Flash Friday 08/04/2016: Grave Danger
A corpse landed heavily on the growing pile in the wheelbarrow.
“Ooh!” said a stunted man, stroking his pointed, satyr-like goatee. He peered over the pile using the eye that wasn’t completely milky white. “That one looks like it practically died today! Nice job, Grummer!”
Grummer — the 8-foot green stitched monstrosity with a body like a barge and a chin-like icebreaker to boot — gave a gap-filled grin and a thumbs up. “Anyfink for Reuben,” he groaned.
“Honestly, this plan of ours — and by ‘ours’, I mean ‘entirely mine’ — went off much better than I hoped. Why did nobody else but us think of Duskhaven Graveyard as a necromancer’s market without the price tags? All you need is a spade and a good clothes peg on your nose.” Reuben patted the pile of corpses. “This should be enough to raise a considerable army. Come on, let’s high-tail it out of here before anyone catches us.”
Grummer took hold of the handles of the wheelbarrow, wheeling it alongside Reuben down the graveyard path outlined by the blue lampposts either side. They passed by the graves they didn’t consider worthy of digging up. Any gravestone that dictated a great fall, disembowelment, or an explosion, was regarded as ‘too much effort’. They even passed by the skeleton Grummer somehow found, with Reuben claiming that skeletons were ‘for later, when the advanced stuff comes’. Grummer didn’t really get what ‘advanced stuff’ was supposed to mean. Probably far too smart for him.
“I’m telling you, Grummer,” Reuben said, “once we get these corpses up and shambling, we’ll be feared in no time. No more vampires sneering at us, no more being chased around by demons, and certainly no more–oh bollocks.”
By the time Reuben had looked back from talking to Grummer, someone had stood themselves in the gate exiting the graveyard. He wore a black cape that covered from mouth to knee, a cavalier hat, and a steely gaze.
Grummer buckled under the gaze like a child. Hunched over, he whispered to Reuben. “Who’s that?”
“Eldis,” Reuben spat. “Exactly the kind of imbecile we didn’t want to walk into tonight.”
“Why, whassee do?”
“Brood.” Reuben pointed. “Look, see? He’s brooding right now. That’s all that Shadowhunters really do. They just stand there and brood at you until you keel over. Look, watch.” Reuben called out. “Ahoy, Eldis. How fares it this fine night?”
“See? I’m telling you. Never talk, never do much of anything. Just stand there and brood at you until you either run away or fight them.”
“Oh. And what happens if you fight them?”
“Can’t say. Never heard of someone coming out the other side. But! And this is the part where we really get one on him. Shadowhunters don’t attack you unless you go to harm either them or someone else. S’part of their code. No harming supernatural beings that don’t do harm. So!”
With both hands, Reuben began to channel a green energy into the wheelbarrow and its contents. One by one, the corpses floated out of the wheelbarrow as if a giant hand were plucking them out. They arranged themselves in a straight line, like a rank of soldiers protecting Reuben. At once, their heads rose to stare endlessly at Eldis.
“Ha!” Reuben cried. “You see, you damned fool? Your precious little Shadowhunter code allows me to set up my pawns before you even lift a finger. Now you’ll see first-hand the new strain of necromancy to haunt this world; faster, hungrier zombies than the world has ever seen! Have at him, minions!”
As advertised, the zombies were more agile than Eldis had seen yet. Instead of a disappointingly slow shamble that would probably scare a tortoise and nothing else, these ones seemed to have mastered the art of quick-shambling, looking like a group of drunkards having a power walk race.
“You see?!” Reuben said. “This is why we rule the night, and you’re stuck cleaning up after us! Because we’re the ones that know how to take advantage of a damned fool who should have shot his crossbow by now! In fact, I’m willing to bet that compared to the pea-sized failure inside your head, my brain would be the size of a planet!”
All of the zombies stopped.
“Uh,” Grummer said. “Boss, maybe you shouldn’t have said that.”
“What? Why the hell not?”
The zombies peered over their shoulders, their eyes glinting as if they’d had smelt something delicious. They began to shamble towards Reuben.
“What? No, you brainless fools!” Reuben said. “It’s a figure of speech! It doesn’t mean anything literal! He’s the one you want! Go after him!”
“I fink you’ve put your foot in it this time, boss,” Grummer said. “Think it’s time to go.”
“You clods!” Reuben screeched as Grummer picked him up, hoisting him over one shoulder. “I made you! Don’t you see? That makes me your master! Turn around and go for him! No, not my arm! Let go of it this instant! I demand as your lord and master…!”
The voice tailed away as the chase continued, leaving Eldis (still brooding, but not quite as hard) at the gate. With a single shrug, he turned and walked back into the night’s darkness. Half the reason Shadowhunters didn’t strive to draw first blood was because their enemies often did it with much better efficiency.
(If Eldis and Duskhaven seem familiar, that’s because they made their debut back in A Bite to Compete. What can I say, I love the setting!)