Closing her eyes, Callindra wove Brightfang in an intricate pattern, keeping her breath measured and even. She called the arcane power that drove the very world to spin into herself and harnessed it. Her eyes flashed open and she rushed the creatures, moving faster that she ever had before. She was the wind and she danced between her enemies, her sword cutting huge rents into their bodies.
Pausing at the far side of the room, Callindra realized that the corpses hadn’t fallen and that they now stood between her and the door. Cursing in fear and frustration she gathered herself, looking for a way out. A had grabbed her ankle in a vice like grip. She had forgotten the nurse.
The door burst open, Cronos and Vilhylm coming through nearly at a run. Vilhylm leapt through the air, smashing both hands down with brutal force and bludgeoning one of the monsters to the floor. Cronos was incanting arcane words and summoning bolts of power that flew from his fingertips to strike another.
Two still remained, both focused on Callindra. One had her leg and continued to hold it, clawing at her unprotected calf with its other had but she kicked the hand away, managing to stumble out of the way of the other’s clumsy attack.
“Hurry, they’re getting stronger!” She warned, hacking awkwardly at what had been the nurse.
Behind her friends, shouts of alarm could be heard. Soldiers came through the, weapons drawn and eyes angry. When they took in the scene, their horror was strong enough to send two of them running back out the door screaming in panic.
“Help her you thrice cursed cowards!” Cronos shouted at their retreating backs. The others seemed too shocked to do more than hide behind their shields.
Vilhylm took one of the heavy beds and hurled it at the only creature still standing. The frame cracked from the impact and the monster was crushed beneath it. Callindra shrieked in pain as the one remaining enemy raked her leg with sharp claws. With a sharp double swing of Brightfang she severed both its arms (Dragonfly Lands on the Pond).
“This is what you were hiding?” She demanded, “You had infected here the whole time?”
“I didn’t know.” One of the soldiers said faintly, “They never told us…”
“Well you certainly could have guessed!” Cronos shouted, “Or perhaps you could have god rotting CHECKED!”
“They said it was contagious, that only those with special protections against the illness could hope to enter.” The soldier said, “How were we to know?”
“My brother was exposed to this.” Cronos said, his voice dark with anger, “If it truly is contagious and he’s infected it will be a very bad day for you.”
Vilhylm had removed his mask and returned to a more normal size and demeanor, but his anger was also apparent. “This was a grave mistake. I will speak to the Mayor about it.”
The measured tramp of feet came from outside. The last creature that Callindra had hacked into pieces was still writhing on the floor but she left it there. Let them see what evil Mayor Iason had been hiding. The soldiers stopped outside the door.
“I’m afraid I must ask you to leave.” Captain Luca said, his voice flat and emotionless. “We shall give you provisions and horses for your assistance, but you must leave now.”
“You’re all mad if you stay here.” Callindra said, looking at the ranks of soldiers behind him, “You’ll all die. There’s something here that’s spreading THAT!” She pointed at the figure that still moved on the floor in spite of not having a head or hands.
“This never happened to people before you came!” One of the soldiers in the back shouted, “Get gone and be thankful we’re giving you anything!”
“We aren’t thieves.” Luca said, “We have brought your belongings to the front gate, along with provisions and horses. Your priest tried his level best and we appreciate that, however he only made things worse. His presence seems to aggravate the condition.”
“You may not be thieves.” Tryst’s tired voice said from behind the ranks of armed men, “But you are fools if you think you can hide from this behind walls. I do not know what this sickness is, but if it ravages the world there is no wall that can possibly keep it out.”
Callindra looked in Luca’s eyes as she moved to join Tryst, and she could see the despair in them. He knew they were right and that he had no way of keeping his people safe and he knew it, but he didn’t know what else to do.
“Good luck.” Callindra said quietly to him as she passed, “You are going to need it.”
They had been making much better time now that they were mounted again, after three days the forest began to thin and give way to rolling hills. Vilhylm began to get more and more tense the further they traveled. He began to ride ahead when they approached taller hills in order to get the lay of the land before allowing the others to continue. After a day of this, Cronos finally lost his patience.
“What in the hells are you doing?” He demanded when Vil had returned from one of his forays, “It’s going to take us forever to get to the High Forest at this rate.”
“The lack of any human presence is disturbing me.” Vilhylm said, “We should have at least come across a patrol by this point, but we haven’t seen anyone.”
“What city are we approaching?” Callindra asked, wondering why there would be patrols this far out in the wilderness.
“We are only about a day or two from Dagger’s Falls.” Vilhylm replied, “That smoke is also worrisome.”
“Smoke?” Tryst said, “What smoke?”
They all scanned the horizon and Vilhylm pointed to what they had all thought was a thunderstorm. Now that they looked, they could see the black and gray smoke rising from a fire of unimaginable proportions.
“What could possibly cause that large of a blaze?” Callindra whispered, “There’s just… no way….”
“I’m afraid it’s the city.” Vilhylm said.
“That’s impossible.” Said Cronos, “There are over a million people in that city, the guards alone number in the hundreds of thousands. Nothing could destroy a city that large. No army in the known lands could possibly lay siege to it.”
“True enough.” Tryst said, his voice grim. “Unless that sickness or whatever it is has spread.”
The idea stopped all of them cold. It was almost too much to contemplate.
“You don’t think that’s possible do you?” Callindra asked, “I mean, wouldn’t we have seen… something?”
“Exactly my point.” Said Vilhylm. The rest of them fell silent.
“All right. So we continue cautiously until we can see the city.” Callindra said, “If I recall what I’ve seen of the maps, it’s on the coast right? We should have the high ground, it ought to be easy enough for us to see what’s happening there.”
“Yes, but until we get there we must be careful. If the city is truly besieged the odds of us running into hostile forces are high.” Vilhylm said, “We do not number nearly enough to survive such an encounter, so I am being careful.”
“If the city is under attack, how will we cross the river?” Callindra asked, “I thought the only bridge of the WHATEVER river this far south was at Dagger’s Falls.”
“We might be able to find a ford.” Cronos said doubtfully, “I don’t remember this part of the world very well though.”
“No, the WHATEVER river is far too swift and generally runs through deep ravines that it has carved out of the landscape.” Callindra said, “If we can’t cross at Dagger’s Falls then we will be forced to backtrack for days, or maybe even weeks before we find a safe crossing.”
“Well, we will just have to cross that bridge when we come to it.” Tryst said without a trace of amusement. After a moment, he added, “Or not I suppose.” He was so deadpan that Callindra broke out laughing in spite of herself. Cronos’s laugh was surprisingly mellow, reminding her that he was younger than she was, even if not by much. Even Vilhylm smiled, the first time she had seen him do more than quirk up a corner of his mouth.
“We’ll get past it one way or another.” Tryst said, smiling. “It can’t be as bad as all that, else we would have heard of it.”