'Some secrets should never be unearthed'. This was a thought that had been racing through my mind ever since this entire mess began.
If it were not for my damned curiosity I would not currently be hiding here in the lowest boughs of a mighty elm tree. Below me countless corpses shambled below me, victims of the Hunger. Through the ghastly wounds and rent flesh an unholy blue light pulsed relentlessly, just as the army continued their march towards the civilized lands. My hand reached for my quiver, numb fingers sifting through the velvety feathered arrows to get an accurate count.
Twenty. Twenty whole arrows against this horde of hundreds. Even if they were unthinking beasts I did not like my odds of surviving an engagement. My eyes narrow as I gaze off into the not so distant town that lay in the hordes path.
My wife, my children...they have not had adequate time to flee yet. Hiding here as the horde passed is not an option for me. Of course it was not surprising that a person of 'His' power would be able to find my weak points. As soon I was discovered in that accursed realm not only my life but the life of everyone I know and love became endangered.
"One flame to be extinguished" I whisper to myself and glance once again in the direction of the town. The leading group of monstrous Risen were over a few hundred paces from my tree. I pull my bow from my shoulder and feel the familiar warmth of the firm leather grip. With a practiced motion I pull an arrow from my quiver and knock it to the silken drawstring.
"To save an entire bonfire" I continue with a bittersweet smile that I could not stop from crawling across my face. I slowly pull the arrow back, the veins on my muscles arms visible on my arms like a spider web with the powerful strain. I can hear the yew bow grown in protest as it's limbs arch back begging to be released.
I take a careful bead of the leading Risen, the poor sap must have once been a farmer. He limply dragged a spade behind him having completely forgotten the purpose of the tool. Now it was just a blunt object it would use to slaughter helpless innocents. Suddenly the breath left my body in a quiet exhale. I could hear the sound of my heartbeat pounding in my ears from the pressure. The beat slowed down bit by bit until it rhythm faded entirely.
"Well worth the price" I whispered and with a smooth motion, I let my fingers loose the bowstring.
The bow snapped forward with a loud noise no doubt alerting the nearby Risen to my presence. With a flicker of movement faster than most men's eyes could follow the arrow closed the space to the farmer. The arrow caught him straight in the back of his skull, the sharp tip burrowing straight through and out the other side in an explosion of gore. The mob behind this spectacle slowly turned to see an enemy suddenly amongst their ranks.
I barely had time to register the scene as my hand automatically reached for my next arrow. I had to be certain that the leading group turns their attention to me as well. I willed my arms to move swiftly as I aimed the bow below me at the Risen looking up my direction. I did not have to put as much force into my shots at this nearly point blank distance
Twang twang twang
My bow began to sing a song of destruction down on the enemies beneath me. With every shot I took another of these monsters was removed from this world. Suddenly I noticed that one was trying to claw its way up the tree. With a feral growl I swung my bow and let another arrow fly the sheer momentum driving it straight to the ground and crashing into a group of its fellows. I felt my quiver growing lighter with every shot. I had the attention on me, but now what?
Suddenly I hear a cry from above him and glanced up to see a flying creature swooping towards me. I had never seen one before but everyone knows the of its description from the legends handed down by my elders. It was a massive beast that must have been summoned from the deepest nightmare of all the realms. It's body shone with dark black scales and upon it the crystalline blue of the Hunger formed it's head and wings. A sharp tipped tail flowed from its back and as it casually lashed it out to the side several tree tops were cleanly severed as if they were nothing.
"Wyvern?!" The dreaded word escaped my mouth in terror as it swept towards me. With a desperate attempt I launched a volley of arrows at it hoping to keep the creature at bay. The Wyvern did not even attempt to block these arrows and just took them full force. The pitiful arrows splintered against its natural armor. My hand reached into the quiver to try and find a weakness but found it holding nothing but empty air.
"Not good" I muttered to myself as the Wyvern swept down on the tree I was in. I threw myself backwards as fast as I could, dropping my now useless bow. With the back of my knees I grabbed on the branch below and hung precariously. Above me I watched as the Wyvern tore the top half of the tree in its pass missing me by scant inches. Wasting no time I used my hands to grab onto the next branch and leapt down, willing to take my chances on the ground with the Risen.
As I fell I pulled a set of short swords from my waist, the steel ringing as they came free from their scabbards. Clearly the Risen did not expect me to make such a daring move as their weapons only began to move as I fell upon them. I was a flurry of motion as I came down using the swords in quick successive strikes. With a twist I let my trailing leg sweep around and above the shell of a middle aged woman with hideous glowing eyes and did not hesitate as I brought it down in a sudden axe kick. A squishy sensation accompanied a loud crunch as I finished this move.
Another tremendous roar sounded from above, the very air seemed to shake with the power of its voice. I really did it now. I seriously disgruntled off something I had absolutely no chance of defeating like this. I could feel my muscle screaming from the contact demand on them and I know my strikes were beginning to slow. I felt a sudden pain in my side and jumped back, barely avoiding being skewered alive by a rusted spear. With a growl I drew the blades to my chest and sent them flying out wide, cleanly decapitating the bastards who had stabbed me.
I can feel the warmth slowly draining that that would and the dozen other minor cuts and grazes I had taken during the fight. I was backpedaling the opposite direction of the village as I fought the number of foes I had killed so far? I stopped counting as soon as I had dropped from that tree. Just a little further and they should be safe was the only thought keeping me going.
Suddenly I heard a guttural growl from behind me and turned just in time to see a suddenly blur of motion leap upon me. A panther, warped by the hunger and driven mad suddenly drove me to the ground. I felt it's jaws clamp around my left arm and bite down viciously. A scream of pain erupted from my mouth as I lost all control in that limb. I worked my legs under the cat and pushed with all my might.
"GET OFF ME YOU BASTARD" I screamed and with a lurch I pushed the cat off me. It quickly got back up and snarled at me, my own blood was dripping from its fangs. A quick glanced confirmed my suspicion that my arm was ruined. Bits of broken bone were visible through the mangled skin.
"You" I said to the creature, as if it would really understand human speech. "You took my arm you bastard". I could see the rear legs of the cat tamping the ground and preparing to launch its self at me. A sudden surge of feral hatred swelled in me that I never knew existed. I screamed and ran straight at the giant cat as it lunched above me, preparing to take me down and tear out my throat in one move.
As I came up right next to the cat and suddenly jumped and thrust both of my feet in front of me in a double kick straight into its chest. All of my momentum was transferred to the panther and I sent it flying as I feel straight onto the ground. Agony spread throughout my body as I landed on top of my destroyed arm. I suppressed the sudden wave of nausea that nearly overtook me. Only after a moment did I hear a strange whining noise in front of me. I glanced to see the panther.
I had kicked it up against a tree and the branch behind it had snapped and driven straight through the cat's spine, impaling it right on a tree. A grim satisfaction filled my mind as I walked over to the now helpless creature. In truth I truly did want this thing to suffer a slow and painful death but a part of me remembered that this poor creature was just another victim of the Hunger. This a swipe of my sword I slit it's throat and let it die a quick death.
Suddenly moans came from every direction. While I had been fighting that cat the horde had surrounded me. They may be slow but they had cut off every single escape route. There was no way I could get out. Suddenly with a crash the wyvern burst into the clearing staring me down like some impudent human... and I guess I was.
"I am sorry my goddess Gaea" I whispered and felt wetness on my face and stared up into the maw of the Wyvern. "I chose my family over revealing the traitor who killed y-"