S1E3 A Stranger in the Dark

With over 60% of the votes, the story continues yet again on the second path. Rena is face to face with a stranger and his bizarre caravan and has to decide whether he might have something to do with the burning of her home town or whether he is just an innocent wanderer.

By the end of the episode, three choices will be presented to you. Vote on twitter or below for whichever path you want the story to continue on.

Intro music: Lonely Dusty Trail by Jon Presstone

Logo Design: Mars Lauderbaugh

S1E3 Transcript

Rena stood only a few feet away from the strange caravan which was rumbling and sputtering out clouds of smoke, its driver staring at her, his eyebrows slowly drawing together in concern.

“Are you alright?” he asked. 

He was close enough for her to finally really see him, a lantern at the top of the caravan illuminating him from above. He had a gentle, round face with wrinkles weaving across his skin and a long, bushy white beard with matching eyebrows. His skin was pale like the people from the northern border, but in this day and age that didn’t tell her much about where he was actually from. His hair was another cloud of white, with round, golden goggles above his forehead keeping them in check. His clothes were made of thick leather, like traveler’s clothes, but you could still tell by how clean and undamaged they were that he came from money. Although his strange contraption of a caravan could have told you the same. It looked like he had taken one of the ornate horse-drawn carriages that successful merchants used in the cities and converted it into a machine that didn’t need any horses. Or at least Rena supposed it didn’t need any horses because she hoped he hadn’t trapped them inside the wagon to hide them for some reason. She had never actually seen anything like this. You’d hear about all the marvels people were creating in the big cities, that they now had tools and gadgets that worked completely without muscle power. She hadn’t believed all the rumours she had heard, especially the ones saying these machines were alive and just ran on their own power, but she couldn’t ignore the reality that stood in front of her.

The man pushed a lever down next to him and the caravan rumbled and shook before finally going silent. He got up and stepped down the few steps to his left. He headed towards Rena but stopped when she stepped back, unsure about this stranger that was so different than anyone she had ever met.

She wasn’t sure what to do. She didn’t think that this man had anything to do with the fire so she would probably be safe with him, but what if it turned out that he was really here to make sure the village had burned down completely, that no one had survived the inferno. Or maybe he really didn’t have anything to do with the incident but he would harm her in another way. Take advantage of her or try to rob her, even if he didn’t look like someone who would. Her mother had always told her she needed to be more careful with strangers, but she disliked mistrusting anyone from the get-go. It felt like thinking every human being was evil until proven otherwise, and that didn’t sit right with her. But now she was alone and there wasn’t anyone close that could come and help her, anyone that knew her and that she could trust, and she realised that this was the first time in her life where she was completely on her own.

“Are you alright?” the man asked again. “My name is Rodrick. You look cold. Let me go get you a blanket and some hot tea.” He turned around and marched towards the end of the caravan. “Or maybe some soup if you’d prefer.”

From the footrest of the driver’s seat a dog emerged and jumped down onto the road. It was reddish-brown with long, thin, black legs and a bushy tail that ended in white fur. It’s long snout was black at the end and it had big, arching ears, white fur inside of them, although one of its ears seemed to have been bitten off. Rena took another step back when she saw the dog because it looked so different from the ones she had seen in her village, too long and too thin, but its ears pricked up and its tail started wagging when it saw Rena and she recognised those signs. She slowly kneeled down, keeping her eyes on the dog, and held her hand out towards it. The dog lifted its head and she could see its nostrils working furiously. It’s head went down again and it carefully came closer to her.

“Hi there,” Rena said quietly as the dog approached. It stopped in front of her, stretching its long neck to smell her hand before carefully pushing its nose against her fingertips. Rena obliged and stretched herself closer to pet the dog behind its ear, and the dog instantly nuzzled its head into her palm. 

“Ah, I’ve seen you’ve met Vincent,” the man said as he came towards them, a thick, dark blanket under one arm and a closed pot and some sort of metal jar in either hand. “He’s lovely, isn’t he? When i left on my little journey I thought to myself, ‘Rodrick, you shouldn’t be out on the road all by yourself, it’s dangerous out there, get yourself a dog that can protect you’, and look what I ended up with,” he chuckled, setting the pot and the jar down on the ground and stepping around her to put the blanket over Rena’s shoulders. Her body went stiff for an instant as she hadn’t expected him to step so close to her, but he quickly stepped away again, not having noticed her change in body language, and her muscles mellowed out again.

“But I am quite happy with him, nonetheless,” he continued, getting back to his pots and driving the jar further into the mud so it would stand firmly. “I think I am much better off with a gentle companion than with a hostile protector after all. He brings me a lot of comfort. It makes missing home a bit more bearable.” 

He reached into an inner pocket in his coat and pulled out a metal tin. He popped it open and poured small pieces of coal from its insides into the jar. He put the tin back into his pocket and took a smaller tin box out of another pocket, handing it to Rena.

“Would you be so kind as to start the fire while I go get us some mugs,” he told her and stood back up with an expression of discomfort on his face and one hand on his back.

Without waiting for an answer from Rena he turned around and hurried back to the end of the wagon.

Rena looked quizzically at the small box in her hand, her other hand still occupied with petting the dog. She wasn’t exactly sure what he had just put in her hand considering all of the other strange things he seemed to have. She flicked the lid open and was relieved to see that it was just a regular tinder box. She knew how to operate those. She balanced the box on the top of her knees and took the flint and steel in her hand, striking them together until a spark fell onto the pieces of dry bark in the tinder box.

“Ah, wonderful,” Rodrick said as he came back just as Rena was transferring the small flame from the tinder box to the coals in the metal jar. He placed two dented, metal mugs and a clothed bundle down next to the pot and flicked a switch somewhere on the jar that slid caps away from holes in the middle of the jar. He picked the pot up and gently placed it on top of the fire in the jar. 

“We could use some chairs,” he said with a frown and hurried back to his wagon yet again. 

Rena put the tinder box down next to the mugs and watched Rodrick hurry away. She wrapped the blanket tighter around her shoulders. The dog came closer to her, sniffing at the blanket and poking her legs with his nose until Rena relented and started petting him again.

A moment later Rodrick came back with two wooden chairs. They looked completely out of place on the open road, with their ornate carvings and mother of pearl details. They looked like someone had stolen them from one of the royal palaces. Their presence on this mud road leading from one small town to an even smaller town in one of the most rural corners of Vellashta which was in its part one of the most rural provinces of the kingdom felt like a transgression in and of itself. Rena looked up at this strange man in front of her, seemingly a million things rattling around in the innumerable pockets of his coat, and wondered who he was and why he had decided to drive all the way down here. If he was a rich merchant he would remain either in the east where the royal palaces were located, to the west where most of the kingdom’s resources were produced, or in the north where the kingdom bordered its two neighbours. If he was a lord or margrave or viscount or whatever else these people called themselves he wouldn’t be out here alone at dusk. If he was some sort of other rich person who just wanted to come and see the ocean, he would have gone to Hollowtooth to their west or Mattak to their east where the beaches were made of soft sand and the ocean didn’t try to drown you any opportunity it got. The only people who came to these parts of the kingdom either had family ties to the land or were running away from one thing or another, but he didn’t look like he belonged to any of these groups and Rena couldn’t decide if it should bother her that she couldn’t place him.

“Here you go,” Rodrick said as he put the chairs down in front of the pot.

Maybe he is one of those people who get paid to think and write stuff down, Rena finally thought, even though she wasn’t certain these people actually existed.

She got up, scratching the dog’s chin one last time before she stepped around the pot and sat down on one of the chairs, delicately, so as not to break it. Before sitting down, Rodrick pulled a metal ladle out of yet another pocket on his coat, blew on it to dust it off, and pulled the pot’s lid up to stir the insides, which looked like a creamy, white liquid, perhaps a potato or celery soup. It was only bubbling slightly but Rena already got a whiff of its rich aroma. Rodrick left the ladle in the pot, putting the lid on top of it, and sat down.

“This is better, right?” he asked Rena, looking over at her with a wide smile.

She shyly smiled back and nodded. If he had wanted to hurt or rob her he would have done it by now, there was no reason not to trust this man.

“Could I ask what your name is?” Rodrick asked, leaning closer to her.

“Rena,” she answered, her voice hoarse and scratchy in her throat.

“Ah, Rena,” he said and nodded widely, leaning back in his chair again. “Related to the word erenat from ancient Bellastrak, which was spoken all over these parts a long time ago. Meaning the flowering one. Lovely name. The first born of Queen Anaya from the twenty-fifth century was named Rena. The child sadly passed away in infancy during the stone plague.”

Rena simply nodded, not knowing what to answer to all of this information.

“Now,” he said, his face turning serious. “What is a child like you doing out here alone in a muddy dress when night has already struck?”

Rena’s breath got caught in her throat. The novelty of Rodrick’s appearance and being had distracted her enough that for an instance she hadn’t thought about what had happened only a few hours ago, but it all came rushing back to her. The smell and the heat and the hand trapped under the beam. The image of her village being in ruins and the church being in flames and the wound on the arm opening because of her, because she wasn’t strong enough to lift the beam. Silent tears started flowing down her cheeks again, her eyes wide as she stared at Rodrick without actually seeing him.

“Oh, no, no, no, no, no,” Rodrick muttered, his hands coming up towards her but stopping before he actually touched her. “Did something happen? Please don’t cry, I can help you. We can fix this. Did you get lost? Did someone hurt you?”

He looked her over, trying to find any injuries.

Rena swallowed and shook her head. She opened her mouth but nothing came out, her breath coming in ragged bursts.

“Take your time,” Rodrick told her, leaning down to pick up a mug from the ground. “Maybe after eating something you’ll feel better. I’m sure you haven’t eaten in a while.”

He picked up the lid from the pot and put it upside-down on the ground pouring the steaming soup into the mug before handing it to Rena. She gripped it in both hands, feeling the stark contrast between the hot metal and her freezing fingers.

She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply, trying to stop her tears.

“I am from Oceansthrow,” she said in a thin voice, closing her eyes. “I was out gathering herbs and mushrooms for my parents. I came home a few hours ago, but when I did, the town was in flames.”

Her voice was barely audible when she finished. She waited for Rodrick to say something but he remained silent. She opened her eyes again and dared to look at him. He now had the second mug in his hands, filled with soup, and was looking at her with hurt in his eyes and a hint of anger.

“I am so sorry,” he said, his voice matching her volume.

Rena took in another deep breath.

“I have lived there my entire life,” she continued, looking back down at her soup. “I had a mother and father and five siblings, and my uncle and his family lived only a few doors down from us. I went to school there, and I had friends there, and my parents had a mill and bakery, and everything is gone now.”

Her lips trembled so she pressed them together, biting down on them. 

“I am so very sorry,” Rodrick repeated. “There is nothing I can say that will make this any easier for you. Life can be cruel to us sometimes and we have to carry that burden alone. But if there is anything you need or want, you can tell me and I will try with all of my power to help you.”

She nodded and brought the soup up to her lips, taking shallow sips from it so she wouldn’t spill it. It tasted rich and creamy and salty, like the soups her grandmother would make for special occasions. 

“I couldn’t help them,” she murmured, placing the mug back in her lap. “I wanted to see if I could find anyone who was still alive, or at least bury the people I could find, because I don’t want wild animals to find them first, but I’m not strong enough. Someone was trapped underneath the church and I tried to lift the beam that was trapping them but it was too heavy and it slipped and I made everything worse.”

She started crying again, bringing one hand up to muffle her sobs.

“My love, fear not, they will find peace in their slumber, but you cannot do this by yourself,” Rodrick said, his hand coming to rest gently on Rena’s knee. “Even for just the two of us the task is too big, it would take us all night to bury everyone, and I don’t think it is safe to go back to your village during the night. The buildings might be unstable and whoever did this could come back. Without light we won’t be able to find anyone, and I don’t want to break your heart further but the chance of anyone having survived is almost non-existent. We need to get you to safety first and make sure you can rest. Our best option would be to go to Halvint and ask for help. Gather a group of people and come back in the morning.”

Rena nodded faintly, accepting that he was probably right. They wouldn’t be able to see what they were doing during the night, and it was very likely that the houses were too unstable to look through the ruins when it was dark. Even if it didn’t feel right to Rena to just leave, there really wasn’t much she could do on her own. 

“Do you think someone did this?” Rena asked, frowning down at her lap, trying to wrap her mind around what had happened and how something so horrible could have happened in such a short time.

“I cannot be certain,” he replied, leaning back in his chair. “There is always the possibility of accidental fires spreading from one building to the next, but the chance of it taking over an entire village without someone extinguishing the fire or without people at least running outside and saving themselves is very low. But then again, you would need a certain type of evil to commit such a heinous act and I truly do not know who that could be. However, I have heard of other accounts of entire villages burning down these last few years. They could all just be coincidences, accidents, just as the tragedy of Oceansthrow could be an accident, but to be certain about that I would need to investigate all of these incidents, examine what happened here and read through the official reports of the other villages, but the provinces aren’t always… very communicative about these things.”

Rena pressed her lips together and nodded, letting his words run through her head.

“Who would do something like this?” she asked, more to herself than anyone else, unable to even picture anyone who would come to such a tiny village and eradicate it completely, who would willingly murder over a hundred people that were barely important enough for the royal council to acknowledge their existence.

“Who knows,” he sighed. “I could come up with any number of wild speculations, but I don’t think any of that would help you. It will not do you any good to rack your brain for an answer that you might never find.”

Rena looked off into the distance, wondering if he was right, that they would never be able to figure out what exactly had happened and who might be responsible for such an atrocity. But she didn’t even know for certain if someone was responsible. It might all just have been a very, very bad accident, and she wasn’t certain how she could ever find out what the truth was.

She took another sip of her soup, the images of her village in ruins not leaving her mind.

“Do you have family nearby? Someone you can stay with?” Rodrick asked her.

“I have an aunt in Lomen west of here but she’s sick and I don’t want to be a burden. And my mother’s cousin is a notary in the court of Lord Tiber, but I haven’t seen him in a few years,” Rena replied, her gaze drifting back down to her half empty mug, her finger stroking over a notch in the metal.

“I am sure your aunt wouldn’t see you as a burden,” Rodrick answered, patting her knee. “I can accompany you until you have reached her house, and even if you decide that you don’t want to stay there, I wouldn’t mind having another companion on my travels.”

He shot her a gentle smile which Rena timidly reciprocated.

S1E2 Transcript

As time passed, so did the heat and the flames that surrounded Rena. The flames that had licked their way up the church tower were slowly retreating as they found less and less material to latch on to. Rena still sat on the ground, her legs cold and wet from the muddy road while her mouth and eyes were dry and prickling from the heat. Her own heart resounded louder in her ears than the crackling of the fire.

None of this felt real. Not what her eyes could see, or her skin could feel, or her nose could smell. But she couldn’t claim that it felt like a nightmare either. A nightmare would have ended by now. She would have woken up, drenched in sweat, and her mother would have come over to comfort her. She wouldn’t have sat on the ground for so long that the setting sun had turned the sky orange. 

The church tower suddenly collapsed in on itself, taking the rooms the town had built in it four years ago down with it, sending out a cloud of ashes into the sky with a loud, dull crash. A wave of heat hit Rena a heartbeat later, drawing her out of her catatonic state. She closed her eyes tightly and turned her face away, her hand coming up to cup around her nose so she wouldn’t breath in the ashes that had been stirred up. She drew her face towards her lap, waiting for the blast to wash over her and the ashes to settle again.

After a moment, she carefully opened one eye, peaking out towards the ruins in front of her. She sat upright again as she saw that the dust had settled, lifting her hand away from her face but not dropping it to her lap just yet. The thought suddenly crossed her mind that she couldn’t even recognise the outline of her village anymore. The church tower was in ruin, Jesper’s house was gone, only a handful of rooftops remained standing, and the two poles with the colorful ribbons tied between them that marked the entrance to the village were long gone. It suddenly hit her that she would never see these buildings again and she would have never thought that she could miss buildings or the wheat fields on the other side of the village, or even the annoying stray goats and pigs that roamed through the streets, but her heart clenched tighter with every new image that popped into her head that she would never get to see again.

Bile rose up her throat and she couldn’t stop herself from retching on the ground in front of her, the acid burning her insides. Her trembling hand came to rest lightly on her lips, her fingers ice cold against the burning skin of her face. 

She pushed herself up and away from the foul smell of her vomit. Her beige dress was caked in mud, falling heavily around her legs. She wrapped her arms around herself, hugging her chest tightly. She looked out over the village, her breaths coming in shaky and shallow. She turned around to look at the forest around her, her arms drawing tighter. Her surroundings were getting dimmer and soon the light of the sun wouldn’t reach through the foliage of the trees anymore. She stared at the road behind her, still looking exactly like it used to, and started to wonder what she was supposed to do. She couldn’t stay here on the road forever, she doubted anyone was about to come help her. She wondered if anyone from the surrounding villages had even noticed the fire. The smoke had probably been visible a long ways away but villages here were far away, especially on this side of the village. If she wanted to reach the nearest village she would have to cross the ruined remains of her town or go through the dark forest. 

But was that actually what she wanted? To just reach the next village? And then what? Ask them for help? Find a place to stay? Start a new life and forget about all of this?

A thought suddenly struck her and her head whipped around, her eyes wide. In the time she would need to get help, wild animals could come in and defile the remains of everyone in the village. She looked up to the tops of the trees around her, looking out for crows, but in the dim light she couldn’t make sure that there were none around. Her breathing started to pick up. She couldn’t leave without burying the dead bodies first but her body revolted against the thought of entering the village. She knew it was dangerous and she knew that she would never be able to forget what she would see once she stepped closer, but still, she had known these people, and she wouldn’t let wild animals defile their physical remains. And in the back of her mind she thought that maybe, just maybe, she would find someone who was still alive, someone who needed her help.

She slowly lifted a foot and stepped forward, her shoe sliding through the mud. Her legs felt weak, as if she could fall over at any second, but she pushed forward, eyes fixed on the first pillar that remained of Jesper’s house. She forced herself to look forward, to not look down at the rubble. She approached the house, her eyes fixed on the diminishing orange specks dancing around on the burnt wood. 

“H-hello,” she croaked out, her throat too dry to yell.

She finally looked down at the mess that remained of the house. She couldn’t recognise much in between the piles of ash and debris, except that the stairs to the second floor were still sticking out of the ruin. She walked up to the edge of the pile, trying to find a spot where she could step onto without hurting herself. She carefully placed a foot onto what seemed like a flat enough surface but as she put more weight onto the foot something started to creak and shift and she quickly took her foot away from the spot again. Her footprint was clearly visible in the ashes, as if she had stepped onto a thin sheet of snow.

She looked up over the ruin again, unsure of what she was supposed to do.

“Hello?” she called out again, louder this time, but only silence answered.

She waited an instant, trying to figure out whether she could hear something move underneath the rubble.

Suddenly, one of the remaining pillars collapsed onto the rest of the remains of the house, sending up a big pile of ashes and debris, and Rena had to step back, turn around and crouch to get away from the dust. She covered her face with her hands but still enough reached her lungs that she fell into a coughing fit. It took her a moment before she had recovered and could stand up again. She turned around, stepping further away from the house, and looked at the house to assess the situation, shaking the ashes out of her hair with one hand. She wished that she could be brave enough to rummage through the debris for signs of life, but it would be much too dangerous and if she got hurt now she wouldn’t be able to go to the next village and get help.

She stepped away and turned around, wrapping her arms around herself again, and walked down the street passing the houses that lay in complete ruins in search of one that hadn’t collapsed yet. Her eyes were wide open, unblinking, tears quietly streaming down her face again. From the corners of her eyes she could see what remained of her village. How the front of Maggie’s soap shop still stood upright even though there was only debris behind the windows and she could see the sky through them. How the produce stands in front of the ruins of the food store remained untouched, the vegetables and fruits covered in ash. How the home of her childhood friend whom she hadn’t talked to in years was nothing more than a smoldering mass.

She came up to the church, flames still weakly curling up from its remains, what was left of the tower spread out over the street around the church. Small pieces of paper were floating through the air and covering the ground, some empty, some with printed letters, and some with the shaky script of children’s handwriting. Her father always told her how proud the town had been after finally being able to convert the old church building into a school. When he was a child, he had to walk two towns over to go to school. None of his children realised how lucky they were to live right next to the school. And now all of these efforts had gone up in flames, only memories remaining in Rena’s mind. All the songs she had sung in class, all the games she had played in the courtyard, all the pages she had cursed at while learning to write. She was the only one left to remember them.

Her foot stepped on something hard and Rena stopped, her head looking down before she could tell herself that it might not be a good idea. Her muddy shoe covered whatever she had stepped on. She carefully stepped back, revealing what looked like a wooden figurine, a bird of some sort, the body long and pointed with the wings spread out to its side, almost like a cross. She frowned down at it. She’d never seen a figurine like that. It looked too simple and flat for something you would buy as a toy for a child, but it also looked too smooth for a home-made toy. She reached down and picked it up, swiping the mud away with the skirt of her dress. The wood was dark and looked burned, but the burning looked controlled, not like it had been laying in a fire. Something was carved on its front, from the tip of one wing to the next. It almost looked like letters but it wasn’t any script that she could read, just straight lines connected through triangles that didn’t look like anything she had ever seen. She wondered if it was a keepsake from a foreign country. Something someone had brought back with them after a business trip or from the war back in the days before she was born.

She clutched it to her chest, one arm still wrapped around herself, and looked out over the ruins around her. She saw another figurine stick out of the mud near the church but as her eyes wandered further they landed on something rounder, something redder. Behind the figurine, sticking out of the rubble from the church, was a hand. Her body went still, her grasp on the figurine tightening, and she couldn’t take her eyes from it. Her blood rushed to her ears, her heartbeat drowning out any other sounds. She held her breath until she couldn’t take it anymore, her lungs burning and clenching, and she had to take in a deep breath. She started coughing and the bile threatened to claw its way up her throat again.

She looked up at the sky, begging her body to calm down again. Above her, ash of paper fragments glinted in the last remains of sunlight. She had to keep moving or she would soon lose all daylight. She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply, regretting it right away as the pungent smell around her made itself known again. 

She stepped forward and opened her eyes again, keeping them fixed on the hand, determined to help whoever was stuck underneath the debris of the church. She stepped past two other bird figurines that had been stuck in the mud. As she approached the hand her whole body started to shake and go stiff at the same time. She stopped in front of the hand, looking down at the red flesh the fire had exposed, flecks of ashes covering the open wounds. Whoever the hand belonged to was stuck underneath a thick wooden beam, their body hidden underneath the rubble.

“Don’t worry, I’m here to help,” she told the hand. “Everything’s going to be alright. I’ll get you out of here and then we can look for anyone else together.”

The words failed to reassure even herself as she crouched down and reached a hand out, forcing it to advance and touch the wooden beam that was trapping the hand. Her hand was shaking so badly that it took her a while before her fingers could actually touch the wood. Its surface was still warm. She breathed in and the stench of burning flooded her senses that she had to turn around and throw up again even though her stomach was empty and the only liquid that came out was burning acid. She started sobbing, her hand covering her mouth, the other clenching down on the ground, her fingers digging through the layers of ash and debris and gravel.

“I’m sorry,” she muttered over and over and she got up. 

She turned back to the hand, eyes wide, looking over the ruins of the church, her eyes wandering past towards the houses that used to stand behind it and towards where her own house should have been. Her gaze went back down towards the hand and slowly, stiffly, she reached back down, holding her breath while both her hands came to grip the edge of the beam. She tried to lift it but her whole body hurt and her muscles were too cramped and the beam didn’t even creak with her effort. She stood back up and turned away to breathe in, before turning around and trying again, putting all of her remaining force into the attempt. This time she managed to lift up the beam, not enough for anyone to be able to crawl out but enough that the other beams lying on top of it shifted and moved and the one she was holding on to slid back, making her lose her footing and fall on top of it. She tried to catch herself and push herself back up but her shoe slipped on the layer of ash on the ground and she fell to the ground, bumping her elbow on a sharp rock that was sticking out of the ground.

The wooden beam had fallen onto the arm again and because of its displaced location the arm was now sticking up towards the sky, the edge of the beam burying into the soft flesh of the forearm.

“Oh God, I’m so sorry,” Rena muttered and scrambled towards the beam again, pushing against it to try to move it backwards, but all she achieved was that the wound where the beam was digging into the flesh opened up wider and revealed the bone, trickles of blood falling down onto the ground.

“No, no, no,” Rena muttered, her hands reaching towards the wound but never quite touching it, unsure what she should do. 

“I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” she repeated over and over as she backed away and scrambled upright, her breaths coming in quick and ragged.

She had thought she would be strong enough. That she would be able to help them and bury them, to give them the dignity they deserved after death, but she couldn’t do it. She didn’t have the strength or the knowledge on how to accomplish something like that. Her heart ached too much. Never in her life had she felt this much and this little at the same time. Like her entire being was composed of so much sadness that there was no space left for anything else. She turned around and walked towards the street again, rushing past all the remaining houses and darting towards the village’s second exit, the one that was closer to a neighbouring village. She would need to get help but most importantly she would need to find somewhere where she could lie down and rest. Lie down and forget what had happened, even if only for a little while.

She stumbled over the road as the sun set and the moon rose, barely visible in the orange sky, her arms tightly wrapped around her chest. She stared out into the nothingness in front of her, her eyes not actually taking in anything until she heard something approaching, something that almost sounded like a badly made machine, with a lot of clanking and humming and buzzing. She looked at the end of the road in confusion and saw a light approach, slowly, and as her eyes adjusted she could make out the outline of a caravan, but where there should have been horses there was nothing. A chimney seemed to jut out of the wagon’s rear, smoke coming out of it in thick clouds. In the front, in the driver seat, sat a person, their hair and beard making them look like another cloud. Rena stopped in the middle of the road, unsure what to do with this approaching contraption, unsure whether she wanted company at the moment or not.

“Oh, hello there,” the man called out to her in surprise before she could make a decision and the wagon slowly came to a halt with a loud screech.

Vote for how the story should continue on the following page until January 17th:

S1E2 The Remains Of A Life

With 50% of the votes, the story continues on the second path. Rena has to deal with the aftermath of the fire, her home town in ruins, and goes looking for survivors underneath the rubble.

By the end of the episode, three choices will be presented to you. Vote on twitter or on theheartpyre.com for whichever path you want the story to continue on.

Intro music: Lonely Dusty Trail by Jon Presstone

Logo Design: Mars Lauderbaugh

TW: Mentions of blood; mentions of death; mentions of burn victims; mentions of gore; mentions of vomit