Stars shone in the clear midnight sky, lightly illuminating the ground below. The air was silent, undisturbed by wind or animal. A fox, sniffing through tree roots in search of a meal, suddenly froze and cocked an ear, sensing something. Branches whispered in the canopy above.
The horse walked slowly into the sleeping village. It was led by a slim, dark-haired woman robed in a black-edged purple dress. Draped across the horse’s saddle lay a man wrapped in a torn and bloody traveling cloak. He was obviously seriously injured, with a wide gash across his forehead, and was not moving.
The woman stopped outside the stables at the inn and tethered the horse before turning to check on the man. She then briefly disappeared inside before returning with a stable-hand, who lifted down the injured traveler and carried him into the inn. The woman made to follow but paused in the doorway, glancing left at the forest’s edge. She was certain something had moved in the corner of her eye, but the trees were still. She frowned and continued inside.
Overhead, a shadow shifted imperceptibly. But the fox could neither see nor hear anything. Growling dismissively, it continued its search.