I had never found my family again. Night was falling as I set out to look for them. The neighbours' house was a bit closer to the village than mine, and as I made my way there I could see fires lightening the dark sky everywhere around me. As I got closer I got caught up in throngs of people, panicked, running in all directions, pursued by men on horseback. I fought to get through, to my neighbours' house. I failed. The cursing, begging, screaming crowd pulled me under until I thought I would drown.
With a splash I stumbled into an ice-cold brook that crossed the mountain path, and I was back in the here and now again. As I scrambled out I could hear high-pitched laughter, like a child's. I looked around me, but I didn't see anything.
My stomach began to grumble, and I remembered that I still had the food that Jarvik had given me. There was a round boulder near the path and I unstrapped my backpack and sat down to a late lunch. Jarvik had given me bread, chease, some apples and some dried meat. I also had some water left in my bottle. I started eating and drinking with gusto.
Though it was past noon the day was still bright and warm and I just sat there, feeling contented.
It was getting chilly. I could see by the light that it was late in the afternoon, and it would only be a few hours until sunset. I got up, painfully, as I had gotten stiff, and packed my things. I then continued my way down the mountain path.
In the distance below me I could see the main road, and a red-roofed building built around a court yard that would probably be the inn. I hoped they would have a room for me, since I wasn't going to make it to Stillwater before nightfall now.
As I continued down the path the vague sense of unease that had gripped me faded away, and soon I was enjoying the late afternoon sunshine and the crisp, clear air. To the left and right of the path I could see green meadows, on some of which goats were grazing. I didn't see any people.
I had known Rhiana since we were both children. It had always been obvious that we would marry when we were old enough, and so we did. The whole village helped us build a house, my parents gave me two of their best goats, and her parents gave us seeds and plants to start a vegetable garden. Three years after we married Jorden was born. If he survived the war he would be old enough to be one of the maimed and scarred young men in Jarvik's prison now. I tried to say a prayer for his safety but couldn't find the words.
I found myself at the inn's gate, and I knocked on the door. No light was coming out of the windows, and the place was strangely quiet.
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