As days pass and mile after mile is covered we pass the time with idle conversation and silent reflection. I think of my family often and think of whether I will ever see them again. I have a recurring day-dream that often visits me while we amble along. It presents as a sequence of images, a tableau of stills showing my family being found by the zombies. It starts simply with Lune hanging laundry in the sun while mother cooks in the kitchen and father chops wood. Out of the forest stumbles a single zombie. My father calls for Lone to go inside and quickly follows, barring the door behind him. The zombie stumbles forward and is soon followed by more. Before too long there are hundreds. My family is trapped. There is no hope of escape. Oddly, that is as far as it goes. There is never a conclusion to this dream, only that they are trapped against seemingly impossible odds.
As we walk, we sometimes talk of how we can better prepare for situations we may face. One day, we decided that we would have a secret system to communicate whether or not something we’ve been given to eat or drink has been poisoned. If Dolf or Jensa remind us to pray before eating or drinking something, they’ve found it to be poisoned.
In our own way, even though we know we have a long and difficult road ahead, we try to keep things light. Vegard is a joker and is often getting suggestive with Mari, much to all our amusement. One day, he decided that we needed to know more about the sleeping potion that we’d taken from Blythe. So Vegard went ahead of us on the path and smashed one of the vials. As he ran away, a cloud appeared behind him. The contents of the vial turn to gas when released. Moments after running from the spot where he broke the vial, Vegard does an about-face and runs straight into the cloud, quickly falling to the ground in a heap. As the cloud dissipates, we walk towards Vegard and all find it quite humorous that he has managed to collapse, with a wide toothy grin parked on his face. We strap him to the sled and continue to walk. He wakes about 10 minutes later bubbling with questions about how long he was out, how quickly it worked and all in all quite pleased with himself. We’re all quite amused by the event.
It does raise a number of further questions about this potion though, and Aija decides to try it to see if Dolf is able to wake her using his spells without waiting for the effects to wear off. So she drops a vial, takes a deep breath and falls into a deep sleep. Dolf immediately asks Helga to wake her and Aija whips awake instantly. Dolf’s magic works. That is always a reassuring feeling. Our friend is more powerful than we know.
We also figure that it would be useful to know how the potion takes its effect. Is it topical to the skin or only if you breathe it in? I volunteer to test it out and smash a vial while holding my breath. The cloud surrounds me as I hold my breath but nothing happens. Happy to have learned that you must breathe it in, and running a little low on air, I exhale heavily and breathe in. A big breath of sleep-cloud. Next thing I know I’m on the back of the sled and Vegard is pulling me along. It was the best half-hour nap I’ve ever had.
On the fourth day after leaving Blythe’s cabin of death, we come to a gorgeous open meadow at the confluence of the river and a smaller creek. There are two cabins standing in the field. Each has borne witness to many generations of traveller seeking comfort in their modest shelter.
We continue walking for many more days. Watching as the landscape slowly changes. The air is thicker and seems to carry more life in it. Bird songs none of us have heard before echo through the trees. The forest thins and we see grasslands and the wide open sky. At some point shortly after the copse and cabins the pathway crossed over the river on a small and sturdy bridge. We now walk of the south bank. Though insignificant in any geographic sense, crossing from north to south has lifted our spirits. It has served as a waypoint that speaks to our progress. We are on our way.
The river grows quickly these last days, seeming to double in size with each day we walk. It has come to be almost a quarter mile across. As we continue our journey, the terrain takes another change, this time far more sudden. We are walking through very wet, swampy land where it seems like the pathway is the only place we could step without going up to our ankles into mud or water. It is a strange and foreign landscape but one that again denotes progress. Though I like it much less.
Before too long, again at the point where a small creek joins our now mighty river, we find an old and abandoned homestead. This was clearly once a lively farm as there is a barn, a farmhouse, a fence around the once maintained lands and even a small dock on the river. The farmhouse has been badly burned but the barn seems in good shape. It looks like a highly suitable place to rest for the night, particularly given that on the other side of the farm our path goes into even swampier lands. We should like to proceed with light to guide us.
As we stand for a moment to decide exactly what to do next, our decision is made for us. Erik notices a group of fast zombies coming towards us down the pathway we’ve just taken. We have mere moments before they’ll be upon us. Hastily, we rush to the barn, bar ourselves in and setup in defensive positions. They are coming fast with no sign of slowing.
Jensa has created a tree wall to reinforce the door to the barn and we all climb to the second level of the barn. There is a window opening at the front where we are able to target the zombies. There is a clear leader amongst them wielding a black coloured notched scimitar. It is a wildly impressive weapon. Our suspicion is that Salithius is able to see though this monster directly. A scary thought that someone could be so powerful. And that this someone is after us. As soon as the zombies are within range we begin to fire. Erik and Mari launch arrows which blast into shrapnel once they’ve hit their target, causing significant damage to surrounding foes. Dolf blasts many of them with his fire from Helga. There are 16 zombies on this sortie and they’re all attacking with the abandon true only to these ruthless fast zombies. An early shot takes down their leader. It makes me further believe that Helga may truly be guiding us. The zombies press, a few managing to jump up into the barn through our opening. We manage to kill all comers in a grizzly attack. Remarkably, none of us suffers any ill. We are unscathed.
After taking some moments to regroup, we take some time to investigate our surroundings even further. The barn is by far the most useful part of this farm. The house is burned out with nothing remaining, the dock has nothing docked and nothing else is there. We decide to bunk up in the barn for the night and decide our next steps in the morning. When we go to retrieve our sled from where it was left on the road when we ran from the zombies, it has mysteriously disappeared. It seems that we are not alone here. Someone or something must have taken the sled while we were fighting the zombies.
We decide to investigate further in the morning and take our rest now. It is, after all, quite late now.
We settle in to sleep and set up watches. It doesn’t seem like I’ve been asleep very long when I’m woken up and alerted that we’ve got visitors. 4 strange looking half fish, half lizard bipeds are on the main floor of the barn. There are another 30 of so outside as well. Armed with spears these are not the most threatening looking creatures though their strangeness certainly contributes fear. As they become aware that we’ve woken they begin to retreat, almost melting back into the swamp. I guess we know where our sled has gone. And that we are being watched.
It’s May 22, 1136 at 2 am.