Hudson viewed the landscape from atop his rasping brown mare. The green hill they used as a vista stretched out underneath him and his master. Around them birds were chirping, flowers boomed and the morning sun gave the day the feeling of freshness. It was almost as if nature was pretending nothing was wrong, by making the contrast with what lied ahead, so great. They had been riding for almost a week straight. Pressing on, urging their horses almost beyond their limits.
Hudson looked over to his master, Tarium. The huge man stared stone-faced at Hollow Bridge village. Most of the time there was absolutely no way of telling what the rigid warrior was thinking. His mind seemed as unbendable as his solid frame. They hadn’t really talked during the whole journey, and Hudson knew better than to ask too many questions when Tar went into a ‘restraint state’ like this one. He only knew that something world-changing had begun, but he didn’t know any of the details. He trusted Tar to inform him of the necessities along the way, but so far Tarium had been pondering in silence, not sharing a thing.
It had been so sudden when Tar had told him to strap the horses and pack their things. They’d been in the middle of a lesson when Tarium had stopped talking mid-sentence, his eyes glazing over as if his mind wasn’t present in the keep anymore, as if he’d been somewhere else. It only lasted for a few seconds, then he had shaken his head as to clear it and told Hudson to go get their things.
‘’It has begun’’ he’d said.
Hudson turned his head back to Hollow Bridge, or what was left of it. The small village was smouldering, smoke rising from the charred, grey remains of what used to be buildings. A circle of singed black earth surrounding the entire town.
“What happened here?” he whispered, more to himself than his master.
“Let’s go” Tar said and spurred his horse onwards, downhill. Hudson followed suit, his horse objecting for the lack of rest they let her have.
They soon arrived at the edge of the scarred land.
“Let’s walk from here” Tar said while dismounting. With the reins in hand they slowly entered the village. Tar took the lead, walking them through the rubble of what once was considered a street. His back was almost twice as broad as his, so Hudson just looked to his sides as they continued on.
“Be on your guard.” Tar had spoken softly and a shiver went through Hudson’s body. The air was suffocating with the smell of rot and decay, mixed with the metallic tang of blood. There were bodies splayed around everywhere, some in pieces, some fairly intact, some burned to the core and some just looked like they had imploded on themselves. And there was an eerie silence, like all the life had been sucked out of the town, even that of the plants and the animals that must have been there before.
Tar led them to one of the few houses that was still mostly intact. They left their horses outside and entered the house. Tar was scanning the room. He slid his finger across a cabinet and smelled it. His glance went up to the ceiling.
“Stay close” he said, and made his way towards the stairs.
“He walked directly towards one of the four doors in the upstairs hall. The smell was so bad that Hudson was trying his hardest not to gag. However, when Tar opened the door a wave of the foulest scent he had ever experienced hit his face and he couldn’t help himself but to vomit right there.
He was wiping his mouth when Tar called him in. He straightened himself, tears stinging his eyes, and made his way into the room. He’d seen a lot of blood in his life, and the rest of the town hadn’t been bloodless already, but inside this room there was almost no place left that was not coloured crimson.
“This is where it originated.” Hudson’s eyes grew big as he surveyed the room.
He looked around the room. It couldn’t be the right place, it was impossible. The room had little furniture, just a few necessities. The bed was small and had one tiny teddy bear on top of it. In the middle of the room lay a corpse, but what seized his attention the most was the print that was left in the blood next to the body. A print of two small knees and two small feet right behind it. He looked at Tar and when he caught the look in his eyes understanding washed over him and goose bumps started to rise on the entire surface of his skin. “It was a child” he whispered…