Nathan’s whip cracked, rallying his comrades around him. Together in the dawn’s early rays they defended against their enemies – their friends.

They were too few of them – the half dozen who had left mere days ago to hunt down the wolves that had been menacing their village since winter. Upon their return, the menace was the village itself instead.

Nathan dodged a blow from Aquila, a childhood companion who now sought to end his life. Behind him, Gratian sent several of their former friends flying with his staff, while Dosia sought to avoid an onslaught from several more.

Nathan looked around for any route of escape. Their horses had already been stolen by some of the villagers who, curiously, had ridden them away to the south. If they were able to make a getaway – and Nathan could see no opening – it would have to be on foot.

Then he heard a rush of air in the distance. The sound of great wings flapping bore down on the village with astounding speed. Nathan glanced up to see an enormous form approaching from the direction their horses had been taken.

Niguri! His eyes widened with recognition.

Turning from Aquila, he ran at Dosia, catching her in his arms and diving underneath a nearby house, which sat up on wooden legs with just enough room for them to fit beneath it. Looking behind, Nathan saw Gratian also take notice and run to join them. At the precise moment Gratian managed to pull his large body under their shelter, the three witnessed as a torrent of fire descended upon the village like a river.

While the inferno of dazzling heat came to rest on the village, the sound of the Niguri continuing its flight northward were barely audible over the roar of the fire.

If the Niguri are back, and traveling abroad, there are certainly those who should feel tenfold the fear I feel now, was Nathan’s last thought as the flames devoured the air around them, causing him to black out.