My eyes fluttered open against the encroaching light filtering down through the canopy of leaves. A moment of disorientation struck me as my vision came to a blurred focus. The world was bright with the new dawn and I knew that a significant amount of time must have passed. The world had been dark with deep night when last I recalled. The sounds of the woodland wildlife rang from every direction. Birds chirping with the new day, the faint sound of brush crushed under a hoof of an unseen deer, even the pitter-patter of squirrels scurrying about the branches. Off in the distance the sounds of wheels from carts and caravans could be distinguished from the merchants and travelers who now filled the main road.
Once the fog of unconsciousness lifted I pushed myself into a sitting position. The action tore a soft groan from me as my head spun and my muscles ached in protest. I shut my eyes against the momentary sensation of vertigo. After it passed I opened my eyes again and scanned my surroundings. As I expected, I had passed out only a short distance from the traveler I had attempted to assist the night before.
His form lay hunched against the mossy ground, pale and rigid as he’d succumb to his injury in the night and passed on. I had not known this human. Even in the dead of night, as I drew near I knew he was beyond my aid. His injury had been too severe. Perhaps the human had done as he had in reflex, a wounded animal acting on instinct. That, however, did not explain his words.
My clansman had tried to warm me away. ”He is not our concern.” In hindsight I should have listened to those words and followed into the darkness. I wondered where he was now, my clansman. He’d either not noticed my absence or more likely he hadn't cared about my absence. One of his rank rarely concerned themselves with those lower in status like myself.
The sound of a large caravan drew my attention back from my musings. They seemed to be stopping, to partake of a late morning breakfast by the sound of the women fusing about. While I was off the beaten path, I was not so far that I wished to chance being found near the body of a man who appeared to have been run through. I would be unlikely to explain my lack of involvement with blood on my person, from where I’d been grabbed onto my wrist and sleeve of my tunic, and a short sword at my hip.
I pushed myself off the ground with every muscle and joint still burning in protest. I pushed the discomfort to the back of my mind. I stuck to the deeper brush to avoid unwanted looks from passersby. As I picked my way through the forest towards the nearby town I looked down at the wrist that has been so forcefully gripped. It ached most aside from the insistent throbbing behind my eyes. I dared not close them for fear of falling victim to the disorienting vertigo I knew awaited. It wasn’t unlike a night of taking too much ale only to regret it the following dawn.