Forest of Bones

Chapter Four;

Forest of Bones

The two men walked out of town with Kelly’s mule Betsy towing Raven’s cart load of tools behind her. They were both heavily armed and decked out in Sydney’s new chain mail. The towns folk looked at them as they walked past wondering if some glorious adventure was waiting for them at the end of their journey. Kelly had filled Vlemek in on the dream he had the night before and tried as best he could to explain why he needed to fulfill the knight’s request. He wasn’t totally sure that he understood it all himself.

The trip down the old road leading to the valley was not as he remembered it in his dream. The weather was a lot better today than it was in his dream. And he noticed the constant activity of the young animals enjoying their first spring. Kelly tried to imagine what his life might be like if he could live a completely innocent as a young buck in the forest. But he lost his innocence when his brother stole it from him all those years ago. Now he thought of himself as a warrior and nothing more. He would now fight for everything he wanted, everything he needed, everything he loved.

That was it, he thought to himself. Koryis was no different from him. The knight became a soldier at sixteen, learned to fight long before that, and died to defend that which he loved. The only difference, Kelly thought, was they were born into two different worlds. Koryis was the son of the king’s brother. Kelly was the son of a barmaid. But they were both ready to fight and die to defend the people they love. Kelly looked up at his mountainous friend and wondered what Vlemek was willing to die for.

They eventually made camp on the first night of their journey. Not much had been said between the two of them all day. Kelly was lost in thought for most of the day and Vlemek chose to let his friend be alone with his thoughts. Vlemek had fought at Kelly’s side for two years now and he knew that if young warrior thought this needed to be done, then it needed to be done. The big man would follow Kelly straight into certain death if that was where he was leading. And he would do so for one reason alone. It would be one hell of an adventure.

* * *

Tonight when Kelly woke he was standing outside of a small house in a village he did not recognise. There was a beautiful young woman standing in the window watching the road behind him. She was waiting for someone. The moon was low and the woman slowly turned and walked away from the window.

Kelly decided to go into the house to see what he could learn about this woman. As he entered he saw her disappear through a bedroom door. When he looked inside the room he saw a small child sleeping in her bed. Her mother walked over and kissed her on the forehead and made certain she was bundled up good enough for the chilly weather outside. The woman then went into her own room to get herself ready for bed.

Kelly decided to give her a few minutes alone to get herself changed for bed. He walked outside into the back yard. He looked up at the moon again and noticed it was taking on a red hue. This was the same night that Koryis and his men stopped the army he realised. But where was this place and what did it have to do with Koryis?

He went back into the house just as the woman was coming out of her room. She did her rounds of the house to check fires and make sure none of them would burn out in the night. As she did this Kelly went into her bedroom to see if he could learn anything. The first thing he saw as he walked in was an armour rack holding an immaculate set of plate mail parade armour. It bore the markings of the Crimson Knights. This was where Koryis slept when he was not fighting to protect it.

“I lied to her Kelly Savage.” Koryis’ voice was filled with sadness. “I told her I would return before the first snowfall, and that we would be wed.”

Kelly turned to see Koryis standing in the doorway. No armour, no weapons, no gear at all, just a man standing in his home. A man that could never truly stand in his home ever again. Kelly walked over to the Koryis and placed his hand on the knight’s shoulder. “I swear to you Koryis Killemoff, you will return to this place.”

“I have one more favour to ask of you Kelly Savage.” Koryis looked at the young warrior with pleading eyes. “You need to end the war Kelly Savage. You need to stop them before they destroy both of our worlds.”

“But the war is over.” Kelly was shocked by the request. “You and your men ended the war in the Sabre Valley with your sacrifice.”

“No, Kelly Savage, we did not end the war.” Kelly could now feel Koryis’ sadness as the knight spoke to him. “We only learned the true face of our enemy. You cannot kill that which is already dead.”

Kelly woke in his camp before the words left his mouth. “What do you mean already dead?” Vlemek looked at Kelly with slight concern.

“The wind picked up about an hour ago.” Vlemek decided to focus on something other that Kelly’s words for the moment. “Good drop in temperature as well my friend. Starting to feel like a grave yard around here.”

“I know what you mean big guy.” Kelly was starting to wonder what he was getting them into this time. “I think we might be looking at a big battle this time.”

* * *

The next day of their journey was even quieter than the first. The closer they got to the valley the quieter it got. The weather got even colder and signs of life began to disappear completely. It was finally starting to look like Kelly’s dream. And he didn’t like that at all.

That night though, he slept quite well. No interruptions from the dead, and no new missions. The morning sun was bright in the sky, but the warmth of it would not penetrate the curse that seemed to shroud the valley. There would be no base camp this time, he would travel straight through to the site of the ambush.

They trudged slowly through the snow. Betsy had been accustomed to travelling through undesirable terrain over her life with Kelly. So she managed to drag the cart along the road with little strain. They would need to camp one more night before arriving at their destination.

As he sat staring into the Valley that night Kelly thought of the many travels he and Vlemek had done together over the past two years. He remembered laughing and joking around, he remembered fighting and defending each other, he remembered things that would make for good tales to tell in a tavern. This was nothing like any of their other adventures. This was the first time he ever wondered if they would make it back alive. He looked over at his friend and silently thanked him for being here right now. He could not imagine anyone else who would just blindly follow him here with no explanation as to why they were here. He eventually fell asleep as he began to understand the soldiers from that night. They were not there for their king or for their commanders. They were there for each other, their friends. They were there to make sure that they would all return home together. Or they would die trying to keep their friends alive.

* * *

This time his dream brought him to a strange place. It looked like a battle ground, but not the valley. There were tens of thousands of dead soldiers littering the ground. He could not see a single sign of life as far as the eye could see. It was the worst thing he had ever laid his eyes on.

He waded through the corpses for hours trying to figure out why he was here. He could not understand why he would need to see such a sight. The faces of the soldiers would stay with him to the ends of his days. That was the only thing he knew for certain.

There were young faces, old faces. There were fathers and sons. He knew these men all had lives before arriving at this fate. They were just men who were trying to protect each other against unbeatable odds.

Then he saw something that chilled his soul. The soldiers began to rise. They rose to their feet and gathered their weapons. They were even helping each other up. He noticed that not all of them were getting up though. Some had wounds too severe to return from the dead. It seemed that if they were not whole then they could not come back. Kelly was starting to realize What Koryis was trying to tell him. When the snow melts, they army will rise, and the war will continue. They are fighting an unstoppable force.

Kelly then noticed that the soldiers were wearing many different crests upon their armour. Soldiers from defeated armies were drawn into the ranks of the dead. That’s why Koryis didn’t want his men left behind. When the army rises him and his men will become a part of the dead army.

Now Kelly knew what he had to do. And he knew his enemy. It was finally time to focus on the battle at hand. And it was time to tell Vlemek the whole story. Or at least what he knew of the story.

But why was he still here? Was there something more for him to learn? Kelly walked through the ranks of soldiers trying to find something helpful. And he found it. Or rather it found him.

As he walked into an opening in the crowd a young warrior clad in black plate mail spoke directly to him. “You are just a boy. The knight summons a boy to try to defeat me.”

Kelly looked at the man and noticed that he did not appear to be a member of the walking dead. “You are the one who brings them back. Then you are the one I will kill.” Kelly stared directly into the man’s eyes as he spoke.

“You are running out of time boy.” Kelly notice an uncontrolled hatred in the man’s voice. Not a specific hatred, a hatred for all living things. “When my army rises you will not be able to stop them. You should use this opportunity to give yourself a head start. Run, boy. Run as far as you can.”

“I am no coward. I will not run from you.” Kelly now understood everything. The lifeless void surrounding the army, Koryis’ pleas for help, and most of all, he understood what needed to be done. “I will kill you and free all of these men to rest once and for all. I have promises that need to be kept. And you are in my way.”

Kelly woke this time with a smile on his face. Vlemek looked over at him and smiled too. “I see we had a good dream tonight.”

“We had an amazing dream my friend.” Kelly walked over to Vlemek and slapped both his hands down on the big man’s shoulders and looked him straight in the eye. “We are about to do battle with a man who commands an undead legion. And I just told him I would kill him myself.”

The End

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