Chapter 4:

Chapter 4


Elizabeth scanned through the sacred scroll Death had given her. She read it carefully, studied it for all its precious information. The detailed recipe provided the almost exact location of every ingredient necessary. Sacred vampire blood from Dragula's Estate. A dragon's breath, scale, and blood from the Dragon Graveyard. A purification spell and alchemist bottles from the Council of Alchemy and Magery. A siren's song, ground up gems, and sea water from the Crystal Cove. And finally, Sunrose lotus from the Enchanted Woods. Five locations, ten ingredients. All that was missing was the actual steps to make the cure, but Elizabeth could figure that part out on her own.

"Alright. I can do this. The hardest part is getting started right?" Elizabeth looked around. "I should probably figure out where I am first." She wandered around the area for a bit. Nothing but heaps of bodies in a baren, forgotten land. Elizabeth stepped through mud and murky puddles. The more she wandered, the more familiar the landscape became. "This place is completely devoid of life, in fact, it's more full of death than life! That means I must be in-" Elizabeth was cut off. Something stopped her in her tracks. It wrapped around her ankle, halting any progress. Elizabeth's eyes widen as she slowly peered down at her feet. And then she saw it, a rotted hand clasped around her leg. It pulled itself forward from out of one of the many stacks of corpses. A zombie starred back at her, its jaw unhinged, letting out a cold breathy hiss. "The dead lands!" She said, continuing her thought. Elizabeth shrieked and sprinted away from the ghoul. Several more undead, all of various states of decay, revealed themselves. They shambled towards the doctor, arms outstretched, mouths agape.

"Cheater..." They called in a syncopated fashion. How did they know? Could they tell just by looking at her? They cheated death too, so how could they be so hypocritical. Elizabeth's mind raced with questions and accusations, but she had to focus. In her frantic running and her distracted thoughts, Elizabeth lost her footing in some particularly slick mud and tripped over a dead oak root. She tumbled to the ground and looked up to see a reanimated corpse standing above her. Elizabeth's heart froze and she tried to back away. The creature's drool dripped onto her legs. Her eyes began to well up in fear. Suddenly, a shining blade whirled through the air and logged itself into the flesh-eater's skull. It fell backwards, the sword sticking up from its head. Elizabeth watched as the zombie's glowing eyes slowly dimmed to black empty nothings.

"Back! Back ye demons!" A male voice commanded from behind her. Elizabeth turned to see her savior, a member of the royal guard, a literal knight in shining armor. Elizabeth became overjoyed.

"Thank you! You saved-"

"Why the hell are you out here?!"

"Oh. Um, it's kind of a long story."

"Then we'll talk later." The knight stepped over Elizabeth to retrieve his blade. He pulled it out of the zombie and pointed it at the other ghouls, brain matter still dripping from the tip. "Get back! Unless you all want a one-way ticket to hell!" The undead backed off, retreating to their respective piles. The knight sheathed his sword and refocused his attention on Elizabeth. He extended a hand and pulled her up out of the mud.

"Thank you again. I don't know what I would've done without your help."

"Gratitude is unnecessary, I was just doing my job. Now spill it, why are you here, alone, in the dead lands?!"

"Well, you see, this is going to sound crazy but..."

"This whole world is crazy, try me."

"I died and Death sent me back to life with a magical scroll that has the recipe to cure the plague." The knight paused for a moment.

"Goodbye." He quickly turned away and began walking away.

"Wait what?"

"I don't deal with pranksters."

"Pranksters? I thought you said the whole world was crazy?" Elizabeth ran after the knight, trying to keep up.

"Yeah, and that's too crazy. That is probably the most insane thing I have ever heard anyone say, ever."

"But it's the truth! And I'm going to need help!"

"Well then go recruit some mad hatter."

"I am not a prankster!"

"Fine! Then you're an adventurer, either way I don't do quests!" Elizabeth stopped.

"Please! The fate of Ethros is in my hands!" Her pleas forced the knight to stop. "I have to do this! If I don't everyone in Ethros will die! And I'd love to do it myself but clearly, I can't! I don't know what is out there waiting for me, but if I can't defend myself from some simple zombies, there's no way I can defend myself from whatever threat lies in my way! So please, I need help, if not from you, from someone I know I can rely on." The knight dropped his head and sighed.

"You promise you aren't pulling a trick?"

"I promise."

"And you promise this quest of yours will save Ethros?"

"I promise! I know it will!" The knight rolled his head around and tapped his foot. He chuckled to himself a little.

"I can't believe I'm doing this." He whispered. "Alright kid, where do we start?" Elizabeth's face lit up and she ran over to hug the knight. "No no no, okay. No hugging please." He said, pushing Elizabeth away gently.

"Oh! If we're going to be adventuring together, we need to know each other's names! I'll go first. My name is Elizabeth of Ethros, former royal doctor."

"Sir Isaac of Ethros, current knight of the royal guard."

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Sir Isaac."

"Mm." Elizabeth enthusiastically took out the scroll, unraveled it, and showed it to Sir Isaac. It's lettering glowed and bounced off his pristine armor. "A magic scroll, no kidding. Well, I think we should start at the top, sacred vampire blood. It only makes sense."

"Really? Because I was thinking about starting with the CAM. It seems the easiest to me."

"Yeah, I'd rather not go out of order on the magic death scroll. It's one item, it's not that far away, let's just go get it."

"But we don't know how to even get sacred vampire blood! We can at least buy the alchemist bottles!" The two continued to bicker back and forth, proving to be great allies. In the midst of their arguing, the sound of large hooves could be heard in the distance. Clopping closer and closer. The two newfound heroes didn't notice the approaching entity until it was too late.

"Good evening lads." A ghastly voice called from above. Elizabeth and Sir Isaac's bodies jolted, and they slowly turned around to face their greeter. Atop a large shadowy steed, an even larger armored figure peered down at them. Slick black armor with silver and gold accents. A black skirt and a torn red cape that flapped in the chilled wind. Horned shoulder pads and a large, ruined claymore. Strangest of all in this ensemble, was a pumpkin resting where the knight's head should be. Elizabeth shuttered as Sir Isaac backed them away.

"Who is that?" Elizabeth trembled.

"That's Dullahan, the headless horseman."