"The Builder's Guide"
From my perch in the alcove I watched the zombie stumble and fall in the large, quiet room. Silently the zombie got up again.
Eight torches, two on every wall, lit the room. The dancing firelight masked over the dry bloodstains and gave the room a slight glow. On the wall across from where I sat a skeleton hung from a rope that was noosed tightly around its neck.
Committed suicide I presume. Personally I wouldn’t recommend doing it. You would become a zombie, or something worse.
I agreed with the little voice in my head. No one should want to die in here of all places.
Rubbing my tired eyes I leaned back against the wall, using my cloak as a pillow and tried to think of a way to get out of this place. On the south wall of this room there was the only exit, a locked metal door. The lock was not the problem. It was the zombie preventing me from jumping down and getting enough time to unlock it.
I coughed and rubbed my coarse throat. I could feel the short bristles of stubble growing. I promised myself the first thing I was going to do when I got out of this underground place was to take a bath and shave. I combed my fingers through my short hair, filthy from sweat and dust.
I didn’t have any more holy water so I couldn’t kill the zombie. I didn’t have any water arrows left either so I couldn’t put out a torch to give me a shadow to work in. Thus, for the past two days I’ve been sitting in this small alcove, about eight feet above the ground.
I chewed hungrily on the last of my dry bread. My water canteen empty as of yesterday.
The zombie stopped and stood silent. My eye caught a dog-sized spider slowly crawling up behind it. The spider was green, covered in hair, with black legs, and beady eyes. It poised to attack, but missed as the zombie started up and tottered off.
The zombie groaned, “Moouah!” It stood, unaware of the giant arachnid. The spider stalked closer.
The zombie turned just in time for the spider to rip out what's left of its rotted throat. The zombie gasped, making a grinding noise. Chunks of brown blood sprayed out from under its jaw onto the hissing spider.
The spider attacked again with a sharp leg. A deep gash appeared across the zombie’s chest. Bits of flesh now hung off its ribs, emitting a fowl stench.
I realized this could be my chance for escape. I threw on my cloak, slung my bag over my shoulder and readied my lock-picks. Making sure the spider and zombie were still fighting, I jumped from the alcove and landed quietly on the dirt floor. Sprinting to the south wall opposite of the squabble, I shoved my square-toothed lock pick into the keyhole. As quickly as I could I maneuvered the pick inside, feeling the last tumbler drop.
Holding my breath the door swung inward, without a sound. Turning my head I looked back at the zombie and spider. Relieved they were still fighting I put the lock picks back in my bag and stepped into the hallway. With only a slight squeak I closed the heavy door behind me. From the room I just left I could hear the muffled sound of the zombie gurgling and fall to the floor.
Sitting in a dark corner I stared at my map and compass. Trying to route out a path to the lower levels of the cathedral basement I suddenly heard voices. Many voices.
“Join us. Join us now!”
I froze. Knowing that the voices weren’t human but belonging to a Haunt. Standing I looked around frantically for a place to hide. Whipping open the heavy metal door I decided it wouldn’t be a good idea to go back in there. The now, triumphant spider was strutting about. Closing the door I put everything back into my bag and tried to stay calm.
Sitting down in a dark corner I clutched my bag in my arms, and held my knees under my chest waiting for the Haunt to walk by on its patrol. The sound of the Haunt’s rattling armor filled my ears as the air around me dropped. Almost dreamlike the Haunt turned the corner and walked towards me, laughing hysterically at nothing.
I could now see its unsheathed sword swing back and forth as it walked. It was wearing the common Hammerite uniform of silver and red, making the Haunt’s skeleton pronounce. I could feel the negative energy flowing out from it. I scrunched up into the corner as much as I could. I could feel the goosebumbs rise on the back of my neck and arms.
“Join us. Join us now!” The Haunt walked past me to the metal door, turned around and started walking back.
“So co-” Three feet away from me the Haunt stopped and went quiet. Then I saw something; the Haunt was looking at me, but not directly at me. Confused I tried to figure out what the Haunt was doing when the air dropped even further and I started to shiver.
Your breath, Dirk! The Haunt can see your breath.
Sure enough there was my breath, coming out in little white puffs. Noting this I held my breath. Soon, the Haunt dismissed my presence. When the Haunt slowly walked passed me again its rusting sword nicked my nose. Wincing in pain I made the mistake of moving. The Haunt whipped around, towering over me. Laughing madly it lunged its sword at me. Missing it hit the rock behind me; making a loud clang and emitting sparks. Rolling to the side I promptly got up and started a mad dash down the maze like halls of the catacombs.
“Die here. Die among us!”
The Haunt was catching up fast as I turned around another corner.
Looking everywhere for a hiding place I spotted a large crack where the ceiling meets the wall. I grabbed the ledge and half mantled half scooted into the horizontal crack. Angrily the Haunt thrashed its sword around and yelled a loud, “Join us now!”
I stayed still for a minute, lying squished between the rock wall and the stone ceiling. Panting, I regained my breath, my beating heart slowing back to normal. The Haunt continued to pace on the floor below shouting out its mad rants, chanting and laughing.
The walls shuddered as bits of sand and dust fell from the old ceiling.
What the hell was that?
Shaken I waited a few moments before I peeked my head over the ledge to see what happened. A man was standing with his arm outstretched and surrounding his hand was a pulsing red light. Strewn around the man were chunks of armor and bone. Strips of red and silver cloth were lit a flame. The Haunt’s skull lay twenty feet down the hall, obviously blown off.
The man was about six feet tall, had sandy hair, and a dark brown beard with no mustache. He wore dirty commoner clothing and had old boots made of light brown leather. The man looked a few years older than I did, maybe in his early thirties.
Putting his arm by his side the light faded from his hand. The man looked at me and said, “My name is Clothilde. Come with me and I will take you there.”
Feeling no bad vibes from the man I slid out of the crack and dusted myself off. Clothilde motioned with his dirty hand we started walking down one of the hallways.
I had followed Clothilde around the twists and turns of the hall for about an hour until we stopped at another dead end. This one too had a large crack in it. Except this crack was vertical and it was in the wall right in front of us. Causally I walked up to it.
“You came with me. I have taken you here.” Startled I faced the man. He hadn’t spoken a word since we started walking.
Then Clothilde made a popping sound and disappeared.
He was an apparition…. You're lucky he didn’t kill you.
Now I was alone. I stood there for a moment, figuring out what to do next. Since I had nothing better to do I decided to walk through the crack. Making sure my bag was secure I squeezed through. On the other side of the crack was a large tunnel. It was very dark so I couldn’t see how far the tunnel went, so I walked forward. Wind started flowing around me. My cloak flapped as the wind pushed me forward and whispered in my ear, “You are close. Run forward, you are close.” Invisible hands made my legs move like a puppet. I was being thrown forward deeper into this dark place.
Then coldness. The floor crumbled way and I was falling. The wind was gone but I could still feel my cloak whipping as the air streamed around my body. It seemed there was no end to my falling when I hit the ground.
My body crushed, I could feel the life draining from me.
“Get back here, you, coward!”
I awoke with a start.
It was a dream.
I slid off my bed and wearily walked over to my window. Sticking my head outside, the cool breeze dried the sweat from my face and neck as the dream slowly faded from my memory. I heard more shouting. On the street below some poor kid was running from a guard. Judging by their long shadows it was early evening. Probably around 7 or 8.
Index / Part 2
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