The trees were barren of leaves and the rain hadn’t let up for weeks. The brightly coloured pavilions sagged with little lakes of water. Some had even collapsed under the weight of water and that meant there were less pavilions for those who had travelled to Roseford to find shelter in. That meant Glump had spent the last six nights sleeping with his back against a gravestone with only his cloak for a blanket. Most nights he would stay awake until sleep would no longer wait and he would look through the constant rain at Roseford’s castle. His Lord, Kylean Wroot was in there, nice and warm with a fat woman for a blanket.
The fat woman was called Lady Rosechild and Glump had killed her husband on his first day in Roseford. That day should have been the first day of the Flower Festival, that was why the pavilions had been raised, but the flowers were all dead now, trampled beneath the boots of Kylean’s army.
“You have no authority here,” Lord Rosechild had screamed at Kylean. His guards had made to come at them then but they were dead before they’d taken a step; crossbow bolts deep in their throats. Rosechild died next.
“We bow to the Runehawks here,” Rosechild had said.
What a fucking fool, Glump had thought. He didn’t wait for Kylean to give him the order. He simply drew his blade and sent Rosechild’s head flying into a bed of red roses. There had been roses everywhere in the village but now that one bed was perhaps the only bed of flowers left in all the Realms.
Lady Rosechild chose to live like only a clever woman could; on her back. Kylean hadn’t been the same since Todwyn’s death. The old Kylean would never have bedded such a sow as Lady Rosechild but this Kylean, the Kylean that had marched out of Boterial and ravaged all the lands from the Walverian Sea to the Slaywaters, was a shadow of that man.
Shadows, Glump had been dreaming about shadows again lately. When he told Kylean about his dreams the Realm Knight would not look at him.
“I’m not scared of what’s coming,” was all Kylean said.
“You should be,” Glump told him but Kylean only rode ahead, away from Glump’s words, away from his dreams.
Glump closed his eyes, the gravestone hard against his back and the rain falling heavier and heavier. Sleep wasn’t ready to help him yet. He would suffer waking a little longer tonight. When he opened his eyes he could see a candle flickering within a window of the castle and wondered if that was where his Lord was giving it to Lady Rosechild.
“She won’t satisfy you, Lordy,” Glump said to the rain.
“Who will satisfy him?” whispered a voice.
Glump didn’t reach for his sword or leap to see who whispered at him in the night. He knew the voice. It was the Warlock.
“You know who,” Glump answered.
The Warlock was standing behind the gravestone. He could feel his presence but he knew better than to turn towards him. Turn and the Warlock would vanish into the night. It had happened before.
“Aye,” said the Warlock, “but she is dead and only the Mist can bring them together.”
The Warlocks words sounded like they were part of the rain. Maybe his words were only that; rain falling on gravestones. Maybe the Warlock wasn’t truly there. Glump had often thought that. Once, the Warlock came to him in his dreams and this now seemed as real or unreal as that.
“Is that why you’re here?” asked Glump. “Is the Mist coming?”
“Aye,” answered the rain or the Warlock, “it will be here by morning. Go to him, he is sleeping now. Carry him to his horse and leave this place.”
“What about the men?” asked Glump though he already knew the Warlock’s answer.
“The Mist must feed. Let it feed.”
Glump listened to the rain falling on the gravestones and wondered if the men and women buried beneath those stones had ever seen their futures. He hoped they hadn’t. It was a terrible thing to see your future.
“Where shall we go?” asked Glump but no answer came. Only the rain.
He saddled the fleetsteeds and found a good cheese and some cured ham in the castle’s kitchens. He took two jugs of wine and filled his sack with goat’s milk.
Kylean didn’t wake when Glump dragged him from Lady Rosechild’s bed. Nor did the sow. Both of them stank of wine and sex. It took Glump some effort to get Kylean onto his fleetsteed but Gunner was a patient horse as used to Glump’s voice now as he ever was to Kylean’s. Eventually they were riding out of Roseford as their men slept beneath pavilions and under trees. In the morning Kylean slept on. The road took them into the hills to the west of Roseford as the sun came up and the rain finally stopped. Glump looked back. A green mist was creeping towards the village. It moved as Glump watched, stole through the woods and across a field of dead wildflowers. It stalked the village like a hungry beast.