The wagon plotted along slowly as Beryl sat in the back with Conradine. They were both wrapped in warm blankets, though neither of them really needed the extra warmth except at night. They would have been targets for any kind of bandit, or those Doberman’s, but fortunately the end of the wagons journey was nearing. In the distance they could see a small village which rested outside of a dense and elevated forest. The smoke coming from nearly every chimney suggested that most of the people were already indoors and warming themselves against the cold. As they got closer the muddy streets made it obvious that the town was impoverished, even if the buildings were well made out of wood and the roofs of thatch. There was no sign of steam engines or factories, and there were several dozen piles of dried wood under a tarp ready to burn. Beryl would have been surprised to discover they had a lump of coal in the entire city.
They passed several groups of people talking among themselves in plain, dirt covered clothes huddled together in groups. There seemed to be more Moreau than there were humans in the city, but it was only a small group of Doberman’s that really caught Beryl’s attention. There had been four of them standing in a corner, armed with dueling sabers and pistols as they watched them pass. It wasn’t until they had passed that the bovine brothers eased their own grips on their weaponry.
The wagon stopped outside of a small tavern and Conradine stood up and gestured to follow her out of the wagon, “We shall return here in two weeks, Girl. We will wait three days.”
Beryl nodded vaguely as they took up the pack that Conradine had given them with extra blankets in case it started to freeze unexpectedly and then walked on all fours for the edge of the wagon and started to head for the forest.
The travel had felt all too familiar as they traveled over hills and across streams and brooks, getting lost several times and encountering no humanity in their wanderings. It was less than four days into their journey that they found the first sign of what they were looking for, and it was two days after that they had found what could have been a cave that they had stayed in when they had first left home.
Their hopes restored they pressed onward and found more things that seemed almost familiar until they finally came to a deep and treacherous part of the woods. The canopy had cut off all of the light from above and beyond that was a small treacherous cave system. They followed it without any light and barely made their way forward across the many turns, following not by memory now but the instinct and the scent. They were home.
When they reached the other end of the system they made their way deeper into the forest, and just when they had been about to remove their clothing to meet their people dressed, or rather undressed as they would have been, they found what had been their makeshift hovels were destroyed and abandoned. What had been their home was lost and of their people there was no sign. Beryl looked around everywhere helplessly and then sighed as they saw signs that men had finally found their home in the form of boot prints inside.
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