They sipped tea by the light of the fire in The Priest’s hut.
The flames cast their shadows upon the stone walls. The Moor stared at the shadows for a long while and did not speak.
The Priest and The Viking sat uncomfortably. They were unsure how to proceed.
Minutes stretched into hours as they drank cup after cup of tea. The men passed a pipe between them. The Moor abstained.
In fact, she made no movements or gestures whatsoever. She was impossible for them to read. She simply stared at the shadows and into the fire.
Eventually The Priest and The Viking dozed off, while The Moor continued her somber fireside meditation.
When they awoke, The Moor was staring at them. They sat up next to the smoldering fire. She nodded to them and spoke.
“Ask me what you wish.”
The Viking began.
“Where did you and the children come from?”
The Moor smiled warmly thinking about them. It was easy to see why children would be drawn to her. She was young but seemed wise beyond her years.
Her eyes watered, but she blinked back the tears and cleared her throat.
“I found them deep in the mountains that cast their shadows upon The Black Road.”
The Viking appeared to be confused.
The Moor was equally confused.
“No…not this mountain. There are mountains other than this, you know.”
The Viking’s expression was vacant. The Priest busied himself with the fire.
The Moor remained befuddled, but she continued.
“When I came across them, they were in one of The Wild One’s prison camps.”
“And who is The Wild One? One of the killers?”
The Moor nodded her head slowly.
“Yes. One of the killers. Will you pardon me, a moment, please?”
“Of course,” said The Viking.
The Moor turned her attention to The Priest.
“Excuse me, Priest?”
There were no more logs to put on the fire. The rest remain bundled outside the hut. The Priest was forced to meet her gaze.
“Why does he not know what I’m talking about? He doesn’t know of The Wild One? He knows nothing of the world beyond this mountain?”
The Priest shrugged.
“How should I know? I don’t know what you’re talking about, either.”
The Moor frowned but continued her story.
“We lived in The Deep Wood for nearly a year. I taught them basic survival skills, but they had trouble adapting to wild living. They had lived their whole lives in the camp. Freedom became both boon and affliction. They tested my rules and boundaries constantly, and eventually we caught the attention of The Wild One. He hunted us for months, but we managed to avoid detection until the night before last. During an evening forage, I sleepily strayed too far outside of my usual hunting grounds: a mistake that will haunt me forever.”
The Moor quietly wept again. The burden of her guilt seemed inescapable.
“I knew, deep down, that when I found them, they would be dead. The Wild One makes no exceptions and spares no soul from misery. He could’ve simply returned them to the camp. He killed them to get to me.”
She didn’t say anything after that. She had told them as much as she was willing to. She kept glancing at The Priest. The Viking could sense her distrust.
“The sun will be up in a few hours. I suggest we all get some sleep. In the morning, we will bury the children. And we’ll figure out what to do next.”
The Priest and The Moor both nodded.
The Moor took The Priest’s bed. The Viking and The Priest slept on the floor of the hut.
The Priest fell asleep immediately. He snored loudly.
As The Viking lay in the dark, waiting for sleep to overtake his busy thoughts, The Moor began humming quietly. It was vaguely familiar, but also quiet enough that he couldn’t quite place it.
The melody soothed him. The Moor’s hushed voice was like churned butter.
As sleep began to wash over him, The Viking finally recognized the song. It was the same song he’d been whistling the day before.
It was the song from his childhood.
SOUNDTRACK 07: “Hide And Seek”, Imogen Heap
CONTINUE TO CHAPTER SEVEN