It was over in a moment. They arrived at the break of dawn, and within mere seconds, the sky was washed in an orange haze, and the stench of death replaced the air. I couldn't stop them, I promise I tried. They entered from the north, and we were the first house to be targeted. The thatched roof and wooden beams, once a beacon of shelter and familiarity, became the ignition for a flame that would claim so many lives and consume so many memories. As the structure collapsed in on itself, I became pinned beneath a beam. I wish to spare you the details, but try as I may, I am unable to focus my thoughts on anything else. Protected from the fire and likely presumed dead by the marauders, I watched as my home was erased from existence. They continued to rampage like beasts, tearing apart anything they could not steal and slaughtering anyone they could not force into slavery. The militia fought valiantly, but their bravery and spirit only served to ensure they endured a long, agonising death. Many were hung from the blackened husks of the once lush orchard. Others were disemboweled, their entrails hung around the town like bunting. Never had I seen such brutality; was humanity really capable of performing such atrocities to their own? They reminded me more of a plague of locusts than of men. The way in which they consumed so viciously, leaving naught but a trail of destruction in their wake. I desperately wanted to cry, but I feared I would be heard. I wanted to wrench myself free, and exact revenge, but I knew that such a foolish endeavour would end only with my demise. Not only was I outnumbered, I was in no doubt to how badly my body had faired for the ordeal. I felt a searing pain across my left cheek, the result of a deeply embedded piece of glass, I later discovered, and both of my legs had become lifeless. I was forced to lie helpless and wait for them to tire of their exploits. I do not know exactly what became of my mother, nor my father. My mother had been inside the house with me when the invaders arrive, and I can only imagine she succumbed when the building fell, but I couldn't summon the courage to search the rubble for a corpse. I saw no reason. Calling her name was met with nothing but silence. Crying out for her yielded the same result. My Father's fate remains similarly unbeknownst to me. He rushed out to join the militia when the invaders struck, and despite limping around the wreckage of my village for about half an hour, I could find no recognisable remains. Even the charred remains that littered the streets, rendered almost unrecognisable by the fire, retained certain recognisable features. The blackened steel of the vicar's cross. The semi-melted remains of little Jenny's stuffed bear. No matter how they came to pass, I knew they were gone, and my heart stood motionless. The sudden realisation brought with it a wave of anguish, and a pain more distressing than anything I had ever felt before. Free of the rubble, and with the marauders long since gone, I knelt before the smouldering ash of my previous dwelling and mourned their passing. Tears mingled with blood across my face, as I prayed for them, for a safe passing into the afterlife, for them to watch over me.
I feel alone, Jessica. I have taken refuge beneath the old oak upon the hill, watching over the ruins, hoping for some sign of life, some movement or a cry for help. But nothing has come. I cannot stay here. I have no means to survive. My family are gone, my friends and acquaintances dead. I have nothing, and no one.
I have you. I shall travel to the old shipyard in the west, and from there, I shall stow away on the first available ship to Yharnham. I'll seek you out, old friend.
I should hope Yharnham is everything you promised it was.