We trudged through the snow toward an outpost Isaiah had established on the western edge of the village. It was from there, I learned that most trouble arrived and was thus the most dangerous position. There were always three villagers stationed at the outpost. If need be, I was informed, two could fight, and the third would either call or go for help.
As we advanced on the position, the sound of a fight reached our ears, and we hurried forward only to have a wall of snow blind us.
Even as I dropped into a crouch, I drew my pistols and waited, listening for a break in the storm.
But the snow stopped as quickly as it had started, and when I opened my eyes, I was surprised to discover that we were no longer in the grips of winter. How long we had been there, or how far forward the weather had thrown us, I do not know.
I do know that the sounds of fighting were no longer audible.
Isaiah sent Bram back to the village to check on the rest of the residents while he and I hurried on to the men I was to meet.
Little of those men remained.
We came upon three skulls, each stripped completely bare of flesh, the crowns of each cut perfectly around. As Bram came running back, I knelt down beside the remains and opened lifted one of the crowns. Within, I could see the telltale marks of a knife. Someone had scraped out the brains of the men and eaten them.
There was no way to tell how long the skulls had been sitting there, or where the killer or killers might have gotten to.
“Does it happen often?” I asked.
“Often enough,” Isaiah replied.
He nodded. “What would you suggest?”
“Time to pick up stakes,” I said, getting to my feet. “Trouble comes from the west. My home is to the east. It’s time to leave.”
“Tomorrow,” Isaiah said. “We have a great deal to pack.”
“Today, if you want to live.”
Eighty-seven people were packed and ready to leave in three hours. It seems they wanted to live.
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