Among the bones and the ash, piqued by an overpowering aroma of lemon, marked by the metal dust of a once cursed artifact, sat Mathias. Sword in hand.
The victory felt hollow. A necromancer defeated, the blade destroyed, Snottle-kek sent back to the grave. But the price was steep. The plague was ravaging him and his friends, tendrils of infection burning through his veins. His coughs now came with blood, and his muscles ached with a pain somewhere between laceration and ignition.
Toland had managed to survive despite taking some nasty blows early on, The fallen sat in the center of his circle, faint trails of magic emitting from it as he stared blankly into the room.
Darious Painhammer, bard of the Kitten, friend to the party, and reliable support lay dead in the sewer. His last visions of a titanic skeleton and his horde. The party payed their respects as best they could, two coins on the eyes, clutching his guitar.
Around the ex-keeper the party grieved in their own ways. Dwynen and Merella held each other tight, the two having nearly lost one another in the battle. The two were a mess of sobs and anger and bellowing laughter, a frightening mix that gave an uncomfortable optimism to the air
Jane sat off alone. She seemed surprisingly calm despite losing her dominant arm, her brow furrowed like a pair of tongs desperately trying to grab a passing thought. Now and then she would pick up a stone and throw it with her left arm, watching it sail, a small smirk on her face.
Zelkova managed to keep his composure despite the massive lacerations his flesh now sported. At his side, shade gleefully padded the wounds with cloth. He spoke softly with Alden, whose skin shared similar wounds and the marks of the plague. Shade did not touch Alden.
Tiska sat off to the side with Andre. She had propped him up on the wall, his wounds too severe to allow him to stand just yet. Pained grunts rang out from time to time as the assassins steady hands applied rough sutures to the wounds of the man. They argued in a playful, almost childish way.
Lastly, Chuck skittered about the battleground. Skeletons offered no food to be cooked. Their stores of lemon-ale were certainly promising, but with no food to cook with it he was lost. The only scraps he managed to collect were barrels of bone meal, a find he could have made bread from with some yeast and an oven. However, his efforts were fruitless. Sitting upon the sewer soaked dirt, he began stringing together another necklace.
“Another suicide survived” Mathias grumbled. “Where does the madness end.”
“War is hell” Mathias turned to find the fur-matted leer approaching. “If you all hadn’t killed the big one, the war would have claimed most of this circle.”
He took solace in that. “That is true, and the thought bolsters my spirits yet…” He looked down at his blade. “We were thrown into this haphazardly. No plan no assistance from the city, Just a man with a wheel ordering us to die”
The room took notice of the conversation.
Mathias sighed. “Being a keeper used to mean something. Respect, unity, care. Nothing was done without careful preparation. Now it seems our lives are worth nothing more than the rot we become”
Leer rolled his eyes. “Welcome to the Brow.” he chided. “There’s too many people, not enough help. The damn autos ruined the factory life and forced people into homeless poverty. This filthy circle does nothing to provide for its inhabitants. its a cesspool of all the filth and unwanted masses of meridian.”
The tiny furry beast pointed at the keeper. “And that includes you”
Mathias closed his eyes. A deep, slow breath left his lungs. He stood.
Leer broke his gaze“anyways, I have good news.”
Ears peaked, eyes looked to the man.
“there’s only two necromancers left. The city managed to get two others.”
“Great” Mathias dully emitted.
“And” He continued "With the destruction of the blade, it appears the skeletons have weakened drastically. the militia has managed to push through and reclaim several districts.
Spirits brightened with the news. Even Mathias grinned quietly at the thought of this war being over.
“Considering circumstance, is amazing we managed to do this” Tiska chimed in abruptly. “I mean, think of it. We pretended to be skin skeletons, escaped factory trap, Zelkova taught us to walk like the dead, we all swam in water, and Jane even survived her arm. Like, ya, is sad Darius died but If we are being realistic many more of us should be dead now”
Everyone stared. Tiska looked back blankly
The looks subsided.
More time passed, eventually everyone got back on their feet. Leer said his goodbyes, quickly leaving through a secret tunnel behind where the necromancer had sat. The rest of the group gathered to discuss their next move.
“I suggest we regroup on the surface” Zelkova began “Even weakened we’ve seen the kind of threat these skeletons pose. We shouldn’t risk running off on our own until they are finished”
“Thats all well and good” Mathias added “But I would prefer it if we let the city handle the last two. We shouldn’t risk our own lives this close to the tournament.”
“See I reckon we outta go boil up them bones ourselves, Them scaleless soldiers never was too good at crackin the dead.” Chuck countered
“If we are to believe what Leer said, The city can handle it. The skeletons are weak. It may take time, but that is time we need to rest and recover. Not to mention we need to get this plague cured!”
“We may not have a choice” Toland finally spoke, eyes glowing in the center of his circle. The crowed looked to the mage.
“One of the necromancers is in the kitten”