A Banquet For the Spirits of the Departed – Part 1
The woman I saved thanked me before running off to what I could only presume was a safer location. Only after she left did I finally turn towards the corpse once more.
“Man. The hell was up with him?” I said as I frowned at the corpse.
“I was unable to detect the mage in control anywhere within our immediate vicinity. That, however, comes not as a surprise,” said Lefi. She was angry; her words were practically laced with venom. “There are no necromancers that know basic decency. As such, it is only rational to assume that the caster is viewing the spectacle from afar through the application of a questionable and atrocious spell.”
“Any other possibilities?”
“The only I can fathom is that this particular undead has escaped the control of its despicable excuse of a master.”
“Someone’s sounding a lot harsher than usual today.”
“I cannot help it. It deeply disgusts me to think that there is an individual foul enough to desecrate the dead and treat their remains as tools. Do you not feel the same?”
“Yeahhhhh, can’t say you’re wrong there.”
Voicing my agreement reminded me that we couldn’t just leave the man’s body where it was, so I began looking for a guard or two to take it away.
But I was interrupted.
Several extremely loud bells began to clang. The sound was so obtuse that it echoed throughout the entire town. The passersby, who’d been curiously observing our activities, began to panic. They all began fearfully hurrying along to their destinations. The leisurely atmosphere we had been enjoying a few minutes prior had vanished, replaced by one filled with naught but tension.
“The heck was with all that clanging?” I stopped one of the men that was on the move and asked him about the noise.
“You guys must not be from around here,” he replied. “That’s the evacuation notice. I don’t know what’s happening, but the last time they rang that thing was when we were attacked by a huge group of dragons! It’s gotta be pretty bad, so me, I’m getting the hell outta here! You probably should too.”
He dashed off again as he finished his explanation. Like everyone else moving about, his expression belayed a sense of panic.
“Oh, come on.” I sighed. “It’s just one thing after another isn’t it? God fucking damn it.”
I swear to god, the moment I find the asshole messing up our vacation… Like, for fucks sake, why the hell’d they have to do this while we were in town?
“Human cities sure do get rather boisterous,” said Lefi.
“I know, right?” I replied. “Anyway, I’ll go for a quick fly so I can figure out what’s going on. You mind waiting a sec?”
“Very well,” she said, with a nod.
I walked into a nearby alleyway and made sure no one was around before activating my stealth skill, materializing my wings, and taking to the sky.
A flash of silver cut through the air as Nell drew her holy sword and beheaded the man before her. Though the wound was supposedly fatal, she continued her assault nonetheless. She drilled a foot into his chest and sent him flying away from the mother-daughter pair he’d been in the midst of attacking.
Nell’s seemingly excessive aggression was justified moment’s later. The assailant, now headless, attempted to get right back up, so she positioned herself on top of him and jabbed her sword into his chest to lock him down.
“Run! As quickly as you can!” Nell yelled at the two she saved while keeping an eye on the creature underneath her.
“Thank you! Thank you so much!” The mother held her young daughter tight to her chest and began to run.
Nell redirected her attention back to the headless corpse and chanted a spell. “Oh ye who hath strayed from the rightful path, return to whence you belong! Turn Undead!”
A bright light enveloped the headless man’s body, swallowing it whole. His groans grew more frequent as he struggled, but eventually, all signs of life left him. And only then did the light fade. Nell took a second look at him to confirm that he was no longer moving before moving on to yet another, similar enemy.
The outbreak had been swift and sudden.
Nell first realized something was wrong shortly after she parted with the demon lord and headed towards the church, where she was set to spend the night. She ended up running into a hoodlum running amok along the way, so she quickly suppressed him in order to prevent him from causing any further harm.
She had hit him straight in the solar plexus with enough force to knock a well built man out cold. There was no reason for him not to be incapacitated. And it was for that reason that she found herself caught completely off guard by the fact that he had kept moving. In fact, she was so surprised by the unexpected event that she couldn’t stop herself from drawing her blade and tearing a hole in his gut. It was purely a reflex. Oh crap! Did I just kill him!?
She panicked. The blow she delivered was fatal. It’d split his stomach and caused his guts to spill all over. She had thought that she had made the mistake of slaying someone that had just happened to get a bit too rowdy.
But her worries were soon completely blown away. By the fact that it didn’t have any effect on the man’s actions. The hero slashed at the hoodlum once again. This time, she aimed at his neck and sent his head rolling. But still, he continued to move.
Shivers shot up Nell’s spine. All the hairs on her body began standing on end at the unnatural sight before her. The man was dead. She had personally delivered two fatal strikes. And because she was so certain of his lack of life, she came to understand that the man was no mere hoodlum, that he was a member of the undead.
Undead creatures were known to hold nothing but envy for the living. Yet, they were drawn to life like moths to flame. They attacked the living and ate their flesh in a desperate attempt to restore the life energy within them. But no matter how much they consumed, no matter how much they longed to live, they would forever be unable to escape the fetters of death. Their plight was so hopeless that it was almost pitiful.
Nell could handle a single undead on her own, but similar cases had quickly started springing up all over the city. A blink of an eye was all it took for Alfyro to start overflowing with walking corpses.
There were two key factors that led to the spread of the undead plague. The first was that the undead brought great trouble to those that wished to deal with them. Their attacks contained little power, and their movements were slow and sluggish. But unlike monsters, they were more difficult to identify. As most of the corpses were human, many found themselves in circumstances in which they were under attack by their former companions. Some found themselves unable to fight back, either because they were caught by surprise or simply unwilling, but whatever the case, the end result was the same: the creation of more corpses.
The second reason the city was overrun was because, for whatever reason, those that fell the to the undead joined their ranks, which, as far as Nell was concerned, made little sense.
Undead creatures were only supposed to spawn if a specific set of conditions were fulfilled. That is, they required magical particles to interact with the vestiges of those that died with their hearts filled with regret. None knew exactly how the process worked, but circumstantial evidence had led scholars to conclude that they only frequently spawned in the war theatres of old and areas with a high concentration of magical particles.
Alfyro was neither.
If a city like Alfyro spawned undead this often, then its cemetery would likely be a literal hellscape. Its gates would lead straight to the netherworld, where corpses roamed free. But that wasn’t the case. There was no way that the creatures assaulting the town’s inhabitants had spawned through natural means.
There had to be some sort of artificial aspect at play.
She had no proof to support her hypothesis, but she was certain that, at the very least, something was off. I sure wish Yuki and Lefi were here.
The hero found herself thinking of the pair that she had been with only a few minutes prior. She could practically see the man grin at her while the girl by his side watched over him with an expression that mixed both joy and exasperation. There was no doubt in her heart that their smiles would restore her confidence, and that they would be able to resolve the situation in the blink of an eye while she was still frozen stiff, completely dumbfounded by their antics. But I can’t just keep relying on them.
Nell closed her eyes and took a deep breath as she finished off another undead. I have to start thinking for myself and taking things into my own hands. Which means, first things first, I should save as many people as I can!
Divine blade and holy magic in tow, the hero headed straight towards the city’s centre—the place from which she heard the most screams. The look on her face made her feelings immediately obvious. It was a do or die scenario. And she had resolved herself for both possible outcomes.