The medieval mercenary Valguard finds himself trapped in a world of undead. This Valguard story is the usual brutal action but with added horror.
RAISES AN ARMY OF THE DEAD
THAT THREATENS THE WORLD.
VALGUARD JOINS WITH A DRUID,
MONK, PALADIN, PRIEST & EVEN A
VAMPIRE IN AN UNLIKELY ALLIANCE
TO STOP HIM.
Recovering from his latest injuries at a druids’ retreat, Valguard witnesses the unprecedented collaboration of leaders from many different faiths all joining forces to oppose a greater threat of a powerful necromancer and his army of undead. Unexpectedly finding himself part of a very disparate team of elite soldiers, he journeys into a nightmare land, where the sun never rises, to stop the vengeful sorcerer. they soon become trapped and hunted far from home in a horrific, dark world of the dead...
A dark, wounded figure lurches out of a shadowy archway into a walled garden of the monastery. Struggling to breathe through burnt lungs, the figure wheezes and staggers unevenly over the wet paving, through the raised boxes of a regimented herb garden. Smoke rises from his charred robe that carelessly snags on brambles as he stumbles through the cloisters. A burnt hand reaches out and grabs the trunk of a pear tree, an act that makes him wince in more pain, a noise that is lost in the wind. As the broken silhouette steadies himself, he sees a young monk struggling to sweep up wet leaves as the wind swirls within the courtyard. He sets off again, his painful breath increasing into an inhuman moan as he raises a twisted arm out to grab him.
The shaven-headed monk was blissfully unaware of the watcher, his mind was solely concerned with scraping up the sticky brown leaves into a pile before the wind could disperse them again. Hearing an unnatural noise to his side, before noticing movement out of the corner of his eye. Looking up, the novice gasped -- eyes widening, he dropped the broom as his hand covered his mouth as he looked at a wretched figure, covered in blood and dirt and shambling towards him. The figure's face was a mess of black and red -- blood and burns that were punctuated with glimpses of bluey-white bone visible through ruptured skin. What little hair the novice had stood up in fright at the newcomer but despite being repulsed by the man he could not pull his eyes away and then, even more terrifying, was that as he continued to look, he somehow recognised some features underneath.
"Brother Stephen??” he asked in disbelief, quietly breaking his vow of silence.
The figure said nothing but fell to one side, then rolled over onto his back, his habit ballooning with the sudden fall.
"HELP!!" the terrified young man shouted at the top of his lungs in a croaky voice, that hadn't been used in years.
"Somebody get the physician!"
Hearing the cries, the Abbot of the monastery, who had been working with other novices near the compost heap, dropped his basket of cabbages and ran toward the noise, picking up his hem so he didn't trip. He had a bulbous nose and round features coupled with the smile of a favourite uncle. His knobbly head was shaved and a short beard curved around his chubby jaw leaving the rest of his face smooth. His robes were pale, almost white to denote his authority -- novices wore darkest colours and as they attained purity their robes became paler.
Abbot Hollamby was a learned man and knew some medicine. Arriving before the other monks, he turned the motionless man over and whilst shocked by the state of him, he nevertheless checked the man’s wrist for signs of life. There was a pulse, but it was faint, the crispy flesh on the wrist not really helping. The smell of burnt flesh and seeping puss was overwhelming.
"He's barely alive."
"It's Brother Stephen!" shouted the novice.
"Yes, I know," he said not bothered neither by the identity or the fact the novice was speaking.
"What could have happened to him?"
"I.. I don't know."
He looked at the other monks who were stood sickened around the body.
"Get him to the Infirmary."
The monks, somewhat reluctantly, touched the figure and tried to lift him up as carefully as the could. As he is carried by his cloak, one hand drops out and the Abbot notices something fall from the palm of his black hand, he hears it bounce twice on the path and stop amongst the leaves. Puzzled, he reaches down and picks up a perfectly round stone made up of two exact halves: one black, one white. At the sight of this unusual stone, the Abbot's eyes widen more than they ever did at the sight of the burnt man and a long forgotten ancient prophecy comes to mind. Without saying anything, he stuffs the ball into his habit and follows the patient inside.
The calm of the monastery's infirmary was shattered when its door crashed open.
"...Easy, easy... careful..." the monks said to each other on the best way to carry the prone, disfigured body that had once been Brother Stephen. He was laid down on the nearest of several beds.
"Doctor!" cried Abbot Hollamby as he entered along with Michael, the novice who found him and some other monks who had come to see what the very un-monklike commotion was.
The shocked physician raced over disbelieving what he saw, surely the man was dead?
He leant in close to check if he was still breathing when suddenly there is a sharp gasp as the burnt patient starts convulsing, his arms lash out and knocks a flower jug and bowl off the wooden bedside table, the pottery smashing on stone and water going up the walls.
An ill-looking monk in another bed on the other side of the room immediately jumped out of his bunk and backed away, knocking over a water jug and bowl.
"What... what happened to him?" he asked but no-one had time to answer.
This was out of the Doctors remit who normally only dealt with fevers and upset stomachs. Abbot Hollamby instructed the monks as calmly as he could how to treat their wounded brother, despite his hands shaking with fear. Frantically trying to clean wounds and stop the bleeding. A monk came in with more fresh water and clean towels, but within seconds both were dark red. Another prepared several lengths of bandages while others tried to apply an emollient cream to the man's burns but his violent convulsing made it almost impossible -- It was like trying to shoe a horse on a ferry. This man would need more than mere ointment. Over half his skin was charred into black plates and the few bits that weren't burned were slashed and bleeding.
He should be dead.
"Who did this do you, Stephen?" asked Brother Michael.
Stephen's body was covered in burns and was in no condition to respond coherently. He was babbling random words and was obviously in a great deal of pain, it was doubtful he was thinking clearly.
"Tell us what you have seen?" he pleaded hopelessly to him.
Brother Michael had once shared a dormitory with Stephen, having joined the monastery at about the same time. He had understood Stephen to have been away on a pilgrimage and could not comprehend how this could have happened to his friend and how he was back in the monastery.
"Everywhere!" Stephen blurted. "Death everywhere!!" he kept repeating before his speech deteriorated back into nonsensical tortured words. Whatever he had seen, it must have been horrific.
The young novice who had first seen Stephen now stood still, his hands and habit soaked through with blood and puss, completely traumatised by the horror. They've never seen anything like this before today and normally spend their days tending to plants, reading books or illustrating manuscripts by candlelight. The most excitement they would get in a typical day would be if they ran out of ink or a quill snapped. This was something they had never seen in their wildest elderberry wine-fuelled dreams.
One monk had the unenviable task of trying to get fluids into the patient, raising a small wooden bowl to be you tried to take carefully pour water onto Stephen's lips. He went wild, head thrashing from side to side, arms pulling free and lashing out, knocking another bowl crashing into to the wall. All from just having a few drops of water trickled into his throat.
The noise and the smell were so awful that several novices had to run out of the infirmary to be sick, one didn't make it and threw up over the doorframe.
"We're losing him," said an attendant to Michael, warning him.
"Please Stephen! Who did this?" Michael pleaded again.
A statement which didn't make sense.
"He's delusional," suggested a monk.
His throat must be burnt all the way down to his lungs and yet he was still fighting for is life, desperate to warn his friends of some unknown danger. Foul bile bubbled out his ruined mouth, as with immense effort he cried out.
"Kalibarrr," he rasped as loudly as he could. "KAALIBARRRR!!"
Michael did not understand his crackling words, but in the corner of his eye, he sensed the Abbot recoil at the word. He put his hand to his friend's brow and was jolted back like he had been punched inside his head. He saw a nightmare vision of hundreds of people on fire, all burning to death in the night.
Mercifully, his body buckled in a convulsion then relaxed, his wide eyes stopped rolling and he lifelessly fell back into the stained bed sheets. The room was deafeningly silent for the first time in ten minutes. The monks stopped their frantic care and stood emotionally drained; one began to sob while others mouthed a silent prayer.
Abbot Hollamby had seen most things in his time but wore a look of panic on his face and Michael could see that the Abbot definitely knew more than he was saying.
"Kalibar? What is that?" he asked his superior.
The Abbot swallowed, tears appearing in his eyes.
"A word I hoped I would never ever hear,"
After a moment, a bloody sheet is pulled over the corpse partly in respect but mostly because the man looked so horrific. A kneeling monk kisses a small talisman and places it respectfully on his chest. The monks bowed their heads and closed their eyes before quietly reciting a solemn prayer for the dead man.
But then the corpse sat up, the sheet and talisman falling away, and he bit a chunk of throat out the petrified monk next him, shaking his head violently like a dog tearing at meat, until the limp screaming victim is hurled across the room missing a shaking monk whose habit had revealed an expanding dark oval patch of piss at the front. The monks dived at the body, pinning him it down on the bed to stop him reaching out for his next victim. Skin split on his face and peeled off like tattered rags, what moments ago was barely recognisable Brother Stephen was now unrecognisable. It made inhumanly deep, guttural sounds as lifeless eyes rolled around the room.
Abbot Hollamby grabs a candlestick and with surprising force smashes it down into Stephen’s head, stopping his attack instantly and giving him his second death in as many minutes. His acolytes were even more shocked at their ruthless Abbot than they were by the zombification of Brother Stephen, he had never even so much as squashed a fly before.
Satisfied Brother Stephen wasn't getting up again, he walked towards where the throatless body of Brother Anthony had been thrown, kneeled down and stabbed him too in the head. The stunned monks, watching their father's actions with mouths open shuddered as the candlestick pierced the skull.
Standing up, he turned around revealing the gentle and kind face of the Abbot now hard-faced and splashed with blood.
"Burn them straight away," he said with some force.
Everyone looked at him. What about the proper rituals and ceremony? they thought.
"Now!" he shouted, traumatised and shaking.
The novices began wrapping the bodies in their sheets and wiping up the pieces of skull and brain like a dropped marrow. wiping the tiles to stop the blood spreading.
Abbot Hollamby walked over to a trembling Michael who gazed into the distance.
"Did you see something, Michael?" he quizzed in his normal, reassuring timbre.
"When I touched him, I saw an inferno. People burning, lots of people burning," he tried to make sense of the imagery. "It was... A world on fire."
The Abbot was a bald man but the hairs on the back of his neck all stood up. He wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his sleeve, which absorbed more blood than perspiration.
"We need to summon The Council."
© David N Humphrey 2017. All Rights Reserved. Updated 25.5.18