Teeth and Claws
The carriage drove hard down the path southeast away from the main clash between the undead army of dwarves and the Feudal Land knights. Away from the main road, the baron’s family found themselves in the deciduous forest between the Feudal Lands and the city. “Are you sure this is the best way?” Vylasgarden asked the knight riding beside the carriage. He seemed to oversee the other two knight in the party.
“Aye, I would not expect the invasion coming from the east. Soon we should be far enough away to turn straight south for the coast,” he said to her.
“As soon as we are sure the family is safe, Kruzco and I will turn back,” Vylasgarden said trying her best to keep her clawed hand steady with the loaded longbow. The carriage bumped and jolted with every dip and stone it drove over. Kruzco was not far behind the carriage doing his best riding the mule from the baron’s stable; he was holding the reins in one hand and battleax in the other. While looked back to check on Kruzco, Vylasgarden noticed something gaining on the rear. Not shy of thirty-meters away were a group of three skeletal creatures running on all fours. These quadrupedal skeletons were large and broad, yet ran so quickly and tirelessly it sent a shiver down Vylasgarden’s spine. This was going to be trouble. One of the skeletal creatures wailed a gruesome sound that caught the attention of the rest of the party. Their glowing orange eyes burned through the darkness of the forest. “What is that!?” one of the knights exclaimed looking back.
“Vylasgarden! We cannot out run them,” the leading knight yelled over to the carriage.
Vylasgarden stood up on the seat next to the driver. “Try and keep it steady,” she said to him as she tried to take aim. The creatures were large targets which would make the shot easy if only the carriage was not moving so fast on rough terrain. She took a deep breath through her nostrils and when letting it out through her mouth, she released the arrow which whizzed past the left pursuer. “Eyesore!” she cursed reaching for a second arrow. By now the creatures had caught up to either side of Kruzco. Vylasgarden saw that, like the eyes of the dwarves, these creatures had flickers of fire in the place of eyes. No doubt the work of the Phoenix Flame and the Dark Realm Dwarf’s necromancy. One of the creatures tried biting at Kruzco’s head with its fangs and short tusks; each bite missed him within centimeters of his face. Kruzco would counter attack with his ax but his swings were gentler than Vylasgarden expected; perhaps he was fearing that the momentum of his swings would throw him and the mule off course. Vylasgarden released the second arrow and it struck true to one of the creatures, slowing it down.
A second one rushed and caught up with the carriage and the knights. It reached and pulled one of the knights from his horse and mauled him while still chasing the carriage. It effortlessly dragged the corpse with it as the sheading blood splattered on the carriage and Vylasgarden could hear the baron’s children screaming inside. “Watch out!” another knight called out as the path took to a large dip. The driver could not avoid it in time and drove over it causing one of the wheels of the carriage to splinter and break. The carriage vaulted to its left and down a steep hill all while taking its horses with it
Kruzco dodged crashing into the carriage from the rear by dismounting the mule mid-run. He slammed into the ground and rolled many times over as the carriage crashed down the hill beside and below him. When the tumbling ended, Kruzco rolled onto his back. A sharp pain shot through his spine as he attempted to sit up. He felt every muscle scream to his nerves. Some distance away from him he could hear screams from one of the knights. It sounded as if he was being torn apart. Kruzco knew he would be next if he did not get up. He reached for his ax but was pounced on by one of the creatures. Up close the creature resembled a dire wolf but with tusks like an orc. This beast was a monstrosity Kruzco had not encountered before and he may not survive to see another. Its massive skeletal paws dug their claws into Kruzco’s tender flesh. “AHH!” Kruzco screamed struggling for control but the monster had him pinned. All he could do was fight it from mauling him with his free hand. He shoved his palms against the creature’s lower jaw while gripping its fangs. The teeth cut Kruzco’s fingers as he pushed its head up and away from his face. He began to feel his arm failing him as the creature wrestled its head free from Kruzco’s grasp. Suddenly the creature’s body fell apart all at once as a long sword came and separated the skull from its shoulders.
“Baron!” Kruzco cried with surprise as the elf, baron Miraven pulled him up from the ground.
“Come my family needs me,” he said to Kruzco before running down the hill.
The carriage was nine-meters below them in a shallow creek. With a wheel broken off, it lied on its side with Vylasgarden pinned underneath it.
“Madam sarkany! Are you there?” the baroness called from inside the carriage.
“Yes, malady…I am under the carriage. Stay inside. It isn’t safe,” Vylasgarden replied struggling under the heavy carriage. See looked around and saw the driver lying in the creak a meter or so away from her. The water around him was clouded with his blood. “Driver! Are you alive,” she called to him.
“He is dead,” a familiar voice called out her. Vylasgarden could not see where it was coming from but she knew the voice belonged to the knight that led the others.
“My lord, I need your help,” she called out to him.
“I cannot help you. I am stuck under my horse,” she heard him say. “I think my leg is broken.”
“Do you see the others?” Vylasgarden asked.
“No, I’m afraid. Brace yourself. The monsters are nearly upon us.” Panic crept into Vylasgarden because she was defenseless under the heavy carriage. Her longbow lied just out of reach from her and her back was against her quiver. Her head searched for the knight be her limited view kept her from finding him. She heard him on the left of her but the carriage obscured her view of him. Soon she heard the deep growls of the creatures. It sounded like just one of them but even so, she would not stand a chance if she remained under the carriage. Vylasgarden pushed and pushed but the carriage only moved slightly. Suddenly she heard the shot of a bolt. “It must have come from the knight. He was armed with a crossbow,” she thought to herself. “Come on you ugly son of a banshee!” she heard him say followed by the sound of him reloading. Vylasgarden helplessly struggled to free herself but it was no use. She listened as the knight was mauled to death. His screams and the creature’s growls were horrifying to listen to. It stunned Vylasgarden hearing the crunching of his bones and the gurgles of his last breaths. Then came the sounds of the creature nearing her position from around the carriage. Vylasgarden gave one last push which managed to lift the carriage enough for her roll herself out. As she moved she could hear the creature locating and chasing after her. Without looking Vylasgarden tumbled for her bow and notched an arrow to shoot but it was too late. The creature pounced on top of her. Its skull and claws were stained with the blood of its previous victim. Vylasgarden managed to push the creature off her and crouched to her feet. She and the creature faced off and growled at one another and just as it was about to pounce again a rain of arrows subdued it to pieces.
Vylasgarden turned around and saw dozens of myrkalfar elves dressed in ranger attire accompanied by Kruzco and the baron. “You alive,” Kruzco said running over to Vylasgarden and helping her to her feet.
“You must be the Watchtower,” Vylasgarden said referring to the elves.
“Aye, malady. And if it were not for you and the baron, hundreds would be dead right now,” a she-elf said. She appeared to be leading the other elves. “Right now, I have dozens of rangers escorting families out of the Feudal Lands and dozens more warning the city.” The baron went and opened the doors of the carriage. His wife and children emerged from within. They were bruised and shaken, but alive. “I cannot thank you enough for protecting them,” the baron said to Kruzco and Vylasgarden.
“If you come with us we can take you to safety,” another elf said to the family.
“We need to go to the city. Do you have any horses with you?” Vylasgarden asked.
“Of course, malady. We will give you one to travel back to the main road,” the she-elf replied. This myrkalfr was older, Much older. Her silvered hair and grey skin suggested she was at least six-hundred and fifty years old.
“Are there any mages among you?” Vylasgarden followed.
The she-elf nodded, “Aye, more than a few.”
“The creature and its army responsible for this are fueled by dark magic,” Vylasgarden said. “Other forms of magic may be the key to stopping this efficiently.”
“Of course, malady. I will arrange my mages at once,” the she-elf said turning to her legion. “I need teams in the Feudal Lands but especially on the city wall. The invasion is heading in that direction and we need as many rangers as possible to defend the wall,” she said to her peers. Groups of the myrkalfar went in every direction. Their uniforms allowed them to disappear easily in the treetops above as many climbed and disperse, leaving behind disturbed branched and leaves.
“Here, take this,” the baron said to Vylasgarden. “take the sword with you.”
“My lord, I cannot⏤” Vylasgarden began to say.
“You can and you will. My family is safe now because of you and your friend. The least I can do is offer more protection since you will be running back into the heart of battle,” the baron explained. Vylasgarden took the elven sword in her hand. It was very light which she found it to be versatile.
“I will honor it,” she said to the baron.
“I know you will,” he replied before taking his family hand in hand and into the woods headed southeast with a band of rangers.
Vylasgarden and Kruzco were once again approached by the she-elf. “We have a horse ready for you my lord and lady. Is there anything else the Watchtower can do to aid you?” she asked.
“You have done enough for us, thank you. Now all is left is to reclaim Flos Sergens,” Vylasgarden replied.
“May the gods be with you in battle.”
“And you the same. Thank you again,” Vylasgarden said genuinely.
“Come, Riker and Azariah need us,” Kruzco said leading the way to the horse waiting for them on top of the hill.