From my room I can see little in the fading twilight but the alarm bell continues to ring. It is a distant and lonely sound, a child crying out in the night. Geor has spoken of a neighboring town only an hour’s journey away. I assume they are behind the toll of summons. Men have been passing by the inn for some time now and they continue to shout. I can hear the fear in their voices and it reawakens my own. My hands, they tremble badly. Were it not my only means of quieting my dread I would have left off writing some time ago.

Out of the evening gloom come three figures, each at a dead run, and as they draw closer I see that two of them are young men, boys really, and that with them is an older woman. They wear the rustic tunics of farmers and they appear to be covered in blood. One of the boys holds a long dagger and as they draw further towards the light of Geor’s inn I can see that the blade drips with gore.

Dermond. I need to check on Dermond.

I find him still asleep in his bed. He appears undisturbed by the night’s happenings. As I shut the heavy oaken door of his room I can hear a banging on the larger door downstairs. I creep down the stairs and take refuge behind the large railing on the landing. Geor and Alarca stand before the door, he with his hands on the iron wrought deadbolt and she with her fingers wrapped tightly around the handle of a wood axe.

At a signal from Alarca, Geor pulls roughly at the bolt that lets out a screech in protest and the door swung open from the force of the blows outside. Alarca raise the axe to strike and lowers it just as quickly when she sees the frightened expressions on the boy’s faces. The pitiable trio stumbles into the inn and Geor slams the door behind them.

‘What has happened?’ roars Geor. The old woman looks sharply at him and clutches the boys to her. Her voice is a harsh whisper.

‘They have returned.’ The axe clatters to the ground as it slips from Alarca’s fingers. They begin to speak is whispers and I cannot make out their words. Who could they be talking about? My mind strays to the forest and I hope against hope that what I fear the most has not come to pass.