|| Asymmetry | Role-Playing | Earthdawn-ish | Chapter 2 ||
She took a cautious step, following the trail, and a few more. Wondered how far from town she was. Someone dropped down on her from above, hard. She rolled with some of it, managed not to fall on her sword, and got up just in time to see him step back onto the path, running back toward town. It was definitely Derek. Robin headed after him grimly, but he was nowhere in sight. Probably pulled the same trick again. She moved more slowly this time, looking for evidence that he had done that. Then she saw someone ahead of her, and knew that she had lost him; it was Emmett.
Emmett was moving slowly. When he turned his head, in the moonlight she could see the knife stuck in his throat.
He had his sword out, taking the clumsy yet incredibly fast strides of the undead, and he was coming straight for her.
"Harrick!" Kisha, I could really use some help right now....
Back at the house, Kendrick and Harrick checked the other rooms and found no one.
"There's a trap door. Pull it," Kendrick ordered, torch high in one hand, the other pointing at the door, ready to cast a spell. Harrick hauled on the door. "Do you have Thorn Dart racked?"
"Cover me." He dropped down. "Mother of Kisha," Harrick heard after a moment. He didn't stay long, but leaped easily out of the cellar with the aid of some spell. "It was him, that much is certain. Which means that the screamEmmett." He headed for the door, quickly. "Come on."
They ran for Chandler's place, at the same time the squad there was finishing up. Seeing Harrick and Kendrick running, they hurried over.
"Where's Emmett? Where's Robin?" Kendrick demanded.
There was general confusion for a moment, then Terzin exclaimed, "We have to check the path!"
He and Jared sprinted in that direction, heard Robin shouting.
She was in trouble. Emmett stepped in close; she was expecting something heavy and ponderous, but his sword was a blur as it knocked hers offline and came in at her chest. She wrenched herself backward; there was a deep score down the front of her armor, but she'd barely gotten scratched. He had every bit of speed and skill he had in life, and she knew he was going to slice her to ribbons if help didn't get there fast.
Harrick reached the path and activated it, followed soon after by Terzin and Jared, all of them activating the path, leaving the others behind.
She tried a jab of her own. He batted her blade out of the way as if he hadn't noticed it, head lolling to one side, the knife still there where it had killed him. Robin retreated as fast as she dared, parrying the unrelenting assaults, without even time to be terrified now, until he'd forced her down to one knee. His overhand stroke transformed gracefully in mid swing into a sidestroke she hadn't a hope of blocking, and cut deep into her upper arm. Figures were approaching along the trail, fast.
Harrick, moving at five times normal speed, skidded to a halt and thew Thorn Darts at whoever was trying to kill Robin, realized that the person he was shooting at was Emmett, and then heard Robin yell, "He's undead!" Thorns shredded the late reeve's armor. He turned somewhat, giving Harrick a glimpse of the knife. Then Terzin slammed into Emmett from behind, forcing him a step back. Emmett shrugged him off without any sign of effort. Jared repeated the action, staggering him again. Robin got back to her feet and tried an ineffectual thrust; Emmett spun his blade in a glittering arc that ended by nearly disemboweling Terzin, much to their collective horror as he crumpled.
Harrick used the thorns again, another good hit that tore open a section of the zombie's chest. Emmett's eyes came to horrible life for just a moment, and his lips moved, but between shredded lungs and a knife in the throat, no sound came. Then he turned back to Robin, who scrambled farther back away from it. It ignored the others and kept following her, into the woods, as she continued to parry those hideously strong blows. She moved farther, hoping the branch overhead would keep him from doing thathe cut it in half. Terzin's dead, I'm going to die....
Not quite dead, Terzin pried himself to his feet and stumbled back down the path, holding his wound, looking for Kendrick and the others. He collapsed at their feet at the end of the path.
"Just say... Istaris... Emmett's a zombie...."
"Make sure he doesn't die," Kendrick told Samantha, and he and Emmanuel set off. "Istaris?"
"Yes, make sure I don't die," he agreed fervently.
Back at the fight, Robin swung in under Emmett's momentarily-lapsed guard; he avoided that, but lost his balance and fell to the ground. Jared failed to exercise sufficient caution and took a sword wound in his leg. Harrick's thorns flew again, and the undead reeve writhed on the ground, then regained his feet.
"I have had ENOUGH of dead people," the orc muttered through clenched teeth.
Reinforcements finally arrived. Emmanuel had his sword ready, moved into range... and hesitated. He couldn't bring himself to do it, not facing a man he knew as a comrade.
Kendrick, however, didn't waste any time. "Get back," he ordered everyone tersely. A gout of flame shot from his extended hand and engulfed the zombie. Flesh began crackling audibly as it burned, but the creature was still moving. It took two staggering steps toward Robin, raising its sword, before its knees buckled, lacking flesh to hold it together. Finally it collapsed.
"Who's hurt?" the elementalist inquired.
"Ow," Robin said belatedly, noticing her bloody shoulder; she'd been too busy trying to stay alive before. "Derek got away."
"I see he left us a parting gift."
The rest of the night was spent in taking care of the wounded, thanks to the healing arts of the initiates of Gabriel, and alerting the Bufon family and Harrick's parents to the whereabouts of their wandering members. Everyone stayed at the armiger's home that night. By morning Terzin was up and moving, albeit slowly; it was clear that his wound would require more attention, from one with more skill in healing, than could be found in Crapaudat least now that the town surgeon had been uncovered as a nethermancer and fled.
In the morning they gathered for an audience with Kenneth.
"Things didn't go exactly as I had hoped," he admitted. He looked somewhat aged, somehow. "You're certain, young lady," he glanced at Robin, "that it was Derek you saw?"
"You're swearing to this before an armiger," he reminded her. "You're aware of the ramifications of lying."
"And you saw the evidence in his cellar?" he asked Kendrick, who nodded. "Is this something you would care to describe?"
"No," was the even reply.
The warrant and the sentence of death would be formally decreed.
"I am left with a certain problem: what to do with you. You need a surgeon," he looked at Terzin. "The Countess has an excellent one. We could send someone down there and bring him back, but I think we will send all of you." At their startled glances he went on, "Kendall Keep has need of you. This will fit the bill quite properly. The keep is the furthest northern part of King Daniel's realm, and it has been plagued by Winterkin lately." The keep was also an important point of trade with the dwarves, and it would not do to lose it.
"I suggest, therefore, that you tell your friends and loved ones that the king has need of you, and that we will be sending you downstream within two days."
The king has need of you. If excitement was combustible the room would have exploded.
"You are in a rather unique position. Your names will be going in a letter to the king," Kenneth emphasized. "The town is in your debt. Terzin in addition, I'll be writing a letter of introduction for you. Someone with your particular flair requires... guidance. Very seldom have I run into someone with your outlook on life who has not ended up in a Bardic College at one point or another."
Terzin was caught wordless, a rare occasion. The thought had never occurred to him.
"They might help you channel your particular... exuberance."
The audience ended. It was time to go home for what they now knew would be nearly the last time, or at least the last for a long time to come.
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Copyright © 2000 Brian Rogers et al