Larekien pulled his hood low to ward against the biting cold and pressed on into the blizzard. The snow was falling heavily, and his every step sunk deep into it. Even worse than the snow was the wind, which drove the snow nearly sideways and chilled to the bone.
Ahead, Larekien could see Roost flitting through the trees, fighting against the wind. The large raven was only just staying in the air.
It took a moment, but Larekien soon heard the bird’s response in his mind. Roost has seen nothing yet. This wind may prove to be too strong for Roost.
Don’t push yourself too hard. I’d rather have to search for shelter by myself than have you hurt yourself.
Roost will press on.
Larekien pressed on as well. Although he wanted to lower his head against the lashing snow, he forced himself to keep it up. He had to find shelter, and soon—the heavy wool under his armor could only protect him from so much. The cold cut through it, biting deeper than any blade might.
I have a surprise for you. Roost had perched on a low branch and was using the trunk to shield himself from the wind.
Shelter? Larekien struggled up to Roost’s tree and gazed through the dim grey of the blizzard. He could see a yawning cave mouth lit by a soft orange glow. This is a surprise.
Roost cawed happily and settled onto Larekien’s shoulder, his talons clutching at the heavy cloak. Onward, servant.
Larekien gave the raven a sharp glance. I take back what I said earlier. I’d much rather you hurt yourself.
Leaning on his heavy mace, Larekien made his way to the cave entrance. With his goal in sight, he moved much more quickly.
The glow that Larekien had seen from the forest came from a ring of torches that circled the cave, which itself was rather small. Beneath the torches were stone slabs.
Larekien spread his cloak out onto a slab.
Roost isn’t so sure about this. Maybe Roost and Larry should leave.
If you want to go back out into that blizzard, be my guest. Larekien leaned his long-hafted mace against the slab. I’m staying here.
Suddenly, with a splitting crack, a skeletal hand burst from the stone slab and grabbed Larekien around the throat. Larekien grabbed it and tried to break the hold, but the grip was deathly strong.
Gasping for breath, Larekien could see through his dimming vision skeletons rising from each of the six stone slabs. He wrenched at the hand, but to no avail.
With a cry, Roost pecked sharply at the joint holding the skeleton’s arm to the rest of its frame, and the bone cracked. Larekien leaped from the slab and grabbed his mace, bringing it down on the armless skeleton and smashing it to pieces. Thanks.
Humans are dumb.
By now, the other five skeletons had risen fully. Their bones were yellowed, flesh still clinging to them. Their eye sockets were filled with a swirling gray mist,* and they pointed rusty swords.
I’ll take the left.
Roost cawed his acknowledgement and darted towards the skeleton on the right, swooping past its blade and scoring his talons across its skull. Of course, Roost wasn’t able to take the skeleton down, but his evasive antics distracted two skeletons.
Larekien took advantage of the moment, leaping forward and bringing his mace crashing through the leftmost skeleton. There was a crunch, and it collapsed into a pile of bones and dust, the grey mist leaving its eyes and creeping towards the center of the cave.
The next skeleton fell similarly, Larekien’s mace shattering its shoulder and then its skull. The old brittle bones snapped easily, and soon Larekien was left in a room littered with sundered skeletons.
The gray mist leaked from the broken skulls and pooled in the center of the room, swirling clockwise and gaining speed.
Roost hovered out by the mouth of the cave. Roost is thinking that this blizzard is a good option.
You may be right for once, you old featherbag. Larekien pulled his cloak back over his shoulders and hurried back out into the snow.
Behind him, he could see the skeletons re-forming as the gray tendrils of mist knit their bones back together. They tried to follow, but the mist couldn’t leave the cave, and any bones that entered the blizzard dropped immediately to the ground.
You can look for shelter this time. Roost had settled back onto his shoulder. I’m not sure I trust myself after that.
What a fantastic excuse to sit still. But Roost had already tucked his beak under his wing.
Larekien pressed back into the lashing snow and howling wind.