keeps this site and its author alive.
Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 102: Kondor 34
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 101: Slade 33
Kondor remembered that there was one more clip for the pistol; but those ten bullets might or might not kill one more specter, and would be far more effective against skeletons or zombies. He would want that if they had to fight their way back. He could hear the battle behind him, and risked a glance to assure himself that they were still strong enough to continue. The men looked tired, and had taken some serious injuries, but were still battling fiercely. It was time to try out this mace. He swept it off his shoulder into his right hand, truly thinking of it as a weapon for the first time. It was a very awkward unbalanced weapon, with its heavy head at the end of a long handle, very like a sledge hammer. And, like a sledge hammer, it was much easier to wield with both hands. As the next specter approached, he swung it sideways into the light, aiming for a few bits of matter within. But the weapon was neither fast nor supple, and swept through the nebulous field without impact.
Undaunted, he used the momentum to roll the weight up in the air, and brought it down from above. Again it failed to find a mark, thudding solidly into the soft earth. The specter advanced over it as if it were not there.
Kondor was not frightened. He knew his opponent was dangerous and tough, but it wasn't invulnerable. He yanked the head of the mace upward, and this time did some damage. The light flickered, the creature hesitated, and Kondor swung again.
He took a nasty gash from the creature's sword, but knocked the weapon away by a solid blow to the hilt and hit it again. He was missing more than he was hitting, but the same was true for the creature, as they wore each other down. While he fought, he was aware that the green glow was fading around them; his companions were also making progress. And the vorgo sucked the life from another, and yet one more, before Kondor managed to land the final fatal blow against his foe.
Behind him the last bit of green vanished. They had finished the last specter.
But there was no time to celebrate. While they had been fighting the specters, the other creatures had held back, as if they themselves were terrified of their most powerful allies. Now hordes of ghouls and zombies rushed towards them. "Retreat!" Kondor yelled, turning around. Six of his soldiers had fallen, but there was still a strong contingent, and the five in the middle were still standing. "Form a wedge, and head straight for the castle!"
The worst thing about being first in, Kondor realized, was being last out. Now he was the rear guard, and as the lines formed and started moving, he found himself walking backwards as quickly as he could manage, swinging his mace into bodies closing on him, protecting the Vorgo and the men who could use it.
But he could not keep up with them and fight. He could hear them falling back, even as he realized he was cut off from them. The enemy swarmed around him, heedless of the injuries he dealt them, of the bodies of their fallen comrades. It was as if he was of particular interest to them, as if they thought him solely responsible for their losses. Well, if they were as superstitious as Talwin and Sowan and Dimtri, then perhaps in their minds he was. He was the being from another world who arrived and took the Vorgo from them, and then led the assault in which it was used against them. And he had himself killed dozens, perhaps scores, of them, and was still racking up the numbers. These creatures had lost. They still held the field, but their strongest and smartest had fallen, the tide had turned, and they would be forced to retreat or die. Light was growing; the thick cloud cover must have been breaking up somewhere. He bashed, he smashed, he battered and swung, and still they came. But he could not defend himself on all sides, and they were crushing in on him from every direction. Grabbing the handle of the weapon with both hands, he began to spin his body. Slowly the centrifugal force lifted the heavy mace, and he moved faster, and faster, feeling the impact of each breaking body that was pushed into the circle by the scores behind it, closing his eyes and trying to keep his bearings so that he could inch toward the safety of the walls. Finally, dizzy and disoriented, he slipped in the slime, stumbling over the dead, and fell. He felt the crush of uncounted putrid disgusting corpses land on top of him, and knew no more.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #59: Verser Lives and Deaths. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: