So anyway, now we have this little zombie problem. There’s no spray to get rid of them, guns don’t do much, unless you happen to have zombie killer bullets, and Rural King sold out of those days ago. The only way I know of to kill them is a big knife. But really what you need is a machete. Yeah, we all have one of those lying around, eh? So what else could we use? Hmmm. A garrote? That might work. But it would require planning. And the thing with zombies is they rarely attack alone. They always seem to be in armies as far as the eye can see, right? Here, let me show you:
Just before the passageway ended, an open archway led them off into another corridor. The place was silent, seemingly empty. Archaic sconces on the wall gave off black smoke and a low, flickering light.
“This must lead somewhere,” Ardith whispered.
Draigh nodded, pulling his knives. “Smell that?”
Ardith sighed. “Zombies. Damn! I guess this is gonna be a three-shower day.”
Draigh snorted. “Next time you’re showering in your own bathroom.”
She stuck her tongue out at his back, feeling better for the childish but satisfying response.
Ardith… She spun at the sound. It had been like a breath of wind, soughing past. The passageway behind them was empty.
Draigh… Another wisp of air had Draigh slicing sideways with his knife.
They remained alone.
A deep sense of foreboding filled Draigh’s breast. “Do you feel that?”
“Repelling spell. I’m sure it’s Edana’s handiwork.”
“A damn fine one too. I’m seriously fighting the urge to run screaming from the place.”
Ardith snorted. “Pansy.”
He turned and looked at her, lifting an eyebrow in response.
She was saved from having to defend herself when a gust of grave-scented wind swept past, extinguishing the sconces.
They moved into battle formation, back-to-back, and waited. Draigh had never seen such complete darkness. He strained his ears, flaring his nostrils to compensate for being blind.
Draigh… His knife hand shot toward the faint whisper and sliced only air. Something scuffed on the other side and he slammed a fist in that direction. Nothing.
A putrid breeze blew Ardith’s silky hair across his shoulder and he barely stayed himself from shoving her to the ground.
Ardith... The disembodied voice flowed past them, physically insubstantial but emotionally devastating.
The witch trembled against his back. Though they’d begun a yard apart, circling to face whatever came for them, they’d somehow gotten so close together that they were in each other’s way when they tried to move.
His own hands were damp. He found himself continually wiping them across his shirt so his knives didn’t slip from his grasp.
The breeze strengthened, swirled, sending sound and scent whirling past at such a rate he could no longer tell what came from which direction.
Welcome... The phantom voice strengthened, no longer a whisper. But Draigh doubted it was meant as a summons.
Wel-come. The voice repeated in an amused tone. The disembodied voice was growing more insistent as they continued on down the passageway, stepping carefully sideways so they could stay back-to-back for protection. They stumbled repeatedly as the darkness and the swirling air turned their sense of direction on its head.
“I don’t like this greeting ritual,” Ardith croaked.
“Nor do I, witch. Just stay close.”
“Buddy, if I was any closer you’d be wearing me for a suit.”
Despite his discomfort, Draigh couldn’t help smiling at the thought. “Remind me to take you up on that later.”
Her snort told him she was holding on to her nerve. If only barely.
“I wish we could see where the hell we were going.”
Draigh swore. He’d been so wrapped up in the situation that he hadn’t been thinking. He opened his hand, calling forth the guide. The guide was comprised of the magic inherent in the air around them. It was a hunter’s magic to call. From the highest reaches of the passageway, even from the rock surrounding them, tiny blue sparks disengaged and danced in his direction, spinning into a solid cylinder of light that rested on his hand.
Once engaged, the guide cast a soft glow around Draigh and Ardith, a slight thickening in its depths telling Draigh the rogue witch wasn’t all that far ahead of them in the passageway.
He sucked in a relieved breath and stopped, his heart quickening.
“That’s bett—” Ardith’s words died on her lips as the light flickered, spread and illuminated the most terrifying sight Draigh had ever seen.
A sea of dead eyes, sloughing flesh and ooze surrounded them.
Silent, waiting, deadly.
As far as the eye could see.
Okay, back to the drawing board. We could use a giant kitchen knife. That would work certainly, but you’d better prepare yourself to get a little messy. And you’ll have to get all up close and personal with the nasty dead ‘uns. But hey, in a pinch a knife will work…for a while.
Here, let me show you:
Ardith turned back to Edana and discovered her gone. Along with her apprentice. There would be no help from that quarter.
Draigh had his knives out, the impressive muscles of his arms bulging as he anticipated the first wave of nastiness.
Ardith pulled her power forward and waited with it tingling in her fingertips. But even as she prepared to do her worst, she knew it wouldn’t be enough. She and the hunter would be overcome fairly quickly by the sheer number of the monsters closing in on them.
It would be a slow, painful and slimy death. Ardith’s mind spun as she tried to come up with a way to escape certain death. There was only one way she could think of, and she was reluctant to pull her precious familiar into such a dangerous place.
Finally deciding it wasn’t worth the risk to Sirius, whose skills and guidance would be passed to the next witch in a long line of witches in her family when she was dead, Ardith did the hardest thing she’d ever had to do. She placed a block on her mind to keep Sirius from feeling her death and prepared to take out as many zombies as she could before she went down.
Claws scraped down her arm and Ardith spun, sending witch fire between the zombie’s eyes. Its spongy head exploded like a melon, dousing the dead ones around it. They came on, hands outstretched, jaws snapping, as Draigh swung both arms, lopping off heads almost faster than Ardith’s eyes could register the movements. She sent power around her in an arc, slicing off limbs and severing heads as each new level of nightmarish creatures appeared.
Blood sprayed, gore splashed and the cavern smelled like a broken meat locker filled with spoiling meat.
Still Draigh slashed. Ardith spit deadly fire from her fingertips. And zombies continued to come. Layer after layer after layer of them, snapping, clawing and swinging heavy, rocklike arms.
Draigh was rammed by a particularly large male zombie who had only half of his face and fell sideways. The hunter caught himself before he fell and cut off the zombie’s head before surging back into the battle.
Ardith wasn’t quite so lucky. She fell over a severed limb on the ground and slipped in a slimy puddle of blood. Icy hot pain blossomed in her shoulder as a disease-ridden mouth wrenched her flesh, ripping into her as she fell. Spittle flew as the zombie whipped its head back and forth, trying to rip her arm out of its socket.
Claws ripped down her side, and she was tugged sideways as another powerful jaw closed over her other wrist. Strung between two rabid zombies, Ardith was dragged in opposite directions, her bones felt as if they were being ripped slowly apart. She screamed and fell to her knees as her vision went gray from the exquisite agony.
Teeth gnawed on her fingers. Claws dug furrows in her flesh.
The pile of zombies surrounding her thickened as more and more grasping claws reached for her. She prayed for a quick end, knowing she had no more magic in her.
Cool, thick blood spurted and the pressing pile of monsters started to ripple and fall away. A knife flashed past her head and one of the arms that was wrapped around her shoulders slipped away and fell to the ground. The zombie’s head followed, nearly hitting her on its way down. Draigh’s massive, blood-coated fist reached through the zombies and grabbed her arm, pulling her free of the pile.
Shiver, shudder, blech! That’s it, I’m locking myself in the house until somebody comes up with anti-zombie spray. We can load hundreds of gallons of the stuff onto crop dusting airplanes and spray it all over the dead, slimy uglies. We'll just pretend they're huge, really ugly cockroaches. It’s the only way. I’m not going anywhere near those nasty things. Not even with a ten foot sword!