Yaqub pulls the shivering blanket above his eyes. “Wh-What are those things?”
The hooded man stands beside the first wagon. His sword still in hand, drawn when the first war cries echoed through the valley. “Goblins.” The wagon oxen rears its head in a deep lowl, bound energy searching for escape. He takes a hand to the bridle and eases the ox down. “Ones that learned the broken tongue of Iron Hide orcs.” The ox snorts under a soothing rub. “The season is not so late that they have given up pillaging for the year.”
Smoothing his shirt, Yaqub forces pomp into his voice. “Well, then it seems that I was wise to arrange for addition sword arms. Would hate to think what would have happened without my foresight.” He looks around. “What are you waiting for? I still have ten more miles to travel before this day is done.”
Drivers reseat their helmets and steady their wagons. The man walks by Eileen’s wagon as the caravan starts again. “What Yaqub says in jest, I say with conviction.” He whispers. “Well done.”
“Well done my backside.” The driver grumbles. “If those those monsters tain’t going to be the death o’ me, that crazy woman’s aim will.”
The rest of the day passes in solitude, only flitting song birds break the stillness of the woods. Dinner is eaten without the revelry of days prior and low clouds creep over Selune. The warrior sits back to the fire, turning only to stoke the occasional log.
A cold snap settles in the late night and winter dust falls from the skies. Morning dawns on the first valley snow of the season. Drivers pull their cloaks tighter and the merchant grudgingly offers blankets to those less prepared. Yet the greying year revitalizes the moment. Morning birds sing loud and snow shower as squirrels leap from branch to branch.
Pelor rises over the eastern Peaks and glinting snow catches the eyes of Eileen and Zeke. Dimpled snow runs along the western shrubs, paralleling the road. The pocks are small, regular, closely spaced and there are many of them. A warning voice echos in the depths of their minds. The tracks look long for their size, some with five scratches in the snow leading the narrow ends.
Clusters of the dimpled snow branches from the road, running into the deep woods and the ridges beyond.