As Sister Faith lead the group out of town they were met by cheers from the town folk and the farmers.
They had ridden for about an hour when they came across a farmer herding his docile woolly coated mountain cattle down the road toward his son who was holding a gate open for them. The sound of their cow bells clanking echoed across the land.
“Well met dear sir!” Sister Fate called from her saddle.
The farmer looked up angrily but his face suddenly changed to embarrassment as he recognised her.
He took off his hat and stood their tongue tied trying to wring the life out of it.
It was his wife who spoke as she appeared from the other side of the cattle.
“Well met Holy Mother. We will soon have the way clear for you.” She said with a bright smile.
“Problems?” She asked.
“Yes Holy one.” He said getting over his nerves. “The cattle won’t go on to the mountain pasture. I’ve never see anything like it before they just wouldn’t move.”
“Thankfully we have this pasture they can use.” His wife finished for him.
“Have you heard anything from St Crux at all my good fellow?” Sister Innocent asked.
“No Holy One but now that you have mentioned it I don’t recall seeing the Shepherd’s bring down the sheep for market or the miners up at St Bernadotte.”
Sister Faith thanked him for his time.
Sister Faith lifted herself up in her stirrups and held up her hand and began to make the sign of The Living Ankh.
“Dear Lady of the Rose, mother and martyr, bless these thy servants and the wonderful beasts they so diligently care for.”
A nimbus of light appeared around her hand for a moment before silently exploding out and engulfing both farmers and beasts.
“Go in peace and love.” She said as she watched the care and worry fade from their faces, as for the cattle they just wandered up to the gate and entered the field with a low happy grunting sound.
The way now clear they cantered away.
An hour or so later they found themselves riding into the valley that held St Crux.
Sister Faith held up her hand to bring them to a halt.
The Marshal rode forward to join her.
“I don’t like it.” He said with a worrying shake of the head. “Where are all the villagers? In doors afraid?”
“More importantly were are the dogs and cats and the livestock. I’ve never seen a village without them. I suggest we proceed with caution.” She took the mace out of its holster.
“An ambush?” Sister Innocent asked drawing out her own mace.
“Possibly or they are all dead.” The Marshal offered but then he shook his head. “No if they were all dead there’d be flies everywhere. And since when do the dying take themselves back inside to die.
He drew his own weapon and signalled the sergeant and troopers to do the same.
The Mother Superior and the Abbess urged their horses forward with a gentle tap of their heels against the horses flank. They moved forward at a walk.
The village was typical of the area. A scattering of log chalets around the central market square with a small chapel at one end. The balcony’s and window boxes should be full of bright flowers but plants that were there were dead.
Nothing stirred until they reached the well in the centre of the market square. A fearful wailing filled the air as doors opened and the inhabitants lurched out.
The two Nuns raised their hands skyward and muttered a prayer. A light flickered over them making them indistinct.
Their heads rolling loosely on their necks the villagers slowly shuffled forward each one whether it be a man, woman or child showed the method of their death. Some carried crude weapons from the houses and farms.
“Avant!!!” Sister Innocent bellowed holding up her Holy Symbol, the Rose Bush of Our Lady, which pulsed with light.
“Marshal send in a couple of guards into the houses to find the controller the Necromancer.” Sister Faith said as she held up her own Holy Symbol.
“Sergeant you have heard the Holy Mother dispatch two but they are to take no risks.” He moved his horse closer to the two Nuns. “Do we fight Holy Sisters?”
The two women looked at each other.
“Shall we Sister for old times sake?” Sister Faith asked.
“Yes why not.” Sister Innocent agreed.
A blaze of light poured out of her Holy Symbol as she sang, so sweetly that the Marshal had to wipe away a tear.
The Holy Light shone all around making the zombies grind to a halt.
Sister Innocents deeper voice joined the refrain the light from her Symbol making several of the Zombies disintegrate.
She lent forward to touch her Symbol against that of Sister Fate.
“Look away!!” They yelled in unison a split second before their Symbols touched.
An eruption of light burst outward so brightly that even though the troopers and the Marshal looked away and close their eyes they could see the blood vessels in their eyes.
When they turned back it was to find all the zombies laying on the ground and being sucked downward into the soil.
There was a scream from one of the huts followed by a weedy man being dragged out by a trooper.
The man was almost a skeleton himself as he was dragged to the well. On his forehead was a pentangle that had been burnt into his forehead.
He seemed stunned and was looking around in confusion.
Something itched in the corner of Sister Faith’s mind.
“Who is your leader, where is he?” Sister Faith asked sternly.
“I don’t know. Don’t you recognise me Holy Sister?”
The answer set her back on her heels.
The man was staring at his hands in horror.
“Don’t let him fool you Sister.” The trooper grabbed the mans hair and pulled his head back exposing his throat ready for the knife. “Let me deal with him.”
“You, what are you trying to say?” She pointed at the Necromancer.
“He’s got my body!” The man yelled. “Oh dear God he’s got my body.”
“If you are my trooper prove it?”
The man was frantic.
Suddenly out of all his disjointed ramblings.
“I boosted the Abbess up into her saddle.”
“Marshal hold the trooper. I want to get to the bottom of this?”
She marched up to the two men whilst the Abbess circled around behind them, her mace ready to deliver a killing blow.
She laid one hand on the troopers head the other on to that of the Necromancer.
Her eyes widened.
“Spirit not made flesh hear my voice and return to your own body. Return, return.” Sweat poured down her face as the two men screamed. Suddenly the trooper was still and quiet.
“Thank you Reverent Mother, my life is at your command.” He said earnestly dropping on to one knee.
She put a hand on his head and nodded with satisfaction.
“May you be bless in the name of Our Lady of the Rose.”
“What is your son?”
“Giuseppe Holy one.”
The Necromancer twitched and screamed at her a bloody foam on his lips.
“He’s poisoned himself.” Sister Innocent yelled.
“A bucket of water from the well Giuseppe quickly now!” Sister Faith ordered.
The Necromancer looked at her in horror as he realised what she was going to do.
“Sister hold him!”
Sister Innocent had him in a head lock that stopped him from struggling as the trooper plonked the leather bucket by Sister Faiths side.
She plunged one hand into the icy cold water without flinching while the other rested on his head.
“Holy Lady of the Rose, Martyr and Mother let me be a conduit of your healing energies. Allow me to heal this undeserving soul.”
The life giving water inside the bucket began to drop as the healing energy’s of the Reverent Mother poured into the Necromancer.
“Oh no you’re not getting away that easily.” She said with a stern smile.
A black stinking Ichors poured out of his nose to sizzle and fume on the ground.
Sister Faiths lips began to dry and crack as she was dehydrated by the outpouring energy.
“More water for the Holy Mother.” Sister Innocent called urgently.
The troopers worked as a team to bring a fresh bucket of water across to fill the one Sister Faith had her hand in.
She let go of the mans head and the water in the bucket dropped rapidly as the Mother Superior rehydrated. Her haggard face and parched lips became youthful and full once more, her face serene.
“Now you will tell us who sent you and why. You will also tell us where we can find your leader.”
“I will tell you nothing. The Shadow will cover the three moons and Lilith will be returned to us once more.” The man raged.
“I was there.” Sister Faith told him. “And I know Lilith can not rise again. Now where is your leader?”
“I will not tell you.”
“Oh you will. Holy Lady of the Rose bless this evil man.” The Necromancer screamed in agony as his body was surrounded by a swirling nimbus of Holy light. The pentangle on his forehead flaring as if fighting the Holy light.
Five minutes later he had told her everything he knew.
He was dragged to his feet.
“What are we going to do with him?” Marshall asked as he took the man by the neck.
“Take him with us.” Sister Fate went to mount her horse when the Necromancer fell against the Marshal, puzzled she turned back. She had healed him completely so he shouldn’t show any physical weakness.
As she drew near the man ripped the knife out of the Marshals belt sheath and lunged at her.
She twisted out of his way.
Unable to take vengeance on the Holy Mother he turned and kept the others away by brandishing the knife.
“The Shadows will consume your very souls and take over your bodies ready to impose the only true freedom, the freedom of anarchy.” Before anyone could stop him he reversed the blade and plunged it into his chest. He slumped to the floor.
“Are you going to heal him again Holy Sister?” The Marshal asked her as he retrieved his knife.
“I shall rise once more and destroy you.” The wizen man said through a froth of blood.
“No you won’t your death shall be permanent. You’ll serve your Demon Lord no more.” Sister Faith told him.
He screamed in anguish and then fell silent. No Shadow spirit rose from the body.
“What are we to do with his body?” The Marshal asked.
“Nothing. Watch.” Sister Innocent pointed at the body which started to crumble inward and flake away to be blown away by the rising wind. Soon their was no evidence of him even being there.
A moaning sound began to build as shadows appeared over where the bodies of the zombies vanished.
With a curse Sister Faith sent out a pulse of light that exposed further shadows.
“To arms, to arms!” She yelled as her flame shrouded mace smashed into the head of the nearest. “Don’t let them touch you, they have free will and will try to such out your life.
“Lady of the Rose bless us all now and dam our enemies!” Sister Innocent yelled as her electrically charged mace sent bolts of lightning into the living shadows.
A heavenly light settled on each defenders form whilst a red miasma settled on the Shadows.
Again and again the Sister’s maces smashed aside their foes only for them to recover.
“Get back to back so they can’t get behind you!” Sister Faith yelled but the warning came to late to save one trooper. As he did sterling work against two creatures in front of him a Shadow got behind him and thrust its clawed hand into his back.
With a scream he turned to face this new attacker but it was to late, the creature had ripped out his heart and his brain. It opened its maw to reveal pinpoint rows of teeth. It crushed the heart and drank down the blood that spilled out of it before tearing at the brain with its teeth.
As it did so its form became more solid revealing a woman with a shaven head and a pentangle blazing on her forehead.
The Marshal screamed in rage and swung his mighty blade decapitating the figure.
Black smoke roared out of the headless form as it macabre turned to face him before dropping to the floor.
The black smoke coiled and boiled before being dispersed as if by some unfelt wind.
“Holy Lady send down your lightning and fiery rain I beg of you?!” Sister Faith yelled.
Suddenly bolts of lightning crashed down from the cloudless sky to strike at each Shadow creature turning it into a towering pillar of flame.
Then it was over. All remained of the Shadows was burn pieces of ground.
It was with sadness that she remounted and led them away, knowing in her heart that no one had been saved and this was only the beginning.