From across the road, I saw the dwarf charge toward the undead beast. His hammer pumped wildly in front of him as he beelined between the retreating pedestrians, shouting, “Out of the way, before ye accidentally get hurt. Move! Clear a path!”
Deciding that I needed to help, I looked around for high ground so I could hit the monster better. I leapt up and grabbed the awning over the inn door, then climbed the rest of the way to the top. By the time I readied my bow and peered down, the dwarf had reached the ghoul, and several towns guardsmen surrounded it.
The dwarf swiped with his hammer, but the thing moved unbelievably fast, dodging out of the path of the blunt strike. Leaping onto a guard and biting him in the face, the monster tipped the guard over and pinned him to the ground. My advantage was temporarily hampered by the group surrounding the prone figures. Not wanting to accidentally hit the wrong target, I continued to wait.
The dwarf swung his hammer, aiming for the ghoul’s head, but it lifted its arm and blocked the brunt of the blow. A loud crack filled the air, and the beast rolled off the fallen guard, leaping to its feet, it’s arm hanging limply at its side. It opened its mouth and released a terrifying roar, as if in challenge to its attackers. This provided me with a clear shot, and my arrow plunged into the back of the foul creature.
The guards came forward, jabbing the monster with their spears, but the undead thing seemed impervious to the injuries. It darted under a lunge from one of the guards and grabbed his leg, knocking him backward. The beast lunged for the prone guard’s throat. Its teeth sank into the exposed flesh, and the guard’s death cry carried over the din. The remaining four guards surrounded the ghoul, with the dwarf squeezing into the circle.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the first downed guard twitch. My attention switched over to him. I watched him arch his back and then flail on the ground before standing. His back was now hunched, and his face leaked blood at an alarming rate. For a brief second, I felt relieved that the man had lived through his attack, but when he advanced jerkily toward the circle of town guards, I had a feeling something was wrong.
In retrospect, I should have trusted my instincts, but I had never encountered anything like this, and I didn’t know what to expect. The re-risen guard lunged at the back of one of his compatriots and bit him on the back of his neck. A startled cry of pain and shock escaped the guard’s lips as the new attacker ripped off flesh with his teeth.
From below me, I heard Jerry shout something and three rays of magic shot toward the . . . the what? Zombie? I had no idea what it was, but it took the blasts directly into the back of its head and let go of the guard.
The injured guard shuffled away, screaming in pain and holding his wounded neck, which gave me the opportunity to land an arrow through the mouth of the one that had bit him. It twisted from the impact, then fell to the ground and didn’t move again.
The dwarf had just finished crushing the head of the first undead thing with his hammer when the other guards went to the aid of their bitten compatriot. The dwarf turned to follow. While they were fussing over the injured guard, I watched as the second guard that had died stood up and lumbered toward the group. I let an arrow loose at it, but it only stumbled. “Watch out!” I shouted.
The dwarf turned and swiped his hammer across the knees of the beast, knocking it to the ground. He continued swinging after that and crushed the monster’s head.
“What a disaster!” the captain of the guard said. “Get that man to a healer, quick. Send help to get this cleaned up.” The other guards scrambled away, acting on their captain’s orders, carrying away their screaming companion.
Leaping off of the roof, I landed near the captain and asked, “Is there anything I can do to help?”
The captain rubbed his hands through his hair and let out his breath, surveying the deceased guards. “What am I going to tell their families?” he moaned. Then he looked up at me, his eyes wide with stress. “You?” he asked, then pointed at one of my arrows, “You? Are these your arrows?”
~ Michael C. Sahd, author of The Unfettered Child and Assassin Marked