Thankfully Luca called a halt. Marius dismounted quickly and started stripping Kane of gear. Even with Marius having stripped to his riding leathers and loading up Seline, since Luca rode Calia today, and even with the magic Luca used to ease their run, the pack had been ridden hard today.
The poor wolf was lathered in sweat and would need some water. It was why Luca halted, the water was clear and the stream was small and lined with rock. It looked like a tended water source. Behind it were dozens of hills, with the tall grass and the stream to hide their scent this could well end the chase.
Unfortunately one of that burn scarring patrol lickspittles managed to blow a trouble horn before he was dispatched. The orcs poured out of their Fort like five thousand angry ants. The empire’s war machine was a well oiled one as they splintered into formation based search parties working a grid pattern within a dozen or so minutes from the fight.
After the second time being spotted, they agreed to ride to try and gain some distance. Luca hated dismissing Iz but it was the only way. The trium of war boar mounted ranger trackers caused another merry chase. Marius had to waste another three charges from his web wand and Luca the majority of their pepper to lose that unit.
The last chase was by an air cutter. The small skyship was fairly fast and carried enough archers to ruin a good gnome’s day. Some light tree cover and an obscuring mist spell was their last bit of salvation. The wolves had been running at top speed for nearly three hours since then. Twice Marius laid hands calling on his paladin powers to ease the fatigue of each of the wolves, as Luca casts a spells to lend them strength.
Wolves were sprinters not distance runners. They could cover serious ground by utilizing an efficient trot but what they endured today was very different, the chases had really put a strain on them. Marius moved to attend Calia as Luca finished recalling Iz. Something in his brother’s posture made Marius a little extra leery. He scanned the area feverously fearing he was missing some kind of threat. Luca’s attitude was echoed by the wolves, as they whined slightly and cowered a little lower to the ground after they drank deeply of the stream.
Marius was unsure when his blade came out, but he suddenly understood the tension as his spine chilled and straightened and the hair on his neck rose. Something unnatural was nearby, something contrary to the idyllic scene before him.
“Hello,” Marius ventured in a normal voice that felt like a shout. It was then he realized what was wrong. He could hear the burbling of the stream but nothing else. No insect buzzed or birds making their songs. No frogs, no crickets, just a quiet foreboding.
Luca merged with Iz but remained silent. They all stood on their heels for a long moment, waiting. Then Marius realized he heard a new sound, a buzzing. The sound was getting closer.
“Pyrite,” Luca swore, “I know where we are.”
Marius then spotted the source of the buzzing, some sort of cattle like creature which was also clearly dead as its ribs were clearly visible and sun bleached shambled towards them. A rather large wasp hive filled in the spaces where it’s guts used to be.
“They weren’t trying to catch us. The orcs herded us here, into the famine king’s burial mounds,” Luca said this with almost a reverent tone.
The zombified bull sauntered into a position with a direct line to their own and waited.
Luca walked forward and insanely began to shout at the zombie, “I humbly request passage through your lands, great famine king. I would but request passage for myself and my companions and offer in tribute my brother’s wand of webs. Do you accept?”
To Marius’ horror the bull nodded.