The long road.

Two men rode on one wagon. One mule pulled it. Behind them, black smoke rose in the air in clouds that made the day into a dim half-night. The man who held the reins called himself Filostrato. In the back of the wagon, a man named Houl lay covered in a blanket. His breath was slow and labored. The blanket had come with the wagon. The wagon was from a barn. Its owners would never know it was gone.

Filostrato’s eyes hung underneath heavy brows. The light had gone out of them some miles back. His heart still pounded against his ribs despite his efforts to slow it. Houl’s breathing disturbed him. He wasn’t sure whether that was because of the way it sounded, or because he was still breathing at all. It didn’t help when he started talking.

“I want to thank you for doing this. For coming back for me.”

Filostrato shrugged. “You would have done the same for me.”

There was silence for a moment. A long breath that could have been a sigh.

“No,” he said at last. “I do not think I would have.”

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