“What is that?” A demon adventurer shielded his eyes from the sun with his hand and looked off into the distance. The other adventurers finished off their zombies before turning to look. The plains were still scorched and corpses littered the ground. Vultures circled the sky and their figures could be seen all over the plains.
“It looks like a cloud of ash?” another adventurer said. Doofus felt a shiver run down his spine and he called for all the students to retreat.
“What’s going on?” Gabel asked. His mace dripped with ichor and his clothes were spattered with black blood. His black hair was disheveled and tiny horns could be seen sprouting from his temples.
“I don’t know,” Doofus said, “but it’s not good. We’re pulling back to Traurig.” The students didn’t complain and the group started to head back north. They were all tired from fighting and ash smudged their clothes. They passed adventurers heading towards the plains coming from Traurig and soon the city was in sight.
Back on the plains, adventurers were still killing zombies as they observed the cloud of ash in the distance. “Is it getting bigger?” a white mage asked.
“Something doesn’t seem right about that,” a man said. “I’m going back.” A few voices murmured in agreement.
The cloud got larger as time passed and more adventurers started to leave. “Do you feel that?” a woman with a rapier asked. The ground was trembling and the earth started to shake. Flecks of ash bounced off the ground.
“It’s cavalry!” an archer shouted. The adventurers turned towards the cloud and saw tiny figures of black horses with riders. The sounds of hooves resounded as thousands of undead horsemen charged towards the adventurers. The adventurers all turned to run, throwing spells and traps into the distance, but the wave of riders didn’t stop.
Screams sounded out in the air as the horsemen caught up to the slower adventurers. “I’m too pretty to die!” a man shouted as he was engulfed by the sea of horsemen. The flood came to a halt after it reached the edges of the charred plains.
The leader of the group was a black skeleton with a mithril helmet riding a six-legged skeletal beast. He pointed towards the east with his spear and the flood turned and resumed its charge. The bodies of the fallen adventurers twitched as a group of liches rode through the carnage and reanimated their bodies.
“Something must be done about this,” Gale said as he clenched his fist. He was wearing a white robe and his brown hair reached just above his blue eyes. He had a thin frame and his knuckles were white from grasping his staff. “The people are suffering. Let me lead the charge, Your Highness,” he said.
The king nodded and the fat underneath his neck jiggled. “Very well, I’ll entrust you with the operation, Arch Bishop Gale. You may act with my authority.”
“Thank you, your highness.” Gale bowed his head.
“What’s going on?” Michelle asked her mother as they sat in the church. The priests, who were all white mages, rushed throughout the church corridors. Clanking noises echoed throughout the hall as paladins marched through with morning stars and plate mail.
“There’s no need to be alarmed,” the pastor said to the mass. “The king has declared a crusade against the undead in the graveyard. Hundreds of adventurers lives were lost in a recent invasion, but be strong. Humans have always persisted with the power of God. Look towards him for guidance and he will tell you the way.”
“Won’t the humans attack us?” Tafel asked her father. Her second pair of horns had already grown as long as her first pair. They curved over her head and pointed behind her. Red and blue lights lit the horns from the inside and traveled along the length of the horns.
The king shook his head. “Although our hatred for each other runs deep, the undead is a greater threat to both of us. Of course, we won’t send in our full strength; we’ll have just enough to defend ourselves from the humans if they do decide to launch an offensive.”
Tafel frowned. “The humans never offered us a peace treaty like this before. A coalition army of this size, can it work?”
“Stop worrying about stuff like that and eat your food,” her mother said. She turned to her husband. “This is what happens when you fill her head with magic and warfare.”
“Your mother’s right. You shouldn’t worry about these things. You’re just a child after all,” her father said.
“I’m almost six,” Tafel said and pouted.
“You’re almost a child then,” her mother said, “now eat your green beans.”
Tafel made a face. I’ll show them, she thought and stabbed her beans.
“Mama! Grimmy! I’m home!” Vur said. He was standing with Snuffles by his side and Lindyss behind him. The basilisk and the bats returned to the fountain of youth to rest. The moon was out and the valley was empty except for those three. The grass was green and the surrounding mountains had webs of colors protruding from them as ore veins interlaced one another. Herb patches of all colors speckled the valley floor.
The ground shook as voices echoed through the valley. “Vur’s back?”
“He’s really back!”
“I knew he’d be okay.”
Five figures flew off a mountain top and landed in the valley. Lindyss kneeled and lowered her head.
“Don’t think I didn’t notice you called for Grimmy and not me,” Vernon said as he blew a puff of smoke at Vur.
Vur giggled. “I missed you too, Papa,” he said. His dark brown hair was clean and had multiple braids at the end.
“Ah, does this mean I’m going to have to start hunting again?” Grimmy said and sighed. “What a pain.”
Leila nuzzled Grimmy’s neck with her snout. “Don’t act like you weren’t the one who missed him the most,” she said and turned towards Vur. “He burned down who knows how many towns and convinced the liches to invade the humans, you know? I missed you, child.”
“Are you wearing pants?” Prika asked.
Sera picked Vur up and nuzzled her cheek against his body. “Don’t ever disappear on me again,” she said. “Have you been well?”
“Yeah! Auntie Lindyss took me to lots of places. She fed me to a miro, threw me into an antlion pit, and sold me to the nagas,” he said with a smile.
Lindyss’ hands started sweating as all the dragons turned to stare at her. “H-hey Grimmoldesser, long time no see,” she said and did a small wave with her hand.
Grimmy blinked and lowered his head to stare at her face. “It’s you! The little bat,” he said. “I’m surprised you’re still alive.”
For now, she thought as sweat rolled down her back. “Thanks for the vote of confidence,” she said. “I see you’re still well. Did you find a mate?”
“Who’s she?” Leila asked Grimmy.
“She’s an elf I used to roam with.”
“Roam, eh?” Leila said as she stared at Grimmy with a smile.
“What’s this about selling him to the nagas?” asked Sera as she glared at Lindyss.
“Ah, that must’ve been a misunderstanding,” Lindyss said as she looked at Vur, “right?”
“Nope. She made me her servant and then sold me to the rich man,” he said while pouting. Lindyss fell down on her face.
“Are you trying to get me killed!?” she asked him.
“No, no. It’s just training,” Vur said as he echoed back the words he heard from her many times.
A vein popped up on her forehead. This brat, she thought.
“How much did you sell him for?” Prika asked.
Aren’t you asking the wrong kinds of questions? Lindyss thought, but said, “300 red crystals.”
“She’s lying. She bet on me every time and has closer to a billion red crystals,” Vur said.
“You want to take not only my life, but my fortune too?!”
Prika nodded her head. “One billion red crystal’s not too bad of a dowry I guess,” she said.
Everyone, including Snuffles, stared at Prika.
“What?” Prika asked. “She has to take responsibility for her actions, right?”