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Light crept across the floor as the lady knight lit the candle on her desk. The study within Wintergarde was far smaller than its Westguard counterpart, its walls filled with cold-weather necessities such as a pot-belly stove, piles of wood, and even a stash of wool blankets. Each room was individually stocked for the worst.

Stoking the stove fire, Arialynn settled into her seat and resumed her work. Maps, letters, reports, and more draped over her makeshift desk. But her eyes were distant and set on places far away, eyeing the memories that still lurked nearby in the fort’s dark corners.


“And that’s the last of it,” Koryander grumbled, pulling the tiny strips of meat from the fire and tossing in even more meager bits of kindling.

“And just yesterday, you were complaining over last week’s mammoth. I think the word you used for it was ‘sad’,” Arialynn replied, nursing said sad ration. The mammoth meat was a little more than sagging meat on a grey, bent bone.

“Sad is better than nothing. Something’s wrong here, Ari. We’re surrounded by woods. There should be game here, or mushrooms or something.”

“It is too cold for mushrooms,” Arialynn adjusted her wool cloak over her shoulders. “And the dead drive the game away.”

A chill wind buffeted them both and sought to quench their fire. With a snap of her fingers, Koryander urged more heat to the flame. “Yeah,” she said darkly, eyes on the fire. Both soldiers were silent for a long moment.

“They’re not coming, are they?” Koryander finally spoke.

Arialynn didn’t reply, her unease clearly written even on her stoney face. “No, they probably are not.”

“They’re probably among the dead,” the warrior grit her teeth as she spoke.

“Aye. That is the way of things here,” the lady knight said quietly.

Hell, Ari. What are we going to do?”

About to reply, something tugged at Arialynn’s gaze. Her eyes lifted to the breach of a distant hill where the white moon should have stared but in its place was a lurching, shifting silhouette. A torrid mass of bodies was looming, pitching its way down, drawn by the fire, the voices, and sweet, succulent smell of life.

Her alarmed gaze warned Koryander immediately. Both women snatched up their weapons, turned, and without a word, fled.

“For now,” Arialynn breathed as they tore through the woods, leaving the fire and warmth behind, the mass of undead unleashing screeching wails behind them. “We run.”

Author Ari
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