Viewer discretion is advised due to gory violence! Undead! Swords! Death! Beware!
They all stood around the fire for a moment longer, except for the changeling. Derric would remain in the field, scouting around the perimeter until he saw that the others were close to entering the castle.
At least that was the plan.
"Take a few breaths now, a little warmth, for it is the last we shall enjoy until we are either successful, or we fail," Adiran said. Without further explanation, the mage dropped down onto a seat and began rummaging around in his pockets.
He took out a couple of vials of liquid and began mixing a few of them together. Some of the potions he drank himself, while others he just seemed to make ready just in case.
Mortis ignored his armor but was checking his sword and ran a stone along its edge. Magan did the same, he was the only warrior that she could mimic and learn from.
The Harpy merely sat back and preened her feathers. It was one moment that the woman seemed truly bird-like. When she had apparently finished, Helga sat back and stared into the flames.
Mortis had sheathed his sword and left the fire to go stand on the edge of the firelight, staring into the darkness. Magna did not follow him, staying instead to watch her aged brother as he performed a sort of ritual with two of the vials of liquid, tracing a pattern in the sand between him and the fire.
Once Adiran had completed the pattern, he closed his eyes and was in a deep trance. Neither Helga nor Magna made a sound. It was obvious that this task required concentration.
Finally, after long minutes, the mage opened his eyes.
"It is time to go." He said and stood. "Magna, kill the fire... but make sure not to touch this mark on the ground with any of it."
She thought a moment to ask why but then stopped. Now was not the time to ask questions. She carefully scooped up grey sand and poured it over the fire, slowly burying it to smother it out. Almost instantly, the heat seemed to go away and Magna shivered.
This place might look like her home, but it most certainly was not.
"Let us begin our approach." Adiran said. "We will first travel to the coast and then along it until we reach the castle walls. There seems to be less of the wandering dead near the shore. Once we get to the walls, we can skirt along them to the gatehouse."
"Is the castle guarded?" Mortis asked.
"There will be something dangerous waiting for us there." Adiran said. "But there will be no garrison or lookouts. The creature within the walls will actively be searching for Adrian, seeking to part his soul from his body."
"Then we must hurry!" Magna said, nearly managed to step away from the fire directly in the direction of the castle when Mortis' hand shot out and grabbed her at the shoulder.
"Stay." The knight said. "And you are going in the wrong direction."
"Magna, be calm." Adiran said softly. "Adrian is not alone. He will be alright for now. And yes, as Mortis pointed out, you were about to make a direct approach to the castle. Besides moving along the sea and avoiding the roaming packs of the undead, there is one more thing that I need each and every one of us to do... especially you Magna."
"What is it?" She asked.
"The being that seeks out your brother can hear and feel thoughts. We are too far away for it to hear us now. Unlike hearing though, it needs to be keyed into a certain sort of thought that will draw its attention. Right now it seeks to find your brother, so you must NOT think about your brother on the way to the castle."
"That's impossible!" She blurted.
"It is not." Adiran admonished her. "It just takes a sort of focus. Do not think of Adrian as Adrian your brother. Instead you need to focus on going to the castle to help a friend who is ill. Focus your mind on a person other than your brother, you need to bring that person medicine to help them with their sickness. Try it now."
She tried to do as her uncle had asked. Think of a friend. She did not have many friends her own age. Being a princess sort of did that. There was the son of a nobleman who was on pretty good terms with both Magna and Adrian, maybe she could think of him.
She looked at Adiran and saw a frown on his face.
Right. I just thought of the wrong boy.
She focussed on the other boy. Slender and somewhat aloof, the boy had always seemed very confident. What was his name? Tene... Teneblum... it was a foreign name. She had never known anyone with his sort of his name. It was not a name from their land. The nobleman had married a foreign dame from a far-off land. Their son had been given this strange name.
"Good." Adiran said. "If you can keep that up we shall be undetectable."
"Hey!" Magna said. "What about the others? Am I the only one being tested?"
"Neither Helga, nor Derric have met Adrian." Adiran explained gently. "And Mortis..." He looked at the knight's back. "It is difficult to read his thoughts at all."
Without further words, they set out for the coast. The sky was a dark grey, as much of daytime as could be expected of in this realm. There were wandering packs of undead but it seemed that once you were sufficiently far away, their eyesight was too poor to see you.
They came over a small rise and saw that there were four walking cadavers shambling around in the nearby clearing. Helga held one large primary feather to her lips like a finger. She lifted off into the air and landed to the one side of the clearing, making a slight bit of noise.
The undead turned and began shuffling in her direction. She made another little hop and they continued to follow the sound. Eventually, she lifted off again and circled around outside of their sight and hearing and the undead continued to shamble in that direction.
Adiran and Mortis had begun to move already and Magna followed them by the time that the harpy joined them. "Good job." Mortis said softly.
They reached the ocean. It was grey like the sky, but even darker. Far off in the distance, they could see movement. Adiran held up a hand and pointed. Very softly he whispered. "That might be the reason we do not find many of the dead around the waters."
Magan strained to see, in the gloom. Something writhed in the waters. In more than one place the surface of the water was broken by a massive fin or tentacle.
Unlike the things that roamed the land, these creatures seemed to be battling one another. Were they at war or feasting on one another? She could not tell. She kept her mind focussed on Teneblum and they set off for the castle, keeping a wary eye on the waters.
Once they saw a figure of a man crawling on the shore, missing both legs and an arm, but something wet and slimy was wrapped around his waist and they saw it drag the body into the ocean waves.
Magna shuddered to think about what those dark waters hid.
Back to you then @lex-zaiya!
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