Whatever had come for them had done so from the trees.
They were the second such group I had found in the small section of Pennsylvania forest in as many days, and it bothered me. I did not know if the Secesh were dead because of our artillery, or if they had been killed by something else.
Artillery, well, I could live with that. We were at war, after all, regardless of how the Secesh felt about things.
If it was some beast, either natural or foul, that was another matter entirely. I would not suffer men to be hunted in such a way.
As I examined the second group, I noticed a peculiar lack of noise in the trees around me. From further out, the strains of birdsong and the complaints of squirrels were loud enough for me to hear. But not in the tree above me. Nor in its neighbor’s boughs.
Something was wrong.
I backed away and drew my Colts. What good they might do was unknown, but I did know they made me feel a damned sight better.
The branches of the trees above the bodies shook, and as a few leaves fell toward the corpses, the bark on the trunk twisted and turned, and opened.
A single great eye peered out at me, and a mouth full of brown, thick teeth worked in silence for a moment before the smell of earth rushed out at me, and words were formed.
“Duncan Blood,” the tree said, speaking my name with a chuckle. “It is long since we’ve seen you in this part of the world.”
I blinked, and a memory of my childhood leaped forward. I recalled traveling with my father to visit kin when I was a small boy and listening to him as he spoke with a dark figure in a forest. I holstered my Colts.
“I don’t remember your name,” I admitted.
“You never knew it. Our name is not important, for we are many,” the tree sighed. “We are many, and we are hungry. Leave us our corpses, fresh meat and rich blood. It is not often we eat so well.”
I bowed. “I leave you to your feast.”
“And we leave you to your life. Enjoy it, Duncan Blood. It will be long even by our standards.”
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