Chapter One: A Home beneath the Trees.

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   He remembered the first time he had seen death, all those years ago.

   He had only been ten at the time, a child.

   It was late in the morning; Tauren had been running about the streets in Carmenton, playing with other boys in the warm, soft rain that had been falling all day, while his grandfather was at the fort, apparently called there by Marlan. He remembered his grandfather’s only friend of the time, Incroe, was with him as well.

   Incroe had been remarkably similar Edrin, tall, grey hair, kind eyes, and a friendly spirit. They had known one another for longer than Tauren could remember and where nigh inseparable, both living in the same cabin, both always going everywhere they went, together.

   In those days Edrin hadn’t been such an outcast, he had lived out in the woods in the very same cabin he still lived in; he had been well known as a hard worker and a healer, and he had done all he could to help the villagers and country folk in whatever they needed. Tauren had had friends then . . .

    Early that morning a messenger had come from the fort to the cabin, and after frantically talking with Edrin and Incroe for a few moments had left. The two older men had talked in hushed tones for a minute while Tauren sat in the corner watching them. They had come to a decision, and then, gathering their weapons and belongings had gone up to the Fort with Tauren.

   He remembered Incroe coming to get him from where he had been playing, he remembered being taken inside the warm fort and given a spot on the hay in the barn where he was told to stay. He hadn’t understood what was going on then, and it had been years before Edrin told him and he had finally understood.

   He remembered that the all of the people from the town and surrounding countryside had come pouring into the fort that afternoon, carrying with them all of their possessions, their families, and a feeling of terror.

    Late that night Edrin, Marlan, and Incroe had rode out of the fort at the head of a column of armed soldiers consisting of every able bodied man they could find. Tauren had crept out of his heap of hay, and gone up to the empty battlements the moment they left.

    The surrounding countryside was dark, empty, and carried a sense of foreboding, as though a storm was in the offing. The night was cold and a crisp wind blew.

    He remembered the sight of flashes of light coming from a spot; miles away in the forest, where he knew a fight was going on. There had been fire. There had been screams. And he knew fear that night for the first time.

   He remembered the column of men coming back deep in the night, carrying with them dozens of dead and dying men and even Arrels. Edrin had run over to one of the men who had been laid on the ground, the instant the column stopped, and Tauren had recognized in terror that it was Incroe.

   Tauren had crept over and looked down at Incroe. The old man’s eyes where almost closed, his cloak was covered in blood, and his breath was coming in ragged gasps, Edrin had known that his friend had hardly any time left to live and had stood over him, tears falling down his face, repeating how sorry he was that he hadn’t been there to help him.

    Incroes eyes had gone to Taurens and he had smiled weakly, then, in a final burst of effort he had sat up, whispered something in Edrins ear, and then his eyes had gone dead, his face had gone slack, his hand had fallen and he had died. Tauren felt true sorrow that night for the first time.

   Incroe had meant a lot to him, but he hadn’t meant as much to him as he had to Edrin. After a few tears shed over his dead friends body Edrin had leaped up furiously and stalked over to Marlan, Tauren still remembered his grandfather’s angry words.” Why weren’t you at the river?! Where were your men?! We had a plan, didn’t we!? Why didn’t you follow it?”

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