The Song of Sword and Magic - Chapter 3
Chapter 3: The Dark Tide’s Pawns
[Translator — Asuka]
[Proofreader — Karane]
Although Niss didn’t want to show Fern her weak side, she was defeated by the churning in her stomach. After struggling for a while longer, her mouth was suddenly filled with vomit. Unable to hold it in anymore, she grabbed the edge of the carriage and puked. After vomiting her breakfast and lunch, she collapsed on the straw.
While she was in a dazed state, someone placed a large cloak on her curled up body. Feeling relieved, she was instantly overwhelmed by sleepiness as she was exhausted from throwing up. As she listened to the rhythmic sound of wheels crashing against the ground, she slowly dozed off.
“Miss.” A beam of light flashed straight at Niss’s eyes. “Where are you going?” a hoarse voice said.
“Canre… Wait a minute. Who are you?” Niss looked around anxiously but saw no one as she was dazzled by the bright light. Unable to stare at the bright light anymore, she closed her eyes in pain.
“I’m your master. Miss, who are you doing all these for?” The voice sounded derisive.
“I’m doing all these for myself! W-Where is this place?” Niss screamed hysterically as she turned around and ran as fast as her feet could take her.
“You can’t escape from me because the Wheel of Fate has woven your destiny with mine. I need you, and you need me too.” The voice sounded in her ears.
No matter how far she ran, she was still surrounded by the bright light. She became exhausted from her sense of frustration and fear. Her sweat streamed down from her forehead and dripped from her chin. Her legs were as heavy as lead, so every step she took was excruciatingly painful. She didn’t want to run anymore. Perhaps I should just give up and lie on the ground… However, her last bit of hope enabled her to keep dragging her feet forward.
Just when she was about to lose hope, she was greeted by the sight of a vast meadow. Colorful flowers had bloomed as the butterflies flapped their wings around them.
Niss felt less worn out instantly thanks to this splendid view as she walked aimlessly in the meadow. Just then, a golden light beamed on a spot in front of her, which attracted her to keep walking forward.
After walking for a while, she was finally standing directly under the golden light. Surrounded by the soft light, she was then slowly lifted off her feet. The chirping of birds and the buzzing of bees could be heard clearly.
Right then, the hoarse voice said “Miss, you can’t, and shouldn’t, escape from me. You have your own duties. You can’t back down…”
Niss gradually lost her consciousness under the golden light. “Who are you? I don’t get it…”
“One day, you’ll understand…”
When Niss regained consciousness, their carriage was moving towards Canreto. The knights who were guarding the entrance examined every traveler who wished to enter the city.
“It seems to be worse than when I came here one month ago.” Fern looked away from the knights and gazed at Niss, who was lying on the straw.
After entering the city, they moved along a few streets before stopping.
“We’ve arrived.” The coachman jumped off the carriage. “You’re lucky to have followed us. Otherwise, you couldn’t have entered the city so easily. The guards must have mistaken you to be the escort for us.”
Fern leaped off the carriage as well. “Thanks for your help.” Then, he fished out two silver coins from his belt.
The coachman was satisfied with the payment as he took the coins and stuffed them into his pocket. “Your friend looks really pale. I have some herbs with me that might help her. Since you’re so generous, I’ll just give them to you for free.”
Fern helped Niss get off the carriage and took the herbs. “Thanks. May the God of Trade bless you.”
The coachman nodded. “Good luck to you too.” Then, he left for the market with his carriage.
Fern helped Niss get onto the mare’s back and held the lead ropes before trying to look for the inn he used to stay in. After everything was settled, he gently placed Niss on the bed. As soon as Niss came into contact with the soft pillow, she dozed off in an instant. Fern passed the herbs to the inn owner and left the place to gather some information.
When night fell, several bells from different locations in Canreto started ringing at the same time. The guards started pulling the iron chains to close the city gates. Every chain was as thick as Fern’s arm, so it took many soldiers to pull the chain at the same time. When all the gates were closed, the city fell into a state of martial law.
Fern, who had been gathering information for the entire afternoon, was now drinking wine alone in the inn. According to the information he had gathered, a few weeks ago, a Dark Tide army had stormed into the Northernmost country, Sara. Only a small number of people survived and fled to Canreto.
According to the survivors, all of a sudden the Dark Tide soldiers appeared in the territory of Sara. When the soldiers who were guarding the borders rushed back to the capital city, the castle was broken into, and the king had gone missing. After that, their soldiers were sandwiched and killed by the Dark Tide army in the city and another group of the Dark Tide’s soldiers who came from the borders.
The Dark Tide is coming. At the thought of this, Fern couldn’t help but shudder. That explains why they have imposed martial law in Canreto. After Sara has fallen, only the city of Doyle and the marsh in the Central region of Wallis are in front of Canreto.
Just when he was deep in his thoughts, Niss came downstairs and took a seat opposite him. The inn owner hurriedly passed him a bowl of herbal soup. Fern nodded at him and gave him a silver coin.
“It seems that you’ve mostly recovered.” Fern gulped down his wine.
“Yes. I’ve had this problem with me since I was young, so I rarely travel by carriage.” Niss’s face was still pale.
“In order to bypass the guards’ examination, we had to follow the tradesmen into the city.” Fern poured a cup of kuzding tea for Niss. “A martial law has been placed in Canreto, so they won’t just allow any travelers in.”
Niss drank the kuzding tea and the herbal soup together. “Oh… it’s so bitter.” She changed the topic by saying, “Have you gathered any useful information?”
Fern pursed his lips. “Things are looking bad. It seems that a major event is going to happen. Maybe it’s already happening. I’m not sure, but they all say that the Dark Tide is coming.”
“The Dark Tide?” A glint of uneasiness flashed across Niss’s eyes. “I’ve read from the library in the Magician’s Tower that the Dark Tide has appeared more than once in the past, thousands of years ago.”
“What does their appearance mean?”
“You won’t want to know that. But I’m not sure.” Niss continued sipping the tea. “Unless I see them for myself.”
“Maybe you’ll see them soon.” Fern heaved a sigh. “They’re in the village we’re heading for. Some people told me that the village had been abandoned because the villagers saw some moving bodies in the forest.”
Niss widened her eyes. “Moving bodies?”
“Yes,” Fern replied. “The villagers, who have fled to Canreto, said that the moving bodies were disheveled and walking slowly. Some people also said that—” Fern caught himself. When he was certain that Niss was ready for what he was about to say, he continued, “Some of the moving bodies were actually their dead family members and friends.”
“Ah!” Niss couldn’t help but shriek. “My lord. Why would such a thing happen?”
“It seems that I’ve revealed too much information.” Fern spoke no further and filled his cup with wine.
Niss rubbed her hands together and tried to recall any useful information she learned from the Magician’s Tower. “There has to be a reason for the Dark Tide to return to the Wallis Continent. We have to pass the trial as soon as possible and go back to the Magician’s Tower. I’m sure the archmages know a thing or two about it.”
Then, both of them fell silent and had their food.
At night, Fern could not fall asleep as he was still thinking about the information he had gathered in the day. He was starting to realize that this journey was more dangerous than he thought. On the other hand, Niss in the adjacent room couldn’t have a shut-eye as well. Does my dream in the day have anything to do with the bad news Fern has told me? Suddenly, a premonition washed over her. After thinking of a few possibilities, she slowly lost her senses.
The next morning, Niss and Fern rode on their horses and set off to Sheepfold Village, a village located in the Northeast of Canreto. Just like what its name suggested, it was a village of sheep herders. To be safe, they stopped two miles away from the village and tied the horses to the tree trunks before heading for the village on foot.
The entire village had been abandoned. The doors of the only tavern in the village were repeatedly slamming against the door frame in the wind. There were no other sounds other than that, making the atmosphere rather eerie.
Niss and Fern slowly approached the house nearest to the entrance. There were no fences around the village, so they were exposed to potential danger.
Fern urged her to follow him closely. “We’d better look for a place to hide. It’s dangerous to stay here.”
Niss looked around to search for something and didn’t stay close to Fern as she was told. “The house over there looks alright. Let’s go.” Niss pointed at a house near the tavern.
“Okay. A bad decision is better than no decision.” Fern looked at the tavern and felt that something was hiding inside it.
Placing his left hand on the hilt of his sword, he kicked open the door, which was unlocked. Then, he dashed into it, and upon making sure that the place was safe, he told Niss to get in.
The house was a mess. It was apparent that the house owner left in a hurry and only brought a few things with them. Judging from the firewood’s condition in the fireplace, Fern reckoned that the house owner had put out the fire before leaving.
“Something must have happened to this place. You’d better finish your mission quickly. I have a bad feeling.” Fern gazed out the window anxiously.
“Protect me when I cast a spell!” Niss raised her left hand and jabbed the magic cane into the ground with her right hand. Following that, she fell on her knees and started chanting a spell. As she was chanting the abstruse spell, a blue swirl started circulating at the gemstone on top of the cane.
Fern looked out the window flusteredly. Based on his years of experience as a mercenary, he could feel that danger was looming on them. All of a sudden, he saw a disheveled ‘human’ stepping out of the tavern. After that, more and more ‘humans’ left the building and approached the house they were in as though these ‘humans’ were guided by something.
“What the heck are these things?! Are they living dead?” Fern immediately closed the curtains, placed a table in front of the door and pressed his foot against the table.
Niss kept chanting a spell as the blue swirl whirled faster. However, she had no time to worry about Fern as she had to focus on her spell.
Just then, the living dead started crashing their bodies against the door, which cracked in an instant. Fern didn’t expect that these things were so much more stronger than humans as he was pushed backward. After that, he immediately unsheathed his sword and stood in front of Niss.
It was only until now that Fern managed to see their faces clearly. Their faces were livid, their eyes were lifeless, their skin had withered, and their bodies were foul-smelling. Apparently, they had become a bunch of living dead. Even Fern, who had been to most of the places in Wallis, hadn’t seen anything like it before. He felt a crawling sensation on his scalp, and his stomach was churning. After trying to pull himself together, he tightened his grip on his hilt.
The leading zombie was slowly approaching Fern. Not wanting to make a rash move, Fern kept stepping backward. All of a sudden, the zombie charged toward him. Its speed was so rapid that Fern had to dodge its attack with great effort. However, the zombie then pounced towards Niss instead of attacking Fern. It was a small house, so upon seeing that Niss was in danger, Fern raised his sword and slashed at the zombie on its side. However, the zombie didn’t seem to have the intention of dodging as it let Fern’s sword penetrate its body. Suddenly, the zombie yelped and lowered its head to look at the sword in its body. Then, it gazed at Fern with its hollow eyes and collapsed to the ground.
After withdrawing his sword, Fern jabbed his weapon into the zombie several times before stopping. He was panting as he asked, “Are you done with it?” However, Niss didn’t reply to him. Fortunately, the other zombies never marched forward again. They seemed to be controlled by an external force, but at the same time, they were afraid of the sword in Fern’s hand.
After a short moment of stalemate, Fern felt like it had been forever as his sweat streamed down from his forehead and dripped from his chin. His limbs were stiff, and the sword in his hand felt terribly heavy. At the same time, the foul smell that wafted from the zombies was unbearable for him.
Just then, Niss started chanting her spell louder. The movement of the blue swirl accelerated and eventually took the form of an orb in the gemstone, which then shone brightly as a strong gust of wind swept up her long hair and cloak.
The zombies seemed to be agitated as they pounced towards Niss together. After a growl, Fern raised his sword with both hands and hacked the zombie nearest to him. The sword penetrated the zombie from its left shoulder and came out from the right side of its stomach, cutting it into half as its black and foul-smelling bodily fluids splashed on the floor.
Before Fern managed to lift his sword, another zombie raised its withered hand and clawed at him. Unable to parry the attack, Fern hurriedly stepped backward to dodge the assault. Before he could stabilize himself, another zombie pounced on him and tried to crash into him with its rock-hard shoulder. With nowhere else to evade, Fern raised his hands to protect his body, but he was still sent flying backward from the impact and crashed into the wall.
After struggling for some time to get back on his feet, the zombie from just now launched itself at him again. Fortunately, the zombie’s speed was slower, so he immediately rolled on the ground to evade the attack. The zombie was so powerful that it directly crushed the wall and fell to the ground outside the house. Seizing the chance, Fern jabbed his sword into a zombie, who was about to harm Niss, then he spun around and slashed across another zombie’s waist.
Confined in the small house, Fern was surrounded by many zombies, who were still marching toward him. “I shall fight to the death!” Fern cut off another withered hand and decapitated the same zombie as well. Then, he rammed into the zombie on his left with his shoulder, but the zombie’s body was so hard that Fern immediately felt a sharp pain in his shoulder. The zombie was pushed slightly backward from the impact. Seizing the chance, Fern swung his sword as his weapon howled in the air, and he killed the zombie on his right. After that, he stepped away from the zombie he was defending against with his shoulder and stabbed his sword right into its face.
However, he wasn’t paying attention to what was going on outside the wall. All of a sudden, he fell to the floor and started seeing stars as he was pressed against the ground by a zombie who marched into the house through the hole in the wall. Unable to swing his sword, Fern threw his weapon away and drew out his dagger from the right side of his belt before jabbing it into the zombie’s eyes. In an instant, dark liquid spurted out from the wound and splashed on Fern’s face. He was almost suffocated by the foul smell, but the zombie didn’t seem to be affected one bit as it continued to press itself against Fern.
My life is over. That thought flashed across his mind. Unexpectedly, instead of attacking him, the other zombies shuffled toward Niss, who was still kneeling on the floor. Fern had wanted to break free from the zombie and save Niss, but he didn’t have enough strength to do that, so he could do nothing but shout at her.
Seeing that she was about to be harmed, Fern pulled out his dagger from the zombie’s eyes, which were still spurting out dark liquid, and used his last bit of energy to hurl the weapon at the zombie nearest to her.
The dagger was jabbed into the zombie’s head and came out from the other side. Just like how it was useless to hurt their eyes, the dagger inside the zombie’s head didn’t seem to affect it one bit. The battered zombie didn’t even turn its head as it raised its shriveled hand and clawed at Niss. In a despairing manner, Fern tried to kick the zombie on top of him, but the monster felt no pain at all and never released him. Right then, he was horrified to see that the zombie would soon reach Niss and end her life.
It was at such a critical moment that the gemstone on the magic cane stopped gleaming, and the blue swirl stopped circulating as it took the form of an orb and floated inside the gemstone. A fire ball flew out of Niss’s palm and hit the zombie right at its face. Along with a crackling sound, the zombie was engulfed in flames. After struggling for a bit, the zombie collapsed to the ground and stopped moving.
The fire continued to burn the zombie with a crackling sound. The other zombies stopped in their tracks and seemed to have lost control. Seeing that, Niss pulled out her cane from the floor and got on her feet as she started chanting another abstruse spell. Following that, all the zombies collapsed to the ground. Fern didn’t even need to use much energy to push the zombie on top of him away.
Then, he stood up staggeringly before picking up his sword and dagger. Finally relieved, he stood by the window and wiped off the dark liquid from his face using his clothes. “So… is it over?”
Niss looked around and then stared at the battered Fern. “I think so. The power that’s controlling them has vanished.”
Fern let out a long breath and tore off the curtains. As he was cleaning his sword and dagger, he complained, “If you took any longer, we would have been killed by now.”
Niss stuck out her tongue and flashed an apologetic smile at him. “It’s my first time confronting zombies. I didn’t expect that they would be so powerful.”
“Let’s leave this place now. Maybe something is still lurking in the dark.” Fern gazed out the window. Although all the zombies were defeated, he still couldn’t set his mind at ease.
“Although I don’t think we’ll come across anything, it’s not a bad idea to leave this place as soon as possible.” With a frown, Niss covered her nose and gazed at the zombies, which were drenched in dark liquid.
Since they had decided to leave, they put out the fire and rushed back into the forest. Their horses were joyfully grazing the grass. It was as though the life-or-death battle just now had never happened.
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