Fanfiction: Wraith of Gaia 4
"To arms! To arms!" one of the guards was yelling, while another guard in a nearby tower was ringing an alarm bell. Most of the people still in the streets were running for shelter, and the rest were running towards a building near the gate.
On an impulse, Backer joined the crowd heading into the nearby building. As he had expected, a guard inside was directing people to weapons and armor stored within. As he passed, the guard stopped him and said, "You! You weren't here yesterday, were you? I'd remember armor like that."
"I arrived today," Backer replied. "I'm here to help, but I don't have any weapons with me suitable for fighting zombies."
The guard eyed him suspiciously and said, "You don't see many adventurers with armor like that but in need of a weapon. Whatever, we need the help. Weapons are to the left, I'd recommend a sword or a mace for zombies."
Backer hurried on, grabbed a longsword, and headed out the back exit. In the moments before the attack, he analyzed the condition of his sword. It was a typical steel longsword, well-maintained, but nothing special. He felt used to working with swords of significantly higher quality, even though he couldn't remember doing so.
/Psychosomatic abilities restored.
Armed (sword) combat protocols initiated./
Backer scanned the area. The zombies seemed to be approaching from his left -- east -- in a vast horde. There were over 500 that he could see, and likely more outside his range of vision. He counted a total of 76 soldiers entering formation at the gate before the general gave the order to attack.
-Higher dexterity and agility than enemy forces
-Need only to hold ground; enemy must advance
Hoping his built-in confidence wasn't unfounded, Backer rushed the mass of zombies. A series of lateral cuts shredded all zombies in his path, totaling 15 kills by the time he reached the clearing on the opposite side of the mass.
From his new vantage point, he reexamined the battle conditions. The troops at the gate were barely holding their own, with every soldier fallen rising to join the enemy. The mass of zombies seemed to be spreading out from a point to the east and attack both the south and east gates. On the horizon stood towered one zombie easily five times the size of any other, lumbering inexorably towards the east gate.
Backer took a steadying breath and ran once more into the mass of zombies, slashing his way through towards the east gate. It seemed that his confidence was indeed well-founded; he shredded zombie after zombie with none managing to strike him even once.
- * *
Choras City was only a few hours' hike north of the Boran Hills, but it was enough to push the day into night by the time Rianna arrived. This resulted in her approaching the city to see the zombies preparing to attack.
I have to help, Rianna decided. I have to do something to atone. Besides, it's the right thing to do. But, my bow would be no good against zombies-- For an instant, the moonlight reflected off of the roof of the Chapel Angelus, a church in the eastern quarter of Choras City, providing Rianna with the inspiration she needed. Her mace! Of course!
The southern and eastern gates were out of the question, Rianna knew she would never be able to make it past the zombies. The western gate was her best chance. She ran towards it at a full sprint, her lithe frame and powerful leg muscles propelling her at a speed that few could hope to match.
- * *
Backer reached the east gate to scene of disaster. The troops who were supposed to be guarding it had been completely wiped out, and zombies were storming the city. His mind analyzed the possibilities and settled on only one viable solution to save the endangered populace: He had to attract the attention of the zombies.
But, how? Zombies were notoriously dimwitted, possessing just enough intelligence to obey whatever orders they were given. They had virtually no skill in combat, relying on brute force and numbers. Numbers -- that was it. Present them with a large enough threat and they'd swarm towards him.
How to be a threat? Start killing zombies, and attract the attention of others. Backer ran to the center of the street and started bisecting every zombie within range. For good measure, he let out a war cry as he did so. Zombies wouldn't understand any language, so taunting them would have been pointless. A battle cry, on the other hand, should let them know of a competitor.
Sure enough, more and more zombies started abandoning their pursuits and coming after him. He was able to hold them off for quite a while, but the laws of probability eventually won out, with one zombie landing a punch to his shoulder from behind. Backer absorbed the impact and whirled around, noticing offhand a brief flash of light. As he was about to strike down the zombie that had hit him, however, he noticed that its arm appeared to have crumbled dust.
On instinct, he rammed the chest of another nearby zombie with his armored shoulder. As he had suspected, a flash of light emanated from the point of impact and the zombie crumbled to dust.
Armor is enchanted. Most likely form of enchantment: imbuement of light energy Given appearance of armor and type of energy, enchantment likely tied to draconic abilities./
Clearing out the nearby zombies, Backer glanced back towards the gate to see that the giant zombie was getting close. He likely wouldn't be able to take it out with swordplay alone, so his only chance, albeit significantly more dangerous, was to try to harness the power of the dragon resting within him.
- * *
Rianna reached the eastern quarter of Choras only to witness the last of the guards at the gate fall. As she watched in horror, he rose again and joined the zombie hoard in assaulting the populace. She shook off the sight and rushed boldly forward, dodging zombies until she reached the Chapel Angelus.
The heavy bronze doors swung outward, glorious light spilling out. A combination of design factors and enchantments ensured that the interior of the Chapel Angelus was always illuminated as if by sunlight. Despite the urgency, Rianna couldn't help but be awed by the sight.
Along both side walls hung varied paintings of Maria Angelus, the woman in whose honor the chapel had been built. She was shown in simple portraits, feeding the poor, receiving a blessing from Gaia, advising the government, and eradicating demons with her blessed mace. This mace was displayed in this chapel, on a pedestal at the back beneath a golden statue of Maria. It was stored in a glass case to discourage people from doing what Rianna was about to attempt.
The glass case wasn't locked; it was a mere deterrent. The true security measure was the mace itself. It had been blessed by Gaia to be an instrument of pure good, to be usable only by Maria Angelus, the epitome of good. If anyone else tried to even pick it up, any personal failings they had would overwhelm them, holding them back.
Rianna hoped she would be different. She unlatched and removed the case, took a deep breath, and reached out towards the mace.
"Rianna!" A vision of Marton appeared to Rianna.
"Why have you disobeyed me? I told you to return to Larin."
"I don't know--" Rianna hesitated. "I couldn't face you. But, it turns out I'm needed here now. I'll try to justify my actions later; I can't spare any time now--"
Rianna snapped out of the vision, and her hand made a few centimeters of progress towards the mace, now glowing faintly.
"Ria!" It was Torin.
"No, Torin, please-- I can't face this now--"
"Don't try to run from your demons! You never loved me did you?"
"I don't know-- I guess not."
"You led me on! Then, you couldn't even avenge me properly!"
"I didn't know any better! I didn't know -- and still don't -- know what love is! I'm sorry-- And, no, I didn't avenge you. I shouldn't have even tried, that dragon wasn't at fault; it was the other one that killed you, and Ziro killed it. Please, forgive me! Let me take the mace so I can prevent more deaths! Let me atone!"
Once more, Rianna returned to reality. She was just a few centimeters from the mace, and it was now glowing brightly.
"Ria!" It was the person she feared confronting most, and as such knew she would have to face. The visage of Maria Angelus appeared before her.
"Maria Angelus!" Rianna said with a gasp.
"Don't call me that!" For a brief moment, Maria's beautiful face showed a hint of anger as she snapped at Rianna. "Why do you deny me?"
"You're too perfect," Rianna said. "There's no way I can match you!"
"You don't have to match me. Just do the best you can, and I'll be proud."
"I'm trying to do that, but you have to let me use your mace if I'm to do so. It's the only way I can face the zombies."
"Alright, Ria. There's just one thing you have to do?"
"Admit it to me, and to yourself. Acknowledge our bond. You don't have to accept it yet, just admit it."
Her mother's face split in a wide smile, tears forming in her eyes. "Thank you, my beloved daughter. Take my mace. You won't be able to use its full power, yet, but I'll see you again later, and we can work on it."
"Wait! Mother! You mean you're not just an illusion?"
"No, it's really me. I've been using the power of my mace to speak with you, but my energy is spent. Please, come to me soon--"
"But, where are you?" Rianna asked in desperation, but her mother's form was fading.
Rianna grabbed the mace as its glow intensified into a flash and vanished. As she gripped it, she could feel her mother's presence and knew she wasn't far. She turned around to face the door of the chapel. In the time it had taken her to confront her visions, zombies had poured in. Now, over a dozen were present and closing on her.
Rianna charged at a nearby zombie and swung the mace at its chest. As it connected, it emitted a flash of light. The light ate away at the zombie as it crumbled to dust in a matter of seconds. Her mother had been right, it was at nowhere near its full power. Maria had been known to take down archdemons with it, a zombie should have disintegrated in an instant. Nevertheless, it was enough for her current purpose, and Rianna proceeded to exorcize the rest of the zombies who had invaded the chapel.
It was at this point that another figure leapt through the door. He wore a hooded cloak which prevented Rianna from seeing his face, but she caught glimpses of glowing, white armor beneath it. The figure eyed the dust piles that remained of the zombies Rianna had vanquished and said, "Cover me."
"What?" Rianna exclaimed. "What are you doing?"
"There's a big one coming. If we're to have any chance against it, I'll need to concentrate," the figure replied, now looking at Rianna. "If you could take out those zombies, you should be more than capable." Without waiting for a reply, he ran to the back of the chapel, took a deep breath, and spread his arms, alternately clenching and flexing his fists.
More zombies came in after him, and Rianna had no choice but to fight them off. She didn't know if she could trust this man, but she decided to take a chance. If he needed protection from the zombies, he couldn't be working with them. When the initial wave of zombies cleared, she turned back to check on the man.
A white aura had surrounded his body, and his cloak was flapping wildly from a wind that appeared to have been generated around his body. After a few more seconds, she started to see flashes of something else superimposed over his body. It took her a few minutes and more zombie bashing before she could piece together the whole picture: a white dragon.
"You're-- Was it-- you?" She gasped with a touch of fear.
"Yes," he replied simply, but he showed no malice towards her.
Rianna turned back to the door. The streets were now full with zombies, and she was getting fatigued. Then, she saw what the man -- dragon -- whatever -- had warned her about. A gigantic zombie, over fifteen meters tall was lumbering down the street. She backed away from the doors and said, looking back over her shoulder, "If you're going to do something, now would be a good time."
Apparently, he agreed. With flash of light and a sound of a thunder crash, his form stabilized. He was mostly human, but his hands were replaced by the claws of a dragon, and broad wings had grown out of his back. She thought she saw a grin spread across his face as he said, "Let's see action."
He flapped his wings, took to the air, and flew out past her into the street. Rianna watched in amazement as he battled the zombies. His fighting style was precise and measured. Each blow with his fists -- claws -- had a similar effect to that of her mace in addition to his superior strength behind it. If she hadn't known better, she would have thought the fight had been choreographed.
Within minutes, the dragon-man had cleared the street of all zombies save the giant. He faced off against it, but even the blows from his fists failed to slow it down. Snapping out of her awe, Rianna ran out to assist.
The zombie threw a heavy punch at the dragon-man which he swiftly dodged. As the punch followed through, it drove into the street, temporarily stunning the zombie. Rianna took this chance to rush at its leg, driving her mace into it. The zombie stumbled as its foot crumbled beneath it. As Rianna jumped out of the way, she witnessed the dragon-man (she still hadn't decided how to describe him) dive into the zombie's back, driving both of his claws into it. The zombie let out a hideous gurgle as a hole formed in its torso, then crashed to the ground and stopped moving.
The dragon-man descended to the street, returning to humanoid form. He said a weak, "Thanks," and collapsed to the ground. Rianna rushed to him and felt for a pulse. It was present and strong. She figured he'd just collapsed from exhaustion.
At this point, Rianna noticed that his hood had come off, and she got her first good look at his face. It was more worn with age, and his clothes were different, but there was no doubt. It was Torin.