"I can't believe we're back here, doin' it all over again" Oscar Bartleby complained.
Lowell Vern cast a sideways glance at the man beside him. Behind them, Fenton Barney and Derris Vern struggled to keep up. Oscar and Lowell were keeping a fast pace across the recent 'addition' to Lowell's farm. The land was flat and even, but tall grass obscured their footing. Fenton had already tripped on something unseen and twisted his ankle. Derris was merely too drunk to keep up. A single tankard of ale dangled from his pudgy fingers. The tankard had been empty for quite some time, but that fact didn't keep Derris from inspecting it forlornly every few minutes.
"Maybe this time Fenton can stay on his feet long enough to be useful," Lowell growled.
"I swear I don't know what you're talking about," Fenton huffed.
"Hopefully they'll be no need for 'im to BE useful, eh?" said Oscar. "After all, it's just a boy in a barn this time. Maybe not even that. None of that... other business."
"Yeah," Lowell Vern gave a halfhearted snarl.
"That disappointment I hear?" asked Oscar.
"What if it is?"
"We're doin' this for a reason, ya know. One that has nothin' to do with your sick idea of fun."
"If the end result is the same, what's the difference?"
"None, I suppose. We all do what we have to do for our families and kin. But sometimes... especially LAST time... it looks like maybe you'd do it anyway, Tribute or not."
"Bah!" Lowell spat. "What the hell's THAT supposed ta mean?"
"Means maybe you got somethin' in you that's just bad, Vern. Just... bad."
"I do what I have to. What we ALL have to. And hell, YOU'RE one ta talk, Bartleby. I seen you in action more than once. I seen the look on your face. We ain't so different."
"I don't enjoy it, Vern."
"You don't ADMIT it. That makes you a liar and me not. Only difference I see."
"So you do admit-"
"Maybe you two shouldn't spend so much energy talkin' about things that didn't happen," Fenton Barney chimed in from behind them. Oscar and Lowell both gave him a dark look, but Fenton continued.
"They belong to the town. Then they belong to HIM. We keep nothing; not even the memories That's how-"
"We KNOW!" Lowell snapped.
"Doesn't sound like it."
"You know the sound I wanna hear?" said Lowell. "YOU shutting up!"
"What WE need is a new topic of conversation!" Derris called from the rear. "Like: WHY AM I HERE!?"
"You're part of the Watch," said Oscar.
"Now really... does that make ANY sense?" Derris slurred. "Who would trust ME to watch anything!? No... the way I remmemmer it... I was just sitting there minding my own business, and YOU just SHOWED UP and sat down! All I wanted was more ale! Or better ale.... but since I'll never get better from Fenton, I would have settled for more! But now I have NEITHER!" Derris held up his empty tankard for emphasis. "See! Empty!"
"He's getting loud," Oscar murmured to Lowwell. "If we've got company out here-"
"I NEED MY ALE!"
"But I'm celebrating!"
"I'm..." Derris frowned. "You know... all this talk about forgetting made me forget!"
"Good. You think on it and sober up," said Oscar. "We might need you."
"HA! Now THAT'S funny. "
Oscar halted and turned to face Fenton and Derris.
"This is SERIOUS business!"
"Then whyyyyyy am I heeeeeere! Haven't I asked that already? Yes, yes I believe I did!"
"I'm not carryin' him if he passes out again, I know that much," said Fenton.
"HOOOOOO!" Derris stopped suddenly, raised his tankard once more, and then flung it away. "I think I've celebrated a wee bit too much."
"What brings you to THAT brilliant-"
"Because he's seeing what I'm seeing." Lowell Vern said with uncharacteristic calm. He pointed. Oscar turned and followed the line of Lowell's finger-
"Whoa," said Fenton. "That.... that can't be."
The farmhouse was clearly visible. It was neither a faint object nor a distant shadow... it was only a few minutes ahead of them, and it had CLEARLY not been there an instant before.
"But..." Oscar gasped. "We... we burned..."
"It's back," said Lowell. "Some bastard brought the damned place back."