Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Stayed Behind, Part Four

“Blasphemy!” Zachary growled, clenching his fist while grinding his teeth. I merely smirk back at him as Babbling clears her throat.

“That will be enough Zachary,” Babbling rasped from her wooden throne, “we all have the best interests of this village at heart.”
Zachary shot me a baleful glare before inclining his head towards our aging matriarch, who merely closed her eyes for a few moments as if in thought. Opening her grey orbs to look at me, she motioned for me to move forward, which I happily did.
“Rose, I feel that your idea, however crudely approached, has merit.” Elder Babbling announced, her voice rising above the whispers of the gathered men and women. “I want you to take four hunters and go out to seek the oncoming siege; engage them however you can for three days.”
“Three days ma’am?” I ask, slapping a hand over my mouth just as the words leapt from it.
Elder Babbling smiles at me. “It is alright to question my orders child; I am no worse the wear for such discretion. My reasoning is two-fold: it will take us at least three days to gather the foodstuffs from the fields, while also preparing for the oncoming invasion.”
“Preparing?” One man, a stooped broad shouldered shepherd asked aloud, a handful of convinced grunts coming from the men around him.
“Yes Josephus, preparing. With the coming of the winter months the dead will become all the more lethargic, sinking into a state of hibernation.” Elder Babbling explained, steeping her fingers before her as she leaned back. “This will most likely be the last attack we will face for a good while.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?” Zachary asked a slight edge to his voice.
“Normally yes, but should the winter set in mid-siege forcing the undead to merely retreat, we will likely miss a few of them and face their numbers come this spring.” Babbling replied, spreading her hands wide. “This way we can clear our borders assuredly, and have time to loot the coming army of any resources at our leisure.”
“But won’t we face casualties, casualties you are willing to trade for mere material possessions?” Zachary demanded, a small chorus of agreeing murmurs echoing throughout the tent.
Elder Babbling merely tilted her head to the side. “Such is always a risk, but the material gain we could garner from this is well worth the risk. You all are well aware our attempts at mining this year were dismal at best? Well a siege of zombies is a veritable mine unto itself!”
“I cannot believe you would condemn your fellow man to fighting the forces of darkness just for a chance at mere trinkets!” Zachary exclaims, his voice rising in tenor.
Elder Babbling focuses her misty eyes onto him, a look of doubt flashing across her features. “Mere trinkets? Have you forgotten that we are in dire need of tools if we want to keep our farms going? More metal for weapons, more clothing for our backs? All of this and more can be harnessed from the oncoming dead. To turn away such a veritable package of supplies would be suicide!”
“And to willingly engage in battle with them for selfish reasons is blasphemy!” Zachary countered, a few men shouting along with him.
I look out at the crowd and allow my hand to drift to the knife at my belt, just in case someone gets a wild idea to try and attack the good Elder.
Nobody seems to. Elder Babbling raises a hand to silence the mob around her, gathering their attention once more. “I have spoken on this matter Zachary, and I know for a fact the other Elders will support me on this matter; times have come where we must involve risk in order to survive.”
“The dead are here not to test our mettle, but to show us the wrath of God and His displeasure with our sinful lifestyles!” Zachary exclaimed, casting a long look my way. “To battle them for any other reason than to prove our faith is to spit upon the Lord once again!”
“You and your acolytes may pray to your God-” Elder Babbling conceded, folding her hands over her lap.
“He is everyone’s God!” Zachary all but shouted, interrupting the good Elder while stamping one of his feet angrily. “The sooner you… you… heretics accept this the sooner we will all be ushered into the kingdom of heaven!”
Elder Babbling clapped her hands once, signaling her personal guards to move and intervene. “If you cannot restrain yourself during these proceedings Zachary, then I will have you removed from them! Guards, take him away and allow him to cool his temper far from my sight.”
The two guards, lean looking men dressed in faded shirts with dull machetes, moved to either side of Zachary, taking his arms in theirs while forcibly dragging him away. He continued his diatribe, screaming at us over our spiritual fate. A few within the crowd broke away to go and help their leader, while the rest of the crowd merely looked pensive. Elder Babbling looked older than she normally did, slumped bonelessly back in her chair, one hand over her eyes while the other clutched at the armrest.
The toga-wearing Elder moved forward once more, clearing his throat. “If we are to enact your plan, we will need the hunters to leave as soon as possible.”
Elder Babbling nodded, looking over at me with a small smile. “I think that can be arranged. Tell me Rose, do you think you and three others can handle a small siege?”
“How large a group?” I ask arms behind my back in a loose military position.
 “Upwards of a thousand, no demons with them according to our scout. All of them dressed in some form of garb.” The bald Elder answered, holding up the rolled scroll.
“Dressed? So they’re old zombies then… which way are they coming from?” I ask, trying to think of any other colonies around us. While there were only a few villages within a week’s travel, a horde coming from their direction would be dire news…
Elder Babbling shakes her head with a smile. “They come from the East, far from any known villages we know of. The scout went so far as to note that some of the zombies within the horde actually had weapons strapped to them.”
“It’s been a while since we’ve been able to harvest any real weapons from anywhere… where could they have gotten any?” I ask aloud before blushing from my rude behavior.
“While I doubt this horde has wandered the earth for years in such a state, I can only imagine that they are only recently deceased, sometime within the last year.” Elder Babbling considered, looking from me to the balding Elder. “I would imagine they are the remnants of a village that fell to the ravages of this blight.”
“Thank goodness they aren’t from any village we know of,” I say aloud, looking down at my feet. “I know a few people in the neighboring villages, and I would hate to hear of their… passing.”
“Such is life now child, be sure that you can make peace with that.” Elder Babbling said with an air of wisdom about her. “Even if you recognize a face in the oncoming horde, be certain you can handle what you must do.”

“They call me a hunter for a reason ma’am,” I reply, turning to go back to my home to gather what weapons I’ll need. “So long as I’m standing, they will be the hunted.”

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