Approaching the town center of Skara, Aedon was already sure this would not be a quiet night. The archery tournament had been widely announced, and he was certain that it would attract far more than the usual archers vying for prizes. As he rode along he shifted slightly in the saddle, still a bit unaccustomed to the feel of wearing armor after so many years. He hated the thought of battle, dreaded the all too familiar feel of the blood lust that had so many times in far memories reared within his chest each time he gripped the hilt of his blade. But if the past days had taught him anything it was that not wearing a sword or being prepared to fight would certainly not keep him from being attacked. The poor souls in the Tavern that night along with the couple found slaughtered in their Yew home certainly attested to that. He could picture still in his mind the sight that met his eyes at the remote cabin. The man, a regular guest of the Rest must have been caught unawares. There was no sign that he had lifted his hand in defense against the sudden attack. The wife fell within footsteps of her home, one hand reaching forward, her eyes still wide with terror. Still more disturbing were the signs that a child of some age must have been present. Simple country dresses of a size too small for the woman, along with a lovingly made doll cast aside as she was no doubt being pursued. To the side of the building, small foot prints could be seen leading away from the premise, followed by large, heavy and obviously booted marks. He rode the woods for a while seeking any sign of the child or the one that had so callously slaughtered her parents. But other than the occasional drop of blood, no trace could be found of attacker or the unfortunate child. In Aedon’s mind there was really no doubt. The killings at the house in the woods were another bit of retribution for perceived wrongs, and committed by a member of the Hand. The sound of cheering returned him from his thoughts, and as he dismounted, and tied Leannan to a post, he saw that he had been right. The Archery tournament was in full swing, but sitting behind the shooters on horseback, D’Amavit, Tailmont and a collection of other seedy sorts scowled at the crowd. Aedon wondered if they perhaps figured they already had Yew on her knew and were already turning their gaze to Skara. He tried to watch the contest as bowman had always fascinated him. He had, long ago tried to learn to shoot, only to wind up with an arrow through the window of his house, and sore fingers from pricking himself over and over on the arrow points. But uneasiness kept growing in him. He had watched the Hand many times in the past as they waited for the moment to strike. He had seen their shifting in the saddle, or lifting a bit in the stirrups as they prepared to fight. Carefully, he reached back and released his blade form the bindings, and drew his sword from its sheath. To the side, he saw Thom and Gillian tending a young girl who seemed a bit ragged and very hungry. Shifting his stance, he put his body between the Hand, and the table where the three were. If Mikael moved towards the table, at least he would have to go through him first. He heard the winners names announced, but no cheer went up from the crowd. It was at that time that the Hand struck. Without hesitation, Aedon threw himself into the battle. Years of sitting calmly and allowing others to fight his battles for him did not stay his hand, nor quell his heart. He gave chase as one of the men rode off through the town, and did not even slow down when he felt the sting as an arrow pierced his armor on his left shoulder. As the tow of them fought near the stable, another rode up and joined the fray. He awoke in the house of the healers in Skara. His shoulder had been bandaged, and other injuries tended with care. One of the healers, a rather portly man tried to stay him as he arose. But smiling through the pain Aedon assured him that he would be fine, and needed to check on the others. Arriving back at the area of the battle, Aedon noticed that most of the people, fighters and contestants were gone. He saw no sign of Thom, Gillian and the girl, or any of the Hand. A small group was standing talking about the night. Aedon sat on a bench nearby and listened. They spoke of undead and worshipers of the Guardian. “The Hand is not worshipers of the Guardian.” He said. “Well the one was at least.” Said one of those assembled. “Perhaps,” He replied, “But that one is only an underling. The Hand worship only power over others. It is best to know your enemy.” No further words were directed his way, and those talking turned slightly away from Aedon and went on talking. He shook his head a bit, and with some effort stood and went to get his horse. Arriving back in Aegis, he entered the Yew Center and took the passageway that led to his home. Though hunger gnawed at his stomach, he took no time to eat. Heading upstairs he removed what remained of his armor, and collapsed onto his bed. Colorful images flashed before his mind. He found himself wondering in one of the deepest parts of the woods, and on a path which though he did not recognize, seemed oddly familiar. He did not know how he had come to be there. He only knew that he was searching for something. As he moved along the path small creatures seemed to dance on the wind, and birds walked about his feet chirping discordantly. Ahead in the shadows, he saw something move, cautiously he moved forward while imploring the birds to remain back at a safe distance. He moved with great care as he approached a deep thicket. From within, deep eyes stared back at him, and then, with speed and grace the great wolf leaped before him on the path. At first fear gripped his heart and he called to the birds to quickly hide. But the wolf regarded him thoughtfully for a time, and then walked back into the thicket, and returned with a rusty katana. Laying the blade at Aedon’s feet, the beast sat down, and howled mournfully. Then to Aedon’s surprise, the Wolf took the blade by the hilt and ran off into the night towards the north east. In his mind came the sudden thought, I will meet you at the Abbey. Waking suddenly, Aedon winced in pain, and noticed that the bandage covering his would was bloodied. He headed into his office, and took out the things he would need to clean and redress the wound. With that done, Aedon made a cup of tea and grabbed a piece of bread and a bit of cheese and went onto the balcony to enjoy some fresh air. The warm tea soothed his nerves, and the bread and cheese helped to strengthen him a bit. He could not recall enjoying a meal this much in a long stretch of years. The Hand had not reckoned with the resolve of the people that lived in the lands in these days. They would not roll over and offer their selves and their families for generation in service to this murderous lot. Already champions were rising to do battle against evil, and with each act of violence, with every bit of terror the Hand extended the resolve of those willing to fight them grew. The moon’s light played upon the surface of the waters, and the gently lapping of the waves against the rocky shores relaxed his tired mind. Along the edges of the woods small creatures rustled in the bushes while night birds sang a song to the late summer sky. Looking towards the Abbey Aedon knew well in his mind that the night’s battle was only one of many to come. To the east the first rays of a new day reached up to claim the night sky, and the only sound that Aedon could now hear was the howling of a lone wolf.