Lightning crackled over the mountains in the east. The flashes mirrored off the clouds and slick ground in dizzying displays of the heaven’s might. The storm, however, was far enough away that the thunder never reached his ears. He considered turning left to take the path towards the hills so he might catch the outer banks of rain and soothe his tired body, but his legs kept him true to the southern trail. There would be time enough for rest when he reached his destination.
Allowing his eyes to look down the length of the range that hedged the eastern horizon he saw it intersected his trail in the distance anyway. The storm probably will have moved on by the time he reached the start of his slow climb, but he could at least hope the clouds would linger to provide some relief from the attentive sun. It scorched the world with no consideration for soil or flesh. It dried and parched to the point of splitting. It showed no mercy and he had been woefully unprepared when he set forth all those days ago.
It had been a normal morning, with the songbirds of the meadow rejoicing the closing night and his old home creaking as it struggled to wake ahead of the coming day. He had gone out just as the sky had started to brighten and warm to collect some odds and ends from his garden for breakfast. The crashing of hooves echoing against the stillness of the morning had shattered the peaceful calm, even before the riders appeared and…
Well, then his quest had begun. To track them down. To repay them for their deeds.
Lightning flashed again in his periphery but he didn’t turn to watch the storm dance among the peaks. His focus had returned fully to the south, the home of the raiders he followed, and the vengeance he planned on dolling out once he caught up to them. No, he had not been prepared for the grueling nature of the trip but that mattered little when he had no plan for the return trek.
He gripped his staff tighter, sweat running down his hand to drip into the hard-packed dirt at his feet. Calluses had formed quickly in the first days of his journey. The scarred flesh of his palms, and feet, matched those of his heart. The exterior ones would never heal because they wouldn’t be given the opportunity and the interior ones wouldn’t because there were none left who could aid their recovery.
There was no point in planning on a return journey because there was no one left to return to.