CHAPTER THREE: Crossing the Rabbit's Path (2)

It was obviously useless trying to engage in further conversation with Bornen. Once he winds up and lets himself go, the voice box chatters away. Grom would rather talk about the future. What can this so-called wizard, this Ezmyr, tell them about Shenon’s whereabouts? He was weighing heavy questions in his mind, gazing at the surroundings of the rocky trail with every step. He vaguely listened to his grandfather as he studied the moss covered buttresses and white topped cornices looming overheard. The hanging sheets of snow began to drip as the sun submerged the land in scintillating sheets of golden light. He thought, and he thought, and . . .

“No, I said this corner. Didn’t you hear me, Grom?”

He shook himself, returning to reality. “Huh?”

Bornen wriggled in the pony’s saddle. “Turn here. Ezmyr’s hut is right around this bend.”

“S-sorry.”

Upon their arrival, it was evident that Ezmyr’s property had accumulated a few more noticeable decorations since Bornen’s last visit, which was only hours ago. Large black birds, (a murder of them to be exact), were perched atop curled up masses lying strewn about in the snow or draped over small boulders. They were busily pecking away at the dead bodies, rather delighted to fatten themselves up on such a generously discarded meal.

“Look,” Grom cautioned, “someone’s already been here.” He fearfully glanced from side to side, half expecting to be ambushed by whatever created the sanguinary scene.

His old eyes inspected the premises. The ravens, now mustering up a raucous cawing, flapped their wings balefully in an attempt to ward off the newcomers. “Their robes,” Bornen observed smartly, “bare the same symbol. I don’t recognize the guild though . . . never studied much heraldry. We should see if Ezmyr is in the hut; he could be in trouble!”

“But what if there are more of them?” Grom protested.

“Doubtful. Those birds wouldn’t be nice and settled in if more were here. Guide me closer Grom, it’s all right.”

Bornen scanned the carcasses after shooing away some of the ravens. Each one had a clean wound; a quick death, delivered by professional hands. He would’ve been impressed if not for the ominous stillness that lingered all around them. His insightful gaze shifted to the smoke stack that rose from the chimney as they approached. Grom stopped briefly, bent over, then retrieved a formerly owned and recently relinquished hand axe from a snow drift, but he was nipped by one of the birds while doing so. He sucked on his throbbing thumb to nurse the pain.

The entryway was fully opened, and from the doorway it was obvious the entire place had been the subject of a feverish struggle. The cabinet lay busted in pieces on the floor, (a body or two pinned under it as well), windows were smashed and the glass scattered, tabletops were carelessly cleared then dismantled in the same fashion, and anything that could spill or break seemed to have gravitated toward the ground.

The End

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