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EPILOGUE

The remainder of the long night passed in chaos. Morgynn's undead creations, the bathor, turned on one another in a frenzy of violence at the moment of her death. Tied by mystic threads to her blood, the faint control they had over their own actions was lost. The hunters, depleted in number and struggling to maintain the defensive barricades, watched in sickening horror as the walking dead tore each other apart, trying to reach the now stilled hearts that no longer denied the death of their bodies. The Gargauthans were scattered and forced back by the feverish undead, unable to assert control over them. As they retreated from the bathor's madness, they were met by the stalking battlebriars standing over the steaming corpses of the malebranche. The Order of Twilight's battle began anew, this time fighting to escape its own failure. Mounted hunters harried the wizard-priests from outside the ensuing battle, chasing the handful that escaped into the Qurth as others transported themselves by spell or scroll. Sensing defeat, the gnoll warriors took advantage of the disorder to loot empty homes of valuables, pausing only occasionally to battle groups of hunters along the walls. Taking what they could carry and abandoning their dead, they scaled the walls, skirting the wailing bathor and deserting their allies. The storm calmed to a gentle rain as the heavy clouds thinned. Thunder eased to a soft growl as the lightning retreated to the ruin from which it had been birthed.

The lack of thunder was unfortunate for those who sat listening to the ravages of the undead. Screams of unintelligible nonsense were so much the louder in the quiet left in the storm's wake. Warriors openly wept over fallen comrades. Those who hailed from the northern edges of the Qurth filed away to sit and stare at the white walls of the temple.

They tried not to think of those relatives and friends they'd known in Logfell, hoping not to see familiar faces among the maddened bathor.

The morning sun, when it came, was boon and bane for the weary defenders of the small city, illuminating the death and destruction that had been brought to them. Grassy fields with streaks of brown among the green waved in the gentle breezes of early autumn, under the first sunlight in several days. The topsoil dried and cracked in the heat of an awakening day. Empty farms, quickly abandoned for safer ground only days ago, greeted swift messengers dispatched to other towns to seek help. Those from Splondar arrived first, empty-handed and full of dread. They were joined later by riders from Sprynt of the Blacksaddle Barony: a lone hunter rode flanked by several soldiers of the Barony, clad in their blued chainmail with surcoats bearing a lone white turret on a black field. The defenders they met at the southern gates eyed them warily. Relations with Blacksaddle had been strained for years. The soldiers bore orders from Lord Marshal Gurnd of Sprynt to inform the defenders of a detachment of troops en route to Brookhollow. The men-at-arms paled as they observed the throng of twitching and writhing bodies massed in the center of town, nodding absently as the events of the battle were told by tired voices. The wounded were gathered in the cobbled courtyard of the temple after the temple itself overflowed with the injured. Those citizens too old or too young for battle, hidden in the chambers beneath the temple, walked among the fallen and dying, searching for loved ones under the bright noonday sun. Dreslya found Elisandrya that morning, unconscious and grievously wounded, and moved her to her own quarters within the temple. She spent much of the day with Eli, dressing her wounds and watching over her. She had no wish to face Sameska or the oracles, preferring to leave that task for the next day, after her sister woke and her emotions cooled. The sunset, when it came, was viewed with trepidation by those who witnessed it.



***** | Bloodwalk | *****