To Derrock Marefield the crunch of bushes being crushed under large feet sounds as if death itself is approaching, and he trembles on this hot day, as he hides in a crevice in the rock, his tunic wet, barefoot in the cool mud, by the brook, and he prays that the Risi will pass without noticing him. He must get home, get to Audri, make sure she is safe.
They stop and speak and their voices rumble like the thunder their speech commands. Derrock covers his ears, but counts at least three of them. A hunting party? They are far from their home, and the last time any people saw the Risi was at least one hundred years ago.
He knows what the Risi hunt.
He knows they use people as bait.
Ever since the mountains to the south started to spew ash and flame, strange things have happened near his home. Farmer Orland, that old coot, found his crops scorched, as if fire had rained down on his fields.
Derrick himself found the trees in the Thanewood were leveled, snapped and crushed, as if a boulder had fallen down on them, over and again in different places, but there were no boulders where he walked.
Refugees from the valley near the Everwit mountains claim that a beast stirs in its depths, and only one kind of beast can make stone to spew ash and flame.
Fallywag, ofcourse. Fallywag, were it not that these Risi are now here, and seem to be headed south, to the Everwits.
All goes quiet for a moment, and Derrock peeks out from his hiding place.
One of the Risi straddles the brook, a woman, her legs thick like tree trunks. Her great-axe has a blade the size of a plough, and she has the shoulders to wield it.
Derrock’s head would reach her hip, maybe. Some believe Risi are their oversized forbears, but Derrick disagrees. His folk is puny compared to these proud warriors, said to be the first children of heaven and earth, heirs of divinity.
The other two are shorter and leaner, but no less formidable. One, a man, with a bow and the other, a woman, with a spear and buckler made from scales that glimmer like the sun reflecting off the water.
They seem to have made up their minds, and press on, south, the archer taking the lead, and the spearman making up the rear, as they brush the crowns of trees aside like Derrock would bushes.
Derrock bolts from his hide-out, and does not stop running until he gets to his stead, where he finds Audri on the porch, and he hugs her, so tight she complains.
Derrock ignores her pleas, and he looks at the large spire that looms over the lands in the south, and the vicious clouds gathered at the Everwit’s peaks.
“A storm’s comin’,” he says and goes inside. Audri gasps, but follows. She’s smart that way. They start packing up.
Best leave before lightning strikes whatever stirs inside the mountains.