Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with another wonderful story from Themo Lock. This story follows on from the tale of Exodus, and is entitled
Background music “Fossil Evidence”, by Smartsound
The skeleton flailed its fleshless arms in what could easily be mistaken for frustration, bony feet clasped firmly by the tangle vines that tightened with every jerky movement. High above in the treetops a scout watched on in silent amusement as she packed a pipe from a pouch of mixed herbs. The tangle vines grew thick and fast in Lockbrier forest, nourished by the seemingly endless waves of undead that wandered from the ruins of Paxlair. It was these vines and the wiry brambles that shielded the town of Lockbrier from the madness and dangers of the outside world. Paxlair itself crawled with undead, a blanket of flies and rotting flesh that sleeplessly wandered through the rubble and ruins in an endless circular patrol. Nobody knew where they came from, they had just risen from the scorched earth shortly after the exodus of Paxlair two generations past, preventing reconstruction and driving the survivors to take refuge in the forest. Clearing the undead scourge had proven impossible, no matter how many were slain they would simply rise and take up arms again the following day. The elders theorised that some dark power had embedded itself like a tick into the heart of Paxlair, calling forth and lending power to the undead hoard, though what that power actually was remained unknown. It was the scouts job to wait and watch, looking for any unusual activity or clues that may aid in deciphering this century old mystery.
Bored with the spectacle below, the scout drew a dagger and carved her name into the sturdy branch that supported her weight, lit pipe between her teeth. “Ghella” a name she had inherited from her foster mother whom she now remembered fondly as she ran her fingertips over the carved letters. Her attention was caught by a glimmer in the distance as the midday sun reflected off metal, off to the west something was moving along the edge of the tree-line. The scout capped her pipe and raised a spyglass to her eye, scanning the distant tree-line with peaked interest. Crouched in the under brush, she counted a party of eight men, seven clad in heavy armour and the eighth draped in the robes of a mage. Ghella did not recognise them as locals and wondered at their intentions, the perils of Paxlair was clear to see in the light of day. The scout’s grip on her perch tightened as the mage raised his arms and glowed with arcane energy, the nearby undead noticed immediately and lumbered towards the party like a rotting tidal wave. A thunderclap split the air as lightning forked out from the mage’s outstretched hands, dropping a dozen or more of the lead skeletons as the ironclad warriors locked shields and braced for impact. Explosions tore through the ranks of the undead as the fallen skeletons detonated like powder kegs, the party slowly advanced under cover of the mage, expertly dropping foe after foe. Ghella almost cried out in amazement as the very ground surrounding the party rumbled and violently shook, obliterating countless undead where they stood like so many twigs. The men were gaining ground, Ghella could not believe what she was seeing, eight men were slaying what had to be hundreds of living dead and pushing slowly but surely towards the city centre. A fire elemental now floated alongside the men, lighting up the ground behind them with rising flames as they advanced. Could it be that this party would accomplish what the Lockbrier militia had failed to do so many times? Could these men be the saviours of Paxlair?
An unearthly scream rang out from somewhere within the city and the warriors halted and looked back at the mage. Rays of dark energy leaped from the ruins of the fallen city and enveloped the party of adventurers, dropping them to their knees. Ghosts, dozens of them fed at range from the shadowy ruins of the city and the panicked mage now went on the defensive as he struggled to revitalise the fading health of his men. Something else emerged from the ruins, a huge lich the likes of which Ghella had never seen glided forward, flanked by two of its kind. The creature pointed at the prone warriors and cackled as once more, the undead masses surged forward. There was no stopping them this time and Ghella looked away as the party was overrun. Below her the skeleton had become aware of her presence and now screeched and clawed at the air in a frenzy, still firmly rooted in place. Ghella’s heart skipped a beat as in the distance, the undead army turned and stared directly at her position. The scout dropped her spyglass in a panic and rose to her feet, it was time to leave. Nimbly jumping from branch to branch, she made her way back into the safety of the deep forest towards the town of Lockbrier. For the first time in years she had something to report.