She rocked back on her heels, reeling in shock. She recognized the ruins staring back at her! That was the castle that had overlooked her village!
She had been wandering around for three days now, confused and lost. She’d had a sense of deja vu ever since she first noticed the mountains in the distance. They looked familiar but ancient; their peaks tired and worn while the mountains surrounding her village had been sharp and new. Then there was the roaring waterfall that tumbled out of the mountain pass two days back. Although it looked a lot wider than the one she remembered, it still rumbled in passing between two large peaks, the water thundering into a large lake below. Finally there was the wide river draining out of the lake that she had been following since yesterday, a river she remembered with sparkling water the colour of the sea. No where else had she seen a river that colour before. But this could not be the river from her youth; the river that led to her village was a winding snake, coiling back again and again. This one flowed straight as an arrow, curving only slightly here or there.
Finally, she found herself here, staring in shock at the ruins before her. The village was long gone, without even a hint that anything had ever been here before. Tall evergreens grew where buildings had been and the only paths that existed were game trails. But there was no mistaking the castle that loomed before her. Though crumbling, it remained a bastion of civilization in the wild north. Though the wood had long disappeared, the stone foundations remained, a forgotten monument to time long since past.
With nothing else to do, she urged her horse towards it. The gate glowered down at her the way she remembered from her youth, daring you to approach. After some debate, she decided to enter, to see if the ruins could give her any clues as to what had happened.
It was along the winding front staircase wall that she found the markings: slashes scoring the wall in over a dozen places. A battle had been fought here long ago, most likely the battle that had wiped out her people.
Perhaps the army she had been trying to warn her people of had long ago made its way here. Perhaps that was who had killed everyone she knew. She sighed. Perhaps. She would probably never know for certain what had happened here.
It was then that she heard the steady beat of drums. She glanced out of a rather large hole in the castle wall and saw to her dismay an army headed across the plains. What she had thought were drums were actually the marching of thousands of feet. She stood for a moment, brushing a wayward tear from her cheek. Always a war. It seemed she had missed the one that had killed everyone she knew only to stumble onto a new one.
As the army marched on, she caught sight of their banner: a green and gold dragon on a black background. That was when she got her second shock of the day: the gold dragon was the banner of the empire that had declared war on her people! They had survived however many years had passed, and here they were, on their way to make new conquests!
"Those bastards!" She flew down the stairs and vaulted onto her horse. The past might be behind her, but the present was now. There would be new villages and people to save. Maybe this time her message would reach some of them in time.