Alma and Cora
You pause an agonizing second or two before scuttling out of the smokescreen and off of the porch, crouching in the shadows. Looking under the deck you can see the girl and her flanking wight walking towards the well by the light of the sunrod. It seems that your plan has worked. Inside the house the sounds of the undead crashing about as it searches for you is like music to your ears.
You actually smile as you feel your heart un-stick itself from your throat and settle back down behind your ribs.
Surveying the scene quickly you surmise that the gang of wights in front of the inn have gained entry to that building. You are unsure where the two wights that chased you from the inn yard have gone. Somewhere to the east a house is burning and behind you the dull roar from the burning barn rumbles on. Occasional screams of terror punctuate the night, speaking to the horrors that are still persisting.
Drawing your hood over your head you melt into the night, finding safety in your old friend: the shadows. The door to the stone house across the road is ominously open. Considering the brutal struggle that must have occurred there, you deem it wise to avoid it. Besides, this close to the sunrod your passage across the street may be noticed.
Skirting through the dark, you make your way from shadow to shadow, silent, like a ghost.
You leap from the window, hitting the dirt of the inn yard and hollering for Kandure that it is time to flee. The ranger finishes dispatching Bess and nods wordlessly.
Brianna and Peter are both mounted, the girl upon Cabello, the mayor on one of the short shaggy horses favoured in the north. Each hold the reigns to another horse.
As you run to their side you look back to see a pair of wights hopping the fence at the other side of the inn yard.
A third one leaps from the window to your bedroom, landing roughly on the dirt, with more seemingly ready to follow. Kandure mounts one of the horses while you climb up behind Brianna on Cabello.
Peter has already opened the gate and with the grasping hands of the wights closing in it takes no encouragement to set the horses galloping. You burst from the yard, four horses and riders with a shaggy wolf loping at their side.
You turn into the street, wheeling to the east and thundering towards the edge of town. Sparing a look back you see eight or more wights piling into the street, their hungry eyes watching you ride away. Next to the well stands the girl, her nightgown waving in the chill air. The rictus smile splitting her face is testament to the abomination that she has become.
You slip from town, leaving behind the fields and houses for the grasslands and scattered copses of trees. Exhausted, but too scared to stop you continue on until you find a small creek. Pausing to splash water in your face and abate your thirst, you recall the woodsman’s words. If this is Rabbit Creek then the survivors should be gathering a few miles from here.
Pushing on into the night you march hard. A trail in the grasses indicate that both man and horse have walked this way recently. As night peaks and the stars glitter in the endless bowl of darkness above, you find yourself walking through a small glade. The burbling creek beside you begins to drop down a series of small waterfalls as the land heaves through a patch of stoney hills and gullies.
Amidst the trees stands an ancient stone wall, much of its length overgrown with brush or crumbled from disrepair. Beyond the wall a large, two story stone building huddles next to a fast-moving section of creek. It has no roof, though a few skeletal-looking timbers protrude at angles. A wooden wheel, rotted and covered in vines juts from the side of the building out into the water.
Most importantly there is the sound of people. Gentle sobbing, hushed speech and the squalling of at least one babe.
Sighing you press through one of the opening into the rude bivouac established by the survivors of Tundrein.
You could really go for something to eat. A bath is probably out of the question.
As you thunder through town, Brianna turns, to speak, her hair whipping in her face.
We were to leave a horse for Cora!
The riderless horse still gallops behind Cabello, the reigns clutched in her hand.
Before you can answer, Kandure shouts back.
If the gods are merciful, she will find another way out of town. As for us, we must make for the Old Mill. Survivors will be heading there.
In the shadows, cruel figures leap and dart about. The wights are everywhere. The doors of several houses hang open and scattered screams echo through the night. The town is overrun.
As you pass the last of the outlying houses the woodsman turns south down a narrow path, slowing the pace so that the horses do not fall. Peter appears haggard, clutching to the reigns of his horse. He is shrunken, his face drawn and his thin hair appears white. It is shocking how much of his vitality was stolen from him.
You too feel weak. The wights had drained away much of your life force.
It is the warmth of Brianna’s body next to you that gives you confidence and comfort. Your hand rests upon her slender waist and her thick hair smells of wildflowers. When she shivers against the cooling night you instinctively wrap an arm around her.
After a time Kandure drops from the saddle, leading the horse along a rough path that ends at a crumbling mill next to a creek. Huddled about the ruins two dozen dazed-looking men, women and children cluster together. As you approach a broad shouldered young man with a drawn bow challenges you.
Its all right, Bubba.
Many of the town folk rush to Peter, asking him for news, begging him for information about missing loved ones. Drawing himself up Peter does his best to answer questions and assure his people that they will find out more as soon as they can. Eventually, things quiet down as people divvy out what meagre food was brought and they try to get what rest they may.
Kandure with Bubba and Loqutore patrol the perimeter throughout the night.
Before attending to her weary father, Brianna pauses for a moment beside you.
I owe you my life.
She stands on her toes to kiss your cheek, her lips a salve to your many hurts.