Their cottage was still standing, but only barely, when they were able to return several days later. With deathly silence, Tyrric pushed his horse past hers so his feet were first on the ground, his hand the first one pushing back the battered door. He gave Mirium a fierce look, and drew his sword, warning her back. Mirium obediently stayed atop her mount.
The door scraped along the ground where once it slid smoothly, and Tyrric had to put his shoulder to it to get it to move. He passed inside, into the darkness of shuttered windows. Quiet once again cloaked her surroundings once he was out of sight.
The fires the trolls and orcs had lit had burned the forest well away from the little village. The birds and frogs and other creatures had retreated, and the wind was still. Mirium strained her ears, hoping she’d hear a shout from either Tyrric or his brother, heralding good news. So far, no one had found any survivors from the raid.
When Tyrric came back out, he shook his head. He didn’t bother re-mounting, taking the reins of his courser and trailing along through the gardens, back out to the road. Mirium followed gloomily at a distance.
Keelath wasn’t in the second house Tyrric searched, nor in the third. She was beginning to hope that perhaps Keelath had escaped the violence, finding refuge in one of the caves in the hills nearby. It was a tattering hope. They trailed back towards the village meeting hall, which had served as tavern, townhall, dance floor, and sometimes shelter and prison as needed–when it had still been intact. The attack of the Black Horde had caused the roof to fall in, though Mirium had heard a few of the rooms along the outer walls had survived. It seemed such a broken thing now, huddled in a square of blackened ground that had once hosted grass, trees, flowers, vendors, bards–life.
By this time, Tyrric was just as weary and ash-covered as Mirium, and he had no protests for her as she tied their horses off to the side and rolled up her sleeves to pitch in with the others digging through the ruin. Some were boldly looting, but no one was paying those elves much attention. Most instead had tracks of tears cutting through the soot and dust on their faces. Everyone hoped they’d find some trace of lost family or friends; everyone also hoped they would not.
For Tyrric and Mirium, they weren’t so lucky. Mirium froze when one of the Farstriders ducked under the sagging lintel of the meeting hall door, bearing a shrouded body in his arms. Even before the Farstrider turned towards her, his mouth a line of regret, before Tyrric gave a ragged cry and dashed forward, Mirium knew.
Mirium knew, and suddenly her world would never be the same.