Tossing in my hammock, I try to ignore the gentle swaying motion of the craft, the sickly shifting sensation of the waves I haven’t yet grown accustomed to. It’s a stormy night on the lake and the winds churn the usually placid waters.
Quietly, so as not to wake my companions, I slip out of my hammock and draw back the tarpaulin over the doorway of our shelter. Cold wind and wet spray hit my face, whipping my hair wildly around me. Lightning forks through the sky, briefly illuminating the roiling clouds and the foamy crests of the waves. In the darkness that follows, I can just make out the shadowy shape of the docks we have drawn up against and the more distant silhouette of the walls of Selbius.
I try not to think of what, or who, lies within those walls. I don’t want to remember where I’ve come from or what I’ve left behind. But, unbidden, a memory forms in my mind. The memory is of a brisk autumn day and a trek down a leaf-strewn forest path…
It wasn’t a long distance from the part of the forest where Rideon and the other outlaws were encamped to the old hideout of Red Rock. I followed an overgrown deer trail part way and when that faded beneath grass and leaves, trusted my sense of direction to lead me on.
I arrived before midday. Nearing the abandoned spot, I slowed, remembering the Fists would surely have an eye on our old lair. I circled the clearing, cautiously, noting the ground was freshly churned by horse hooves and the marks of many feet. Our enemies had come and gone. Scattered possessions, abandoned by the outlaws, were strewn across the ground. The Fists had been thorough in their ransacking, even burning clothing and provisions, presumably so we couldn’t return later to reclaim them. I briefly sifted through the singed rubble, finding nothing salvageable.
Then I entered the cave. Feeling my way down its darkened passages was disorienting because nothing stood where I remembered it. A row of kegs and a lantern hooked to the rock wall had once marked the entrance to my space behind the falls, but they were gone now. I would have passed the spot by, if not for the roar of the water and the dim glow of daylight filtering through.
It was a relief to discover nothing here had been disturbed by the Fists. I went to my old hiding niche in the wall, dusted away the camouflaging bits of moss and pebbles, and retrieved the leather bundle containing my mother’s brooch. Stuffing the parcel into my jerkin, I also collected the fistful of copper coins I had stashed in the hiding place. These were my only valuable possessions in the world and I breathed a sigh of relief at having them safe in hand again.
I lingered another moment, taking a final look around the quarters that had been my shelter for so many years. Then, turning to leave, I staggered into the silent figure that had crept up behind me.