(Unlucky for some……namely you, if you are still wading through this rubbish)
The two women had by now calmed down considerably, although their speech was still intermingled with sniffs, and the occasional sob. The Knight brought them close to a burning house so they could stay warm – but as soon as they got close enough to feel the warmth of the flames, they started off wailing hysterically again. After more soothing by the Knight, and after much deciphering of the gesturing and crying that was going on, the Knight managed to work out that the house in whose burning ruins they were warming themselves, had actually once been their home. They were, apparently the only survivors, and the bodies of their loved ones lay only feet away, all crispy and black.
Upon realising this small oversight, the Knight decided that they should move to a different burning building to stay warm. They were certainly spoiled for choice, so he quickly moved to another building close by. The sobbing soon subsided, and the Knight noted that the fact they were now warming themselves by the incinerated remains on their neighbours, caused these women absolutely no distress whatsoever. Once everyone was calm again, settled and comfortable (as comfortable as you can be in the middle of a ruined village with burning buildings and corpses all around), the Knight asked the Women what had happened.
At first, they were reluctant to talk. All the Knight and the Writer could get out of them was lots of shaking of their heads and wringing of hands. In spite of his growing impatience (which was only brought on by his need to seek justice on the perpetrators of this terrible deed), the Knight remained calm, and kept gently reassuring the women. The writer made similar sympathetic noises, but soon gave up after getting repeated black looks from the woman he slapped.
After much persuasion, the Knight managed to obtain enough information to ascertain what had happened. After excusing himself and the Writer from the company of the two women, they moved away out of earshot and called Jack over.
Jack staggered over and asked:
♫”What is it? What news? What have you both been told?
Don’t delay; say straight away, before I feel less bold!”♫
‘It’s as I feared’, said the Knight grimly, ‘The evil ones attacked the village with out warning.’
‘Well, that would make sense.’ The Writer interrupted.
‘What?!’ said the Knight, ‘what do you mean?’
‘All I meant was that a large part of the success of an attack – of any attack – is the element of surprise. If the evil ones had put a sign up in the centre of the village three days beforehand, announcing their intention to attack, then I doubt if they would have had quite the success they obviously enjoyed’. The writer gestured at the devastation around them.
The Knight couldn’t believe his ears – again.
‘Are you saying that you agree with what they’ve done here!?’ said the Knight, his temper rising.
The Writer immediately went on the defensive. ‘No! No! I’m not saying that. I was merely pointing out that everyone makes an attack without warning - that’s the whole point of an attack.’
The Knight was not interested. ‘I don’t care what you were trying to point out. In fact, if you don’t shut up, I’ll be doing some pointing out of my own – but I’ll be pointing out your eyeballs with the pointed end of the first sharp stick I find.’
‘Okay, okay’ The Writer said, holding his hands up.
Trying to put the last few minutes’ lunacy behind him, the Knight continued.
‘Anyway, the evil ones attacked the village. They went through the place systematically, ransacking and burning as they went. When they were finished, they butchered the animals.’
‘But what about the men folk?’ The Writer asked.
‘They were just simple villagers’ the Knight said, ‘what defence could they muster against such cruelty? By all accounts they tried to fight, but were all captured and taken away by the evil ones.’
Jack threw his two penny’s worth into the mix:
♫” How can we know for sure that the evil ones were here?
There are many groups of bandits, and ruffians I fear.
Those women are delirious – how can they know for sure?
We must make certain of the fact – of proof there must be more”♫
The Knight stared at Jack, and then handed him a small piece of card, saying ‘Proof? You mean like this?’
Jack took the card and turned it over. It had writing on it. Jack turned towards the fire a little to get better light, and found that the card read as follows:
Another Quality Attack By
THE EVIL ONES©
“No Town too Big, no Home too small -
The Evil ones will attack you all”
Committed to Equal Opportunity:
You’re all just as equally likely to be attacked
No matter what you look like, or what your beliefs.
Having found his two penny’s worth spat out of the mix, Jack returned the card to the Knight without saying a word. The Knight took the card back, and tucked it inside his armour. Without saying a word, he went back over to the two women, and spoke with them for a few moments. Neither Jack nor the Writer could hear what was being said, but at one point the women became upset again, until the Knight put a gentle hand on their shoulders.
Shortly the Knight walked back over to where his two companions stood. His face still had the same, grim expression on it that had been there ever since they arrived.
‘This attack happened only yesterday’, the Knight said, ‘so the evil ones must still be in this area.’
The Writer and Jack both looked over their shoulders instinctively – it was an automatic response brought on by the thought that the Evil Ones might appear at any moment.
‘W-will they return?’ asked the Writer, trembling.
The Knight frowned. ‘Not sure – the women here say that there was only about ten or fifteen of them, so it was probably a hunting party. I would imagine that they are likely to be making their way back to their main encampment in the forest.’
The Writer didn’t like the sound of that. ‘Did you say their full number? That’s sounds like a lot – how many do you think there are?’
‘Who knows?’ Said the Knight, ‘there may be fifty, or there may be five hundred. There could even be five thousand.
You would need a fairly large number to keep control of all the men folk they have taken from various places – unless...’ The Knight stopped before finishing his sentence.
‘Unless what?’ asked the Writer, not really wanting to know the answer.
The Knight sighed, and continued. ‘Unless the people that have been taken are not being kept as prisoners – but have been killed’.
The moment he said those words, it seemed to go very quiet, and his words sounded very loud. Just the way it always happens whenever you are talking about anything remotely private or embarrassing at a party or in a pub. Just as you say something like “so now, it bends the wrong way, has gone a nasty yellowish-green colour, and smells like aubergine”, hey presto! The music stops dead, everyone hears what you are saying, and everyone looks at you.
It was just like that.
At the same time, the two women burst into tears again, and threw their arms round each other. The Knight thought about going over to comfort them, and then remembered that their loved ones were already dead – burned to a cinder in the house a few feet away. Then he remembered that these women had no problem standing close to the charred remains of their neighbours, so he wasn’t exactly sure who they were so upset about.
The Writer had had no such thoughts about comforting the women. His bruises told him not to.
The Knight went to explain that he had offered all of their help the women in whatever way they could give it. It had been agreed that they (being the Knight, the Writer, and Jack) would help to start to get the village straight, and then they would go and search for the evil ones, and try to rescue their men folk.
The Writer wanted to say that none of this had been agreed with him – but he thought better of it.
It was now around , and everyone started to remember how hungry they were. Luckily, food was in great supply – as long as everyone liked well done steak. Normally each of them would have jumped at the chance to point out the barbarism of eating the burnt remains of previously healthy and useful livestock, but these were exceptional circumstances, and it meant a little less clearing up to do.
After everyone had eaten, they split into two groups and went about trying to get the remains of the village back to some sort of normality. Jack went off with the two women to fetch water and start to put out the various fires that still burned. The Knight had suggested this, knowing that Jack’s new found singing skills would help raise the spirits of the two women. As for the Knight, he and the Writer went off to start clearing up the mess. They went back to their cart and unshackled the horses, and led them into the village. A plough harness was found for each of them, and they were put to use dragging the remains of the livestock out of the village, and into the corner of a nearby field. Soon there was huge mound of cattle, sheep, and pigs lying out in the sun. The Knight knew that the smell from this mound of death would be too much pretty soon, so he decided to burn it. He placed a few of the fattest pigs and cows strategically around the base of the mound stuffed dry straw into their mouths, and open wounds (where available). Then he took a burning table leg and set fire to each of them – they were just like some sort of bovine and porcine firelighters. Anyway, they worked a treat and soon the mass of trotters, fleeces and hooves were ablaze.
Some for the second time.
Once that was done, the Writer and the Knight went around righting upturned carts and tables etc. – anything that could be put right, was.
Both groups worked diligently and silently, and for a long time. When the light at last had failed, they stopped to admire their handy work – which was pointless because the light had failed. All they could make out were dim silhouettes, and shadows that danced in the far light of the pile of burning animals. Besides, they knew how it now looked.
Like a village of burnt out houses, with a blazing pile of livestock nearby.
What did you expect? DIY SOS?
They made camp out on the road, and took turns to keep watch. Nothing happened that night, but none of them slept easily.
In the morning, the village did look a little better. It was still a mess, but it was better than when they had found it. The women two appeared to have made some signs of recovery – the work on the village the previous day had done more than repair broken carts.
They ate a light breakfast of barbecued sheep – straight from the mound, and then the Writer signalled that it was time to leave. He did this by standing where the women couldn’t see him, and doing that waving-the flat-of-your-hand-under-your-chin thing and gesturing towards the road with his head, whilst mouthing the words “let’s go!”
The Knight acknowledged him discreetly, and then informed the women that they would be leaving. For the first time since they had met them, the women smiled, and thanked the Knight for all he had done, and all he was going to do. The Writer stepped forward, beaming, so that he too could be thanked – but all he got was another punch in the jaw.
The Knight waved farewell, as he and Jack walked the sobbing Writer back to the cart.