Hazel rode along the path at the edge of the wood, her horse, Packet, following the familiar trail.  To her right the moorland dotted with sheep ran down towards the river Axe and the fields beyond with their signs of the first of the year’s growth.  A couple of miles ahead the lane turned up the hill and through the trees and it would lead up to the gates of Devon Castle where Staunton would be waiting to see what she brought back from her hunt and forage.  It had been being a bad day and she had little to show for it apart from some herbs, berries, and a skinny Moorhen.

As she was busy making up an excuse when a horse stopped and started to back up, immediately she pulled her bow and knocked on arrow, expecting an ambush at any moment.  Instead the ground began to shake and from the trees came a sound like thunder, so loud and so close that she pushed her hands over her ears.  It was followed by the sound like wood burning.   Her horse was wanting to turn and run but she controlled her with a familiar voice of reassurance.  Packet settled but still anxious was encouraged to move forward.  

As she moved, still with bow ready, could smell something that reminded her of a blacksmith’s forge.  She could not understand what had happened but encouraged Packet on and they made it to a clearing in the wood leading to the castle.  They moved on causiously and Hazel was aware of the silence that had fallen on the wood.  All of the familiar sounds, the rustles in the undergrowth , the screeching calls of the birds were all absent and along the ground was a creeping mist. Hazel carried on but eventually Packet  stopped as they moved to the edge of a largeclearing that had never been on the path before. 

Hazel looked around at an almost perfect circle with tree trunks lying around broken and flat against the ground not splinted but looking almost cut through.  The branches stripped and flung into a mass of twigs at the edge of the clearing it was as if some giant hand had done this. In the centre smoke was still rising from what looked like a burned circle. Hazel, still on Packet, sat uncomprehending , just looked at the scene before her.  And as she looked she realised that all the fallen trees were pointing to the dark burnedheart of the circle. “What do we make of this, Packet?  Lightning perhaps?” she answered herself.  “Perhaps it was lightning.”   She said, patting Packets neck.   She was about to move on when she saw something else.  In the burned centre of the clearing something was moving. 

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