The Town That Knew No Name

Life in the military is definitely an adventurous one; at least, that’s what the recruiter had told me. So far my life in the military has consisted of me sharpening swords, sorting spell tomes, and feeding horses. Only once did I find myself in an engagement with enemy goblins and while I did draw blood, it still missed the sense of adventure I had been looking for my whole life. I guess this is what happens when you join the military during a time of peace.

So here I was, my company on the way to link up with another unit. Meanwhile some merchants reported strange activity in a town nearby. So they grabbed up some soldiers, myself included, and sent us on a three day detour to observe and report.

Of the five men accompanying me, I only recognized four of them. Joldec was designated the leader of us. Also in our unit was Birud our first pikeman, Fothesk our archer, Kuna our swordsman, and Rukis the recruit who was the second pikeman. This just left me, Vurkol, the second swordsman of this unit.

I was very happy to hear that Joldec was designated the leader as he was an excellent one. In addition he had more years in the military than any of us here. He would often tells stories around the campfires of the grand battles took part in during the great wars against the Elven Kingdoms. When I had come back from fighting Goblins Joldec was the first one to offer his sympathy, knowing that the first touch of combat is much for a young mind to deal with.

Rukis was an interesting individual as most recruits are very eager to fight however, Rukis was not. He was also a shorter man and very quiet. In fact, I don’t think he’s spoken to any of us in the past.

“Rukis!” I called as we walked two by two down the small dirt path. He looked at me as if waking from a dream. “All of us here know of each other but you remain a mystery, how did you end up here?”

“Well I — ” Rukis started before he was interrupted by Kuna.

“You don’t have to answer him, he’s not an officer.”

“Oh I don’t mind.” Rukis replied meekly, “I mean we all serve together so it might be good for us to get to know each other.”

This was not unlike Kuna. He was a large, angry man and had to make sure everyone knew it, “See Kuna! What harm is there in us making polite conversation as we march off to battle!” I said with a hint of sarcasm in my voice.

“Shut your mouth!” He said, “You think because you know so much that you’re some kind of mediator. Why can’t you just let us march in peace?”

“Because, as Rukis said, If I am going to fight beside someone I would rather it be someone that I know.”

“You’re so naive. Any trained man standing next to you is as good as another. It matters not if they’re your brother or a stranger, they all take a blade as good as the rest.”

To which Fothesk added. “You both realize you still haven’t let the boy speak?”

A moment of silence was shared between the group. Kuna and I have never got along but as far as I could tell, no one agreed with him. He’d been involved in latter end of the war before our army conceded he didn’t deal with it as well as the other soldier. He never got close to anyone, I suppose he was too afraid to lose them.

I spoke privately with Rukis this time, “So tell me how you got here, what did you do before you joined the army?”

“It’s actually kind of a long story, I grew up apprenticing under my father as a cobbler. That is until he passed away.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Cobbler you say? Is that why you don’t have standard issue boots?”

Rukis looked down at his feet for a moment. Instead of the standard and plain leather boots the rest of us had he wore boots of high quality leather with intricate engravings in them. Among this was a script I recognized as elvish. He chuckled and said, “Yes it is, I made this just a few weeks before I had enlisted.”

“So what made you enlist then? You have a reputable trade and are obviously skilled in your craft, why not just practice that?”

“Oh trust me I would like nothing more, but unfortunately I have nought a copper to my name. See because of some tricky wording in my fathers will my entire inheritance was taken by my Elven mother before I coul — ” At this point we saw Kuna become enraged and rushed straight toward Rukis and lifted his entire figure up by his chain shirt.

“What did you just say?” Kuna yelled with flak flying out of his mouth.

“I, I said that my inheritance was taken by my mother — ”

“No! That’s not what you said!” Kuna interrupted, “You said it was taken by your Elven mother!” Kuna continued to stare into Rukis’ eyes who was too afraid to utter a word. At this point we’d realized what had cause Kuna to do this. It was not uncommon for veterans of the war to hold prejudices against the elves.

“That’s enough!” Joldec yelled. He had been surprisingly quiet this entire time until now. “Rukis is not the enemy so you will not treat him as one.”

“Why should I? He could be a spy or even worse, he could be a traitor!”

In the background I saw Fothesk with his bow drawn aiming toward Kuna. I followed this gesture and drew my blade sticking it to his side.

“Let the boy go.” I said. Kuna looked back at me and then back at Rukis. He conceded, threw the young man onto the ground, and continued marching forward.

Joldec went to Rukis, “Are you alright?” He asked. Rukis nodded and stood back up to continue his march.

“Sorry about that.” Birud said to Rukis. “That Kuna can be a real monster at times.” Rukis did not respond but he seemed to appreciate the sympathy. We finished our march in silence.

We continued on for nearly an entire day as the sun would soon be setting. We reached the town to see no welcome party or citizenry walking about. Not entirely uncommon for small towns during this time of day but we had expected something to stand out.

“Joldec.” I started, “What exactly did the report say about this town?”

“It was rather strange actually. The merchants wrote that when they had passed through this town that no one was attending the Inn. As they were leaving the town they reported hearing ghostly screams and were chased out by ethereal figures.”

“That’s what we’re here for? They sent the army to investigate a ghost story?” Kuna said in frustration.

“Keep you voice down!” Joldec commanded, “I doubt anyone would lie about something like this and so far, their story adds up. Besides there are all kinds of strange forces in this world that we don’t know of or understand. I need all of you to stay vigilant and take this seriously!”

Kuna showed anger in his face but fell in line. As we started to move through the town we didn’t see any signs that anyone had lived here for several years. Doors sagged open, walls shown wearing, and fences had been trodden down.

“What’s the name of this town anyway?” Birud asked.

“It doesn’t have one.” Replied Joldec, “All our records show that this town is here but it’s too small to be given a name.”

We continued to walk through the town towards what appeared to be the town hall. Along the way I had felt a strong sense of danger like I was walking through a thick jungle in enemy territory. Looking at my comrades I could tell they felt the same way. Something was horribly wrong with this place. As we got closer to the town hall the sensation grew stronger until we had finally reached the doors to the hall. As we got nearer I noticed that a small layer of frost was upon the ground and the nearby buildings. This was extremely out of the ordinary as we were nearing the summer solstice.

The town hall was actually rather well decorated but seemed to be showing the most amount of wearing on it’s exterior. A small set of stone stairs about fifteen feet wide led up to the main double doors of the town hall. Looking down at the town from this location you could see far past the buildings into the forest.

Joldec looked back at us and said, “Kuna and Vurkol will come with me inside, the rest of you stay here and watch our backs.” I felt a wave of of something awful come over me like I’d just been issued a death sentence. Kuna instead sighed of exhaustion as if this didn’t faze him at all. As Joldec pushed opened the door to the town hall the doors creaked loudly as if they haven’t been tended to in years; the door continued until it was halfway open and came to a stop.

Light spilled in through the door which was helpful as we saw no light sources inside. As we investigated the interior of this place I saw that, while plain, it was very well organized. A long table about fifty feet long ran down the center of the main hall with chairs lined along the side. Various mugs, cups, and goblets sat on the table indicating this was some kind of mead hall. Looking around we saw two doors on the left side of the room and only one on the right.

“Alright we need to cover more ground. Kuna you go through this door and Vurkol you through that one.” Joldec said as he gestured to the door. I was already afraid to come into this building so splitting up and going alone terrified me.

“I’m not sure if that’s a good idea.” I said, “What if something goes wrong? We should stick together just in case.”

Kuna replied, “Oh grow some balls! We’ve seen nothing on the way here, there’s obviously going to be nothing in here either.” Despite his words I could see the same fear I had in his eyes as well.

Joldec sighed and said, “Look I don’t like splitting up either but we have to cover more ground. I’d rather not have to spend the night in this town.” I agreed and slowly made my way to the door. Carefully opening the door to be greeted by complete darkness. As I reached for my tinderbox it was missing from its place. I’ve never needed that thing until this very moment and now, it wasn’t there.

Despite this I went ahead and entered the room. At first I was not able to make out anything but after a few moments my eyes started to adjust to the darkness. As I stumbled around I eventually discovered that I was in some kind of kitchen. The various pots and pans lined up on the shelves were my worst enemies here.

My senses calmed for a moment and I became certain that there was no threat in this room. This peace didn’t last long however, as right as my nerves started to calm that’s when I heard something, my heart leaped! A scream pierced through the air sharper than an arrow and twice as fast.

Despite the noise being slightly inhuman I immediately recognized the voice as Joldec’s. I quickly responded running through the main hall and then the door Joldec was seen last. During this time Kuna could be heard running to make his way back.

As I entered the room I became extremely cold. This was unlike anything that I had experienced before as this cold did not come naturally but instead from inside me, as if something unnatural was nearby. Looking into the next room I could tell it was some kind of bedchamber.

Upon entering the second room, I understood why Joldec had screamed out in terror. At first I saw Joldec standing in place seemingly frozen. Following his line of sight I saw a massive creature standing nearly eight feet tall. It’s skin had decayed off revealing loathsome bones. It’s skeletal eyes seeped a raw, blue magical energy and accompanying this was a sinister smile.

My first thought was to try and identify this monster but was unable to as terror had overridden my mind. I could only generate one thought, run. Luckily I was not frozen as Joldec was and moved to pull him out of this room. Just as I moved, so did the creature, lunging toward me with its arm reaching out. With luck on my side I was able to dodge out of the way and pull Joldec out of the room.

Passing through the living quarters I looked behind me and saw that the creature was still chasing after us. This only quickened my pace as we ran past Kuna. His expression quickly faded from confusion to terror as he was what pursued us. All three of us dashed to the main entrance and attempted to close the doors behind us. Just as we slammed the doors the creature shoved it’s elongated skeletal hand through the doorway preventing it from closing.

The three of us pressed on the door with all of our might hoping to somehow force the creature back. Seeing all the commotion we were making, Fothesk and Birud ran over and started pushing on the door as well despite not know what was behind it.

Without saying a word Kuna then drew his sword and brought it down on the hand as we held it at bay. However, as his trike connect an explosion occurred sending all of us flying backwards. For a moment I thought I had died. My entire body was aching, my head was pounding, I even felt as if I was lost a tremendous amount of blood. Coming to my senses moments later I found that death did not accompany me but feared it soon would.

The creature was now hovering off the ground giving it a total height of ten feet, I looked around and saw the rest of my comrades laying on the ground in terror. As we stared at this creature we heard deep laughter coming from it’s mouth. But this laughter was different as it seemed to be coming from all directions. I was in shock, unable to move, the pitch of the laughter deepened until finally, this creature said it’s first words. “No one will ever know that you died here…”

“Everyone get your arses up and run!” Yelled Joldec. His sudden command seemed to bring us all back to life. We all got to our feet and started running the direction that we had come from. As we were running we saw a sight almost more terrifying than the creature itself. The previous townsfolk started running from their homes but they were transformed. The skin of these men and women had also been rapidly stripped off leaving only their skeletons. Something told me they had some kind of connection to the creature because they had the same magical energy pouring from their eyes as well. As they got closer they were ready to attack us, moving with a near superhuman speed. There was no way we could outrun them and Joldec realized this as well.

“Everyone form a defensive formation!” Commanded Joldec. Looking behind us I could see that we seemed to have lost the original creature we encountered in the town hall. Rukis and Birud took the front line and braced their pikes; Me, Kuna, and Joldec behind them with our swords at the ready; and Fothesk behind us all firing his arrows at the approaching enemy.

Looking at the attacking force I noticed about fifteen different figures were about to attack us. It came to mind that we were extremely outnumbered so I could only hope that their performance in combat was lacking. Then dread fell over me as I realized that this town must have had almost one hundred people, so this fight would not be the last.

As they came closer we all grew anxious, but more so in Rukis than the rest of us. Joldec noticed this as well, he grabbed Rukis by the shoulder and said, “This will not be the end boy. Fight them with everything you have and it shall be their corpses upon the ground, not yours.” The enemy was now only twenty feet away, ten feet away from our pikes, when they suddenly threw various hatchets and daggers into our small ranks. This took us all by surprised but luckily I was able to deflect the missiles that came at me, I did not have time to assess if everyone else was okay before the impact.

Their behavior in battle was drastically different than the goblins I had once encountered before. Even though goblins are savages, they share basic emotions with us. The biggest one in battle is the fear of death. They would waiver in front of a shield line, keep their distance while engaging an enemy, and would even retreat if they believed they could not win. This was not a mercy granted to us by these skeletal warriors. Any emotions they once had were completely stripped from them. When they engaged you, they did not relent, they did not even move in a defensive manner. All they would do is assault and continue to strike over and over again until either you or them had perished.

Because of their blind rage, two of them had run directly into the pikes offered by Rukis and Birud and the magical essence seemed to fade from their eyes, afterwards they did not move. But the rest f them poured over, striking our shields and flanking poor Rukis and Birud. I came out from behind my shield to find one reeling back to strike, but I stabbed into it’s chest before it could take the opportunity. I then saw Joldec push back against the enemies with three skeletons striking against his shield. I saw no fear in Joldecs eyes, only the fire of a true warrior as he pushed them all away and struck them down one by one before they could even push back. This inspired me greatly causing me to fight against these creatures with the same brave spirit.

Unfortunately I do not think our comrades shared this valor that was within me and Joldec as Kuna simply braced behind his shield, Birud was dodging his enemies trying to disengage them, and Rukis had fallen back behind Kuna. Behind us Fothesk was fighting just as strong with nearly every arrow striking a foe. Me and Joldec broke free from the enemy formation and attacked them from their flank allowing us to eliminate a great number of them. When only three remained it was only then I saw Kuna come out from his shield and attempt to fight them. Somewhere between the all clashing of steel Birud had been struck my one of these creatures and fell to the ground mortally wounded.

At last for one moment there was peace, it took a moment for all of us to really soak it all in. But then urgency came right back to us as we had realized that Birud lay upon the ground. We all rushed over to him in a panic. Upon examining his wounds I saw that they were great as he was bleeding profusely. I felt a strange emotion, some kind of mixture of anger and sympathy.

“C’mon let’s get him inside, we need to tend to his wounds.” Said Joldec is a calming voice, something gave me the impression that he has done this before. Me and Fothesk picked up poor Birud and started carrying him to the nearest home. I saw Rukis seemingly in shock slowly follow behind us. “Wait here, we’ll make sure the coast is clear.” Joldec said. Him and Kuna went into the home.

We waited outside to hear back from them. The house was small and we heard no commotion yet so I only expected good news. I realized in this moment that Birud had been surprisingly calm this entire time. While he did groan from his wounds he did not scream in agony. In my experience wounded men are not quiet, maybe he was doing it for our sake so more enemies would not find us.

Kuna poked his head through the main door. “Coast is clear, bring him inside we’ve prepared a table.” We entered the home and to my surprise it was still very well put together. We brought him to the dining table and laid him down. It was at this time that Fothesk starting tending to his wounds with his medical kit.

Rukis could not bear to be in the room as he was too afraid. he left and waited in one of the bedrooms. Since the emotion in the room was calm for now, Joldec left to attend to him.

“That little man is pathetic.” Said Kuna with frustration in his voice.

“Are you serious? The fact that he has fled or gone mad yet should be a testament to his strength!” I said in response.

“That man cowered from the enemy! As far as I’m concerned Birud’s condition is his fault.”

“If I recall correctly you didn’t exactly raise your blade in defense of your comrades either!”

“Both of you calm yourselves!” Fothesk interrupted, “These wounds are unlike anything I’ve seen before and you’re making me uneasy. I need total focus if I’m to help this man.”

Kuna became angry yet silent, he stood with his arms folded surveying the situation.

“What do you mean unlike anything you’ve seen before? I know the weapons they used are rudimentary but the wounds should be similar to those caused by any other weapon.” I said.

“It’s strange. While the physical wound itself it standard there’s something else. It almost looks like some kind of oil.”

“You mean pitch?”

“No, here come take a look at this.” I came closer and examined what Fothesk was referencing to. He was right, the wound itself was deep and jagged but not uncommon among battlefield wounds. Fothesk had cleaned the wound very well as it had stopped pouring blood. But among the dried blood and flesh there was a turquoise oil that almost seemed to glow in the darkness.

“This is most definitely unlike anything I’ve seen before.” I said.

“Exactly. You’re a learned man, anything you’ve read of match what we’re up against here?” I had to think for a moment. This was obviously the work of some kind of necromancy.

“I’m not sure, if I had to guess I’d say this was the work of a necromancer. But no necromancer could ever become powerful enough to summon what was in the mead hall. Besides that creature acted with autonomy, all necromancer spawn are similar to golems in that they cannot act on their own.”

“I know this is a scary thought.” Fothesk responded, “But what if the creature we found in that mead hall was in the place of the necromancer.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well you say a necromancer could never summon that thing but what if it wasn’t summoned? What if that thing summoned the skeletons we fought?”

“That’s nonsense!” Kuna added, “Nothing in our world could live long enough to look like that!”

“Well, maybe not.” I said.

“You’re saying there’s something in the world that could live longer than the flesh on it’s bones?” Fothesk asked. At this moment I noticed Birud’s complexion was slowing turning very pale despite Fothesk cleaning the wound properly.

“We’ll there’s old stories of sorcerers, usually necromancers, so powerful they could turn themselves undead. They would sacrifice all of their humanity and soul in exchange for eternal existence. These creatures are called Liches.”

“Why would they do that?” Kuna asked.

“Well so that they could use their powers in this realm forever. See when wizards die they do not lose their magical abilities but more often than not the plane they are sent to has powers much stronger than them. But if you were to live in the material plane — “

“Material plane?” Kuna asked again.

“The world we live in, instead of other planes of existence.” Kuna seemed to understand, “If they live here forever not only could they already be powerful in this world and could grow their power, their undeath would allow them to put forward schemes that could last longer than the average lifetime.”

“So what in the God’s is this thing planning? Why would it take over this meaningless town?” Kuna asked in anger.

“I… I do not know. It could be another step in a bigger plot orchestrated by this Lich.”

“Wait a moment.” Fothesk said, “If Liches exists then why have I never heard of them?”

“Well that’s because they usually live in secret and don’t reveal themselves. That’s why this one seems adamant on killing us.”

Suddenly Birud starting coughing excessively, so much so that he almost flew off the table. Me and Fothesk held him down. His complexion grew white as snow and the veins in his face turned black as onyx. Kuna stepped back for a moment and drew his blade.

“What in the hells are you doing!” I yelled, “Help us hold him down!” Kuna said or did nothing, his expression looked as if he was about to fight an enemy.

Joldec came running into the room, “What’s going on in here?” He first asked before he saw Birud. He quickly assisted us in holding him down. While faint I noticed the same magical essence in Birud’s eyes that we saw in the skeletons. Looking back for a moment I saw Kuna was growing even more anxious.

Then Birud became violent. He grabbed Joldec’s sword from his scabbard and started swinging wildly. Fothesk was hit in the shoulder and fell down onto the ground. Immediately afterwards Kuna ran between me and Joldec and stabbed Birud through the chest. Birud stopped still for a moment, then became limp and fell backwards. The essence in his eyes had disappeared and became lifeless.

“What in the hell was that!” Joldec demanded.

“He was violent! I wasn’t going to let him kill all of us.”

“Actually I’m quite alright.” Fothesk added, “Luckily my armor took the blow.” I looked around the room and saw Rukis standing silent off the side with tears running down his face.

“We’ve had plenty of troubles in this town so far and we definitely don’t need to start killing each other!” Joldec yelled, “I should cut you down right where you stand!”

“Then do it!” Kuna yelled back, “But I did the right thing and you know it! If we had let him keep going he could have killed all of us!”

“It doesn’t matter that he became violent! We could have restrained him! Locked him in room by himself! Did whatever we had to do until we could get him further aid!” I agreed with Joldec on this matter. Birud was a good friend of mine and we could have saved him. Curses such as this can always be reversed through divine magic. Regardless of my opinion I stayed silent.

“He had a weapon! He already struck Fothesk before I intervened!” Kuna said.

“That sword of yours is meant only for the enemy, not for the sick!”

“Enough!” Rukis yelled. Both of them grew quiet, most likely out of surprise. “A man just lost his life today. We need to be mournful and not turn on each other. Now what can we do to give him a proper farewell?”

Fothesk then said, “I believe according to his religion it’s customary to send his corpse off to sea with a golden coin under his tongue.”

“I have a golden coin.” I said, “But we’re miles away from the nearest body of water and even further from the sea.”

“That’ll have to be enough then.” Joldec said somberly. He took the golden coin from me and applied it under his tongue. “I hope his God’s will appreciate our effort given the circumstance.”

“God’s are demanding but not unreasonable.” I said, “Our petty offerings should still be recognized by his deities.”

“It’s official then.” Fothesk said. He then kneeled down, the rest of us followed. “Birud, I send you soul away from this burdensome life. May you find safe harbor among your kinsmen.” We all remainedlike this for a moment. The feeling in the room was peaceful but mournful. We all knew Birud personally and had a high opinion of him. He was a strange man from the north and he didn’t talk much. But he was just as good of a friend as he was a soldier. I found myself holding back tears as we waited in that room together.

One by one we all walked out of the room into the entryway with Rukis leaving last. As we gathered together Joldec said, “Now we just have to figure out how the rest of us will get out of here. With the sun setting I say we rest here for the night and then make a break for it out of the town early in the morning just as the sun rises.”

“You want to just run out there?” Kuna said, “If this Lich can turn people undead we have to assume that the entire population of the town will fight us. Now this town isn’t that big but it’s more than enough to get us all killed!”

“I know that! That’s why we have to rely on our haste.”

“Haste alone won’t do it! They run with inhuman speed, they’ll cut us down before we get anywhere!”

“Well maybe not.” I said.

“What do you mean?” Kuna replied.

“Well they haven’t attacked us in this home yet, it’s possible they don’t know where we are. If we can keep that surprise we might be able to get far enough away where their speed won’t matter.”

“That’s idiotic! It doesn’t matter how far ahead we get. They don’t grow tired and run faster than us. I’m willing to bet they’ll follow us as long as they have to in order to kill us. It’s like you said, Liches don’t want to be found.” For the first time I agreed with Kuna completely as his logic was very sound.

“Well what if we were to sneak out of the town?” Rukis said

“I’m not going to take tactical advise from some half-elf bastard!” Kuna replied.

“Don’ t let your prejudice cloud your judgement!” Fothesk said. “Stealth might be our only option here. Now humble yourself and listen.”

“What did you have in mind, Rukis?” Joldec asked.

“Well, if Vurkol is right and they don’t know we’re here then we might be able to sneak out before they’re able to track us down. Vurkol, do skeletons have an ability to see in the dark?”

Luckily due to my studies I immediately knew the answer, “They do yes, and the Lich might as well. However, this only allows them to see about 50 feet away.”

“Well in the darkness we can’t see at all.” Kuna said.

“Well we might not need it.” Fothesk said, “We have sense enough to navigate in the dark until we’re out of the town. But they’re going to need their eyes to find us.”

“That’s true.” Joldec said. “I think stealth is the best way to proceed. I want all of you to rest for a few hours until we reach midnight. Then we’ll start moving.”

Luckily this home had two separate bedrooms. Me and Rukis shared one while Fothesk and Joldec shared the other. Kuna insisted on keeping watch. As we laid in the bed I could tell Rukis was greatly troubled by the events of today, to be honest so was I but I believe he was affected more than me. I looked at him and said “Rukis, tell me what’s on your mind.”

He stayed silent for a moment and then quietly said. “What do you think happened to Kuna that caused him to be so angry?” I actually did know the answer to this. As I recall Kuna served in the last great battle at the end of the war against the Elves. During this battle nearly his entire company was slaughtered and with this all of his friends. It also didn’t help that we lost this battle as well as the war.

“War can be a lot of stress on the mind of a man Rukis. Strong men become weak, men with high morals become impure, and nice men grow bitter.”

“Do you think that’ll happen to us?”

“Just because horrible things happen to you doesn’t mean it has to change you, Rukis. When we survive this you should not let it define you.”

“You were in combat before this right?”

“I was.”

“Did you lose anybody?”

Thinking back the only person I knew of was a soldier in my company. I knew of him but he did not have a strong influence in my life. “There was only one man in the fighting that I actually knew. While many soldiers on our side had died he was the only one I recognized.”

“Did you know Birud?”

The question stunned me for a moment, I guess it hadn’t quite sunk into me yet that he had died. “I did yes, he was a very good man. He was quiet but always the first to back you up. He filled gaps no other man had the courage to fill.”

Rukis stayed silent for a moment, a strange emotion I did not recognize filled the air. “It’s my fault that he had died.”

I didn’t know what to say; to be quite honest it may have been his fault. If Rukis had not fled then it’s possible that Birud may have not have stuck but then again, perhaps not.

“Sometimes horrible things happen for no reason Rukis.” He turned and looked at me, “Sometimes terrible men or unfortunate circumstances are beyond our control. Birud was struck down because the world is cruel and combat unforgiving. Sometimes fate does not allow good men to survive the storm.” This seemed to comfort Rukis a little even if I didn’t believe it to be true myself. “Now c’mon, we should get some rest.”

I turned around and started to get some sleep. At this moment I realized that despite all of the adrenaline and turmoil that I was exhausted. My mind quickly started to drift off to more pleasant places and before I knew it I was sound asleep.

My dreams allowed me to escape this dire situation for but just a moment. I was back at my homestead and I could smell something delightful being made in the kitchen. I found myself in my study which is where I was usually found. I turned around and I saw in vivid detail my odd decorations in the room. Among fine portraits and elegant carving work there was found various weaponry and camping gear. I remembered this time of how dearly I wanted to go out and explore the world just like in the stories I would read; I wanted to be an adventurer. My dream was filled with sorrow as I suddenly realized that I had gotten exactly what I wanted.

My brief illusion was shattered as my eyes opened to soft knock at the door. I rose and opened it to find Joldec at the ready.

“It’s time. Pack only the essentials and get ready to move.” I grabbed my sword and scabbard and went to grab my backpack. I realized my backpack was full of almost everything that I owned at the time and because of this it was very big and clunky. Looking through it I took only the things I would need. These things were a small amount of rations, my waterskin, and my journal. Leaving everything else behind I walked out of the door with Rukis right behind me.

Walking out I saw that Birud’s body was still atop the kitchen table but he did not smell as if he was decomposing. I was unsure if this was an effect of the magic he had succumb to or if we were simply lucky enough to be spared this discomfort. I walked to the main entry where I saw Joldec, Fothesk, and Kuna at the ready.

“Alright everybody pay attention.” Joldec said quietly, “Fothesk just came back from doing a small amount of scouting and he believes he’s found the quickest way out. We’ll be stick on his tail unless I say otherwise.” Everyone nodded in understanding.

We all fell in line behind Fothesk and he slowly opened the door which let out a subtle creak. As the door was opened a wave of dread came over me as I realized that one small mistake could mean all of us being killed. I trusted Fothesk’s and Joldec’s stealth abilities as I had also trusted my own. But Kuna was a big man and slightly uncoordinated and Rukis has not yet had the opportunity to prove himself in this regard. I calmed myself by thinking that I will simply do the best I can and hope the rest do so as well.

Fothesk stepped through the door and proceeded forward with Joldec directly behind him. We started walking down the narrow cobblestone road. I didn’t have any familiarity with the area to know where we were and felt more lost as ever.

We started sneaking through the town at an extremely slow pace. As we made our way through the town there was a close encounter with a skeletal warrior. Paying close attention to their behavior I noticed that they seemed to be out patrolling and while doing this they let out a raspy hiss.

As we started approaching the outskirts of town we gathered behind a fenced in house. Fothesk instructed us to remain here as he scouted backwards a little to ensure we were not being followed. While he was gone I could hear the same hiss as I heard before nearby as one of the skeletons was coming closer.

We all ducked down and began looking for places to hide, I chose my hiding space as laying down up against the fence. While I laid there I heard the hissing getting louder and louder, I knew it was nearing. Laying there, I saw the same blue essence start spilling out from over the fence. Looking up the skeleton was right above me but somehow did not see that I was there, instead peering over my hiding place looking into the backyard.

After realizing that this creature had not seen me I started to feel a little bit of relief, hoping he didn’t see my friends. But that all vanished as I heard a commotion in the backyard.

Kuna had revealed himself from his hiding place behind the bushes and began charging. The skeleton straightened its neck in his direction as the power in its eyes grew brighter. It let out a sound I could never forget, like a snake attacking its pray. Below the sound was almost deafening. I immediately knew that anything in this town would have heard it. Kuna decapitated the skeleton but the screeching did not stop.

I stood up to find the skull on the ground with the glow in its eyes, still letting out the same inhuman hiss. Looking to my side Kuna was stunned having never seen anything like this before. Just then Fothesk came running around the corner. When he saw the skull upon the ground his first reaction was to stomp on it. This act finally relieved us of the screams. Looking up at us he yelled, “Run!”

We all began running away from the town almost in unison. Running faster than ever before I looked ahead and saw that we would soon reach the forest. I was hoping that these creatures would lose track of us in there. However, hope diminished as when I turned back and saw that a large group of skeletons pursuing us.

As we entered the forest Kuna yelled, “Those things will soon be slashing our backs! We can’t outrun them forever!”

Joldec was ahead of us, he stopped causing us to fall in behind him. He then turned back towards us and said, “Then I will run back and slow them down.”

“What! You can’t, that’s suicide!” I protested.

Joldec walked up to me, put his arm on my shoulder, and said, “This is the only way Vurkol. They are quicker than us and they will never tire. If I slow them down enough then you can lose them in the forest.”

I looked back at him. Joldec was a great friend of mine and I was overcome with sorrow so great that I would rather fight beside than lose him. As I came to accept this situation, a single tear started to roll down my cheek. Joldec reached into his pack and pulled out a sealed letter, looked at me, then said, “Make sure this finds a way back to my father.” The letter was pushed into my chest.

There were no more words to say, we both knew this. I simply nodded in respect. He drew his sword and started in the way of the enemy. Kuna ran off into the forest first with Rukis right behind him. I stood still looking behind me as Joldec ran to save us at the cost of his own life. Fothesk pulled on my arm yelling, “C’mon we have to go!” We went further into the forest.

Running behind Fothesk with Joldec’s letter clutched in hand, the image of him and his sacrifice haunted my mind. While running I heard fighting behind us, Joldec could be heard taunting the enemy. The fighting continued for as long as I could hear.

When we finally reached a place of safety we slowed down. Kuna looked back at me and said, “What in the God’s name was that place called again?”

Thinking back on everything we had been through, I responded facing away, “It wasn’t called anything. I’m sure the locals had a name for it but to us, it knows no name. And it never will.”

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