A bundle of rags, that was their first impression of the obstacle in their path. As they had to step over it to continue on their way, they came to a halt before doing so, a moment’s curiosity that sought appeasement.
Lowen, a hand covering her nose to mitigate the stench emanating from the bundle, squatted and poked experimentally at it using a stick near to hand.
Her gasp of horror caused Torrullin to lean down, grip her and drag her aside. She instantly struggled free.
‘Stop it, I’m not a child!’
‘We swore to keep you safe,’ Torrullin said.
Meanwhile Elianas had knelt. He looked up as Lowen jabbed Torrullin in the stomach. For once he didn’t find the ongoing battle between Torrullin and Lowen amusing.
‘A woman,’ he murmured. ‘A few days dead.’
Sending Lowen a warning look, Torrullin crouched down. Together he and Elianas turned the bundle of rags over, both men gagging.
They stared down at a thin face. Any trace of beauty was lost in the ugliness of death.
‘Hunger,’ Elianas said. ‘Probably collapsed here never to rise.’ He surged up, swearing. ‘We are days from the city; how bad will it get? How long before we are numb?’
‘The real question is: how do we make it right?’ Lowen said.
Torrullin said it. In a voice filled with understanding, he murmured: ‘Lowen, this cannot be reversed.’