Monday, November 12, 2007

Chapter 9c: Training Yard

People poured through the gate like water released from a dam. Many shuffled through the opening dressed in their nightclothes, some with no clothes at all while others wore their everyday outfits for business. A single thing remained common, blood covered their mouths and chests regardless of their attire.

The guards at the gate stepped back, overwhelmed by the mass of clawing flesh, thrown into the thick of battle without a chance to retreat.

The rest of the guards didn’t wait for a command from Stiles, following Ash as he ran forward with sword in hand to help the overwhelmed men at the gate.

Stiles watched Ash slice his way toward the men with the grace and style of a master swordsman. Shame washed over him as he watched the man cut his way to the gate. Stiles had command, but Ash held the men’s respect. He pushed his doubts and shame to the back of his mind and drew his sword to join his men in battle.

He dodged the stumbling civilians, racing to the gate with ease. He wanted to slice through them as Ash did, but he still didn’t have the heart for that sort of violence, nor did he have Ash’s skill with the blade. He knew he would have to kill to get to the castle, but he would avoid killing until he had to.

As he neared the gate he saw how pointless the struggle was. Hundreds of deranged men, women and even children funneled through the opening. Their blank eyes held no fear of the men who slashed and hacked a bloody trail through their midst, a bloody trail where there were few real casualties. Men and women took disemboweling slashes and continued to advance. Arms were severed from bodies, but they continued to stumbled forward. Some lost legs, yet they crawled forward though the blades hacked their numbers to pieces. His guards didn’t stand a chance against such a relentless enemy.

He stopped, looking over the muddy training field for other options. There had to be another way out, something he hadn’t thought of yet. He saw the short wall facing the road, the huge wall protecting the outer courtyard of the castle, and the stony face of Barclave Mountain blocking off everything to the north. Inside the training yard, large stakes stubbed out of the ground like saplings, straw dummies, the guardhouse offices merging into the side of the mountain and the entrance they came from that led to the dungeon, but nothing that would save them.

Stiles turned to join the hopeless battle when he saw them, soldiers running along the top of the castle’s outer wall, ropes coiled in their hands. His world had changed so drastically in the last few hours that he didn’t associate the men with an escape, but when they stopped and began unrolling their ropes down the side of the wall, hope returned.

He turned toward the men, mouth open to sound the retreat, and saw Migel fall. One of the contaminated, stumps of thigh dragging the ground behind him, crawled in and grabbed him by his ankles. He fell forward into the crowd where hands grabbed him, dragging his screaming form out of sight.

“Fall back! Fall back!” he screamed.

The guards stepped back, out of the people’s reach, then turned and ran toward Stile. Only Ash and Horn continued to battle the contaminated, giving the others more time to gain distance between them and the growing crowd.

Gorney also stayed behind, but it wasn’t by choice. He turned to run, made three wobbly steps and fell in the muddy yard. The crowd surrounded him, pulling his limbs in separate directions. The last thing Stiles saw was Gorney’s bleary eyes as they dragged him backwards through the mud and out of sight. He looked sick and dazed, like a man too far gone to care.

The men dashed past him as he stood and watched Ash and Horn. The two guards slashed and cut at the mass of flesh bearing down on them.

He jogged toward them screaming, “Ash! Horn! Fall back!”

They rent and tore into the horde like madmen, blood spraying into the air around them, adding a splash of red to the drizzle.

Stiles had almost reached them when Ash bellowed, “Okay, Horn. That should buy us enough time. Let’s go.”

He slashed at the flailing arms one last time before turning around and running toward Stiles. Horn’s battle with the crowd remained too intense for him to simply turn and run. He backed away a few steps, but a hand reached out of the crowd and grabbed his breastplate.

Stiles froze, his lips silently forming the word run over and over again as Horn turned back to the mass of people. They reached and grasped at him, pulling the beefy man further into their midst. He raised his sword to slice off the arms that prevented his escape, but another hand grabbed his sword arm while more of the wretched beings surged forward, burying him in a pile of flesh. Like ants attacking a wounded beetle, the people grasped and tore at Horn, ripping him apart with their bare hands.

“NO!” Ash screamed from behind Stile. He turned to the outcry as the man raced by. He reached out and grabbed Ash, stopping the guard from throwing his life away.

Ash jerked his arm free of Stile’s grip as a roar ripped through the air.

Horn stood on his feet. People clung to his bloody form, trying to devour him alive. He made two hard fought steps forward before collapsing to the earth again under a mound of thrashing, biting bodies.

“It’s too late, Ash. We can’t save him.”

Ash glared at Stiles. His nostrils flared with anger and battle lust. He didn’t say a word as he shoved Stiles back and ran for the castle wall.

Stiles turned to the heap of bodies covering his comrade, watched his final convulsions as they tore him apart. With the body covered by all the retched flesh that could reach it, the rest of the contaminated swarmed around the pile, like a stream of water flowing around a stone.

He ran for the safety of the ropes.

Most of the men stood safely on the top of the wall. Four others climbed the two ropes while Ash waited his turn at the bottom, glaring at Stiles as he jogged up to the other rope.

“You couldn’t have saved him.”

“Shut up,” growled Ash.

Stiles shook his head as he grabbed the rope and began climbing to the safety of the castle wall.

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At November 14, 2007 12:55 PM , Blogger Jeff Parish said...

Never would have thought rock climbing would be a useful skill in the City Watch.


Nice work, Bret!descargar av videoconverter  

At November 14, 2007 8:21 PM , Blogger Bret Jordan said...

Thank you, Jeff!

I really appreciate all the comments and help you have given me on the story.descargar av videoconverter  

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