My entry to the Global Challenge Five, and also the continuation of Andared's story. To understand the context, you may want to look back at this: At the Banks of the Aines
In the Wake of Darkness:
After two days of swift marching, Andared and the Dragon Clan ranger were nearing the crossing of the Lomansruth (a branch off the Aines River that connects to Everlyn’s Tears Lake). Both of them were filled with unease as they made their way toward the bridge. During their entire trip, neither of them had seen another traveler. It was true, however, that they had made it a point to avoid the main roads when possible. Nevertheless, the unease remained in the back of their minds.“Have you got anything to barter with, once we reach Ainesford?”
Andared queried as he brushed aside branches of foliage.“I have a few drakens,”
the ranger replied, gesturing to a small pouch on his belt.“Enough for two horses?”
The ranger didn’t reply, but the grim expression on his face told Andared the answer.“Once we arrive at Ainesford, we may be able to barter for—“
He never finished his sentence. They had just arrived at the bridge that crossed the Lomansruth; what they saw stopped them dead in their tracks. Littered across the bridge were the bodies of Lenfel men, women, even children. There was a nauseating smell of rotted and decaying flesh. Rats had already begun to gather around this new meal. With his skin crawling at the sight of this brutal slaughter, Andared was on the verge of vomiting. Then they heard a faint, but distinct, moan from a man lying at the steps of the bridge.“Are you alright?”
the ranger asked as he ran over to the dying man.
The man didn’t reply, but the large pool of blood beside him indicated that he didn’t have long. After steadying himself, Andared ran over and knelt beside the man.“What happened?”“We were…attacked,”
the man coughed violently, spraying more blood. “Never…had a chance. Had red and…black flags.”“Where were they headed?”
the ranger pressed him, desperate to learn what he could while the man still had breath.“They crossed…they crossed the bridge,”
the man struggled to breath. “Must have been…going to Ainesford. We didn’t even try to run…”
“How many were there?”
It was as though the man hadn’t heard him. He just stared blankly at the sky.“Even the women and children…What did they want from us?”“How many?”
The ranger shook him, trying to keep him from slipping away.“Black flags…”
He started to choke, then fell silent. Reaching out, Andared covered the man’s empty eyes. Neither of them said a word as they stepped across the fallen bodies. They had arrived too late. Lenfald was lost…
One again, I'm making an unfortunately typical "last-minute" to the contest. Better late than never though.
Hope you enjoy, and good luck to everyone in the contest!