Just before dawn, Lani awoke. She intended to get an early start today, as she had many things that she wanted to do. She was going to go talk to the priests, and ask them about what they knew about the undead. Of course, she was going to have to keep the reason why a secret, as she didn't want her mother to know. She was afraid that if she told them the truth, they would alert her mother. She definitely didn't want that. However, she had decided that they were her best resource at the moment. She wanted to be prepared when she went out again after her mother had gone to bed.
As she walked toward the door, she stopped to glance at the locked glass case that held her father's gun. Her mother had hidden the key, and only took the gun out to clean it. Why she continued to do so after so many years, Lani didn't know. It wasn't as if her father could come back from the dead. However, as she stared at the gun, she had an idea what she wanted to do with the silver discs. She was certain that the strange man that had given her the Holy Water had left them for her. As to why he had done so, she had no idea. If he had, then he had obviously known what was going to happen. He had laid the trap, and she had walked right into it. Well, if she wanted to find him, and discover his reasons, he'd told her the general direction that she needed to go. Someday, she would seek him out, and ask him the questions that she desperately needed answered. For now, she was just going to do the duty that he had given her. This new life was bound to be a lot more interesting than her old.
"Lani?" Her mother had come out of her room, leaning heavily on her crutch. "Honey, what are you doing up so early?"
"Oh, I thought I might take a walk in town." Lani answered.
"I couldn't sleep."
"Well, would you mind dropping the salve off for Jordy, then? It's sitting on the counter in the kitchen. In the glass jar."
Lani went to grab the jar from the counter, and placed it carefully into her satchel. Then she returned to her mother in the other room. "Okay. Anything else you'd like me to do?" Immediately, Lani regretted asking. Her mother could always come up with errands to run, and now that her leg was broken, Lani was going to be stuck being errand girl for quite awhile.
"Actually, yes. I've got a list of things I'd like you to pick up from the General Store." Her mother handed her a neatly written list, and a pouch filled with bronze coins. "This should be more than enough. You can keep whatever is left. Think of it as payment for being so thoughtful while I'm indisposed."
"You don't have to pay me, Mother."
"I don't like having to take up your entire day, running back and forth for me. Nor do I want you to resent me for keeping you so busy. I have to make it up to you, somehow. Maybe you can save enough money to buy yourself something pretty for the Spring Festival in a couple weeks. You're twenty-five, Lani. It's time to start thinking about finding yourself a man. I was married by the time I was eighteen. I don't mean to push you, but you can't live with your mother forever."
"You know I'm right. The only man that hangs around you now is Nykka, and he doesn't count. He's been your best friend since you were five. However, if it's Nykka you want, you're going to have to start looking more like a young woman. I'm sure that he thinks of you as one of the guys."
"I'm going out. This discussion is closed."
"Very well, but think on what I've said. You're not getting any younger."
"Gee, thanks." Lani said sarcastically. "You should take a little of your own advice. Dad's been dead for twenty-five years. Don't you think it's time to move on?"
"That's uncalled for."
"I'm sorry, Mother." She hung her head, instantly feeling remorse for her words. "I shouldn't have said that. I'll be back later, and make you a fantastic lunch to make up for what I said."
Her mother sighed. "Don't worry about it. You might be right. Maybe I should move on, but I've never found anyone that made me feel the way your father did. But, maybe I'm being too critical. I'm not too old yet. Maybe there's someone out there for even an old woman."
"You're not old. In any case, I want to get an early start. There's a lot of things I want to do. I'll talk to you later."
"Stay out of trouble!" Her mother called as Lani hurried out the door.
As Lani shut the door behind her, she nearly ran into her friend, Nykka, who was on the other side. He'd just raised his hand to knock, and accidentally smacked her in her forehead. "Ouch!" She exclaimed, rubbing her wounded head. "What'd you do that for?"
Nykka blushed fiercely. "Uh, sorry." He muttered. "I was coming to ask you if you wanted to go fishing this morning. I was out earlier, and they're biting like crazy! It's spawning time, you know. They're close to the bank right now."
"I can't. I have some errands to do for my mother."
"Oh." His face fell. "Well, I'll catch you later, then."
"Why don't you come with me?" She suggested. "If I get everything done first, I can go fishing with you later. How does that sound?"
"The best time to fish is right now." He said. "Never mind, Lani. Maybe tomorrow." He walked away, his head hanging dejectedly. She almost ran after him, but changed her mind. If she hung out with Nykka this morning, she wouldn't be able to talk to the priests. He'd wonder what she was up to. No, it's better that he didn't accompany her, after all. Still, she felt bad for rejecting him. It wasn't his fault that she had other things she wanted to do.
"Nykka." She said softly, then shook her head. She wasn't going to let anyone stand in her path. She had a purpose now, and she didn't have time to chase after her old friend. He'd understand. It wasn't like she was avoiding him or anything. Or was she? She had never kept any secrets from Nykka, but she had to keep this one from him. He would surely tell her mother that she was planning on hunting the undead, and he'd probably try to stop her as well. Either that, or he'd want to help her, and that was too dangerous. She knew that firsthand. No, it's better that she hurt his feelings than to involve him.
Well, she was pretty sure that Jordy wouldn't be awake yet. The old man rarely ever got up before noon, and the older he got, the more he slept in. She would drop of her mother's salve just before she returned home. The General Store wouldn't be open yet, either. She would go talk to the priests first, then. They always seemed to be awake, and their doors open to anyone who needed them. She just hoped that they knew enough about the undead that they could be useful to her. She knew virtually nothing.
The Temple was located at the northwest edge of the village. As Lani entered, one of the priests, dressed in flowing white robes approached her. "Good morning, my child. What brings you to the Temple so early?"
"I have some questions I need answered." She replied.
"Well, my Brothers and I will do our best to assist you. What questions would you like to ask?"
"How to kill the undead."
The priest's shaggy white brow raised. "I see. And what would be the reason you need to know about the undead, may I ask?"
"I'm writing a book on the subject, and I thought that since the priests are known spiritualists that you might be able to help me. I want to be completely accurate."
"Ah, a book. How unique. In a age that has long since abandoned the any attempts at creativity, a book is unusual. However, the dreams of youth cannot be ignored. What form of the undead are you researching?"
"What...form?" She asked hesitantly.
"Well, there are many different types of undead, my child. You've got Werewolves, Zombies, Ghouls, Liches, Necromancers, and numerous other things. The most commonly known around here is the Vampire. All these are legends, though. Known of these things actually exist."
"If you're not sure what you wish to ask about, I'll tell you the most common means of destroying the undead. First of all, there's Holy Water. This is said to burn the undead creature until it destroys them. Another way is silver or mercury. This can be used on almost any form of the undead. If you wish to know about specific types of undead, you can ask the other Brothers. I'm not much of an expert, myself. But, some of the Brothers claim to have fought against the undead themselves. Just ask around, all right? They'll be able to tell you more than I can."
"Thank you." She said.
She approached the priest standing next to the book shelves. He turned to face her. "Yes, my child?" He asked.
"Do you...I mean...can you tell me about the undead?"
"Well, I know a little about Zombies. They're the bodies of people raised by sorcery to feed on the flesh of the living. Often, they are used to create armies. It is said that if a Zombie were to bite a living person, that person would become a Zombie themselves. The best way to kill them is to destroy the brain, or severe trauma to the spinal column. Some kind of blunt object is the best way to accomplish this."
"Does that work with skeletons, too?"
"Well, if you think about it, Zombies and skeletons are basically almost the same. The difference being that skeletons do not lust after flesh. They're just animated bones, pretty much on some puppet master's string. Some Vampires are said to raise skeletons to do their bidding. Skeletons also do not create other skeletons. But yes, killing a skeleton would be the same as killing a Zombie."
"What about Werewolves?"
"Ask Virn over by the table about Werewolves. He claims that he hunted one just the other night. But then, he's a little crazy, so don't take anything he says seriously."
"Thanks." She walked over to Virn, who was muttering and arguing with himself under his breath. She hesitated, uncertain about how to talk to him.
"Werewolves!" He suddenly exclaimed, making her jump.
"You know about Werewolves?" She asked.
"They're all over the countryside, young miss! Everywhere!"
"Will you tell me?"
"Inhumanly strong creatures. Bitten by wolves. You'll become one, too. See? I was bitten!" He pulled down his frock a little to show her his neck. There wasn't a mark on it. "I'll roam the night, feasting on my Brothers. They'll be Werewolves, too!"
"Miss." A young priest approached her. "Please don't get him going. He's been like this for weeks. If you want to know about Werewolves, I'll tell you."
"You will?" She said in relief. "Thank you."
"Come this way." He led her into another room, just off the entrance. He sat at a desk, and indicated a chair. "Please, take a seat. I've been watching you since you came to the Temple. You want to know about the undead. You can ask me anything you want to know. I was told you would be coming today."
"Told? By whom?"
"By a man. I'm not sure how he got in my room last night, but I awoke to a hand over my mouth. He said he wasn't there to harm me, but he wanted to talk to me. I couldn't see him. He was very good at concealing himself within the shadows. For some reason, I actually believed him, so I didn't scream when he removed his hand. Instead, I sat in the dark, listening and memorizing everything he said to me.
"He told me that a young woman would be coming to the Temple in the morning, with short red hair and green eyes. She would be asking about how to kill the undead, and I was to help her as much as I could. I was also to give her this box of supplies." He reached under his desk, and pulled out a large wooden box trimmed with silver. "Go ahead, open it. He already made me see what he left you, but he warned me not to tell anyone about it, or he'd be back tonight to kill me while I slept. I haven't told anyone, but I doubt that he'd kill me if I had. I just keep my promises. He wants me to explain the purpose of each article within that box, so you know how to use them."
"Has he come to you before?" She asked, as she lifted the lid of the box.
"No. I don't think he'll do so again, either. This was the purpose of his visit. Anyway, see those wooden stakes? They're some are rosewood, and some are ash. Both can be used against young Vampires. Vampire Lords would probably just take them from you, and use them on you. Stakes do not harm older Vampires. There are six of them to get you started. You'll have to make more yourself, but those are the type of wood he suggests you use.
"Next, those glass vials are of Holy Water. There are six of those as well. If you need more, I can refill them for you for a small price. If you dip some kind of blade within the Holy Water, you can make that blade effective against certain types of undead. Such as Vampires, skeletons, and Zombies. Not Werewolves, though. Werewolves seem to have a weakness against only silver and mercury. However, you can kill any of the undead by simply removing their head and burning it.
"Then you have that small, bejeweled dagger. Ancient runes are carved onto the blade, and spells have been placed on the hilt. He wants you to use that whenever you make yourself more stakes. He says they'll be more effective that way. The blade will always stay sharp. You'll never have to sharpen it. These are his words; not mine.
"The packets of herbs in the box also have a use. He's written the type and description of the packages for you. Wolfsbane will blind and weaken a Werewolf, making it easier to kill. Halsbreth will stun or paralyze a Vampire, allowing you easier access to its heart to impale it with a stake. Crushed dahl root will confuse a Zombie, and sometimes cause it to attack other Zombies, and often times the sorcerer who had raised it.
"Um...oh yes! I almost forgot. He wanted to remind me once again to tell you to use those silver discs to have a weapon made. You can kill Vampires, Werewolves, and Zombies with silver, or at least weaken them if you miss their heart. But, you might also wish to get yourself a club or something of the sort for Zombies, as you can smash in their heads, instantly killing them with trauma to the brain. Vampires and Werewolves are too strong and agile, but Zombies are slow and weak."
"I'm way over my head." Lani admitted softly.
"Yes, I would say that you are. However, he's supplied you with quite a few things here, and I wouldn't be surprised if he was lurking about somewhere. If he knew you were coming here before you did, I think he's keeping an eye on you. For whatever purpose, I couldn't say, but I don't think it's a bad one. I didn't sense evil in him at all, and I think that I would have if he was. Instead, I'd have to say that he was trying to help you and protect you."
"I don't know. I'm afraid that only he can give you that answer, and I doubt that he'll give it any time soon. He seemed like the type of person that likes to keep his intentions to himself. When he's ready to tell you, he will. You must wait until then. I will say this, though, be careful. I don't think that he's a mere man. I think he's something else. I don't know what, but he's dangerous. Even though I sensed no evil, I could feel that. You don't want to cross him, no matter what."
"My mother said the same thing." She told him.
"You would do well to leave your mother out of whatever you're doing." He told her. "If you're hunting these things, then you don't want to get innocent people involved. They'll only get hurt, or maybe killed. I'm already involved thanks to my strange visitor last night, but I'm safe here in the Temple. I think."
"May I ask you one more thing?"
"I will answer to the best of my knowledge."
"What is your name? That way whenever I need something I can ask for you."
"Thank you, Brother Baskis. For all your help, and for keeping your promise to our anonymous friend. I only wish I knew why he was doing all this, and who he was. That way I could thank him, too."
"You're welcome, but I don't think it's wise for you to search this man out. If you do, he may be a lot more than what you bargained for. Just keep that in mind. Don't let your curiosity lead you to disaster."