The horses whinnied in protest, the cold was making them irritable just like the rest of the party. With the snow on the ground, it seemed like a never ending journey just to one simple farmstead. The girl sobbed every now and again. It bothered Crysx to no end, it seemed like she did so every hour on the hour. All he could do was promise that they’d get to the bottom of this. Lisbeth had shown a surprising coldness to Mia’s misery, Corbin knew that it was her thinking face. She was without a doubt up to something in that devilish little brain of hers…

Tiberius trotted along slower than the others on his steed. He didn’t exactly know what to make of this ordeal, he questioned why he was even coming along in the first place. Held by no oath to the folks at the Axefall, he easily could’ve stayed back with his paladin order. Something propelled him forward on this endeavor, he was curious to find out exactly what that was. The sound of the snow routinely interrupted everyone’s thoughts. The top of it was semi-frozen and made a loud crunching as the horses lazily walked over it, every now and again one leg sinking deeper than expected, jostling the rider.

It was a cold and miserable two days of travel out to the remote collection on farms. Not much conversation was had, all of them were far too engrossed in thought and speculation about what they might find. As they drew near, the conversation finally came out. The night before arriving at Mia’s farm was the night they spoke, gathered around the meager camp they created along the road. The vast darkness of the plains at night enveloped them, it made their thoughts run like an avalanche down a mountain. A small fire in the center of them was the only thing fighting the dark, the flames dancing wildly in everyone’s eyes, mirroring what was happening inside them. “Do we think this could be related to home?” Lisbeth asked in a grave tone. Fear turned the hamster wheel in the minds of everyone in the group, its persistent squeaking driving them mad. Crysx could hear the laugh of the necromancer that found him in his dreams.

Tiberius stiffened, having only heard rumors about what had happened, “I think we should gather information before we come up with any ideas. Jumping to that conclusion could cause use some unnecessary stress.

Corbin nodded slowly, “It could be the remnants of General Gug’s friends. You killed him but we didn’t take the time to hunt down his friends.” His eyes were locked with Lisbeth’s. They both were feeling a degree of doubt on that theory, they shared the emotion through a gaze.

What’s important is not how it effects us,” Crysx said standing up, “but how the simple folk return to their lives unhindered.  These people have been living in fear, not knowing who would be next to burn. We can worry about what this has to do with us when their lives have been saved.

Mia started to sob quietly.

Lisbeth shushed her gently, placing a hand on her back and rubbing in a circular motion. He was right, and that’s all they needed to hear to be fixated on that fact.

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The sun was starting to rise as the house revealed itself on the horizon. Mia suddenly holding her breath told Lisbeth that it was not just another random house. Mia was saddled with Lisbeth, she was the best at dealing with small folk having a more humble background than the others. She reached back and placed a reassuring hand on Mia’s knee, Mia hugged the back of Lisbeth and confirmed her suspicions.

Lisbeth alerted the others and they all guided their horses in that direction. The house was a mere skeleton of what it used to be, the charred remains piled up in the middle of it. They all dismounted except for Mia and fanned out to investigate. Lisbeth found the imprint in the snow where Mia’s father had lay, the snow still stained from his brutal murder. Tiberius and Crysx worked together to clear some of the rubble, looking for something that would tell them more about the attackers. The only thing they found was the hatch to the cellar. Surprisingly, the door was only slightly charred. Good quality wood… Corbin thought to himself as he watched his friends unearth the hatch. Corbin walked over and opened it up, its hinges screaming loudly in the open air.

The group descended the wooden stairs together, they creaked in protest under their weight. It was slightly warmer than outside in the cellar, slightly more humid as well. Well sealed, Corbin thought once more. Using his staff for light, the room was illuminated. The three others followed Corbin slowly, looking around cautiously with a hand on their weapons. Yet they found no one, instead they found a fully intact food store.

Well,” Crysx said looking around warily, “We know they’re not plundering at least.”

No,” Corbin said, crouched in front of a sack of grain, “it’s worse than that. They’re cursing.”

The party huddled around the sack, it had a symbol drawn on it in a vibrantly red paint. Even to the less arcanely inclined folks in the party, it sent out swaths of hatred. Lisbeth felt her stomach twist, being all too familiar with the feeling.

Whoever did this, she thought, they’re after revenge…

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Stay Metal \m/