Chapter 52: Sleep
As the numbing effect of the thunder waves decreased with every heartbeat, Ada lay still on the marble floor and let her eyes explore the throne room. She took it all in, absorbing every relevant piece of information. At the uppermost dais, next to the throne, the elf and the red-cloaked man engaged in a duel of words and insults. The way they shifted their feet and flicked their swords in preparation indicated that there would soon be a furious duel between two expert swordsmen.
The ongoing fight between the halfling and the two guards seemed to be balanced. The guards had a larger reach with their halberds, but the quicker halfling kept moving around in circles to prevent his two opponents from splitting up and flanking him.
That left Ada to contend with the cleric and the undead guard that walked towards her, with the halberd raised for a devastating chop.
Ada forced herself to remain still for a few beats longer until the undead stopped right in front of her. As the lower part of the elongated shaft of the halberd moved into her field of vision, she rolled to the right. Her muscles were slow and weakened, and a living man would have been able to adjust the arc of the swing and land the axe blade in her back. The undead, slowed by the unnatural state of its entire being, could not. The halberd crashed into the polished floor where Ada had laid a moment earlier, spreading sparks and pieces of marble in every direction.
Driven by fear and necessity, Ada sprang to her feet and barely evaded a horizontal backhand swing with the halberd. The ten-foot polearm was the perfect weapon for the undead, as the unsurpassed reach and heavy damage potential compensated for the slowness of its wielder. One hit would be enough to finish the battle, and anyone trying to dodge those deadly swings would soon tire.
Ada considered running straight at the cleric but decided against it when she took into account how easily he had incapacitated her with his stun spell. If he managed to immobilise her again, only for a beat, the undead would split her in half as she stood.
Instead, she ran to the outer perimeters of the room, using the statues, curtains and decorations to limit the undead’s movements and the effectiveness of the halberd’s swings. Several times, the weapon got stuck in wood or fabric, and in the brief respites, Ada saw that the halfling was still fighting the two guards. It seemed to Ada that he was gaining the upper hand. If she could stay alive long enough for him to finish the two, he would be able to help her.
The surge of optimism was short-lived.
Ada was not far from the double doors through which she had entered the throne room. The undead had been chopping its way along the walls, after her. Statues were tilted, curtains pulled down, and there was little left standing to use for cover on this side of the room. Just as she prepared to dash across the open floor to the other side, she was overtaken by fatigue. She could feel her mind and body shutting down, about to fall asleep.
‘Your mind is wide open! Protect yourself!’ the wind said, inside her head.
The command jolted her, enough to roll away from another swing.
‘Fight back!’ it said.
Ada did not understand what the voice meant. Too exhausted to fight, or even to move, she slumped to the floor, perfectly at ease. All she needed—all she ever wanted—was sleep, and in a few beats, she would be sleeping.
‘You better not!’ a deep voice barked.
Above, she heard the crash of wood impacting on wood, followed by the noise of dozens of items breaking against the floor.
Ada opened her eyes to see a dwarf entangled with the undead guard among a heap of broken wood and ceramics less than ten feet away from her. She briefly pondered what the dwarf was doing here, but soon concluded that she did not care.
‘He’s doing this to you! Fight him!’ the wind said.
‘How?’ she whispered.
‘Any way you can.’