hand lifted his head and held a water skin to his dry mouth. He allowed the drops to go down his parched throat, soothing the dryness. He sighed with relief.
He slowly edged his eyes open, careful not to move his head. Above him was a rough stone ceiling. Dim light filtered in from his right. He shivered as a cold draft blew over him. A cloak was pulled over him. He slowly tilted his head to the left. Kallan was a few feet away, cleaning a wound on his bare chest with his tunic. His muscular frame tensed as he touched a particularly sensitive spot. He dripped a little bit more water onto the tunic, then dabbed it into the wound, cleaning out the dried blood. It was a very shallow cut. Owen could see where the jagged weapon had glanced off a rib. There was a tiny groove, and he knew somehow that Kallan had been lucky that the weapon hadn’t pierced his lungs or heart. He wasn’t sure why Kallan was injured, or why he was in a cave, but he strained his mind to think of the reason.
He glanced over Kallan’s body. The other boy had always been more muscular, but lately his frame had filled out even more. A pang of jealousy hit Owen as he watched his friend slip on his tunic. He pushed it to the corner of his mind, instead concentrating on the pain in his side and head.
Owen pulled himself up into a sitting position, scowling as his ribs grated together. Kallan turned around.
“You’re awake!” He said in surprise. “I thought you weren’t going to wake up.”
He walked over and sat beside Owen. As Owens mind began to clear, he began to remember the details of the night before. The attack, and the men of the mountain, and the village burning.
Only then did the true pain of the situation hit him. Stephan, dead, Baird, dead, Marcus, dead, the list went on, Rory, Morden, Arthur, Wentwerth. All the women and children dead, captured, or alone in the wilderness. His heart stopped at the thought of Kaylee and her children, and sweet pretty Nai, heaped in a pile, killed by the hands of the barbarians, wolves feasting on their bodies.
Kallan noticed the look of pain and fear on his face.
“Are you alright?” He asked, kneeling beside him.
“Dead. All dead.” Was all that Owen managed to say. He clenched his fists.
In a flash, his fear was replaced by anger. He wanted to know who was responsible for this. He wanted to know why they would do such an evil thing! He pulled himself to his feet with a growl.
“Who could do this?” He shouted, clenching his fists. He screamed in anger. “WHY! TELL ME WHY!” Kallan put his hand on Owens shoulder.
He knocked it out, glaring. “No! This is evil, it is an abomination!”
“Calm yourself. We are the survivor’s only chance. We cannot let ourselves be discovered.”
Owen eyes shot daggers of fire as his heart beat sped faster than the evil drum that had roused the attackers. How could Kallan stay so calm, even though everyone they knew was dead or gone? As his mind calmed, Owens fiery temper disappeared, a wave of coolness falling over his face.
“You’re right.” Then his eyebrows narrowed, and he bit down resolutely. “But I swear that I shall track them down. I shall track them down and have revenge.”
Kallan nodded slowly. He looked at the ground, a thoughtful look on his face.
“I will come as well.”
Suddenly his head shot up as a look of joy and recollection sprung to his face.
Then Owen remembered! Keegan hadn’t been at the village! It was a 4 day journey to Moransford, and he would have to stay and trade. The joyful thought that he was still alive was soon stifled by a feeling of dread that his life may not last long. Kallan sprung up.
“We have to warn him! If he goes back to the town, he’ll be butchered!”
Kallan ran down the tunnel, grabbing his sword and strapping it on as he went. He slipped out of the tunnel entrance, pushing aside brush, and looked across the rugged terrain. Owen slipped out behind him. The slope went down at a steep angle before them. There were few trees on it, and he could see the black smoke billowing up from the village. The cloud was visible for miles.
“Your,” Owen said, and then corrected himself. “Our, Father is wise enough to know when something is wrong. If we try to go warn him, we’ll only get ourselves killed.” he said softly. Kallan looked down at the village.
“Bloody horrible.” He said with a frown. “How can human beings do so much evil?”
The two boys slipped back into the cave. Kallan sat down on the ground, a desperate and hopeless look on his face.
“He’s still alive, but I can’t save him.”
Owen looked over with a look just as sad for the man he had called father, and who had called him son. He was worried to, but he had to keep himself level headed to survive.
Owen looked over their supplies.
“We have jerky in my pouch, a half-full water-skin, my flint and steel, your cloak, our tunics and jerkins. As for weapons, we’ve only got our knives, your sword, and my bow.” He looked on the meager pile with disgust.
“We’ll survive for only a few days with these. We have no other place to get supplies. Unless…..” He thought for a moment.
“Our cave!” His eyes brightened. A few years before he and Kallan had found a medium sized cave while hunting. They had been tracking a deer up a steep path on Beartooth high above the village when they had stumbled upon it, hidden between two large pine trees. They cleared some of the brush, and gone inside. They had not told anyone about it, but it became their own private hunting shelter. They kept a small stash of supplies in it, so that if they got stuck out over night they would have a place to stay. It had been several months since they had been there.
“We should go as soon as it gets dark tonight.” Kallan said. “They’ll be hunting the woods for survivors.”
“Yes. Then we can heal and prepare.”
They reached the cave very early the next morning. As they had walked, they could hear the loud carousing of the barbarian tribe as they celebrated their victory. Owen was filled with disgust, but he forced himself to go on. The moon was beginning to set when they stumbled into the small cave.
It did not go back very far, but was big enough to hold around 10 men comfortably. It sloped down to small entrance, about two feet tall, which let in some small light. Owen believed that the water that formed the cave had drained out years before. They wrapped themselves in spare cloaks that were hanging on the walls and fell into a deep sleep.
Late the next morning Owen woke before Kallan and took note of the supplies. There was a pack hanging, which he knew contained extra bowstrings, tunics and a cloak. A small alcove on the side held two knives, a leather quiver keeping around 20 arrows dry. Leaning on the wall was a leather tube holding a bow. There was a satchel that held venison jerky, and a few chunks of dried and salted venison hung from the ceiling.
He walked slowly over to the bow, and slipped it from its leather case. He rubbed his hand over the smooth wood, looking for any deformities from the days of disuse. Satisfied, he slipped it back in and began to check over the rest of the supplies. Everything was in order. Content with his findings, Owen slipped out of the cave into the cold and looked out over the valley. The sun was already dropping its golden rays upon the entrance to the cave, but the rest of the valley was cloaked in shadow. The path was only wide enough for two men to go astride, so Owen was careful not to fall off. It would be a long, dreadful fall to the rocks below.
He looked off the cliff into the valley far below. The village was quiet were it lay in the valley. Some small smoke swerved upward toward the sky from the cook fires, and a few tiny figures tended them, but that was the only sign of life in the camp. Circular tents made of animal hide had been placed all around the devastated village, and it looked as if the whole tribe had camped there.
Owen gritted his teeth as he looked down upon them. These were the ones who had destroyed his home and killed his people. He would avenge his family and friends.
© Aidan Moon 2012