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The Doomed Bastards: Reckoning (story complete)

Lazybones

Adventurer
HugeOgre said:
For those of us without the adventure, can we assume these are mobs?
Well, they're rather tougher than your run-of-the-mill basic undead. I could stat them, but I think I'll let the story handle the description...

* * * * *

Chapter 181

THE DEAD LEGION


A roar of fury broke over the subtle noises of the undead, the clack of bones from the skeletons and the hissing moans of the zombies. The force of it broke the wall of undead pressing down upon Shay, letting the light back in.

The scout blinked and looked up to see Dar and Talen. Talen, still unable to see, was swinging Beatus Incendia blindly, driving back the closest undead. He could hardly miss in the press, but the advantage was only temporary; already the faster skeletons were rushing at him, tearing at him with their claws, trying to get a hold.

To Shay’s eyes at that moment, he was like an avenging angel.

Dar, on the other hand, was a force of nature. The fighter reached down and grabbed her by the front of her chain shirt. He yanked her up; she let out a cry of pain as the zombie still holding onto her ankle jerked her back. She felt rather than saw Dar smash down with Valor, and then she was free. Dar continued to lash about him as he retreated, Shay all but slung over his shoulder.

“Get moving, commander, we’re getting out!” he yelled, as hands tore at his back, trying to find purchase.

They fell back to the doors, the undead pressing the attack at every step. Kalend and Varo had set up a temporary perimeter there, and had kept the gap open against the surging undead. Varo had summoned a fiendish ape to aid them, and the animal was doing a good job of helping to keep the left flank clear through its sheer size. But the ape already bore numerous wounds across its torso, and its blows were growing noticeably weaker as a wall of skeletons and zombies hewed at its bulk.

Even with the ape, however, the defenders could not keep all of the surging undead back from the ruined doors. Allera and Serah were in the doorway proper, hitting skeletons that got too close with their maces. One clawed its way into their midst, but Filcher thrust his sword into the gap between its leg bones, tripping it. As it tried to get up, the cleric and healer laid into it, smashing it hard and putting it down for good.

Dar all but hurled Shay into the midst of the women defending the doors, and turned to smite a zombie that had seized onto his armor. A skeleton leapt at him, but he grabbed the monster by the spine, and hurled it into a charging rank of its fellows. Beside him, Talen was hacking into undead with sharp, controlled blows of his sword, wary of accidentally risking his companions due to his damaged vision.

Step by step, the companions fell back. The ape fell to the ground, taking a half-dozen undead with it, the zombies and skeletons still tearing the creature’s flesh until it dissolved into nothing. Varo faced a sudden surge on his flank, but before he could be overwhelmed Dar was there, buying them a few precious seconds. Kalend and Talen fell back, then Varo, and finally Dar, still hacking for all he was worth.

The undead came after them on their heels. The doors had been ruined, one smashed open, the second knocked fully off its hinges, neither really functioning as a real barrier. But as Dar retreated toward the threshold, the wood began to shift and twist, coming together seemingly of its own inertia, coming back together to form a nearly intact obstacle. The new “door” was really just a plate of wood, and it didn’t quite reach the top of the threshold, instead ending about seven feet up.

“What the...” Dar exclaimed in surprise.

“Thank Snaggletooth!” Allera said, looking up from where she was healing Shay’s injured leg.

“Is everyone here?” Talen asked.

“Baraka... he didn’t make it,” Kalend said.

“The hobgoblins... and most of the goblins, they were caught as well,” Shay said, grimacing as Allera straightened out the mangled leg, pouring healing energy into the limb.

“This isn’t going to hold them!” Dar warned, as the wooden barrier began to buckle under the force of the undead attack. A slab of wood broke out from the wall, followed by probing hands both skeletal and of rotten flesh. Dar brought down Valor, severing the lot of them. “Damn it, I dropped my club in there!”

More hands appeared over the top of the barrier, seeking purchase; another piece of the barrier shattered, and a skeleton started pushing through.

“Back to the bridge!” Talen shouted. “We can cut it behind us, and use the river as a line of defense!”

They retreated back down the passage, the sounds of cracking wood echoing off the walls behind them. Dar brought up the rear, covering their retreat. “I don’t suppose you’d have another one of those fire blasts handy?” he asked Varo.

“If I did, you could rest assured that I would have used it in the chamber,” the cleric replied.

“I never thought I’d miss that damned elf,” the fighter muttered, glancing back up the tunnel behind them.

It took only a short interval for them to cover the hundred feet or so of passage that led back to the underground river and the bridge. Filcher and Kalend were in the lead, but they came to a halt as they spotted something lying on the ground on the near side of the bridge. Kalend drew out his everburning torch from his belt, and shone the light upon it.

It was a goblin, one of their scouts, killed by serious burns to the chest and neck.

A clank announced the arrival of Talen and the others. The armored knight was guided by Allera and Shay; some instinct warned him of the danger that he could not see. “What is it?” he asked.

“A goblin, dead,” Allera said. “One of ours.”

Talen lifted Beatus Incendia; light flared out across the river cavern. It shone on the figures standing on the far side of the bridge. The muscled hulk that had once been a mad barbarian. Just behind him to the side, a warlock who had been a friend, when he’d been alive.

And behind them, a mass of undead, animated corpses standing in silent ranks, awaiting command.

The two sides stared at each other across the bridge in silence for a second, two. Then Dar and Varo came rushing up. There was a look of mutual recognition, a startled gasp of surprise.

“Greetings, friends,” the revenant Zafir Navev said, his voice rattling hollow in his chest, but sounding clear across the gap and the noise of the river.

Varo opened his mouth to respond, but he never got the chance. Navev lifted his hand, and a bolt of coruscating black energy erupted from his fingers, coursing across the river in a flash. The eldritch blast hit the cleric solidly in the chest, arcing sideways even as it hit, smashing into Talen and Dar. All three men were hurled backwards, flying a half-dozen paces back down the tunnel to land hard on their backs, wisps of black smoke rising from their bodies.
 

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Lazybones

Adventurer
Chapter 182

OLD FRIENDS


The entity that had once been Zafir Navev laughed, a cold, dry sound. “My powers have increased since we last met,” the undead warlock said. He stepped back, and brought up his other hand. The ghast of the mad barbarian Marthek shot forward across the bridge like a crossbow bolt, followed by a shambling horde of zombies.

Shay stood there, her eyes wide, torn between Talen and defending against the foe. Looking back, she saw her lover stir; alive, at least. She wanted to go to him, but with their two toughest fighters taken out by the warlock’s blast, she was the strongest left to hold the line.

Dar’s reaction was more prosaic. “I’ll kill that gods-damned wizard!” the fighter roared. It was clear as he pulled himself up, however, that the blast had hurt. Combined with the wounds he’d suffered battling the undead earlier, he was in far from good condition.

Allera did not have time to ponder decisions; the ghast seemed to fixate on her, and an eager light shone in its eyes as it charged across the bridge. It navigated the bobbling planks with ease; apparently the former barbarian retained some of its natural agility even in undeath.

Kalend drew his sword and stepped forward to defend the healer; the weapon shook in his hand. Filcher took a quick look between the undead and his companions, and stepped back into the shadows along the river’s edge.

“Back, creature!” Varo yelled. The cleric was still on his back, but he had lifted his head, and held up his divine focus with one hand. Violet waves of energy, only vaguely perceived by those alive, roiled out from him, rushing down the tunnel toward the bridge. That surge of power smashed into the ghast, which staggered as if struck.

The creature was possessed of a considerable innate strength, further reinforced by the dark powers that suffused Rappan Athuk, gathered by the ritual of the cult of Orcus, and the Sphere of Souls. Varo’s expression tightened in concentration as he poured the full strength of his will into the rebuke, adding his own power to the will of his shadowed god.

The combination was just enough to overcome the ghast’s resistances, and it let out a sharp shriek as it came to a halt, just shy of the near end of the bridge. It clenched its claws and teeth, ferocious, but unable to come further.

Kalend took an uncertain step forward, but Shay forestalled him. “Let them come to us,” the scout said, her eyes not on the zombies, but on the warlock just visible behind them on the far side of the bridge.

“We should cut the bridge!” Serah exclaimed.

“Then the undead behind us will kill us when they get here,” Shay said, surprised at how calm her voice was. “We have to get through these.”

“Call upon the Father, Serah,” Allera said, collecting herself now that she saw that she wasn’t about to be torn apart. “Have faith.”

The priestess nodded and lifted her holy symbol. Bright light flared from the sigil of the torch, washing over the undead upon the bridge. The ghast was not affected, but the divine radiance flared as it struck the first ranks of zombies. Unlike the monsters they had faced in the chamber earlier, these were mundane creatures, created by Navev, and while a black aura flickered around them as the holy light touched their flesh, it was not enough to protect them. Five zombies crumpled into ash, which was blown almost at once into the river by the breeze coming down the low tunnel.

There was still over a dozen more of the slow-moving undead. They were not as adept as Marthek had been, and with the sudden shift in weight on the bridge several staggered to the side. A pair hit the rail and went over, vanishing under the water, not to emerge again.

Serah lifted her holy symbol to face the second rank, but before she could try to turn them a second time, Navev struck again.

“Look out!” Shay yelled, turning to push Serah hard on the shoulder. The eldritch blast still hit her, but it was a glancing blow rather than a full-on blast with the force that had felled Varo and the fighters. Even so, the force of the warlock’s power knocked the cleric off her feet, to land hard on the stone a few paces away. The bolt split as before, but Shay had faced Navev’s power before, and was ready for it. She yanked her body out of the path of the forking blast an instant before it touched her, and the magical pulse dissolved as it shot out into empty space beyond her. Allera quickly hurried over to the fallen priestess, who clutched her blasted side in pain, but clung to consciousness.

Dar returned to the fray with a violent and angry cry of battle. He saw the ghast, recognized Varo’s rebuke, and headed for it, Valor held above his head in both hands. But the zombies were getting across the bridge, and blocked his rush. One was drawn off as Kalend stabbed it, opening a deep gash in its side that trailed blackened and rotting entrails. The zombie pawed at the thief, but failed to injure him.

Dar barely paused as he took the first zombie’s head and one arm off its body with his first swing. Three more zombies lunged at him, but after the souped-up zombies of the last battle, these seemed almost pathetically weak. Dar cleared them all with a single violent sweep of attacks, then lifted his sword to point across the bridge.

“You’re next, wizard!” he shouted.

Navev replied by blasting him solidly in the chest with another eldritch blast. The twisting beam of energy knocked Dar back another twenty feet, while the forking side-blasts hit Kalend and Allera, hurting both and knocking them roughly into the walls on either side of the passage. Dar, lay there for a long moment, trying unsuccessfully to get up.

“Ouch...”

Talen was on his feet again, and he’d made his way back to the bridge alone, using the side of the tunnel for guidance. He heard Dar charge back into the fray, and cursed his own blindness; he’d be more of a liability than a boon if he attempted the same. But neither could he just stand there and wait for his companions to resolve the battle. Thankfully he’d kept his grip on his sword; he wouldn’t have been able to find Beatus Incendia again easily if he’d dropped it.

He hesitated. He turned back toward the dark tunnel behind them. He couldn’t see, but he could hear, although it was the absence of sound that drew his attention and his worry.

The sound of the wooden barrier being attacked had stopped.

The undead horde was coming.
 

Sabriel

First Post
Uh oh, looks like they're screwed (again). Anyone else thinking "jump into the river?" Of course, the folks in plate armor wouldn't swim very well. :heh:

Really wondering how they're going to get through this one... thankyou and please keep up the wonderful nail-biting anticipation, Lazybones!
 

wolff96

First Post
Sabriel said:
Uh oh, looks like they're screwed (again). Anyone else thinking "jump into the river?" Of course, the folks in plate armor wouldn't swim very well. :heh:

Nah. All (or at least most) of the regular dead have been removed from the battlefield. The best bet is to charge across the bridge and attack the warlock. While he's occupied with all the folks fighting him, you drop the bridge BEHIND the party. It may be a huge undead horde, but they're still going to have trouble crossing the water.

Taking out the bridge behind them has the added benefit of dumping the rebuked Ghast barbarian into the river and sweeping him away. He'd be out of their hair for a while, at least... :)
 

Richard Rawen

First Post
wolff96 said:
Nah. All (or at least most) of the regular dead have been removed from the battlefield. The best bet is to charge across the bridge and attack the warlock. While he's occupied with all the folks fighting him, you drop the bridge BEHIND the party. It may be a huge undead horde, but they're still going to have trouble crossing the water.
Agreed, though I don't see Zafir making that charge across the bridge any safer than jumping in the water...
wolff96 said:
Taking out the bridge behind them has the added benefit of dumping the rebuked Ghast barbarian into the river and sweeping him away. He'd be out of their hair for a while, at least... :)
Would it? How does that work... can the Rebuked come no farther (and thus, when the group reaches/passes it, could it not simply attack... or is it essentially held, cowering as it were?
 

Lazybones

Adventurer
Richard Rawen said:
Would it? How does that work... can the Rebuked come no farther (and thus, when the group reaches/passes it, could it not simply attack... or is it essentially held, cowering as it were?
It's my understanding that rebuked undead remain passive unless the rebuker approaches them.

wolff96 said:
The best bet is to charge across the bridge and attack the warlock. While he's occupied with all the folks fighting him, you drop the bridge BEHIND the party. It may be a huge undead horde, but they're still going to have trouble crossing the water.
Ah, the best laid plans of men and dragons... :eek:

* * * * *

Chapter 183

DESPERATE TIMES


Dar tried again to get up, and again failed. But then a roaring wave of power exploded through his body, blasting his weakness away with it. It only lasted a second, and in that time it felt like his flesh was being scoured clean from within, but when it was done, he was more or less whole.

He looked up, and was not surprised to see Varo looking down at him. Allera’s healing was more gentle, but there was no denying the efficacy of the dark cleric’s magic.

“I don’t suppose you have a spell that can deal with that damned wizard and his freaking energy bolts?” he asked, as he pulled himself back up to his feet.

“I have no more spells that can harm him directly,” Varo replied, “Unless I can get close enough to touch him.”

“Swell,” Dar said, picking up Valor before starting down the tunnel toward the bridge once more.

Shay had taken out her bow, hoping to injure the warlock enough to stop the barrage of eldritch blasts. But before she could load and shoot she was forced to defend herself from a trio of zombies that swept forward off the bridge. The first staggered forward and nearly fell as she ducked smoothly aside, but the other two were right on its heels, and she had to give ground, taking her further away from her shot at the warlock.

She was momentarily distracted by a flutter of wings overhead, but could pay it no heed as a fourth zombie appeared and grabbed her leg. She got away before it could get a good grip on her, but its fingers had clutched her hard enough to bruise the flesh.

There was a flare of light, then all four zombies crumbled into ash. Shay turned and nodded in thanks at Serah, who’d been brought back around by Allera, both of them kneeling by the tunnel wall.

Then she turned back to the warlock; she had business with him.

Unfortunately, the warlock, apparently, had spent the last few seconds mustering his power; now his fingers extended toward Shay with a surety that spoke, This time, I will not miss, woman.

But even as Shay tensed to take the blast, there was a sudden sharp rumble, the only warning any of them got before a massive chunk of the cavern ceiling over the bridge gave way and collapsed onto the revenant. Shay stood there and stared in surprise through the miasma of dust that hung in the air around the collapse. Most of the earth that had fallen from the ceiling had gone into the river, but the rest formed a rampart several feet high on the far bank.

Snaggletooth became visible as the little dragon floated down and landed on Allera’s shoulder. The faerie dragon opened its jaws wide, and issued a derisive hiss toward where the warlock had been standing. Navev had been on the very edge of the river near the far pylon of the bridge. He’d been completely buried, or he’d gone over into the river; either way there was no sign of him now.

Dar came rushing up; he’d seen the whole thing. One of the remaining zombies lunged at him; the fighter almost casually took the thing’s head off its shoulders.

“Is he dead? Well, for good?”

“I don’t know,” Shay said.

“Well, might as well take care of this one again,” Dar said, stepping forward to face the still-immobile ghast. The creature remained where it had been stopped by Varo’s rebuke, although the bridge under it sagged until the center of it dipped into the water; the far side was covered in heaped earth that had been dislodged from the ceiling by the dragon’s magic.

Dar lifted his sword, but before he could strike the entire bridge gave way under the strain. The ghast toppled back over into the river, along with the piled earth and the wooden planks; the moorings on their side trailed the remnants of the broken ropes down the current. Forty feet of open river, deep and swift, now separated them from the tunnel on the far side.

The light of Beatus Incendia washed over them as Talen staggered up to join them. “The undead, they’re right behind me!” he yelled, the words a cold dagger that sent a sinister chill through each of them. Even as they turned, they could see the leading edge of the rush, as dozens of skeletons charged into the radius of the light shed by the knight’s sword.
 

Richard Rawen

First Post
Lazybones said:
Ah, the best laid plans of men and dragons... :eek:
DRAGONS!?!?!!!!!
Lazybones said:
Snaggletooth became visible as the little dragon floated down and landed on Allera’s shoulder. The faerie dragon opened its jaws wide, and issued a derisive hiss toward where the warlock had been standing.
I forgot about the lil butterfly drake . . . Still, remind me not to piss off any Fairie Dragons :lol:
Lazybones said:
Dar lifted his sword, but before he could strike the entire bridge gave way under the strain. The ghast toppled back over into the river, along with the piled earth and the wooden planks; the moorings on their side trailed the remnants of the broken ropes down the current. Forty feet of open river, deep and swift, now separated them from the tunnel on the far side.
AND?... Did Dar fall in, or ? ? ?

Loving the story, the buildup to the Friday Cliff-Hanger is once again masterful, I simultaneously crave and dread the next installment... If only I could ignore it till Monday!
 

Lazybones

Adventurer
Richard Rawen said:
AND?... Did Dar fall in, or ? ? ?
Nah, the ghast was right on the edge of the bridge when it got rebuked (see chapter 182). So Dar would have had to go around it to have been in danger.

Did someone mention a Friday cliffhanger?

* * * * *

Chapter 184

EVEN MORE DESPERATE TIMES


“Form a line!” Dar yelled, moving up to stand beside Talen. Shay and Kalend came forward to take their flanks, but their formation still looked tenuous in the face of the sheer numbers of undead bearing down upon them. Allera and Serah came up behind them, ready to bolster the defenders with their healing magic.

Varo remained on the far side of the line, staring at the charging undead.

“Varo, what in the hells are you doing?” Dar shouted. “Get back behind the line, man!”

But Varo’s concentration did not waver. The skeletons focused on him, an exposed target, and lifted their claws in anticipation of a strike.

The leading edge of the rush was less than fifteen feet away when Varo raised his divine focus and invoked the power of Dagos.

The pulse of negative energy washed over the undead, and this time it had an immediate and dramatic effect. More than a dozen skeletons suddenly froze, as though they had struck an invisible wall. Those behind pushed forward, past their rebuked fellows, but before they could get to Varo, the cleric stepped back smoothly behind the line of his companions.

“Serah, I believe you will find your turning more effective now,” the cleric said calmly.

The priestess of the Shining Father called upon her own power, flooding the tunnel with a flaring light. True to Varo’s words, another dozen skeletons came apart as the holy blaze touched them, blasting them into dust.

Despite the serious losses, the skeletons kept on coming. The four defenders in the front rank put their blades to use, and despite the difficulties in using edged weapons against the fleshless undead, the skeletons came apart in droves under their powerful impacts. More skeletons pressed forward through the storm of bone shards and flying fragments, but their own attacks were weak, easily dodged or absorbed by armor.

“What the hells?” Dar exclaimed loudly, smashing a skeleton’s skull into a thousand pieces with a single stroke of Valor. “Are these the same skellys? They’re pansies!”

More skeletons were rushing forward, but with a gesture from Varo his rebuked dozen leapt forward, engaging their erstwhile allies in a violent melee. The skeletons could do little damage to each other with their claws, but they kept each other busy, allowing the companions to easily treat with those still pushing at their line. Serah fired off another burst of positive energy, and another dozen collapsed, leaving just a handful that were being decimated by the defenders, especially the powerful, crushing blows from Corath Dar.

“Varo, what’s going on?” Talen asked, cautiously swiping a skeleton that had gotten inside his guard. The blow was not especially strong, but the holy energies of Beatus Incendia flared bright, and the undead construct came apart in a clatter of bones. “Dar’s right, these are far weaker than before.”

The cleric’s brows knitted in concentration, and he closed his eyes for a moment. “The negative energy source that empowered them... I would assume that in our flight we left the radius of its effect. It was like a desecration aura, only far more powerful...”

Dar, caught up in his destruction-dealing, finished with the skeletons facing him, and after smashing one that had been troubling Kalend, he started forward toward the melee between those Varo was controlling, and those that were still hostile. He reached the nearest grappling pair and simply hacked through both, driving Valor down in an arc that sundered ribs and spines, and sent the rest of the pieces flying every which way.

Serah had her holy symbol at the ready, but it seemed that there was no further need of her power. “What do we...”

She was interrupted as a cold wave of dread swept over them. Serah shivered, her words dying as she became suddenly pale.

“What... what was that...” Talen said.

“It would appear that the source I mentioned is mobile,” Varo said. “I would ready yourselves for another attack, from the zombies.”

“Dar, get back into the line!” Talen yelled. As the dark power they’d sensed had drawn nearer, Varo’s control over the skeletons had waned, and the undead monsters had broken from their internecine struggle to fall upon their real foe. Serah unleashed another turning, but the sensation they’d felt clearly interfered with her power, for only a pair of skeletons fell, and the surge of light quickly died, dissolving against a wall of utter black that flared briefly, like a living entity, before fading back into waiting quiescence.

Dar stepped slowly back into position, laying about him with his sword with every step. The skeletons seemed to drink up the invisible waves of negative power that had filled the tunnel, moving faster and attacking with greater strength. But Valor, wielded by Dar’s hand, still offered the ultimate counter, and skeletons continued to explode around him as he took calm and easy steps back. A few got around him and came at the other defenders, but they were ready, and more skeletons fell.

“There!” Shay warned, pointing down the tunnel.

They heard them before they saw them coming, the sound of a hundred low, throaty moans drifting up the passage toward them, a deep thrum that they sensed somewhere deep in that part of the brain where terror resided. It grew louder as they approached, now clearly heard even over the sounds of the ongoing battle with the remaining skeletons.

And then the light washed over their ranks, row after row of zombies shuffling forward, fell power radiating from them like a sharp stench. There was still a handful of skeletons among them, moving at the slower pace of the horde, and a number of undead that weren’t clearly definable as either, with rotting flesh still covering their bodies, but not enough to keep the pale white bone beneath from showing through. Some trailed ragged lengths of flesh, sinew, or intestine that dangled from open gashes in their bodies. Many were missing body parts, with eye sockets that glistened wetly, jaws absent a lower half, ears torn off, or even a limb that ended in a ragged stump. Things that had been parts of living, hale bodies fell from their ravaged forms and were left in their wake as they shambled forward, squishing as those behind trod upon those ghastly remnants.

The companions watched in revulsion as the undead horde drew nearer. “By the gods,” Serah breathed, her eyes wide. More rows continued to enter the light; the ranks of the dead seemed to go on forever. Already nearly a hundred were in view.

“What do we do now?” Kalend asked, his voice tight.

Varo drew out his magical dagger, the odd mithral blade with the gemstone hilt. “We fight for our lives,” the cleric said simply, stepping forward to take his place in the line.
 

Ximix

First Post
Lazybones said:
“What do we do now?” Kalend asked, his voice tight.

Varo drew out his magical dagger, the odd mithral blade with the gemstone hilt. “We fight for our lives,” the cleric said simply, stepping forward to take his place in the line.

Well and truly stated!


As to my earlier post, "told-ya-so" would be juvenile, and, honestly it wasn't a stretch to predict the Hobgoblins were toast... it's too bad the lil Dragon cannot pull his soften earth and stone on top of whatever is producing that super-unhallow or whatever it is...
 

Lazybones

Adventurer
This looks to be a long week for our heroes...

* * * * *

Chapter 185

THE FIRST FEW SECONDS


Marshal Velan Tiros, in his Chronicles of the Border Wars, wrote that the first few seconds of a battle were crucial, for in that moment, when the lines of battle clashed, the true mettle of an army was tested.

For the companions from Camar, the first few seconds of the battle with the zombie horde in that dark passageway in Grezneck nearly resulted in total disaster.

The zombies, for all the damage they had suffered to their bodies, and the shambling, awkward way with which they moved, looked weak, even fragile. That was an impression that the companions had already proved false, for not only were these foes incapable of feeling pain, but they were also possessed of an inhuman strength and a single-minded purpose. Arrows and bludgeons did almost nothing to them; they had to literally be hacked apart before the animating force that drove them was overcome.

They did not reason, or comprehend anything but the most basic commands from their master. But that didn’t stop Dar from lifting his sword as the first rank of the enemy horde drew close enough to strike, and shouting, “Come on then, you freaking bastards, come to the chopper!” If anything, the zombies seemed almost eager, extending their arms as they staggered forward to attack.

The fighter met the first with a downward stroke of his sword that clove the first zombie’s chest open from throat to pelvis. Despite the gaping wound, the zombie somehow continued to press its attack, wobbling slightly as it tried to pound the fighter with a fist that was missing a few fingers. The blow only managed to smear black ooze on Dar’s plate armor, but it did distract him as two more zombies lurched in on the heels of the first. One came high, trying unsuccessfully to grab onto Dar’s extended weapon arm, while the second stumbled and seized Dar by the waist, trying to get a grip on his armored torso.

Kalend tried to come to his colonel’s aid, but he found himself under attack by another pair that shambled around the engaged warrior toward the thief’s flank. The first took a swing at his body that he avoided by darting to the side, but that unfortunately placed him at hazard from the second, which delivered a pulverizing blow to the side of the legionary’s face. Kalend was spun around by the force of the impact, which dislodged several teeth and cracked the bone of his lower jaw. He staggered to the side and would have fallen, had it not been for the tunnel wall. He barely had time to turn around before the two monsters were on him again.

On the opposite flank, Talen and Shay were likewise hard pressed by the initial surge. Talen, guided by sound and smell rather than sight, waited until the first zombie was almost on top of him before striking. Beatus Incedia flared as it tore into the zombie’s shoulder, almost taking its left arm off from its body. But as with Dar’s first target, the zombie pressed its attack with its other arm, and it managed a glancing hit to the knight’s wrist that almost knocked his sword out of his hand. Another zombie seized his shield, and for a few seconds there was an awkward tug between the two of them for control.

Shay, near the left wall, was warded both by Talen on her right and a protrusion in the corridor that formed a small protected place to stand. Only one zombie at a time could get to her there, but what the scout saw was a sea of extended hands, as several other zombies tried to surge past that single attacker. Pressed in close together, there was no way she could miss, but again the zombie’s hide felt like old leather, and it paid no heed to the gash she hacked open in its torso. The zombie just came right on, pushing her up against the wall, and suddenly her advantageous position became a trap, leaving her with no room to retreat. Behind it hands probed at her around its body, just inches short of being able to seize upon her. She thrust at the zombie again, but it was too close for her to get in a decent swing, and her sword glanced off its body with barely a scratch.

“Get... the... hell... OFF... ME!” Dar yelled, as he drove his hilt down into the skull of the zombie grabbing him. The monster’s head popped like an overripe melon, and Dar's fists came up dripping brains, but the creature continued to doggedly hold on. Dar whipped up a leg, tearing one of its arms free, and drove his armored knee into its jaw, snapping the head almost full back on its neck. The zombie’s arms still tried to claw at him, but they were vague, directionless, now. Dar brought Valor down, shearing the zombie’s head in twain, and that seemed to finally give the monster the idea that it was destroyed; it flopped back, still twitching.

The entire exchange had only taken a few seconds in total, but when Dar looked up, there were a dozen hands reaching for him. Dar reached out and thrust the first zombie back with a solid punch in the chest, but the hands were everywhere, grabbing onto his arms and his legs.

Cursing loudly, he was pulled roughly into the midst of the swarming zombies.

Talen felt a cold fear as his senses were overloaded; from what his ears were telling him, zombies were everywhere. He’d pulled free of the zombie grabbing his shield, but he had no idea what had happened to it; there were more in front of him, pounding on his armor. He just kept hacking downward with Beatus Incendia in sharp, controlled motions, and with every swing he felt the sword bite deep into zombie hides. A stench of roasted flesh filled his nostrils, as the holy flames seared the wounds he caused. He already felt as though he’d been fighting for hours; his arms felt like they were ringed with lead weights. The zombies just kept coming, so he had to keep on swinging, hack, slash.

Then he felt his sword strike deep, the impact shuddering up his arms. He tried to draw the sword back, but Beatus Incendia stuck; he’d clove deep into a zombie’s sternum, and as the creature fell its weight tugged the sword down. He tried to yank it free, but then hands closed on his arms, and he was pulled down after it.

As the knight went to the ground, several zombies fell on top of him, grabbing at his helmet and armor.
 

Voidrunner's Codex

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