From the top of the hill, I could see the ocean laid out in front of us. In the distance, there were tall peaks, some of them further back looked a little more man-made and rounded. It was difficult to make out exactly what they were since they were so far in the distance.
Surprisingly, a lot of Pact members were beginning to occupy the area. The ruins not too far from us were apparently converted in to a place of Pact operations. This meant that the roads directly in front of us were clear. I was really relieved at this discovery. I had built up my courage to even leave the camp and get this far. That dead land in the distance, though, was more than discouraging.
“Second thoughts, huh?” Angel pointed her face down towards me. I couldn’t tell if she was mocking me or genuine.
I shook my head, “Nothing as grand as that. Well, maybe a little, but after Tobih’s speech it might be disappointing to go back now.” I joked a little and cast him a smile; like always, he returned it to me. That smile had been growing on me for a while and I now made excuses to see it, though I’d never let on.
“We should just get in and out as quickly as possible,” Ragnvaldr responded, “This place doesn’t feel right.” Worry rang in his words and the norn continued to survey the land. He didn’t trust the empty roads and I knew that just as well.
“We should play a game to keep our spirits up,” Tobih suggested.
“What would you suggest?” I replied, knowing that the other two probably wouldn’t respond to his child-like gesture.
He cupped his chin with his hand and thought for a bit. “Hmmmm.” He would occasionally make that sound and cock his head from one side to the other. “How abouuuut… I spy?”
I laughed, “Is that all you could come up with?”
“Kiffi usually comes up with these things,” He laughed as well while scratching his head.
“What if we play that game where one person says one word and the next person in line has to say another word using the last letter of the word spoken before them?” It was the best I could come up with, even though I had already teased him about his.
“I’ve never played that one before,” Tobih responded, “But it sounds fun.”
“Are these common human games?” Ragnvaldr asked us, but directed the question mainly at me.
I shrugged, “I think so. I Spy is something a lot of kids play on long trips. To be honest, I’m not sure if I’ve ever played it, or seen anyone play it personally.”
Tobih pointed to Angel, who was on the very left side of us, “So she’ll say a word first, then I’ll say a word using the last letter of her word, right?” I nodded. “Then you will say a word using the last letter of my word.” I nodded again. “When Ragnvaldr does the same, Angel will use his word?”
“That’s how it goes. Does everyone understand?” Ragnvaldr and Tobih nodded, but Angel crossed her arms. Tobih put his hand against the top of her arm and looked up to her.
“You should play, too.” That’s all he had to do before she unfolded her arms and shook her head.
“Alright, alright, I’ll play your game. Since I’m first, I choose the word ‘Sword'”. I figured that Tobih could nearly get her to do anything for him.
“Deer.” Tobih said.
“Rabbit.” I responded
“Teacher.” Was Ragnvaldr’s word.
“Realization.” “Note.” “Eve.” “Extra.”
“This is boring. We will never run out of words to use.” Angel complained.
“Why don’t we narrow it down by keeping it related to a specific topic,” I suggested to her, “This time we’ll try using food as our basis. It has to be a food.”
“Steak,” Angel’s word was up first again.
Tobih, however, was stuck on his letter. After about two minutes of thinking he told us, “I really can’t think of anything.” Angel leaned over and whispered something in his ear. He then suddenly spoke up with a word, probably not of his own, “Kebab!”
I held back a chuckle and smiled at Angel instead, who crossed her arms again and looked away. “You’re next,” She growled at me, “Unless you can’t think of a word either.” I was grateful that she was trying to be a better person to him. Most of the time she kept her distance from us, but when she was with Tobih, she did make an effort. Before I was aware of it, I found myself trusting her a bit more again.
“Burger.” My word was next.
“Rosemary.” Ragnvaldr’s followed.
“Yams.” Angel replied, “Even though they’re completely disgusting.”
“I completely agree,” I tacked on. Tobih nodded his head in agreement and we all faced Ragnvaldr.
“I’ll just keep that in mind,” Ragnvaldr responded but it was clear that he liked them.
Angel gave him a strange look, “I can not believe you can eat those things.”
“They’re best in a soup or just mashed up,” He tried to defend himself.
He wasn’t in luck, though. “Ooooh, that’s just gross!” Angel scrunched up her face. Tobih couldn’t help it and the laughter he and I were trying to hold back just spilled forth. “You two agree don’t you?!”
“Of course, but,” I was trying to talk through my laughter, “But just the way you’re talking about it.” I tried to straighten myself back out, “It’s really funny. You’re so great.” She unscrunched her face but the one she was making now wasn’t much better. Angel seemed confused but accepting of my words at the same time. She shook her head to herself and focused her eyes on the path ahead. We were walking next to a stream that ran alongside the road. With how much I had heard about the undead in Orr, I never thought I’d still see life this close to it. Small frogs jumped rock to rock; I was mesmerized by them and had lost the conversation between everyone.
Even life could exist here. The greenery of the land and the skyscraping trees that dotted the land was a stark contrast to the horizon I had seen earlier. Life was still here.
Ragnvaldr tapped my shoulder to bring my attention to a narrow natural bridge we were now crossing. The stream had turned into a short waterfall that visibly lead to the sea now. I crossed just after Ragnvaldr did, who watched my step the entire way across. Tobih and Angel joined soon after and we faced again towards our route.
What lay not too far ahead of us was a large construct, something like a building that wasn’t quite finished. There were many people working on it as well as many guards trying to fight off the risen. It was the first time I had seen a risen in person. They appeared waterlogged, a blue-green hue to their rotting skin. A few of them seemed to be made up of different parts, as if a female leg had been sewn onto the body of a dead man. Their mouths gaped and didn’t seem to have a lot of function left to it; their lips were pitch-black. While these had been people before, it didn’t feel as if they were now. Some of them spoke to the others a sort of war cry, rallying one or two more to their destructive cause.
They looked like they belonged to the sea that they scrambled out of.