We kept moving inward. The lush looking forest was looking less and less pleasant the further we moved from the coast. Fewer trees were alive and the ground became sparser with moss and small plants. More mangled bones were spotted, suggesting that whatever had sweeper through the forest had done a thorough job.
Mark wanted to find out what was causing the disturbance in the forest, so we marched in the direction where life was ceasing to exist. Mark looked uncomfortable.
“Is everything alright,” I asked the Paladin.
“In my experience, when plant life is dead something undead is near. Every time I’ve cleared some undead excursion, the surrounding area was affected by the death mana that exuded from the undead. I have a bad feeling that whatever is causing the problems on this island isn’t natural.
Hopefully, whatever it is we can either kill it or extract Malik before it kills us. Whatever is causing the death has murdered half of the island so I have a feeling we aren’t going to face anything minor. Be careful.“ Mark replied.
As the sun began to leave the sky, it was obvious that our quick escapade to find Malik was going to last longer than we had intended. The group's eyes were peeled, looking more for any danger than Malik. At this point, I began questioning whether or not it was worth it to continue. I didn’t want to die trying to save the creepy man. No one other than Mark seemed to know much about the guy.
“Look! Someone’s over there!” shouted Dunk.
My head swiveled spotting an armored figure in the distance. He was limping. It was an odd type of limping to, swaying back and forth as if he was drunk. With the signs of death in the forest, this was no place to be drunk.
His armor covered most of his body, so I didn’t know what this man looked like. I imagined he was a scruffy looking individual not too different from Captain Pickford. Only sailors walked the way that this warrior was walking. His armor was a dark color with no embellishments, except for the few spikes on the warrior’s arm guard. I reckoned those were used more for fighting than looks.
“Shhh,” Mark said trying to quiet us. “We’ll follow him but it’s best if he doesn’t know we’re tracking him. He could very well be the cause of death in the forest.”
We crept at a distance, trying not to give ourselves away to the armored figure. It seemed as if every branch I stepped on, cracked louder then it had before we’d started tailing this man, or maybe I just noticed it more. Either way, I was worried I’d give the group away. I didn’t let them know that.
The knight was slow like it was in no rush to get to wherever it was headed. He hobbled at a steady pace neither stopping for a break or glancing at his surroundings. I was relieved that he wasn’t very observant since I was certain he’d heard the cracking twigs beneath my feet.
As the last remaining light left the sky, we spotted a tall stone tower. The fire glowing out the second story window suggested that someone occupied the tower. I figured this must be where the armored man lived. It certainly wasn’t a very welcoming home.
We stopped at the edge of the trees since they had been cut down around the tower. I was pretty sure we would be fine following the unobservant man but there was no point in risking it. We didn’t know the armored man’s motives so it was best to lurk in the dark than make our presence known.
I began to get impatient watching the slow man making his way to the tower. He wasn’t moving any faster than he was in the forest. His limp was just as severe as it had been. His damaged leg must not be recent since his lope hadn’t improved over the course of the journey. If he had just injured it, the swelling would have subsided making it easier to walk.
My legs don’t swell. It was something that only happened to elves or humans and maybe some witches. My hardened shell wasn’t very flexible. Only my joints were and they didn’t make up a large portion of my body. I wondered what it was like to be soft and malleable. I imagined it was nice since all the cutest creatures are soft and fragile. It clearly didn’t help them in a fight though.
A burst of light shone through the tower’s door as the armored figure opened it. It was opened only briefly so i wasn’t able to get a good look inside the building. We would find out soon enough.
Mark motioned with his hand it was time to move towards the tall structure. We crept as best we could towards the tower. It wouldn’t be good to startle the injured man now, not when we desperately needed his help. It didn’t take long before we had crossed the open area surrounding the tower and sat in front of the towers large wooden doors.
They had nice ornate iron handles that I hadn’t been able to see from far away. Their pattern seemed foreign, almost as if they came from a time long before I had been alive. Maybe even longer than my master had been alive. My master had some old looking artifacts he kept.
Mark knocked on the door three times. They were loud knocks that echoed throughout the stone tower. Shuffling could be heard from inside the building, suggesting multiple people were inside the building.