The great iron gates of Tora were closed. The road and mountain surround the city were empty. There was only the howling of the icy winds over the sharp stones and silent snow. Seth didn´t know what a fantasy city in a medieval setting was supposed to sound like from afar, but the silence was unsettling. And he was not the only one judging by the expression of some of the other adventurers.
Venturi and the A-Ranks went ahead of the caravan and knocked at the smaller door embedded in the gate. A magic lantern lit up above the gate.
”Who are you? State your business! ” a rough an aggressive voice echoed from the gatehouse above. Between the battlement appeared the messy face of a bearded dwarf
”I´m Venturi, the Vice-guild master of Ora. We are the caravan and the rescue party. You should be informed about our mission. Open the gates and let us in. ”
”Hmmph. Leave! You will regret entering the city. It will be better if you just return the way you came from. ” the voice was grumpy, but within it swung a hint of resignation.
”We are tired and our mounts are worn out. It will become night soon and we won´t be able to reach a safe place. Please, let us in. ” Venturi insisted. They didn´t know the dwarf´s reasons, but they could not stay out during the night.
”Alright. This is your decision, just don ’t blame me later. I warned you. ”
With a clattering of chains and clinking of gears the gates of Tora opened for the weary caravan. The Streets of Tora were empty and just as silent as the mountains.
”What is going on here? ” Mina muttered beside him. Even Fin had a serious expression. The only people they saw were a few guards that came from the guards ’ house. The grumpy dwarf was actually the captain of the guards and he heard Mina ’s unintentional mutter.
”Most citizens have already been evacuated. Tora is in lockdown now. You should leave in the morning. ” he stated.
”What is the situation actually? ” Venturi talked to the guard captain.
Venturi decided that the party should hear it too, so the Dwarf started to explain. Tora had been hit by something like a large-area curse. Actually, not just Tora, but it seemed like the whole region of the mountains was affected by the curse. The longer one stayed within the area of effect, the stronger the curse would become and reveal itself as a terrible plague that turned the infected into a monster. They became bloodslaves. The lower one ’s level, the easier it was to get affected.
On top of infecting the living, it resurrected the dead similar to a necromancer ’s spell. The stronger the corpse, the stronger the resulting undead was. Unfathomable numbers of generations of dwarves had risen from the stone crypts below Tora and were striving through the subterranean city. It had cost them a lot to secure the passages to the other subterranean cities and evacuate the citizens before the curse plague could turn too many of them.
Only the priests and guards stayed behind to try and find a solution which explained the empty city. It was still dangerous to wander in the city, as the bloodslaves were hard to eradicate. The guards separate them onto several inns in the cities where they could stay for the night.
To his surprise, the fairy did not insist on sleeping on Seth´s chest and took a single room. The reason soon revealed itself when a pent-up Mina sneaked into his room. Her drive was really something else… This was even approved by his fairy friend. He had no idea these two had gotten this close.
Against Seth´s prophetic expectations, there was no life-threatening action to be had in Tora. Although, Mina tried really hard.
The caravan had unpacked the cargo into the warehouses of their business partners. In this regard, the situation in the town had little effect on the planned procedure. From the beginning, the caravan had not planned to stay longer than a night. Of course, that was before knowing that the whole region was cursed and dangerous. They refrained from loading anything to bring back to Ora and decided to travel as light as possible.
In the morning all adventurers and travelers were seated on a horse and ready to return. Seth was really thankful for the system and its HP-recovery. He would not have been able to ride a horse with his sore butt from riding the cart.
To make it even more pleasant, Seth had no idea how to ride a horse. He got the chance to ride with Mina on one of the strong horses and could closely hug her from behind.
”hng! Hey, stop it. ”
She was unexpectedly shy when he got a little aggressive in public and kept constantly blushing. But she didn´t dislike it enough to actually stop him.
”Stop teasing her! ” it was Fin who got upset on her behalf and made Seth behave.
Compared to what Seth could have imagined, traveling back like this was a refreshingly safe way. Yesterday, he had been afraid they would maybe have to use those undead riddled tunnels to get back to Ora. He was really glad that he did not have to partake in this kind of adventure.
Riding a horse while clinging to a cute girl was a lot better than riding a jumpy cart. The guards of Tora were nice enough to give them thick warm cloaks for the way back. Three days later they came back to Ora. The travel had some fights, but nothing dangerous. They had not seen the wyverns or drakes again.
Ora had changed.
The streets were not as bustling as before and there were a lot more guards patrolling the streets. What Seth could not know, was that these were the results of his report. Venturi had not forgotten what the young blacksmith had told him. He contacted Ora´s guild branch from the guild ’s facilities in Tora and warned them about the curse and the possibility that it was also happening in Ora.
As a reaction, the guild sent in an A-Rank party to crack down on that dungeon which led to them interrupting a ritual that was probably part of installing the curse. Still, there were probably more small dungeons like this in Ora so the curse could not be stopped completely. The result was, that the city was hit by a severely weakened version of the curse.
At least when it came to the plague part of the curse. Corpses still started to rise and walk through the streets. Like in Tora, the bigger problem was the huge number of dwarven undead that suddenly flooded from old crypts and tunnels into the dwarven district.
But Seth didn´t know this. He only saw the town a little less busy than usual. The first thing Seth did was ignore everything around him and lock himself into his room at the inn. He undressed, washed up, and dove into the bed sleeping a full 24h before leaving his room again. leaving his room had only one consequence. He emptied half the Inns kitchen and ate for almost 3 hours non-stop. The tension from the last weeks, the dungeon dives, the travel, that night, it all fell off him and he needed to recover in his way.
”Hey, where have you been? ” it was Mina who sat down beside him.
”Rehab. ” he answered between two bites.
”Errm, ok? The Vice-master was looking for you. The exams over and evaluate. You should give him a visit. Let´s meet later! ” she said before leaving. She and Mike had their own things to deal with.
Oh yeah. He also needed to get his money from Venturi. He would go give the guild a visit and then look after Marn. Even though the shop was plan B, it did not hurt having a successful business.
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