I returned shortly before dawn, making my way carefully up the wall and crawling back through the window. My departure seemed to have gone unnoticed: the room appeared to be undisturbed and my door was still bolted. I had feared that my absence would worry Geor, Alarca, Dermond, or all three, and was relieved to find this fear unfounded.

The prior evening was disturbing and, strangely enough, exhilarating. Following the burning smell I had traveled quickly over the large fields and made good time through the marshier area that separated these fields from the town. As I drew closer to the small collection of dwellings the smell of burning grew stronger still. Mingled in air were shouts of triumph and cries of agony.

The path into town led me over a small hill. At its crest I caught myself, rapt in feverish curiosity. A tragedy lay before me. I could smell and hear it, even if my eyes had yet to see it. I stopped myself, thinking ‘Do I truly wish to see this? Do I need to see this?’ The way behind me was clear: I could return to the safety of my room unhindered. And from there, where? I could find a coach to take me back to the city. And then? That life, once normal, now seemed to me stripped and hollow, a childish fantasy of peace and tranquility. My belief in that life had suffered on this journey and I think it died when it encountered the darkness of the cave, a dream rent by the seething red eyes of the undead.

I could not turn away from the truth that lay before me. I needed to see, and more than to see, to know. Yes.

I made my way carefully down the hill and quickly hid behind the thick branches of a low-hanging tree. The town was in flames. The thick, acrid smoke burned my eyes, choked my lungs, and my ears rang with the screams of the inhabitants. They had been gathered together in the center of town, those that remained alive anyway, and around them stood a host of masked figures. Whether they were women, men, or something else entirely I cannot say. Their clothing was shapeless and dark and each wore a dark red sash. Around them lay hacked and battered corpses.

One figure, tall, much too tall, stood before the gathered crowd. His words were lost in the roar of the flames but his meaning was clear enough. Two masked figured seized an older man and drew him up from his knees, one grabbing a handful of the man’s lank hair and pulling his head back to expose his throat. From his belt the tall one drew a barbed blade and those gathered began to wail. The tall one raised the blade above his head and now I heard his scream of triumph clearly over the chaos. I knew what was to come and was powerless to stop it. I covered my eyes, though this did nothing to stop the cruel sounds of metal rending flesh, of the man’s limp body dropping to the ground, or of the renewed cries of terror.

I fled. I ran as quickly as I was able back across the marshland and through the fields, arriving back at Geor’s inn just as the sun was beginning its slow rise. I am haunted by what I have seen and will speak to Dermond as soon as he has risen. Perhaps we may find a way to aid these people. My soul demands it.