Part 4 – Friend or Foe?

… Finally, to continue…

Hara lifted her head upon hearing the cry of innocence, sniffed sharply and let lose the dogs. The beasts bounded swiftly over the decay to where our soldier hesitated near the two fallen archers, I watched their path, breaking cover slightly, as they tore past the startled soldier, bearing down on the strangers.

Paused, hackles bristling, drool lashing from vicious jaws the dogs mastered the scene their judgement, pure instinct and swift. The alpha male tilted his head and sniffed the air, edging closer to the injured men. Shook himself and began to wag his tail, licking the elder man’s face. The rest of the dogs relaxed then, as did the soldier and I headed over with Hara.

“We mean you no harm…” He stammered between dog licks, making a fuss of the animal, a man used to livestock.

“The dogs are a good judge of character. ” Hara said with a smile, kneeling by them, pulling forth her kit to study their injuries.

Both were dreadfully thin, their faces ashen and eyes haunted by the horrors they must have witnessed, neither were seriously injured, yet both displayed evidence of older injuries, still healing, they stank, clad in rags yet their weapons were of a decent quality.

I watched as Hara worked her magic, using, without hesitation, our supplies to clean and dress the knife wounds on the two fallen men. The dogs appeared at ease in their company but our guardian was far from convinced. He pumped them both full with lighting fast questions, bombarding them with inquiries until the younger, the son, broke down in tears.

Hara concluded that enough was enough, their story and the scene surrounding us was painfully familiar. A desperate attempt to escape the war, which had caught up with and massacred the travelers in it’s wake.

It was getting dark… Time to Move? I suggested…

They had been using a shallow cave midway up a rocky outcropping, the entrance concealed by a thick foliage to conceal any fire within. Despite the bitterness of the terrain the survivors had made their den quite cosy, using supplies salvaged  from the carnage, creating a home with a well defensible position.

There was very little conversation as night fell and rations were shared. My guardian chose to keep guard, to watch over our slumber, one dog by his side. I couldn’t sleep and so went to join him, sat just above the trees – the sky vast and dark, cloudless with a sprinkling of twinkling stars…

 

Anne Harrison 20.10.16

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