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 Hunt the Dead #1

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Craigzilla
Hunter of Dead
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Posts : 268
Join date : 2009-03-05
Age : 40
Location : San Diego, CA

PostSubject: Hunt the Dead #1   Mon Jul 12, 2010 2:51 pm



Written by Craig DeBoard
Cover Art by Ash Jackson & Craig DeBoard


20 Years Ago...

"What's this game called, Sabal?"

"The Triad."

"It seems boring."

"Erron, it isn't boring. You have to be clever. Now each on of us gets a hand of three cards. Three each."

"OK...I got mine. Now what?"

"Now we show each other our cards. Whoever has the best hand wins."

"What do we win, Sabal?"

"If you win you can have whatever...if I win...I get a kiss from you."

"Ugh! Gross!"

"What's wrong, Erron?" Don't like girls?"

"Yes. Maybe. I dunno. Shut up, Sabal."

"Here's my cards. I got two kings and an axeman. What did you get?"

"All my cards are the same. Are these any good?" ... ...... .........

"Ummm...no Erron. These aren't good. These aren't good at all."

'Why not?"

'This card...it's the executioner. The card of death."






Chapter 1
Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!

The boy's feet pounded against the stone road as his small thin legs carried him as fast as physically possible. He could hear the screams behind him.

Screams of terror and pain, of torment and death. He was no older than seven summers and feared he wouldn't see another. His family was making a dangerous journey from the small barter village of Dexxer's Grove, known during a more peaceful time for it's trade in apples and other fresh produce, to the City-State of Peregren, when their wagon's wheel broke. His father told his mother and him to stay in the wagon no matter what they heard. They knew the situation was dangerous.

His father's scream echoed all through the small patch of woods they traveled through. Which meant more would be attracted. His mother jumped out of the back of the covered wagon, shovel in hand. The boy stayed in the wagon as instructed. His mother screamed twice. The first was a scream of shock, grief, anger and rage. The second was one of pain that had been quickly cut off.

His father told him to stay put.

A shadow passed over the opening of the back of the wagon. The boy froze.

Stay put.

Stay put.

More slurping and munching. Bones snapping. Tendons ripping.

Stay put.

The moon slowly passed the cluttered tree limbs. It was dark. It was always dark in Nerin Toth. Not a night time time dark. Certainly not a day time dark if such a thing could be imagined. Always somewhere in between. How plants survived in Nerin Toth without sun light, or rather the few that seldom did, was a mystery. Just as much a mystery as the day the land of Nerin Toth had fallen into perpetual night forever. The day 'The Ravaging' began.

Stay put.

She lurched halfway into the back of the wagon, clawing at her son, with half of her neck hanging out. Her eyes glazed over a pale white that seemed to glow just a little pink like a crazed mouse in a lab. Saliva fell from her mouth and she screamed in hunger. The boy screamed back at his mother and kicked out hitting her directly in the nose, hearing bone crunch under his bare foot.

Stay put.

This was his mother?

What happened to his father?

They had joined the undead...

Hunger for the flesh of the living consuming their every thought. Endless pain wracking each nerve ending their bodies, yet they simply can not die.

Stay put.

Primal rage taking over sensible thought.

Stay put.

Dead...yet still alive...lusting for warm blood and chewy muscle.

He ran.

He burst out of the front end of the wagon. Two undead were on the left side still eating away at his father's innards. He felt bile force it's way up his throat and out as he vomited onto the side of one of the horses in front of the wagon. Snot and puke covered his nose, mouth and chin. Tears stained his dirt streaked face.

His mother lunged and caught his ankle in her grasp.

The boy screamed, trying to pull free from his mother's grip as she yanked his ankle toward her trying to bite him. He screamed again and fell to the ground breaking the hold his mother had on him, but landed in an odd manner on his arm. Something snapped in his shoulder. He tried to scream again but his throat was too parched. The two zombies left his dead father and started slowly shuffling toward him. His undead mother began climbing from her spot at the wagon. The boy did his best to push himself up and take off running. He tripped and got back up again.

The boy's feet pounded against the stone road as his small thin legs carried him as fast as physically possible. He could hear the screams behind him.

Screams of terror and pain, of torment and death.

Screams?

His father was alive!

The boy came to a halt and turned back toward the wagon in hope. Even with his innards laying on the ground all around him, his father still lived, trying to pull his insides back into himself. The two strange zombies and his undead mother now ran toward him paying his dying father no heed.

The boy turned and saw a bright flash of light as he ran face first into a belt buckle. The belt buckle had bloodied his nose and knocked him to the ground. When he looked up, what he saw in front of him could have possibly been far worse the the three undead chasing after him. Far worse indeed.

It was a darkling. One of the cursed brethren of the elves from what his father had told him. Vile, evil creatures who lived in caves, plotting war and eating children.

The boy swallowed hard trying to wet his throat so he could scream again. The darkling, in all black leather armor, with ashen blue skin and light gray hair, knelt down beside the boy and spoke quite eloquently.

"Do not fear child. My friend and I are here. We will help you," the darkling said smiling, the sky blue of his eyes seeming to sparkly with molten silver.

"Friend?" the boy asked softly, confused.

The darkling nodded in the direction of the wagon. The boy turned to look. He knew one day when he was old he would tell his grandchildren that this being and an angel of justice sent to save him from the evil undead. But now, for this time in the present, this being was nothing more than pure rage.

The human landed on top of the wagon, his black leather armor glistening in the moonlight. The three undead stopped and turned back toward the wagon at the noise. Upon seeing the human they took off after him. The human jumped into the air, his black trench-coat catching the wind and fully opening, allowing him to draw his two blades with ease. He twisted his body as it came crashing down to the ground, swinging both blades and catching one of the zombies in the neck, severing the head from the body. The other blade cut through the top of the head of the same, now decapitated, zombie exposing a dead rotted brain.

His feet hit the ground, but for some reason the boy could only hear the soft, small, single noise of the man's boot spurs jingle. The two remaining undead turned and ran at the man. Both dove at him. He spun again, kicking one in the face. The kick clearly would not stop the creature but it would certainly slow it down. The hem of his coat, weighted with small steel balls, ripped through the air as he spun from kicking the first zombie. The hem smashed into the face of the second zombie knocking it back as well. The human finished his spin and brought both blades up, letting go of them for only a split second and quickly reversing his grip on each, and brought both kopesh swords down stabbing through the foreheads of both undead, effectively killing them both.

All was silent.

The man jerked the blades out, switched his grip on each again and just as quickly as they had appeared , they vanished when he pulled his coat closed.

"Mother!" the boy screamed running forward in rage.

The human turned, angered by the outburst of noise.

"Erron!" the darkling yelled, pulling his short-bow off his shoulder and an arrow from his quiver.

Erron stood and felt the arrow fly past his head, just barely touching his black, short cropped hair. He heard the soft thunk embed itself into the brain of the fourth zombie behind him.

The boy stopped dead in his tracks, shocked.

"F-father?" he asked, as he watched the man who had raised him since birth, fall backwards.

"The darkling will see you home safely. Don't travel these roads again, boy. We may not be here to save you next time," the man the darkling had called, Erron, said in a cold whisper.

"S-save me? B-but my mother...my father...they...they're dead. You killed them. the boy said, confused.

"Technically, the zombies killed them, child," the darkling stated as he put away his short-bow while walking forward, "my friend and I just ended their suffering."

"Y-yes...ended their suffering," the boy said softly, in a daze, fear had overwhelmed him to the point of nearly dulling all of his senses.

"I'll return shortly, Erron," the darkling said, leading the boy back down the road to Dexxer's Grove.

"Yes, Turk'en," Erron said the the darkling, "but be quick about it. We need to still--" Erron cut himself short, his eyes growing wide for a moment, then he spoke softer with the sound of menace and sorrow in his voice, glancing down at the boy's ankle.

"End the boy's pain, Turk'en. End his suffering too."

Turk'en, the darkling, nodded in understanding and began leading the boy back down the darkened toad, slowly drawing his axe.





Chapter 2
Brain-Eaters!

Erron crashed through the rotted wooden wall and felt himself slam into something hard, feeling glass bottles fall down on top of him.

"Son of a bitch!" he yelled in both anger and pain, "Turk! A little help here!"

He glanced around taking in his surroundings. It was an old decrepit building that was at one time, probably a bar. In fact, it was definitely a bar, as Erron soon realized the bar itself was what stopped his forward momentum.

Erron quickly scrambled to his feet, only to be tackled by quite possibly the largest, fattest zombie he'd ever seen. The creature who was missing an arm, was still formidable to say the least. The two toppled over the bar and slammed into the floor on the other side. Erron saw out of the corner of his eye two other zombies in the room slowly shuffling his way. The large one was on top of his, and Erron firmly planted the palm of his hand under it's chin keeping the snapping jaws from biting him.

"Turk!" he yelled the darkling's nick name, "Any time now would be great!"

The arrow came only an inch from Erron's face, after it had been blasted through the back of the large fat one's head. The darkling slid down the bar on his feet firing arrow after arrow after arrow at the other two undead. They never fell.

"Learn to aim!" Erron yelled in frustration, trying with no success to push the fat dead one off of himself.

Turken slid off the end of the bar and rolled behind an over turned table.

"I am aiming!" he yelled back, "it's not my fault you didn't get to the icebox before you got yourself ambushed! You know I need that axe!"

Erron finally shoved the fat one off of himself and got to his knees drawing his crossbow and firing, hitting one of the undead square between the eyes.

"We're in the right building. Aldion's informant was right. The icebox should be back behind the bar!" Erron replied, loading another crossbow bolt.

Turk'en ran behind the bar and saw from the corner of his eye, the second shuffling undead fall.

"We're all clear for the time being," Erron stated.

Turk'en found the chest. The wood was even cold. He drew out his broken axe. It had been a great weapon, but the head had been smashed in a fight with a minotaur with a hammer four days ago. Since then, Turk'en felt helpless. Sure he had his shortbow, but he preferred an axe. Most of his kind preferred bows, but Turk'en felt it foolish to depend so much on a weapon that would become useless if it ran out of ammunition.

He bashed the lock. With it being frozen already it snapped easily under the blow. Turk'en slowly lifted the lid to the chest. The inside was full of ice.

"Is it there?" Erron asked searching the dead zombies for any provisions he could find.

Turk'en dug through the ice and felt the hard shaft of wood. He slowly pulled out the ice-axe. It was called Frost Cutter. Known to not only be brutally sharp, but to freeze the surrounding area of the cut it made.

"It's here!" Turk'en shouted triumphantly. "It's here! I have--"

Turk'en glanced up slowly. Two guard dogs stood on the other side of the chest growling with anger. They weren't zombies. No animals had ever been reported as being undead, save for the rumor of dragons. But then again Turk'en had never seen a real dragon so he didn't know. What he did know was that undead or not, these dogs were starved. Which meant they were hungry.

"Um....hi," Turk'en said meekly to the two dogs.

They lunged at him, their growls growing louder. Turk'en kicked one in the muzzle as he fell backwards, yelling for Erron. Erron was glancing out of one of the windows now, softly mentioning that Aldion should be meeting them soon. Turk'en turned to scramble away but one of the dogs bit his leg. If not for his thick leather boots, the dog would have wounded him badly.

"Erron!" Turk'en screamed in fear as the dog tightened it's bite yanking Turk'en back toward it.

"Turk! Keep it down! You want to attract something else that wants to eat us!" Erron said annoyed still glancing at the street outside.

The second dog was back on it's feet and bit down on Turk'en's other leg. Once again his boots had saved him from serious injury.

"Erron!" Turk'en yelled again.

"Turk! Shut up! Great! you found your stupid axe! Now keep it down," he whispered harshly, becoming quite annoyed with the overly loud darkling.

Turk'en swung Frost Cutter, cutting a diagonal slice through the head of one dog, freezing the severed top of it's head to the lower half. He followed through with the swing, doing the same to the other dog. Erron grew frustrated and stormed over to the bar and looked over it down at the floor on the other side. he saw Turk'en lying there with the two dogs.

"Quit playing with those stupid dogs. Aldion is outside now. He's waiting for us," Erron said and stormed out the front door of the bar.

******************************

Years ago a travesty occurred. A farmer who lived near Riddik, named Erron, watched his wife and son be brutally killed by a pack of undead, in their own home. Erron killed those zombies. Later he had to kill his wife and son after they had turned into the undead. That's all Turk'en knew of his friend's past. Turk'en had met him three years ago. Both had been captured by a cult that called themselves Civil Agents of The Fallen. Turk'en wasn't sure what The Fallen was, much less a Civil Agent of it, but he knew they weren't friendly. He had left his people in the mountains. He grew disgusted with the darkling way of life. with their constant political back-stabbing, and hateful philosophy that only the strong are fit for survival. And so he left. For the first two weeks after leaving the mountains, he had been hunted by his brethren. He evaded them easily enough and was soon able to go a few days without looking over his shoulder constantly. However that was his fateful mistake. While he sat in front of the small fire cooking a skinny rabbit that more than likely had no meat on it's bones anyways, he felt a small prick in his neck. A dart. He pulled it out and looked at it curiously wondering who had shot him. later he awoke in a small wooden cage wondering not only, who had shot him, but also who was holding him captive. In another cage nearby was a man. The man looked at him. That's all. He just stared at him.

"Hey-hey where are we?" Turk'en asked.

The man didn't reply. He just stared.

Turk'en didn't enjoy being stared at like that. He had an uneasy feeling about the man in the other cage, and an even worse feeling about why his captors had kept him alive. Nearly every race on Nerin Toth would kill a darkling on sight if they encountered one. He clearly wasn't going to get any answers out of his fellow captive though. So he slept.

Turk'en awoke to being drug on the ground. His white hair hung in his face, but he couldn't brush it away since his hands were bound together and tied to his own waist. He calmed himself and realized two captors drug him, each pulling on of his legs. He shook his head giving himself a little more vision through his long hair and saw to his side, his fellow captive also being drug.

"At least he can see where he's going. He has short hair," Turk'en thought, glancing at the man's short cropped black hair.

The two prisoners were drug to a town square. As for what town it was, Turk'en still didn't know. His captors stood him up , and kept his wrists bound together, but untied them from his waist. They did the same for the other prisoner. Turk'en looked around him and saw, what he estimated to be twelve, captors standing around himself and the other prisoner. Torchlight burned, lighting the darkness. Turk'en captors all wore hooded black robes concealing their features.

"We are The Civil Agents of The Fallen. You will now be judged," one of the captors stated.

"Judge us for what?" Turk'en asked.

"The gods left us this world. We are to replace them, as we are their rightful heirs. The undead that plague this world have need of only two things. Food and more corpses to swell their ranks. We, The Civil Agents of The--"

"We already know who you are. What do you want?" Turk'en yelled at the hooded captor cutting him off.

"We consume those who are most likely to join the ranks of the undead, preventing the undead from feeding and strengthening their ranks--"

"You eat people!?" Turk'en said in shock.

The circle of captors were silent.

"You can't be serious!" Turk'en said in anger. He had left a society in which the creed was that only the strong survived, only to wander into a world far worse than the one he knew.

The only reply he received was two of the hooded captors walking forward. One pulled out a wooden club from the inside of his robes and placed it into the bound hands of the darkling. The other pulled out a broken longsword and placed it in the hands of Turk'en's fellow captive.

"You will battle to the death. The victor shall consume the flesh and join our cause in taking this world that is rightfully left to us by the gods, back from the undead. If you refuse to battle, then you are both judged as candidates who would join the ranks of the undead, and you will be killed and consumed by us."

"This is insane! You can't--" Turk'en's fellow prisoner kicked him in the stomach knocking him to the ground not allowing him to finish his sentence.

Turk'en swung his legs to the right catching the other prisoner behind the knees, dropping him to the ground. Both prisoners quickly got back to their feet and charged one another. Turk'en swung the club in a wide sweeping arc at his opponent's head, but the other prisoner saw the move coming, and ducked. Turk'en spun with his momentum and when he came back around the other prisoner drove his shoulder into Turk'en's chest sending them both to the ground.

"We-we have to work together," the other prisoner whispered to Turk'en.

"Agreed," Turk'en replied.

Both prisoners got to their feet again and faced off. Turk'en kicked straight up knocking the broken longsword from his opponent's hands. his opponent stepped backwards and kicked one of the torches in the ground into one of the Civil Agents. The black robes of the agent burst into flames, and the cannibals were in disarray trying to put out the flames. It was all the distraction Turk'en needed. He used the broken longsword to cut his bonds. He tossed the broken blade to his fellow escapee and dove toward his club, hitting the ground and rolling, grasping the weapon. He shot up to his feet using the club and hitting a vicious uppercut with it on one of the agents, snapping the agent's neck. The other prisoner cut his own bonds, tossed away the now useless broken blade and pulled one of the torches from the ground. One of the agents rushed toward him. He speared the agent with the torch setting him aflame as well.

The rest of the agents fled in terror, leaving their two comrades to burn to death. Turk'en and the prisoner ran the opposite direction. They both knew there was no way they could defeat all of the agents and they had no idea if more were around. So they fled through the broken, no-name village they would later learn was not far from Dead Town. As they ran Turk'en asked his new found companion his name;

"Erron," the prisoner replied.





Chapter 3
Into the Fire


Aldion swung his scythe in a wide arc, slicing a zombie in half at the wasit. He stepped back from it as it began to pull itself toward him with it's hands. Erron ran forward along with Turk'en and they immediatly put their backs to Aldion's back.

"Did you get the axe?" Aldion asked kicking the half-zombie in the chin knocking it backwards.

"I got it," Turk'en replied, "and if there's no other reason for us to be in this miserable city, I suggest we leave. We're staring to become popular."

"I agree," Erron said viewing the score of undead slowly starting to surround the trio, "Jemeroth is a lost cause. There's no one alive here. Not that I could tell at least. We need to get out of the city and head toward Peregrin."

"What about Gerrin, Hobmocker, and the girl?" Turk'en asked.

Gerrin Hammerstrike was quite possibly the meanest, ugliest, and loudest individual on all of Nerin Toth. A dwarf, born and raised in the city of Peregren, he was raised by a blacksmith by the name of Yosef Gillam. Yosef was a large human who was known for crafting some of the best shields for the Knights of Tomath ever seen. Gerrin had been left as a small child in the city, abandoned. No one knew who his parents were, and no one cared. No one, except Yosef. Yosef found Gerrin behind his shop one morning peeking in the windows. Gerrin had been looking for a place to sleep. The small dwarven boy had claimed muggers had been chasing him all night.

Yosef never met the muggers; but he did take Gerrin in. Naturally he tried to teach Gerrin the ways of blacksmithing. However Gerrin was more interested in fighting pretend villains and monsters with his hammer, rather than forming hard steel into works of practical art.

Eventually Yosef gave in and began training Gerrin. Yosef was at one time a mercenary, but retired when he lost a leg in a bloody battle with a pack of goblins.

Yosef trained Gerrin night and day, and day and night. When he finally believed Gerrin was ready to go on his first job, he contacted a merchant he knew personally by the name of Holstaff Imblee. A fishmonger who was on his way to Ft. Fiel to sell his wares to the halflings.

Gerrin accompanied Holstaff to Ft. Fiel with nothing eventful occurring. However in Ft. Fiel, it would be the last time Gerrin would ever see Holstaff again. It was in Ft. Fiel, where Gerrin was, when The Ravaging first occurred. Somehow the undead had made it past the walls surrounding the small town. Most believed it to be a lazy guard not paying attention and sleeping at his post by the name of Toadlicker. His body had been found, his neck chewed out, only moments before the attack commenced. Gerrin and a halfling named Hobmocker, who happened to be Toadlicker's half-brother and second cousin, barely escaped with their lives.

When Gerrin and Hobmocker made it back to Peregren two weeks later, Yosef was dead along with the majority of the population of the city.

"I'm not all that concerned about the girl. She seems to be quite capable," Aldion replied to Turk'en, "and besides, I see them now."

Aldion nodded in the direction he was facing. Erron and Turk'en looked down the street to see Gerrin, Hobmocker and the human woman with them running as fast as they could. The trio stood in the middle of the street with zombies beginning to surround them. They would have been left with no where to run, had it not been for Gerrin. The dwarf swung his warhammer, bashing in rib cages of undead clearing a path to the trio.

"Damn. We've got to run lads. And fast," the stout dwarf said trying to catch his breath and wiping the sweat from his forehead with his long coal-black beard.

It was too late. No less than thirty of the undead came charging around the corner down the street from which Gerrin, Hobmocker, and the human woman had come from. Everyone drew their weapons and began attacking any undead near them.

"We have to split up! Divide them!" Aldion shouted arcing his scythe through the air lopping off an arm of a zombie.

Erron, Turk'en, and the human woman fought their way through the ranks of rotting flesh and head back toward the bar across the street. Aldion, Gerrin, and Hobmocker ran the opposite direction to what looked to possibly be a workshop for wagons.

The zombies were fast. Erron felt his muscles in his legs burn as he ran as hard as he could. Turk'en was right next to him. The woman wasn't. Turk'en skidded to a halt.

"Where'd she go!" yelled Turk'en swing Frost-Cutter in a downward arc, cleaving a zombie's head down the middle.

Erron pointed up. The woman was in the air, her black cloak fluttering behind her, contrasting with her bright white hair. She had launched herself off of an over turned bale of hay. Her hands grasped a line of rope stretched from one side of the street to the other with lanterns, now burned out, hanging from it. She swung over it and landed with both feet on the rope, agile as a squirrel, only to take off running across it, free from the undead, toward the bar.

Erron and Turk'en were on the ground below her, back to back. Erron's blades were kopeshes. Swords believed to have first been crafted by the minotaur from the Epicenter. He cut and hacked his way through undead, spattering blood across his own face. Turk'en swung the axe. What Erron didn't slice, Turk'en certainly froze, with the magical axe. The woman above dove off of her make-shift tight rope onto the roof of the bar. She landed rolling forward and then allowed gravity to work and began rolling backwards in a somersault. When she neared the edge she grasped the gutter of the building and swung down and into the hole Erron had made earlier when he had been thrown through the wall of the bar. Turk'en and Erron followed her in. Without needing instruction she grabbed a round table and rolled it to the hole. Erron and Turk'en began grabbing any furniture they could find and started helping with the make shift blockade.

Arms reached through small holes in the barricade.

"That isn't going to hold them long!" Turk'en shouted.

"Over here! A basement!" the woman returned, pointing down a dark stairwell in side of an open doorway.

The three made their way down into the darkness.

******************************

Aldion reached the porch first jumping over all four stairs and into the open door of the building. He landed rolling, and quickly stopping in a defensive stance taking in his surroundings. All clear. Turning he saw Hobmocker scramble up the stairs and turning back toward the pack of hungry flesh eaters to throw rocks at them.

"C'mon!" he said grabbing Hobmocker by the back of his collar and dragging him inside. Gerrin followed Hobmocker, making his way up the stairs as well. He ran in and Aldion slammed the door shut behind him.

"Here!" the halfling said quickly grabbing a handful of nails off of a work bench, and handing them to Aldion.

Gerrin leaned against the door and felt it push back against him as undead pounded on it from the other side.

"Hurry!" he shouted handing his warhammer to Aldion and quickly putting all of his strength into keeping the door shut. "Runt! start barricading the window before these stiffs realize there's more than one way in!"

Hobmocker did as Gerrin told him. He ran across the room, as Aldion began nailing the edges of the door into the door frame and grabbed a large bookshelf. he pulled it down, causing it to crash loudly, and began struggling to drag it across the room to the window.

"It's too heavy!" he grunted.

"Can you hold it?" Gerrin asked Aldion.

"Ow!" Aldion yelped as hit struck his thumb with the hammer, "probably not, but hey, we're having fun, right?"

"Stupid elf," Gerrin muttered and took off running across the room.

Gerrin grabbed the bookcase and he and Hobmocker began dragging it across the room. Aldion leaned against the door with one shoulder as hard as he could, keeping it shut, while still hammering nails. The dwarf and halfling lifted the large book shelf and placed it in front of the window. Aldion finished nailing the door shut and scurried over to the bookshelf. Hobmocker had more nails in hand and began handing them to Aldion as the bookshelf was quickly nailed to the windowsill and wall.

"It won't hold 'em long," Gerrin said and then spat.

"Let's just hope Erron and Turk and that woman are fairing better than we are," Aldion replied.





Chapter 4
The Sewers


"So what's your name?" Turk'en asked holding the torch higher for a better view.

"Jade," the woman replied, leading Erron and Turk'en through the sewers below Jemeroth.

"Well, Jade, how did you know the basement of that bar led to the sewers? And how do you know you're going the right way? And how do you--"

"I've lived here in Jemeroth with my family since about six months after The Ravaging first occurred. The sewers are what we primarily use to get around the city. To be honest though, I had no idea there was an opening that led into the sewers in that basement. I just got lucky I guess," Jade said interrupting the darkling.

When the three of them had made their way into the basement, they knew it wouldn't be long until the undead found them. Jade had found the entrance way under a few empty barrels that at one time, held ale. The three of them had been walking for the last ten minutes. The torch had been the last one Turk'en had in his back pack. He had low-light vision, but even that was useless here in the sewers.

"So what brings you and your friends to Jemeroth, if you don't mind me asking?" Jade quentioned.

"We mind," Erron replied.

"Is your friend always this much of an orc's ass?" she asked Turk'en.

"You should see him on a bad day," Turk'en replied, "we came here to Jemeroth looking for food, and this," he said holding up the ice-axe, Frost Cutter.

"Food?" Jade asked, "I see. Well that axe is definitely worth the trip here. I saw what you did up there with it."

"Well, I do try to impress the ladies," Turk'en replied smiling.

"Quiet down both of you, there's something up ahead," Erron said.

All three stopped and listened.

******************************

"Are they gone?" Gerrin asked, stuffing tobacco into the corn-cob pipe.

"Aye, they're gone. But if we make too much noise they'll be back," said Aldion glancing out the small crack between the bookshelf he had nailed to the wall in front of the window of the wagon repair shop, and the window itself.

"I'm so hungry," Hobmocker whined.

"Go outside and look for food. Right out in the middle of the street. make a bunch of noise. I'm sure you'll scare something up," Gerrin replied puffing on the pipe then handing it to Aldion.

"Hardy har har hardy har hardy Gerrin. I'm serious. We haven't gotten to eat in two days." Hobmocker said as Aldion handed him the pipe.

"Well I still have that small sack of dried pumpkin seeds in my pack," Aldion said opening his pack.

The three of them sat together on the floor of the workshop. It had been a difficult journey to Jemeroth to say the least.

"Stupid we came all the way here for an axe for the darkling," Gerrin said taking a small handful of pumpkin seeds from Aldion.

"He needed it. You've seen what he can do with an axe, Gerrin. And if he found that weapon here, can you just imagine how much good we can do in the world if each of us is to get a weapon as powerful as that axe, that we're accustomed to. Just imagine if you had a magical hammer--"

"Don't get me wrong, ear-point," the dwarf said winking at the elf, "I'm not like most dwarves. I grew up mostly around humans. I understand how valuable magic can be. And I understand how much it can help. But us all risking our necks for one weapon is just stupid. Now if there was something in this miserable city for each of us....well that would be different."

"Thus far, what we've found in this city for all of us is just a bunch of dead-heads," Hobmocker stated flatly.

"Aye," Aldion agreed.

******************************

Turk'en drew his axe and handed the torch to Erron.

"You know the signal," Erron said, dipping the head of the torch down into the murky waters putting the light out and then handed the torch back to the darkling.

It was total blackness.

"What is he--"

"Shhh," Erron whispered softly stopping Jade from speaking further.

Turk'en walked through the watery sewer slowly, not making a noise. He stopped hearing the clattering ahead. When the noise stopped, he started forward again.

More clattering. Just ahead.

Turk'en froze.

He slowly reached into the pouch on his belt. He felt the black-powder sift through his fingers. He drew out a small handful and threw it at the wall of the sewer to his right. A bright flash of light burst , illuminating the tunnel.

The four zombies were feasting on a dead alligator and looked up at the light. Seeing Turk'en they hissed. All went black again.

They splashed through the water toward Turk'en. He turned, running through the water. His legs fought against the cubic weight of the water, but nothing would make it easy for him to run any faster. He stuck his fingers into his mouth and whistled loudly.

Erron and Jade heard splashing coming there way.

"Down!" Erron said grabbing her by the top of her head and shoving her under the sewer water and submersing himself as well.

Jade felt like her lungs were going to burst. Erron had given her no time at all to catch her breath before forcing her under the water. He wrapped his arm around her, clamping his hand over her mouth and reached forward with his other hand, grasping the floor of the tunnel and pulling himself and jade to the side near the wall.

Turk'en counted. 89 steps. He had passed where Jade and Erron waited under water. He ran ten more feet and stopped. The undead were coming. They weren't far. He pulled out the torch and his flint and the small flask of oil he kept. He bit the cap of the flask and pulled cork out with his teeth and rapidly started dumping the oil all over the rags that made up the head of the torch.And then he dropped the flint into the water.

"No," he whispered in dis-belief. He knelt down and frantically began searching in the darkness for the flint.

"C'mon c'mon," he muttered.

The undead were nearly upon him. He felt the flint hit his fingers under the water and bounce off of them. He searched blindly not and then felt the flint again and grasped it. He brought it up and heard the splashing stop only seven or eight feet from him. He slowly lit the torch and looked into the light. The four undead stood there. Turk'en swallowed hard. One of the zombie's tilted it's head to the side and started forward slowly, growling.

Erron and Jade re-emerged, completely silent, from the murky water behind the four zombies. Erron slowly removed his hand from over Jade's mouth. Erron slowly stood and pulled out only one of his two blades. Turk'en threw the torch past the undead to Erron. They turned their heads following the flame with their gaze as it sailed past them. Erron caught it. The undead stared at his hand grasping the torch for just a moment. Then one of them slowly lifted it's gaze to Erron.

Erron swung the blade slicing the top of the zombie's head off. Turk'en brought his axe down into the top of one of the other zombie's heads. Erron was using his blade in his off hand, and had to turn back toward the enemy again in an awkward manner. One of the zombies lunged onto him, both of them falling into the water. Erron raised the torch high. If the light went out in the fight, it would all be over.

"Erron!' Turk'en screamed in fear seeing his friend in danger.

He ran forward swinging his axe and embedding it in the forehead of the fourth zombie. The other one was still on top of Erron though. Erron let go of his blade and let his chest and head go under water as he raised the torch high with one hand, and grasped the throat of the zombie with the other hoping to keep away it's biting mouth. He hadn't had time to get his breath though and felt himself drowning.

"Erron! No!' Turk'en screamed splashing forward.

The zombie grasped the hand of Erron around it's throat and prepared to bite down on it. A second bright glow of light filled the tunnel as flames shot from across the sewers hitting the zombie clean in the face knocking it off Erron. The zombie fell at Turk'en feet and he quickly brought the axe down cleaving the zombies head in half. Erron came back up from the water gasping for breath and yelling in pain. Turk'en dropped his axe in the water and grabbed Erron's burnt hand and didn't let go as he dropped to his knees while holding him, for fear of it hitting the filthy water and becoming infected.

"It's ok man! I've got you!" Turk'en shouted trying to help calm Erron, while pulling out his a flask of clean water and quickly dumping it's contents onto the burnt hand.

"It's ok, it's--"

"Turk," Erron whispered, and swallowed hard, "look."

Turk'en followed Erron's gaze to Jade. She had cast the magical flame that had hit the zombie. And the tattoo on the palm of her hand still burned slightly. A tattoo of the death skull in the circle.

The insignia of The Civil Agents of The Fallen.

TO BE CONTINUED
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