The two young men explored further into the cellar, using the light from a lantern that Harper had lit on the way in. The lantern light revealed many things as they ventured further down, and a few minutes later, they came to a locked door. Harper tried the key, but this lock was different, so the key was useless. So Traint used a thin metal rod he'd picked up and pushed the bolts out of the hinges, allowing them to push the door down. The rotten smell was far more powerful in here, and as Harper moved the lantern around, they soon discovered why.
The cellar room was filled with weapons and armor, but that wasn't the only thing down there. In the center of the room was a trapdoor, and the two of them opened it and immediately had to resist the urge to vomit. The space beneath the trapdoor was filled with human remains, and Harper was sure that several of the corpses were those of some of the missing hunters.
"We have to report this, Harper," Traint said, and Harper nodded. The two of them left, locking the cellar behind them as they went to find Elbert. The elder listened to what they'd found and immediately sent some of the other hunters with them, to clear out the room in the cellar. The task took several hours, between moving the weapons and armor and separating them. Moving the remains took longer, due to the state of some of them. While most of the corpses were nothing but skeletons with remnants of clothing clinging to them, several of them were far more recent, enough so that they could still be identified, despite the obvious decay that was present.
"Harper, did you know about this?" Johnny asked. Harper shook his head, still in shock from the discovery.
"Johnny, look at this," Brandon said, and Johnny took the items handed to him.
"We need to get these to Ellie, now," Johnny said, and Brandon nodded.
"We'll do it," Traint said, and Johnny looked at the young man for a moment before nodding.
"Alright," Johnny said, handing the items to Traint. "It's only right she has them back."
Traint nodded, and he and Harper returned to Ellie's home. Harper knocked on the door, and this time, it was Jenna that answered. She looked at him and was about to slam the door on him when Traint spoke.
"Please, wait," he said, making Jenna pause. "Will ye fetch yer mother? There's something ye both need to see." The girl hesitated for a moment, then nodded and went to get Ellie. The two women came outside to see what Harper wanted, and the young man in question nodded once at Traint. Traint returned the nod and disappeared momentarily, returning with the items Johnny had given them. Ellie gasped and Jenna began to weep anew when they saw the bow and quiver that Traint was holding.
"Where did you get those?" Ellie asked, pain in her voice.
"They were found in the cellar," Harper said, his voice devoid of emotion, "along with human remains."
"Human….remains?" Ellie echoed, her breath catching in her throat.
"Some of the hunters are clearing it out now," Harper said. "We think some of the missing hunters are among the remains found." This information was too much for Jenna, who let out a strangled sob and took off into the forest.
"Jenna, wait!" Ellie called, but the girl was already gone. Harper started to follow her, but Traint shook his head.
"Let me go, Harper," he said. "Ye need to take Miss Ellie to the other hunters. I'll follow Jenna."
Harper nodded and led Ellie away from her house, to where Johnny and Brandon were waiting. Once they were gone, Traint closed his eyes and inhaled deeply through his nose, and was able to pick up Jenna's scent. Opening his eyes, he followed the girl's trail. It wasn't hard to follow, as she was crashing through the brush and leaving a clearly visible trail. At one point, however, the trail vanished, and he had to rely on her scent to track her.
He followed Jenna's trail for half an hour before he heard what sounded like someone trying to stifle sobs. Following the noise, he smiled a bit when he recognized where he was. This was a place he used to love coming to when he was very young, and he would often sneak out to come here, much to his parents' chagrin. Pushing through the overhanging branches and vines, he saw the place he remembered so well, and as he listened, he realized the noises he was hearing were coming from inside the stone structure in the center of the space.
Moving forward, he pushed the door open and walked inside, the door swinging shut behind him. This place hasn't changed much over the years I've been gone, he thought. Walking further inside, he followed the noises and the scent until he found Jenna sitting in a side room, trying to stifle her sobs. Traint's heart went out to the girl as he stood there, and he spoke quietly.
"Jenna?" he asked.
"Go….away, Harper!" the girl spoke between sobs.
"Jenna, it's Traint," he said. The girl looked up in surprise.
"How-how did you find me?" she asked.
"Ye left quite a trail as ye ran," he said.
"Why did you follow me?"
"I wanted to see if I could help," he said quietly. Hearing this, Jenna started weeping anew, and Traint moved forward and sat down beside her. He touched her shoulder gently, and she turned and buried her face in his shirt. Caught off guard, Traint didn't move for a moment, then wrapped his arms around her shoulders, hugging her gently. Jenna wept for several minutes before she finally calmed down, and she drew back and wiped her eyes, then looked up at him.
"Thanks," she said, and he nodded.
"Ye're welcome," he said. The two of them found they couldn't look away as their eyes met, but Jenna looked away when tears filled her eyes again.
"Ye miss him," Traint said softly. It was more a statement than a question, but Jenna nodded as she wiped her eyes again.
"I want to know if his….body was found in that cellar, but I'm afraid to know if it is," she said.
"D'ye want me to find out for ye?" Traint asked.
"Please, don't leave me," she said, looking at him again. "I don't want to be alone right now."
Traint nodded, and Jenna sighed softly, then laid her head against his shoulder. The young man didn't move as they sat there, but he knew they needed to head back soon. It was half an hour later when he realized that Jenna had fallen asleep, and he sighed softly. Carefully rising from the floor, he picked Jenna up in his arms and began to carry her back to her house. As he walked, he noticed that Jenna was clinging to him in her sleep, and he smiled a bit.
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