The caravan marched off at first light. It consisted off five knights dressed in bright yellow armor leading the way on horseback followed by a platoon of eighteen spearmen with two men out front bearing the banner of their patron lord, a crow alongside a burning sun, replete with military streamers signifying the campaigns of the knights and spearmen. A large supply wagon followed them lumbering along pulled by a team of workhorses. Dark Francis followed in his coach driven by two hired villagers. Hump rode next to them on his own horse. He wore head to toe chainmail, which showed some signs of pitting from old rust that had been scrubbed away. A large horned and dented battle helm sat on his head, which was framed by his broadsword and double bitted axe slung across his back. An evil row of daggers hung around his belt.
The lead brightly colored Knight broke off from his position and rode to the rear where he took up a position beside Dark Francis’s coach.
“We’ll go as far as the ferry crossing and then we’ll camp for the night before going across,” the Knight informed Dark Francis.
“What’s your name good sir knight?” Dark Francis asked.
“Kendrick, sir,” the knight replied.
“Sir Kendrick, I would advise that we take the ferry crossing before we decide to stop for the night. We’ve had a walking scourge in the forest. One of my villages was even attacked. No doubt the work of some evil black magic. I’d advise that we get to the other side of the river for safety purposes,” Dark Francis said.
“I wouldn’t worry about your safety sir,” Sir Kendrick replied. “We have a platoon of our crack spearmen and five of the bravest knights in service to our lord. We can protect you sir.”
“It’s not me I’m worried about. If all of you die how can I find your lord to help him?” Dark Francis asked without sarcasm.
“I think we’ll be able to handle ourselves sir,” Sir Kendrick said. “We’re no strangers to ghouls and demons.”
“I’m sure you’re not,” Dark Francis said.
The trip to the ferry crossing was uneventful. They reached it in time to set up a camp of two canvas tents in the light of a purple dusk. The spearmen set up a large canvas tent for the knights and then pitched a second for all of them to use collectively. It was more of a large lean-to, and they built a few fires along one edge of it to cook and keep warm. Three men were to remain awake at all times each taking a shift during the night. Dark Francis decided to keep to the relative safety of his coach. He knew that at least nothing could come creeping up on him in the middle of the night.
Hump decided to bunk with the spearmen. Not only for the shelter, but also for the grog, this was issued to the men from a barrel carried on their supply wagon. It was a vial green alcohol, which kept up their morale and could also be used to remove paint from wagons. Hump decided to take the second and third watch for two their share of grog, which he took full advantage. The night was cool and pleasant and lit by a moon that had just begun to wane. Hump drank and listened to the two soldiers converse around a fire they kept to just the red coals.
“…I had the best tavern wench ever on that campaign,” remarked a tipsy spearman who leaned heavily on his spear while sipping his grog. “She had a nice meaty ass and tits the size of your head. I stayed nice and warm that night fellas I tell ya.” He then broke out in a giant laugh. “I tell ya I would have asked her to marry me if we weren’t marching off the very next day.” His next laugh was cut short by cold dead hands wrapping around his face pulling his neck toward opening biting jaws. The soldier let out a blood-curdling yell before the walking corpse tore out his throat.
“To arms!” yelled the second soldier on watch before two of the dead dragged him to the ground and began to devour his face.
Hump full of grog did not fully grasp the situation at first. He only chuckled to himself at the foolishness of the two soldiers and then tipped up his mug to chug the rest of its contents, while chaos broke out all around him.
Sir Kendrick emerged from the knight’s tent in only his trousers and boots bare chested with his sword and shield in hand. He quickly dispatched the three creatures already in the camp severing their heads from their shoulders.
“The scourge,” he muttered to himself. “It’s the scourge boys! You know what to do!” Kendrick then severed the heads of the fallen soldiers, preventing their imminent reanimation.
The spearmen jumped into action immediately forming a square in the center of the camp. The four other knights burst from their tent fully armored with shields and swords ready. Their faces covered by the ornate visors of their helmets. Each took a position at the corners of the formation with Kendrick calling out orders in the middle.
Hump threw his now empty mug into the fire, the residue of the grog bursting into a blue flame. He unslung his axe from his back and readied himself his back to one of the sides of the formation just in front of soldiers’ spears, which they held level to the ground. Evil iron pointed things ready to seek out soft flesh.
The sound of dead leaves and twigs crunched under foot from their shuffling steps was the only noise the horde made.
“Hold fast men!” called Kendrick. “Don’t break formation. Keep your head and these monstrosities won’t be able to touch us!”
Hump charged forward by himself into the thick of them. He did not know the meaning of restraint and would rather fight an enemy by charging full on into their midst instead of hanging back like a coward. He would prefer to die how all of his kin had done in the past, by charging into battle and letting the gods decide the victor in the end.
Hump’s axe was a blur of activity as it sliced through one skull after another spraying rotten brain all over the forest floor. The spearmen behind him quickly dispatched any of the dead that made it past Him. Hump was in a berserker rampage. The dead fell before him like blades of grass none of them making it close enough to touch him let alone bite him.
The each spearman stabbed efficiently with his spear, making sure to line up each strike perfectly without hurry sending the iron tip of their spear through a fiend’s head and then back out again only to line up another strike with the same result, with a steady even tempo. The knights protected the corners, severing heads with their swords and using their shields as bludgeons smashing the heads of the dead. They were a perfect square of efficient death, slaughtering the walking dead like sheep.
The entire affair only lasted about fifteen minutes, but by the end, they were all panting heavily surrounded by a pile of bodies and waiting for another wave. The only thing that came walking up to them was Hump, who was covered from head to toe with bloody mess, who headed to the supply wagon and poured himself another tall mug of grog.
“I think that’s the last of them men. One squad of men fan out and make a perimeter guard. The rest of you gather up these bodies to burn, and someone wake up that damn ferryman!” yelled Sir Kendrick.
“What’s going on out here?” asked Dark Francis, dressed in an ankle length nightshirt, slippers and nightcap.
“You were right sir,” Sir Kendrick said approaching him. His armor covered in blood and gore. “We lost three of the horses, two of our men and one of your hired villagers. The other one ran off.”
“It’s so hard to find good serfs these days,” Dark Francis remarked. “What about my man Hump?”
“He’s fine sir. It looked like he took on half of the creatures by himself. We’re letting him help himself to the rest of the grog we have,” Sir Kendrick said. “If I didn’t know better I would swear he was a demon.”
“Unfortunately not. I probably wouldn’t have to pay him if that were the case,” Dark Francis said. “Well I’ll be in my carriage. Let me know when we’re across the river.”
To be continued…