When Zombies Attack
Under the bright mid morning sun, Garr led some 75 soldiers along with the general of the 3rd squad Heidelburg Royal Army. His heavy blue shoulder-armor glinted in the morning light, and he had both sword and quiver equipped at his side. Garr checked his travel pack, which was strapped to the saddle of his white mount, before frowning over his shoulder to where a smaller steed followed submissively.
"What?" a rosy cheeked Chelsea pouted back.
Garr turned back into his saddle, not trusting himself to speak. He couldn't believe the nerve of this girl sometimes. Master Alba's granddaughter or not, sneaking onto their caravan after he explicitly told her she not to, was beyond vexing.
Yes, Chelsea was a little spoiled, but this was not the time for games.
"I just want to help," the teen grumbled behind him.
Garr's shoulders slumped as he sighed. "I know, Chelsea, but as a citizen of Phandaria you must learn to respect your king's wishes. You are almost sixteen and this childishness must stop."
Chelsea bit the inside of her lip and did not answer back. She could feel hot shame-filled tears blur her the corners of her vision.
Garr shook his head. "I'm only worried about you Chelsea. Its too late for us to turn back now, and I don not know what to expect when we reach Southern Frostheim," he admitted to the young archer.
Chelsea straightened in the saddle and threw out her small chest while holding her bow. "You forget. I'm the best archer in all of Phandaria, even the old man can't hold a candle to my skill." She grinned reassuringly.
At this Garr grinned wryly, 'such a willful child.'
It was well into the night when Chelsea found herself blindly stumbling around a large farm compound. Dead livestock littered the snow-covered ground, torn and ripped apart in the most grisly fashion. It was only due to the freezing temperatures that made the sickly sweet stench of carrion bearable to the pink haired archer.
In the distance Chelsea heard the faint cries of soldiers and the eerie howl of monsters. If she looked hard enough she could make out warm red and orange spheres, which she concluded to be torchlight flickering over the expansive grazing fields.
Shortly after reaching Southern Frostheim, Garr was whisked away by the region's ruling lord, leaving Chelsea in the care of the innkeeper's wife. It was pure luck that she was able to escape the kind (overbearing) old lady and sneakily tail Garr and his soldiers later that night.
Sticking to the shadows of an old wooded area, Chelsea was able to stay out of the torchlight and silently observes Garr and his men; ready to prove her skills at the drop of a hat.
However, when they reached the farm compound a heated battle was already in progress. Chelsea couldn't hear what Garr said, but the look on his face spoke highly of his surprise. He only had to raise his gauntleted fist to get his men charging into the fray, which left the young archer in the chilling darkness all alone.
Chelsea had tried to follow by kicking her mount into a run, but soon after exiting the safety of the trees the small mount spooked after stumbling over the remains of an eviscerated goat. Within the blink of an eye, Chelsea was laid out on the cold gory ground as her steed raced back to the safety of the village.
Now with an arrow cocked and ready, Chelsea carefully navigated the dark fields. The only illumination the young archer had to go by was the muted watery-yellow moonlight that escaped the foreboding cloud cover. With the eerie lighting, the barn houses and carcass-laden fields took on a nightmarish appearance.
Chelsea swallowed thickly and her clammy fingers struggled to grip her weapon. With each uncertain step her faith in her archery skills waned, despite her bold declaration earlier that day. How was she to aim and shoot if she could barely make out the tip of her cocked arrow?
The only comfort the girl took was from the warm glow of torches burning across the large farm compound. She soon concluded that fighting in groups was way better than fighting alone, especially in the dark.
Carefully Chelsea crept on. The stillness of the grounds was terrifying, and the only sounds audible were her pounding heart and irregular breaths.
Suddenly a gurgling groan made the fine hairs on the back of Chelsea's neck stand on end. Chelsea squinted to make out a dark silhouette moving in the gloom. The creepy groans were quickly replaced by the disgusting sound of rendering flesh, and soon the blood drain for Chelsea's face.
At that precise moment the dark figure's head rose from the dead animal in which it feasted on.
The second those sickly yellow eyes met hers, Chelsea let he arrow fly. But the projectile sank harmlessly into the frozen ground over the monster's shoulder. The creature let forth a breathy howl, causing Chelsea shrieked and run towards the torches as fast as her small feet could carry her.
Racing over the frozen ground, Chelsea was so scared she could scarcely draw in a breath. She didn't even have to look over her shoulder to know that the zombie was steadily lurching after her. Her stomach dropped at the realization that it was probably easier to rip into a fresh warm body rather than a half frozen carcass. Desperately the pink haired girl pumped her arms and charged blindly forward.
The leg of a torn carcass caught her foot and Chelsea fell heavily to the ground, knocking the breath from her lungs. Terror stricken, she wheezed helplessly on the cold ground as the ominous sounds grew louder and the acrid stink of decaying flesh became stronger. The zombie, moved fast for something that was mostly dead in the first place.
Her bow lay on the ground a couple of feet away, and her quiver became a weight that served only to anchor the young archer to the ground. Cornered, Chelsea did the only thing her body and mind was capable of at the moment.
"GARR! GARR!" she screamed over and over.
The young archer cowered as the monster loomed over her. What was left of the creatures eyes oozed out of its skull and plopped noisily onto Chelsea's leg. Its gaping mouth held a handful of hooked rotting teeth as is spewed a potent mixture of spit and decay.
Crying, Chelsea shielded her face in a last desperate act.
Suddenly there was a gross wet "thunk" and the ghoul fell the to the ground in two separate pieces.
Shocked and trembling, Chelsea sat up only to get a close up view of a bone structure and rotting organs lying on the ground perfectly sliced down the middle on either side of her.
Chelsea blinked wide-eyed and confused. Suddenly a frigid breeze temporarily cleared the heavy clouds away from the moon. Standing before her was a tall… thing covered in gore and wielding an equally gore-covered axe.
"… what's a little girl doing here?" it said rasped hoarsely, with lips pulled back in grotesque leer.
'Oh gods! It spoke!'
If her grandfather had taught her anything about monsters, it was that monsters with the ability to speak human language were the most dangerous of all! Chelsea readied herself to shriek again, promising herself not to stop until Garr was right there by her side.
The monster reached out and that was all it took for Chelsea to unleash the shrill power of her lungs.
"… uhh…!" the monster made some kind of strange defensive motion, which had the girl screaming all the louder.
"Chelseaaa!" Hoof beats thundered hard across ground on which the pink haired girl had fallen.
Recognition made tears of relief spring to Chelsea's terrified eyes. "Garr!"
He was certainly a sight for sore eyes with his platinum hair ripping in the wind, and his ice blue eyes gleaming dangerously in the moonlight. Chelsea was about ready to swoon, whether from terror or awe she did not know.
Garr fluidly swung off his saddle, kicking aside gruesome livestock remains as he gallantly rushed to the girl's side, sword drawn.
Chelsea pointed wordlessly to the threat before them. But instead attacking the beast, Garr froze and cocked his head to the side curiously. He looked at the bisected ghoul at his feet, entrails glistening in the moonlight, and then up again. And to Chelsea's cofounded horror he sheathed his sword and stepped toward the axe-totting biped.
"Soldier, state your name," he ordered, eyes narrowed with uncertainty.
Wide-eyed and trembling Chelsea couldn't imagine what was going through Garr's head. Why didn't he just kill the thing?
To add to the growing absurdity of the situation, the monstrosity spoke in a surprisingly human voice, saying, "Its me, Garr. …Hold on, give me a second."
The monster threw off its hood and then dragged a dirty hand across its face. Chelsea felt herself rooted to the spot in both disgust and fascination as the sludge and filth moved aside like a big gelatinous piece of skin.
In the place of the monster was a very dirty, yet oddly familiar woman with red hair. A part of Chelsea's brain that wasn't frozen in terror recalled this person as the big redheaded lady that liked to wander around the palace kitchens.
"By the will of Atomi, Mary?" Garr exclaimed; a little too happily for Chelsea's taste.
The Mary person beamed and grabbed Garr's arm in a warrior's handshake, which to Chelsea looked too much like a hug. Way too much like a hug. Chelsea cringed at the squishy sound made whenever the woman moved; she was absolutely filthy!
The redhead pulled away, and said animatedly, "It's been over a year, Garr. Thought I was seeing things when the royal banner showed up out of nowhere."
Garr held his arms out and looked down at the mess that had been unintentionally transferred to his battle gear. "Yes, likewise. Seeing you is quiet shocking. But I must say it is wonderful to see you again."
'What was this?' Chelsea's inwardly screamed. Had they forgotten she was cold and pitiful on the ground? The teen's chest began to constrict and she felt hot moisture pool behind her eyes as the two adults continued to ignore her.
"But, Mary how-"
The untimely reunion was soon interrupted by a loud broken sob.
A floodgate of tears burst open as Chelsea sobbed uncontrollably on the frigid ground. Terror, relief, confusion and annoyance overloaded the girls developing psyche, resulting in harrowing breakdown.
Garr cursed his carelessness and quickly pivoted to help Chelsea to her feet. In her watery vision Garr looked caught between concern and anxiousness. She clung to him trying her best to suck up tears that seemed to fall despite her best efforts.
To Chelsea's dismay the redhead also hovered. But the young archer wanted nothing to do with the lady that nearly scared her half to death.
"It's ok. I mean. I didn't mean to scare you," Mary awkwardly tried; her brow was furrowed in worried concentrating.
Chelsea glared tearfully at the other woman. She might think about forgiving the woman if she dropped that infernal nasty axe. It was like something out of a nightmare, simply horrendous!
Ultimately Chelsea's answer to the apology was to further cling to Garr and cry some more.
Chelsea could feel the two adults exchange uneasy glances over her head. Then that woman had the nerve to speak to Garr and say, "Sorry. I guess I looked like one of those zombies since I'm covered from head to toe in them. They kind of explode if you hit them too hard."
The woman then carelessly flicked her wrist and a glob of ichor fell to the frozen ground with a sickening "plop". Chelsea gave a tiny shriek, and clung closer to Garr while sending another tearful glare at Mary.
Garr gave up trying to pry Chelsea's small fists from his heavy cloak. "No, all is well," he patted the top of Chelsea's pink hair, "she just had a bad scare."
Chelsea begged to differ. The woman's mere presence was killing her!
"Chelsea, please. This is not the time," Garr pleaded. "We must get you to safety."
The pink haired teen took a deep breath and then hiccupped a couple of times, but gradually brought her tears under control.
"That's better," Garr patted her head again. "Now, don't you have something to say to Captain Argent?"
Chelsea looked at Garr with puffy red-rimmed eyes, clearly confused. As far as she was concerned she owed this woman nothing, besides Garr would have saved her in time anyway. And they could have skipped this entire ridiculous scene.
For two long moments Chelsea willfully kept her mouth shut. However, she wasn't prepared when Garr forcefully turned her around by the shoulder to look at the redhead.
"Mary, we do not know how to thank you. We are forever in your debt," Garr bowed to the so-called captain. Then, without looking, he made Chelsea bow as well by placing a gauntlet-clad hand on her head and forcing the girl to lean forward.
At least she had the nerve to look uneasy when she answered, "Um, no problem. I'm just glad I found her when I did. I was looking for that one anyway," the dirty warrior pointed to the heap of steaming flesh, "we think that slippery guy here was the ring leader."
"I see," Garr said pursing his lips thoughtfully. "But I've never seen a pack of this size before "Is this a new phenomenon?"
Mary shrugged and then casually pulled a dagger from her boot. "Don't know. I never seen it this bad before, either," she muttered, squatting down beside the dispatched ghoul to root through it with the tip of her blade.
"You've got to get the lens before something else eats it and becomes another monster," Mary explained nonchalantly as her knife twisted in and out of the monster's innards, making sloppy wet sounds.
"There we go!" Mary lifted out a shiny spherical lens on the tip of her knife with a triumphant grin.
Upset at being ignored again, Chelsea cringed as the clear lens dripped a filmy black liquid. What was wrong with this woman?
Chelsea crossed her arms against the cold air glumly; it was as if they'd forgotten that she nearly died! Could this night get any worse?
Seconds later, the earth shuddered with the sound of hooves pounding over the ground.
Five huge equines snorted and stomped the grounds as their riders placed themselves in the space between Garr and the red-haired captain.
"King Kelvin!" one of the riders bellowed in a deep voice. A large man in an impressive array of cloak and armor drew a broad sword and held it levelly in Mary's direction.
The zombie that Mary had been rooting through was squashed into oblivion under the soldiers' mounts. Quick reflexes saved the redheaded soldier as she jumped back and simultaneously drew her weapon.
Looking upon the large filthy axe, the other soldiers closed in with swords held at the ready. The woman captain's light brown eyes glinted amber with the basic instinct to fight. Chelsea found herself holding her breath at the tense standoff.
"Stand down all of you!" Garr shouted with enough force to even make Chelsea back away.
The woman on the ground was the first to lower her weapon, but she still kept a careful eye on the soldiers that surrounded her.
"General Cunningham, I will not repeat myself. You will not harm Captain Argent," Garr said sharply.
The large man in the center whipped around to face his king. "Captain?"
The general threw off his helmet and bent over his saddle; his eyes grew wide in the moonlight as if he clearly wasn't expecting this "ghoul" to turn out to be a woman.
Chelsea couldn't blame him, though. Even after she tried to clean herself off the woman still looked a fright!
The general sheathed his sword and sent a suspicious glance at Mary before turning to face his king. "Forgive my hastiness, I was shocked when you suddenly broke rank and feared for your safety."
Chelsea could have sworn she heard a slight reprimand in the general's statement. She know that in the palace, it was no secret that General Cunningham thought Garr too young and unfit to assume the throne; the uptight bastard. Chelsea visibly bristled and glared at the bear of a man for daring to talk to Garr in such a way.
"I accept your apology, but I'd rather you apologize to Captain Argent for nearly trampling her," Garr said without missing a beat.
Chelsea silently grinned at the dumbfounded looked in the general's eyes. 'Score one for Garr!'
Then the general and his four subordinates turned the other captain flashed them a toothy grin. It appeared as if she didn't mind having dangerous objects pointed in her direction in the least.
General Cunningham looked from his king to the smiling redhead then back again, and them murmured lowly, "Forgive me…captain," he added almost as an after thought.
"No harm done," she waved her arm in a 'bygones-be-bygones' gesture that resulted in another gooey glob narrowly missing the general's leg; he was not pleased.
"I think all of us had a bit of shock tonight," she shrugged, "Who knew we'd run into the royal guard all the way out here? I hope my guys aren't giving you trouble. They're a little too hot blooded for their own good."
The momentary silence that followed was tense to say the least. Chelsea noted that the general's normally beady eyes were twice their normal size, and even Garr had the grace to look uncomfortable.
'Geez!' the pink haired teen thought to herself. 'Did anyone teach this woman decorum?'
Even Chelsea knew that soldiers must follow protocol in regards to rank.
"We should get back to the battle field," Garr cut in the stunned silence, taking the reigns of his mount. Once mounted, he issued quick orders to the men around him.
"General, order the soldiers to collect lens from the bodies," the silvery haired king noted the looks of utter disgust on his men and quickly added, "Burn them and root through the ashes if you must."
"Yes, your majesty," General Cunningham reared his stead around expertly.
"Lieutenant, please escort Lady Torn back to he village."
"No, I'm going to!" Chelsea stamped her foot on the ground. "I'm here to help you!"
"You will not," Garr rounded on the girl with steel in his eyes. "You've already caused enough of a distraction. Obey your king and return with the lieutenant."
Chelsea backed away in shock; Garr had never spoken so harshly to her before.
"Come, Miss. This way please," the lieutenant offered his hand to the distraught archer.
Garr fluidly turned in his saddle and offered his hand to the redheaded captain, who casualy took his offered arm and swung herself into the saddle.
"Let's ride," the king announced and kicked his stead into motion, leaving a stunned Chelsea and her less than thrilled guardian.