The pathway around the grassy hillock looked smooth, and would have been had the ladies been wearing Nikes, but in satin slippers with only slightly thickened soles, every rock came through and by the time they got to where they could see the village itself, Dana was limping and Kate had uttered more than one unladylike word.
"I don't like this," Dana said.
"I don't either. My feet are one big bruise, I think," Kate replied.
Dana gave her a level look. "I don't mean our feet. Look where we are. The village is only a few hundred yards away, but I don't see any kind of activity. No farm carts headed into market, no animals grazing in the fields. And the crops look decidedly neglected.
Kate had never been as observant as Dana. Of course, she worked in an office, and Dana was practically a superhero with her work in dragonslaying. "It does look kind of quiet."
"And, in my experience, that's never good."
"But the crops are there, and the village doesn't look bad enough to be abandoned. At least not unless it wa pretty recently. I see laundry out on the lines behind some of the cottages."
"Right. And that actually is more alarming. Why did everyone suddenly pick up and leave? Unless maybe they are cowering inside. Something bad has happened, probably as recently as today. Something frightening enough to stop everyone's regular activities."
"Any ideas?" Kate was very happy to let Dana postulate. Crises were her venue.
"No, not really. But he," she pointed over her shoulder, "The big winged guy on the tower, might very well be part of it."
"You think he's new? I don't know much about these things, but I thought that tower was his usual spot. With the flag and all, he landed there as though it were an everyday matter."
Dana frowned. "Yes, I think so, too. But what makes today different? That's what we have to find out." She leaned on Kate's arm and shook a stone out of her slipper. The bottom was starting to look a bit shredded, but that couldn't be helped.
"Okay, then," Kate said. "If you agree, we will just continue to the village. We can knock on doors and see if anyone will open up and talk to us - tell us what's going on."
"I don't have a better idea." Dana shrugged and they continued down the path. The crops did look a bit neglected, but that could just be bad farming, although Dana knew people would starve if the farmsers hereabouts were that bad at caring for their grains. Other than that, the path was well maintained, a smooth downgrade leading toward the open street of the small village.
As the got closer, Kate noticed that the houses were mostly overgrown cottages with a Tudor flair. The walls were nearly all white and made of what at least looked like stucco to her, with exposed decorative timbers on their front walls. "I think this village is a little nice for serfs to inhabit, at least the kind I've heard of."
"It is nice, isn't it?" Dana stopped at the edge of the village and looked around. "It gets stranger and stranger. It almost feels modern for some reason."
Kate was looking up and down the street as well, and began to walk forward. Dana followed her, but they were both completely on edge. If this was the Middle Ages, as Kate had more or less assumed, then people lived much better than she had read. Colorful flowers overflowed from pots lining brick walkways leading up to the houses. The doors were painted bright colors, red, green, a couple blue.
Suddenly she stopped walking and grabbed Dana's sleeve. "Dana...what is that on that roof?"