Meredith’s eyes opened she was laying in something wet her heart pounding and the world came into sharp focus, she winced and brought her hand up to her eyes to blot out the rays of blinding light. She blinked and tried to play back her memories, that grotesque floating eyeball whispering terrifying concepts into her mind, Erek being pulled into some dark domain, Sial torn to pieces and reconstructed, Flacidious screaming at them to run, Gilnar grabbing her and leaping down the stair well. She rememberd being chased and carried, and everything seeming painted in blood, looking around she could see Gilnar hunched over hardly moving.
“Wait, where did it go?” She asked and looked about frantically but there was no tower of flesh to be seen, she tried to stand but was too tired so instead she crawled over to where Gilnar sat he was pale so she reached out and touched him to see if he was still with her. Gilnar flinched
“What, where?” He looked about wildly for a moment before stopping his body jolted a bit, “Ah Meredith, you’re alive” Gilnar smiled and nodded. “We’re in some real shit now.”
Meredith nodded, “the tower, it’s gone, how far did you run?”
“I can’t really remember, not far.” He let out a heaving breath.
She looked around, there was a low mist, dead trees and wretched looking willows, large birds watching from the trees. She grit her teeth and glowered at them, unsuprisingly the birds didn’t seem to take much heed of her withering stare. There was a sound coming towards them a splash, splash, splash Meredith’s eyes shot towards the sounds and she pulled out one of her daggers as a figure came into view, Primela. Her face was bloodied and her clothes were torn her stone like flesh was covered in small cuts and her hawk like features seemed dulled somehow as she saw the two of them a lob sided grin she was holding a pair of backpacks in one hand and her sword in the other.
“I thought I heard you.” Primela glared at Meredith who blinked in return.
“You made it as well!” Meredith thought about celebrating but then decided against it and watched Primela closely as she walked towards them her obsidian eyes blank and emotionless.
“We should eat.” Gilnar said weakly and Primela nodded and came to perch next to them. Rummaging through the bags they pulled out dried meats, herbs and foul tasting liqours that would help restore their strength. They ate slowly and deliberatly, trying to extract every last moment of flavour from them.
The three were silent, Meredith’s mind kept flitting back to scenes from inside the tower, from scenes that were inside her own mind that the monstrous eye ball had put there, she rubbed her eyes and looked back at her companions. A little while past until they had all finished and then they started to walk in a staggered line, slowly and towards nowhere in particular, Meredith wondered in silence and looked back towards where she felt the tower should have been and frowned again, she picked up her pace and the others reluctantly joined her. Both Gilnar and Primela looked at deaths door, maybe a bit better than when she had first come too but not much, she wondered if she’d been so drained.
Hours had passed in total silence, the world itself seemed to have become devoid of noise, like everything had stopped and only the three of them were still alive. She bit her lip and considered all the possiblities but nothing appealing seemed to surface.
“If we can make it to a road there’s a chance that the same trickery that led us here may lead us home.” Meredith stated and wiped her brow.
“Or it could lead us deeper into this hell.” Gilnar said passionlesly and he looked out over the barren landscape.
Primela remained silent, her eyes were locked onto Meredith at all times. Something animalistic in her nature as she moved effortlessly through the swamp, the mist hiding many of her movements and reducing vision in general.
“Fog is the last thing we need now.” Meredith stated with an exhausted irritation, but she needed not worry as this time the mist began to clear as they found themselves transitioning to the rolling hills once again. Meredith felt a slight elation at being back there before she frowned again and screams rang through her mind once again.
“Don’t worry little Mere, everything will be fine.” Gilnar laughed and patted her on the back full of life again. She nodded and smiled at this turn of events. “We’ll be back in Icnini in no time, just you wait and see!”
Primela hung back a bit, Meredith considered her a moment and then went back to heading towards where she hoped there would be a road and paid the woman little mind.
As they reached the road Meredith found herself wondering how long they had been walking, it dawned on her that Gilnar was talking so she looked at him and tried to understand what he was saying but for some reason it all seemed distant and incompreneseble. The sky was dyed a deep red and felt drowsey as she walked along the road, she looked over at Primela instead of seeing the obnoxious girl instead she saw a shadow of a person, it moved as though it were a shadow puppet behind a white piece of paper, red eyes and sharp teeth her already sharp claws had become scissor like blades that danced. Meredith jumped back and let out a little shriek before realising it was still just Primela staring at her with a furrowed brow.
“What’s got into you?” Primela asked looking her up and down.
“You okay girl?” Gilnar asked merrily.
“Sorry,” Meredith felt sweat on her palms and could hear her heart racing she felt like she was floating and knelt for a moment, “I think I’m just exhausted.” She panted and stared at the ground. The other two stood and waited for her. She reached out and touched the road for a moment.
“When did we reach the road?” She aksed the two of them.
“Hours ago, are you okay? I think we should really rest, I know you want to go on but there’s little point if you’re going to die on us little Mere.” Gilnar looked concerned.
“I’ll go see if I can catch us some food, Gilnar take care of her while I’m gone.” Primela offered and gave the pair the closest she could to a smile and then headed off to hunt for game. Gilnar set about chopping branches and creating a lean too for them to sleep under his skills with the axe and the knife unquestionable. Meredith watched a moment and then drifted into a sea of fitful unconciousness.
“Hey Meredith, wake up.” Meredith’s eyes slowly opened for a moment she saw grinning shadows holding something hideous but then it became clear that Gilnar was offering her a cooked bird of some sort. She sat up and curled her legs under her body, the sky was red as the suns were setting. “You okay, you were pretty fitful in your sleep there.”
“Nightmares.” Meredith accepted a bowl of grool that Primela offered her and the started to eat.
“Hardly a suprise, I can’t remember much but what I do remember terrifies my every waking moment.” Gilnar said and let out a half hearted laugh. Meredith watched him and wondered, then looked at the trees slowly swaing in the red light the seemed to shimmer as things do under the hot summer sun and she squinted her eyes.
“Yes, I find it hard to imagine anything will ever be the same again.” Meredith continued to eat the flesh from the bones and she lapped down the salty gruel. “Where did you find the food?”
“The grool was left over in the bags and we found some wild oats, Primela caught the birds.” Primela nodded as Gilnar explained.
“It hit the spot.” Meredith smiled and thought about the day so far.
“Get some sleep, we’ll take watch.” Gilnar patted her on the shoulder and stood up.
She didn’t feel like she had the energy to resist and curled up under the makeshift bedding falling asleep in an instant. Her nights sleep was fitful full of the screams of her comrades, the fleshy floating eye taking them apart piece by piece, layer by layer, the horrifying looks on their faces as they were unable to flee, the inhuman voice from beyond the threshold of the mind. Shapes merging and shifting, bodies turned into things that bodies were not.
“There’s no escape”
Meredith woke with a start, she looked around and saw Gilnar and Primela standing watch and the red suns raising in the distance creating long shadows across the land, the trees looked like the teeth of a saw she thought. She stood up.
“Ah you’re awake!” Gilnar noted and walked over to her, she nodded. “Look like you’ve seen a corpse mind you.” She nodded again.
“We should move, we need to get back to Icini” she and the other two checked that they had all their things and then set off. After what seemed like moments they were passing Florens there was no wreckage of bird cages to be seen as they left the forest and traveled past the great walls.
“Wait, this isn’t the side of the city we left from is it?” Meredith asked looking at the other two.
“We must of been right about the god of roads playing with us.” Gilnar cursed. Meredith winced something foggy and distant in her mind seemed to somewhat disagree with the statement but she didn’t know what so left the thought to one side.
“This is the North face of the city, we left from the South.” Primela stated.
“So we were entirely turned around.” Meredith sighed.
“It looks that way, ah well, we’re on our way home now!” Gilnar declared as they headed past the city.
In the distance she spotted some figures moving.
“Wait, something over there” she pointed and the others stopped and looked.
“By the hells, shamblers” Gilnar said ducking down and watching.
“But the suns are up?” Primela noted and also kneeled.
“Tell that to them.” Meredith added as the large group stumbled through the fields in a staggered line. “Is it just me or do they look like they’re searching for something?”
“Well that would” Gilnar paused and watched, “would seem to be exactly what they are doing, by the hells.”
“Let’s no mention the hells.” Primela said and looked back and forth between the other two. “We need to get around them.”
“Do you think we can sneak past them?” Gilnar asked.
“We don’t know how they detect things.” Meredith said. “Shit. We should of known this wouldn’t be that easy” Meredith suddenly felt quite defensless, there were a frighting number of them but she took in a deep breath and remembered what they’d already been through. “This should be nothing for us, these shambling corpses are childs play.”
The other two grinned and nodded.
“Still let’s avoid a direct fight” Gilnar said and again there were nods all around.
Meredith contemplated the geography of the area and remebered the river that supplied the city, “It’s probably safest to use the river on the otherside, swim past the whole lot.”
“What if they’re great swimmers?”
“We’ll just have to cross that bridge when we get to it.” Meredith replied with a determined nod and they headed over to the other side through the forest.