The Chase Begins

A small group can move faster through the forest than an army. A single person can avoid enemy positions and slip past their lines with the ease of the wind. Given the right person, of course.

The average member of the undead was mindless, it operated on the most basic of instincts: hunger. They could follow instructions to a point, some species were less driven by hunger and more capable of focusing on a task than others. Without an external intelligence to guide them all the lesser undead were trapped in either a task without end or an endless nagging need to eat. Without a stimuli to draw their attention they will mindlessly go on about their days in an eternal cycle.

Which was what Samuel was counting on.

He had been born and raised in a community of nomadic hunters. His childhood was spent learning the ways of the forest; to track prey and to evade predators. He was as much in his element at the top of the food chain as he was on the bottom. The community he grew up in relied heavily on the efforts of the members; they taught him to be self-reliant and to think for himself. In the woods you could only count on your own skills to be there when you ran into trouble as the community was too small to be there every time.

It had come as a complete shock to his friends and family when he chose to leave the community and joined the local military.

He had been fascinated with the strangers who had set up camp on the edge of the forest. There were so many tents, so many horses, and more people in one place than he had ever seen in one place before in his short life. He had known at first sight that his destiny lay with these new people.

His time with the army found him assigned to the scouting units. His knowledge of the wilds, his swift and noiseless movement, and his uncanny ability to blend into the background seemingly at will made him a much admired asset. Overused, underpaid, but an asset.

The only plus to this era of his life was his introduction to Craig. He was never comfortable within the crush of bodies that made up the camps and coupled with his growing disillusionment with military life made the decision to leave with Craig a simple one.

The life of adventure with Craig and company was similar to his youth: a roving, nomadic life within a small community. There was no one to answer to. Every member was respected for the skills they brought and everyone was given a voice in the direction they took as a whole. They shared the gains and losses equally.

It was never a profitable life; no one left it rich as a king. It did provide Samuel with a more valuable treasure: he got to see and experience more of the world than he would have had he stayed among his people.

He moved through the forest like the wind through the grass: quiet and swift. He kept his distance from the pockets of undead that were scattered throughout the trees. Lesser undead that had been left to slow an enemy but were easy for an individual to avoid, even in the dark of night.

One of the weaknesses of the lesser members was their inability to think for themselves. This resulted in them keeping close to their assigned routes with almost no deviation. With an intelligence to guide them they could be formidable, without they were only dangerous if you stumbled upon them unawares.

Samuel was on the lookout for danger anytime he caught a whiff of death or decay. His responsibility as a scout was to uncover potential danger before anyone stumbled upon it. He was almost never caught unawares.

It hadn’t taken him long to catch up with the remnants of the necromancers. His prediction had been correct, the zombies and the older Falson were slow moving, steady in pace but slow. There were more of the dead in the group than he expected, closer to four dozen than the two dozen he had predicted, but he could make out the two prisoners and the trio of necromancers.

It had only been a few days since he had left the Norasburg contingent on his task from Light Koarl: kill the necromancers, bring back Shan. He may have been a bit more optimistic than he should have been, based on the more accurate numbers he had seen he should have brought people with him.

Too many zombies for a direct attack, Samuel spent the next couple of days discretely following the group as it moved through the trees. They spent the bulk of the day on the move, they rested three times a day for two hours at a time.

The necromancers left their security to their zombie companions. Both the necromancers and their prisoners crashed the moment the group stopped, falling fitfully into sleep until they were awakened when the break was over.

Samuel took advantage of these stops to catch quick naps. It couldn’t go on like this forever, they were quickly approaching the ruined lands of the tower at Ravensbrook: the ruined tower. Once they passed into those lands their numbers would grow as they were joined by roving bands of the undead. They had to be stopped on the forest side or not at all.

He pulled out his crossbow and loaded a bolt. He would only get the one shot before his presence was known but he could at least take down one of the necromancers first. There should still be enough time to get the other two before they made it to safety.

He carefully placed the crossbow into the branches of a tree above him. He pulled himself into the tree and reclaimed his weapons. His perch in the tree gave him a better view of the group and a clearer shot.

They were breaking camp as he watched; the necromancers groggily shaking off the sleep, the prisoners resisting the push for them to awaken.

It was now or never.

Samuel let a quarrel fly and watched as it scored a hit on a necromancer. The target fell and the camp exploded into chaos.

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