Time stands still outside Arcadia. The adjoining landscape of grass and wood was blissfully unaware of the nightmare held within its walls. It was a refreshing change from waking up to bloodcurdling screams.
Nonetheless we weren’t taking any chances. Walking by the day and laying in wait at night lest we encounter any undead escapees from paradise recently lost. Days become nights become days. An endless cycle of the mundane. Rather than indulge my demonic companion in meaningless banter I preferred the sound of silence. After all, it could read my mind anyway. So I rather not bother.
We were close to the shores and a boat to take us to our destination. The spire in the middle of the ocean. Just as I was growing accustomed to this unexpected lull, fate felt the need for me to humour her.
It was daybreak. The ground was strewn with fresh tracks, as if a caravan were en-route to Arcadia from the northern kingdom. Reaching this conclusion was easy as a little ahead, we saw the aforementioned carriage. Albeit decimated. Smashed to smithereens, littered with newly made corpses which were a moments ago, living breathing people.
Suddenly the bright sky lost its light and the woodland air turned stale. The freshly deceased began to twitch. This did not bode well.
“Go hide now”
“Is that how you treat guests in your realm, mortal?”
“It’s been nearly a week since we’ve trodded this path. You haven’t said a word let alone inquire of my name. Quite inhospitable of you.”
“Now is not the ti-”
The words were cut short as my body was struck by calamitous force. It felt as if being throw off a cliff by a giant troll. The pain was blinding.
Before I could gather myself or my senses, a black cloaked figure stepped into my vision, walking around each of the dead, invoking a strange chant and bringing them back to life in a way my blade is quite familiar with.
I drew my sword and stood my ground as these newly minted monsters circled me, felling them one by one. Steel meeting bone. A tumultuous marriage of glaive and gristle. Dark blood spewed unchecked like water bursting from a broken dam. Gibs and sinew peppered these once untouched grounds of tranquility, drenching the green grass with shades of murky black.
So much for time standing still outside Arcadia. For even here, death and pestilence followed. The first moment of this endless hell seemed like a lifetime ago and the apparent period of rest, a fever dream.
All this while, the mysterious cloaked figure shielded this part of the woods from the sun, allowing his automatons to go about their mindless carnage.
They all met a gristly end by my hand, till only this destroyer of light, this necromancer if you may, remained. With his army obliterated, daylight returned to the forest, his purpose served.
The robed enigma spoke,“What brings you here oh, Chance of the Brotherhood?”.
These were last words I heard before a cobalt bolt hit me. It wasn’t pain but absolute stasis. Movement and speech were impossible as this foul trickster came closer. His wizened face rife with the marks of satanic ritual.
He knew my name.
I too knew his as one of the yellow bellies of the council who fled Arcadia at the very first hint of despair. His true purpose now revealed. Inching closer, knife in hand, ready to deliver the killing blow.
In a way, it was embarrassing. Having defeated hordes of monstrosities only to die in the hands of a conjuror and a coward. As he was about to deliver the coup de grâce, the little girl possessed by powers beyond her ken rose and stood between the dagger and my chest.
“What? A mere child dare defy my will?”, he bellowed.
She folded her hands around the sharp edge of the blade, blood trickling from her palms as she retorted, “The will of pretenders rarely stand in the way of gods or demons.”
Her eyes glowed red. We were bathed in white light. Our nemesis was reduced to ashes.
I was free from his spell. Before I could get up she loomed over me and said, “It took the death of a peddler of parlour tricks for me to know your name, Chance.”
“And yours is?”, is all I could muster, still trying to process what just happened.
I thought I was humouring fate. However it turns out she was humouring me.