Return to the Necropolis: Chapter 3

Michael O. Varhola

wooded hills, more-or-less toward the southwest. There, they ate and drank a little and then, when no one was nearby, they picked up their gear and quickly moved up onto the trail; most likely no one would notice or care what they were doing, but there was no reason to give anyone cause to wonder why a band of adventurers might be headed in a particular direction.

The party's progress was slower and tougher after that, as they were both climbing up into the wooded hills and moving along a narrow, furrowed track that was periodically washed out or littered with rocks, branches, and similar debris. They moved single file now, keen-eyed Parthenia in the lead, Paros some distance behind her, Pumayo behind him, and Selene — heavily armored and the second-best combatant in the group — bringing up the rear. They stopped to rest every mile or so and, by the time they had gone about two-and-a-half miles, were all panting and sweating. At this point an even narrower, rougher trail headed west, through the woods, toward a distant ridgeline and, after ascertaining that no one was around, they began to move up it, maintaining the same formation but tightening up their interval somewhat. The trail split a couple of times but Parthenia already knew which route led directly to the opening in the wrought-iron fence that formed the eastern boundary of the necropolis and they continued along the path they had painstakingly taken with the cart some months before. Before long they came to the large double gates that led into the cemetery and, noting that one side was hanging open, stopped to gaze upon them with some disquiet.

"It looks like someone has been here ..." Paros said apprehensively, glancing about nervously when it occurred to him to wonder if any of the walking dead that roamed the cemetery by night might have wandered out of the place. Did the fence serve as a physical barrier or was it consecrated or enchanted in some manner to keep the undead monsters confined within? He and Parthenia approached the gate and examined the ground around it but neither of them could tell if anything had passed through it recently.

Cautiously, the party proceeded through gate, arrayed in the same order as before but alert now and with weapons at the ready; Parthenia bore a powerful masterwork longbow with an