At the edge of the woods, in a place called The Valley by those who used to inhabit it, the trees are the only thing making noise—animals are silent here. You, Maltheal, emerged yesterday from the body of Vercy Wood for the first time in two years (you kept count by the winters), leaving the western edge of the trees and walking north for almost two days with the grassland on your left. Now, you stand on the southern side of what used to be your home, Rotterdam. Before the Orcs took it away.

Getting to your childhood home will either require you to walk through the village or around it, as it is on the northeastern side. Nature has almost completely reclaimed the village—brave trees sprout through tall grass, and the only things left standing are the few buildings which were constructed out of stone. Your father’s former chapel, for instance. In the gold late afternoon, the irregular stones of the long wall make for strange and dark shadows all over its surface. What is left of the foundation for the village storehouse is in front of you,

next to what must now be a deer path, with the chapel about fifty feet beyond that.

Archus, the thoughtful owl with whom you’ve been traveling for some months now, stands at his usual perch atop your backpack (you discovered that a bird resting on your shoulder for days on end made for sore and shoddy bow work). You feel him tease a mosquito out of your hair as you look on the ruins of your home.


I choose to explore further into the village, taking in the sights of the ruins of town, searching for anything familiar in the wreckage.


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