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Dee didn't know what to say. While she was thinking, she decided to stall by asking a stupid question.
"A-are you sure?"
"Of COURSE I'm sure!" Lahr turned and pointed at the Woodsman. "THIS one! You!"
"IS THERE A QUES.TION?"
"This guy says you murdered his family, so... yeah... I'd say there was a question. You know what he's talking about?"
"IT IS POSS.IBLE."
"Possible?! Okay..." Dee looked expectantly from Lahr to the Woodsman, who were content to glare at one other. The Woodsman doing so without the benefit of eyes. "...okay what are we talking about here?"
"One of Mazoz's incursions into our territory," said Lahr. "One of the MANY, incursions. Mazoz is great and powerful. Lots of people flock to him for protection or... favors. He needs to feed them. The Covenant isn't exactly generous with their crops, and who wants to deal with an army of knife-wielding madmen. So he expands south. Our land. Why do you think he built these machines?"
"I AM A WOODSMAN."
"That's right. You cut down the trees. Doesn't matter who the trees belong to. Doesn't matter who happens to be standing in front of them at the time. People. Homes. Entire villages. I was a child when you came to mine. We heard you. But we weren't going to leave! It was OUR land, not your master's. So... we.... they stood and fought. They hid the children... me... and they fought you. I heard them... I heard YOU. Tearing them apart."
"Lahr, I'm sorry-"
"STAND CLEAR!" Lahr shouted. There were tears on his cheeks, but he kept talking. His recitation broken by increasing sobs. "Unit employs rotating blades. Do... do not approach. Death... Death... or d-dismemberment will occur. And it did. Until there was nothing left but the children... hiding in the rocks."
"That sounds like you, Nicholas."
"ALL WOODSMEN ARE IDENTICAL."
"But I HEARD you! It was YOU!"
"ALL WOODSMEN ARE IDENTICAL."
"The words," said Dee. "That warning; that sounds like you-"
"ALL WOODSMEN ARE IDENTICAL."
"But do you remember this? Did you do this?"
"IT IS POSSIBLE."
"Again with the 'possible'.... did you do it or not?"
"WHAT IS THE LOCATION OF THE INCIDENT."
"You wouldn't even know the name," said Lahr. "No one bothers to ask the names of villages... or people... before destroying them."
"But where was it?" said Dee.
"West of here. West and south of Mazoz's city. South of his great orchard. Other side of the Orange River. It's here he dumps his garbage now."
"I HAVE BEEN DEPLOYED EXCLU.SIV.LY ALONG THE SOUTH.EAST.ERN COV.EN.ANT. BORDER."
"Where we are now," said Dee. She glanced at the Scarecrow, who nodded.
"The Woodsman that killed your family wasn't this one."
"Assuming he's telling the truth," said Lahr. "Ask him how many families he DID kill. The forest used to extend for miles north of here. To the Golden Road, and beyond. Far beyond. All inhabited. Not any more. Just because he didn't kill MY family, doesn't make him innocent. Like he said: All Woodsmen Are Identical."
"I AM A WOODSMAN. I CLEAR ANNEXED TERRETORY OF INDIGENOUS FLORA AND HOSTILE FAUNA."
"He means 'trees' and 'people'. So you see why I won't be travelling with you. Even if this isn't the one I remember... there's someone else out there who remembers a Woodsman killing their family. And THAT woodsman is standing right here."
"Okay," said Dee. "Fair enough. But I'm staying with the people that have kept me alive this far."
"At what cost?"
"At the cost of ME NOT BEING DEAD! This is YOUR world or planet or dimension or whatever! Not mine! It's not my fault that everything... literally EVERYTHING... wants to kill me. Go your own way. I understand. Really, I do. But at least stick around to answer some questions first. Please? Tell me where we're going. Tell me what to watch out for with this Mazoz guy. Tell me ANYTHING useful! In return-"
"You have nothing to offer me in return."
"Maybe not. But it seems like you don't want to fight with your people, and they'll leave us alone as long as the Woodsman is with is, right?"
"For now," said Lahr. "But I wouldn't count on that. There are some among us who remember fighting the Woodsmen. Fighting and winning. Occasionally."
"See... that's something useful right there. What should we expect."
"Traps. Dead falls. Falling stones. Aerial attacks. There are lots of ways to incapacitate one of Mazoz's machines. But most of them take time. And there's the problem of leadership.... the lack thereof. You... may... get where you're going without further interference. If you're quick."
"See, you're useful already. And as safe as we are... however safe that is... you can share it for as long as it lasts. Strength in numbers."
"Strength that will inevitably be used for bloodshed. As strength always is."
"Then help us avoid it. Help us avoid confrontation with your people. Please? We're not here to hurt them or anyone else. We're just passing through."
Lahr looked around the clearing, somehow managing to avoid looking anywhere near the Woodsman.
"Fine," he said. "But when I have things to say to you. And you!" He pointed at the Scarecrow. "You will listen to them, yes?"
Lahr hesitated a moment, then pointed. Dee had no idea what he was indicating; she didn't see anything.
"That's the most direct route to Mazoz."
"I sense a 'but' coming." Dee raised an eyebrow.
"But there is a village in that direction. They've undoubtedly been warned of our... your... approach. The wolf you killed was from there."
"What do you suggest."
"I suggest we go that way," Lahr indicated another direction. "To the rock fields. Then north."
"Are these 'rock fields' dangerous?"
"Everything is dangerous. Is it as dangerous as a well-prepared village that thinks you're coming to kill them? Probably not."
"But doing so will avoid confrontation with those who don't actively seek it. Mostly. There may be hunting parties and scouts, but the sound of..." he jerked his thumb in the Woodsman's direction. "...will drive them away."
"How much time will this add?"
"A day at most."
Dee turned to the Scarecrow.
"Can you hold it together for an extra day?"
"And on the way," said Dee. "Our lion friend will finally give me some answers."