A Harvest of Broken Stars

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Chapter 55: Choke

A loud crash followed by a cold gust of wind woke Ada up.

Next to her, a dwarf she had never seen before swung a battleaxe against the undead guardsman, landing blow after blow. Nevertheless, he was losing the fight, as wounds that would have killed a man failed to have the same effect on a man already dead. To make things worse, the axe blade sometimes got stuck following the hardest blows, and it was no easy feat for the dwarf to wiggle it loose before the halberd struck him.

Ada got to her feet, ran towards the pair and leapt on the undead’s back. The impact forced it to take a step forward to keep its balance and denied it the chance to swing at the dwarf.

‘Thanks, lass,’ the dwarf grunted.

Ada flung her arms around the undead’s head, covering its eyes. She did not know if it needed eyes to see, or whether it could keep fighting unhampered without. But it seemed bothered enough to use one hand to pull Ada off, leaving only one hand to hold the halberd.

The dwarf seized the opportunity to swing at the halberd shaft, an inch or two from the hand that held it. The blow sent the polearm flying across the room, leaving the undead guardsman without a weapon.

A shout in an unfamiliar language made Ada turn her head towards the cleric. Standing in the middle of the room, he pointed at the dwarf with the index and middle finger of his right hand, reciting some spell or curse.

At that moment, the undead got hold of Ada’s upper arm and pulled her off its back in an overhead arc. The air knocked out of her as she slammed to the floor. Before she could move, the undead bent over her, trying to choke her.

Ada fought desperately to keep the sticky fingers from closing around her neck, but he was far too strong for her. All she could do was grab hold of his thumbs with each hand, and to some extent divert the pressure on her windpipe. It would take her a bit longer to die, but she would undoubtedly die.

Closing her eyes, she reached out and connected with the shard inserted in the undead guardsman. The shard vibrated with power, humming menacingly like a hive of wasps. Ada fuelled it with the energy of her own fear and desperation, magnifying the intensity and pitch. She released every emotion from her time in the dungeon cell. Her grief over Rayn’s death, the horror of the rats, the hunger, the desire to live. She opened her eyes, stared straight into the dead eyes of the guardsman, and channelled the insuppressible urge to breathe.

The shard’s pitch increased even further until no longer audible. It was silent for a while, and the only sound Ada heard was the heavy beat of her own heart. The room went dark for an instant.

Then, the shard released its energy, shattering inside the undead guard. The room flashed brightly.

The heavy corpse, killed twice in quick succession, fell over Ada.

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