This is a continuation of the Mortis Custos part 11 by @lex-zaiya.
To start at the beginning of the story please see the links provided at the end of this post!
Viewer discretion is advised due to gory violence! Undead! Swords! Death! Beware!
So we have the priest and the mage in the castle wrapped up so they cannot speak against Adiran. That was an unexpected move from @lex-zaiya!
That, together with the tooth-necklace and battle bond between Mortis and Magna... let's see what I can do from here on out.
It was early.
So dark that not a soul stirred in the grey darkness of the morning. It wouls be at least an hour before the sun would slice the air with its first ray of dawn.
Yet there was a dim shine to the air in the east.
The City slumbered. It was not the largest in the Kingdom. One of their ancestors had decided to build a small walled city around the Kingdom's capitol, which surrounded the King's castle.
Four more keeps stood about a day's ride at strategic points around the Capitol. The main trade cities were far larger than this one and were well beyond the perimeter of the Guardian Keeps.
Magna drew her cloak closed around her and shifted in her saddle.
Their goodbyes had been said in the Great Hall. Uncle Adiran had made it clear that they would leave the Castle, the city, and the gates without fanfare or announcement. "Besides the very real threat the Dead pose, they use spies to watch us. We should not let them know where we are or where we are going!" The memory of this made Magna smile.
Her mother had looked so cross. As much as the Queen was now the most powerful person in the Kingdom, it was undeniable that this mage of a brother-in-law knew things pertaining to their mission that the Queen just had no knowledge about nor had any say in.
When her mother had asked where they were going or why they needed to travel in the first place her uncle's reply had been abrupt.
"I told you that if you want your son to live that you will not ask me and you will lend me your daughter!"
"I cannot lose both children!"
"You will not. This... is her destiny."
Magna was still pondering about this, she glanced behind her at her uncle, he rode a black stallion. She did not remember seeing this horse anywhere in their stables. When they had led their horses out from the stables, her uncle was merely waiting for them, sitting on the horse. .
It looked kind enough and did not seem unnatural, which almost surprised her as much as finding her uncle on a strange horse. She turned again and looked in front of her.
Taking point, Mortis rode in silence. They were usually silent.
Peculiar too, was the way that the knight had chosen and mounted a horse in the stable. The horses were all completely at ease with Mortis. Even though the stablehands and the guards were uneasy around the warrior. They had been muttering about the knight never taking off his helmet.
The horses had nuzzled up to him and with a few strokes of a horse's mane, Mortis had chosen a dark brown stallion from the stables. The horse was accustomed to the weight of an armored warrior. The stable master had remarked quietly that this was the horse he would have recommended himself.
So now they rode through the city, nearing the southern gatehouse.
A guard came out of the guard's office, holding a lantern. "Who goes there?" He called.
"It is I." Adiran called. "Another..." he seemed to fumble for words. "...uh... another lonesome travel."
The guard chuckled. "Another lonesome vigil." The guard replied. "So it is you Adiran. Not so lonesome this time I see."
Magna's uncle had spurred his horse to come past her, blocking the guard's few of her. Not that she was recognizable really.
Adiran and her mother had made her don armor. She had practiced the sword for many hours but had only just been fitted with a suit of armor that fit her a few weeks ago and had not yet grown accustomed to its feel or weight on her.
Her torso was protected by scale mail, they were hard kite-shaped blades. She also had shoulder pauldrons, plated greaves and bracers, and a gorget around her neck. At least this was her first set of training armor and for that reason it was unadorned, nobody could tell that the armor hid a royal princess.
In fact, much like Mortis, most onlookers would not even be able to tell if she were male or female.
They had given her a standard soldier's helm and had told her to not take it off while leaving the city. It covered her whole face and she had closed the visor.
Adiran was speaking in hushed tones to the guard now and Magna came to a halt next to Mortis. She look at them, they merely sat and waited, looking neither right nor left.
Finally, the guard opened one of the two double doors on the gate as quietly as possible and they went through the gate single file.
It had been months since last Magna had rode outside of the city wall and she had never seen the outside in the near darkness. There was a large area around the city that was clear of any obstructions, a forest loomed dark ahead of them on the south road.
It looked foreboding, as though it was going to swallow them like some enormous beast. Magna was reassured though, that Mortis took point again ahead of her. Her uncle, as strange and taciturn as the man was, took the rear and that reassured her as well.
They reached the treeline and though the outside was now brighter than ever, they walked their horses into an enveloping darkness.
"It's so dark." She whispered to her uncle.
"That was the idea." Adiran replied. "To get to the trees before daybreak. The forest is too quiet."
"Indeed." Mortis said from the front of their line, loud enough to make Magna start in her saddle. They had not shouted, but she was still surprised by a regular volume of works against the stillness. "There is something in the forest. Perhaps it or they are waiting for us."
"We cannot turn back now," Adiran growled. "Whatever it is, we will have to face it head-on and deal with it. Magna, keep your sword ready."
Her heart raced as her uncle said this. They had not even started yet and now there seemed to be an immediate danger waiting for them in the forest.
She remembered the way the soldiers had been cut open or dismembered in the Castle when the dead had attacked. She shuddered. That could have been her. That could be her soon if a weapon or a mouth full of teeth found their way to her body. She was not reassured by her new armor. Those soldiers had been armored as well.
She then remembered something and took a deep lungfull of air. "It does not smell the same as last night."
"What?" Adiran asked.
"It does not smell the same as when the dead attacked." She explained. "There was a smell in the castle throughout the battle. Some of it lingered afterward but was mostly gone afterwards."
Mortis cuckled. "Keen senses. I am most pleased."
Adiran rode up next to Magna. "When exactly was the smell gone?"
"When did the smell disappear?" Her uncle repeated. "They were still scraping off dead thing's remains off of the walls when we were leaving. So it was maybe the bodies, maybe not."
Magna thought hard. "We were in the royal chambers. There was a call as soldiers returned and the last of the dead were destroyed. There was still a faint smell, but nothing like the smell while the fighting was going on."
"Now think girl. Was there not dead things at the doorway where the soldiers had foguht them? The ones the soldiers destroyed?"
Magna nodded her head. "I had stepped over a few of them where we went out. They were there... the smell was not."
Mortis shifted in its seat, the first show of disease she had seen them perform.
"You are likely sensing the magic." Her uncle said. "Let us experiment." The bearded man took out a gemstone from the folds of his robes and held it in two fingers. The stone began to faintly glow. "Try now. Can you smell anything?"
Magna drew a deep breath. There! "Yes!"
She took another breath. The smell was not the same. It was alost spicy, like cinnamon and pepper. "It does not smell rotten and dark though. It's... sharp, like it is spicy."
Adiran grunted and let the gem fall out of his hand, the glow dissapeared. "That's good. Even better that you can sense differences."
Mortis interrupted them.
"We are not alone."
Aaaaaand I will leave it right there!
Here is an explanation of Chain Stories and the not so current Chainstory Library
Mortis Custos Parts:
|by @lex-zaiya||by @zakludick|
|Part 1||Part 2|
|Part 3||Part 4|
|Part 5||Part 6|
|Part 7||Part 8|
|Part 9||Part 10|
|Part 11||~You are here!!~|
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