In the distance, he’d seen them dying. Heard their screams- and heard them stop. As such, he made sure their approach from the farthest rearward wagons, was made carefully.
After what seemed an eternity, though, silence was all that greeted them, and he gave the order to move forward. To follow the trail of bodies, as they rolled along the uneven terrain.
Upon his return to the city, Varar had originally told the Mercenary Guild that they should expect losses. Then, he’d quietly gone and told the Merchant’s Guild to expect heavy losses. So, suffice to say: the fact that men were dying, wasn’t what surprised him. It was what was killing them.
More specifically, who.
Before the dungeon entrance, at the end of a long trail of bodies, stood the incarnation of death.
Sword through her belly, arrow in her shoulder, cuts and savage wounds crisscrossing her skin in all directions, a single warrior stood. Beautiful, terrifying: somehow, despite all the mortal indications Varar would have expected to prevent her, still alive.
As he stepped off the wagon, they turned to him: broken spear ready in hand. Damned as it was, he could swear under all that blood, they were smiling.
“You’re not a giant Stone Crab.” Varar announced, loudly. “But, I’ll admit you’ve certainly acted the part.”
“By my spear, I dedicate this sacrifice to the Great One.” The incarnation of death replied.
“I’m sure you do.” Varar replied, drawing his sword. “Any other final words?”
The incarnation of death did not reply.
Cautiously, Varar signaled the men in the wagon to prepare. The creaking of several bows drawing back, held tightly in the air.
“You’ve really made a mess of things, but I suppose in the end, I should probably thank you.” He readied his posture, stepping forward. “Lot of men dead, but I don’t see that blasted crab anywhere, so I imagine you’ve dealt with it?”
The incarnation of death still did not reply.
Varar stepped closer, weapon ready, only to stop short.
“Well, I’ll be damned.” He muttered, sheathing his sword.
“What are you doing?” Someone behind him shouted. “You going daft? She’ll kill you, just like all the rest.”
“No, she won’t.” Varar replied, reaching out to lightly push the broken spear aside. “See?”
There was no reaction.
“Light have mercy.” One of the men whispered. “Is she…?”
“She’s dead.” Varar replied, leaning back to deliver a heavy kick.
“What in all the Light...” One of the mercenaries ushered in a religious gesture, averting their eyes.
“Don’t go bringing the First King into this.” Varar wrinkled his nose as the body crumpled to the ground, still clutching the broken spear. “Death grip on that fucking thing.” He muttered. “Wonder what the hell brought this to our doorstep…”
“Maybe she came from the dungeon?” Stepping closer, one of the bowmen warily eyed the corpse. “If this is what’s waiting for us down there, I’ll just wait up here.”
“You wait up here, you’re not getting paid.” Varar frowned. “We’re not going to need every hand we can get. Didn’t think we were going to lose quite this many men.”
“I thought you said it was a monster.” Another brave soul approached from the wagon. “Not a woman.”
“A monster.” Varar muttered, looking about the carnage around them. “What in Light’s name would you call anything that could do this, then?” Distantly, behind the wagon, he could hear someone with weaker constitution than the rest, vomiting. “That’s what I thought.” He grumbled sighing. “Nothing for it. Start piling bodies. We’re going to need a fire before this goes all goes ass over teakettle on us, and we’re swarming with ghouls.”
“Do you… maybe, hear something?” Beside him, the bowman froze.
“What?” Varar stared at the man. “If this job’s too much for you, you can start walking.” He pointed back, towards the direction of the city. “Go right ahead.”
“No- that’s not it.” The man raised a hand, defensively. “It’s just… I hear something. Got this skill, see. Got it when I was a boy, I’ve always been able to… there it is again.”
“We don’t have time for nonsense.”
“It’s not- it’s not.”
“What is, again?” Varar asked, impatiently.
“This sound… like earth moving.”
“I don’t hear anything.” Varar replied, patting his sword. “Merchant’s Guild has a lot of coin on the line for this, you know? I have a lot of coin on the line for this, do you understand?”
The longer Varar stared at the man, the more apparent it was that the man clearly didn’t.
“I swear- it’s getting closer.” The bowman said, kneeling down to carefully put an ear to the sand. “Something’s coming.”
“Anyone care to tell me what his problem is?” Varar turned to the rest, pointed at the man. “Before I cut his throat and blame it on the obvious?”
“Hang on. Swear to the light it’s as if something’s coming up, right from the-“
Varar didn’t managed to make out the rest of the man’s words, on account of the ground exploding.