The Rising – Part Ten
By: Jeff R. Young

Draven turned to the right as he passed through the gate, sprinting down the broad avenue along the wall with Zythos at his heels. Kenrith, being as fit as he was, had a hard time keeping up. They ran for nearly a block before the undead began to pop out from the streets to the left. Their attention fixed on the trio. Ahead, the Draven could see the crowd of undead gathered around the building he mentioned. It seemed to him to be a rolling mass attempting to consume the structure before them.

"That's a warehouse," Kenrith said, finally catching up. To the left, the zombies grew closer, moaning and growling at the three. Up ahead, some started to emerge from other streets, cutting them off from the warehouse.

"Remember," Draven said with a small chuckle, "don't get bit!"

The ranger drew an arrow and ran down the street, letting loose and dropping one of the creatures. Soon Draven was firing rapidly, trying to clear a path, but they were closing in fast.

The undead pinned Draven between them and the wall. He kept himself moving with practiced grace, sending out a barrage of arrows, dodging the grasping claws that reached out to him. As three creatures converged on him, he pulled back and let loose a shot that blasted hard through the eye of one to stick firmly into the forehead of another. The ranger spun around the falling monsters, snatched the arrow that pierced the head of the second, pulled hard, and plunged it into the eye socket of the third trailing behind, dropping it as well.

Zythos waded into the crowd alongside Draven, his swords flashing around severing limbs and penetrating skulls. Monsters fell all around him as he twirled one direction or another, his elegant swords cutting or piercing through everything they hit. The elf rolled around Draven's position, his swords whirling, acting as both shield and saber as he wove his way back to Draven's left side, ending his dance as he stabbed his swords out to each side piercing two zombies through the mouth, killing both simultaneously. He hesitated for only a second before he pulled his blades back and renewed his assault on the crowd.

Zythos attack granted Draven a little maneuvering room, so he risked a look over to Kenrith, who appeared to be holding his own. His sword may not be blessed, but it was keen. His seemingly wild swings removed heads and limbs with ease. Before he looked away, he witnessed the man deliver a violent, mighty slash that sliced a zombie cleanly in half at the waist. But the creature felt no pain or care for its lack of legs, and began creeping towards the guard captain, leaving a dark stain of blood in its wake. A well-placed arrow ended the crawl.

The ranger set his bow singing again, doing what he could to keep the beasts away from Zythos and Kenrith. Catching movement behind him, Draven spun to his right, dodging rotten claws that were quickly removed by the flash of one of the elf's swords. The zombie pushed forward unphased by the lack of limbs, intent on biting the Ranger with its slavering, snapping maw. Having no time to pull an arrow, Draven swung his bowstave like a staff, smashing the creature across the chin and sending its lower jaw flying off into the crowd. He swung again, this time the silver bow crashed through its upper teeth and splattering what was left of its nose. Yet the thing kept coming, and Draven found a sick sort of humor in its determination. With nothing but stumps at its wrists and no mouth left to bite, what could it do? Deciding never to find out, he pulled an arrow and blasted it through the skull, dropping it forever.

"We can't make it," Zythos shouted as he danced around with those deadly blades, double stabbing a monster in the face. "There's too many!"

One zombie made it through the elf's defenses and got a grip on his arm. It opened its mouth and dove in to take a bite out of Zythos's neck. Draven proved faster and took the shot. The arrow passed close enough to his friend's head that the wind ruffled the elf's hair as it flashed past. The missile flew true and pierced the creature through the ear, taking it out of the fight.

"The buildings," Kenrith shouted while fighting his way to Draven.

"Zythos," Draven shouted.

"I got it," he called back.

They started their flight toward the buildings, swords swinging with deadly accuracy while Draven's bow dropped the monsters by the handful. The elf and watch captain ran towards the wall of the nearest building when Draven suddenly felt light-headed. Something was happening, and he knew it wasn't right. The curse was gaining a hold on him, its effects growing worse. He refused to panic and continued to fight his way to the building.

Ahead, he saw the elf was already up the wall, helping Kenrith to the roof of a single story outbuilding. With all his strength, Draven let his arrows fly, often taking out more than one in a single shot. Soon, he created a clear enough path between him and the building and put everything he had into sprinting toward Zythos, who stood waving him in.

He reached the building at full speed and jumped, using one foot against the wall to vault himself up. He stretched for the edge and almost had it when the wave of dizziness flooded him again, causing his foot to slip and crash hard into the wall. Zythos dove down, catching his outstretched arm by the wrist, with Kenrith's help, they pulled him upward. Before Draven was out of reach, one of the monsters grabbed his boot. The ranger yelped and kicked hard, breaking its grip before he slid over the ledge and onto his stomach.

Draven was still a bit dizzy when he flopped from his stomach to his back. Zythos and Kenrith dropped to sit next to him, taking a moment to gather themselves, each dripping gore and sweat, chests heaving with heavy breathing. They sat there in silence for a moment before, despite himself, Draven started to laugh. Both his companions looked down at him in confusion.

"What in the hells could be funny?" Kenrith asked, slightly annoyed.

Draven pointed towards his feet, "I think I have teeth marks on my boot!"

Zythos barked out in contagious laughter, drawing a loud snort from the captain as he joined in. Together, the three took comfort in their shared mirth, each wondering if this would be the last time they did so.


Mace gave the others several minutes before he flashed a look to Cora and Gwent. The dwarf had his spiked shield up and his hammer at the ready, while Cora slipped her hands into her bladed gauntlets. The priest held his katana gripped in his right hand and felt he had given the other group more than enough time to draw away some of the beasts. The urgency of the situation declared they move.

"You ready?" Mace asked both of them. Cora nodded, and Gwent banged his hammer against his shield. They were as ready as they could be.

He dashed through the gate, followed closely by the other two, and took quick stock of the surroundings. The avenue that ran the length of the wall was broad, spanning forty-five meters before it ended where the various buildings started. By luck, the road was almost empty, with only a few of the undead ambling off to their left. To the right, a large mass of the creatures formed a crowd in the distance. Every so often, they caught a glimpse of their friends fighting within that horde.

"Mace!" Cora cried; her features twisted with worry. "They'll never make it through that!"

"Have faith the gods are with them," he offered. His fears for his friends matched hers, but they had their roles to play, and he trusted in their abilities. He turned around, looking at the different streets that connected to the broad avenue where undead monsters were beginning to file out.

"We' need be mov'n!" Gwent grunted, seeing what Mace saw.

Cora visibly shook off her feelings and hardened her resolve. She knew Mace was right, and there was nothing she could do. They needed to find the Temple, and she knew the way and pointed to a street just off to the right, which ran deeper into the city.

"That's the fastest way," Cora claimed. "Seven city blocks, then we turn to the right."

Mace and Gwent both nodded and without hesitation, took off at a quick pace.

By the time they reached the indicated street, a sizable swarm of undead had emerged, creating a staggered barrier blocking their way. All three sprang forward, rushing head-long into the wall of monsters, which surged ahead even as the warriors crashed into them.

Mace held his sword with both hands, slashing the blade up and across to remove the top half of his first victim's head, then he twisted the weapon horizontally to stab another through the forehead. Quickly pulling the sword back, he slid to his left to avoid the reach of another dead beast. With a single-handed sweep, he removed the things hands before he gripped the handle with his second hand and drove the blade up through the creature's chin and out the top of its skill. With each monster he destroyed, he gained a little more ground, driving himself down the street.

Cora hit the wall of undead just as furiously with a wicked jump kick that threw the first of her attackers back several feet to crash into two others, all of them toppling backward into a heap. The attack wouldn't kill them, of course, and she knew it wouldn't hurt them either, but it opened up some room around her. Like Mace, she drove forward, more determined to get through the mob than destroy them. A few steps in, an attack came from her left. She bent low, twisting her body around to land yet another solid kick against the creature's chest, sending it flying back as well. Rising, she spun her waist around, slashing her right hand down, removing the outstretched arm of a zombie below the elbow. With her left hand, she drove the blade deep into its chest, pushing it back away from her. She swung hard with her right blade again, drawing its edge clean across the thing's neck. Even with its head hanging by threads of putrefied flesh, it still moved and tried to bite. She pulled back, her blades slipping from its chest as she jumped and kicked, scoring a solid hit under the creature's chin, which it's head off into the distance. Its body dropped limp, but she paid it no attention as she drove forward, attacking anything that got in her way.

Gwent was the less graceful of the three. He shouted a dwarven battle cry and slammed hard with his shield into the wall of beasts. The spike, protruding from the center of his shield, pierced clean through his first target. He swung his shield arm out wide, the impaled monster traveling with it as he drove his hammer down into the knee of the following zombie, shattering its leg. He wasted no time heaving the hammer up and slamming it down onto its head, splattering gore in every direction as easily as if he had crushed a melon. Another charged in from his front, and Gwent swung his shield back into place. It held back the attacking creature, but he yelped in surprise when he realized the first zombie was still impaled on his shield.

"Get off!" he screamed, thrusting his hammer up and over, annihilating the beast's face. It fell limp, and the deadweight pulled the shield downward some, enough so he could see the trailing zombie pushing in again.

A grunt of frustration escaped as he shook his shield arm back and forth until the dead thing finally flew off the spike. By then, the trailing beast was there, reaching in behind his defenses and all but tackling him to the ground. Gwent pushed with all his strength to keep from falling back. There was no room to swing his hammer, and his shield was well off to his left, so he did the only thing he could think to do, he drove his head forward in a ferocious head-butt.

Rearing back, he shook his head quickly, sending chunks of gore flying from his forehead. Fighting off the daze that followed the collision, his eyes came back to focus to see the entire face of the abomination crushed inward. As damaged as it was, the thing still had life in it, and it pushed forward. With what remained of its teeth, it clamped down on the dwarf's shoulder, but the attack proved useless as it tried to wrap its mouth over the metal armor he wore. With a scream of renewed frustration and anger, Gwent shoved the creature and back-peddled at the same time, giving him room to swing his hammer up and around to ruin what was left of its head.

The furious fight continued as the three made steady progress forward, leaving a trail of body parts and corpses in their wake. The decapitated heads Cora had removed were the only things blinking with movement. Gwent's hammer swung, obliterating anything it hit. Cora used her skills with hand-to-hand combat and the wicked blade on each gauntlet to her advantage. Mace proved his worth as a swordsman every time he slashed and stabbed his way through the crowd. It was a brutal battle, but to their relief, an end was in sight.

By the grace of the gods, the horde thinned out, leaving only a sporadic zombie bursting forth to attack. Those few were easily destroyed as they hurried further down the street. Keeping to their swift pace, they moved from block to block, only stopping to fight when they could not avoid it.

Cora slid to a stop at one intersection and pointed to the right. "There," she huffed, trying to catch her breath.

Mace and Gwent took a moment to collect themselves as well, the dwarf grumbling as he picked chunks of dead flesh and other assorted parts off his armor.

Cora pointed to a new batch of undead collecting behind them, stalking closer like hungry predators. Mace noted a group was forming ahead as well. If they didn't hurry, they would cut them off from the Temple. He wasn't looking forward to another battle, one he wasn't sure they would survive.

"Let's go," Mace commanded, "Fight only if you need to. If we give them a wide berth, we should be able to slip past. They only seem to move fast when they attack."

They took off again, doing as Mace instructed, running wide to the left of the growing mob, dodging the few creatures they had to, or destroying those they needed to.

When they finally made it to the Temple doors, Mace, whether by luck or the grace of the gods, found the doors unlocked. He opened them slowly, peering inside, praying the Temple was empty of the undead. Despite his joy, he was surprised to find it empty. But then he considered the god for whom the Temple had been built, and his surprise flew away as he gave a silent prayer to Ubus.

"Mace…" Cora‘s tone sounded dispirited.

He turned to see the road behind them filled with a growing hoard of undead creatures coming their way.

To be continued…


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