36 Dorien, 597 Année de Paix
The mountains surrounded the tiny village like teeth, or perhaps like some ancient structure of stones built for an unknown purpose but which, despite the best efforts of the elements, had far outlived its mortal creators. Small white animals dotted the fields: goats, domesticated and herded by the people of the village; they would produce milk and cheese to sustain the population for centuries to come. Above the red roofs of the whitewashed houses, the familiar green stained glass windows of an Ántouist church gleamed in the midday sun.
If the man had visited Arosa before, he did not recall it. He barely recalled anything, truth be told. His eyes gleamed, their deep auburn dulled and crazed, and his tawny hair was sparse and missing in patches.
“Help,” he whispered. “Help me, please.”
The inhabitants of the village were working in the fields, or perhaps at church, or tending to their livestock. But, as luck might have it, a small child caught sight of the man as she crossed the town square. He stumbled towards her.
“The demons. I beg you.”
His face was streaked with grime and sweat and tears, and his clothing was torn. The girl took a step backward and the man retreated quickly, cowering.
“No, please. Listen. Listen to me!”
A filthy hand reached out toward the child, trembling. Its smallest digit was missing, and the stump was raw and barely-healed.
“Stay back, you cur!” From the town church, a priest stepped out and ran towards the man. Placing himself firmly between the child and the unknown threat, he glowered at the stranger. A green and gold pendant hung from his neck.
“Please, Monsieur! No harm. Please. The...the mountains...please…”
The priest tilted his head curiously, as if eyeing a small trinket or rare animal. “Run home,” he said to the child. Then, approaching with a wary smile, he addressed the man: “What, sir? These mountains that surround us? What would you have me do with them?”
A crazed fear passed over the stranger’s face, an expression which was not lost on the priest. “Demons…” he whispered. “Please...you must warn them. The black-eyed demons...the mountains…”
A moment of silence passed, with only a gentle gust of wind disturbing the peace of the valley. Finally, the priest nodded. “You may stay at the church tonight. I will send word of your...demons...to the Monastery. Perhaps they will know what to do.”
“Thank you, Monsieur! Thank you!” The two men walked quickly to the tall, whitewashed building and disappeared inside. The village remained silent and undisturbed.
The following morning, before dawn, a rider in a dark green cloak arrived in Arosa. By daybreak, the rider was gone, along with the stranger and all traces of his existence. The man had vanished. Thanks to the magical efficiency of the church, nobody would know he had ever been. Nobody, that is, except one priest and a little girl. And the village was at peace.