Hasan directed the four Hutakaan guards, “Escort the Mage Miklos. Do not let the dead enter a melee with him.” Jasiteq and the elf, moved to join Stephen and Feldard. “Stephan, please wait, and bring Maruc forward as quickly as you can. Jasiteq says the scream will bring the dead. We will need Halav’s hand in this fight. Feldard, you, Jasiteq and I can see in the dark, but Ludo cannot. We must move forward to save the young lad. Perhaps we will see this Kartoeba as well, but I fear not.” The elf moved into the forest, eyes and ears scrying the land ahead.
The dwarf gave a grunt and nod as Hasan assumed command of the situation. Feldard could only imagine what it might look like to others of his race, him following the lead of some elf prince; but he’d spent enough time now traveling with his companions to know that the elf had a good mind for this type of thing.
Feldard followed the slime trail quickly to the edge of the woods and from there proceeded more slowly as he tried -with next to no experience – to track the Kartoeba creature through the trees beyond. He kept Hasan, and Jasiteq in sight as they spread out to cover more area in search of Ludo and the Kartoeba.
Ludo gulped, his throat was dry, the scream in the night, the mist clinging to him and the cold night air… what had he been thinking of charging blindly into the night against. He suddenly realized he had no idea what was out here. Whoever had made the scream was most likely dead now. The fear clung to him like a heavy cloak. What a fool he had been to come out here alone without support. Suddenly he blinked, he could see some shapes in amongst the trees getting closer. Ducking down into the shrubbery for cover, he fumed at his own recklessness; a thought flashed through his mind ‘heroics are for lofty elves not for cunning rogues.’ He threw his torch to one side and, keeping low, darted off in the opposite direction making his way back to the Hutakkan village.
Stephan stuck close to Feldard relying on the dwarf’s night vision. Their progress was slow and careful; pausing often to see and hear. “You see anything out there?” he asked trying to keep his voice calm. Despite being a forester, he did not like traipsing about in dark, misty woods. “Feldard,” he hissed. “This is feeling like a trap.” That said, he continued to follow the dwarf.
Looking through the trees ahead and to the right, he noted that Ludo did not seem to be moving anymore. Well, he thought, at least his torch is not moving anymore.
The dwarf saw a squad of undead. A dozen skeletons were followed by a half dozen lumbering zombies. Some of the animated corpses appeared to be Hutaakan, while others seemed to be Traldar. The lesser undead seemed to be commanded by another of their kind. It looked like a Traldar, but bone-white and thin, with hollow, lifeless eyes. The undead were heading quickly toward the village. They were chasing Ludo!
Maruc glanced at the drag marks. “This is no trap. This creature hunts like the tiger not like the spider. It seems indiscriminent though. It has taken Hutakaan villagers. If this thing was under Hutaakan control, it would not do so. I fear this thing has been summoned for some purpose. It isn’t what I’d call natural. What think you Miklos?”
Mikos eye’d the gloom. Ludo was ahead of him a ways and he picked out odd dancing shadows beyond him. The rogue had stopped and was returning at pace. “I think,” he said in reply to the priest. “We may be about to find out.” He produced the glass rod which he used to focus his mage wrought lightning. “Be prepared to run if this doesn’t dissuade it.”
The rogue came out of the treeline. He had abandoned stealth as the undead were now in full pursuit. A dozen skeletons followed immediately behind him, with still more dark shadows moving in the forest behind.