The ruin spread north like a disease. Six horses halted at the line where the green plain butted against the barren wasteland. Their riders sat in silence, squinting in the late summer sun.
Rowan’s mare snorted and tossed her head. He placed a gloved hand on the horse’s mane to calm the beast and glanced at his companions. Only one of them had been this far north. Yet Crispin’s face gave away none of his thoughts as he stared ahead, one hand shading his almond-shaped eyes.
Crispin slid from his horse and raised his hand, commanding his mount to stay without a word spoken. He knelt on the ground and traced a finger over the line where the healthy green grass of the meadows met the dead muddy land.
Rowan dismounted. He removed his helm, shaking his dark hair out of his eyes, and set it in a clump of clover before squatting next to Crispin.
“How far are we?” he asked.
Crispin lifted his head and squinted north. “About eight leagues, Captain.”
Rowan studied the wilting grass before him. “I thought you said the wasteland only went six leagues from the capital.”
“It was only six leagues when I was last here,” Crispin replied. “Nine years ago. It has been spreading south since the Sundering’s beginning.”"What are we waiting for?" said Rowan.
"Lead the way," Crispin answered.
Rowan walked briskly into the wasteland.
Suddenly a flurry of dead, ghastly hands appeared at his feet, dragging the resisting Captain down into the muck until he disappeared completely, and only the brown mud remained.
Crispin smiled. Rowan had been the last of them. The King would have to make him captain now.