We hadn’t even left Prachull when the screaming began.
In my short time at Prachull I had not seen any of the sights of the village, still small, but wealthier than Blomuset, they had better streets, better walls, nicer homes and businesses, clothing that looked much more comfortable than the my wool and cotton and blouse and skirts. They also had fashion, clothes meant just for appearance rather than servicabilty. They also had the luxury of a graveyard in the southern part of the town. It was this direction the screams were coming from.
I turned my burro to the south, I may have broken my oath once, I wasn’t about to do it again. Screaming obviously meant people needed help. I may scream when I see what was terrifying the villagers, but once I was done screaming I’d do something. Surprising me, Raziel’s horse butted in front of my burro.
“Pumn Overhang is to the west,” he said coldly. Even Zeke seemed surprised at his brother.
“Roz, I know our father needs us, but he wouldn’t approve of us abandoning innocent people who need our help,” Zeke stated to his brother. For a moment I noticed Raziel bristle, and I thought he would force us, or at least me, to go with him to Pumn Overhang even if it meant hog tying me and throwing me over the back of his horse. There was a tense moment but Raziel backed down and turned his horse towards the south.
There was obviously something wrong, people were streaming from the southern part of the village to the north. The horses and my burro were suddenly afraid. I even felt the calm, bored creature tremble under me. He suddenly sat down, refusing to go any further and I tumbled backwards off him. We still had not seen what was scaring the villagers.
It was Zeke who jumped off the back of his horse, which bolted the moment he released it, and helped me up. I was a mess of skirts and embarrassment. Raziel dropped down from the back of his horse, and before his mount could run in fear he’d already drawn both of his swords from his back. Zeke quickly removed his bow, assembled it, and strung it with such adeptness I suddenly felt like I was a burden. I knew no fighting moves, but I did feel safest being with the Nightsorrow brothers.
The first of the lumbering creatures that stumbled from around the buildings that were nearest the graveyard was a corpse. It was bloated and rotting, the stench made my eyes water. It was upright, a man, and walking, well more like lurching. It was dragging a broken leg. It was covered in mud as if it had crawled from the earth and I realized that was exactly what it had done. I gave a squeak as I clamped my hand over my mouth trying not to scream.
Zeke’s arrow loosed from his bow and thwipped into the corpse’s eye socket, jerking it backwards. If the creature was alive, the shot would’ve certainly killed it. Instead it seemed to enrage the corpse, which gave a moaning growl and began to lurch much more quickly towards us. In watching Zeke’s bow skills I had lost sight of Raziel who suddenly appeared behind the corpse and with a movement that was a blur, the corpse’s head fell off its shoulders.
“Heh, only one?” Raziel asked sounding disappointed. He turned as a horde of the dead came around the corner of a house. It was as if the whole cemetery had emptied out. Some of the dead were nothing more than skeletons, and others I realized were so recently dead they could’ve only been the victims just attacked by the risen dead.
“Don’t let them bite you, Roz!” Zeke shouted what seemed like an empty warning as I noticed that the dead, not sure how they determined where their prey was at, but were not noticing Raziel. He had sheathed one of his swords and was using one of the maces from his hips. The dead noticed Zeke and I, and it was us they charged. Zeke loosed arrows, aiming for eyes, knees, while Raziel beheaded the fleshy corpses and bashed the skulls of the skeletons. Watching him fight was like watching a dancer, he was fluid in his movements. The dead continued to get closer, and Zeke kept retreating, shooting and backing up.
“Mama!” Cried a small voice as a child, no more than four, ran from one of the houses. I didn’t see anyone that could’ve been considered a mother, until my eyes lit upon the walking dead woman. Her dress, simple, was torn, and bloody from where he throat had been ripped out. One arm was missing, and I hated to think eaten by the other corpses. My stomach churned at the thought.
“No! Stop!” I shouted to the small child who was racing towards the woman.
“Hazel!” Shouted Zeke after me as I charged towards the woman to intercept the child. The child reached the woman but I had managed to get Grandmother’s walking stick in between the child and the suddenly biting teeth of the corpse woman. The little girl shrieked in fear and suddenly the dead turned towards us.
Suddenly Zeke was there, shoving the dead away while Raziel worked, swinging, kicking, hitting, whirling. I clutched the little girl to me, but she was suddenly jerked from my grasp. Among the undead was the only top half of a corpse, it had been pulling itself along with its arms, entrails and spine dragging behind it. I tried to wrench the girl back away from it, it was trying to bite her, and she was kicking at it. The little girl screamed again, this time in pain as the corpse bit down on her ankle and tore away a chunk of flesh, blood spurted, and suddenly the corpse’s head fell away. Raziel’s sword having cleaved it.
“RUN!” Zeke shouted grabbing me by the arm, dragging me upwards as I now clutched the child to me, she’d gone limp in a faint. He pulled his hood up over head and suddenly was nothing but shadow solidified. The corpses acted like he wasn’t there and were just lumbering towards me.