Gotz swung the door open, catching it before it slammed against the wall. The action caused the two shadows cowering behind him to yelp.
“Hush now!” he scolded with a whisper.
“S-sorry, father” came the sobbed response.
Just a moment before he had heard a shrill cry, like that of a woman's. The noise had come from just down the hill. He strained his ears, keeping his head inside the door frame. His mind had concocted dark things, fiends that even now lay siege to his home, crawling along the rafters and rooftop, lairing in at his family through thin windows. He shook his head clear of such thoughts. They were reserved for the weak and young. He was Gotz Hartmann, Captain of the 23rd Stirland Swords, or at least he had been. Confident that all was well, he closed the door and turned to his wife and daughter.
“It's all okay” he insisted gently, “must have been a fox or some such anim-”.
He was interrupted by the definite sound of a woman crying in fear, only this time it was much closer. Without looking back at the closed door, he made for the fireplace, ushering his family toward the back of the room. He pulled a well polished sword from above the mantle, tested its weight in his hand and made for the door. This time he opened it sharply, walked out onto the doorstep and into the night air.
It was cold outside, the first leaves of the season had started to fall, covering the little laneway before his home in shiny amber and dark brown hues. The trees that surrounded the little house seemed to sing in the wind and the leaves danced to their tune, pirouetting in and out of the clawing branches that reached for his home threateningly like pallid Banshees in the moonlight. A third cry brought Gotz to a standstill at the end of the little path that wound down from his open door. The sword in his hand felt familiar but heavy. It had been a long time since he had last lifted it and he found himself wishing he had kept his practice in check. Whatever foul business was afoot this night, he meant to face it. He had witnessed so many things, most of which a man would do better not to and all of which he would make sure his family would never have to.
* * * *