An Epic from Ribenheim
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Something in the Forest was rotting.
The smell was repugnant. It did not belong. It was far beyond that of a rotting carcass or dead animal. No, it was something far worse.
Shadow, like his namesake, crept quietly along, darting from shadow to shadow. Something was not right. The forest was far to quiet. He slid an arrow from the quiver on his back and notched it to his bow. You never knew when you would need it. His charcoal gray cloak and dark forest green tunic and pants helped him blend in with his surroundings.
Something wasn't right.
There were no creatures scurrying about in the undergrowth. There were no birds chirping. It put him on edge. He was so in tune with the forest that he always picked up when something was wrong. The faint smell of smoke on the air let him know he was drawing closer to the Village of Tetrarch, and a warm bed that waited him there. But the smoke tasted wrong. It wasn't from the hearth or the tavern. No, it smelled of burned wood and leather. Of flesh.
It call came together as he entered a clearing. His stomach churned as his eyes took it all in quickly. His body relaxed and he released the tension in his bow. He shook his head quietly and started moving amongst the bodies.
The Townfolk of Tetrarch were all assembled there. Their bodies were swollen - they had been dead for at least a day if not two - and flies were everywhere. Some had been disemboweled and hung by their entrails from the trees. Others had been thrown onto fires while still alive. Others had been tortured and raped. Babies had been impaled on stakes in the ground. The Mayors head lay on a stake in the middle of it all, his mouth open, full with his own genitals. His eyes had been dug out too. Shadow could only imagine what the man had been forced to witness and the pain he went through before he finally was killed.
Moving on, he followed the short path through to the forests edge. The town was largely intact. The wooden palisade in parts was charred and had been torn down, but the village itself remained. It was eerily quiet except for a stray dog or two. Doors had been left open, like the Townfolk had been suddenly forced out of their homes. Checking inside of one, rotten food from a dinner left unfinished remained on the table. He helped himself to a jug of wine, carrying it with him as he made a quick circuit of the village. Nobody.
Shadow then wet a rag with the wine before wrapping it around his face. He found a wagon, a horse still hitched to it chewing on some grass. A lucky find. He wrapped a wine-drenched rag around its nostrils too before leading it into the forest. He began the grisly task of freeing the bodies and collecting the limbs, piling them onto the wagon before taking the whole thing back into the village. He piled the bodies into the church, spending the better part of 6 hours until not one person remained in the woods. And then he set the building on fire. Not the sort of burial they had wanted, but better then being left to the wild animals.
Task completed, he wandered over to the Tavern. The food and drink was still good though he wasn't much in the mood for eating. He drew himself a warm bath and washed, cleaned his clothes saw to the horse and wagon - abandoning the latter which was covered in gore.
He stoked the fireplace and settled down in front of it smoking his pipe. Shadow mused that he would be its last guest and then set his mind to figuring out what had happened in Tetrarch and - more importantly - who had done it!