The Plains of Tears

Part 12

By Shootthesea

The brush ahead of them burst with a crash, as a host of figures burst forward. Monstrous wolves, scar-faced bandits, hideous beings they had never seen before. Nenka and Rick took out maybe ten or eleven of them and Nynalama got one or two (Grumblepig almost certainly gave some many-horned creature a mortal blow) but it was obvious that they would soon be overwhelmed.

“Wait, look!” Cried Fluvio, from the top of the boulder upon which he had scrambled.

“What do you mean, wait!?” yelled Roderick as he stabbed a bandit in the foot and rolled back behind another boulder.

“They aren’t attacking! They aren’t attacking us, they’re FLEEING, look!”

Nenka and Rick leapt to one side of the fray and saw that, yes, the horde was rushing right through their group, wild-eyed. Grumblepig stood in the middle of the coursing mob, throwing blows left and right. The others yelled for him to stop until Nynalama finally pulled him out by the back of his vest.

“What on earth—“ Anenka began as the last and most breathless of the monsters and thugs scrambled out of sight. Suddenly, the air was split with a shattering CLANG, like clashing cymbals inside each party member’s skull.

“The hell was that!” screamed Nynalama, as the ringing stopped.

“Hmm. Nothing like what I’ve heard before,” mumbled Rick. His nose was bleeding, and he licked the trickle absentmindedly as it reached his thin mouth. “Nothing like what I’ve heard before at all.”

Fluvio had been throwing up, but he now climbed gingerly off his boulder and looked at his comrades. “So…I think we should find out what that was all about…don’t you?”

Anenka was one step ahead of him, flipping over the bodies of man, beast, and man-beast, looking for survivors. A huge dog with a woman’s face almost snapped off her fingers, but that was all the life–she? it?–had left.

“The noise came from that direction,” Offered Roderick, who seemed a little shaky, but largely unaffected by the terrible noise. Nynalama spat,

“The direction where all those things were running from? Very good, Rod. Real intelligent observation.”

“Stuff it!”

“Please! Stop your bickering! Whatever those…things were running from, it is now more important than ever that we keep our wits about us!” Anenka looked sharply at the group. The air was very still. “Let’s take a look.”

They had only crept maybe a hundred feet before Anenka stopped, horrified.

“What’s the matter?” hissed Fluvio.

“I just came from this direction–but–the trees! They just…stop! Look!”

“That can’t be right,” Fluvio took out a small map and examined it. “We can’t have gone more than—“

“Just LOOK!”

Through the trees ahead of them, the party could see a broad band of white, glaring brightly.

“What is it?” Asked Grumblepig, awed. No one answered. They walked towards it.

Soon, a dazzling white plain stretched before them, seemingly without end. Behind them, the forest and its dark green forest smells seemed to hum with life. Rick squatted down and swiped the ground with a finger. He sniffed and licked it.

“It’s just salt.”

“Just salt?? Miles and miles of JUST salt?” Roderick was still standing under the shade of the trees, squinting.

“Aye. Looks to be so.”

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