They had been travelling for two years when the wood elf spotted one of the last beacons. He dismounted from his bay horse and on long legs ran up the hill. The adventuring party watched him go, wondering what he had seen before realising themselves. Three of them dismounted from their horses; the two human fighters and the half-elf wizard. Whilst the dwarf healer and halfling thief stayed on their stout ponies.
The elf came to a stop before the burnt ruins. He nudged an untouched wooden plank with his deer hide boots, flipping it over and staring at it. His hand rested on the jewelled pommel of his magic sword, ready for a possible ambush. He could hear the wind howling through the long moor grass and the small valleys of the hills.
His companions came to join him, but he ignored their whispers for something had caught his sharp eyes. On another hill, higher then this one and a good few miles away he could see another beacon raising. It appeared unlit. He frowned and looked farther around, but he could see nothing other then the moors and the coming storm clouds.
‘Can you see the other beacon? Is that it?’ the half-elf asked at his side.
‘I think so,’ the elf replied.
The two men came to stand beside them and the elf saw they had drawn their swords.
‘What’s going on?’ a voice yelled up to them.
‘It is definitely one of Abacros beacons,’ one of the men yelled back.
The elf heard the dwarf and halfling dismount and trudge up the hill. the rest of the party began moving around again. Their boots crunching on burnt wood and dry grass. The elf kept his eyes firmly fixed on the other beacon in the distance. Something didn’t feel right. The more he looked the more his eyes confirmed that the wood had not been lit.
That would explain it, he thought, if the chain had been broken, the city of Abacros had been doomed from the start.
‘This is beacon forty-two,’ the half-elf announced.
‘We have to go over there,’ the elf cut in.
He turned and saw his companions gathered around a tatty map and a large rock. Without saying anything else, the elf went down the hill and back to the horses. He mounted his bay mare and headed in the direction of the other beacon. Disgruntled words tickled his ears, but the growing wind swept them away.
He glanced up at the sky and saw the storm clouds were rolling in fast. This was really not the place to be caught in bad weather. He urged his horse on, knowing the others had joined him. However, the soft, sinking ground was hard going and it took awhile to reach the tall hill. The rain had started falling as the elf dropped from the saddle and walked to the beacon.
The pile of wood towered above him. It was built in a large square with a cone at the top. His eyes had not lied. The thing had never been lit. He looked down and saw something in the grass. Poking it with the toe of his boot, he saw it was a dirt covered dagger. Just above it and still reaching out for the blade was a dead hand.
‘He’s been here years,’ the voice of the dwarf rumbled, ‘crude arrows Outlanders, maybe.
‘So the guards were attacked then?’ the first man said whilst the other just shook his head.
‘That would explain it,’ the elf answered, ‘and after all these years we now know what happened. The guards were slay before they could lit the beacon. The line was broken and that’s why help was too late.’
‘And Abacros fell,’ the halfling whispered.
Thunder rumbled, drawing their attention away. The horses whined, a few stamped their feet and shook there heads. The elf took a last look around and knew they should be on their way. At last they had an answer for the king.
Photo prompt from; https://scvincent.com/2016/09/22/thursday-photo-prompt-beacon-writephoto/