The Fallen (offtopic)
In no way related to D3 - thought I'd post a chapter of a story I wrote. I have zero training in writing, so please don't expect much.
Hopefully it brings some entertainment for you. It occurs part way in to a story, but you don't need to have read the before to understand the characters, etc... It is somewhat self-contained. In fact, the before and after doesn't exist. I had an idea that I wanted to get on paper in story format, so I wrote up this one chapter called..
The town came into view as they rounded over the hillside. A welcomed sight and a hopeful place of refuge from the blight. Their battles with the undead had brought a fatigue in their bones that weighed heavy like rusted chain.
“This place better serve Vandorian ale”, blustered Krak. His chainmail clinking with each staggered step towards the entrance.
“Something isn’t right”, uttered Menoth as he cast his sight on the village. “I sense a dark magick here”.
Jabberwock stopped briefly in affirmation before continuing forward. His skepticism spun circles in his mind.
As they stepped through the iron gates to the village, their expectations of seeing people mulling about, smoke stacks pushing soot, or the trotting click of horse hooves on cobblestone dissipated. Though a main road circled the town with many shops and homes of various ilk situated along the curb, there was no one about. No noises to be heard. The village appeared empty and devoid of life.
Jabberwock glanced to Runa, her usual glow and warmth all but faded. She was silent in her response but her silence spoke like thunder. Something was definitely not right.
“Look o’er there. Light from a tavern”, said Duergar as he pointed to a building on the eastern edge of the main road. You could always trust a dwarf’s keen sense of spotting the local watering hole. It’s grey stone and timber siding, weathered with age, cradled a window that cast a glimmer of what appeared to be candlelight from within.
Without even discussing the matter the group collectively motioned towards the tavern. Their footsteps tread with a trained caution. Except for Kraks that is; for this barbarian’s walk was incapable of ever being cautious.
As they reached the building Jabberwock slid to the window intent on peering in. Before he could make out what was through the mud-stained glass he heard a smack and creak of Krak kicking the door open with the sole of his boot.
“Yes!”, exclaimed the staggered barbarian as he stood looking in. “Wenches and a barkeep. And you were all worried!”.
Krak stormed inside rubbing his hands together in thirsting satisfaction. Jabberwock and Runa turned to each other, eyes showing expression of a shared sigh in Krak’s inability to understand the concept of stealth.
The barbarian had already parked himself on the stool of the bar by the time the rest of the group entered. His massive frame hung over the seat like a bull on a fence post.
There were people sitting at the wooden tables. About eight or so, couples here and there. An older gentlemen behind a cluttered bar and a barmaid walking within. However, with each step the group took, Jabberwock’s sense of discomfort grew despite the initial boon of seeing people in an otherwise empty town.
The nagging discomfort quickly became apparent. The people weren’t talking, nor did they even acknowledge the group’s entrance. They sat motionless, eyes open but glazed and out of focus.
The band of adventurer’s attention shifted to Krak as he stood up with a jolt. “Are you deaf old man? Answer me barkeep! What ale is in your kegs?”, he roared, fists clenched and raised.
The bartender had yet to even face Krak. The bellow, however, seemed to captivate the old man’s attention. He turned to Krak with expressionless, glazed blue eyes.
“Sorry, I’m… not well”, he stuttered with a raspy and etched voice. “Feeling a bit... off as of late. We have…”, but his voice trailed off in distraction back to silence.
Krak’s eyes squinted in frustration. His jaw clenched, thrusting the muscles in his cheeks outward with chiseled edge. However, just as the barbarian was about to unleash his impatience, the old man reached for a tankard and began to pour Krak a drink.
Jabberwock, Runa, Menoth and Duergar sat themselves at one of the tables while this took place. They were equally as silent as the people in the room and were unsure what to make of the situation.
“D’ere skin isn’t right”, Duergar whispered to the group. “Looks grey. But maybe it’s me fatigue affecting me eyesight.” The dwarf rubbed his eyes with grubby hands as he squinted around.
But he was right. Everyone held a paleness that matched the oddity of their silence.
The barmaid who was slowly shuffling about the room made her way towards the group. She was a young woman with windswept blonde hair. Like the others, her skin a pale grey and her eyes distant and unfocused. She stopped at their table and stared at Menoth, her gaze empty as if it travelled through him.
Breaking the silence, Jabberwock opened the conversation. “Hail friend, we have come from a tiring journey seeking food and shelter.”
Though he meant to provide a warming welcome, Runa couldn’t help but notice Jabberwock’s eyes glared at the barmaid with concern, and his hand casually drifted to the hilt of his sword.
The woman shifted her gaze from Menoth to Jabberwock. Before any words were muttered, her head then began to tilt as if her neck was slowly giving way. It hung there, tilted and stretched, gravity tugging on the strain of her neck. The tick of a clock, somewhere in the tavern accentuated the awkward silence of the spectacle.
But then, snapping out of her daze, she repositioned her head upright and blinked her eyes. They seemed to focus, partially. “Welcome… traveler, we… have a fine selection of… food”, she said in a monotone and stale, rehearsed voice.
Before the group could respond the woman slowly veered around and shuffled herself away towards a door at the far wall. The party looked at each other, silently questioning the woman’s abrupt end of conversation.
“Perhaps she is getting a menu for us”, Runa shrugged as she saw the barmaid disappear into a back room.
The wait was interrupted by the thud of Krak’s tankard as he slammed the base of his pint on their table.
“It ‘aint Vandorian, but it’s better than the piss we’ve been drinking on the road”, he said as he slid a chair up so he could sit with the others. His grin showed solace as if he’d been deprived of ale for years.
“And what’s with these people?”, Krak scathed. “Everyone looks like they’ve seen a ghost or something”. He took a frothy swill from his ale as he peered around the room in disgust.
Before the dwarf could scold Krak’s selfishness for not bringing the others a drink, Menoth spoke as if not to attract much attention. “Listen everyone, I know what has happened here”.
The group’s eyes all turned to the priest.
“Lemme guess”, Duergar claimed. “Moor undead? There is somethin’ about ‘em that reminds me o’those bony bastards”.
“No, not exactly”, answered Menoth. “Soon to be servants of the undead, yes. But these are known as the Fallen. They are still human, for now”.
As the group digested the news, the brief silence that took place seemed to hang as if time itself had stopped.
Menoth went on to explain. “Back when I served at the Circle of Eberus, the Empire captured a Fallen in the early stages of its creation”.
“Creation?”, interrupted Runa.
Menoth looked around the room as if to judge whether he had time to explain. He felt on edge but, seeing the Fallen were still expressionless and mesmerized, the priest was satisfied they held no immediate threat.
“The Fallen is more a stage in a process than it is a name of a being or thing. A stage", he continued, but with a pause, “of becoming a zombie”.
“Zombies?!”, yelled Krak as he leapt from his chair grabbing the hilt of his axe. “You’re telling me we’re in a room of fucking zombies?!”
Jabberwock’s eyes widened with scorn at Krak’s bullish outburst. Scanning the room, however, both Jabberwock and Krak realized that nothing seemed to disturb these... Fallen. Their mindless stare of empty eyes and silence unwavered as if the group was not even there, let alone Krak’s boisterous antics.
“They aren’t zombies yet”, Menoth continued as he gestured Krak to sit down. “As I was saying, back in my days working with the Empire we captured a Fallen. One just like the ones we see here. We imprisoned it in a holding cell for study so we could further our knowledge of the undead”.
“You mentioned they are created”, Runa said reminding Menoth of his earlier words.
“Yes”, Menoth nodded. “Created by a powerful undead entity. That is the Fallen’s connection to the undead, for though they are not undead themselves they serve an undead master. It is he who infects the living with a merge of disease and dark magick, animating them in a parasitic bond of control. Zombies are merely tools, lifeless rotting corpses that are controlled like puppets.”
A chill rolled down Jabberwock’s spine like an icy wind of tiny daggers.
Menoth began to describe the beginning stages of the conversion. “From our studies it appears the magick centers its attack on the mind. We’re not sure exactly how the disease is transferred but it debilitates their conscious by slowly ripping their memories from the host. This is why we see these Fallen here appearing as human, but in actuality their brains are mostly robbed of memories, feeling and emotion. However, they do experience fleeting moments of consciousness. They periodically snap out of the trance, but only briefly before returning to dazed irrelevance.”
Runa looked down at the table, churning the information in her mind.
Menoth leaned forward in his chair and continued as if relaying a secret. “During the next stage of transition the organs begin to fail, one by one. As the brain dies the body loses control of its functions resulting in uncontrolled urination, defecation and vomiting. Soon they will suffer violent convulsions as the body’s spirit shuts down and the brain becomes a lifeless sponge. It is only a matter of time for the heart to stop and the Fallen truly dies.”
Krak took another gulp from his glass, unhindered by the grotesque imagery.
“How long does this process take?”, asked Jabberwock. He glanced around the room trying to categorize the stage these Fallen were in.
“The Fallen we had in observation took about four days to die. However, for all we know this could vary depending on the magick of the undead lord who infected him.”
Menoth continued, looking about the room. “Once the victim dies the lifeless body begins to decompose. It took our specimen five days after death before it awakened as a zombie. The magick must go through some form of dormancy period, or perhaps it needs time to spread through the victims body. Such evil arcana is beyond our comprehension and we can only speculate.”
“So then what?”, quizzed Runa impatiently.
“The rotted corpse becomes animated. It rises from the dead, so to speak, to serve the undead master’s bidding. This is why lore often tells tales of zombies rising from the grave. For you see, people who are unaware their dead are infected, bury them not knowing it will animate and dig itself out. In such cases, the transition from fallen to zombie occurs under the earth.”
Runa shuddered as she looked at one. Her face showed a judgmental cast of pity as she imagined the inevitability these infected would soon face.
“The greater tragedy”, Menoth continued, “is that zombies appear to maintain an element of their soul from their days of the living. The fleeting moments of consciousness we have seen here continues in the zombie stage as well. By this time, however, the body has suffered tremendous rot and decomposition. You can see the pain and torture as the zombies realize, if only briefly, what has become of them. It is our belief this is part of the undead magick designed to fuel the rage of the zombie.”
“You mean to say that a zombie feels the pain of knowing what it has become as well as from the pain of its rotting body? That it maintains a conscious element of its former human self?”, Jabberwock asked in revelation.
“Sounds like it”, Duergar quipped. “I’ll remember that the next time I bury me hatchet in one of ‘ems faces”.
Krak let forth a laugh, spraying ale from a recent gulp at the thought. Though he was born from humans, and looked human, albeit brutish and war-torn, it was times like these where his orcish blood from further down his lineage was noticed. He truly did share a passion for chaos.
Krak then leaned forward and said with a grin, “If this town is dead, that means all the homes are ripe for pillaging.”
“It is also possible there are Fallen at later stages of infection, or what if their undead master is near?”, countered Runa. “Besides, do we not owe it to these citizens to end their lives now given the pain and torment they will suffer?”
Jabberwock weighed the circumstances. He knew this place was certainly not going to be the refuge they were hoping for. Staying long was out of the question. Jabberwock looked to Menoth and raised an eyebrow as a prod to hear his vote. If anyone knew the inherent risks of their situation, it would be the priest.
Menoth seemed uncomfortable with being given the subtle authority to decide. He looked around and pondered the moment. “Ending their lives would seem the proper thing to do, but if we do, we should do it swiftly.”
“Like burning them?”, Krak stated with a deliberate smile.
“Beheading would be the preferable, lest you wish to cause agony”, scoured the priest in rebuttal.
“So burning it is!”, Krak spattered between a chortling laugh.
“Perhaps it is too late”, suggested Runa. The insight from the mage caught the group’s attention. “Perhaps, now that the magick has taken hold, and since they continue to live through decomposition, that killing them is futile?”
“We’re not getting involved”, Jabberwock retorted. “I appreciate your good intentions Menoth, but we are not here on a crusade. This is a situation created by others and as far as I’m concerned nature will take its course on its outcome. We are here to decide if we leave this town now or spend some time gathering items of need. It is without question that these townsfolk will have no use for them anymore and our travels through the blight have exhausted much of our supplies and food.”
“Perhaps we’re not the first to travel through so maybe the spoils are gone? Why don’t we check the back room and upstairs here, see what there is. If there are valuables then we’ll reconvene and decide our next steps”, Runa said as she stood up to survey the room.
“Wisdom at it’s finest”, Duergar exclaimed as he stood up and gave Runa a friendly slap on the back, lurching her forward.
“So be it”, Jabberwock exclaimed, standing up to address the others. “Runa and Duergar, you two go upstairs, Krak and myself will head into the back room, Menoth you stay here and guard the entrance”.
“Me, stay here.. alone?”, Menoth asked as he cleared the etch in his voice.
(This post was last modified: 04-08-2011 06:10 AM by wabbit.)