Aglaril Cycle:Chapter 01 Into the Ruins of Mirea by Rich Feitelberg

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"What's the plan?"

"We'll ride a little deeper into the ruins and then proceed on foot," said Evan placing the parchment under his belt again. "We'll have to search the entire area and watch out for traps."

"Very good."

Evan signaled to continue on and spurred his horse forward. He wanted to resume his rapid pace. The road west, however, would not permit him to charge ahead haphazardly. The road all but vanished under large chunks of stone and piles of rubble from collapsed buildings and crumbled walls littered the both sides of the road and spilled into the path. They would have to ride even more cautiously or risk crippling their horses.

Evan's steed, a dappled gray named Alsvinn, responded to his rider's command and stepped forward gingerly, allowing Evan time to maneuver around the blocks of stone that were in the road. The knights of St. Michael behind him spurred their horses forward.

They rode on, avoiding obstacles. Signs of the old city's destruction, and the castle that had been at its heart, lined both sides of the road like some architectural junkyard: stumps of marble columns on the left, and the base of a statue showing only the boots of some figure on the right. More rubble and debris followed; the crumbling foundation of a tower came next on the left while several slabs of stone forming a crude doorway were visible on the right. Next, there was a stone bench split in two on the left and more crumbling foundations, and more rubble, and more debris. On and on it went, a testament to the people who had once lived here and the devastation that killed them.

As they went, Evan's mind drifted back to a few days before when five necromancers had ambushed them. He lost several healers and priests in that battle and the face of each man that had died under his command passed through his mind's eye. He grieved for them again and said a short, silent prayer for the departed, hoping they rested well and in God's grace.

How many comrades have we lost in the last eight years because of such ambushes? Evan thought. He had lost count, and doubted this time would be different.

Ordinarily, he would have replaced the wounded and slain men once the battle was over. This time, however, orders from His Grace, Duke Wrightwood had arrived while the knights were still recovering. Given the threat these necromancers posed, Evan had decided he could not wait to replace his fallen comrades with new men. Any delay would give the necromancers in these ruins time to complete their plans.

I wonder if I made the right decision, rushing here, he thought.

With no one among the assembled host to fill the roles of healer and priest, aside from Evan and the few knights who could administer first aid, he and his men might not fare very well on this mission. Casualties would most likely be higher than normal. This concerned Evan greatly but even the additional loss of life seemed small when weighed against the prospect of some new evil unleashed upon the world.

Evan's thoughts shifted to his new orders and he reviewed them in his mind.

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