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Quest of the Living Dead Part 3:Zombie vs Cleric

Short story By: Walter Attridge
Fantasy



The team and their new allies assault a human refugee camp in hopes of finding their long sought after cure.
Length 6000 words


Submitted:Oct 23, 2012    Reads: 10    Comments: 0    Likes: 1   


Zombie vs Cleric

Or:

How I Became an Undead God

By Walter Attridge

"Why do we fear?" The undead woman asked kneeling on the grassy ground. Around her looking down packed shoulder to shoulder back to front, were dozens of rotting faces, broken teeth torn lips, ulcerated, gray green mottled flesh, and eyes burning with fear, pain, and intent.

"We fear because we are alive!" the woman continued 'We are the victims! We are the sick! the poor the forgotten, they ran behind their walls and shut US off or captured US and tried to make US pawns!!. WE will take our cure! WE will take back our lives!" Silence ran through the assembled throng thicker and more telling than any war cry. A female hand gray and clawed came out of the crowd and touched the kneeling dead woman's' shoulder, another hand huge with long bulbous fingers touched the other shoulder. A third hand, a knitted scarf, stained and worn wrapped around it touched the woman's face. They all came in then and embraced her and each other.

Further back massed by the thousands was a horde of zombies none of these had that same gleam to their eyes they stood slack jawed and slumped. Then as if a jolt of electricity ran through them they all came to attention and began to moan, the moan turned into a cry and then a scream and far away a boy on a high crows nest look out heard that scream and wet himself...

From a command post far to the rear, hidden within the tree line, overlooking a lush valley in a deep bowl in the heart of a high hill within the central rain forest stood a woman looking grim and serious her arms folded. Her matted filthy hair pulled back in a tight bun, Kaye monk of the red horn mountain temple, once of middle years, strong and vibrant, now withered with gray pale flesh blackened at the nose lips and cheeks, but with eyes that burned with the same will and passion she held in life, clad in expertly crafted leather armor, watched her army of the dead lay siege to the temple of Vecna.

Doubt closed around her throat again. In her meditations before the battle she had tapped into the power of her former order and seen a vision. In it she beheld a great cathedral, within it was a lone man, middle aged, huge and strong. He was kneeling before a great brazier the heat making rivulets of sweat run down his back. He was flagellating himself with a great knotted length of cord making raw red wounds on his back and chest. The sweat mixed with blood and she felt the great power running through him a power thought long lost in this blighted world. Then the vision ended and Kaye began to concentrate again on her makeshift army and her generals directing the battle

Just as the horde was not an army, the generals were nothing of the kind. They were what uninfected humans called thinker zombies. Walking living dead that had retained their intelligence, memories, and physical abilities from when they were alive. This type of undead was thankfully rare mainly because they were nearly indestructible, unlike the walking dead who could be destroyed simply by destroying the corpses brain. They were utterly tireless and driven by rage and insanity caused by a terrible pain brought on by their hunger for human brains. One last unique ability they possessed was the ability to exert varying degrees of control over their mindless cousins. This talent was different from thinker to thinker but with enough of the ravenous undead working together directing the horde truly terrible things were possible.

At best Thinkers were solitary creatures concerned only with their next meal but Kaye had brought them together, a few at a time at first then more and more, joining them with the promise of family and something beyond their empty, purposeless marauding, and the promise of a cure, a cure that she was certain existed within those seemingly impregnable walls of high fitted stones and battlements. Thousands of years ago, when the elves still ruled and fought their wars against the great dark lords there was a great Lich an ancient undead sorcerer, made by magic rather than the disease, who had elevated itself to near godhood. This abomination was defeated but not before passing its knowledge to a student and creating a magical weapon, embodied in its right hand and left eye that possessed all of the monsters knowledge and magical power. Kaye believed that the last dark lord who had been defeated a century ago, had in his final moments, taken revenge by creating this foul disease, using knowledge gained from this Lich lord, Vecna.

The hand and eye was thought lost but she had in her youth found evidence of its existence here in the rain forests hidden in a lost city that protected a lost temple. Having had no use for such blasphemous power she had left the weapon hidden and inviolate. Now desperation drove her to come back with a new group of companions and seek to finish that search. It led here but the location of the temple had not remained a mystery. Confronting her "army was an enemy she had not anticipated: the Clergy of saint Benedict.

Blue banners hung from the wall, the statues and markings of Vecna that were meant to ward off enemies had been removed and several statues of the great saint being erected all about the curved valley around the temple walls. Blue clad acolytes were firing arrows soaked in pitch and ignited trying to spread fire over the massed undead, The arrows had fallen for some time but had failed to spread a few zombies were either immolated or downed by lucky shots through an eye but as they fell the horde would simply swallow up the gap and move on unhindered. The same acolytes were trying desperately to get winches and scaffolds moved and erected to haul stoned up to be hurled over the top. Several huge paving stones were already peeking over the top ready for when the enemy had blundered into position. Their tactics were wholly appropriate to defeat an enemy who was foolish enough to simply walk up to the wall and gather patiently at the gate waiting to be destroyed, but this was a new enemy.

"Surge them!!" Kaye yelled from her position and all around men and women, each of them rotted and tattered by the ravages of their disease closed their eyes and obeyed. A wave of raw intent and will wash over Kaye and she added her own strength to it. Never had so many thinkers gathered together or worked towards the same goal and now that they had they had all discovered that there was a greater power in them. More than direction flowed through their shared command, strength, born from desperation, need and even hope flowed into the mindless horde and instead of an inexorable shambling mass the horde became a charging, surging wave of raw strength and flesh washing towards the temple gates. A focused burst of arrows sprung from the walls like a wall of stars, hit the horde and for a moment the mass of necrotic flesh shuddered and then drove forward again absorbing the flaming arrows like they had never hit, their flames trampled even as they struck.

The mass of bodies back to front shoulder to shoulder, the vanguard driven and encouraged by each zombie behind them cleared the bridge, it could have been collapsed but the clerics inside needed it for their own purposes and had deigned that the threat was not worthy of them losing it, leading to the temple crashed into the main gate like a wave crashing against the seawall. The stones came over, a few at a time and burning but they struck the assembled mass and rolled either right or left thudding to the ground or falling into the horde and simply being absorbed into the mass. With a human army fear, more than the few soldiers killed, would have broken their wills. With the horde there was only will and hunger, no individuals, no fear. With time the clerics would break even this mass of flesh and will but that was not the only trick Kaye had in her limited arsenal. Knowing her time had come Kaye looked left and saw Black Alice had taken her place.

Named for her sense of humor Black Alice was a terrible beauty to behold. Embalmed by secret means only she had found, she had not suffered many of the ravages of decomposition. But she had turned herself into another kind of horror. Wearing tattered rags exposing her pale supple flesh her body was covered in scarified tattoos. Spikes had been driven into her forearms and shoulders anchored to the bone, smaller spikes lined her face, chest and legs, her right hand had claws implanted in the fingers and the left arm had a spiked ball and long chain attached. She had been the first to join Kaye's crusade and had been chosen to lead the next assault. There was a nervous look to Alice's eyes a sight Kaye had never seen in all their time together.

"It will be exactly like I told you" Kaye began taking Alice by the shoulder looking right into the dead woman's eyes. "All they see right now is the horde. When you and the rest hit them panic will set in. Look for the older men the ones who start to organize and call out orders. Order is your enemy here Hit them and hit them hard. " Alice smiled then a mischievous grin that Kaye had seen very often. To the right Long shanks appeared.

This thing was simply a horror to behold, with long twisted limbed an emaciated bent torso and no head only a still red wet stump with its esophagus extending out like a blasphemous vaginal tongue. It was once a genderless mutated human born within the light less depths of the under-dark captured and pressed into a human freak show. Dying of an unknown cause the thing rose again as a thinker and the owners of the carnival had in their stupidity cut of the creatures head and burned the thing into ash. Rather than dying though, the zombie had become a terrible beast that tore its bonds and destroyed those same humans. Kaye and Alice had rescued the creature and learned to communicate with it turning it into a pet and friend. This twisted thing would be their shock troop. Kaye turned back to her general and took her face in both hands.

"Don't stop! Don't hesitate no matter what you see in there. Our cure is in there. Buy me the time I need to get it. You are the only one I can count on to do this." Seized by the moment Kaye pulled Alice in and kissed her hard on the lips. When Kaye let go Alice stepped back her eyes full of shock and Kaye whispered "get them you bitch you" An evil look came into the younger woman's eyes and she smiled turning and jumping onto a rock so that her troops could see her Black Alice bent her back and shrieked a shriek that came from the very pits of hell and then she bolted from the rock and began to sprint down the hill and from the tree line dozens of thinkers followed each of them screaming: "BRAIINSSS!!!!

Kaye didn't need to see the results to know what was happening. There was no way the clergy manning those walls had any idea that hundreds of thinker zombies had united and had massed a focused assault upon their citadel. Arrows, rocks, and weapons would be almost useless against Alice and the rest. Only complete immolation was able to truly kill a thinker, and it would take a dozen men to hack apart and burn each thinker attacking them now. The only remaining thinker at the camp swayed and staggered up to its leader. This one was a Tarman a corpse so rotted and old that its flesh hat been reduced to putrid fat. Its voice was a pained moan

"No... cure..." Kaye looked with pity on this wretch and she took him by the shoulder her hand sinking into the rotted soft muck.

"Meet me in the temple at the altar and I will show you a miracle" The Tarman made a face that might have been a smile and not wasting another word Kaye took off making her planned way towards the temple. The Tarman looked back and began to stagger its way towards the battle.

Training at the Red horn temple focused on tapping into the hidden potential all humans possessed, known to the monks as Ki. Before becoming infected Kaye was capable of truly superhuman feats. But now she had had less and less success in calling up those hidden reserves. The reason was obvious: she was dead and Ki was the essential power of the living, the fundamental source of life. But the monk was unwilling to accept that she was dead and she was now struggling to maintain her former power. What she could still do with her remaining Ki was still impressive.

Running at a full sprint Kaye manged to make her way around the crevasse and hitting the edge she made a huge leap covering some two hundred yards and coming to rest at the temple walls. With all attention by now focused on the near apocalyptic attack being staged there were no sentries to spy her approach and she began to handily scale the stone wall. Seeking her true goal the subterranean temple complex, Kaye made another leap reaching the central tower.

At the top of the tower there was only one defender an old man in priestly vestments with no defenders. In days past this man would have access to terrible magic granted by his god but now he was only a man and Kaye meant to make his death quick and painless. Brave and driven by faith he stood his ground at her approach and at the last moment let loose a curse from his God from a hidden fold in the sleeve of his robe a spark shot forth and ignited a jet of burning oil that had started erupting around his feet. Cursing her own arrogance Kaye lept over the edge of the tower before the flames could catch on her armor.

At the last instant Long-shanks caught Kaye and pulling her close it managed to find purchase on the wall of the tower. Not questioning her luck, Kaye signed in under-common, the language of the under-dark she ordered her savior to get her back up. He obliged and with a terrible effort hurled them both over the battlement and clearing the fire crashed through the doors the old priest had been defending.

Further in they found a hidden compartment leading to a long elevator that Kaye knew would take her to the the subterranean warrens beneath the temple. Taking a moment for sentimentality she embraced the headless nightmare before her. It had been a good friend and loyaler than she had ever imagined. She signed a goodbye that she knew it could never understand and started for the platform. Just then Long-shanks stopped her and singed into her hand. Signed a phrase she could not believe, not from this literally mindless monstrosity. "We believe in you". It then burst from the chamber to continue the slaughter and feeding outside. And Kaye made her way down.

Alone now, Kaye took her time moving through the temple complex. In every hallway and chamber she saw signs of renovation and construction, old crumbling walls and plaster being torn down or repaired, and not in a hasty or rushed manner. This was a long term project probably meant to prepare the compound for eventual habitation by refugees. To that end, Kaye saw that in every room and every hall there was a massive reconsecration project, an attempt to purge the evil and negative energy that always suffused a dark place such as this. There were Holy symbols drawn, wallpapered, or even carved into the very stone. Holy symbols from the dozens of so- called good aligned Gods that were a part of this continents now silent and impotent pantheon.

There were no guards, no refugees, no monks or friars or nuns screaming or running from the thing that now stalked these halls. There were certainly enough soldiers defending the walls to spare a few for the inner defenses. But any enemy who made it this far would have only one goal and destination and it was there that Kaye would find her only resistance. No army or group would move on that goal it could only be wielded by one creature at a time and bringing in potential rivals would only create more enemies. Using the same logic it made no sense to surround the artifact with guards and knights who would only lust after its immeasurable power. There would only be one guard, a protector or jailer that Kaye would have to face

Whether or not the temple was home to an insane Witch king or some bishop they were always built the same way and as Kaye made her way through the winding halls and tunnels she eventually came to the central cathedral. hidden from the outside by a massive dome the cathedral itself was enclosed by a lattice work or scaffolds and ladders as it too was reconsecrated to a more benign god. The hundreds of gargoyles, and demonic reliefs, most of them alive and in stasis had been smashed and the profane symbols flattened. The windows had all been replaced with new stained glass depicting the current Gods struggles. The front huge ornate double doors had also been replaced in the same manner but they now were open a crack a sign that the resident inside did not want them damaged. Kaye pulled them open and stepped beneath the arch.

Inside ornate columns supported the cathedral ceiling and hundreds of pews were arrayed in vast rows along a central path leading to the altar. There were dozens of enchantments of the palace all benign and aesthetic. Magical light showed through the stained glass illuminating the struggles of Benedict the beggar god, sconces gave of alternating incandescent light and upon entering a vast choir began a haunting hymn. Looking up Kaye saw them above the entrance arch, ethereal phantasms, unthinking preprogrammed spiritual energy, of young castrati singers their voices rang and reverberated about the empty cathedral, empty but for the lone priest kneeling at the alter before a statue of Benedict. Next to them was a huge brazier burning bright filling every corner of the cathedral with incense.

While the religion of Benedict had its usual nuns and priests but it also had its clerics, warrior priests, powerful spell casters dedicated to protecting the weak and poor and trained to wreak terrible and bloody vengeance upon all those who would harm the gods chosen people. Though they had lost a great deal of power, having lost their potent magical abilities they had lost none of their fighting prowess, and there had always been rumors that the upper echelons of all priesthoods still had a way to access their gods power.

Kaye cared nothing for this though all she saw was a human, a living human with living brains. It was all she could do to not simply charge in a foaming fury at the priest. Her mouth was already starting to foam as she walked carefully down the center aisle upon a blue velvet carpet. Deep inside her, what was left of the human she had been kept trying to pull back the hunger tried to remember the goal and what it might mean for her and all her friends. The hunger acknowledged none of that but it responded to the possibility that this new enemy might be a threat, that it might be able to prevent her tasting those sweet spicy brains and so it relented and allowed the fighter in Kaye to begin to assert control and make up a plan.

"Father?" She began sounding meek "I've come to be saved" He stopped his praying and turned to look at her, then the cleric stood and turned letting his blue with white trim cape fall to the ground. He was wearing field plate for mobility with chain mail beneath it all under a long blue cassock with Benedict's begging bowl embroidered upon it. Upon his head was a chain coif under a steel cap with a simple visor covering. In one gauntlet hand was his war hammer in the other arm a kite shield.

"There is no salvation for you here save for the fire" with his war hammer he gestured to the brazier crackling like the heart of a dwarven forge. "you have suffered I can see that child but I ask you to summon the strength to endure this pain so that you can find peace" The warmth in his eyes took her off guard for a moment, The calm gentle tone of his voice spoke only the truth and for a moment Kaye stared at the crackling roaring flames, and imagined she could feel the warmth, not just the heat, but the soothing comforting warmth and that it could finally take away the hunger. She had done so much... become so much less than what she was, since the hunger began.

Maybe it was just the hunger trying to defend itself and maybe it was just that Kaye was weaker than she had imagined herself to be, but she felt cheated by it all, by the way her life turned out, and how it had ended and she wanted another chance a chance to make up for all that she had done. A chance to be what she had once been. To run through forests, to climb mountains, to delve the deep crypts and..., and... she didn't want to let the hunger scream inside her mind. When she turned back to the cleric she was seething shaking

"I AM NOT DEAD!!!" She screamed "Look at me!! I can speak I can walk, I am sick. I need help... I am Kaye Long strider Monk of the red horn mountain temple, champion of the Taxas city tournament and I will have my cure!"

The cleric came on quickly hoping to take advantage of Kaye's outburst. He jabbed twice with his hammer then brought the shield up to block the counter. Kaye just lept back just out of range of the hammer, watching the shield. The cleric came in fast with a wild swing leaving himself open hoping to pull Kaye in and pin her with the shield. She came in half way and the cleric struck with the shield missing.

Moving with terrible speed for one so heavily armored the cleric pressed his attack with a diagonal strike, then a horizontal return and then a jab the last just barely connected with Kaye in the chest knocking her off balance. Before she could recover he brought the shield up and down again trying to pin her. The undead monk managed to roll out of the way in time. Swinging the shield away the cleric turned pivoted and brought the hammer down in a thundering arc that nearly shattered the marble altar floor, Kaye was already away leaping over the priest and trying a kick at his head the blow caught him on the side but the coif and cap managed to deflect the worst of it, but he still staggered.

Taking advantage, Kaye kicked at his right knee and buckled him, but the cleric was able to spin and bring the shield back around. But this time Kaye let loose a flurry of punches at the hide striking hard and fast exploiting the weaknesses she found with previous strikes. Putting all his weight behind it the cleric slammed Kaye with the shield picking her up and charging for the nearest column. Again she managed to roll away before being crushed between both objects and tried to sweep the cleric. He sidestepped and brought the shield down. Kaye made a short hop back staying low and tight so that the shield crashed down in front of her less that a foot away. Summoning all her strength and training Kaye pulled in all the air she could into her lungs, reared back with both fists and struck with every ounce of Ki she could muster, focusing it right into the center of the shield

Letting out a cry as she struck, the shield cracked and exploded. The cleric was thrown back from the force landing on his back his arm mangled the armored greaves bent and broken with a clatter of shattered chain links falling to the ground. Kaye pressed the attack dodging a high desperate hammer swing she came in with a combination of punches to the cleric's lightly protected face then a heavy kick to his chest hoping to crumple the armor. It held and the priest managed to connect with a swinging uppercut with the hammer catching Kaye under the chin and launching her into the air. The monk hit the ground spitting out a mouth full of teeth.

Dropping the hammer the cleric stood, his face a grimace of pain as he pulled his broken arm to his chest. "This has gone on long enough abomination." Then looking skyward the priest threw his head back and yelled in a clear booming voice "DRAW UPON HOLY MIGHT!!!" the light that emanated from the stained glass and the sconces dimmed dramatically and the light physically drew itself into the cleric. Since the cataclysm that had ruined the sky and caused the ash snow in the north and south, and caused the dead to rise, the gods that had supplied power to the priesthood had been silent, holding back their protection and blessings. During her travels though, Kaye had learned that most temples had in anticipation of such a calamity had held back a tiny portion of the energy generated by their congregations worship. This tithe as it was called was held in deposit in case of a true emergency. This now was what the priest was using and Kaye knew what kind of danger she was in.

Rushing in hoping to stop the spell or at the very least end the fight before the cleric had time to take advantage of his power, Kaye threw everything she had into a left that connected square with the man's face... and barely moved him at all. Uninjured, he stared down at her. His eyes changing to a solid blue fire, his face a mask of grim determination. Undeterred Kaye sidestepped right and threw a right cross hoping he wouldn't be able to block with the broken left arm, which he could not do.

He could however move faster than Kaye and brought his right hand up to catch her punch. The bones shattered almost instantly as he crushed her hand in his "Foolish creature" his voice echoing and otherworldly, his eyes burning blue fire. His look had nothing but contempt in it. And then he tore her right arm away at the elbow tossing it aside where it continued to spasm and twitch grasping desperately at the air. Rearing back the cleric punched Kaye in the face with a thunderous right, exploding her left eye, shattering the whole left side of her face and sending her flying into the pews where her body crashed through three rows of solid oak benches before she came to rest in a pile of debris.

Most of the bones in her torso and skull were broken and her rancid non functioning organs pulverized. Black congealed blood oozed from her skull, mouth and nose. It was impossible for Kaye to go into shock or become unconscious so she was fully aware of just how badly she had been injured, of how this man had just about pushed her near indestructible body to its limits. She could hear the rattle of the clerics mail as he descended the altar and began to knock aside bolted down solid benches as if they were branches. He had no need of the hammer now he could just rip her to shreds and burn each piece at his leisure. Kaye tried to stand to shoulder off the weight of the pew on top of her but she slipped in her own black ooze and fell back to the ground.

Now the hunger was shrieking, or was it Kaye? Somewhere inside her she could hear it echoing off the high vaulted ceiling, a sound like baby being tortured, panicked and insane shrieking mindlessly forming only one word: "BRAINS!!!!"

Finally getting the debris off her, more due to her own mindless thrashing than anything else Kaye tried to stand and forgetting she had lost her right arm slipped and fell face first back into her own rotting fluids a plank fell back over her spasming form. Deep inside where there was just the tiniest sliver of a human soul Kaye knew she had only one chance. In all her life she had never quit never gave up even at her darkest moments face down in the gutter of some city alley with three of the neighborhood bullies around her, Oh so eager and ready to teach her a lesson they thought would make her start acting like a good little girl.

In those bad days in the city where she was hated and beaten and run out of everywhere she tried to make a home, by the females because she wouldn't be a whore or a servant and the males because she just wouldn't be a whore there was an old man, lower even than her who found her and told her she had potential. The old man taught her how to fight, how to go inside herself and ignore pain, and shame, and fear, and summon not just courage but real strength. In that alley she had gone inside herself and found what the old man was talking about what he called Ki. The ones that survived that terrible blast that night knew never to touch Kaye ever again. Soon enough time claimed the old man and alone once again she left the city knowing there was nothing left for her there. The girl then made her way out into the wider, wilder world to find the place in the mountains where her only friend and teacher had come from, where he had learned the lessons he taught and she found that temple and learned things even her old friend had never known.

Back In the cathedral, destroyed and buried. The planks were heavy like those stupid smelly boys groping her and fumbling with her clothes. The filth and gore she was laying in was so much like the gutter they had shoved her face into. The cleric stalking towards her was just like that one older boy the one who knew his business and wouldn't be fumbling nervously like the rest. That tiny sliver of Kaye went deep inside then, deeper than the hunger deeper than the shrieking foaming pile of rancid rotting garbage she had become. As deep as she could go and then she went deeper. And there she found that last little spark that last little twinkle of what could only be called life...

The last pews went flying as the glowing form of the cleric came to stand over Kaye his eyes dripping blue flame the look on his face one of utter disgust. As he reached down his hand burning with holy fire, stolen and horded from thousands of supplicants it was clear that he intended to crush Kaye like the foul thing she was. Just before he could take hold Kaye burst up her to her knees quiet and still her own eyes glowing then her whole body she thrust out her left arm as if to ward off the clerics blow and then she yelled...

The stained glass windows shattered, the vaulted ceiling shook and the columns around the combatants shattered to powder as the air between the cleric and Kaye exploded then smashed itself into the human priest. With all his power he tried to stand his ground yelling trying to draw more divine energy. But the power he had used was only a finite reserve and it had been depleted. His yell of defiance became a scream as he was blasted away, hurtling back like a leaf in a hurricane and finally smashing with bone shattering force into the back wall of the sepulcher. He hung against the wall there, his armor shattered and mangled for a moment then he fell off the wall crashing limply to the altar.

With inhuman will he began to rise, faith and the last of his divine power unwilling to let the man simply die. He saw her then where she had risen a glowing golden ball of light. Then the zombie was on him her face a horror of rotting broken flesh and bone even as she was bathed in light. This was no evil man that died in those moments. He had done his duty defended his faith and tried to build a final redoubt for humanity in the face of the ever encroaching horde. Kaye, lost to the hunger and flushed with power could understand none of this but mercifully the next blow she struck killed the man clean and he did not have to suffer the horror of coming back as a zombie or feel the terror of having his head cracked open as another human tore out his brains and ate them.

Having fed, the hunger and pain fled her body. Kaye let herself relax a moment and with all her bones broken and her flesh pulverized she collapsed in a heap on top of the dead cleric. Laying there, she let the orgasmic rush of feeding wash over her body and began to breathe forcing air into shattered ribs and crushed punctured lungs. Slowly she began to remember why she had come to this terrible place and moving her neck with a series of cracks and sickening pops she started to scan the altar.

Where the priest had struck the wall had shattered and behind that a false section of wall appeared. Behind that was a smaller chamber where there was a small ark upon a pedestal. Kaye's left arm managed to respond when she willed it to move and so she began to drag herself forward and off the priest. Her own dismembered right arm was even now crawling towards her and she willed it to join up. Dimly the monk realized that she was ruined, that even if she ever stood again that she would move slowly and with a jerking spasmodic manner.

Dragging herself forward one tortuous inch at a time she wondered what would happen once she reached her goal. After what seemed like hours there was a crash and the sound of footsteps a few and then many. Through broken ears she heard a familiar voice call out and she felt a hand upon her one was clawed the other had a scarf wrapped around it. When her neck did not respond Alice pulled her face to hers and was mouthing something distorted and inaudible. Then she was lifted and being carried and she could feel Long-shanks arms cradling her as it ran to the Ark.

She had to be held over it to see what was inside. A withered muscular male hand and forearm and a single left eye with a socket, a patch of temple and skull connected to it. The eye was bulging and yellow with irritated veins crisscrossing the jaundice. More than that it was moving spinning in the socket frantically as if there was still a mind behind it. She was then jerked away and felt herself hit the ground there were angry words then. Alice maybe yelling at Long-shanks then Alice was above her. She said something but it was lost in a rush of running water and feedback. Then she felt something slam into her missing left eye. And the world went black.

With a scream Kaye bolted to her feet from where she lay near the ark. Her body felt like brand new and the pain was gone, but only the pain from her injuries she could feel the hunger like a klaxon going of fin her mind. Alice ran to her.

"Its been days boss" The woman said fear in her voice and fresh brains on her lips. "you were screaming the whole time. and then your body just knitted itself back together." a crowd was gathering all the thinkers that had joined them had remained all of them looking to Kaye for an answer. Alice looked around and then whispered low "the cure?" Kaye knew not to delay her response.

"Its in here" she said loud and confident pointing to her brain. It wasn't. Kaye knew it automatically. She was aware of the sudden rush of knowledge in her mind but it wasn't a great confusing mass of words and images she had what she could only describe as an index when she needed it it was there and in terms she could understand. "all I need is time and the proper items and the cure is ours" there was nothing in all the dark lords knowledge that even mentioned the infection. The dark lords had nothing to do with this horror and there wasn't even a clue as to who might. But as if in response to her sudden anxiety she became aware of the sheer power she now wielded, embodied in her new right hand. With that power Kaye knew there was no secret no hidden place in all the world that could remain so. Time... all she needed was time...

From the assembled crowd came the Tarman his eyes never leaving hers. She had promised him a miracle and now feared that she knew what that meant. "Cure...?" he intoned lidless eyes boring into hers. Long shanks came up next to Kaye as well perhaps anticipating an attack or challenge from the ancient thing. Alice made to come up with some excuse but the monk stopped her knowing that any lie now would cause a panic and then an exodus. They were close, closer than they had been before coming here just not close enough.

But the wretched putrid thing had no desire to cause any of those problems it wanted something far simpler "peace..." it moaned "give... me... peace" and it fell to its knees with a splat and a terrible cracking sound. Without a word Kaye reached out and pulling forth the right spell made a tiny sliver of light appear on her right index finger and then touched that to the Tarman's forehead. A dozen tiny flames erupted over the Tarman's body each flame was red and burned with a furious spasming intensity where they touched the putrid black rot turned to white ash. A dozen more flames even brighter sprang up and then a dozen more until the Tarman was a bright red flare that burned the eyes of all who looked upon it. Alice and 'Shanks backed off frightened of the spreading fire but Kaye wasn't touched by it. And as quickly as it began it was over and there was nothing but a pillar of white ash where the Tarman had been. No screaming, no thrashing no pain. just a quick clean death.

They all gathered now all with eyes full of wonder and even hope. There was no cure yet but it would come, and if there was no cure if Kaye had lied or was wrong or failed, then there was a quick clean death. More than any of these creatures had ever hoped to find alone. They all came closer and began to embrace the zombie next to them and moving forward each linked to the next they embraced Black Alice, Long-shanks, and timothy, and then lastly those three embraced Kaye their friend, leader and now, their salvation.

Salvation... one way or the other

The End.





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