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Chapter 3

The Fists left Minarken in the rainy morning on their way to …, but on their way they passed the hidden graveyard again and in spite of Angus’ objections, they decided to take a closer look. But as they left the road, they spotted they were being pursued by a troop of bandit raiders. They rushed to the graveyard and tried to hide from the bandits, when they witnessed a terrifying spectacle. The dead seemed to be rising from the graves in the pouring rain, moaning and shuffling about and strange monsters were digging up the graves and eating some corpses. Angus may have been right. This place should have been avoided. But by now there was no place to run, so they huddled together, bracing for the inevitable fight. By then the raiders have also wandered into the area and were immediately assaulted by the strange creatures roaming the graveyard.

The corpse-eating beasts ran straight for the bandit raiders, while the living corpses were slowly shuffling towards the Iron Fists, who looked on in horror at some three dozens of enemies before them. As the living corpses came close, Boris the Blade swung his new two-hander wide and fell one and damaged another, while Robin Goodfellow decapitated the one that stretched his grimy hands towards him. All the while the corpse-eaters and bandits were going at each other, some falling, some running away, others holding ground and hacking away. Ciaran snuck away from the main battle line and hid in bushes north of the main battle line, and there he ambushed and killed one bandit bowman and prepared an ambush for another he saw approaching. But then a bandit that was nearly surrounded by the undead abominations managed to break off form them and ran straight for the little hill where the Iron Fists were positioned. They let him approach unhindered. Perhaps this was the time to form a tactical alliance with the bandits against the corpses and corpse-eaters?

Boris the Blade stood next to the bewildered looking bandit, not knowing whether to strike at him or not, when he saw with profound horror that the two revenant corpses that lay by his feet not a minute ago, raised up and lunged forth once more. Raimund hit one with his billhook from the rear, and Boris swung his mighty blade about once again, killing one revenant, hitting another, but also striking the bandit that stood next to him who cursed him loudly and readied his guard to attack. The alliance seemed to be over, before it even begun. As Robin struck down another living corpse, he saw in the distance a corpse-eater gorging on a fallen bandit and as if the horrors they witnessed weren’t enough, he realised the beast grew before his eyes as it devoured the bandit’s flesh. In spite of all his optimism he wasn’t sure this was going to turn out well.

For the third time Boris swung the two-hander, again felling a revenant and hitting another, but while it flew past the bandit’s head, he quickly dodged and riposted at Boris, scratching his armour, then cursing some more turned to strike at a walking corpse grabbing at his legs. “It’s a right mess if I ever saw one” yelled Angus as he was swinging wildly at a revenant, while Edmund swiftly planted his pick in its skull, stilling him for good. Or so he hoped. Everyone was covered in mud, blood, sweat by now and entirely exhausted. Even lifting the weapon was difficult, much less swinging it. Ciaran rushed bandit bowman and knocked him back with his shield, but got careless and the outlaw quickly stabbed him in the arm, causing a deep gash, before having his skull crushed by a direct hit with a winged mace. The bandit raider that Boris hit earlier now got his revenge and struck his armour a few times, before Angus pushed him away with his shield and Raimund gutted him with his billhook. Two more undead rose again and in the rear the corpse-eaters were still devouring one dead body after another.

After the mound was secured of its assailants, Robin Goodfellow lead a charge towards the corpse-eaters, before they grew to a monstrous size. From three dozen enemies, they have reduced them to a half dozen by now, they would have to keep the pressure up, as to not lose in the final moments. Boris the Blade and Raimund hacked apart the largest of the corpse eaters, Edmund killed another and Ciaran and Angus beat down one more, while Boris was too exhausted and bloodied to continue, so he pulled back to have a look at his wounds, while Edmund and Raimund chased after the last three weaker ones and promptly dispatched them.

It was over. They were alive. Exhausted, bloodied, dirty, but alive. Around them lay the mangled, mutilated and half-eaten corpses of nearly three dozen foes. They gathered their wrecked belongings and extracted some of the corpse-eater’s teeth to show to anyone who might know what the beasts were, but didn’t tarry about too long, for the place was horrifying and they wished to leave it quickly. Angus kept saying “I told you so” and Boris dryly added “So you did.”

They marched quickly to Walmer Castle, where they gave an exhaustive report to the castellan, who recognised the teeth he was shown as those of creatures the villagers called “ghouls”. He suggested they avoid such places in the future and Angus immediately agreed. While they cleaned themselves up, mended their armours and fixed their weapons, they discussed strategies and tactics they employed and learned from one another how to improve their striking skills, their shield use and movement in battle.

They headed out towards Wallstadt again and the Foothill Keep that was close by, to see if any contracts were available. There were none. Yet as they were leaving Foothill Keep, strange howls were heard from the nearby woods. They’ve just barely survived one dreadful encounter, would they have to go through another? Before they could answer, they heard yells from their rear “Form up! Form up, you fools! Have you never fought off wolves before?” A small group of professional soldiers from the keep were coming up behind them in battle formation, while the black pelts of the beasts charging form the forests were already seen closing in with great speed.

Urh’s eyes glistened. “I’ve always loved a good wolf hunt!” he said, and Edmund, who attended many hunts with his lord, nodded in agreement. But Boris was less impressed. “Just make sure you don’t become the hunted,” he added. By then the Foothill soldiers have passed them and advanced further, to meet the wolves head-on, and Angus yelled “Go on lads, it’ll be over before we get there if we don’t hurry!” As they ran forward they saw a wolf tear out the throat of a young soldier and several soldiers hacking apart three fierce beasts that were howling and barking, scratching and biting. Boris leaped forth and chopped off the head off one, while Raimund got the last one with his billhook.

The soldiers cursed the loss of one of their mates then said goodbye and returned to the Keep, while Urh was satisfied with the day’s catch, using his hunting knife to carefully skin the beasts, obtaining five quality wolf pelts, he said were worth at least seventy crowns each. The rest didn’t really care one way or the other, as long as it was going to buy them a bed in the next in, a warm meal and a drink.