Friday, August 15, 2008

Chapter 20b: The West Gate

Shanai crouched beneath a window in an empty store and studied the west gate.

Her trip from the roof had been almost uneventful. She had spotted a dozen or so ghouls, but most hadn't seen her and she outran the rest. Everything had gone almost too well until she reached the gate. Dozens of undead milled about in the morning darkness before the thick wooden door, almost as though they had been positioned there to prevent escape. Dew glittered under the moonlight on their pale skin.

Knowing she wouldn't just be able to stroll through the gate, and wanting to stay out of sight, she had ducked into a small shop with a window that faced the wooden door. She watched the undead through a window, a block from the gate, trying to think of a way through them. Nothing came to mind.

Seeing all that she needed to, she turned and slumped to the floor. Ideas for escape formed and just as quickly vanished as flaws blew holes in every idea she came up with. I need a distraction, but what?

Her eyelids had become heavy and her mind floated sleepily in the ether when an explosion startled her back to wakefulness. Spinning around she turned and squatted below the window, pushing herself up until only the top of her head and eyes poked above the sill.

The orange and yellow flicker of a bonfire broke the early morning darkness. A corpse burned in front of the gate and several others, burning like human torches stumbled back and forth. Most hadn't been harmed by the explosion, but all of them faced toward the buildings to her right, watching something just out of her line of sight. One of the ghouls broke from the others and began a stiff legged march toward the mysterious distraction.

A bottle sailed through the air trailing flames and crashed into the ground to the right of the crowd of undead. The moment it shattered another explosion shook the ground and flames erupted in a great whoosh. Some of the flames singed the hair on one of the closest zombies, but other than that it did no harm.

Shanai didn't understand what was going on, but it did give her the distraction she had been looking for as the ghouls stumbled and limped in the direction the bottle had come from.

She pulled the bow from her back and notched an arrow as she slowly rose to her feet and walked to the front door in the wall to her left. A quick look out the door told her that none of the undead stood in front of the building so she crept out and slunk to the corner facing the gate.

Another bottle sailed through the air on a tail of flames, a whiskey bottle. It slammed into the chest of a ghoul then fell to the ground before shattering in an eruption of flame that knocked the bald corpse onto its back. A human shaped flame pushed itself up and rose to its feet, black smoke billowing from its burnt flesh. The overweight zombie took three steps before his stomach erupted, showering the cobbled ground and several of his mates in greasy gore.

The destruction of a fellow ghoul didn't slow the crowd down as they continued their morbid march toward their attacker. The sweet smell of burnt flesh drifted through the air with the force of a greasy fog. Shanai felt her stomach roll as the smell assaulted her nostrils.

Her way to the gate was clear of ghouls and she crept around the corner, bow held ready. The wooden door sat tightly flush to the ground, but she would work that when she got to that point.

Another bottle sailed through the air and exploded in the midst of the zombies, throwing several to the ground where tongues of flame began to eat into their rotting flesh.

She looked back at where the bottle had come from and a smile lit her dirty face. Marchas stood in the opening of an alley holding a torch. Next to him sat a cart full of whiskey bottles, white cloth stuck from the bottles making them look odd shaped candles with oversized wicks. With a smile on his face he holds one hand to his lips in the universal sign for quiet and waves her to the gate with the torch.

Shanai raised her bow to acknowledge his request then continued creeping toward the gate. I should have known my crazy brother would be too sneaky to get caught by these morons. I'm just surprised he is willing to throw away so much quality whiskey just to save his hide. The thought made her grin, the first time she had felt like grinning since the whole ordeal started.

Within moments she stood before the gate and began looking for the mechanism that would open it back up. Just to the right sat a great wheel with a chain wrapped around it extending from the wheel to the dark recesses at the top of the gate.

Another explosion shattered the silence behind her.

Dropping her bow she grabbed the bar on the side of the wheel that would raise the gate. She pushed with all her might, but the wheel only turned a little, opening the gate up only wide enough for an ant to slip through. With a curse she turned and screamed. "I'm gonna need a little help here!"

The dead turned to face her, forgetting about Marchas. She heard him yell something about her not being able to keep her damned mouth shut then the torch waved over the top of the whiskey cart. With a roar Marchas kicked the back of the cart, sending it rolling toward the dozen or so undead that remained before diving to the ground to cover his head. Shanai watched as the cart rocked along the rough street and slammed into the back of the first ghoul, knocking it to the ground before dipping over and shattering the bottles in an explosion that engulfed the whole crowd. Flaming arms, legs and torsos flew through the air, peppering the street with flaming meat.

Black smoke and bright flame covered the road, not allowing her to see her brother. She was almost ready to step away from the gate and find him when his shadowy form materialized through the black cloud of smoke. "Miss me, sis?"

Shanai didn't say a word. Her bow dropped to the ground and she run up to him, putting her arms around his chest and giving him the tightest hug she could.

He patted her back then pushed her away. "Hey, enough of that. Your gonna ruin my reputation."

She slugged him on the shoulder. "You must have been desperate to burn all that liquor."

He smiled and patted the pack on his back. The tinkle of glass told her that it hadn't all gone to waste. "Now, let's get this gate open and get the hell out of here."

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