That had been a surprisingly entertaining excursion.
It had been unclear at first whether or not the young nun-in-training was the optimal choice, but the wait had been long enough.
Asphodel reached out, tenderly running a gloved finger against the great metal stake, its broken chains half buried in snow. Yesterday, an innocent waif had been sentenced to a brutal end, and thanks to Asphodel, was now the future. Though the young girl hardly knew it, the culmination of countless years of planning, growing, and pruning now lied within her breast, a seed planted with utmost care and practical choice.
Now, all there was to do was wait, and see what would blossom.
A slight smile drew across her ruby-red lips, and Asphodel gracefully departed, her silken robes draped across the snow as her feet walked unhindered atop the thick frost blanketing the mountain.
"Good luck, my little flower."
Noelle awoke to the smell of rain, her eyes blinking open quickly as drops of water smacked against her cheek. To her initial shock, and then disappointment, she saw the undead gathered around her, all staring listlessly as she nervously crawled to her feet, pulling her coat tightly around her.
"G-Good morning?" She offered uncomfortably, still unable to really register that they were mindless bodies, only allowed movement for the sole apparent purpose of serving her whim. Whatever unnerved her about the zombies, however, paled in comparison to when she realized that her hands were healed. The frostbite that had blackened her flesh had disappeared, replaced by familiar, pink skin.
"I'd say this is impossible…but by now…I don't think I have the energy to repeat that anymore." Noelle sighed, lifting her coat self-consciously, her lips pursing as she saw healthy skin.
There was one, subtle difference that had escaped her notice before. A scar, smooth and practically faded, had been drawn across her chest, just above her heart. Running her finger across the newfound mark, Noelle wondered if it had anything to do with her situation.
Though it made her situation all the more confusing, she found her resolve to look for answers strengthening, even as she stood amidst the zombies, mindlessly ambling about. She was alive for some reason, and she had to know why.
"…L-Let's go." She spoke loudly, shrinking back slightly as the group turned to face her, shuffling to meet her as she steadied her breathing, clenching her hands into fists. "Let's go."
Taking the first step seemed more painful than the trek down the mountain, but she made it all the same, Noelle sucking in her breath as she walked into the forest, followed by her zombies as she tried to adjust her coat.
There was no clear path that presented itself, not even as she stumbled through the brush with bare feet. Even if she found a settlement, it was assuming it wasn't her hometown that would be eager to burn her alive this time…and that was saying nothing of her undead followers. It would be impossible to explain them to any normal people.
Options were slim, but even as the complications piled up in her mind, Noelle could do nothing but walk forward, and hope that luck was on her side.
"The gods sure haven't been…" As blasphemous as the thought was, Noelle couldn't help but hold that sentiment. If the Covenant's gods were as righteous and merciful as Father Beckett's books claimed, how had they left her to be frozen to death?
She had been faithful and chaste to the church, and she had been repaid with hatred and loathing. The townsfolk she had grown up knowing had gladly handed her over to be killed, chanting her name in loathing.
"If the gods are real…they have abandoned me." Noelle thought sadly, her shoulders dropping. Her home had abandoned her. The gods had abandoned her. All that she had left was a line of walking corpses…and an empty stomach that had suddenly made itself known. That was surprising, to say the least. She had hardly felt any sort of hunger since reviving on the mountain, but now her belly was crying out for food. Her ribs still faintly outlined her lower torso, and her body was still somewhat withered from malnutrition and mistreatment. It would take a long time to recover, if her condition ever let her.
Turning to her followers, Noelle gulped.
"…Food?" She asked, dreading whatever answer would come.