Chapter 28 – The Man in the Woods
I watch the entire scene unfold from my position among the trees. Of course I’ve seen similar encounters occur as well, though most recently the similar scenes end with the redheaded woman disposing of the discarded bodies. But in years past there have been others besides the woman with red hair. The Order of the Departed has no shortage of loyalists, and no qualms about enforcing its rule with an iron fist. Those who learn the dirty truth are easily made to disappear.
This is not what the gods would want, of course. That’s why we left. Expats, you could call us, if you feel compelled to use an official label for our current state of affairs. A collection of Seekers past who managed to escape, city citizens thought to be dead and our own breed of offspring. The silent watchers in the woods. Protectors of the forest. Haunters of the Hunt. We exist only in the secret shadows. We always see you, but you only see us when we choose. We’ve been here for years, silently growing, learning and amassing our power.
The young man holds his weapon in one hand, pulling the young woman up from the place she fell. She appears to be all right. This is good – they do not know it yet, but the young lovers are going to prove useful to us. He gestures wildly, both their faces animated as they argue. I see him hold out his free hand toward her, and then I watch the girl study him reluctantly.
After several long moments she places her palm tentatively into his. Golden rays of the setting sun pierce through the forest’s haunting gloom as they begin their hasty descent, illuminating their silhouettes like gods made flesh.