The pair of them moved with as much speed and stealth as they could muster. Navigating the rivers of a green ooze and the larger knots of shambling corpses wasn’t difficult, especially with the massive front wave of the creatures left behind. They didn’t even bother going around individual zombies, or groups of one and two that they ran across. Those creatures William simply hammered with his dragon bone cleaver, the massive weapon bursting the rotting things apart or Atzar’s magic slamming them carelessly aside like unwanted toys. Nothing stopped them until they’d crossed nearly a two miles of rugged, hazy terrain.
“Let’s stop here,” William said after a time, gesturing towards a stream of acidic bile nearly a dozen meters wide. Though he couldn’t hear many of the creatures around, they were still out there, driven towards the pair with a purpose as if there was a malign sentience maneuvering the zombies like pieces on a game board.
Atzar nodded and slumped down onto a nearby rock, straining to pull clean air through his spell. William had to admit that he was impressed by the mage’s fortitude. There weren’t many magic users that William had met who could keep up with him in a run across such a distance without being completely spent, but Atzar had managed it with little more sign of weariness than being a little winded. And that was also taking into account that he was doing so in a poisonous fog without William’s own innate regenerative capabilities.
“Looks like I picked the right one,” William thought as he turned his attention from Atzar back to the mists, watching for any sign of movement from their pursuers. There had been a lot fewer zombies on the interior of the valley after the two of them had moved past the initial horde. William assumed that it was because more of the explorers who came to Dragon’s Folly didn’t make it very far before succumbing to the toxic atmosphere or the clawing zombies before reanimating as zombies themselves. Every person who fell to the valley’s perils added another soldier to its defense.
But the zombie’s attacks weren’t the only threats that the creatures possessed. It was well knows that, even in death, Arztschlange’s power continued its insidious work. But the exact method of resurrection for these creatures was unknown to scholars of Dragon’s Folly. But William knew, he’d been feeling it since the corpses burst over him back at the boulder.
Even in death the fungal zombies were dangerous. There was an unnatural burning covering every inch of William’s exposed flesh where the zombies’ rotting fluids had splashed on him. It was an experience quite unlike the normal blazing fires which burned within him and it had taken William some time to puzzle it out. But now that he knew what to look for, William understood that his regenerative capabilities were the only thing that had kept him from becoming one of Arztschlange’s minions so far.
Tendrils japed into his flesh from within the fluids, desperately stabbing into him and trying to find purchase within his skin. Fortunately for William his molten core seared the fungal roots the moment they pierced him and his regeneration sealed the microscopic wounds back up before another root could take the first one’s place. It seemed that the zombie’s own blood was itself a living entity that sought to kill and convert its prey. It was a fascinating topic, and one that William wanted to look more into once he finished his purpose here, especially if things went as he wanted. But that was a matter for another time.