My footsteps were loud even on the soft floor of dried rushes blackened by smoke from the cooking fire. I had been away for too long in the wars and had missed the smells of home.
The scents of earth and reed from the mud-packed walls slanting to form a roof above my head was intoxicating. I didn’t know how much I had longed for the smell of warm summer rain on freshly trimmed grass until I walked through the small garden in front of our home.
Two humped figures lay under thick blankets at the far end of the hovel, I guessed that my wife and child had fallen asleep early that day, no doubt weary from a day rounding up our flocks and tended the herb patch. Then again, I thought, I had not seen any sheep or seasonings laid out to dry when I passed over the hills or through the doorway.
I ran the last few steps to the dark corner where we so often slept and threw away the blankets. There had been something unnaturally still about the forms lying on the thick rush floor.
Now my worst fears were realised. Two figures lay in stiff balls, expressions of agony twisting their faces. Both were dead and cold, with crimson blood still wet on their bodies.
But they were not my wife and child.
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