The cold night air brushed across Varra’s face as it passed beneath the trees. She was in the Meadows proper now, but there were no signs of the constructor she needed to soothe. With the tree cover above she felt comfortable collapsing the umbrella now, so she strapped it back onto her belt and went on her way.
It was a nice change of pace to be outside for once. Dealing with the demands of her new station as Hand of Defense were daunting, and the most frustrating part was the formality. She never got anything done, though it wasn’t from lack of trying. Tonight, at least, she would be of use. Beyond that, any proof that there was something going on in the city was good news for her, since the other Hands never listened.
The forest was eerily quiet. She didn’t often go to the Meadows these days, but she knew them well, even in the oppressive darkness. Of course, the constructor patrols kept rearranging the landscape, so nothing looked familiar. A perfect glade, as immaculate as the city it guarded.
But then, something strange caught her eye, standing out like a fresh wound against smooth skin.
Straight ahead stood a wall of dirt, much taller than her, dividing the forest in two. Upon closer inspection, the dirt was hard, like a thick wall of mud that solidified instantly. It extended a few hundred feet ahead of her, until it changed direction again further away.
The constructor had clearly been here, but the danger seemed to have passed. She hadn’t heard it’s horn blaring roar since she had entered the Meadows, which was concerning. It could be anywhere.
Having no other lead, she continued down the length of the dirt wall. If she never found it, what would she do? Return to Upper Terrace, having accomplished nothing? Could she trust a raging monster to calm down on its own terms?
Her eye caught movement ahead, rounding the edge of the dirt wall. She froze, raising her guard, only to see a humanoid figure shamble out, and collapse to the floor without the support of the wall to steady it. Varra approached cautiously. This could be a trap of some sort. How foolish of her not to venture into the Meadows armed. Somebody at her station should always have a clear head on her shoulders, she thought.
As the distance closed, the collapsed form became that of a young man, covered in blood. A small, crooked staff was held loosely in one hand, as if it was too heavy for him.
“By His grace,” Varra breathed, kneeling down to check his pulse. As soon as she touched him, she realized his eyes were still open. Like the eyes of somebody already dead, but they were focused on her.
Startled, she fell backwards and away, landing on the ground some feet away. The form didn’t move.
Something about this was strange. She had seen the handiwork of a constructor before. They never left…. Such a mess.
“Whatever fate has befallen you, poor soul,” she murmured. “I hope you find peace in whatever land you find yourself in.”
No sooner had she finished her prayer did he start coughing. His chest heaved, but most of what left his lips was blood. He was still alive. Dying, perhaps, but alive.