Journey of the Messenger Cycle 1 Part 3a

Journey of the Messenger Cycle 1 Part 3a

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Part 3) Ijah


Ijah was happy to have left Madden Bridge behind. Not that their experience there had been too horrid, but as with many places throughout the Madden Hills, folks lived small desperate lives crowded together behind walls. Here, they also lived in fear of the doom that cursed the hills and the people thereof.

Still, she had to admit that she was surprised by how some of the folk throughout the hills were aware of the Kereshi and held them with high regard. She wondered who, of her people, had come through this area. Certainly it was not a significant enough place for one of the families to have been assigned to this region as part of the original mission. Most likely, she had to assume, that some of the survivors from the Elquin missions had come through this way in the last few years.

BogWalker was leading the horse while prattling on about her conversation with the guard from the night before, as if Ijah had not been there with her in the same cell with no choice but to listen to the girl pour her heart out to the stranger. However, in all that babbling Berri seemed to have won the old man’s affection and good opinion. Ijah wondered how much the marshal’s leniency with them had been due to that night-long conversation.

She was primarily concerned about not getting caught up in local troubles. A horde or two of undead was not something they had time to deal with. Even though they were presently heading away from that situation, Ijah wanted to be further away, faster.

“… then the conversation kind of turned a bit embarrassing. Krattler thought I was a kid, just coming to age. Sometimes-”

Ijah turned and silenced the girl with a scowl. She stopped short and the horse clopped up behind her, pushed her forward a pace or two and then stopped with its head over the girl’s shoulder. Both of them gawked at her expectantly.

Ijah took a deep breath, “We need to cover a considerable distance today. I’d like to be well away from Madden Bridge by nightfall. We are both short on sleep and I think we need to conserve our energies for walking and being alert to possible dangers. You did hear what the marshal said about undead hordes?”

“Sure. Two hoards to the west, days away. Nothing for us to be overly concerned about, not since we are moving southeast.”

“What other dangers had she mentioned?”

“Orc, along the Sudakkar Waste. Also two days or so away. I figure we’re pretty safe right now.”

“Are we? Have you considered that some of the men we fought last night might have decided to pursue the issue further?”

“Ah, no. I figure they’re too busy with other concerns.”

“And if they are not?”

BogWalker looked around then turned her attention back to Ijah, “Walking meditation?”

Ijah forced a smile, “That’s an excellent suggestion. Let us consider the silence and be aware of possible dangers.”

Berri’s lips compressed to a tight line, Ijah saw her struggle with herself for a moment or two, then the girl gave a nod. Ijah nodded back and then they proceeded along the road. The way ahead lead them down through the hills, to either side grew scraggly pine trees. There were a lot of birds of different sorts, feeding on the overly bountiful insects. The wind blew through the trees and the clomp of the horses hooves on the hard packed road marked time like a metronome, though less reliably accurate. Ijah enjoyed the relative silence and stayed alert for troubles, especially any that might be coming up behind them.

Late in the afternoon they came to a crossroads, the main road they were on continued southwards, while a secondary road crossed in a nearly east to west direction, a couple other trails came down through the forested hills. Not long ago a fire had swept through the area, sometime in the last year or two judging by the new sapling growth. The fire had left the shells of a couple burnt out buildings, their most prominent features presently being the fireplaces and chimneys, while a few sturdier, blackened wooden beams also remained. This place had not had a wall, not even of piled stone. There were a number of crows around the old property, most of them observed the two travellers as they looked around.

Ijah had detected no obvious threats and was about to proceed through the area when BogWalker raised a cautionary hand then pointed west. All the crows took flight, cawing loudly. She stopped and listened while the girl lead the horse into the nearest trees. After a couple moments Ijah could hear a strange clattering noise, obviously some distance off. As she continued listening, trying to identify the strange sounds, she became aware that whatever was coming was moving towards them fairly quickly.

As quietly as she could, she also moved into the nearby woods, waving BogWalker further back into the trees. There was not a lot of cover. Ijah stood still within the shadows, the clattering sound was nearly upon them and while there were rhythmic elements to the noise it mostly seemed a discordant cacophony. Then a dozen skeletal figures ran up to the crossroads and stopped at the intersection. From further west she could hear more clattering, while she regarded the ragged group of undead with keen interest.

Naked bone, scraps of tattered cloth, the odd glint of metallic adornment and each of the animated dead carried a weapon, a few of them also bore shields. While they remained mostly motionless, their heads turnsed this way and that way, sightless eyes scanning for their prey. Ijah adjusted her grip on her weapon, regulated her breathing and prepared for explosive violence. The noises from the west indicated a larger group was moving towards them.

The dozen skeletons at the intersection all slowly turned their skulls in her direction, she scowled back at their vacant regard. The other group had nearly reached them. Ijah was about to draw her sword when the nearest skeletons suddenly all turned their attention to the southeast trail through the woods. Then as one, they ran off along the intersecting trail, opposite of Ijah’s position, heading uphill. Another, larger group ran in from the west along the road, then without pause they proceeded to the southeast trail. Suddenly, numerous small groups of skeletons moved through the surrounding trees, some passed Ijah only an arms length away. They had no interest in her and moved rapidly past their position, also heading southeast. Moments later they were gone, the clattering sounds of their bones and the snapping of branches slowly receded.

BogWalked gave a sharp bark of a laugh, tinged with fear, “Bethlya’s Shinning Tits!”

Ijah wondered why the girl had called out to the freeholder goddess of fertility and love, such a curse seemed out of place under the circumstances. She remained quiet and motionless, even as her companion lead the horse from the trees. Berri looked around, amazement and fear etched on her face.

“Did you see that!? What was there, fifty, sixty of them? Nothing like what we saw last autumn. That was all the soldiers who had died in the battle, theirs and ours, all getting back up and then attacking us. Reanimated flesh. Did you see how quickly those things moved? Skeletons! Wow, how do their limbs stay together without flesh? Promad’s Sacred Turd!”

Ijah quietly moved out from the trees, all her senses tuned for potential threats. Though BogWalker’s outburst had drawn no attention, Ijah did not relax until she had circled the clearing and found the area devoid of obvious dangers. She circled back around to the horse. The girl had wandered over to the trail the skeletons had departed along. She looked uphill, scratching at her head absentmindedly.

Ijah took the satchel she had been carrying, secured it to the horse then spoke to Berri, “I’m going to try and see where they are going. Follow along with the horse, come running if you hear any sounds of engagement.”


“Well, yes. We’re looking for a necromancer, supposedly a good necromancer who we will try to convince to come to the aid of Swampdon. Yet here we are in Madden Hills, over fifteen hundred yat closer to the necromancer’s home. From everything we’ve heard this area is plagued by undead. In my mind this Igma Kalit is either responsible for the situation here in Madden Hills or complicit.”

BogWalker looked at her then looked up the trail, she shrugged, “Okay then.”

Ijah watched her go to the horse, collect her crossbow and start to load it. She would periodically look over to Ijah as if she was going to say something or ask a question. When the girl had finished loading her weapon she gathered the reins and started back towards Ijah, “I’m ready.”

“If nothing comes of this by nightfall, I’ll wait for you along the trail. I also think you might reconsider the usefulness of your crossbow should you actually have to engage the undead we just saw.”

BogWalker looked at her crossbow, a crow alighted nearby and gave a low croak as it regarded the two of them. Ijah turned and headed uphill, following the trail the skeletons had taken.


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