We leave the village although night has fallen. It is now a place of ghosts.
After discovering more bodies in two other cellars and after determining neither Siri nor Horin are among the dead – we found none of the young – we set fire to their homes. The time to bury everyone individually required more strength than we possessed. I shall never return to Grenmassin and I know Damin feels the same. Let it burn.
Many hours on horseback later, Damin eventually speaks. “They took the young only, killed the rest. They will be sold as slaves in Porlese.”
Slavery is outlawed, but there are regions which ignore the ban. “The raiders,” I say, “are from Porlese?”
“Must be. Alarn to the east is more progressive. They will not raid.”
“Why? The last raid I know of was over two hundred years ago.”
Damin shrugs behind me. “The only objective that makes sense is the threat from above. Porlese sees the night sky more than we do; they know something approaches. To survive, they need hands to build shelters, to gather supplies. Slaves are cheaper than labourers.”
I attempt to bring the Mirlin’s map to mind. The fort the folk from Normur upper and lower head towards is further south than Porlese. Once we have freed our loved ones, we still have a march before we join the others. Then there is the march to the sanctuary.
“We are not going to make it,” I whisper.
There is silence for a time behind me. The horse moves onward at a steady pace.
“Lyra, we cannot abandon them. We must hope the thing in the stars slows or diverts or something. I will die rather than leave my sister to a life of slavery.”
Yes, I too would give my life for Horin.