Prelude #1

They were too busy playing with their wooden swords to notice the thundering hooves. In their childish make-believe world, they were valiant knights fighting for the hand of the fair lady. A feint, a parry, a thrust - the battle raged on. They were evenly matched, with skills disproportionate to their age. Until one of them made a mistake.

Yield! You have lost!

It is in that moment of triumph, when fierce concentration was replaced with triumphant joy, that he saw the riders. The fire. The ashes. The dead. Even as horror dawned on them, their vision was obscured by several dark shapes. The riders. They had surrounded them, observing them with barely concealed amusement. Their leader came forward.

Your game has amused us. You children have some skill. I am sure the master would like to see you.

They looked at each other in fear. Two children in a childhood that had suddenly gone wrong. Very wrong.