The distant hills were silhouetted against a fiery sunset; they walked while the sky darkened, revealing its first star. A gritty breeze stitched itself to a hazy dusk. The moon rose slowly above the hush, serene expanse of the forest’s quivering canopy and then they halted. Further ahead, Herendin perceived another small village cowering within the evergreens.
Then, surprise and astonishment changed their faces. Branches snapped ahead of them as a man, stunned with horror and with branches lashing his shoulders, face and back, rushed out from within the forest carrying with him the stiffened corpse of his dead child, its head dangling to one side unnaturally. “My boy! My son!” he cried in agony. Then he fell and his child’s body rolled and hit the stump of a rotting tree, its lifeless head buried in the grass. Grabbing the sack from Herendin without a moment’s hesitation, Ann ran towards them.
“Ann, have a care!” Herendin called to her.
Within a few moments, Ann had reached the man and found that the apple-sized buboes on his neck had burst. His eyes wide open in terror, clutching his child, he lay dead spurting black pus from his boils. She turned her gaze, fell and began to vomit violently. Herendin ran to her side, helping her to her feet.
“Nestor, be safe,” he looked behind him cautioning his friend. “Do not look or breathe in their direction! Ann, are you well?”
“Herendin… this sickness… None shall be left alive.” Her face was frozen into an expression of fear. “None shall be left alive.”