Author's Note: Well, I had to do something for Halloween, so here's a double whammy both for Beloved Enemy's Halloween challenge and Sea of Chaos's Slayers October contest. Just meant to be a fun little zombie thing, but I hope you enjoy it.
Night of the Living Dead.
Filia sighed happily as she walked down the street in a slightly leaned over posture as she towed the ever distractible Val along by the hand. It had been a lovely day so far. The shop was… fulfilling, really it was, but it was nice to get away from the hustle and bustle every so often, and knowing that Gravos had things taken care of back at the home base made it much less stressful to be away.
Of course, the day hadn't been all fun and games as evidenced by the bag of groceries Jillas was carrying as he lagged behind them, bumping into things as he tried to see over the rutabagas, and the bag of pottery supplies she was lugging with the hand that wasn't lugging Val. It had been a day full of necessary errands that had been put off for too long. But that didn't mean there hadn't been time for quiet enjoyment. After all that time spent behind the counter of her own shop it was nice to play the customer role every so often. Not only that, but they'd stopped for lunch at a lovely little seafood place. She'd come to realize after cooking for three (and sometimes four, but let's not think about something so unpleasant, shall we?) people besides herself that the best meal of all was the one that she didn't have to prepare.
But now her day out was over… The sky was blotchy and orange, the sun making its eventual descent toward the horizon. She'd have to help Gravos close up shop and turn her newly acquired groceries into something more palatable for dinner. She sighed again, but this time not so happily.
We should go out to eat more often, she thought to herself as she stared into the setting sun. After all, the shop's doing well enough. And we deserve it.
Her thoughts were interrupted as an old man unexpectedly lurched into her, nearly toppling the bag she was carrying out of her gripped, groaned, and then staggered away. "Hey!" she called out irritably, collecting her things and regaining her balance. But the man took no notice.
"'ey you!" Jillas cried out, setting down the groceries rather more forcefully then Filia would've liked a bag containing eggs to be handled. "You better apologize to the boss!" he shouted, shaking his fist and making to go after the rude man.
"No, don't bother," Filia said, putting a hand on the fox's shoulder before he could go a step further. "It's no trouble really. He probably didn't mean to," she said, looking after the old man with some concern. "He looks like he's ill."
Jillas looked up at her in surprise and then nodded sheepishly, picking up the bag of groceries as Filia continued to gaze, transfixed with the lurching figure.
He didn't… look right. He walked with a nasty limp and his skin was as pale as death. His joints looked stiff, as if he'd been shut up in a box for eighty years and was just now getting to stretch. And those sounds coming out of him… well, Filia just hoped that the man got some rest and medical attention. Possibly a good deodorant as well, but that was a secondary concern.
Filia sniffed the lingering aroma in the air and immediately wished she hadn't.
…It would have to be a very good deodorant.
"Mommy! Mommy!" Val enthused, pulling at her dress and pointing excitedly in the old man's direction.
"I've told you before Val," Filia said calmly, "don't point. We must respect the differences of others." She watched as the old man stretched out his hands and walked on. The woman at the flower stand he was moving towards didn't seem amused by this behavior at all. "…And occasionally pray about them," she added.
"It's not that!" Val said, radiating childlike joy. "It's Snowball! She came back!"
Filia groaned inwardly. Snowball. Yes, getting Val a pet cat had seemed like a very good idea at the time. It would teach him responsibility and give him a companion, she thought. What she hadn't counted on was the fact that the unfortunate creature would get into the turpentine one night and become, well… a mortuary matter. Val was too young though, he kept thinking the cat would just turn up again one day. She'd hoped that the little funeral they had for the poor thing would help. They'd even brought flowers to the gravesite a few times. But apparently it just wasn't sticking.
She took a knee and faced Val with a hand on each shoulder. "Sweetheart," she said as kindly as she could. "I know it's hard, but Snowball's really gone. We can't keep looking around for her because she's not coming back. But just remember that we'll always be able to treasure our memories of her."
Val stared at her dumbly. "But she's right over there, Mommy," he said simply, pointing again.
Filia looked up at the direction he indicated. She expected to see a neighbor of theirs with their own pet cat. What she didn't expect to see was a train wreck of a feline with white fur stained by dirt and an unfocused look in its eyes limping determinedly down the street.
The cat wasn't the only thing that held Filia's horrified gaze as she stared down the street. Behind what might have been Snowball and might have been a fiend from hell (it's so hard to tell with cats in the best of times) was a parade of animal decrepitude: cats with missing limbs dragging themselves across the pavement, dogs with foaming mouths and old gunshot wounds, a bunny with hellfire in its eyes, and a turtle that looked like it hungered for something more fleshy than lettuce. The entire scene would have easily fit the slogan: 'A pet is for afterlife, not just for Christmas'.
Filia pulled the still waving happily Val into her arms and stood up, her bag of pottery supplies lying forgotten on the ground. "Jillas…"
And that's when Filia heard the scream. She whipped around to see the flower seller suspended in the air as the old man lifted her up with both hands clasped around her throat in a show of strength unexpected from such a frail body. He moaned something. It possibly could've been 'brains', but let's not get overexcited and jump to conclusions yet.
"Zombie!" Jillas screeched, getting overexcited and jumping to a conclusion. He dropped the grocery bag again with a crunch that told Filia that whatever chances the eggs had had before of coming out of this trip unscathed had gone up in smoke.
He raced in front of Filia, his hand shooting to his waist. He produced a gun that Filia hadn't seen since their adventures with Lina and aimed it at the strangler. He squeezed the trigger and fired a shot that careened him back slightly. The old man went down.
"You…" Filia began as her ears stopped ringing, "you killed him…" And in front of Val, she thought suddenly. He'll be traumatized!
"Boom-boom!" Val sputtered from Filia's arm.
"Yeah, well," Jillas said, straightening out. "'e was a zombie. 'sokay to kill zombies. Everyone knows that."
"How can you be sure he was a zombie?" Filia demanded, panic in her voice.
"Well," Jillas said with a shrug. "'e was acting like a zombie."
"A lot of people act like zombies!" Filia exploded. Like the people who come to my shop, touch everything, use the bathroom, and then leave without buying anything. "That's no reason to go around shooting them!"
"But 'e was 'urting that girl!" Jillas protested.
"You shot him in the head!" Filia countered. "He looked mentally unstable! You didn't have to shoot to kill!"
"Ah, but that proves it, don't it?" Jillas said slyly. "Shootin' a zombie in the brain always kills 'em, right?"
"That kills everyone!" Filia shouted. Or at least, almost everyone.
The flower shop girl looked up from massaging her throat, got this deer-in-the-headlights look and sprang away with all possible speed.
Mutely, Filia and Jillas turned in the direction she'd been looking. Filing out of the cemetery with their arms out like blind men picking carpet samples were dozens of… they were human shaped, that was for sure, but all rather… pale and stiff like the old man from before. They were well dressed for such unfortunate looking forms. Most wore suits or pretty dresses. They were admittedly fine clothes, but all of them were dirty or torn or decayed. They stalked the streets dressed in their funeral bests…
Filia turned to Jillas. "You win," she said miserably.
And with that they took off into the streets hardly daring to look back.
When they reached the shop they slammed the door behind them, leaned against it, and slid to the floor, panting heavily.
"What's wrong with you guys?" the voice of Gravos asked as he came out from behind the counter with his brown shop apron on. "You look like you seen a ghost."
Filia pushed back against her labored breathing and shouted, "We have to close up shop right now!"
Gravos looked at her and scratched his head in confusion. "Why?" he asked. "We don't usually close for another hour." He shrugged and then added, "Not that it really matters I guess. This place has been a graveyard all day."
Filia whimpered. Val struggled against her protective-mother grip, but she wouldn't budge. Gravos gave Jillas a questioning look.
"Lock the doors, Boss-Gravos," Jillas said in an uncharacteristically low and serious tone of voice.
"What is this?" Gravos demanded. "Isn't one of you guys gonna tell me what's going on?"
"There'll be time for that later," Jillas insisted, striding over to the window and staring outside with an immovable look. Since that appeared to be that, Gravos shrugged and fished out the keys to the front door.
This is really it, Jillas thought, staring out into the streets where all god-fearing folk were hastily making their way to the shelter of their homes. 'o knows 'ow bad this is going to get? …Or 'ow bad it is already? Those things out there… they'll rip us all apart if they get the chance. …Boss-Filia, Boss-Gravos, and young Lord Val… I 'ave to be strong. I 'ave to take charge and deal with this. If I don't do it… then 'o will?
"You're all awfully blasé about security for people dealing with a zombie invasion," a voice chided.
Jillas literally fell over. Filia gritted her teeth and seemed to lose her pallor of shock as she set Val on the floor and finally allowed the boy the freedom he so richly deserved.
"Shouldn't you… be boarding up the windows or something?" Xellos asked, appearing in the center of the room.
"Shouldn't you be minding your own business?" Filia demanded, striding up to him with her arms crossed and her chin out. "And what would you know about it?"
Xellos shrugged. "More than someone who isn't boarding up the windows."
"Huh!" Filia narrowed her eyes. "What are you doing here anyway? Have you ever noticed that whenever you show up something awful happens? Don't expect me to buy that that's a coincidence!"
"Why, Filia," Xellos responded in a mock-hurt tone. "You can't honestly be implying that I have something to do with this, can you?"
"You're right. That was tactless of me," Filia shot back.
"Oh?" Xellos said, raising one eyebrow.
"I meant to directly accuse you," Filia fumed.
Xellos sighed. "It doesn't take a genius to figure out what's going on around here, honestly," he said. "I saw the dead rising from their graves and targeting the living, assumed without great fuss that a zombie attack was underway, and decided to drop in on you to see how you were mishandling it." He squinted at her. "Unlike you, I don't need a flag that says 'Zombies' on it waved in front of my face."
"Why you obnoxious, snide—"
"Mommy?" Val tried.
"Just a minute, Val. Mommy's busy," Filia said, without taking her eyes off Xellos. "This is my house! What makes you think you can just waltz into my storeroom and start giving orders?"
"Uh… boss?" Gravos tried.
"I wasn't 'giving orders'," Xellos blustered. "I was merely offering suggestions."
"Ha! And do you really think I'm about to take suggestions from a filthy mon—"
"Boss!" Gravos shouted.
"Oh, what is it?" Filia snapped, finally tearing her eyes away from Xellos. Then she screamed. Then Jillas screamed. Then Gravos screamed. Xellos looked on in blithe interest. Val gasped and said "Cool!"
A legless, scarred mass of zombie was slowly army-crawling across the floor. It had a determined and rather hungry look about its sunken, lifeless eyes.
"Get it out of here!" Filia screeched.
Gravos nodded wildly, took out the mace Filia had made for him, and battered the thing into submission like an arachnophobe in an old cellar. Then he unceremoniously slid it out the door as though disgusted with the idea of touching it.
"I thought you locked the door!" Jillas accused after this nasty act was complete.
"I did!" Gravos defended himself. "The front door."
"Well, why didn't you lock that back door?"
"No one told me to!" Gravos answered, throwing his hands up. "None of you would tell me anything!"
"Thinking about boarding up the windows now?" Xellos almost whispered in Filia direction.
Filia glowered at him and mumbled to herself for a moment. "Fine," she said. "But I would've thought of it without you anyway," she added tartly.
"Right," Xellos said. "Because you're not stupid."
Sometime later the hammering subsided and all the downstairs windows were nailed over with lumber and the doors were reinforced and barricaded. When the lumber had run out they'd taken apart furniture to do the work and torn interior doors off their hinges. None of this really made anyone feel better though… Jillas, who'd been looking through the slim cracks between the planks and out the window, informed them that several dozen zombies were surrounding the house-shop.
They sat down on the floor in a circle in the middle of the room, partly because there was nothing more to hammer or reinforce, and partly because all the chairs had been broken to make the barricade. Val had crawled into Xellos's lap and gone to sleep, tuckered out after all the noise. Just two or three years ago, Filia might have tried to put a stop to this, but she'd given up after awhile. Whenever Xellos visited it was impossible to keep Val from paying extra attention to him. Any attempts on her part only led to crying from Val and insufferable smirking from Xellos. It always seemed like when Xellos came around, Val instantly forgot all about her. She put it down to… well, the novelty of Xellos. But it still hurt her feelings a little.
Jillas slammed a furry fist into the floor. "I shouldn'ta dropped that grocery bag," he cursed, still not quite coming to terms with the fact that he wasn't going to be the group's protector. "'o knows 'ow long we'll be stuck in 'ere?"
"You don't really think we'll be stuck in here for long, do you?" Filia asked, shifting uneasily. "I mean… it's just here, right? When someone finds out what's going on, they'll come and take care of the problem."
"Yeah, but what if it's not just 'ere?" Jillas asked. "What if it's everywhere? And even if it is just 'ere," Jillas continued, ramping up his paranoia, "'o's to say it won't spread? I mean, it all starts somewhere, right? Maybe it's just one zombie, and then whatever caused it just… spreads. Then it's a couple zombies, then it's a 'ole town, and Wham!" he said, making a violent gesture. "A month later ya got zombies all over the world!"
"A whole month?" Gravos commented with sarcasm that flew straight over Jillas's head.
"We-ell," Jillas said thoughtfully. "Maybe not a long month later. Prob'ly more like twenty-eight days later."
"What could've caused this anyway?" Filia asked, wrapping her arms around herself as she tried to banish the sounds of scratching and shuffling outside from her mind.
Jillas crossed his arms and looked thoughtful. "Hmm…" he intoned. "Maybe like… a meteor or something fell into the graveyard, an' it brought like… some kinda radioactive space virus that brings the dead back to life."
Gravos gave him a long, hard look. "That's stupid," he finally said.
"Is not!" Jillas shot back, taking offense. "Anyway, I don't see you coming up with anything better!"
"Look, I may not know what's goin' on," Gravos said gruffly, "but I know a half-assed explanation when I heard it."
Jillas glowered. "This is just like one of those end of the world scenarios, it is," he muttered, almost to himself. "It's like something wipes out everyone on earth 'cept for the few people that survive it, and then they get all zombie-like and crazy, and they only come out a night 'cause they're… y'know… all pale and light sensitive… watchacallit… a rhino?"
"…Albino?" Filia tried, because it was the only thing that she thought could possibly work.
"Right," Jillas nodded. "And they're all blamin' civilization 'causa the end of the world, so they like… burn all the books an' art an' machinery an' tear down the factories 'cause they think that's what made the whole thing go rotten. So all that's left of the earth is just a buncha loons in sunglasses burning all the world's treasure and chasing down any uninfected creatures that're still alive." He paused. "Sad really."
"What… are these vampires or zombies?" Gravos asked, trying to follow this tortured logic.
"…Vampiric zombies," Jillas said diffidently.
"There's no such thing!" Gravos exclaimed.
Filia slid a glare over to Xellos's direction. He looked up, seemingly surprised by the attention. "So, how about it, Xellos?" Filia asked through her teeth. "Is it the end of the world?"
Xellos scratched his cheek delicately with a gloved finger. "No more so than usual," he said. "But I do have a question."
"What?" Filia asked bluntly.
Xellos transferred his gaze over to the still gibbering Jillas. "Why would they wear sunglasses?" he asked.
Jillas froze and then seemed to regain his zeal. "Well, didn't ya 'ear? They're winos!"
"Albinos," Filia whispered.
"Yeah, that," Jillas said. "They're sensitive to light so they need sunglasses."
"…But I thought you said they were against factories and civilization," Xellos said slowly. "What, would they think the sunglasses just grew out of the ground?"
This one appeared to stump Jillas.
"Enough of this!" Filia snapped. "We have enough problems with real zombies; we don't need to start making up fake ones!" She crossed her arms and scowled at the barricaded door. "And after all that we don't even know how they got here," she muttered.
Xellos smoothed over a strand of the sleeping Val's hair and said, "Oh, it was probably nothing major. Just a bit of necromancy gone wrong."
Filia stood up immediately, backing away from him and looking thoroughly revolted. "That's sick!" she yelled. "Only you could come up with something so… so disgusting!"
Xellos stared at her for one perplexed moment, feeling that her reaction was much more vitriolic than his comment deserved. Then he replied: "I said necromancy, Filia, not necro—"
"Anyway," Gravos said, cutting across this comment. "It doesn't really matter what's causing it. There's nothing we can do now but wait it out in here."
"But what if they break through?" Filia asked. "They seem pretty strong for… you know… dead people." She looked at the slumbering Val. "We can't just stay in here and wait for them to corner us in here."
"Yeah, but what else can we do?" Gravos asked. "I mean, we might be able to outrun 'em for awhile, but those guys don't get tired. And we don't know how many friends they got out there."
"You could always transform," Xellos suggested. "Fly us all to safety."
"No," Filia said, shaking her head firmly. "Reason number two: I just paid off my mortgage on this place and I'm not wrecking it after all that."
Xellos tilted his head to the side. "What happened to reason number one?"
Reason number one: I don't want you on me. Ew! "None of your business," Filia said, turning away from him.
"Anyway," Filia said, creeping up to the window and peeking through the slats, "someone's got to get to the bottom of this. I can't just sit around waiting for someone to rescue us."
Jillas stood up and gave her a horrified look. "You can't go out there, boss! It's suicide!"
Filia turned her gaze to Xellos. "Whatever's behind this, it should be in the cemetery, right?"
Xellos hesitated. "That would be… logical."
Jillas looked pleadingly from Filia to Xellos. "You can't go! And you can't just go and let her!"
"I'll be fine," Filia insisted soothingly. "I've got my mace, after all."
There were tears in Jillas's eyes and snot was already running out of his nose. He took a deep breath. "I'll come with you!"
"No," Filia said gently. "You and Gravos have to stay here and protect Val. Xellos," upon that name all tenderness immediately left her voice, "you're coming with me."
"…And why is that?" Xellos asked, getting up and handing Val to Gravos.
Reason number one: …because I don't want to go out there alone…
"Reason number two," Filia said again, holding up two fingers. "I'd prefer to keep you where I can see you."
Xellos looked around the room in a questioning way. "…Do I just keep blacking out right before reason number one?"
"Never mind that," Filia said, wedging a broken chair out of her way and holding her palm over the door handle. "Let's just go."
She took a deep breath, rocketed the door open, and ran out into the night with Xellos serenely, but speedily following her.
Jillas called out after them into a night that hungered for brains and flesh. He bellowed: "Aim for the 'ead! That's the only way to kill 'em!"
And then, with much regret and the feeling that he should've been able to do more, he closed the door, and blocked out the moaning night.
Filia burst out of the front porch swinging her mace around to keep the groaning undead away. Anything that got too close would get bashed in the skull. But zombies do not fear pain and aren't easily surprised. Before too long they were swarmed around her and she had to kick and punch as well as bludgeon to keep herself clear.
Xellos hovered somewhere away from the flailing with a bemused expression on his face, as though watching a dragon take on dozens of zombies was a somewhat pleasant experience. Then, for a moment, his expression sharpened.
Filia was knocking zombie-stooge heads together as best she could. She kept her swipes and kicks going and occasionally paused to wipe the zombie-goo on her hands onto her cloak where it would probably leave a stain, damn it. She was much stronger than the zombies, but the problem was that there were just so many of them. She was so focused on the zombies in front of her, that she didn't notice the zombie creeping up behind with its hands almost to her neck.
But she needn't have bothered with it anyway. Before its decayed hands had even brushed against her, it tensed, and in a split second its head seemed to collapse in on itself like something was squeezing it. It collapsed backwards and joined its cranially traumatized brethren in the dirt. Xellos withdrew his hand back under his cloak.
Filia leaned on her mace and panted as the last zombie before her went down. She shuddered and tried to avoid looking at their faces. This night would probably live in her nightmares forever. …And she wasn't entirely sure how to remove stains from dead flesh.
Xellos clapped his hands slowly, causing Filia to tense up and turn to scowl at him. "Bravo, Filia!" he enthused. "Taking on all those creatures by yourself! And there must have been thirty or forty of them!"
"You could've done something to help, you know!" Filia yelled, turning on him with her fist clenched.
Xellos tapped an index finger on his chin and looked thoughtful. "No," he said. "You had the entire matter completely under control, right? I honestly couldn't expect you to accept help from a monster."
Filia appeared somewhat shaken but appear to regain her strength. "You're right," she said firmly. "I didn't need your help at all." And with that declaration made she walked resolutely in the direction of the cemetery.
Xellos caught up to her without apparently speeding up to do so. "It's a wonder why you brought me along at all," he nudged.
"I told you," Filia said glaring at the ground in the opposite direction of him. "I didn't want to leave you back at the house with the others. You bear watching, remember? And I'm the only one who seems to remember that."
"That's a little unfair," Xellos responded. "Do you honestly think Val is safer without me there?"
"Maybe," Filia said. "I certainly feel better about it."
Xellos let out a little laugh. "You think those two beastmen put together make a better guard?"
"They'll protect Val with their lives, which is more than I can say for you," Filia said scornfully. They approached a house with something burning in front of it. From where Filia was it looked like someone had set a chair on fire. The zombies didn't seem to like it. They were moving away from the house and closer to them. "And I happen to know that Jillas has a collection of homemade grenades that he thinks I don't know about."
"Is that so?" Xellos said, idly watching the approaching horde of the undead. He slung one arm behind his head. "Well, you needn't have been concerned about me. I probably wouldn't have stuck around after you left in any case."
Filia didn't have much time to mull over this last statement; the mob was getting closer. She let loose with the incantation she'd been mumbling under her breath: "Ray Freeze!"
The encroaching zombies stopped in their tracks, a golden light surrounding them and holding them at bay. The two of them walked into the center of the crowd as diseased undead eyes labored in sockets to follow their movements, but could not get their limbs to comply. Xellos stopped, as though admiring the work in the most inartistic wax museum on earth.
"Well, that's admirable economy of effort," he commented. "Why didn't you do that before?"
"Because," Filia said, not wanting to betray how deeply uncomfortable she felt moving through the frozen midst of the undead, "I wanted to get rid of all the ones by the house. If I'd frozen them then the spell would've worn off and they'd still be trying to get in."
"Ah, I see."
A sound like an angry and germ-ridden cough filled the air. Filia looked desperately around for the source of the sound. She'd missed something… but what?
She sensed movement behind her and heard a thump. She turned around and something jumped at her off the shoulder of one of the frozen zombies. It lunged at her, looking like a furry baseball with claws and fangs. Its inhuman scream filled the night air.
Filia didn't have time to think twice. She brought around her mace from over her shoulder and knocked it away with all her strength. The thing yowled and rocketed away into the sky like a fuzzy-wuzzy falling star.
Though it was dark out and the moon provided only a slim crescent of light, Xellos shielded his eyes with one hand as he looked at the thing launching away into the horizon. "Was that… Snowball?" he asked.
Filia panted. A cold sweat painted her face. That's right… Xellos had been with them when they got Snowball. Only he'd wanted to name her Yuki-onna. Filia had put her foot down on that one.
"I… I think so," she said weakly.
"Huh," he said. "Thought so." And then, as if nothing of importance had happened, he turned to her with a smile and said: "Well, I guess we'd better get going. The cemetery's not far away, right?"
Filia continued to stare at the sky where she'd just broken a home-run record with a previously adorable kitten. She'd always considered herself a lover of animals but… surely there had to be some kind of exception for bloodthirsty undead ones? She shivered.
Filia and Xellos entered the cemetery through the battered front gates. They were usually locked, but… well, the zombies had taken care of that upon their exit.
"No one's here…" Filia said, whispering despite herself.
"Mortals aren't very fond of hanging around cemeteries," Xellos observed. "It makes them uncomfortable."
"Yes, but… you know, I thought there'd be zombies at least," Filia said, looking around the dank mass of headstones.
Xellos shrugged. "Apparently even the dead would prefer not to be here. Someone or something has given them the power to leave, so…" he trailed off and looked in the distance. He pointed. "Over there," he said.
Filia looked in the direction he was pointing. There was a figure, leaned against one of the above-ground tombs. Its head was rested limply against the rock and a carved angel of death was posed somewhat menacingly over its head.
She stopped walking forward and shifted her weight. "Do you think… maybe it was a caretaker here? Maybe one of the first victims?"
"We won't know until we take a closer look," Xellos said, as he began to move in the direction of the tomb. He stopped, sensing reluctance from his companion, and looked back at her. "What, are you scared now? After coming all this way?"
Of course I'm scared. Scared is the logical thing to feel right now. My entire town has been overrun with flesh-eating corpses, my son is back in the house with only wooden planks and two very determined beastmen to protect him, and I'm out here in the middle of it all with a monster who'd probably laugh himself stupid if I got my brain eaten. I don't know how to deal with zombies! I've never had to deal with zombies! I never thought I'd have to! If only I'd paid more attention during the exorcism unit during priestess training… there was something in there about zombies, but it was pretty much just glossed over. They'd point-blank told us that we'd never have to deal with something like that. And it wasn't on the test… and there was so much more to learn about the different situations with ghosts and purification that… that I didn't bother with any of it! So now there's just me and my mace and I have to somehow fix this and I don't know how.
"No," Filia said forcefully, and breezed past him and toward the figure on the stone.
She hesitated for just a moment as she got closer and heard growling noises issuing from the figure, but then advanced once again with her eyebrows raised when she identified these "growls" as snores. When she and Xellos got up close to the figure they saw that it was a man with a black cloak on and scraggly black hair. He was slumped over and fast asleep with his face in a book.
Xellos was not about to respect a wimpy, organic need like sleep, so he reached down and slid the book out from under the man's head, causing him to keel over for a moment, then get up and rub his eyes blearily. "Wha' happened?" he asked, scratching at his sparse beard.
Xellos nudged Filia and displayed the book. "Elementary Necromancy," he said. "I did tell you."
"Hey, what's going on?" the necromancer said, getting up. "Who are you two?"
Filia grit her teeth and glared at him. "We should be the ones asking questions!" she said, brandishing her mace in his face. "How dare you sic your zombie minions on the innocent people of this town?"
Xellos was flipping through the book. "Well, it tells him how in chapter eighteen."
"Whoa! Whoa! Hold up!" the necromancer shouted, holding up his hands. "What are you talking about, lady?"
Filia nearly exploded. "What am I talking about? Only the zombies overrunning the town and doing their best to rip everyone limb from limb! You're going to fix this right now and then you're gonna pay for it!"
"I don't understand!" the necromancer cried helplessly. "I never would've told the zombies to do that! I'm not sure I could even manage it: I'm just an apprentice." He looked from Filia to Xellos and back to Filia. "You don't believe me, but it's true! I was only raising the dead for a little bit of practice, like. I was just giving them a few simple commands to see how it worked and then I accidentally fell asleep. I swear!"
"Could you have given them a command that might have been misinterpreted as 'invade the city, devour human flesh, and leave a bloody path of chaos in your wake'?" Xellos asked carefully.
"No!" the necromancer said, running his hand nervously through his greasy hair. "I was mostly working on simple movement commands like: raise your arm, walk three paces to your left, put your right foot in and shake it all about. That kind of thing!"
Filia rolled up her sleeves angrily. "This isn't a joke!"
"Anything else?" Xellos asked calmly. "Did you tell them anything else?"
"Nothing!" the necromancer said with his hands up. Then his stomach grumbled and he said, "Well… just before I dozed off… I think I said that I was hungry and that I wished I'd brought a snack…"
The three of them turned to see a lone zombie limping toward them. Filia tensed up her mace-arm, but it walked straight past her and over to the necromancer. It approached the stone tomb and set down something on the top of it. It was a brain.
"Graaaooo," it said with a gesture that seemed to say without words: 'don't knock it 'til you've tried it'.
Filia had had enough. She snatched the necromancy book away from Xellos (who seemed to be enjoying chapter twenty-three) and thrust it into the stunned necromancer's hands.
"Undo this right now!" she snarled. "And for god sakes, bring a sack lunch next time!"
Filia grumbled through the streets with Xellos trailing by her side. There were zombies around, but she paid them no mind. They were shuffling back to the cemetery and to the comfort of their cold graves. The young necromancer's spell seemed to be calling them back. Not only that, the sun was beginning to rise. They didn't seem to like the light.
"Well, it seems that the spell is doing the trick," Xellos commented as a passing zombie picked up its severed foot and hopped past them.
"I'm going to have a word with the neighborhood association about that young man," Filia said with a sour expression. "There ought to be some sort of law against raising the dead."
"At least not on a school night," Xellos commented.
"Oh, shut up," Filia snapped. She really wasn't in the mood for levity.
Xellos smiled as he watched Filia stare at the ground and curse to herself. They probably weren't even good curses. Some virtuous dragon pseudo-swears that wouldn't do the trick of taking her frustration away at all.
"You should be nicer to me," he said. "After all, you wouldn't want me to tell Val that you twice-killed his cat."
Filia stopped dead in the street and gave him a scandalized look. "You wouldn't dare."
Xellos kept walking. "Try me."
Filia stomped after him, pumping her arms furiously to keep up. "Xellos! Xellos, come on, that's not funny. Don't you dare even think about it! Xellos! XELLOS!"