Shirena was weary; she’d been up late the night before with the old woman, treating a sickly calf. Now she’d been out wandering the woods since it had been light enough, searching for the herbs to replace the ones they’d used treating the calf.
Shirena dropped her basket to the ground and slumped back against a tree trunk. No doubt, she thought, the calf will be snuggled up against its mother, while she was out here in the morning-cold woods.
It had taken Shirena hours longer than she’d hoped to find the plants the old woman needed. There were none in the usual place, so she’d had to go deeper into the woods, further than she’d ever been before.
Now, she wanted to rest for a while before going back to the village.
She awoke, she didn’t know how long later, smelling smoke on the breeze. She wondered if any of the men had ventured into the woods to hunt or gather building wood.
Sighing, she got to her feet, picked up her basket and headed back to the path that led to the village.
There was smoke and… well, little else of the village left when she tuned the corner out of the woods. Shirena just stared, her basket dropped and forgotten.
She ran for the village, stumbling over something, which turned out to be old Toma, the oldest man in her village. She had treated his cut hand a few weeks ago, and now as she looked down, a silent scream caught in her throat. She could see he was beyond her healing ability, beyond the healing ability of even Beena the old woman.
Nothing remained, except smoke and bodies, the bodies of the men and of Beena too. Shirena half-smiled to see the old woman had died with her knife in her hand, its blade bloodied.
There were a few strange bodies too, wild-haired men, their hair as pale as that of hers and her fellow-villagers was dark, lying where their drying blood soaked into the ground.
Then a hand grabbed her by the hair and dragged her away, screaming past more of the strange pale-haired men, laughing gangs of them, all taking turns picking out which ones they wanted from the women of the village.