Faded hues of twilight painted the sky, casting its dim light over a well-travelled road that cut through open grasslands. A hooded traveller urged his galloping horse west, and in the distance, the small farming village of Summerton came into view. The Willow Inn, a sizable building in comparison to the rest of the village, sat on the outskirts. Journey’s end in sight, he slowed his frothing, tired horse. He’d pushed the beast hard over the past four days, yet it’d stayed the course without complaint.

As the rider approached, the murmur of folk talking and laughing told him the inn was packed. He dismounted and led his horse to a wooden stable nearby, meeting a young man who took the reins.

“Once he cools off, be sure to feed and water him,” the hooded man said, patting the horse’s neck in silent thanks for its hard work. “And give him a good brushing.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good lad.”

He tossed a coin, deftly caught by the stablehand. A sudden gust of cool wind blew by, causing the massive willow tree nearby to rustle. A shiver ran up his spine and he peered about in curiosity, yet as quickly as it came, the wind disappeared.

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