Blood and Lies (pt. 4)

Part four in the Blood and Lies series
Part One: Blood and Lies (pt. 1)
Part Two: Blood and Lies (pt. 2)
Part Three: Blood and Lies (pt. 3)

The morning sun filters through the canopy providing just enough light to show allow them to safely walk. Progress is slow as they travel in a line after Vahkragg. The eastern nomad hacks a path through the overgrowth clearing a path for his smaller companions. In the wake of their frantic race into the unknown, Telfor had made the difficult decision to turn north. He had estimated that their flight had taken then anywhere from ten to thirty miles east, he had gambled on the higher end based on the pursuit. As a result he hoped they may be within a couple days walk of the south wood road. With the stars hidden by the trees, they could only tell the relative direction of their travel.

Pan had chosen to take the rearguard, still furious at Telfor and concerned for Verumalleus’ well-being. The crusader lagged toward the back of the line, definitely looking more wan than usual. She had insisted that she was capable of continuing despite Pan’s protests. Meanwhile Rubin and Oliver from the centre of the group set the pace of travel, neither were in good condition and needed to stop and rest often. Telfor was frustrated by the slow pace they had set, but didn’t begrudge them it. He recognised they had well surpassed their bodies limits already with an unknown number of days journey still ahead of him. It was only the danger of the wild forcing him to push them to such a punishing pace.
The Black Forest is home to strange unnatural beasts. Affected by magical energies, they were capable of posing a serious threat to even well armed and armoured groups, and their intelligence and motivations are as unknown as they are varied. The less time they spent off the road the higher their chances of surviving, Telfor reasoned.

Up ahead Vahkragg stops, raising an arm to signal silence in the group. The message travels down the line and the trudging noise of their passage stops revealing the natural noises that underpinned everything here. Cautiously Telfor creeps up to where the larger man is kneeling. In a low whisper he speaks, “What is it?”

“Up ahead,” the low rumbling bass of Vahkragg’s voice answers. Indicating with a finger ahead, Telfor notices the huge creature blocking their path. Easily eight feet tall at the should, on four legs it surpassed even Vahkragg in height. An aberrant mix of a monstrously bulky pseudo-equine lower half and massive distantly humanoid, heavily furred upper body with arms ending in vicious foot and a half talons. The monsters eyes glowed with a menacing yellow, its maw a jagged crack in the bark-like flesh. It was crouched over the eviscerated corpse of a stag, drawing meat and viscera to its mouth.

“Fall back, we’ll find another way,” Telfor whispers to a nod of agreement. Together they move stealthily back to the where the rest of the group has gathered. Circumnavigating the beast will add half a day to their journey, but with no better option they turn east.

“Think about it, there’s no possible way that a horde that size comes this far south on its own,” Oliver repeats to the scholar at the middle of the line. The nature of the undead having been their topic of conversation for the past hour. Rubin welcomes the conversation, his entire body screaming in protest at every continued step, creating mental distance from the reality his only comfort. The sorcerer had proven well versed in arcane principles and offered an interesting perspective in most topics. However he was beginning to wear upon the scholar with his instance on discussing their pursuers. The over-analysis was very obviously a coping mechanism for the stress, but his own patience was heavily stressed already.

“You’re right, of course. But such an innumerable host would necessitate an aggregation of such an inordinate number of necromancers simply to control, that the very notion belies reason.”

“Assuming they are being controlled. There is a school of thought that theoretically one could instead align the circumstances to predispose the natural occurrence of a calamity then at their need instigate the catalysing action. Similar to the process of creating a diversion dam to redirect a river.”

“I understand the process, but to what end?”

The simple question silences the sorcerer who’s thoughts turn inwards, considering the possibilities. The silence extends so long that Rubin had thought the conversation over when Oliver speaks once more, “I have been thinking since your fellows arrested me. I haven’t been to the city in years, yet you were issued a warrant for my arrest over charges of necromancy. The presence of ghouls at my cave and the sudden appearance of the undead horde, followed by a small group chasing us so doggedly. I’m not sure how it is all related, but I feel certain that it is.”

Rubin simply nods silently. The coincidence’s are clearly piling too high to ignore, but with so little information available to him, what else could he say?

At the back of the group Verumalleus stumbles, falling to a knee. Instantly Pan is at her arm, helping her to her feet. No sooner than he releases her does she collapse again, her legs unwilling to take her another step. Calling out to those up ahead, Pan takes a knee beside the crusader, “You’re way past your limit, we’re not going any further today.”

The deathly pallor of her cheeks as she nods in submission is concerning to the Revenant. Seeing her like this is heartbreaking, the inability to help her weighing heavily on him. Recognising the concern on his face, she places a hand gently on his cheek and smiles reassuringly. Somehow the gesture only deepens his worry.
Camp that night is quiet. They all understand the danger of the woods and with no sign of the road, the mood was already low before they turned. Telfor knew that if there was no sign of progress by the following night he would need to think of something else. As he closed his eyes, any hope of restful slumber is quickly abandoned as his mind races hopelessly in search of the answer.

Author: Zairron

I'm writing to build a habit, practice, and be creative.

16 thoughts on “Blood and Lies (pt. 4)”

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