The Battle of Pumpkin Field
Rori Sanyala laid out flat on top of the very rough roof of the old grain silo, flipping through the pages of a rather small, leather bound spellbook. She wasn’t preparing any spells, as she didn’t have the material components for any of those found within her book, but instead was just passing time, waiting for the next attack. The girl, who was much, much younger than she appeared, was completely bored with the defensive posture she had been ordered to take, but what could she do? She had to follow orders, and for some insane reason, the Masters of Grave wanted to stir up trouble in this cold, northern backwater town.
Oh, she understood the desire to capture the Paladins – the Black Master needed more Death Knights and Sir Alvis would be the finest, if they could get him to turn. As for the half-Drow, two half-Elves and that Drow girl – well, they were only ‘sugar on the pie’ as her nanny used to say. An odd lot, she thought, glancing over the edge of the silo to survey the pumpkin field below. Zombies staggered and swayed about, with Walish and Hoesp monitoring them, now safely disguised so as to appear as just two more walking corpses. The Ghouls and Ghasts were nearly all destroyed, thanks to Walish’s foolish idea to try an attack against the Paladins who were holed up in the cabin across the road. Although they were very useful, Rori was not too upset to see them gone. You never knew when they would decide you looked like something good to eat and she didn’t want any bites or marks on her flawless, milky white skin. So good riddance to them, she thought with a sigh, though it would slightly even up the odds with the ghouls gone.
She patted the sonic staff, feeling the slight hum in her palm as she touched the awesome weapon. She hated the thought of having to give it back to the Grave Masters when the mission was done, but of course they wouldn’t let someone as lowly as her keep such a fine item. But it was hers for the day and she certainly enjoyed the power she wielded while holding the sonic staff. Let them come; she thought smugly, I’ll knock them flat time and time again.
Suddenly the loud high-pitched scream from the Glyph of Warning that she had put at the bottommost rung of the Silo ladder went off, causing her to jump to her feet and race to the edge of the tower. She now could hear the clash of swords and shields and the girl peeked over, not surprised to find four of the Paladins battling the dozen zombie guards posted there, while nearly half-way up the ladder came the sullen form of the huge half-Ogre, his pale eyes narrowing as he saw her looking down.
Rori knew he would not take long to reach the top, and then she’d find herself sailing headfirst off the silo into the pumpkin patch. A devilish grin crossed her face as she grasped the sonic staff firmly. She’d show him. The girl stood up, her Protection from Missiles ring deflecting a trio of arrows or bolts that the Ogres’ friends had, no doubt, shot at her. Closing her eyes, she waved the staff in a circle once; feeling the power well up until her skin tingled. She waited a moment longer to insure the Half-Ogre would fall further, and then rushed up to the edge and at once swung the staff in a forward thrust over the edge, before any thrown weapons could be aimed at her. The jolt from the ball of Sound made her flinch, but she quickly opened her eyes in order to see the destruction. In a flash she took it in – below her, the Half-Ogre was not on the ladder but had apparently leaped off it after he’d first seen her looking over the edge. He was on his feet, rapidly running toward the road, as were the Paladins, who left their slow moving zombie opponents behind. She took in a breath to laugh in delight, but then the ball of sound slammed into the ground directly below the ladder and in a horrible moment, Rori realized that she had been duped.
The sonic blast rocked the ground, causing the large silo to shake horribly, though not enough to topple it. But worse was the reverberation of the blast, which ricocheted off the rocky soil at the base of the ladder and bounced back at her, nearly at full force, as she peered over the edge of the silo. Suddenly she was airborne, somersaulting over the edge of the silo, the Sonic Staff knocked from her hand.
In a superhuman feat of agility, her left hand caught the top rung of the ladder as she somersaulted over it and she slammed hard into the ladder with her back, dislocating her left shoulder, but stopping her fall. Her high-heeled boots caught a lower rung and she grabbed the top rung with her right hand, quickly flipping around and staggering back up the ladder as fast as she could, sure any moment that a missile too large to be deflected by her magic ring would knock her head off. But the Sonic blast had knocked the Paladins, Zombies and the Half-Ogre down, and they too were just getting to their feet.
Rori clawed her way onto the roof of the silo and then across on her knees, cutting her kneecaps as she scurried across, away from the edge. Trembling from the intense pain in her shoulder and more from the realization that she had lost her only strong source of protection, her mind raced at what she should do. She glanced over the other side of the silo, not surprised to see that they had divided their forces, and the other companions of the Paladins and Ogre were now advancing across the Pumpkin field, free from worry of any attack from her. Her cockiness shattered, she frantically tried to recall the arcane words for a spell – any spell- that she could use on them when they came after her. She had memorized Magic Missiles, but it would not be enough to stop them, and her left arm hung limp at her side, hindering the casting of it.
"I’m trapped." She said aloud to herself, the spoken words sounding like the sealing of her crypt to the now very frightened sorceress.
Meanwhile, at the base of the silo, Aurei, her fellow Paladins and Lute were just beginning to recover from the blast.
Before any of them could get to their feet, Aurei, who had anticipated the blast perfectly, was running to the ladder.
"Wait!" both Eleazar and Lute yelled to her, but she was already on the bottom rung, climbing quickly upward.
"She’s going to get herself killed!" Eleazar grumbled to Lute as he ran past him to follow the Drow girl. The Half-Ogre fell in behind the knight, with Sir Aeric taking up the rear.
The zombies guarding the base of the silo were easily dispatched as they passed, but Aurei was already at the top and Eleazar was past the halfway point, when Lute and Aeric reached the bottom rung.
It was going to be Aurei’s battle.
It was her demonic red eyes, burning like the fires of the pit that Rori first saw as the Drow girl rushed up the ladder. The Sorceress immediately chanted the Magic Missile incantation, standing on the far end of the silo as the dark elf gracefully leaped onto the roof and rushed at her, a long sword in one hand and a short sword in the other. Rori pointed her finger as the spell ended and she was relieved to see a reddish bolt of energy rush from her finger and flash toward the advancing Drow. But as it neared, the bolt seemed to grow duller until, just before slamming into the dark elf, it dissipated.
"Magic Resistance!" Rori yelled in horror, now remembering the dark elf race’s natural resistance to magic.
The Drow was upon her immediately both swords flashing like lightning. One blow clanged into her metal bracer, sending a spark from where it contacted. The dark elf’s short sword slashed into her upper legs, not a deep cut, but enough to send her down on her already bloody knees. Before she could cry out, Rori felt the razor sharp edge of the angry Drow girl’s long sword pressed firmly against her neck, drawing a slight trickle of blood to indicate she was in complete domination. Rori glanced wide-eyed at the very tip of the dark elf’s short sword, which was now an inch away from her eye.
"Mercy!" Rori cried out, terrified of the fury in the Drow’s glowing red eyes.
"Did you show Brolen mercy?! Or our horses! Or the people of Thurgood?!!" Her long sword pressed a bit harder against Rori’s neck.
For a long moment, Rori locked eyes with the Drow girl wondering how it would feel to die. From behind the angry dark-elf, the half-Drow Knight was slowly advancing, a look of shock on his face as he took in the scene.
"Aurei…" he said calmly, "She’s surrendered, Aurei."
"Surrendered!" the girl spat, "More like she’s trapped and has no choice! What choice did the people of Thurgood have?"
"Paladins don’t kill those who are surrendering." The Knight said gently.
The Drow girl just snorted in disgust and suddenly her short sword snapped backwards, clipping Rori’s nose, but before she could cry out, the Drow slammed the flat surface of the blade of the short sword down hard onto the top of her head, sending through her skull an explosion of light, and then the Sorceress knew nothing more.
"I didn’t kill her." Aurei explained as Eleazar gasped when the Sorceress slumped down unconscious to the roof of the tower, "I really, really, really wanted to, though." Her swords slumped to her side as she glanced down at the sprawled out form of the spellcaster. Eleazar knelt down and checked the fallen sorceress for a pulse, which he found, then standing back up, he patted Aurei’s shoulder, "I understand how hard it is to stop sometimes, but you did the right thing."
"I hope so. What are we going to do with her?"
"I’ll take her back down." The voice of Lute came from behind them and they turned to see the head of the Half-Ogre peering over from the top of the ladder.
"We’ve got to go now and assist the others." The half-Drow Knight suggested and both of their gazes fell down upon the pumpkin field, where Brother Darv, Pectros, Sir Alvis and Thorm were battling their way toward the barn while Siris and Neal were sending arrows into any undead creature that moved. As they watched, Alis and Aeric were racing across the barn lot from the Silo to assist them.
"We need to get down there." Aurei said, regaining her focus.
Lute had joined them on top of the silo, "You both go ahead, and I’ll carry the Sorceress down and join you. Maybe we can get some answers out of her – when she wakes up."
Eleazar and Lute just glanced at Aurei, who shrugged and without a word went over to the ladder and began quickly descending.
In the field of Pumpkins, Pectros, Brother Darv, Thorm and Sir Alvis were frantically hacking and slashing at anything that approached them – and that was quite easy as they were completely surrounded by the vile things that were coming at them from all angles. Neal and Siris were positioned at two different corners of the very edge of the field, trying in vain to locate the zombie handlers in the throng, with the hope of taking them out with well-placed arrows. Sir Aeric and Alis’ arrival was greeted with relief by the besieged band – both half-Elves chopping their way to the join the surrounded group. Still the zombies pressed them, and two remaining ghouls also clawed at the weary band, but they held firm.
A few minutes passed with no sign of the waves of zombies coming to an end. Eleazar and Aurei now joined them and a short time after that, the huge form of Lute came across the field, his huge hammer sending undead sailing in various directions as he pounded out a path over to them.
"There’s no end to them!" Alis said, panting in exhaustion, her sword arm feeling as heavy as a lead weight.
"We’ve got to take out their controllers." Sir Alvis shouted back to her. The Knight Commander was dripping with sweat and he swayed on his feet, evident that even though he fought on valiantly, he still was battling serious injuries that the healing potions had not been able to remove.
"How can we locate them? They’re disguised as zombies!" Neal asked as he pulled his sword free from the arm socket of a zombie he’d just dismembered.
"I’ve an idea." Thorm stopped his hacking action and looked up at the silo, his hands waving frantically as he yelled, "Oh no! The Sorceress is back! Look out, she’s waving her staff at us!" Some in their party looked at the Dwarf in confusion, but Aurei realized what he was doing, and scanned the sea of zombies. Near the back on each side, two forms stopped and glanced up at the silo for an instant, then seemed to realize that it was a ruse and resumed shambling forward.
"Alis!" Aurei said to her friend.
"Yep, I saw them too!" She had her bow off of her back and quickly strung it, while Sir Aeric and Aurei guarded her flank. She stood on her tiptoes to get a better shot, and sighted one of the two controllers doing an incredibly convincing act as a zombie. She took quick aim and fired, her arrow hitting instead an actual zombie staggering in front of him.
But the wizard realized he’d been identified and suddenly broke and ran toward the barn. Six steps later, he was lying dead atop a squashed pumpkin, three arrows stuck in his back as Siris, Neal and Alis all hit the moving target. The zombies under his control continued to move forward, but not with as much focus or purpose as before.
Alis scanned the rest of the forms in the field, but the other controller had either hidden, or was blending so well that she couldn’t find him in the mob of undead. Aurei also scanned the mass of zombies but could not find him either. They were disgusted to see the dead controller began to twitch and slowly get to his knees and then to his feet, the result of the Zombie Field spell that had been cast upon the pumpkin patch.
All at once, the barn doors at the end of the field swung quickly open and staggering through the doorway were two of the biggest zombies Aurei could imagine. One seemed to be a recently deceased Ogre, for aside from its stiff, jerky movements, it looked almost alive. But the second zombie was even more impressive, though not nearly as fresh. It looked to be a small giant – probably a Hill giant, though it was hard to tell from its rotting flesh hanging in strips all over its body. Still, it was at least 10 feet tall and Aurei’s thoughts immediately went back to the undead giant that she’d help fight not that long ago.
While this one was certainly not the same type of undead creature, she couldn’t help but feel deep dread as it ambled toward them, along with the Ogre. Both were carrying large metal maces or clubs of a crude manufacture, but certainly lethal in appearance. The huge brutes both came straight toward them, and halfway across the field they began swinging their clubs in front of them as if harvesting wheat with a two-handed scythe. Their swings knocked lesser zombies flying right and left as they came on, and none of the smaller undead reacted in any way to the huge forms tromping them down.
Aurei and Alis both saw him – a ‘zombie’ that kept looking over his shoulder and then began rather quickly staggering and swaying out of the range of the advancing duo of giants.
Alis’ arrow hit him in the upper chest, near his shoulder, and he let out a shout, confirming their suspicions. Siris and Neal heard his shout as well and both sent arrows flying toward the target, though Siris’ shot was blocked when one of the other zombies moved into the flight path of her arrow.
Neal’s aim, however, was true, and the zombie controller went over on his back screaming from an arrow lodged in his left eye. Suddenly the rest of the zombies grew more sluggish as their controller died from his wounds.
The Ogre and Giant zombies, however, did not seem affected at all by the death of the zombie master and continued forward with large stiff-legged strides, swinging their clubs without any emotion as they came.
Lute straightened to his full height, his eyes narrowed and knuckles turned white as he tightly grasped the handle of his great hammer.
"Wait!" Brother Darv called to him, "Let them come to us – they are doing us service by plowing through the zombies. First let them knock as many down as they can."
Siris and Neal were running now, zigzagging around zombies and sending several volleys of arrows into the two large zombies as they hurried to join their party. Two of Siris’ arrows lodged in the middle of the Giant’s chest without causing it any concern. Neal placed one arrow in the Ogre's leg just above the knee in an attempt to knock his feet out from him, but like the giant, the zombie came on, unaffected.
Just as their companions joined them, crashing through the sluggish lesser zombies who now moved too slowly to pose any great threat, the two greater zombies finally reached their location. Aurei and the others all reacted instinctively, spreading out as widely as they could amidst the pressing throng of undead.
With a roar, Lute reacted first, clubbing down two ‘lesser’ zombies, and then with a flawlessly timed swing, bringing his heavy hammer down fiercely onto the wrist of the Ogre zombie as his rhythmic, reaping swing went by. The Half-Ogre’s blow crushed the wrist bones of the Ogre zombie, but the brute did not react and only swung his metal club with one hand, causing his swing to skim over the top of the ground.
Lute was too big to dodge the ground-hugging swing and was knocked from his feet by the club. Pectros leaped at the Ogre zombie, following Lute’s lead by chopping at his remaining hand. His blow only grazed the thing’s wrist and the Guard Captain had to leap over the zombie’s next swing. Neal joined his captain, throwing his bow down and attacking the zombie from the side. He hacked at the back of the legs of the creature as the brute abruptly changed his attack mode and tried to raise the club above his head with one hand. The club was too bulky for him to achieve that, so he swung it sideways in a heavy dropping arc that scored a glancing blow against Neal’s hip, sending him stumbling backwards. Two slow moving zombies poked at the downed guard with their spears, but their blows were deflected by Neal’s chainmail.
Siris, meanwhile, had moved in front of her fallen husband, hacking at the creature’s other leg. As his low aimed swing came around again, Siris managed to chop through his leg at the knee, sending the Ogre toppling, but not before his blow slammed into her legs, knocking her from her feet as well. The sight of his wife knocked down by the Ogre seemed to rejuvenate Lute, who leaped to his feet, his legs still bleeding from the club wounds. He pounced on the Ogre’s chest like a wild cat springing from a tree. Raising his hammer high in the air, he brought it down with a roar into the forehead of the Ogre zombie, crushing his skull. The enchantment drained from him and he slumped down, unanimated. Lute didn’t stop though, and with several mighty swings, he’d crushed the zombie's chest cavity and arm bones.
As the three took down the Ogre, the others were dealing with the zombie’s somewhat larger companion.
Aurei moved in first, diving into a roll underneath the giant’s swing, then flipping through his legs, slashing at them as she passed. Her Drow long sword bit deep into the corpse’s remaining muscle tissue and bone, causing the beast to crash down on one knee. That did not stop it from swinging its club, though, nicking Eleazar and Aeric as they rushed in to assist the duchess. Alis hacked at the monster’s arm, but her blows did not seem to affect it at all. Eleazar’s great sword scored a hit against the giant’s lower jaw, sending the rotted bone flying. Still it functioned as if uninjured and Aeric’s swipe bit deep into its neck with no more effect then Eleazar’s hit.
Across came the giant’s club, crashing into Aeric and Eleazar with such force that they were knocked out of range, tumbling into several lesser zombies near by as they bounced to a stop. Darv’s mace pounded the head of the giant relentlessly from his backside, but the creature seemed not to notice. Sir Alvis weakly aimed his sword blow against the giant’s exposed right side, and though his sword bit deep, the beast did not slow at all forcing the knight commander to roll out the way of another swing of the club.
Aurei was now behind the giant and leaped on its back, chopping at the base of its neck. But it was Thorm who actually took the creature down. He came out of nowhere, diving onto the right shoulder of the zombie and bringing his battle axe across hard, finishing Aurei and Aeric’s chops. The giant’s head slumped down against its chest and a moment later it fell forward in a heap. They did not pause a moment but as a group chopped off the giant’s arms and legs so it would not reanimate a few minutes later.