The Second Burning

It wasn’t the shortest hike he had ver undertaken, but it wasn’t the longest either, and he wasn’t about to overtake one. It had been an easy ramble across the northern fields of Bree-land from Trestlebridge. At least there was one bit of joy to be had, it seemed the company was meandering to the same dot on the map, who knows where he would find them next. News of Ulfey’s disappearance troubled his mind just as much as his heart, it threatened to overwhelm and undermine, and he knew that answers were needed. He was now more on edge than ever. The green fields were consumed by the woodland, grass giving way to crisp leaves and all the fragrant and flavoursome flowers and herbs which sat at home beneath the dancing canopy. Brigferth had to stop himself from dancing with it. He had barely made camps along the way, not wanting to stop for long, or else have the feeling of urgency catch up and run ahead of him, and he could not have feelings outpace him, that was unheard of.

The birds he noticed, had grown quiet. Not quiet, more a silence, and for songbirds a silence is louder than anything else. It lay there beneath the trees, heavy, threatening to suffocate him in his desperation to find something, some clue. A feeling filled his gut, like, urging a deep scowl in his wrinkled features. His gaze met the beginnings of the evidence of the blaze. Charred branches, a scorched ground. A pleasant picture of home flashed before his very eyes.

His hand gripped his treasured spoon so hard, his battered knuckles had turned white. This would be the day he made a promise to never tell the story of The Tragedy of Man again. Sweat lingered on his brow and he forced himself to his feet, treading closer to what was once Ulfey’s cottage. All the birds nearby still watched silently as if in mourning, or perhaps fearful of being heard by a more foul breed. There was nothing left, save for fittings and fixtures of metal, nails. Every ounce of Brigferth tried to urge him to leave, and to his own misfortune, he ventured further in. His tearful scowl searched for clues, his mind would not let him leave without answers. An answer he got.

Between the floorboards, something caught his eye. His shaking legs took him closer and he kneeled with creaking knees. His hand probed between the blackened boards. A coarse yelp escaped Brigferth’s mouth as his hand closed around something smooth. His shaking hands could barely manage to light a candle from his aged travel pack, he lowered the light into the hidey-hole, afraid of what he might find. “Reuban?” The question escaped his lips as easily as his breath left him. He dropped the candle and scrambled away, out from the burned cottage and deep into the woods. Still, the birds watched silently. All old Bramblefoot could do was weep. Caught in the violence of the mob, forgotten in his sister’s cottage. Ulfey’s simple brother had been caught among the flames. Memories crept over Bramblefoot like a cold wave, and he slept.

The next day, the sun shone down through the dancing canopy, a cool breeze brought life to the edge of the woodland and he knew the lake was close to creeping into view. A merry tune escaped Bramblefoot’s lips as he whistled, tapping his fingers in time as he walked. Today’s supper was close by, it was just the right season for blackberry picking.