8: The Undead Attack Begins
Nine of us—Captain Ganeson, Ryo, six militias and myself—we gather to discuss about how we can fend off the upcoming attack from the Undead Patrol.
Ganeson presents his defense plan. “Our first line of defense would start at the courtyard of the mansion, where we will take our stand against attacks of the Undead Patrol. There are two ways for the Undead Patrol to enter the courtyard—the front gate and the back gate. If the Undead Patrol enters from the front, their numbers may easily overwhelm us. The back gate is narrow where we can use it as a chokepoint to whittle down their numbers.”
A militia says, “But Captain, only nine of us can fight.”
Captain glances at me and interrupts the militia, saying, “Eight, actually.”
Yes, I’m just the team counselor and I can’t fight. I get the meaning of Ganeson’s stare.
The militia continues, saying, “How are we going head to head against over a hundred ghouls? Even if they enter from the back gate, they still can easily overwhelm us.”
Ganeson says, “We’re going to set a fire trap. Pardon my choice of words, but we’re going to burn the undead alive. There’s unused oil in the armory which we will use to drench the ground near the back gate. As the ghouls enter through the back gate, we will light them up on fire.”
Ryo asks, “But how certain are we that the Undead Patrol would end up at the back gate of the courtyard? If they end up at the front gate, it would be a disaster for us.”
Ganeson is silent for a moment. “This might be the most dangerous part. I need a volunteer who will act as bait and lure the Undead Patrol to the back gate. You would need to scout ahead of the Undead Patrol’s location, and then run as far as you could towards the back gate without getting caught.”
None of the militias has the courage to volunteer. I stare at Ryo. He’s reluctant. I know he’s capable of using his Time powers to slow those around him, but he doesn’t want to use them.
Ganeson looks at each of the team members. “Is there nobody?”
“I will go.” Ryo finally raises his hand.
Ganeson says, “Very well, Ryo. I can’t think of anybody better than you. Our success in defending against the Undead Patrol lies in your ability to pull this off. If you fail, we all might not survive the attack.”
Ryo says, “I can handle this.”
Ganeson says, “Our job is to hold the mansion exterior as long as we can and push back the ghoul attack. If the battle gets too heated, we will fall back into the mansion and hold our ground on the first floor. Do not let the ghouls get to the second floor at all costs. Our job is to protect the Portal Room from being breached by the enemies. Everybody, move into your position. Dismiss.”
What? Nothing for me to do? Is Ganeson trying to exclude me from the defense team? “You have given everybody their assignments. What about me, Captain?”
Ganeson says, “I need you to watch over the refugees when the attack begins.”
I say, “The refugees don’t need any watching. We have additional swords in the armory. Some of the refugees can fight. You could use their manpower. Let them help. When the attack begins, you need all the manpower to fight off the undead. ”
Ganeson says, “The Undead Patrol is pursuing after the Marked Ones. If they die, they would return as ghouls. We don’t need the very people we’re trying to protect to join the enemy’s ranks. I need you to stay and oversee the refugees. During the attack, you must keep them calm. They trust your leadership. They will listen to you.”
I say, “I will do my best. But Captain, what is your analysis of the upcoming battle? This is the first time we would potentially face two enemy groups in a single location with nowhere to retreat.”
Ganeson says, “I’ve been fighting the Undead for many years and have survived till today. The ghouls have no mind of their own and know not anything about being cunning. Trust me, it shouldn’t be too challenging to defeat them. The most important key is never let them corner and outnumber us.”
I say, “But what about the Swordmasters? They can be very ruthless and cunning when it comes to achieving their missions. If led by capable squad leaders, they can be difficult opponents to handle. They will never stop until the last ones of us are defeated and captured.”
Ganeson says, “It is true being attacked on two fronts can be tricky. If I were to think like a Swordmaster, we would have to find ways to turn our two enemies against each other.”
A militia approaches Ganeson. “The ground has been drenched with oil. We are ready with the torches. Ryo has set out to scout ahead of the location of the Undead Patrol. Everything is in place now.”
Ganeson hands over a blue gemstone to me. “One more thing, Kiera. I need you to safeguard the Portal Stone. It’s the key to activate the portal to New Haven at the designated time. Ensure this Portal Stone stays with you in this Portal Room. You are to hold this until I return. Do not let it fall into other people’s hands.”
I put the Portal Stone into my pouch. “You have my word—I will keep this safe.”
Then Ganeson takes his leave from the Portal Room and proceeds to the backyard of the mansion.
* * *
I approach Jon. “I need your help to scout for me. In every ten minutes, come back with reports on what is happening in the backyard of the mansion. I need to know how they are coping with the attacks.”
Ten minutes later, Jon returns with the following report. “The first wave of attack has started. The fire is effectively blocking off the attacks of the undead.”
Another ten minutes pass, Jon returns again. “The Captain and his militias are preparing another round of oil to burn.”
Another ten minutes pass, Jon comes back with his report, this time with more urgency. “The Captain and his team are in danger. The fire couldn’t hold back the second wave of ghoul attack. They are pushing in too aggressively. If we don’t help them, I’m afraid the Captain’s team will be overrun, and the ghouls will break into the mansion. You need to let us go and join them in the fight.”
I’m at a dilemma. Ganeson explicitly ordered me not to give weapons to the refugees. Also, I’m afraid that Adelene’s group may attempt an escape if I do. But if I don’t allow them to help Ganeson, they might not survive the attack.
Adelene approaches me. “I heard from my brother that the Captain and his team cannot hold the second wave of attack. You need to send us down to help. If you don’t, they will not survive.”
Adelene is right in assessing the situation. What shall I do?
Adelene says, “I assure you that we have this group’s interest at heart. We can fight, and we will use that skills to defend this group. Don’t worry, I give you my word that we won’t turn against your Captain. If we die fighting the ghouls, at least I know we’re doing it for the rest of the refugees.”
“Very well.” I gather Jon, Adelene and the rest who volunteer to fight—all twenty-two able-fighting refugees. “The armory is on the third floor of the mansion. Look for weapons and arm yourselves. Then proceed to the backyard and help the Captain’s team.”
Jon says, “What about yourself? Are you going to join us in the fight below?”
I say, “I wish I could. But the Captain has asked me to safeguard the Portal Room until his return.”
As the refugees leave to the armory, I pull Jon aside. “Jon, many of the weapons in the armory could be old and rusty. I have my personal short sword with me. Do you know how to fight with one?”
Jon says, “Our former Undead rulers forbade us from keeping weapons, but I trained my sword-fighting skills daily in secret.”
I say, “Then take my sword. When you all arrive to help the Captain’s group, he would be alarmed. I need you to show this sword to prove that you have my trust. Do whatever you can to help them.”
Jon smiles. “Thank you very much, Kiera. You have no idea what this means for me—giving me the chance to fight alongside you all. I have longed to wield a sword in a real combat against the undead.”
* * *
Twenty minutes later, Ganeson and his five militias return to the Portal Room. I am puzzled. “Captain, where is everybody else?”
Ganeson looks weary from the battle. “Kiera, the refugees you sent to help managed to help us hold off the undead attack. But everything fell apart when we got attacked by an invisible creature. Many refugees fell to the ground, unable to move, paralyzed with fear as if they saw something. Then they died and returned as ghouls. We couldn’t handle that sort of attack. We had to pull back into the mansion. Only a handful of refugees survived, but they are hiding out on the first floor.”
I say, “Then why didn’t they come back to the Portal Room?”
Ganeson says, “Adelene had been bitten. Jon wanted to bring his sister back to this Portal Room, but I won’t allow it for fear that she will turn into a ghoul if she dies.”
I say, “Captain, the refugees agreed to my request to help you fight against the Undead Patrol. I can’t leave them to the undead. I need to go find them.”
Ganeson attempts to reason with me. “The first floor has been overrun with ghouls. Besides, I’m not sure how long we can keep that invisible creature out of this mansion. It’s only a matter of time before it finds its way in. I will not risk the invisible creature stumbling upon our Marked Ones. The best course of action now is to barricade ourselves within the Portal Room and wait for the portal to open.”
I say, “I need a few of your militias to accompany me to the first floor.”
Ganeson says, “No, the militias will stay with me. Our current priority is to defend the Portal Room.”
Ganeson has his responsibility to uphold. I won’t blame him for that. But I have mine to uphold as well. I sent Adelene, Jon and the rest to fight for Ganeson. Now I must go and retrieve them.
I have no choice but to do this on my own. I return the Portal Stone to Ganeson and then make my way to the staircase that leads to the first floor.
Ryo is hiding out at the second-floor staircase overlooking the situation on the first floor. He sees me and signals me to be quiet in my movement.
Ryo whispers to me, “About twenty ghouls roam the first floor. Adelene, Jon and three refugees are hiding out in the kitchen. We can’t get them to safety without diverting the ghouls away.”
I say, “Are you alright? Captain mentioned that some invisible creature attacked. Was it the ‘something else’ you mentioned which was traveling together with the Undead Patrol through the dead portal?”
Ryo is silent for a while as he tries to recall his encounter. “If you actually see the creature with your eyes, then it might kill you. I saw it. I thought it was coming for me. When I used my Time powers to defend myself, suddenly it backed off. I have no idea why. The rest of refugees were not so fortunate, they fell under the creature’s power.”
I say, “Are we in danger of encountering that creature if we go down to the first floor?”
Ryo says, “We locked the backdoor tight so that it doesn’t follow us into the mansion. But since it’s invisible, who’s to say it’s not already in the mansion?”
I say, “Ryo, can you divert the ghouls away to the armory on the third floor? Lock them there. With the path on the first floor cleared, I will go to the kitchen and escort the refugees out.”
Ryo shouts and attracts the ghouls’ attention. It works. They run after him and follow him running up the staircase till the third floor. When the path is cleared, I make my way down to the kitchen.
In the kitchen, Adelene sits beside a broken table pressing against her bleeding shoulder. Jon and three other refugees merely watch without doing anything.
Jon says, “Kiera, my sister could turn anytime. Captain wanted us to give her a quick death, but I can’t bring myself to do it.”
I count the number of refugees left. “Jon, I sent twenty-two of you to help Ganeson fight. Only five of you left?”
Jon says, “When we joined the fight, we helped push back the undead attack. We fought with such determination that we turned the tide of the battle. However, when the third wave of attack started, each refugee fell one by one, as if they were attacked by an invisible creature. By the time Ganeson issued an order to pull back into the mansion, we had already lost seventeen of the refugees.”
I say, “Bring the other three refugees back to the Portal Room. I’ll regroup with you once I talk to Adelene.”
Jon says, “No, I won’t leave my sister here to die alone. It’s either we bring her back to the Portal Room or I’m staying here with her.”
I say, “You know we can’t do that. Judging from Adelene’s excessive loss of blood, she probably doesn’t have much time left. We can’t bring her to the Portal Room because she would turn into a ghoul and attack the rest. I have to help her to ‘move on’ right here.”
Jon says, “We still can save her.”
Adelene says in her dying voice, “Don’t be silly, Jon. I need you to stay alive. Kiera is right, it’s time for me to move on.”
Jon says, “But she’s my family. It’s not right that I allow you to be the one to do this. Are you sure you want to do this?”
I say, “Jon, I don’t want you to remember your sister’s final moments in a gory way.”
Jon is reluctant to let go. “Thanks, Kiera. I appreciate that.”
Jon and Adelene say their last goodbyes. Then he and the other refugees leave the kitchen and head back to the Portal Room.
I say, “Adelene, I’m sorry about this. When I sent you and the rest to help the Captain, I didn’t know it would end up this way.”
Adelene says, “There’s no need for you to apologize. I have already spent many of my years suffering under the oppressed rule of the Undead. Living as a Marked One, most of us will eventually be killed prematurely by our Undead masters and raised to join their ghoul army. The desire for vengeance is strong in our hearts. And to see our fellow friends die and be raised as ghouls, the best thing we could do for them is to cut them down, so that their bodies don’t have to be used for the Undead army.
“When I swing my sword and kill the ghouls, I’m setting my undead friends free from their cursed forms. And it’s also a way for me to say I’m capable of fighting back against our Undead oppressors, who had held us powerless for far too long.
“I may not have the chance to reach New Haven and taste a life of second chance. But if my insignificant sacrifice today can help the other surviving refugees like my brother and Nisa to get their second chance, then it’s all worth it. I am at peace now because I know I am dying for a selfless cause.”
I wanted to cry when I heard that. “Your sacrifice today is not insignificant. You will be remembered in the hearts of those who fought today.”
I raise my sword. I am torn. I am reluctant to grant such request normally. Taking one’s life is never easy, even if it’s a bitten Marked One asking for mercy killing. But to grant the last wish of a dying person who doesn’t wish to turn into a monster, such are the times we live in. “Adelene, I’ll try to make this quick and painless. Are you ready?”
Adelene’s last words are determined. “Do it fast.”
Directly stabbing the brain is too brutal for my taste. Usually, we stop the heart first. After the person has fully stopped breathing, then only we attack the brain to stop her from returning as an undead. A slower way, but it’s just my way of respecting the fallen.
I thrust my weapon into her chest. Adelene’s life slowly fades off. But before I could give her the final finishing move, a group of people barges into the kitchen.
Not good. It is the Swordmasters! Have they already arrived at the mansion? I have no choice but to make a hasty run through the other exit of the kitchen before they spot me.
Oh no, I should have been quick in my action. Adelene now hangs between life and death. What would the Swordmasters do to her? If they have the right sense, they would finish what I was about to do.
I hastily make my way to the second floor. Every worst possible scenario that could possibly happen has just happened. This is the worst timing ever—having the Undead Patrol and the Swordmasters attacking us at the same place and the same time.
The Swordmasters have successfully breached the door to the Portal Room. I sneak into the library which is located beside the Portal Room. From there, I open the door to stealthily peek into what is happening in the Portal Room.
Apparently, the Swordmasters have defeated Ganeson and his militias. They are cuffing all the refugees with ropes.
Does that mean our rescue mission has completely failed?