The fight stretches on with neither side making significant progress either way. Every fatal blow that lands on us, every explosion that tears us limb from limb, every pure magical purge of white magic that seeks to erase our darkness from this plane, all of them are made void and null by the creeping tendrils of the dead-light. Every scratch and severance and maiming is erased from our disgusting flesh; save for those that we received before our first deaths. Those marks stay forever, not even the healing threads of the dead-light can stitch them shut. We prefer it this way though. We want them to see. We want them to see what became of us. We want them to see what they have done.
The wizard and the priestess run back to the house, which a group of us has begun to swarm around. The house from which worried screams ring out from the inside of, as they clamber and begin crawling through the broken glass. Even with their broken defensive line, even with just the hero and the monk and the half-heartedly fighting thief here, they manage to hold the line all too well. Not a single rotting finger finds its way to their armor. Not a single tooth to their skin. Nothing more than our hollow, dead eyes reach them and to those they pay no mind.
All the while the dead-light swirls and coils above us, like trailing vapors of an otherworldly mist. The many strands and strings floating around the midnight sky, twisting and winding like serpents underneath the surface of a frigid, inky murk. It coalesces and balls itself tighter and tighter as our agitation grows. As our frustration at our inability grows. I lunge again, this time towards the monk. I feel like this is my chance! I feel like I’ll get her with this lunge. This has to be it! She’s looking the other way. All I see is the back of a tanned neck sticking out of her yellow top as I strike. All I see is re-
No, wait… no. My head is flying, rolling and tumbling down the way; sent spiraling by the force of some impact. For a brief second, as my head rolls just right over the damp, blue grass, I can see my body fall down where I stood a second later. I can see the fist of the monk hovering just above my neck. A puff of smoke connecting them. My body falls down and she spins around in a flash to strike another zombie. Poor guy never had a chance I think, as I see his shoe left behind in the mud as the rest of him flies off the other way. She’s fast. I roll further and lose her from my sight.
But once again I am forbidden from leaving, once again something clasps at my soul. Something cold that holds me tight in its grip. I feel the movement of my body. It’s not walking on its own towards me. It’s twitching and writhing and spasming its way over the ground as the strands of dead-light that bind me together reach from one end of my corpse to the other. A single, long streak of white that tugs and inches like a crawling worm as it brings me back together; as it makes the vessel for my soul whole again. It’s a slow process, but the first wave is about over now anyways. The fight sounds to be dying down. The world seems to be returning to the normal quiet of the night as the last of my brethren fall to the dirt. For now.
That’s okay. That’s just part of the game. We were never going to beat them in the first wave to begin with, but it was a good try. We have plenty of other waves now. But now after this surge, the crystal needs time to regenerate. It needs time to feed off of our freshly growing angst and frustration and once it has, it can send that back to us and the next wave can commence. Light returns to my hollow eyes and I watch the hero-party walk down the road, the graveyard-keeper in tow. Though it is slow going. Even if there are no ‘living’ enemies left now, the old man has some bad habits.
I watch as he leaves the road for a moment. The monk and the wizard shout at him to come back but he doesn’t listen. He’s going off the path for a second, because there’s something that he needs to do. I watch in curiosity from the distance, as my spasming body draws closer and closer to me by the seamstress tightening her pull. I watch as he bends down and looks at one of the thousands of sickly, white flowers. He sits there for a moment. I don’t know why. I don’t know why that flower out of all the others. I don’t know what he thinks he’s doing. Neither does the hero-party and I can see it in their annoyed expressions.
But that’s what he does. It’s an escort quest after all. The old man, bless his heart, is free of will and body. But the dungeon influences him in ways. It whispers to him like the dead-light does to us. It tells him to go slower. Stop. Wait. Slowly. That’s right. Slowly. Go smell the flowers. Go in to the dark-forest. Slow. Yes. So that’s what he does. It gives us extra time. It evens the odds. Makes the escort more difficult. If any of us were left alive to nab him, this would be our shot. But the dead-light doesn’t plan. It doesn’t think. It just pushes forward in order to force a heavy quiet onto the world. The old man slowly hobbles back to the hero-party. Five silhouettes then begin to make their way down the road, down towards the graveyard.
Groaning, I rise to my feet and shuffle over to the group of my undead friends who have been put back together now as well.
“Hey, Piotr! Why the long face?” I ask my putrid comrade.
“I wish you had stayed dead, Miika,” grunts the surly man.
“Hey! Me too! See? This is why we’re friends, Piotr! Two minds think alike, yes?” I hit the man on his back, causing his tongue to fly forward only to slap back against his neck a second later.
“Shut up, Miika,” sighs Piotr.
“Stop being mean to Miika, Piotr,” says Dmitr from the group. “You know he is unwell in the head. It is not his fault!”
“Yeah, Piotr!” I agree.
Something lurches in our guts, in our bones as the dead-light pulls us away now and into motion. As it begins to make us march towards the point of the second wave. We’ll catch up easily enough to intercept them. The old man has many flowers to smell. Together we march in unison, our bodies not in our own control anymore. Nothing we do is of our own volition now, save for our wretched groans. Not our movements. Not our direction. It is all the dead-light and the worms that crawl through us. It is pulling us all at once to the next point of att-
“Excuse me! Honey?! Excuse me. Oh! Coming through- oh!” The thief ducks down as the dead-light reacts to the presence of the single living thing in our midst, the single living thing in our reaches. But none of the horde stops. They reach, they try to grab at the elf that had suddenly appeared in the middle of our swarm. But their legs never stop shuffling forward towards the next point. Towards the threat that the graveyard-keeper poses for the dead-light, for the white crystal. For it, the thief is meaningless. A distraction. For me… well…
“Oh no,” I say.
“What is she doing?” asks Dmitr. “Wait… isn’t that…?”
“Oh no!” I repeat, feeling the dread grow in my heart.
“Hoooney?” calls the voice in the crowd of very confused zombies, all of which are unable to grab her nimble form that is ducking and weaving through their midst, as if they didn’t even exist.
“Ah!” squeaks the elf, her eyes locking onto my rotting form that had almost managed to shuffle past her. I almost made it, friend. I had hope. I did. I really did for a second there, guy, tell you what.
“I found you!” she cries. A slender hand grabs my own disgusting, wet claw and my body is lurched around the other way in a full turn, as she drags me back the other way on my own, as she drags me out of the zombie swarm by my hand like a mother leading a child. Stop, mom! You’re embarrassing me in front of my friends! I turn my head and reach back with my free hand to the group shuffling further away and on without me. To the many very confused eyes turned my way. Some in judgment, some in bewilderment. One expression offered is a grin and a thumbs-up.
“Piotr! Save me!”
“Hey, Miika!” calls out a surly voice. “Do you need a hand?” An eruption of laughter rings out from the zombie horde.
“Piooooootr!” I cry, as I am dragged off into the darkness.