Embers floated in the air, red fireflies against the cloak of night covering the city.
Burnt flesh, screams, the horror and madness of this tortured existence festered around the adventuring party.
Mathias trudged on. His eyes glazed slightly, bloodshot from the smoke. Nearby on horseback his sons slept in the saddle. Soot covered and exhausted they hung limp like corpses as the beast trotted along.
“Where did it all go wrong” the old man muttered.
Things had been… Strained… since the end of the tournament.
His friend had been understanding enough to help save his children. Along the way slaying slavers, an unstable ogre, saving Salad…
It wasn’t supposed to end like this. In flames. Everyone known and loved extinguished in their wake.
“We were trying to help” He looked to his companions. Despite the chaos, Tiska and the now younger Andre seemed almost happy. Perhaps they had seen to much to let this effect them. Their faces showed no sign of joy, but never the less there was an ease in their posture as they walked shoulder to shoulder.
By comparison Zelkova was a husk. His eyes had sank deep within the confines of his face. Boney features protruded shaded by the soot in the air. He hardly are, didn’t sleep. The weight of his families death, or perhaps just the weight of failure was threatening to break him. The fire didn’t seem to faze him in the slightest.
Jane looked similar, more animated, but somehow defeated. The small enigma of a woman wore a face of sorrow in these days. Occasionally a smile would take its place with a joke over a meal, or an innocent question, but it always faded into melancholy after awhile.
Comparatively, Reginald was Iron. Unchangingly stone faced and stern, his expression and stance never gave away any hint of emotion. The only real character came from crude jokes and spewed insults
Alden, while maintaining his usual stoicism, radiated in unusual fashion during the exodus. His eyes shifted often, scanning the horizon, or the night sky perhaps searching for his prey. However, on occasion Mathias would catch him leering at a party member, sometimes with curiosity, othertimes with disgust. His instability seemed at home in the raging inferno.
And then there was Chuck. Though his scales proved to be a soot magnet turning the normally vibrant lizard folk a very musty grey, he carried himself in an optimistic whimsy. As he walked, he played with his new dancing blade, using it to perform tricks for Page who at times even laughed at the childish display.
No one spoke of the well. No one wanted to admit what they had seen.
Somehow, they were still together.
But tensions were high.
“Our purpose has been lost” Mathias admitted to himself. “We were unified against assassins, as Ferrum champions. But now…”
“Now we’re criminals. We’re responsible for this” He monologued to himself, or perhaps to someone that could not be seen.
The man looked at his companions. He had such high hopes for them over the months. But the weeks past in near constant disappointment. Using illegal magic is public, wanton killing and thievery, Setting fires with no regard for the innocents.
He wondered how many had died to their recklessness.
How many souls he had to atone for.
“Grandpa” the faint voice broke his concentration
Mathias blinked. Looking to his left. Aliyah had appeared.
“Ali-” he began. His breath stopped short as he looked to his granddaughter.
Scratches and cuts rended her flesh. deep gashes colored in shades of rot and stink. no blood flowed fourth from her wounds, only a blackish crust gathered in a few of the marks.
“Something is coming Grandpa” She groaned, a tortured curl in her lips “Something that shouldn’t be here anymore”
“W-what” He stammered. “What is coming? Who did this to you!?”
“Black magic Grandpa. The foulest Kind” She whispered.
“I- I- Are you okay?”
She nodded. Her eyes pierced his. The paleness of her eyes erased all heat from the flames around them. The old man shivered.
She choked back tears as she spoke, “I pray you won’t see me again grandpa”
He opened his mouth, reaching for the small child.
and grasped at open air.
He stood still, arm still outstretched at the empty spot where she stood. .
The others walked past.
Reginald turned, stopping his stride
“Mathias?” he called “what is it?”
Mathias blinked. “Did you not see that?” he turned to the heavily armored mercenary.
He cocked his head to the side. “See what?”
The keeper took a deep breath. “An omen” he started. “A terrible omen”
As the words echoed in the flames around him, two ravens flew to the old man, resting on his shoulders. He looked to them for a moment. A deep pain radiated in his chest.
“We need to move. Fast” he said, pushing past Reginald.
Mathias looked back and shouted.