The door from the smithy led to the semi-attached kitchen of the cabin Rabin had shared with his family. As the boy moved from the smithy to the kitchen, Rabin hardly knew what he expected to find. The shutters to the big window had been broken. Rabin could clearly see his mother’s figure sprawled across the table by the light of the fires from the next cabin. One wide blue eye seemed to stare right past him. The other was covered by a lock of hair that still shone with golden highlights in the moonlight. The room stank of blood and fear.
He stared at her body. The feeling of Mother was gone. She’s gone to the Goddess, he thought. He made out the odd angle of her head as it hung halfway off the table where his family had shared their meals. He remembered the pained expression of the wraith on the bridge.
As he moved closer, Rabin stared in horror. Before she died, she must have put up a fierce struggle. Her tunic and leggings were ripped. Her thighs were bloody. He struggled to understand. The dagger she had inherited from her own grandmother had been sunk into the table. Without thinking, Rabin pulled the fine weapon out of the planks and stuck it in his belt.
Just then, Rabin had a notion he should find something to cover her. She had to be cold sprawled there like that. Besides, the disrespect of just leaving her there was more than he could bear. He moved past her to the cabin where he could find a blanket.
As he stood between the kitchen and the main room of the cabin, Rabin froze as he heard heavy footsteps from just outside the front window. He heard the gatebreakers speak in their barking language.
All that separated him from these armored intruders was the one front room of the house. There were bedrooms off to the side, but he’d have to duck past the window. The clink of weapons and armor let Rabin know those were not Tree Folk outside. Indecisive, Rabin froze in the small space between the open doorway of the main room and the kitchen.
The shutters on the front window gaped open as if they had almost been ripped from the frame during the battle. As the boy scanned the common room, he spotted his stepfather’s heavy body on the floor. The big metalsmith had fallen on his back. Blood covered his wide chest and open mouth. The smith’s big hands were splayed out. A heavy axe had fallen a few feet away. Rabin wrinkled his nose at the heavy scent of blood.
Rabin took a tentative step forward to try to duck into one of the bedrooms. He would find blankets for both Borin and Morgana. Dazed, it was all he could think to do.
Then, the Raptors passed right by the open window as the boy stood in the rear of the common room. The door had been pulled half off its hinges. A tall figure appeared in the doorway. Rabin swooned and barely kept his feet. His knees seemed to wilt. He didn’t believe the gatebreaker had seen him yet, but they were only steps from each other.