For The Last TimeZ.N. Singer / Fantasy
FOR THE LAST TIME
by Z.N. Singer
Copyright 2011 Z.N. Singer
Sword stock used in cover courtesy of FantasyStock of Deviantart. Her work is available free of charge.
As Mardon had expected, the tracking part was easy. It was a simple matter of following the refugees.
His first encounter occurred as he napped by the crossroads. For those who had the sense to travel with little, their weapons concealed by the drabbest of cloaks, this was reasonably safe. But it didn't protect him from well-wishers.
“Oy, old man! Wake up! You've got to wake up! You can't sleep here!”
Most people took a while to sharpen up after they'd woken, but Mardon wasn't most people: he saw the man visibly start as his eyes opened and focused immediately as if he'd already been awake. He was an earnest, decent looking man, probably in his early twenties. Good. He shouldn't be being called 'old man' that way by people much older than that just yet.
“Sky falling son?” He asked mildly, once he'd determined that whatever threat had the man so flustered, it wasn't here yet.
“This is no time for jokes old man, we've got a new Vampire Lord down east! He's taken several villages, ours latest, and he'll be advancing down this road soon enough if the last few days are any guess. You can't stay here, you've got to move on or they'll kill you!”
“Don't the Order take care of upstart Lords?”
“They're probably sending someone but who knows when he'll arrive? The vampire's too close already, it's too dangerous. Travel with us if you want, but you've got to keep moving the other way till then.”
“They''ll arrive,” Mardon corrected, getting up. “They don't believe in taking chances, sensible fellows that way. There'll be more than one. Best to finish these sorts right away. They get stronger fast.”
“All right all right, fine, great, two people from the Order, wonderful, now lets go!”
“East, you said? So your village, that he just took, it's down that road there?”
“Yes, yes, and now we need to move down that road, there. Come on already!”
Mardon stretched, slowly; the movement swayed his cloak enough for the man to glimpse the weapons beneath: two long slim swords, nil on frippery and heavy with the wear of weapons whose quality of forging has outlasted several generations of owners, in unusually thick sheaths with an odd bit of catch-mechanism about the mouth, each accompanied by a dagger of similar design. Glints of light armor, meant to fully deflect a blow already partially avoided, also came through. Mardon held the pose a bit, valuing the silent communication it made, often so much more effective than argument.
“Well, thanks for the warning lad. Zombies are pretty slow, even fresh ones, so if you keep a nice steady pace you should stay ahead. Now that was sensible advice you were giving, too bad I can't take it, but you'd better take yourse—” His eyes caught sight of a harried looking woman with a child and he changed his words. “Take your family and move along like you were telling me to. Don't bother worrying about me, it's not worth it.”
“But—I mean, okay, you're a warrior, I see that, but you're alone, really!”
“Like I said lad,” Mardon said, turning down the road. “Zombies are slow.”