The time drifted by as Sebastian sat under the tree, his mind elsewhere. But he wasn't alone. As always, eyes followed his every movement. Narri watched from her position just inside the Tavern. Bo watched from within the stable, and others... always others watched from the shadows. The eyes he would never get used to, but he had accepted their presence.
When the moon rose, so did he, and made his way back into the Tavern. He found its previous crowd thinned quite a bit, and reclaimed his previous table. Jarill himself brought a tankard of ale to the table, and dropped it in from Sebastian. "The Kitchen's closed for the night, but we've some bread left if ya want it."
Sebastian waved his hand, signaling no, and took a large draw of the Ale. "Where's Narri? I was telling her a tale."
"I've sent her to her bed for the evening, where it'll be safer for her, what with the moon being full and all, and the God's only knowing what all's about in the darkness of the night." Jarill turned, and made his way back to the bar, to secure the bottles back into their racks before hurrying the remaining locals on their way home.
Soon, they were off, and the door triple bolted against the night, and Jarill began extinguishing the remaining candles and lamps. Sebastian took the hint, and made his way ponderously up the stairs and into his room.
As he fumbled to light the lamp, before bolting the door, he froze, hearing a rustling on his bed. Sebastian drew his sword, and used its keen edge to reflect light from the hallway in a beam onto the bed.
Narri's still form was curled into a ball on the edge of the bed. Sebastian chuckled softly, and sheathed his sword, and finished lighting the lamp. The light awakened Narri, and she sat up in a start. "Oh, I fell asleep! I was waiting for you, I wanted to hear the rest of your story, but Jarill told me to go lock myself in my room. He means well, but sometimes I think he's scared of his own shadow."
"You would do well to listen to his warnings, for trouble is coming, and he feels it." was Sebastian's cryptic answer. Sebastian moved to look out the window, and continued. "The night is the time of evil, of death, and decay. They say that the undead rise to feed at night, and are even more powerful then than they are during the day. I don't know. I've seen a lot since the War, so I'm biased. I've seen and fought things that were so foul, that the very earth seemed to turn to ash at their feet. A time of cleansing is coming, and soon, but before things get better, they will get worse, much worse. I know my fate, but its for people like you that I fear."
Sebastian turned, and after closing and bolting the door, sat on the bed beside Narri. "Would you have me continue my story, or since the night is dreadful enough already, would you rather wait until the sun has restored your spirits?"
"Oh! Continue now if you would. I've been dieing to hear the rest of it, and waiting will only make it worse." She replied.
"Let me see then. Where was I? Oh yeah, I passed out on the field. Well, when I came to, everyone was gone, even the bodies of my friends. I assumed that they were turned into undead and forced to join the march of their killers. I had no way of knowing how long I had been out, but it was early morning when I awoke, and it had been mid-afternoon when we were attacked so I guessed I was out of it for about 16 hours or so. I was wrong... way wrong, but I wouldn't learn that for another few days. Anyway, back to the story. When I awoke, the bolt was gone from my leg, and there was a puckered scar marking its place. And after a moment, I realized it didn't hurt. But then I also realized that I couldn't feel anything there at all, or for the rest of the length of my leg. This scared me. Here I was in the middle of a deserted battlefield, a cripple without friend or help in sight. I gathered up my gear, which amazingly was still close at hand, and managed to use some broken spear shafts to brace my leg enough that I could hobble around. I picked a spot on the horizon to the east, and started making my way toward it. It was slow going, and as I picked my way along the broken ground my mind began wondering on its own, images I couldn't quite remember flying past my consciousness. I began to wonder exactly where I was going, when it dawned on me, that I, for that matter, didn't even know where I was coming from either. The shock that I couldn't remember my own name hit me like a barrow full of bricks. I stumbled, and fell to the ground. The next hour drifted past unnoticed as I was completely dumbfounded.
My next rational thought was that it had suddenly gotten darker for some reason. As I snapped out of it, I realized that there was a large dappled horse standing over me. He was saddled, and had a full pack of gear, but no rider, nor was there anyone visible for as far as the eye could see. He didn't shy away from me as I struggled to stand, and even allowed me to approach him. He stood patiently by as I looked him over for signs of wounds, and found none. Well I thought, he is a fine specimen, but where's his owner? No one's around. I suppose it wouldn't be too out of place if I took him for myself, given my current situation.
But mounting the horse was a different problem altogether. Even though he seemed perfectly willing to be mounted, with my leg in its current situation, I couldn't find a way to climb up this tall horse. I tried from the left, as I normally would, but I couldn't pick my leg up into the stirrup, even with my hand, unless I was willing to cut loose all the bracing I had done. Even then, I wouldn't be able to put my weight on it to pick myself up into the saddle. So I tried from the right, but whenever I tried to balance myself on my left leg as I picked my right up into the stirrup, I lost my balance. Eventually, the horse tired of my antics, and settled down onto the ground himself, with his legs under him. Now it was a simple matter to swing my leg over his back, and take a seat in the saddle. When I was situated, I took a gamble that he could understand my commands, and said "UP".
He understood completely, and picked himself up.
"Well boy" I said "You're a life saver you are. There's no telling what would have befallen me if I had had to hobble my way back to civilization, but riding you, I should be able to find a cleric to see to my leg in no time."
Then the horse nickered, and nodded his head up and down, as if agreeing with my assessment. He was truly a remarkable horse, and easily one of the most intelligent I had ever seen, much less rode. "What to call you huh boy? I suppose it would suit you just to be called horse wouldn't it?" To this he shook his head left and right. "Well then, you are a picky devil aren't you. What about Bo then? It is a nice name, and one I seem to remember from somewhere. Would that suit you well enough for now? He seemed to think it over a moment, then nodded in agreement. "Bo it is then." Well, Since I was headed east for some reason to start with, what say we continue on?" He then turned, and headed into the rising sun, just as if he knew one direction from another. It was obvious that he was truly a remarkable horse. I would learn soon exactly how smart he was. We would arrive in Stutter's Point that afternoon, and he would save my life yet again in the coming days.
How can I describe Stutter's Point to someone? Well, it was once a nice place, very quite, with a picturesque view over Lake Dreamer. I knew this somehow, although I don't remember ever having been there before. As Bo and I approached the town, we saw only a red glow on the quickly darkening horizon. When we finally got within sight of the town, or its remains it would be better to say, we saw a burned out shell of a town. Most of the buildings were either smoldering, or gutted shells. There were survivors though. As one would later tell me, some of the towns people had taken to the lake in boats when the undead had stumbled into town, and watched helplessly as their lives were destroyed. Some of the undead had sensed them, and walked into the lake, but it seems that they didn't float too well, or swim either, and with the lake as deep as it was where they had tied up, they were safe from their reaching fingers.
I stayed in Stutter's Point for three days, seeking a cleric, but their small temple and its contingent of priests and priestesses of Methane had been quickly wiped out by the undead. Not that the small temple hadn't put up a fight, far from it. The villager's said that the temple itself burned with a holy light before the undead reached it, and the flames flew far out from the small temple, engulfing all the undead within a hundred yards, leaving the villagers and their homes untouched. But the undead kept coming. Always coming.
Anyway, as I said, I stayed for three days, in one of the few remaining building fit for habitation. I was pretty messed up. Once I reached other people, I became a true cripple. I couldn't hardly stand up without a passing arm to help me. I talked to some of the people there, and from what they were saying, I had been on the field, unconscious, and alone for upwards of a month! Or perhaps I wasn't there for the whole time, I remember little of it myself. But by their calculations, and my own, I was missing a month from my life. But then, that wasn't all I was missing. I still had no idea of who I was, or what I was supposed to do. I pressed on on the third day, bound for Trinsk, the Dwarven nation. Since the undead army had left town by a southerly route, it was my hope that by continuing east, I would avoid them, and hopefully find a cleric for my leg. By my best guess, Trinsk was a hard three weeks ride away, with me in my current situation. But there were a few towns between me and that mountainous border, so perhaps I wouldn't have to travel the whole distance. From the rough map one old woman drew in the dirt for me, the closest town was Breen Ford, on the River Yeets, It was a few days travel to the north east, and would probably be my best choice for crossing the river anyway, since I didn't want to test my swimming one legged.
I bought a few days rations for me and feed for Bo, and set off at noon, leaving behind a pretty hopeless situation. I hated to leave those old ladies and children to their fates in that burned out town, but I had to move on. Of a population of close to five hundred, the town had been reduced to about a hundred and fifty, with only about thirty or so being able bodied young men and women. It was sad, but then, that was more than the undead usually left, so it was remarkable in its own right I suppose.
The travel was as easy as I could hope for for a couple days, with my only encounter being with a pack of feral dogs. If I had fallen off Bo then I would have been a goner for sure. There musta been twelve or fifteen of them. I drew my sword, and Bo danced merrily on their head when he got the chance, and we managed to kill or maim about six of them, before the others got the idea, and ran off. Bo took a nasty bite on the flank, which bled quite a bit for a while. But when I washed it off with some water, it had practically knitted through, So it must not have been as bad as I thought. We made the town in the early afternoon the day after that, having not slept a wink since the attack. With the possibility of those remaining dogs having followed us, I wouldn't take the chance of stopping to sleep. Breen Ford was still standing, but practically deserted when we arrived. It seems outriders had seen the undead about twenty miles to the west a week ago, and most everyone had split for parts unknown. There were a few stragglers still in town thou, mostly those too stubborn to leave, for any reason. No clerics though. I stayed the night, and was planning to leave the next day, after scrounging up supplies for the dusty trail ahead.
But that was before Glendrinda knocked on my door at midnight, demanding that I follow her to her shop. She looked to be about a hundred years old, with her face covered in wrinkles. She walked into my room, the light from her lamp blinding me, and yanked the thin blanket off of my naked body. She looked up and down, and with a loud "Harumph", twirled stiffly, and told me to meet her at her shop in five minutes, or else.
"Which shop would that be?" I called, and she replied "The shop with the moon and stars painted above the door. Come soon, or I won't be responsible for the consequences." She then slammed the door, leaving me again in darkness.
I was still a bit shocked by the intrusion, and lay there for a minute gathering my thoughts, before I realized how much time had passed. I quickly dressed, and after tying my leg up, began the long walk ahead of me.
Somewhere during my somewhat lengthy monologue, Narri's eyes had started to droop, and although she was fighting it with all her resolve she was loosing. When I turned and faced her , she was just about asleep. I can't blame her. I know she works harder than she should for Jorill, even if he does seem a congenial enough sort. I rousted Narri from the bed as gently as I could. "Narri.... Narri. Its time for you to go to bed. Wake up, and lets go, I'll finish my story for you tomorrow." While I was talking, I touched her gently.
She stood stiffly, and started for the door. "OK. I'm a bit tired right now, but I do want to hear it..." she said sleepily, as she fumbled with the door's catch.
"I'll follow you to your room, so that you make it safely." I offered, and she nodded. She led me to a door farther down the hall than my own, and opened it, revealing a cramped room, with barely enough room for a bed. Well, there would have barely been enough room had there been a bed in there, as it were there was only a straw pallet, and a small chest of drawers. I started to light the candle on the chest for her, but she waved me off, instead saying "There's no need, Just let me lock the door, and I'll go straight to sleep."
"Goodnight, then and pleasant dreams. If you need me, you know where I am." I replied, and after waiting the hear the door's lock turning, I made my way back to my own bed, ready for its sweet caresses, but a tad uneasy for it at the same time, after having seen what Narri was forced to sleep on. None the less, Sleep overcame me shortly after I locked my own door, and disrobed. It had been a long day, and although my earlier nap had helped, I felt a great weight on my shoulders, and when I feel like this, my only release is sleep.
Richie Adams is currently, (for for the forseeable future) attending Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville Georgia, where he is striveing to achieve a BA in English and a minor in history. He is a self declaired underachiever (some say just plain lazy) with a passion for the printed word. This is his first "published" work. --
You can E-Mail Richie by clicking here.
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