Sasha sat in the grass, his back against a free-standing pillar. The cool stone slowly drank the heat out of the scales of his armor. His shield leaned beside him and his gauntlets lay in a pair. He took slow, deep breaths as he took in his surroundings.
The massive elk carving before him swept majestically up the side of the rock. It seemed to look down on him with a mixture of paternalism and benevolence. He had only rarely encountered such looks in his life. His father had a look like that every now and again. Anya Koteleva had told him that he had a look like that from time to time and it made her feel safe. Of course, her definition of “safe” was not the same as Sasha’s…
When he looked at Jhod and Katya chatting merrily about their discovery, he had a strange vision take hold of him. It seemed so odd to him to have a temple to a god who taught people to tame the wilderness in the midst of the wild. Such expansive grounds should be, well…not teeming with people, but alive with them: talking, strolling around the pond, and praying at the entrance to the cave. No one knew of a time when these woods were not populated solely with loners and ne’er-do-wells. Yet there must have been such a time – how else did this temple get here?
It struck Sasha that it brought new meaning to the term Stolen Lands. Not stolen from Brevoy or from the River Kingdoms, but from Men. The Bandits were only the latest in a long line of enemies of civilization that had robbed Men of a place to live in peace. Bandits like Kressle and misanthropes like Breeg drove decent people away and into the waiting arms of thugs like Noleski Surtova, who promised safety, but delivered it with chains.
Someone had to make these lands safe again.