I walked away from the grave with a purpose. The amount of time we had left to bring about the end of days was drawing ever closer and I needed my answers. There had to be something that they had left while they were in control of the town. The others were probably busy still helping the townsfolk settle back in.
The people of Skrayhorn have been through a lot recently. Just a few days ago a large rock golem had burst through the ground in the slums destroying the only homes that many of the refugees from the capital had left. The last light of the day’s sun was fading into the dark of night and neither a candle nor a lantern was lit in the conglomeration of shanties and lean-tos. The wind blowing through the slits of my open visor whistled softly giving the only sound into a completely silent evening.
“Cinredi, what are you doing out here all alone? We have all been looking for you.” Alessisa questioned. The fact that I did not hear her approach in complete silence startled me and gave proof of her expertise in the art of stealth. “I saw what you did with the Orc. Why do you think he was worth the effort? Do you not see what he and his unit have done to this town?” A slight tinge of anger tainted her voice. ” This man is our enemy, and you gave him a funeral when you should have left him to rot!”
“That is something I could not allow,” I stated. “He may be our enemy, but as a Paladin, he is also my brother. This whole country is misguided and disillusioned. It is quite possible that they believe they are doing the right thing. They are as much our enemy as a victim of Akor and The Murder. His life was taken when he could have been our ally. This knowledge I have come to acquiesce. I must find out why they accept this deception from the mouth of The Queen. I feel as though this is my duty to fix this and set my order back on the correct path. The purpose of my resurrection lies in the Capital. I do not know how much longer I can stand and wait to face my destiny.”
My words were hot and full of passion and left a ringing in my helmet. I could tell by the remorseful face of Alessisa my statement had plucked right at her heartstrings. Without a word, she wrapped her arms around me. I did not understand what was happening. Since I have not reached my full-grown height she rested her chin on the top of my helmet and softly began to hum a tune. It was different than her previous melodies, there was so much weight to the notes as they echoed through my armor. The notes and rhythms told a story that even without the lyrics could be understood. She did not know why she had to kill the king, she knew that she had hesitated to do it and her mission to the royal bed chamber did not go as planned. She knew that she needed to face what had happened back in that room. That was her destiny.
As her song ended we walked back towards The Crimson Blonde. Through the ruin of the occupation and the attack of the elementals. Skrayhorn had seen many better days than this. As we walked closer we saw a red glow and a billowing pillar of smoke coming from the far end of town. We rushed across the square and made it to the source of the conflagration. Tahn and Balefore had gathered the debris from the ruined buildings and homes to amass a large pyre for those that had fallen during the battle. As we approached the pair they were throwing the last of one of the Queen’s men on the flame. The stench of the burning flesh was suffocating.
“There you two are!” Exclaimed the dwarf. “We found something under the lumberyard when we were checking for any remaining troops. There is a tunnel that leads out of town towards the forest by the ravine.”
“What’s left of the ravine anyway, we took out one of the walls when we left the crypt.” Balfore countered. “Maybe that’s how they were able to get so many troops into the town. I believe we should check it out.” So that’s what the four of us did. We walked down the stairs and at the bottom there was a long cart on a railway of some sort. The long flat cart must have been used to take logs from the Forrest into town. This would come in handy when the rebuilding started. After a quick look around the area, we found tracks of numerous people, the Queen’s forces definitely came through the tunnel. We started to walk through the tunnel away from town we found the corpse of the owner of the mill. His torso had been reduced to a ribcage and the flesh left on his body was covered in a layer of thick puss and maggots. In the center of this ribcage was an arrow. It had a strange aura of evil necrotic magic.
“This is not a good sign friends,” I said motioning to the arrow. “It seems that some foul magic did this. We should be on high alert.” We were all in agreement on that and began our trip through the tunnel. We walked for some time when the tunnel opened up on one side revealing a small cavern. The torches on the wall of the railway tunnel gave some light as to what was going on. Alessisa and Tahn said it looked like the cave opened up ahead, it was far too dark for Balefore and myself.
“I’ll go first” stated Tahn as he walked down the pathway. “You humans always seem to have troubles in the dark.” Chuckling a little with a small laugh from Alessisa accompanying him. A deafening crow caw shook the cavern around us and small grains of dirt fell from the ceiling.
“You four have finally done it, killing the captain was a poor move the Queen really wants your heads now fools!” The crow said menacingly. “I finally have permission to end you.” It had its bow drawn to a full pull notched with two arrows. We were face to face with one of The Murder, this one being Pestilence. The same crow we ran into when we left the crypt. This time he wouldn’t getaway!
Balefore and I drew our weapons, being in such tight quarters I went with my sword instead of my lance Krinix. As we advanced into the darkness the cavern echoed with Alessisa song and as Tahn was almost in range for a punch Pestilence loosed both arrows. A flash of green energy lit up the tips of the arrows as they flew from its bow. Tahn broke them both in flight before they could meet their mark. Balefore charged in and got a solid slash with one of his swords the crow let out a cry of pain as a spray of black blood spewed from it’s wound. In the opening I came in from the opposite side I poured my faith in Uther God-Dragon of Light to guide my sword and strike true, the Holy energy brought a light along the blade as I brought a downward slash across the belly of the creature.
“We knew that the Queen couldn’t trust that lousy necromancer from the Parliament. I should have killed him when I found him heading into the crypt.” The crow said with a heavy note of resentment. It notched another arrow and shot at Alessisa readying a crossbow at him, Tahn blocked the shot yet again. The three of us surrounding him all took a chance at the opening in his defenses but he deflected our blows with his bow. “I’ll kill the three of you and take the head of the assassin to toss to her majesty’s feet.”
Alessisa fired her crossbow bolt through Pestilence’s neck a spray of its black blood coating the wall behind it as it passed through the plumage of dark energy and feather that the enlarged crow skull levitated on. Tahn followed the blow with a powerful punch that sparked with his Ki powers. The strike seemed to stagger the crow and Balefore took the chance to attack with both of his swords, carving an “X” into its chest. Pestilence laughed letting a thick cloud of green mist out of its skull and also from its wounds. The four of us choked on the miasma. Once more I poured the divine energy from my soul into my blade and struck Pestilence through the chest. It fell limp on my blade.
“You can kill me, but the others will end you. ” The crow gurgled. “War sits guarded by Akor on the Dwarven king’s throne. Famine owns the sea, your sons saw to that pirate. Death says you still owe him your soul assassin. Cinredi, Negan himself is churning in his exile waiting to taste your still burning flesh. There will be nothing left for Uther to bring back this time.” The crow’s words echoed as his cloak and plumage dissipated leaving nothing but it’s skull, bow, and a pool of maggots that matured to a thick swarm of flies that buzzed intensely until they all burst into smoke. Pestilence was gone and now we knew where the rest of The Murder was. Tahn grabbed the bow as we rushed out of the cloud. It hurt more than the smoke from the bodies outside of town. The Crow had afflicted us with poison gas. Blood was running from our lips and put pressure on our chests. Calling on the powers of Uther I put all of my energy into healing us.
“I did what I could for now, but we still need… to… need… to rest.”I weakly spoke to my friends. I gave what I had so we could live.