Grimm Tidings

Chapter 28

Voltag, Kerimos, and Yolanthe stood on the Wall above the main gate into the city. They scanned the road that ran from the gate into the countryside of the Finger. The road was filled with people fleeing the city, afraid that the kraken would return.

“What makes you think he’ll come this way?” asked Kerimos.

“Don’t know he will,” replied Voltag. “But he attacked the harbor. He might want to attack the Wall.”

“He doesn’t have an army big enough to attack the city directly,” said Kerimos. “He would be foolhardy to try.”

The two men turned to Yolanthe.

“You know him,” said the dwarf. “What would he do?”

“He wants to destroy the city,” she said. “He wants revenge for his father.” She turned top look across the 100-foot expanse of the Wall at the city. Smoke still rose from the harbor.

“He would want to watch,” she said.

Kermimos and Voltag exchanged a glance.

“You saying he’s here?” asked the dwarf.

Yolanthe thought about the question. She had spent years in Baltrog’s service. He entered her mind and used her body as an extension of his own. He made her kill for him. Was it possible that during that time, through those psychic links, that some sort of bond had formed between them? Was it possible that she would be able to sense his presence? For she felt something, something deep in the recesses of her consciousness, a cold like the cold she felt when Baltrog invaded her mind, but small and contained, a pin prick of ice at the back of her brain. She had felt it hours before the kraken attack but had dismissed it. But it was still there, an undeniable presence.

“Yes,” she said. “He’s here.”

Voltag upholstered his axe in one fluid motion and swept his eyes over the expanse of the Wall. One hundred feet wide, almost three miles long, the top of the Wall was a great stone road four stories up. The expanse was broken by guard towers and other fortifications. Seaguards patrolled between the towers, but Voltag could see no one who looked out of place.

“Don’t see him,” he said.

“No, but he’s close,” said Yolanthe. “I just don’t know where.”

The dwarf relaxed his grip on his axe.

“He’s hiding, then,” he said.

“I don’t know,” said Yolanthe, shaking her head. “I just know he’s here.”

The three walked over to the city side of the Wall. It was late afternoon. The usual business of the city had been disrupted by the monster’s attack. The only people in the streets were either fleeing or barricading their homes by nailing boards across the windows.

“If he wants to watch, he must be somewhere with a view of the city,” said Kerimos.

“Where would that be?” asked Voltag.

“The Wall has the best views,” said Kerimos, “but I doubt he would be here.” He pointed at a temple spire in the middle of the city. “That’s the tallest structure in the city, but it has no windows. And I see no one on top of the spire. There are other tall buildings, some with good views of parts of the city, but none that command a view of the whole. He could be in any of them.”

“Or none,” said Voltag.

“Or none,” agreed Kerimos.

The three looked out over the expanse of the city. It would be dark in a few hours.

Dark, thought Voltag. A dark harbor city.

“How do the ships steer at night?” he asked Kerimos.

“By the lighthouse,” he replied.

As soon as he said the word he focused his gaze on the harbor. Beyond the water, on the last island in the archipelago, stood the lighthouse of Seatorn. It was several miles away but even at this distance he could see that it was still standing. It had not been attacked by the kraken.

“How’s the view from there?” asked Voltag.

“Good,”said Kerimos. “Very good.”

The sound of an explosion rocked them. It was followed by the sound of rocks falling.

“By Moradin’s eyeteeth!” exclaimed Voltag. “He’s starting.”

“Where did that come from?” asked Yolanthe.

“The south,” said Kerimos. “Inside the Wall.”

He scanned the city to the south. He could see the top of the wing of the Wall that projected into the city. Behind it he could just see the top of the other wing. Between those two structures a cloud of dust was rising into the air.

“The cemetery,” he said.

The slave waited in the shadows of an alley across from the part of the Wall that contained the Seatorn treasury. Baltrog had told him and his master that the wand was locked inside. The undead were taking over the city and soon they would descend on the four guards who stood nervously on the steps to the treasury door. Then the slave would make his move.

He did not have long to wait. A dozen tattered undead, some of them very recently deceased, shambled towards the guards. The lead guard shouted to his men to fix their halberds on the shuffling corpses, but the men were so frightened their weapons shook in their trembling hands. Then one of the guards noticed that the freshest of the undead was a family member. He dropped his weapon and ran to the zombie, shouting “Brother! Brother!” Before the other guards could stop him he threw his arms around his dead sibling. The thing bit out his jugular.

The remaining guards panicked and ran. The undead shuffled after them.

The slave entered the treasury door. He quickly made his way through the deserted hallways.

There was a lone terrified guard standing outside the treasury door. He pulled his sword when he saw the slave.

“Stand back,” he shouted. “Declare yourself!”

“I’m here for the wand,” said the slave.

The comment only served to confuse the guard. “What wand?” he asked. “What are you talking about? Declare yourself or I’ll run you through.”

The slave pulled back his hood, revealing his scars and gills. The guard took a step back in fright.

“What are you?” he asked.

“A slave of my master,” said the Slave. “Where is the wand?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” repeated the guard. “There are no wands here. This is the treasury. Now leave!”

The slave took a step forward. The guard stepped back.

“Give me the wand and you will not be hurt,” said the slave.

The guard backed up another step and hit the door behind him. Seeing no way out, he screamed and charged at the slave, swinging his sword wildly. The slave stepped to the side, swept his tattered cloak over the face of the charging guard, and tripped the man. The guard went down on his face, dropping the sword. The slave put his foot on the weapon and, before the guard could rise, grabbed the back of the man’s skull with his hand.

“Don’t move,” he said.

The slave focused a small bit of the vast psionic energy that enthralled him to his master to explore the mind of the guard. What he found did not surprise him: the guard had taken advantage of the panic in the city to try and rob the treasury. He had just dismissed the other guards and unlocked the door when the slave had arrived.

But as deeply as the slave probed he could but could find no trace of a wand in the guard’s mind. That could mean that the man simply was not allowed access to such secrets.

He took his hand off the trembling guard.

“Run,” he said.

The guard bolted out of the hallway.

The slave turned to the door of the treasury. It was unlocked, the keys still in the door. He entered the room and carefully closed the door behind him.

The large room was lit with oil lamps that hung from the ceiling. It contained rows of chests, some of them bearing huge locks. He began with the closest chest that was unlocked. It contained papers: property deeds and wills. The next contained gold, but nothing magical. He surveyed the room again. It would take hours to search every chest. But his master was nothing if not patient.

He searched the next chest.

Voltag, Yolanthe, and Kerimos exited the Wall just beside the main gate. An hour ago there had been a steady stream of people fleeing the attack of the kraken through the gate. Now there was a riot. Citizens, mad with fear, shoved and trampled each other in their rush to leave the city. Men cursed, women wept, and children screamed as they were lost in the crush.

“Follow me,” said Kerimos to Voltag and Yolanthe.

He pushed through the crowd towards a narrow side street. The crowd here was thin and the farther they got from the gate the less people they saw on the street. But the occasional citizen ran past them in a blind panic, screams rang out from behind closed doors, and bonfires were being started and abandoned in alleyways. Every face that they saw was drawn tight with terror.

“What’s scaring them?” asked Voltag.

“I don’t know,” said Kerimos. He tried to wave down a middle-aged man who ran past them in his nightshirt but the man ignored them.

“Let me try,” said Voltag. When another man came running around the street the dwarf stood in his way. The man, panicked by something behind him, ran straight into Voltag. He might as well have run into a wall. He bounced off the dwarf and found himself sprawled on his back in the street. Before he could stand, the dwarf had him by his shirt.

“What’re you running from?” he demanded.

The man, terrified by the fierce dwarf could only stammer. “The dead,” he said. “The dead.”

“What about the dead?” asked Voltag.

The man craned his neck to look in the direction he had come from, then he turned back to the dwarf. “They’re alive,” he gasped.

A dragging sound came from around the corner. Voltag let go of the man on the ground and unsheathed his axe. The man clambered to his feet and ran down the street towards the gate.

“It seems Ball-dog is up to his old tricks,” said Voltag to his friends.

Something crawled around the corner. It was the top half of Ulie. The torso dragged itself along with its arms, its dead eyes set on Voltag.

“By Moradin’s eyeteeth,” said the dwarf.

“What manner of hell is this?” asked Kerimos.

“Necromancy,” replied Yolanthe, watching the torso crawl slowly towards them. “Baltrog can bring the dead to life.”

The torso was almost at Voltag. It reached a blistered hand towards his leg. With one motion the dwarf unsheathed his axe and beheaded the thing. The head flew against a wall and lay there, its mouth working for a few second before finally falling still.

“Would he bring all the dead in Seatorn to life?” asked Kerimos. “Can he do that?”

“He’ll try,” said Yolanthe.

“The cemetery,” said Voltag. “That explains the noise.”

“And the panic,” said Kerimos. “But there will be more freshly dead at the harbor. I think we should head there.”

“Towards the lighthouse,” said Voltag, tightening the grip on his axe.

Kerimos drew his sword. “I’ve never fought the undead,” he said. “Any suggestions?”

“Cut off the head,” said Voltag. “Seems to work. Or knock ‘em into small bits so they can’t move.”

“Fire works,” said Yolanthe. She drew an arrow from her quiver and said a few words over the head.

“Magic?” asked Kerimos suspiciously.

“It’ll help,” interjected Voltag. “I’ve seen it.”

Yolanthe took her bow off her shoulder and nocked the arrow.

“I’m ready,” she said.

“More than ready,” said Voltag.

“It will dark in a few hours,” said Kerimos. “It would be good to get to the harbor before that. I know the way, so I’ll lead. We stick together.”

“Aye,” said Voltag. “But when we get to the harbor, I’m going to kill Bowldog.”

“When we get to the harbor,” said Yolanthe, “it’s a race to kill Baltrog.”

The three looked at each other, nodded, then began to run.

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