There is a rhythm in all things, peace turns to war, safety turns to fear, friends turn to enemies, lords and kings come and go. A time of uncertainty and war has fallen on the land. The strong do what they want, and the weak suffer what they must. Sweat beaded and ran down his brow as large as pebbled. He couldn't stop his heart pounding or his legs shaking. His hand was clamped over his mouth for fear they would hear his rapid breath. Even though his heart beat pounded in his ears, he could hear everything clearly, even the smallest things. The horses snuffled and shuffled their feet in the lush grass of summer. Leather creaked when one rider shifted in the saddle. Metal clinked against metal. Rossi jumped and almost let out a yelp when one of the riders spoke up. "What do you think?" A male human voice said. "I'd guess two months before harvest time." A female elf voice answered. "Not worth it yet." The first voice answered. "Unless we want moldy blankets and barrels of flat beer." He let out a half laugh. "We hit this place last year anyhow, I doubt they have much else left." Said a lizardman voice. "Lets not waste our time here, we will be back in three months and take all they got." Said strong human voice. "We will hit that village down the river, I want fish anyhow." The band of horseman turned and headed back over the crest of the hill from which they were viewing the tiny village. Rossi waited until he no longer heard them before scrambling up out of the patch of think thorns and vines that had concealed him. He gave one frightened look in the direction the horsemen departed in, and ran down the him as fast as his old legs would carry him ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Someone were crying, most were silent. They all knew what was at stake. Loosing one harvest was a disaster, loosing two in a row was a death sentence. Most of the village was gathered in the dusty common land at the center of town. Some shouted, some cried, some sat silently. Every so often someone would shout a suggestion, then get shouted down by dissenters. "We should give in! Beg to keep enough to live off of!" - "They would take everything just to spite us!' "We should contact the lord!" - "He would do nothing! Just like last time!" "We should just kill ourselves! Then the lord might notice!" Everyone fell silent at that suggestion. Ranunt, one of the more weathly farmers, spoke up at last. "We should as the Old Man." Everyone silently agreed, and shuffled after Ranunt, toward the old, creaky mill at the edge of town. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Not everyone would fit inside the mill house, most crowded out front, peering through windows. Ranunt and Rossi sat on the rushes silently. Everyone was silent and tense. They had told everything they knew, telling every detail they knew or imagined. The Old Man just sat, sunken old eyes looking down, deep in thought. "We must contact the lord." Said Ranunt. "We must give them what they want." Said Rossi. "We must fight!" Shouted a younger villager pushing into the room. It was a younger elf, Turas, his eyes burning. The Old Man did not respond or even seem to react. Everyone held their breath. Finally, as quiet as a whisper, the Old Man spoke: "When I was a young man, I saw many villages burnt and destroyed. I once found one that was intact." "What did they do?" Rossi interjected. "They hired fighters." The Old Man answered slowly. "But how, we have no money, only grain," The Old Man smirked "Well then hire hungry soldiers." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ After some deliberation, it had been decided that Ranunt and Rossi would go to look for soldiers. Turas had insisted to come along too, and they did not turn him away. They set out the next morning with meager rations, old woolen cloaks and walking sticks. A bedraggled last hope for the village. The had walked for two days before making it to the nearest town, Cooper's Crossing, the nearest ferry and the only thing considered a town for leagues in any direction. Even so it was a bustling place for the small town farmers, and full of traps set for easy marks. Luckily their lack of valuable got them out of most scrapes but soon left them with little food, and had robbed them of the few copper coins they had gathered in the village. Every time they had approach a person bearing arms, they had been laughed away. No one was willing to risk their necks for a meal or two a day. Time wore on and they seemed to get no where. Their hope failing, they sat in the corner of the public house they stayed in. "Maybe we should return home." Rossi said. "At least we can starve in our own homes." "Don't think that way." Turas snapped. "We must succeed." "We certainly must." Ranunt said staring at the dirt floor. "I just hope we find at least one soldier willing to help us soon."