In A Different Timeline, Far Away From Reality Part 11
Mercy woke up in the morning to find out that Philip and Chip had just finished dressing and together left the room. She flew down and transformed back into her chipmunk shape and put on her clothes as well before following them into the living room of their hostel.
"Well, what are we going to do today?" She asked upon entering, attracting their attention.
"First I was planning on eating something." Chip suggested as he threw a few logs of wood into the stove.
"I can't argue with that. But what do we do after that?" She continued.
"Well that guard told us to meet a certain Henry the Eagle. If we ask nicely he might tell us something useful." Chip explained optimistically.
"I agree, this place looks like everyone here is experienced and willing to share some knowledge. But let's fry a few eggs first." Mercy opined and handed Chip some cooking gear and sat down, awaiting her breakfast.
After having eaten some, they set out to find the man nicknamed "the Eagle". They quickly learned the leader resided inside the large castle that towered above the encampment. They entered and made their way to the throne room. This part of the castle was guarded by four swordsmen and was decorated with numerous banners with on it a tower and an eagle. In the middle of the room sat a man in steel plate armor on modest throne. A blue regal cloak covered his back and arms. A steel two-handed sword and an open helmet rested on a stone stand next to him. The man himself had a stern but thoughtful face but he changed his expression when he noticed his visitors.
"Ah, there you are. I was afraid I'd miss out the opportunity to talk with your group. My name would be Henry the Eagle, trusted general of king Richard. I run this camp to defend the surrounding forest area and possibly learn more of the evil threat that has been rumored to lurk around here. My soldiers told me that you and an old dwarven friend of us discovered a lair of undead in this area. And I'd like to know more. Ah but where are my manners? What are your names?" The knight asked.
"I'm Chip Maplewood sir. And these are Mercy Stoneturner and her brother Philip Stoneturner." Chip introduced, feeling like it was the only thing he'd been doing these last few days.
"Well then, could you now tell me more about your experiences with those foul creations?" The commander then asked the chipmunks.
Chip retold the events that took place the evening before while Henry listened and put a hand to his chin to think.
"Most unfortunate. Barbarossa Keep used to be an old outpost of the royal army. It served both the king's and the imperial troops in many wars before. We abandoned it because the upkeep was too expensive and the fortifications outdated. That and the last regiment was brutally slaughtered by a skeleton assault. Nobody wanted to guard the keep after that. We set up this training ground here later to reestablish our watch and protect the area. But it seems it was quite a mistake to leave the keep unwatched. It appears that the necromancers filled it with their own guards and cursed the entire place. This does not bode well." The Eagle told his visitors, looking rather concerned.
"But, those things didn't seem so powerful. If we could survive it, couldn't your army charge in and completely wipe out the trespassers?" Chip suggested, but knew that the answer couldn't be that simple.
"I am not concerned with undead close to our operation. It's the fact that these necromancers are showing a lot more nerve all of a sudden that bothers me." Henry explained and clenched his hand into a fist.
"Who are these necromancers anyway?" Mercy wondered confused.
"Necromancers are just horrible people. They resurrect the dead from their grave to do their bidding. That alone makes them a huge nuisance, but it's their powerful magic abilities that make them even more repulsive. I'm surprised the king hasn't outlawed their practice yet. Our realm even has a few necromancers who work for our lord! I suppose his majesty knows what he's doing, but I'm looking forward to the day that I can kick those death magicians out!" He said with frustration evident in his voice.
"Why would your king employ such people? And why hasn't anyone acted against them yet?" Philip asked.
"King Richard believes that our own army of undead is capable of turning the tides should bad come to worse. Disgusting as they are, zombies, skeletons and spirits are capable of spreading fear amongst any thinking opponent. And they could be used as last resort. Their boundless loyalty causes them to be unaffected by morale. As long as the king has a few necromancers backing him up he feels a lot safer. The lord has made a law for necromancy though, only volunteers may be resurrected and any necromancers who raise dead who never signed up for post-mortem service are punished with their own death. I think I won't have to tell you very few allow their corpse to be used in military service. So few in fact that our own undead army is nothing compared to our military. I'm willing to bet that our operation here is just as strong or stronger than the royal undead regiments. But there are also necromancers who haven't sworn allegiance to the king and who operate in groups to continue their act of illegal corpse resurrection. What happened to Barbarossa Keep is an example of their work; they seek out places to fill with undead garrisons and undermine our control of the forest. If their influence grow further, they could start attacking towns to kill and raise peasants as slaves. We can't let that happen, and we should scout the forest to find and obliterate them before they pose a serious threat to the area."
"Well, good luck with that. But we have to reach the city of Lion Shield to return to our own t-" Mercy's sentence was cut short by Chip who stealthily stomped his foot on her toes "Ow, what did you do that for?" She demanded.
"Sorry, was that me?" He replied, sounding surprised.
"You did it on purpose!" She accused him.
"If you would care to listen." The Eagle interrupted them "Feel free to explore my camp and train with my soldiers and hirelings. If there is something else you'd like to ask later on, feel free to come again. Goodbye until we meet next." The general said and saluted.
Chip bowed before guiding the rest outside.
"I suppose we should seek out those trainers here and see if they can help us. Their lessons might help in those woods." Chip proposed, but Mercy put a hand to her hand and groaned.
"I think your idea gave her a headache." Philip guessed.
"No, i-it's not.your idea.C-Chip." She managed before fainting.
She hit the ground and the two other looked alarmed. Chip quickly hoisted her up a bit while Philip checked her vital signs.
"She's unconscious. I suppose we'd better find her a doctor." Philip stated worriedly.
"Right." Chip agreed.
Philip quickly took his sister's legs and together they carried her through the castle searching for a healer. Finally they reached a tent outside the building where a cleric was on duty.
"Sorry to bother you sir, but our friend suddenly fell sick and we don't know what happened." Chip explained their situation.
"Lay her down on the bed." The man told them and pointed to a crude makeshift tent bed.
They obeyed and the healer checked her over. Chip and Philip sat down while he did his job and finally the man turned to them.
"It appears she is short of blood." He diagnosed.
"Huh? That's impossible, she's hasn't been hurt lately! Well, she was but there was never a case of bleeding!" Chip protested bewildered.
"Do you recognize this?" The cleric simply asked and showed Chip Mercy's amulet.
It was the black bat shaped magical shape-shifting artifact, which an obtrusive witch had sold her.
"Yeah, a strange merchant sold it to her. It allows her to transform into a bat." Chip explained, wondering just what was wrong with the item.
"That's where you're wrong sir. This thing does not just transform people into animals, it has the power of turning you into a vampire." The cleric explained with a serious look on his face.
Chip was alarmed, doubt and confusion ran through his head. This confirmed his suspicion that something was totally amiss with Mercy, as sad as it was.
"Did you ever notice any change in her eye color or other noticeable features in appearance or personality?" The healer asked concerned.
"Yeah, yes I did. But I thought it wasn't a big deal. We are after all newcomers to this forest." Chip admitted.
"Never think something isn't a big deal, not when person makes a sudden change and her eyes become red." The healer educated him harshly.
"Isn't there anything you can do for her? I just can't envision her living of someone else's lifeblood for her entire existence, she's still young!" Chip pressed desperately.
"I can only cure her temporarily. The hunger will return sooner than you'd like. And once she becomes aware of her conditions it's likely she will start feeding of others to maintain herself. No self respecting humanoid wants to die and vampires are no exception."
"But what to do once she needs more blood to stay alive? I don't want her attacking innocents and killing them!" Chip objected.
"Neither do I. You can prevent that from happening if you really love her, or care too much about others around you, whatever the case. That is, sacrifice yourself." The healer taught Chip, who reacted shocked.
"You want me to die to simply keep her from killing others!? And if she needs to feed again, will she suck the life out of her little brother as well?" He objected and pointed at Philip.
"I didn't mean that you should give up your own life for her. Only a little donation from time to time would do the trick. You can generate new blood by eating and drinking, she can't. Believe me, this is better than leaving her on her own to deal with this. No matter how sane a person used to be, vampiric hunger drives someone mad to the point he or she forgets all morals and values. And besides, she'd take your blood in larger amounts if you refuse and then it would be against your will then." The cleric instructed him.
"But that aside, why didn't I notice anything else? Vampires can't stand sunlight right? Why then didn't I notice something while traveling with her at day?" Chip wondered.
"We're not certain about that yet either. We, of the church, think these vampire amulets not only turn people into a vampire but give them immunities to several weaknesses regular vampires suffer from or it's because the victim is transformed differently. Whatever the case, don't expect her to be immune to a stake through her hearth and keep her away from garlic; these things are hazardous to anyone." The man joked.
"But isn't there a cure to vampirism?" Philip asked worriedly.
"Well there it is rumored that there's someone who was once cured of vampirism. He lives in Lion Shield, but I must warn you these have up till now only been rumors, nothing more. So do not get your hopes up." The cleric tipped them.
"Well, it's better that we ask him when we reach Lion Shield, assuming this person does exist." Chip decided and shrugged his shoulders.
"Oh, and you would do well by not telling people your friend is a vampire. Only few can feel sympathy for them and most others would rather see them end up dead, really dead that is. You where lucky I hold no grudge against vampires, provided they can be reasoned with however. The rest of the camp is likely to slay her the moment they know about it, and a few might insist you two should be put to death as well. The only one else who's understanding enough in this camp is Henry the Eagle. But he has something against all evil creatures so I wouldn't try get his sympathy. And it might be better to tell her about her condition after you've left the camp, you never know how she might react to the news." The healer advised and prepared to cast the spell that would give Mercy her consciousness back.
"Ain't that the truth! Thanks for your assistance and understanding."
Chip said and quickly put the amulet back around Mercy's neck lest she'd notice
it was gone.
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