The gods desert us.



Gren faced the door. He had expected to see the quaint view that greeted him every afternoon, a few hills dappled with sunlight, some goats frolicking in the grass as the bleated, bells jingling merrily. Instead he saw a man with a lush, ridiculously long white beard stepping under the doorway. The man had ducked to preserve what seemed, impossibly, like the hat of a Court Wizard. Gren had always been a sharp lad, and now his mind made a few connections. The fact that the hat of a Court Wizard was connected to a sagely looking, magificnetly bearded man would make him a Court Wizard. Court Wizards were famed for guiding and advising Heroes, Kings and generally the type of people who had so many responsibilities that they never slept and ate only intermittently. Gren's mind was also quite sure that the Court Wizard had come for him, becuase his was the only house in the region, and Court Wizards did not generally step into stone hovels without a great deal of encouragement or need. Gren did what every frightened, self-serving and unusually confused boy would do in his situation. He brought the staff down over the Court Wizard's head. He stepped over the groaning body gingerly, breaking into a run as soon as he had cleared the door. His slapping feet were propelled by the downward slope of the hill, and soon he had reached the concealment offered by forest and brush that grew along the river. He watched. The wizard stepped out again, hat in one hand, head being rubbed with the other. The wizard turned and headed the other way, back to the village of Riverhome.

Gren would have been out of there in two seconds if there wasn't something else he needed. If that priestess wouldn't change her mind the Gren would be running from Court Wizards, and possibly gaolers, until his legs gave up on him and walked away on their own. If she said that someone else was the Hero he would only have to run from one Court Wizard instead of several. Five mintues ago even running from a single wizard would have seemed like a foolish idea. Now he would try even if there were twenty.

He turned to his left, following the river in the direction that would lead him back to Riverhome. He had left his sling, but fetching it now would be dangerous, the wizard may still be looking for him.


Walking the league back had done horrible things to him psychologically. For starters, his overtaxed mind had suddenly realised that he had struck a Court Wizard on the head., had felled him in fact, even if it was just temporary. Gren was the first to admit that his knowledge of Court Wizards extended only to those tales that children were told around fires in the winter, but sadly none of those tales had ever suggested wizards to be either benign or forgiving. He recalled a few tales that even warned to stay away from men of such formidable power, and each tale made him wince as he thought of it. If he ever ran into the wizard he would have to beg for his life if he ever wanted to see another sunrise. The first village houses could be spotted through the trees. Gren couldn't just cross the clearing and vilage green to get to the priestess' house. That was a surefire way of get killed, or worse, being made a Hero. He walked to the edge of the trees. The sun was slanting in the sky, calling an end to the day's activities. He watched as a few of the villagers shuffled around, some to the inn, others home. One or two younger couples took a stroll in the warm light and cool breeze. He would have to time it well. Her house was at the other end of the village, the closest to the old Demonheim that had once been a centre of power, before the Gods and the Old Kings had seen to them. They had been behind the confines of the Endgate for as long as anyone could remember, only their terrible structures speaking to the power they once had over the Land. Gren looked about, a sudden stillness had settled on the village. He took his chance and ran.