‘Bull’s-eye!’ Zach grinned to himself, squeezing down on the triggers of his crossbows.
For maximum speed, William bounded on all fours along the top of the prison walls as arrows showered down all around him. Howling like a deranged beast, he threw himself into the air and climbed to the top of one of the search towers. Pulling his catapult from his trouser pocket, he hooked two inferno berries into the cartilage and fired them into the army below. Hitting the ground, the inferno berries sparked and fizzed, then exploded in a hideous green blast of energy. A shockwave rippled out across the battlefield and sliced through everything that it came into contact with.
Demonic Guardians and Radan were tossed into the air in their hundreds as if swept aside by a giant invisible fist. Seeing this, William howled in triumph and reloaded.
Neanna drew the hood of her cloak over her head, and her eyes shone blue from within the darkness beneath it. Captain Bom stood awestruck as something similar to a war zone erupted all around him. He hadn’t seen anything like this in over two hundred years, not since the Battle of Neff.
But I had been a lot younger and slimmer back then, he thought to himself, patting his bulbous belly.
Neanna saw him standing by the wall, which he couldn’t quite see over as he was a mere four-foot-ten in height.
‘C’mon on old man,’ she said, ‘don’t just stand there we’ve got a battle to win!’
Pulling him by his arm, Neanna dragged Captain Bom down the stairs and onto the exercise yard. At the bottom, Neanna spun around, drawn to the far wall of the prison. The sounds of agonising screams came from the Norsori that were defending the hole William had made in it earlier.
Brandishing her teeth and fingernails, Neanna blinked her way across the yard, slicing and gnawing through two of the Demonic Guardians who were scrambling through the hole and into the prison grounds.
Anna ran towards the lights in the distance as the sound of Max’s barking and slobbering got closer and closer. Her side burnt as if she had been stabbed with a fork. Sucking in mouthfuls of air, she tried to blank out the pain of the stitch jabbing away at her.
As the lights of Piranha Bay got closer, so did the sound of laughter and music. It sounded as if somewhere deep within the streets of Piranha Bay, someone was holding a party. Glancing over her shoulder, she could see the silhouette of that giant dog racing towards her. With her arms working like pistons on either side of her, Anna raced into Piranha Bay and followed the sounds of the laughter and music.
The shops and buildings that lined the streets would have looked at home in any small seaside town, but none of them had lights burning inside. Apart from the building at the edge of town, Piranha Bay was silent. Racing towards the building, Anna could see that the windows glowed orange from the lights which burnt inside. She could see the shadows of people flicker past the windows, and hear the sounds of singing and raucous laughter.
Glancing back, Anna glimpsed Max’s gnashing teeth in the dark as he bounded behind her. Drawing on the little energy she had left, Anna raced towards the building which she could see had a sign painted above the door. It read: The Poisonous Squid.
Throwing herself against the door of the Inn, Anna crashed inside and slammed it shut behind her. Max’s skull collided against the iron frame of the door and he collapsed on the ground.
After her initial relief at getting inside the Inn had passed, she noticed that the singing and laughter had stopped. Except for the sound of her exhausted gasps as she struggled to regain her breath, the Inn had fallen into silence. Turning, she peered around the room.
They all sat and stared at the girl, who had just interrupted their drunken evening.
One of them stood and placed a jug of beer on a table. Wiping a coating of white froth from his tatty beard, he grinned, ‘what do we have here then?’
Cringing against the door, Anna looked at the Inn full of zombie outlaws.
‘They’ve breached the walls!’ Marshal Goth roared as scores of the Demonic Guardians scrambled through the hole.
Gnashing her teeth and clawing at the air, Neanna sliced her way through the Demonic Guardians. Their bodies tore in two, their crimson innards flying through the night. They threw their swordsticks at her, but she blinked about them, dodging their fire. One moment she was there, but before taking their aim, she was gone again in a spray of black shadows. Captain Bom looked at the sword in his hands and raised it above his head. Surprised by its weight, he toppled over and landed on his back. Shaking his head from side to side, Bom looked up to see several of the Demonic Guardians racing towards him. Playing dead, Bom lay still until they had drawn level with him. Then swinging his sword, he took their legs from beneath them, sending them flying forwards in a gush of red. Pleased with himself, he smiled, lay back down and waited for the next wave to run past him.
Zach charged along the length of the wall, and pointing his crossbows before him, fired over and over again at the Demonic Guardians that were now flowing into the prison. He knew that once the Guardians and Radan were within the prison walls, their battle would be lost.
Taking aim, Zach fired off another volley, sending Radan and Guardians cart-wheeling through the air.
‘Gotchya!’ he yelled, releasing another wave of everlasting stakes.
Seeing that they were being fired upon from above, the Guardians unleashed a shower of fireballs in his direction. They crashed into the walls all around him, sending Zach flying into the wooden staircase. Hitting the stairs, he tumbled to the bottom. Lying on his back, Zach looked up to see one of the Radan charging towards him.The skeletal looking-ape leapt through the air, releasing a thunderous roar from his bony throat. Closing his eyes, Zach fired off several shots. He waited for the beast and its rider to come clattering down on him in a shower of bone. When it didn’t come, he snapped open his eyes to see the ape and the Radan hurtling back through the air under the force of the stakes he’d hit them with.
Scrambling to his feet, Zach inched backwards, away from the relentless stream of Demonic Guardians and Radan that spilled into the prison. Looking to his right, he could see Neanna blinking around the exercise yard as she launched herself at one Guardian after another. But as soon as one of them crumpled to the ground, another appeared to take its place. Zach watched her, and momentarily felt shocked at the ferocity of her attacks. He watched numbly as Neanna, the girl that awoken such strong feelings within him, as she bit and tore her way through the approaching Guardians. Smearing blood from her lips with back of her hand, she glanced around to see Zach staring at her. Looking quickly away, Zach saw William bounding towards him.
‘We can’t win!’ William barked. ‘There are too many of them!’
‘What about your catapult?’ Zach yelled over the sound of clashing swords and exploding fireballs.
‘I can’t use the berries within the prison walls without killing all of us!’ he howled, driving his claws through an approaching Radan.
‘We’re trapped then!’ Zach roared. ‘We’re outnumbered!’
Neanna blinked beside him., and pointing into the sky, she cried, ‘look!’
Over the edge of the prison walls poured a river of grey smoke.
‘What’s that?’ Zach said.
The smoke crawled down the inside of the prison walls like dry-ice and it began to take shape. Not just into one but hundreds of different shapes.
‘What is it?’ William asked.
‘Our friends!’ Neanna said, as the smoke took the form of hundreds of Cathedral Knights.
A pillar of smoke swept around them as Henry appeared just above their heads. With his beard twinkling like glitter beneath his ghostlike face, Henry winked and said, ‘good to see you again, Zach Black!’
‘What are you doing here?’ Zach asked, releasing another hail of stakes into the Demonic Guardians.
‘I want that curse lifted, remember?’ the Knight bellowed. ‘I’m going to hold you to that promise and you won’t keep it from your coffin. Now stop staring at me and fight!’
Still playing dead, Captain Bom opened his eyes a fraction, and seeing the Cathedral Knights arrival, looked up into the sky, laced his fingers together as if in prayer and cried, ‘thank God! The back-up’s arrived!’
Van Demon, Leader of the Dammed Bandits, came towards Anna and gripped her chin with a decomposing hand. He bought his face within inches of hers and Anna could see that just like his hand, his face was also decaying. The right-hand side of his head had been ripped open as if it had been mauled by a shark.
‘What a pretty senorita,’ he said.
Anna flinched back from the zombie, as when he spoke, she could see his tongue beating up and down inside his mouth through the open wound in his cheek. She recoiled at the sight of his broken jawbone and eye socket.
Running his ringed fingers through Anna’s hair, he sniffed it and said, ‘such a pretty girl will sell for an even prettier price!’
The sound of cheers and whistles came from behind him. Anna peeked over Van Demon’s shoulder to see his motley crew of men. All of them appeared to have missing body parts. Anna squirmed when she noticed that one of the bandits had a gaping hole in his midriff. As this bandit strode forward to get a better look at her, his intestines spilt from the wound. As if nothing more than a mild irritation to him, the bandit coiled his innards around his fist and stuffed them back into the cavity.
‘At least fifty pieces of crown!’ the zombie-bandit roared, as he finished repairing himself.
‘I wan’ at least a hundred, Julio!’ Van Demon smirked.
Then from the door of the Inn someone said, ‘I’ll pay you two-hundred for the girl!’
Again the room fell into silence, as everyone turned to see Fandel Black standing in the doorway with the Delf, who farted.
‘Keep him away from me!’ Anna screamed at the sight of her uncle. She would rather take her chances with these zombies then him.
Sensing her distress, Van Demon wrapped one of his arms about her and held her in front of him. Laughing he said, ‘the young lady don’ seem to like you much, senor. Now. Lemme see. As this is the case.......she will cost you more amigo.’