Evening Pages 10/31/19

Their stomachs were distended. All of them. The fifty or so wuddies, as Worsten called them. Even the men looked to be pregnant. Or were they starving? No, couldn’t be from the cows milling in the small clearing, the chickens cluckin’ round their roost.
“Who’s in charge here?” asked Captain Byers, astride his horse.
the wuddies didn’t say nothing. They all looked at the Captain. In stark contrast to themselves, he wore shining armor, emblazoned with the fiery crest of Arifel. The town folk, by comparison, wore grubby sacks for tunics and if any knew how to sit a horse with any grace Byers’d be damned.
“I said, who’s in charge here?”
The congregation didn’t say a word.
They hadn’t since the soldiers rode up. Not a one had made a noise.
It’d been eerie riding up through the trail, their horses clipping along loose rocks and the occasional root and year no sound of talking, only the wind in the tress the occasional patter of water dripping from the trees as the wind blew the settled rain from branches. Byers didn’t like it. No more did Nemeth, his second, or Worsten, the young recruit they’d picked up a town or two over some days back. Right holy child he had been.
And they had ridden right up and seen all the wuddies working without a word. Some milked the cows, others tended the potat beds, and some simply nursed children or wove baskets. But no matter the job they did, Byers was yet to hear them speak a word.
The captain drew a scroll of parchment from a satchel at his side. He spread it open and read.
“By the law of the order of Arifel, I hereby order you to reveal and deliver unto us, the witch or warlock who has taken residence in your community. Failure to deliver and any attempt to conceal said individual shall be seen as a crime against Arifel himself, and merciless justice shall be carried out upon you.”
Byers folded the command and put it back in his satchel.
The wuddies exchanged glances. A middle-aged man looked to a young woman who was believably heavy with child. But the middle-aged man with red hair and beard carried the same strange and bulbous bump in his stomach. It seemed that his breasts had come swollen just as his woman’s had.
A couple rows back an old man with a staff pushed and prodded his way forward. He stood straight enough but leaned on the staff as though he carried a great weight on his shoulders. When he came to the front of the congregation and inhabited the space between the mounted soldiers and his own people he opened his mouth to speak.
At first, no sound came out. And then, slowly, as though he’d long lost the habit of using it, he spoke.
“Our people have no leader,” he said, like dried being set alight.
“Come now,” said Byers. “Even in primitive cultures like your own, someone makes decisions. Let him step forward.”

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