I stared at the ground, finding ridges in the mud that barely caught my attention. We all kept our weapons out just in case we were attacked. We were sometimes, but nothing like the swarm we had seen before. It was as if the risen were going about the daily lives that they had left behind. Tattered noble-like clothed risen walked the same streets we did. When their eyes landed on us, it was as if they were suddenly transformed. Usually it was Angel who took care of them. I was only used to burn the bodies one by one as we passed them by. It was a small repetitive task that kept me busy physically, but what I really needed was something or someone to occupy me mentally. The smaller group was quieter though.
We arrived at a split in our path. There were two roads before us.
“Which do we take?” Tobih asked Angel, who took this question into serious consideration. I stared at the paths that split underneath the stone arch. This area must have been a beautiful crossroad before it fell. My eyes followed each of the paths for as long as I could see them.
She leaned against her sword, “I don’t know. We need to go west, but they both go that way.”
It must have been because I was shorter, I could see through one of the windows in the buildings ahead that the right path curved towards the north. “We should take the left one.” What I really wanted was to just leave this place that was forsaken by the gods.
“Why is that?” Angel responded, facing me directly now. The blood caked into her hair had dried, I noticed. I wondered how long we had been out here since the attack.
“The right path goes to the north just beyond here.” I drew out the path with my finger.
“Good catch I guess.” She picked her sword back up and took the path I had suggested.
Tobih walked beside me. “She isn’t so good with compliments, huh?” I think he was trying to lighten the mood.
“I can hear you, you know,” Angel grumbled and leered back at us.
‘But I’m glad she’s trying.” Tobih gazed her way and smiled. He was using his staff as a walking stick of sorts. The bottom of it hit the ground periodically. Mine, however, didn’t have a flat enough bottom to press it against the ground in such a manner.
“I don’t know how to feel about that either,” She place a hand on her hip and held up her sword with the other. I was grateful for the banter. It wasn’t bringing him back to me any quicker or making this a safer place but it still gave me less time to think about it. Her pose didn’t last long. A single undead woman stumbled out from behind a decayed tree. It probably only just had the chance to hear us before Angel had already struck it down.
I pulled the flames right from the inner being of myself and the staff and cradled it onto the motionless undead body. It never took right away so I had to do this a few more times before the body would begin to burn. I felt like the fire was getting weaker. I didn’t want to tell my friends that.
Night was falling quickly. It would be dangerous to stay out past this dying light. The more we looked, though, the more we realized that there was no place safe enough to rest. We turned the corner and the road ahead was bathed in a faint light. To the left of us stood braziers as tall as buildings. Blue flames rest inside; they lit up an even larger statue.
“Balthazar, god of fire and war.” I stopped for a moment to take in what I could see of the statue from the bottom of the cliffs, “Do you think anyone is up there?”
“Those flames would draw undead for miles. We should steer clear of a place that showy.” Angel stopped walking as well and lowered her bloody weapon for the first time in quite a while.
“Yeah.” Tobih stopped as well and agreed with Angel. I nodded because I came to understand as well.
We continued walking after that brief moment. I couldn’t help but feel a sort of connection to the statue. It was as if the image had burned into my mind. Though the flames felt off, they also felt inviting. I thought about the human gods a lot while we walked. If they hadn’t of left us, would things still be this way?
Tobih grabbed Angel’s arm and spoke softly, “Is that a cave?”
“Let’s go check it out,” She responded. We cautiously walked through the soft light and finally into the darkness. My staff provided some light, but it was visibly dimmer. My weapon and I had to share the power between us. It was a way to channel my magic, but in order to properly hold that magic, it had to have some magic of its own. As I became more tired and less aware, the magic that flowed within it would start to lessen. It would eventually only carry its own magic until I could focus mine through it again.
Tobih coughed a little as we arrived at the cave. Angel immediately hushed him and he covered his mouth with the sleeve beneath his armor. She motioned for me to step forward and provide light. A few risen shambled about inside. It didn’t look like they were doing anything particular other than slowly walking about. Angel waited until their backs were mostly turned and decided the short-lived battle with an ambush.
We scoped the place out. “There are a lot of openings and we can’t cover them all,” Angel chose a corner and set her things down, “but it will provide us some cover so we can start a small fire. We will need it to see.”
I followed her actions and put my bags down in the corner as well. The cave had a high ceiling so we actually could build a fire if we wanted. The number of openings in the rock system would provide even better ventilation.
“Lucky that we have a lot of driftwood around,” Angel said as she looked outside of the entrance we had arrived through.
“Can we really call these ships driftwood?” Tobih questioned and put his bags with ours.
“We can use them and that is what’s important.” She left the two of us there.
She came back a few minutes later. Tobih waited for her return by the entrance while I sat down next to our belongings. I spent that time thinking about Ragnvaldr. He was supposed to be here. I was supposed to protect him and he was going to protect me.