Lini held her palms out, and water encased the skeletons instantly. She winced from the effort of throwing the spell so fast. The casting’s sparkling light illuminated the skeletons’ silhouettes slowly wading through the wall of water she’d created. It wouldn’t hold for long, but it would buy them time.
“Droo, let’s—” the words died on her lips.
Droogami, Lini’s leopard companion, clutched another skeleton in his formidable jaws, slamming down it into the newly created mud. Bones crunched as Droo wrestled with their enemy. The skeleton must have been just inside Lini’s spell. She drew her sling, then loaded it and let fly in one easy motion. Bone dust plumed in the air as her missile hit the undead creature’s skull with a satisfying crack. With well-practiced movements, Droo and Lini spread out, flanking their enemy, forcing it to divide its attention between them. When its bones finally collapsed into a truly dead pile in the mud, Lini sighed in relief.
A bony hand burst from the wall of water and clasped her throat. Lini desperately kicked up water and rocks as she fought to pry the clawed fingers from her neck. That’s what she got for letting her attention wander. She looked straight into the empty sockets of the undead monster choking her. The skeleton’s arm and head poked through the wall of water, and she saw more coming. The world wavered around the edges as she twisted as hard as she could. Droo took that opportunity to leap forward, breaking the monster’s hold. The leopard roared and crouched on his mud-caked haunches, ready to attack the rest.
Illustration by Miguel Regodón Harkness from Pathfinder Secrets of Magic
“No! Droo! Let’s go!” They couldn’t take this many on.
Lini had known dangerous undead lurked throughout the Gravelands, but she hadn’t realized they were so many of them. Instead of attacking, Droogami leapt to her side, and she clambered onto the leopard’s spotted back. They took off down the ravine. Her watery spell wouldn’t last for much longer, and she meant to be as far away from here as possible.
Mud and water flew as Droo sprinted down the path. Lini took a chance to look over her shoulder. They were gaining a little distance. Some of the skeletons were out of the water and shambling toward them, faster than Lini would have liked. More skeletons were still pulling themselves out of the wall.
In front of them, another kind of wall, one made of rock and loose dirt loomed. It seemed steep but clambering up it looked to be their only way out. Lini lowered herself closer to Droo’s fur and peeked over his head as the ravine wall grew closer. Seconds later, Droo’s muscles rippled, and Lini steadied herself for the great cat’s leap. They had done this many times, and her stomach still dropped to the bottom of her feet every time. Droogami hit the ravine wall and dug his ragged claws into the dirt. They started to slide, and Droo’s muscles bulged with the effort of keeping them in place. Slowly, the leopard scrabbled up, and they ascended the ravine.
Behind them, the spell creating the water reached the end of its duration, and the liquid wall collapsed, knocking most of the skeletons off their feet.
Silence greeted the pair as they clambered onto the ledge. Lini dismounted Droogami and peered down into the ravine. They’d been crossing its bed when the skeletons had begun rising from the dirt. The corruption here was much worse than she previously believed. She could taste it on her tongue, feel it all the way from her head to her toes. Lini had a horrible feeling there were more undead out there, much worse than skeletons.
Screams echoed around them and both Lini and Droogami crouched into ready positions. The cries had come from the other side of the ravine where smoke rose over a small holdfast on the horizon. Lini’s heart pounded. Many people had abandoned this land after the return of the Whispering Tyrant, but some still held on. They’d lived here for as long as they could remember; their ancestors knew this place as Lastwall. Lini and Droo had stayed with them to gather information before they crossed the ravine. The people had treated them fairly and shared what little they had. Lini remembered the hopeful face of the young girl who curled up next to Droo and fell asleep listening to tales of adventure.
Lini scanned the whole area. There was no way they could make it around the ravine in time. She looked back down to the ravine floor. The skeletons had fully recovered now and were trudging toward them.
“We have to go back, Droo,” Lini said.
The leopard looked at her and gave a soft growl.
“I know, but it’s the quickest way, and they need our help.” Lini looked into the leopard’s eyes, hoping her companion would feel what she felt.
Droo chuffed softly after a moment and crouched down with a determined look.
“I knew you’d understand, old friend,” Lini said.
Lini climbed up onto her companion’s back once again. She sat straight and squeezed Droogami's ribs with her knees, tightly enough to keep her in place. She held her hands up to the sky and they started to glow. Lini took a deep breath and narrowed her eyes. She thought of the people to steel her nerves.
About The Author
About Iconic Encounters
Iconic Encounters is a series of web-based flash fiction set in the worlds of Pathfinder and Starfinder. Each short story provides a glimpse into the life and personality of one of the games’ iconic characters, showing the myriad stories of adventure and excitement players can tell with the Pathfinder and Starfinder roleplaying games.