This is a transcript of the Bonus Episode "White Wood's Fall" of my podcast. If you rather listen to this text, you can do this by pressing the button below.
Be advised that this episode contains brutality and violence and may not suited for you. Step away if you feel unconfortable.
They came at dawn.
50 or so men clad in leather armour, a visible red cloth dangling from it. There was little effort in hiding their approach. They wanted to be seen, to strike dread into the villagers. And although they could be seen, they moved silently. Just a faint clanging of their weapons, hanging from their sides.
As the group approached the village, they split in all direction. Like a river branching and searching for the path of least resistance. One by one, small teams of 2 or 3 men broke off from the main group and started banging and crashing down doors. It was then when the shouting and screaming started.
Men, women and children were dragged from their homes into the cold morning air. Most of them still wearing their nightgowns. As they were lead to the village square, the soft fabric tearing and breaking apart from contact with the hard, cold ground. Those who tried to oppose, were struck down mercilessly. Often in front of others as a kind of deterrent for others to follow. Children's cries filled the air.
Slowly the town square filled with villagers. Raiders began to gather supplies and valuables pillaged from the homes and storages and piled it up next to the villagers.
"Is that all?"
A voice drowned the sound of sobbing. Arms crossed, his muscles in the upper arms bulging as a show of power and intimidation, he stands in the middle of the square overlooking the operation. A deep scar across his dull left eye, prompting continuous shifting of his head to keep everything in view. There were just shy nods from those around. Nobody dared to speak up.
"Check the forest, leave no witnesses!", he barked. Five bandits immediately obeyed his command and marched to the eastern border of the village and continued to the nearby forest.
Nessana observed their approach carefully. She forgot why she followed the two adventurers to the village. It might have been curiosity or a bad feeling. Whatever the reason, she had to leave before they found her. She couldn't allow them to see one of her kind.
The forest was her domain. She could move quickly and silently, melting into the shadows, her grey-green skin blending into the environment.
The bandits spread out to cover more ground in their search. 'Mhm, Smart', she thought surprised. Taking additional care in her steps she slowed down. It was better she concentrated and moved a bit slower, than accidentally tripping. She used the shadows cast by the dim light of the morning sun to duck behind cover, always keeping an eye on the approaching intruders.
They were not hard to spot. Their advance quick to be seen and heard by the most inexperienced. With every step they cracked the wood on the forest floor and hacked on low-hanging branches in an effort to cover as much ground in as little time. They didn't care about hiding their presence. In a way, they counted on being seen.
Nessana watched them silently. Then she moved quickly to the next cover. She took a deep breath. Even though she didn't move quickly it took effort. She turned her head to search for her assailants to plan her next move, when she looked directly into the face of one.
Before her stood a young boy. Couldn't have been older than 18 or 19 by her estimate. Quite young compared to her longevity. Pimples covered his face, the dagger in his right hand shaking nervously. He wasn't prepared. He was scared, she could sense it. Why he joined the bandits she didn't know. She didn't care.
She had to act fast. Swiftly she grabbed to her side, where her dagger holster was, only to realize too late, that she no longer possessed a dagger, having it given away to that girl. "Help!", the youngling croaked, before she was able to unsheathe her sword and cut his throat. Blood sprouted from his neck as he sank to the forest floor.
"Over there. There's something moving."
She had been spotted. A buzzing filled the air and an arrow just barely missed her and landed in the trunk next to her. Throwing all caution into the wind she began to run. A second arrow grazed her arm. She flinched as the pain hit her. But she continued on. The bandits began to encircle her so she had to be quick to get out of their grasp.
Her vision blurred as she tapped into the magic of her mask. The world turned black and white and instinctively she moved to the areas where it was darkest. Shadows appeared where there should be none, allowing her to meld with them. Her grey-green skin darkened to match the new hue. Her form became hard to focus on, hurting the eyes of any observer. It looked like she was in two places at once and then in none of them.
The mask guided her. Showing her a path of darkness she followed unquestionably. Her vision blurring into a tunnel of white and black, growing darker and darker the more she relied on the magic. She had to stop at one point, lest she would be consumed by the darkness completely. The power had its price. But she had to use it a little longer, to make sure they couldn't follow her. She continued on, not knowing for how long.
Exhausted she snapped out of it. Her vision returning to normal instantly. The sudden change caused her physical and mental pain. She shook her head in an effort to to numb it. She leaned against a tree and inspected her surroundings, breathing heavily. She listened. She watched. Her pursuer seemed to have abandoned her. She sighed in relief.
Nessana returned two days later. The air was still heated from embers, gnawing at the last remnants of the village. It reeked of death. Bodies scattered the village square. She saw corpses holding hands in their last seconds of life, hoping to give themselves comfort in the situation. Their dried blood coloured the ground a dark red. But she could see a shimmering in these pools. Unnatural. Small crystals of iron sprouting from the ground, as if they were feeded by the blood itself.
She was too late. It had already begun.