Sir Gregory used to say, “Every journey begins with a single step.”

“Thank the light I found you,” Trinsic explained as he approached Azoloth. “I thought for sure you’d been captured.”

“Trin! Where the hell have you been? You vanished when I set out. It’s probably a good thing we are both late arriving, though. I passed by a group of Royal Calvary on the way here who sounded like they might be searching for one of us, ” Azoloth stated. He did not tell Trinsic about his previous concerns.

“Ol’ Hamilton here couldn’t keep up with Stravos. If you had been paying attention, I fell behind rather quickly,” Trinsic said with a soft chuckle, “that is one hell of a horse you got there.”

“Sorry about that, after everything that happened, I just needed to ride.” 

“Don’t worry, I get it. Why don’t we go in and rest for a bit? We can discuss our plans and maybe even get a hot meal and a descent night’s rest.”

“No,” Azoloth replied instantly feeling guilty because he had done just that, “Staying here too much longer might be dangerous. If that Calvary is seeking us along this road, they  might be back.”

“Oh, come on, it has been one hell of a day and I need something to drink at the very least,” Trinsic countered.

“No,” Azoloth said again, but more firmly. “You can stay here if you want, I am heading out right now,” Azoloth would love to stay at the the inn, yet he knew they could not. Already that cancerous burning ball of green and black light rose into the air. However, he realized the danger in staying in one place too long. The last thing he needed was to be stopped and questioned by the Royal Calvary. They might not be Knights, but they could see their nose in front of their face.

Azoloth pulled himself up onto Stravos’ back and began to head south east towards Nezbin. He smiled to himself a few moments later when he heard the sound of Trinsic catching up to him.

“Asshole,” is all Trinsic said as he caught up to Azoloth, to which Azoloth laughed. After a few long moments Trinsic spoke again “So why Nezbin?”

“We have to do something Trin, but going straight to the capitol would be a death sentence. I figured we could hide out in Nezbin, maybe even find some people to help us,” Replied Azoloth.

“Help us do what? You are not actually planning to try to go to the Capitol… and what? Try to overthrow the Queen? You have to be joking,” Trinsic said with incredulity in his voice. 

“We swore an oath to protect the land and her people. It is our duty to confront the Queen about this betrayal…. Her and whatever is behind it all.”

“You’re serious aren’t you? Shit.”

“I am, and you should be too. You swore the same oath I did, “ Azoloth shot back at him.

Nothing was said for some time after that. The sickening green sun rose higher in the air, the moon between the friends dampening under its weight. 

“I’m with you, you should know that. Just… shit. We are gonna be riding to our deaths either way. Shit.” Trinsic finally said after many minutes of silence.

“Thanks Trin, I feel better knowing you are with me,” Azoloth replied. He still felt uneasy, but he wrote that off as the oppressing light of the sun shining down upon him. 

Azoloth heard a low deep groan from his side and he let out a soft chuckle “Oh come on Trin, it won’t be that bad.”

“That wasn’t me,” Trinsic said, looking around. 

Azoloth reacted faster, his hand shot to his sword, and he drew it out. The road they traveled was only about 5 feet wide. While they had enough room for two horses to move side by side, there was no room to maneuver. Spurring Stravos ahead so he would have room to maneuver, he turned in time to witness the first of the corpses emerge from the woods to the left. It’s pallid flesh was bloated and discolored. It had been a female in life, but so dirty and rotted little else was discernible.

Trinsic and Hamilton pulled back from the walking corpses. He shouted over to Azoloth, “The horses can out run them, lets meet up a few miles down the road.”

“No, we can’t just leave them here to kill the next poor traveler or attack the next village they come across,” Azoloth responded.

At least a dozen walking undead had emerged from the woods now. Azoloth swore under his breath, dismounting Stravos. With only his falchion and dagger, he would not be able to effectively strike at the Zombies from atop Stravos. The Knights were trained to dispatch hordes of the undead. Since the blast which had darkened the sun, the dead did not lie quietly. They cremated most bodies to prevent them from coming back, at least as Zombies. However, some always died away from civilization, those whose bodies were never recovered. These often rose up and wandered the world, somehow seeking each other out and forming hordes. A dozen would prove dangerous but manageable between two trained warriors.

While many of the Knights, Trinsic included preferred arming swords for their look, Azoloth had followed Sir Gregory’s advice and selected something more practical. His Falchion was only a single-bladed weapon, but thick and heavy. Yet the thickness of the blade, the strength of its spine, and its curve allowed it to more easily slice through many of the enemies the Knights regularly faced. This falchion was not as curved as some, the blade mostly strait with only the last quarter of the blade sweeping back. It featured a swept hilt to protect his hand, and while he would have preferred to have his shield as well, his dagger would suffice for this.

Yelling to draw their attention away from Trinsic, the horde slowly turned towards him. Crimson meanwhile knew his job well. He circled around, letting out that low bass rumble from deep within his chest. Darting forward then back, he caught the attention of at least three of the undead who moved rapidly towards him. Not all zombies were slow, it honestly depended on how rotted they were. Fresh zombies could be as fast as a man, yet most of these were desiccated and bloated. 

The woman approached him first. As she neared, he noticed her hair was blonde, one eye hung down along her cheek by tendrils of flesh from her eye socket. The other startlingly blue eyes stared back at him. He swore he could see the pain in those eyes. Many thought the reason the undead walked the land is that after death since the sun had been darkened there was nowhere for the soul to go. She lunged towards him as he drew his dagger, and he brought his falchion down upon her outstretched arm. She did not cry out as the blade bit into rotted flesh. He severed the arm cleanly and a stream of blood, puss, and worse things gushed out of the wound. The stench enough to make him retch as he retreated a step. 

His other arm reached out for him, and six more were following up behind her. The next move he made brought his sword up and across her throat in a quick motion. The blade bit in deeply but glanced off the spine. While he had not cut through the spine, there was enough damage that her rotted flesh pulled apart. Her head flipped over backwards, looking behind her now instead of at him. She tried to shuffle backwards towards the next target she could see, and that was Trinsic who was engaging two zombies. As she shuffled back, she bumped into another zombie and they fell into a third, all three ending up in a pile.

While they were busy Azoloth used the commotion to step up and his left hand came up with the dagger, he stepped by one zombie and brought the dagger up to his chest, touching it to his right shoulder then extending his arm suddenly, the dagger burying itself in the temple of the zombie he had stepped next too. Without a sound, that zombie slumped to the ground, his blade pulling free from it. In the time it took him to do that one of the other zombies, a large fat man lurched up beside him and grabbed his sword arm. He tried to pull away from it, but the zombie using all of its strength brought his arm up and tried to take a bite out of him. Contrary to popular opinion, being bitten by a zombie would not in fact make someone a zombie, yet it usually led to a nasty infection which killed the person… who if not cremated would then become a zombie. Luckily, the gambeson he wore stopped the bite. He flipped the dagger around in his hand and stabbed out one brown eye, the blade of his dagger slipping into the zombie’s brain. That zombie too fell to the ground, motionless. 

He was forced to retreat then as two of the zombies who had fallen had risen again, and the final one that had been left standing he faced now stumbled towards him. As he raised and readied his blade, he saw a massive black form moving, and Stravos was there. The trained war horse reared up and his powerful steel shod hooves came down crushing a zombie’s skull into nothing, then he reared back and brought his hind legs down crushing the female zombie under his back legs.

Crimson was growling and running, taunting the zombies who followed him. He did not have the tools to kill one of these things, however; fast enough to keep them busy.

Two of the zombies turned towards Stravos now, and Azoloth stepped up behind them. Two clean blows severed their heads from their bodies. With the back of their necks facing him, it was easy to sever the spines and put an end to the things. 

Glancing over to see how Trinsic faired, he saw him felling his second one and then moving to start picking off the ones chasing after Crimson. Smiling to himself Azoloth turned to the final zombie. It was a brief affair now that it was one on one. In a short while all of the zombies lay dead. Azoloth and Trinsic piled the bodies in the middle of the road and poured some oil from Azoloths saddle bag upon them, lighting it with flint and tinder. Burning the bodies was the most they could do for the fallen. 

Both men slumped down at the edge of the road, breathing heavily. The fight had only taken fifteen or twenty minutes, yet even conditioned as they were, the fight under the oppressing glare of the sun was tiring.

“Do you want to find a place to make camp and rest?” Trinsic inquired.

“No, not yet, we should push on, I would rather rest under the cool light of the Moon and not try to rest under this infernal glare, “ Azoloth replied. To this, Trinsic just nodded. He agreed it would be much more peaceful to seek their rest under the moon, better to stay alert during the day when dangers like these zombies were more likely to roam the land.

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