The Price of Demand (Reintegration Edit 14)

He took his leave and, dust in hand, retired home to await the cover of night.

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Altman picked his way carefully through the darkness back to his home. He had to navigate by the light of the sliver of the moon and the stars; he’d supped and slept a while upon returning home, then rose during the small hours to set about the business of marking the high places of the new village.

His inability to see clearly forced him to move very slowly, picking his way through roughed-in roads and around worksites to the gates and front walk of the house.

The sounds of the night played tricks on his imagination. A sharp *CRACK* was definitely not his imagination though; he looked about, seeing nothing, then jerked his head up just in time to see a silhouette against the night sky above him in the branches of the tree in the front yard. Its hands were upraised, something held within. The hands and the object came down and then—

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Exploding pain. He felt like his head was on fire, or melting, or both at once. For an indeterminate length of time, that was all he was aware of. Gradually a sound entered his awareness. After another while, it began to sound like a voice.

“… his head. He’ll be fine now, though it was a nasty hit and he’ll be feelin’ it for some weeks I ‘magine.”

Some innate sense of self-preservation told him that now wasn’t the time to open his eyes, but he managed to speak, haltingly. “How … how long?”

“You’ve been out fer four hours.” The voice belonged to … Medic Cranford, he thought. That sounded right “That was a nasty crack on the head. Found you myself, lyin’ sprawled out on the steps right by the door, bleedin’ something fierce an’ a big stone fallen right from the roof beside you. Turns out the cut was worse than it looked, lucky fer you. Yer head ain’t broke, but you’ll be feelin’ like it is for a while.”