Alsander had been traveling for nine days now. Nine days of muddy roads, curious by-passers, horse shit, and stale bread. But despite the rainy spring weather and the poor choice of food, he was in a rather good mood for most of the trip. He was traveling with only a scrawny brown mare for a companion. He savored the feeling of the rain, clean and cool on his skin. He enjoyed the rain seeping into his black linen shirt and wool trews, washing away the mud and dust from the road. He listened to the gentle hum of the rain on the new green leaves on the trees. He watched sparrows hop across the road in search of food, and listened to the birds sing in the trees. For a few days he felt free. The world was open, full of life, and he was blissfully alone. There were no dank, moldy stone walls. There was no darkness full of the stench of rot and human shit. There was no silence punctuated only by screams, sobbing, or the occasional moan. No, this world was alive and growing. It wasn’t trapped and dying, like the world he had come from. His mood soon became grim and determined as he neared the village that was his destination. It was warmer on that ninth day, with only a few clouds in the sky. The roads were drying out, and his feet now met solid dirt rather than squishy mud. His horse was tired and he was almost out of bread, cheese, and jerky. He would have to resupply in the town before he left. But it was not the warm weather, lack of food, or prospect of visiting a bustling town that depressed him. It was the fact that he was kidnapping someone today that unsettled his mood. As he neared the town, he wondered if this person was a screamer, a crier, or a fighter. The idea of some poor woman gouging at his skin with her fingernails made him sigh. He had scars on one arm from one woman’s claws dragging at him as she attempted to escape. He rubbed that arm, hidden beneath the linen shirt, and kept his face pointing towards the town. It was less than a mile up the road. At first glance, Alsander was nothing but a simple traveler. His black shirt and gray wool pants weren’t particularly well made, and the elbows of the shirt were starting to become a bit threadbare. His horse wasn’t anything magnificent, if anything it was a bit skinny and old. His cloak was well made, however, the wool thick and dark gray. It was one of the nicer things he owned, a present from his ‘employer’ for a job well done. His boots had once been fine black leather, to the middle of his calf. The strings were starting to fray and he had recently patched the sole of the left shoe. He was a fairly slender man, and that was not hidden by the cloak draped over his shoulders. His shoulders were square and he stood straight as he walked along the dirt road, the lead to his horse in one hand. The only skin exposed was on his hands and face. He was fairly pale; he didn’t get to experience the sun but a couple times a year, if he was lucky. His hair was black and pitch, and shorn a few inches long. It laid at odd angles, and it was clear he had a cowlick on the back of his head, where his hair was particularly wild. The only thing particularly interesting about Alsander was the thick black cloth wrapped around his eyes and tied behind his head. His brows and the tops of his cheekbones were obscured by the dark cloth. Despite this, he walked in a straight line and managed to side step a puddle of mud that the sun had yet to dry out. His eyes were closed beneath the cloth. He had not used them in years. But he saw everything; every lovely bird, every green leaf, every beggar in the market, every couple fighting in their home, every bit of humanity, whether he wanted to or not. Currently he had a busy image in his head. Far ahead, in the small town, he saw down into the market, which was bustling with people. A woman was selling cheese. A man was selling eggs and a few old hens. A child begged his mother to buy him something at a booth. Alsander saw all of it, but his eye kept moving, searching for something in particular. There was a woman in that town, somewhere. He would find her before he got to town. He would buy fresh food and rest his horse for a few hours. And then he would find the woman, and take her from her home forever. Alsander had the lovely job of apprehending specially gifted people. He didn’t get paid to do it. He got to live if he did it. This poor woman would suffer the same fate as the last woman he had taken, the woman who had clawed his arm. He couldn’t remember that woman’s name. He didn’t make it his job to know the people he took. But he remembered the woman’s face, still and cold, staring off into nothing. She had lasted three weeks before dying. Would this new target last any longer?