Another sudden, shrill scream erupted from Citrine. Na’thresh sprung to his hands and knees to turn towards the noise. Neither of the sisters were where he thought they would be, having been driven back by the blast. He quickly spotted them laying on the ground a few dozen feet away. The sisters were separated, Cassandra crawling to her feet a good distance away from Citrine. The blast had apparently thrown her from her sister’s side, planting her in the firmer dirt near the outskirts of the courtyard. The younger girl was holding her head with both hands and tucking her limbs in close, continuing to wail. A second noise rose up to clash with hers.
Shambling monstrosities, once partially concealed by the haze of the floodlights, were now also revealed in their entirety. Varied few encircled the court, but they were not the sources of the droning clamor. Moaning, hollow groans echoed from further away. Na’thresh looked around past Citrine to take in the ruins of Roma Way once again. He could see ruined structures on tiered terraces, set in to the mountain. The roads and lawns in front of cabin-styled buildings were covered in twitching, shuffling shapes. All of them moved in staggered pace toward the courtyard in front of the ranger’s station. Before he knew what was happening, Na’thresh was frantically scrambling to his feet. Saikah leapt up to aid Citrine while Aru’ine rushed over to help set Na’thresh straight. The two men gathered themselves and ran after Saikah.
Cassandra reached Citrine first, scooping her up and hurriedly throwing her on Na’thresh as he approached. He stumbled back awkwardly gripping at the small ward thrust upon him, trying not to let her slide through his grasp. He managed to hold her fast, despite her dress being drenched in slippery muck.
“Run, dammit! We have to get out of here!” Cassandra glared through him.
“Hold on, what just happened?” Na’thresh pleaded. “What are these things?”
“Shut up for now, and please protect her!” Cassandra shot back, pointing to her sister. She took off running through the courtyard away from the station, toward the cabins and the hoard of monsters closing in around them.
Na’thresh readjusted his hold on the screaming girl and cradled her in both arms, mimicking what Cassandra had done to lift her from the ground. Citrine’s mud-soaked clothes chilled him through his thin, already damp shirt. He shrugged off his discomfort and trudged after Cassandra with little effort. Aru’ine followed close behind, but Saikah seemed to have trouble keeping pace. Na’thresh turned to check on her after a few long strides and noticed she was struggling to move with her soaked skirt and coat. Aru’ine turned and helped her discard the long duster, immediately improving her range of motion and speed.
Citrine continued to whimper in Na’thresh’s arms but otherwise remained still.
“What is it that troubles her so? Why is she screaming?” he shouted.
“It must be that she can feel them,” Aru’ine yelled, catching up rather quickly with Saikah in tow behind him.
“Feel who?” Saikah called shakily, sounding out of breath. “Beyond the obvious, what is she so terrified of?”
They sprinted beyond the courtyard mud and on to a crossing street leading through the center of the town. Cassandra was leading them toward a hole in the coming legion of shambling horrors. Her legs carried her ahead much faster than her following friends and family, and she cleared the gap in no time. The monsters converged on the rest of the group quickly, almost closing their only escape before they could make it through. One of the creatures managed to take hold of a corner of Citrine’s dress that waved wildly off to one side. Na’thresh side-stepped the creature and lifted her a bit off of his chest to tear her free, losing a few inches of cloth in the process. Aru’ine and Saikah ducked jagged, decaying limbs ending in ragged claws as they passed. Each outstretched arm threatened to rip them apart if they so much as hesitated.
A smaller wave shuffled ahead of them, blocking the paths leading to the cabins and potential safety, not to mention the much-needed supplies they had come for. Cassandra stopped in her tracks and stomped with frustration. She quickly bolted away from her initial path, heading instead for the nearest line of trees bordering the town’s perimeter. Her brother, Saikah and Na’thresh struggled to keep up. More opposition blocked their new path, but the mob was thinned by their erratic movements to only one or two monsters in close succession.
Cassandra’s body began to radiate. A bright, green trail of mist flowed behind her as she persisted, toward rather than away from the creatures ahead. She tucked her arms in close and brought her shoulders down in front of her. Cassandra collided with two of the horrors at once in a full sprint, causing one of them to burst in to ash. The other fell away in front of her in pieces. Her arms came undone when passing through the first creature, and she lost her momentum. The last group between her and the trees closed in quickly. She fiercely elbowed her way through one of them and struck another in the head with her palm. Without missing a beat, she turned with her punch to tackle yet another creature coming at her from behind. She spun frantically around to face their remains once they fell away. Though dozens more remained near, their rhythmic shuffling had come to a halt. They stood tranquil, even if only momentarily, keeping comfortable distance from her. Jade fire rose from Cassandra’s eyes, similar to the brilliant, blue light Na’thresh could still see in Citrine’s.
“This way! Into the woods! We have to avoid them as much as possible!” Cassandra directed them with a wild wave of her hand. Despite the ferocity in her face and movements, her voice quivered with fear.