“Curse you! Get off me! Get –”
One last attempt to pull loose saw Ildric finally crawl free from beneath his dieing horse. The light dimming in its brown eyes, the fallen animal struggled for one more gasping breath as the man fought his way to his feet. He did not pay the horse that had failed him so close to his destination any mind. Cursing under his breath, the man held his broken arm against his chest and scrambled up the hill towards the distant pillar of black smoke.
He was not a lithe man. Tall and thickly built, Ildric was made for short furious bursts of speed. But he ignored the burn of his lungs and blood in his mouth. Several hours ahead of the others, he would run himself to death as he had his horse if only to see.
He had to see. They couldn’t be….
His broken arm and left leg cried for him to slow, but it was in vain.
Three more hills…. Two more hills…. One.
The once sprawling farm now was nothing but scorched earth. Flames still engulfed the black remains of barns, fences and a little farmhouse. The smell of death permeated the grey haze. Half burned bodies of farm animals were scattered about, and what remained of the few farm hands could be seen in the nearest field.
Hate boiled, coursing through his limbs. He would find him. And once he did….
Brushing embers from his shirt, Ildric half ran, half stumbled down the hill and into the yard. The silence roared in his ears, the distant popping of coals and crackle of fire like deafening explosions. He did not notice the burns on his hands as he shoved the smoldering gate out of his way.
“Hello?” he called, what breath he had catching in his throat.
“Anyone!” he begged, pleaded, even though he knew no one would answer.
Heart pounding furiously, Ildric smashed the charred door of the house open with his shoulder… and he froze. A single body laid in the remains, the small floral print of the dress still faintly distinguishable.
The pain hit him all at once, and his heart made a sick twist in his chest. Dropping to his knees in the ash and coals covering her door, Ildric curled over, clawed at the ground and screamed.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“You have everything?”
Vrax pulled the last strap over the wagon canvas and tossed the extra length over the top to Eruviel. “Enough. Can’t wait around for the rest.”
“I’ll see that it gets down to you once it arrives.” Eruviel secured the rope in a taunt knot.
There was silence between them. A minute of unspoken apologies and assurances as Vrax waved to the wagon drivers behind him, and Eruviel handed up the reigns as the man stepped into the drivers seat.
“Drive safe. I’ll send word when I learn more.”
Vrax caught the Elf’s wrist and frowned down at her. “As much as I want him dead, you living is more important.”
“I promised to find him. We tried to do things my way and we see how well that worked out.”
“Dammit. Just say it,” he huffed with a low growl.
Eruviel’s stern expression gave way to a faint smile. “I’ll be careful. Take care, old man.”
Vrax managed an uncommonly weak smirk. “See you in the spring, Witch.” Releasing her, he snapped the reigns to start his wagon forward.