The one-armed man had spoken the truth.
Only a few days passed before I was made aware of a shifting in the Hollow. Upon occasion, the place would ground itself, either by happenstance or by force. By the groaning of the earth and the buckling of North Road.
The ravens were more than happy to share the news, too.
There’d been a hard frost the night prior, and I was checking on the orchards when the ravens arrived with information about the Hollow. I was thankful for the distraction as some of the trees were putting up quite the fuss over a lack of meat. When the ravens spoke of the men gathering in the Hollow, silence fell over the apple trees as they listened eagerly.
“Truth be told, Duncan,” one of the ravens said, “it looks to be quite a force building up. You may want help.”
I nodded. There was always the possibility. Although, I was fairly irritated with my mother for all the trouble she’d caused as of late.
Before calling in reinforcements of any sort, however, I’d make a reconnaissance of my own.
I took my glasses and my Colts, as well as my Spencer, along for good measure. Rather than risking injury to one of my horses, I left the farm on foot and made my way along the right-hand side of the road. I kept just inside the tree line, careful to keep out of sight. I didn’t need any sharp-eyed picket taking a shot or two at me.
The sound and smell of the encampment caught my attention, and I crept forward until I was situated behind the stonewall, close to a patch of bramble that gave me a fair amount of cover. With the wall for protection, I peered up and over the stones, bringing the glasses with me. I focused them in, and in the distance, I saw the beginning of a force.
From what I could see, the headquarters element had arrived, and their tents established. I could hear the sound of marching feet and knew that more men were on their way. While I didn’t know how many men would eventually make camp, I had a fair idea judging by the headquarters troops.
I might face as much as a battalion.
It was time to call upon my own dead.
I only hoped they wouldn’t side with the strangers.
Family was always a challenge.