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The Return Home by Matt Huston

You rode your mare down the hedgerow-lined trail, and as you came over the crest of the hill, you saw it. Home. It had been a decade since you last laid eyes on the village you spent your early life in. You had left a child and returned an adult. That was before the Paragon War had taken you to faraway lands. But the war was over now, and you looked to put that behind you.

You were parched from the journey and stopped to take a swig from your waterskin. It was empty now, and you reminisced about the past in hopes of a brighter future. Early on, you had written letters to your family. But those became fewer and fewer after your first taste of combat. There was an unspoken code amongst your brothers in arms. You would push away the horrors you had seen on the battlefield. Tucking them away deep in the recesses of your mind.

Trotting towards the entrance of the village it was as you remembered it, though several new homesteads had cropped up beyond what was previously the outermost edge. It was stifling underneath your armor, and you could not wait to get home to remove it.

Not a soul lingered in the village high street. A thin layer of dust seemed to coat the entire village. You had lost track, not even sure what day it was but the arc of the sun in the midday sky told you it was nearing the summer solstice. It must be Sunday, and all the village must be at the temple.

Not wishing to interrupt the sermon you rode past several houses. You wafted in the nostalgia and remembered your childhood here. You noticed It was eerily quiet though other than the occasional gust of wind that brought a small dust storm.

Continuing on, there it was. You tied up the mare and went to the door of your family’s home. Stopping a moment to prepare yourself for a possible encounter with your loved ones. You knocked and waited for moments, but there was no answer. You tried for the door handle, and it was unlocked. This was not odd though because most everyone left their doors unlocked here. The village was safe, not like the large cities you visited where crime was rampant.

Entering the home, you saw a half-knitted blanket on the floor next to an old rocking chair that your mother always loved. You picked it up and noticed it’s smell. The smell of cinnamon wafted your nostrils, cinnamon tea was your mother’s favorite.

You removed your armor and placed it on the floor. Never again did you want to strap that back on. Those days were over, and it was a relief to be home. Soon you would see your family. Before leaving, you placed your mother’s blanket back on her chair.

You were parched, though, and your waterskin had run dry. You went to the washbasin but found it dry. You grabbed a bucket and went back outside towards the family well. Placing the bucket under the waterspout, you began to pump. A smattering of a viscous black liquid trickled out into the bucket. You kept pumping the lever for several more minutes. More and more black liquid poured from the spout. You were tired now and even more thirsty, but there was no water to be found.

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