Thursday, September 4, 2008

Chapter 21b: Sea and Sunlight

The Piet's heart thudded in his chest. His arms burned and throbbed with fatigue while his lungs spasmed with the desire for a gasp of air. The faint shimmering light above him disappeared in a cloud of bubbles. If it weren't for the beast still pushing against him he would have thought himself dead. I'm at the gateway of Vaspar, mere moments from ascending into his awaiting arms. If I can only hold this demon spawn off me for another second or two...


Sparks drifted across the blackness as his oxygen starved body began to betray him. His lungs convulsed, trying to draw a breath, but he locked his arms in place and fought against it. The creature thrashed and pushed, sliding Piet Lithor back and forth in the chilling water. He opened his mouth to scream, to draw in air, to end this hopeless struggle when the creature suddenly stiffened and pulled its head up, drawing the priest with it. He gasped air in a spray of liquid as he broke the surface of the water. The creature convulsed at arms length before becoming stiff and falling over on its side.


Coughing and sputtering, Piet Lithor ran both hands along the floor, his chin and nose poking out of the water. He had to find the sword and do it fast before the monster got up, or the zombies reached him. His hands slid right and left, scraping the abrasive surface. The water gurgled and churned in his ear. He felt the dead approach with every splash. An inner voice screamed, just leave the sword and run, but leaving the sword wasn't an option. The blade belonged to Lord Vaspar and he would gladly die before leaving it behind.


His hand brushed smooth steel. He pulled the sword up by the blade and stood, facing the sloshing mass of bodies moving toward him. He backed up and grabbed the blade by its hilt. Something brushed his leg. With a scream he turned around to face the new threat. He swung the sword into empty space. Something brushed his leg again and moaned. He reached down and felt flesh, warm flesh. Rachelle?


He grabbed a bracelet bound wrist and pulled up a limp arm, another moan, female. Without a doubt that the unconscious body lying before him was Rachelle, he lifted her up and slung her over his shoulder.


A hand grasped his arm. Water sprayed as he swung around with his sword. Flesh connected with steel and the liquid before him became a convulsing quiver as the undead thrashed and flopped in front of him. Without waiting Piet Lithor turned and sloshed through the dark, toward the exit.


He didn't walk far before his hand grazed the rock wall of the cavern. He shifted Rachelle on his shoulder then started forward, moving through the water and darkness as swiftly as he safely could. Within moments the splashing sound of pursuit began to fall further into the background. By the time a faint glow starts to appear ahead of him the splashes could barely be heard.


A fresh sea breeze tickled his nose as he stumbled ahead, just ahead he could hear the surf as it crashed against rock. His legs pumped harder, the crack in the rock became brighter with every step. Sea gulls called in the distance.


"Piet?" The Duke's voice.


A silhouette against sunlight waded through the water from the cave opening and pulled Rachelle from his shoulder. He hadn't realized how sore and tired he had become until her weight was taken away.


"Is she okay?"


Sliding his sword into the sheath at his side, he frowned. "I don't know. Something happened while I fought against that wolfhound creature. I found her like this as I retreated."


Piet Lithor squinted and brought his hand to his eyes as they walked through the crack in the rock, the morning sunlight striking him full in the face. To his left, waves crashed against porous black rock. Sea gulls glided through the air above them. A fishing vessel sat anchored to the south, bouncing up and down in the rolling surf. The survivors stood crowded to the side as Stiles and the other soldiers helped them climb a ladder to board the vessel. At the top of the ladder Shannai pulled them over the side, her flamboyant shirt dirty and dishelved. Her equally grimy brother stood at the helm, waiting to turn the ship to sea.


The Duke sped his pace to the boat. "The creature...is it still alive?"


"I don't think so. I believe Madame Rachelle killed it before...before she became incapacitated. The dead are just behind me though."


The Duke nodded to the priest then turned to the people boarding the ship. "Let's hurry up folks. We are about to have some unwelcome company."


Duke Renier was the last to board the ship as the dead stumbled from the crack in the rock, wobbling like newborn calves as the waves hit them and the current pulled the water back out to sea.


An arrow flew through the air; piercing a bald man's dead eye in a spray of dark red and dropping him face down into the water. The Duke looked over his shoulder where Shannai stood on the deck, bow in hand and a fierce look upon her face.


With a shake of his head he yelled, "Let's pull the anchor and drop the sails."


As the soldiers followed his orders he looked to the south, where he could a stretch of Renier's wall shone just around the rocks. With a heavy heart he walked to the helm to help Marchas locate a safe port.

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