She felt her foot hit something, her legs give out beneath her, the sensation of falling, “Shiiiit” she yelped just before hitting the ground, the impact of her chest against the firm mud knocked the air from her body and sent a jolt of pain through her spine. Yet not missing a beat she rolled onto her back and drew her dagger the beast beard down on her it’s freakish eyeballs turned and focused on her, the things face almost made some kind of gruesome smile, she closed her eyes an instant and chanted as she opened them and pointed her mind at the creatures eye it towered above her ready to slice her in half with its huge gruesome maw a bolt of white hot fire exploded from just in front of her and hurtled at lightning speed blowing the left eye to piece and throwing white hot fire that stuck to the vile creatures stink head.
It threw itself back letting out a wail and began thrashing it self around, falling on its side its legs kept moving making the horrid thing move around in circcles and twist around weirdly. Cries of rage as the fire continued to burn the stink of melting flesh being added to the array of vile smells coming from the creature .
Meredith didn’t take any time to bask in her victory quickly getting to her feat she ran down the road the creatures pained squels could be heard fo a great distance before dying away. Eventually she cought up with Primela and Gilnar who had slowed to a walk, they drew their weapons at first as she came up on them but they quickly relaxed and returned them to their sheaths.
“Oh we meet again, whatever brings you here?” Gilnar said with a smile resting a hand on his hip.
“How did you make it away, I was sure it was eating you?” Primela asked suspicion written across her face.
“I blew its eye off with a fire bolt.” Meredith puffed as she walked over to them.
“Nice, Nice, very nice.” Gilnar said clapping her on the back.
“How come you don’t pull those tricks off more often?” Primela sniped.
“Because we’ve not had a real rest in weeks and memorising new spells takes time and energy so they’re best kept for emergencies.”
“How many more have you got left?” Gilnar asked as they reached the edge of the forest and onto the flats between the two kingdoms.
“i can muster a couple more firebolts probably.” Meredith looked unsure the beast behind them was long gone. She looked out over the flats and seemed to ponder. “I guess we’re almost back to Icini.” She let out a sigh of relief.
“Indeed from here we walk to the bridge and over the river and we’re home!” Gilnar said with a nod and grinned. “Almost to Icini eh? What will you do when we’re back to civilisation Primela?” He looked over at the woman who for a moment seemed lost in thought and didn’t answer. “Primela?” Gilnar prompted.
“Ah sorry i was thinking, what was that?”
“When we get back to civilisation what are you upto?” Meredith asked, she was brightening up now that it felt as though they were on the home stretch.
“Oh, well what is there, we’ll go back to the commander and get our orders and then we’ll head back out such is our lot in life now.” She played with the silver ring on her finger for a moment and then looked back at Meredith, then at Gilnar. “What will you do?”
“Well, I’m goint to drink and whore myself into a stupper make sure I enjoy all the debauchery the Slags and the Companion districts have to offer!” He roarded heartily. Primela nodded. “Then do whatever the commander tells us to do, I’m sure that poisoness old hag has enough of a heart to let us have a few days off after a job like this one. Besides she’ll probably need to find some new volunteers. Meredith, what about you?”
“I’ll probably sleep and have a bath.”
“You do love a good bath!”
“I find there area few things in life as luxurious and rewarding as the simple act of soaking for hours in a large open bath.” Meredith declared wistfully.
It took several more hours but they managed to reach the bridge the guard post on the Vicini side was of course empty but to their suprise as the crossed the large ornate stone bridge the other side was also abandoned.
“No welcome party?” Gilnar said as he looked around.
“Clearly not.” Primela answered as they stood on the Kingdom’s side of the bridge, Meredith looked back at the scene painted in red and frowned.
“How odd.” She thought she could make out shadows on the far side like some strange puppet show.
“Well let’s get to the travellers rest and set up camp for the night!” Gilnar declared happily, the group headed out.
When they found it the camping site in a sorry state, normally it was set up for caravans that travelled between the two nations, but now bushes had overgrown, the grass was knee high, weeds were growing out of the feeding troths, the shacks that held supplies looked grubby and the door swang open. It took some searching but they managed to find enough suppliers to set up a reasonable camp for the first time in what felt simulatniously like moments and months. There were a couple of cans of fruits, some jam, dried vegetables and Primela had managed to catch some chickens that had escaped so there was even decent meat.
That night Meredith managed to eat and drink well and curled up under a real blanket she curled up and quickly drifted to sleep.
Despite the comfort her dreams were a haunted hell scape of torment and terror indescribable horrors stalking terrified victims through alien landscapes of fire and misery. Men with sticks of fire burning everything until nothing remained. The feeling of being watched that permiated her every moment was intensified in her sleep blue eyes staring into her soul.
“Wonderful child, you carry this burden splendidly, just a little futher.” The alien voice whispered and she found herself awake, the sun beaming down a beautiful blue sky with white fluffy clouds. She sat up and looked around, Primela and Gilnar were nowhere to be seen, she slowly came to her feet surveying the surroundings. Their tents and packs were gone and only her belongings were anywhere to be seen, she shook her head a moment and wondered around.
“Gilnar! Primela! Where are you?” She shouted and continued to look around a panicked frenzy started to crawl up her back. She paused before it took hold and took a deep breath, closed her eyes and thought about it and verbalised her thoughts.
“It’s okay Meredith one of two things have happend, the first is that they may have fled now that we are back in the safety of our own lands and the second option is that they didn’t want to wake you or were unable to and have gone off ahead of you so that they can get things ready! That’s all.” She nodded to herself and feeling much calmer she packed up the things and put them in her bag and then set back out on the road under the bright sunny sky, trees dancing with the gentle breeze and the rustling sounds of animals rummaging in the undergrowth. She took a deep breath and enjoyed the scents of autumn. The hours rolled on and the gentle rolling hills with scattered trees began to take on an oddly wintery look with snow powdering bushes and braches and even the road. She was pleased to note that the road though clearly not as heavily traveled as may once have been looked as though traffic had been along in the last day or so at least she sighed in relief.
The powedering of snow left Meredith wondering how much time had passed since they had left for Vicini, she tried for a moment to run her hand through her natted hair and then thought better of it, memories of her exist from Icini came back to her and she grimmaced. This whole mission had been terrible and she wanted nothing more then to drink her memories away back in the capital. As she looked ahead she could see columns of white smoke billowing from Icini, her heart raced as she picked up her pace.
As her vision crested the peak of the last hill her heart fluttered a moment until the view became clear and she stood looking down on the large town. Since she had last been there were now hundreds of tents all around the city, banners waving the crest of the Kingdom, chunks of the town seeemed to be gone replaced by these huge chimneys that were belching white smoke high into the air. Everyone seemed to have their faces covered and they many were dragging sacks off of wagons towards the giant chimneys. Meredith forwned and took in more details, large pallisades surrounded the camp and the towns walls had been reinforced and expanded.
She took a deep breath and headed towards the thriving camp a group of guards manned a picket and looked her up and down their faces covered by cloth.
“You there, halt” the guards were well armed and there were a couple of balister towers and scorpions all with bolts loaded.
“From where do you herald.”
“I’ve just returned from a mission in Vicni.” She stated in a business like tone, emulating Flacidious.
“How?” The guard shouted, they were more on edge now tense, eyeing her with great suspicion.
“Over the bridge, how else would I have come here.” She replied somewhat confused by the question.
“Impossible, we destroyed the bridge months ago!”
With that her mind was thrown into confusion.
“Did you say, the bridge was destroyed?” her brown furrowed and heart raced.
The guards seemed to be readying to execute her, she blinked a moment and touched the ring on her finger.
“I’m a member of the Black Fang, I must report what I have found to the Commander.” She spoke clearly and with determination and the group of guards seemed to immediately comply, they opened the gate and she walked in and then returned to their business. She wiped her mouth. Then looked back.
“Have there been any others come through here from my order?” Her fingers still on the ring.
“No.” The guard said absent mindedly and she nodded and headed deeper into the camp biting her lip and tensing her fingers. She looked from side to side noting the barracks tents and the strangely equipped troops the ground had been cobbled and decked so that it didnt’ turn to mud, much of the town she thought that hadn’t been turned into chimneys was now below her feet to act as paving. Occasionally she was stopped by a guard she would then use the ring to get some basic information and move on, it took about an hour before she found the Commanders tent, there were grim looking guards in black, scared faces and stares that cut through people, they noted the ring on her finger and made a little head movement towards the tent flaps. Meredith took a deep breath and pulled them apart and went inside.
“What is it?” The Commander said with looking up from what looked like a map on the table. Meredith stood there silently mouth slightly open warm tears dripping down her face.
“Well?” The Commander frustrated looked up and saw Meredith a look of shock then spread across her face old boney face. She sat silently for a moment.
“I’m here to report on the situation in Vicini” Meredith sniffed as she felt all the strenght leave her body and she collapsed.