I. Sir Aaron's unicorn sensed it first. She halted in the road, breaking her canter without warning and jerking the armored knight in his saddle. He opened his mouth to chide her, but the creature's behavior kept him silent. She was looking this way and that, scanning the world around her with deep black eyes, as though in search of something. He knew better than to ignore such things. So did Daltia, who tugged at her stallion's reins to bring him to a stop as well. Whatever perturbed the unicorn, it appeared not to trouble the squire's steed. Aaron and Daltia's gazes met. They both knew what this might portend.
II. Azura wasn't among those unicorns gifted with the power to speak the common tongue. Daltia had remarked more than once that had she been able to voice her thoughts, she might have protested at being named a color -- in accordance with her master's title and the hue of his panoply. But Azura's mind was sharp and keen, even if her tongue couldn't convey its thoughts. So when she trotted towards the foliage which stretched alongside the left side of the road, Sir Aaron didn't attempt to dissuade her.
III. Daltia's horse gave a long, low whinny when the squire urged him to follow. But he went, albeit with hesitating steps. As they approached the bushes, the animal must have sensed what the unicorn's affinity for the arcane had already detected. Sir Aaron and Daltia felt it too. A... coldness. That was the best they could have done to describe the feeling, the deep chill that washed over them in defiance of the bright summer sun above. Knight and squire drew their weapons. But Azura moved through the tall bushes, her barded flanks pushing leaves and branches aside. If she perceived danger ahead, it didn't stay her hooves.
IV. The unicorn carried Aaron into a small clearing encircled on the other three sides by trees with thick, ancient trunks that cast long fingers of shade across the grass. Then she stopped as she had in the road, and stared at the thing which lay on the the ground before them. Aaron swore, and leapt down from his mount. Daltia did the same. With practiced ease, knight and squire moved in precision. He looked right, she scoured the left. But there was no sign of movement among the trees. Nothing for them to bring their weapons to bear against. Azura's manner appeared to confirm this. Her black eyes remained trained on the corpse.
V. Sir Aaron rolled the body over. Daltia swore. A blind bloody mess stared up at them. The young man's eyeballs had been gouged out from their sockets. The blue knight didn't flinch from the horrific mutilation. He'd seen worse before, and perhaps would again. Besides, such softness would achieve nothing. A man had been murdered, and the matter had to be investigated lest the killer evade the grasp of justice. So he examined the boy for other signs. The clothes, a purple tunic and red breeches, were of the fine dyed silk. He had been a person of wealth. And a portion of that wealth remained at his belt... A pouch fat with coins, which the killer hadn't deigned to snatch. There were wounds on his back, patches of crimson around dark tears in the purple silk. None would have brought a swift death. He'd likely been alive when his eyes were taken. And he was still warm...
VI. Daltia's people dwelled in the forest. And though she'd spent almost a full decade away from her homeland she could still read woodland better than any human who'd spent his life in towns and cities. When it came to rooting out cults within a settlement's slums, or else ensconced in the basement of a nobleman's mansion, Sir Aaron knew how to question people and read the truth or falsehood in their eyes. But the forest was Daltia's. So the blue knight yielded, and let his squire take the lead. It wasn't long before she found the trail. The elf's eyes gleamed with cold purpose. "A woman walked away from the body," she said.
VII. Aaron told Azura to remain, and Daltia tethered her horse -- not trusting the less intelligent animal's discipline so much as the knight trusted the unicorn's. Then the two of them followed the signs the elf had discovered. They moved slowly, and muffled the clanking of their armored plates as best they could. There was no need for haste. Daltia could see that the woman whose path they followed hadn't been running. Perhaps she didn't believe anyone would have happened upon the corpse so soon. But the thought which troubled both their minds was another possibility: that she didn't fear any pursuit which may come...
VIII. They weren't that far from the eyeless corpse when they heard chanting, words intoned in an ancient tongue and a female voice. The language was incomprehensible to the knight and squire, but they both felt the same chill as when they'd first approached the clearing. Dark magic was being worked... And soon enough they saw its orchestrator through a gap in the bushes ahead. A woman in a pale green dress stood with her back to them, her arms stretched out on either side of her body -- palms upward. A bloody eyeball rested in each one. There was a mound of earth before her, a few feet long. A stone slab lay embedded in the ground at its far end.
IX. The woman whirled round and shrieked when knight and squire emerged from the bushes. There was both rage and anguish in the cry. Sir Aaron had seen much necromancy over the years, and dealt with enough of its adherents to understand what it all meant. A woman trying to raise the dead with the fruit of murder to recover a loved one's life at the cost of another's. The tragedy was told in her eyes and cry. But it didn't matter. Justice still had to be done. So when she pressed both eyeballs into one hand, clutching the grisly trophy safe while she drew her knife, he didn't hesitate. He stepped forward and struck. The blow was swift, sure, and fatal. In an instant she lay still, and the knight gazed down at her corpse. He wondered if she'd find what she sought in the underworlds, or only face punishment for her deeds. But that wasn't for him to know. So he and Daltia strode back to their steeds, leaving the matter in the hands of the gods.