Hours later, as the sun clothed itself in a crimson cover, Bain and Malkoff arrived near the large forest. The wind howled and weaved through the trees like a snake through grass, giving the dark forest and eerie animation. Maybe… they should wait the night. It would be foolish to travel the woods in complete darkness with the Bahamut Guild running about.
Usually bandits and thugs were no issue with Bain. He just mentioned his name and they would leave him be. A noble going missing raised questions and usually a squad of knights was sent to take care of the bandit group. It rarely failed. But the Bahamut guild were no ordinary criminals. Only one man had made it out, and he had been half starved and nearly dead. What could they have done to the poor fool?
Bain had to concentrate! “We camp over that hill,” Bain ordered, “to keep well out of sight of these woods.” Malkoff nodded. Odd fellow, but he was very complacent. Never once did he argue. It was almost like his will to debate was gone. More of a hack and slash fellow really.
They made their way to the hill and over it. Bloody wind was getting colder, though, and Bain had forgotten to grab extra blankets for the night. Well, with all that had been going on – the fight with Arkheem, Elizabeth’s sickness, himself being a suspect – Bain knew it was not he who was to blame.
“So, why are we staying away?” Malkoff asked once they had gotten to a desirable spot free from the forests gaze.
Bain pulled the bedroll from Dalzig’s saddle and looked to Malkoff. Where had the man been for the last few years? Everyone knew of the Bahamut Guild. They at least had heard rumors! Was this man daft? Bain started to ask him just that, but held it back. This man, he somehow knew, was a good friend. No need to get angry over something so small as ignorance.
“About fifty years ago,” Bain said, rolling out his bedroll as Malkoff did the same, “There was a town called Havensburrow at the edge of that forest. It was not a large town, but it did manage a decent wealth by trading ale to a city up north called St. Albans.” Bain finished with the bedroll and went for his pipe. Dalzig let out a snort when he retrieved it, So Bain gave the stallion some wheat from a bag and a pat on the nose. The Lord knew Dalzig deserved it.
“This town eventually starting having troubles,” Bain continued, “People, children mainly, went missing. At first, the people thought it was a wild animal and so they went to hunt the creature. After killing a few beasts – bears most likely – they were appeased and left the woods.” Malkoff started to pick up sticks off the ground. For a fire most likely. “Don’t worry about a fire. We don’t need to bring attention to ourselves.”
“Oh… I suppose you are right,” Malkoff said, dropping the sticks and sitting down in his bed roll. His long black hair made him hard to see in the growing darkness of night. “Please, continue.”
Bain nodded. He would do so without the man’s consent, but it was better to have it. “The people of Havensburrow were satisfied and the attacks stopped. It was all for naught, however, as soon the people began to vanish once more. This time it was women and little girls who started to vanish.” Bain took a seat on his bedroll once Dalzig was asleep. The horse wouldn’t run off, thankfully, but he was always cranky when Bain didn’t soothe him into the sandman’s arms.
“What did they do?” Malkoff asked. Good question.
“No one knows,” Bain answered before lighting his pipe. It was a good tabac, but sadly some of his last. “Only one man made it out and his only words were: ‘The Bahamut Guild…. They took them all.’ He died shortly after, but the guard whom he told gathered a large for to investigate.” Bain took another deep puff, then looked to his large companion. “Want to know what they found in Havensburrow?”
Malkoff nodded, his dark eyes gleaming with just a little curiosity.
“Nothing,” Bain said.
“Nothing? You mean no people?”
Bain shook his head. If only there were no people. It would be understandable then. “No, there was nothing that put Havensburrow on the map. The only thing they did find was the road leading to the village. The buildings, people, and farmlands were gone though. Wiped from the fabric of reality.”
Malkoff nodded sadly. “I see…” He knew something but Bain wasn’t going to ask. It was dark and he was already tired. Maybe he would have pleasant dreams this night instead of the frequent nightmares he had been receiving. Only time would tell, so Bain finished his tabac and put his pip away. The two men fell asleep shortly after their heads hit the bedrolls. Bain's last thoughts were of Elizabeth. He would see her soon.