Slayers: Mirror Nine
"Lina," the voice was quiet as she was gently shaken by the shoulder, then added more urgently, "Lina, you've got to wake up."
"Wha...." Lina blinked up owlishly at Naga, the dark haired woman looking down at her in concern. "What's wrong?" she managed.
"I'm not quite sure," Naga admitted, "but listen."
Lina shook her head, then she tilted it to the side. "Right," the redhead muttered, trying to listen. The walls were thin enough that she could hear Amelia next door, but other than that it was entirely quiet/ "I don't hear anything," she grumbled.
"Exactly," Naga agreed, "no night sounds or any people out there. This village is large enough there should be some sounds...."
"Damn," Lina muttered, realizing she was probably right. She got off the bed, quickly stripping her night clothes off and dressing, noting that Naga was all ready to go.
"Let's go get Amelia and then...." Naga opened up the door, froze for a moment, then she slammed it shut firmly.
"What?" Lina looked over at her in confusion as Naga drew her sword with a steely rasp, taking up a guard position.
"Undead," Naga growled as she loudly kicked the door open and leapt out into the hallway, her long sword swinging. The first rank squished wetly as she cut them down, the others looking mildly surprised to find their foes awake and ready.
"Fireball," Lina cried as she blasted the other shambling creatures, flame consuming the remains leaving only a oily smoke in their wake.
Amelia's door was open and the remains of a zombie flew out, splattering against the far wall. The white clad young woman stumbled out sleepily, "What's going on?"
"Not sure yet," Naga answered crisply, "but it's trouble."
"We'd better check the other guest rooms," Lina offered.
They went down the hall, quickly peering into the open doors but there were no survivors, the creatures had obviously jumped them while they were completely unaware. The trip downstairs was quiet, the three watching warily for more of the undead.
"No sign of the inn keeper," Amelia noted, the black haired girl sounding concerned..
The three of them looked around the empty common room warily, taking in the damage. The tables were broken, thick cobwebs hanging down as if the place had been abandoned for years, completely unlike the place they had just ate at. The scent of rotting food hung in the air, enough to make their stomachs turn.
"Well, we can try to hole up here till dawn," Lina said thoughtfully, "or head outside and try to find out what's going on."
"If there's more undead we'd do better fighting a running battle," Naga noted, "we could easily be overwhelmed in here."
Amelia nodded gravely, "Those slain upstairs must be avenged."
Lina nodded, "I don't much care for the undead, anyway."
The front door creaked loudly as they pushed it open, the three women warily moving out onto the street. The moon shone down on them, bands of dark clouds streaming across the night sky. A brisk wind carried dust down the battered street, the edges of the cobblestones beneath their feet broken to rubble. The buildings were falling down all around them, blackened wreckage and open timbers jutting out of the ruined facades.
Naga scanned around them, her dark eyes narrowed as the leather clad warrioress stood ready. "The town must have been under a glamour of some kind," she noted.
"It doesn't feel like that," Amelia murmured, "it's something.... darker."
"Lovely," Lina muttered. Off in the distance a wolf howled, the eerie tone echoing in the distance as she scowled, "Want to bet it's werewolves? I hate werewolves!"
Naga fought back a smile. "Can either of you get a sense of where this might be focused?" she asked crisply.
A pale white light shimmered all around Amelia, the warrior of justice calling up her power and reaching out with her magic. It was almost like watching the mirror Lina at work, a gentle purity washing across the two of them and then out across the ruined city around them. There was something like a snarl out in the darkness, something dark out there reacting to the power directed against them even as the light winked out.
"There," Amelia puffed out a breath, pointing to the ruined castle on the far side of the river, out in what had once been the high class part of town.
"The castle," Lina shook her head, "of course."
"Let's go," Naga said as the three took off at a run.
This part of the city was once filled with life, the merchant men and women loudly calling out to sell their wares. Now the stalls were falling down, empty, the remains of their stock a fowl mess on and behind the counters. The undead shambled out from the shadows and alleys, gray rotting flesh falling from yellowed bone only to be blasted back by magic or cut down by sword.
"There's a bridge ahead," Amelia said, hammering on a creature trying to grab at her white shirt. It collapsed, dust billowing around it as they moved on.
"We need to cross the bridge to get to the castle," Naga said grimly, a swing of her blade scattering another bunch of the rotting foes.
"Which means that there might be something a bit more serious waiting for us there," Lina said as they came around a corner. The three women skidded to a stop, taking in the bridge and what awaited them there in awe.
The stone bridge was mostly intact, massive slabs of granite used to put the great structure together. None of them noticed the fine stone work, eyes focused on the creature standing on it. The giant was dead, the flesh hanging in flaps from his massive arms but the thirty foot tall figure still looked imposing, eyes glowing a sullen red.
The massive club, probably made from an entire tree, came up with a smooth motion as the creature boomed, "None shall pass."
Naga actually smiled, raising her sword to the ready as she studied her enemy thoughtfully. "A challenge," she murmured, "I love a challenge."
"Together we can defeat it," Amelia said firmly, "for justice is on our side!"
"No," Lina said firmly, looking up at the creature as her red hair flew back from her face like a banner, cloak fluttering around her, "this thing is mine."
“Lina....” Amelia said as she started to follow her then Naga stopped her with a gentle hand on her shoulder.
“No,” Naga shook her head, looking at Lina with gentle concern as she continued, “I’ve seen Lina like this before, it’s best to let her do what she feels she must.”
“Heed me, oh spirits darker than dusk," Lina intoned, her voice carrying with it an eerie tone, “red beyond crimson flow like blood. In the name of those fallen to dust, I pray to the shadows. Mark ye these villains that bar our way, and to my small strength thine own ally, to deliver doom, folly repay. Come judgment from the grave, Dragon Slave!”
Lina seemed to explode with energy, the scarlet fire surging forward in a massive stream of destruction. The giant raised his wooden club in a futile gesture but the massive weapon was consumed almost as fast as he was. In moments all that was left of the rotting hulk was ash, spiraling down across the bridge and into the river bellow.
“Wow,” Amelia murmured, the she shook herself visibly. “Do you think that was their most powerful weapon?” she asked, referring to the now destroyed creature.
“Maybe,” Naga said thoughtfully, “but I wouldn’t count on it.”
“Let’s get moving,” Lina said calmly, “there’s still the castle ahead.”
The three women crossed the bridge into the high class part of town, the buildings around them in moderately better condition as they raced down the paved streets. Garish remnants of finery were draped in empty windows, fine manors of the wealthy now looking forlorn and abandoned. The fading scent of perfume hung in the air, the remnants of bottles once broken open lingering long after the perfume itself was gone.
Here the undead performed a twisted imitation of their former existence, the rotting forms trying their best to carry on as if nothing was wrong. Couples staggered along the streets together, the remnants of fine clothes falling off gaunt bodies, parasols held to block the nonexistent sunlight. They seemed disturbed by the three living women moving through their world but did not attack, merely gazed in confusion as they passed.
“This is almost more disturbing than when they were attacking us,” Amelia noted as they raced through the crowd of dead men. The castle quickly began to rise up in front of them, the winding streets bringing them closer and closer.
Naga lead the charge at the closed gates of the castle itself, her sword describing a clear arch as she struck out against the rotting lumber. With a loud crack the gates flew open, guards behind them shambling to try and take up their positions.
“Rune flare,” Amelia blasted them without even breaking stride, the three charging forward. “The tower,” she yelled to the others, “it’s up in the tower!”
“Why is it always the tower?” Lina muttered under her breath as they bolted across the courtyard, striking as needed against the undead.
“Lack of originality, maybe?” Naga smiled slightly as she shouldered the heavy oak door open, the stone steps spiraling upwards. Moonlight shone in through holes in the walls, revealing steps that were battered and crumbling.
“Watch your step,” Amelia said. They took the stairs as fast as possible, the small band winding their way up the dim stairway until they reached another heavy door. She reached out, touching the wood then shivered, “It’s here.”
BOOM! Naga kicked the door open, she and Lina racing inside with Amelia trailing behind. The chamber within was beautifully decorated, firelight illuminating what oddly looked just like a woman's sitting room. A woman looked up from where she sat in a comfortable chair, a faintly glowing ball gently held in her hands.
"Isn't the city beautiful?" the delicate, almost unearthly blonde looked up, eyes filled with madness. "Just like the magician promised," she cradled the ball close as she cooed, "we only have to pay with these nights...."
"This has to stop," Lina said firmly, already preparing her spells.
"No!" The girl rose, the light from the ball shifting to red, "Everything will be the way it was, it has to be, and I won't let you stop it!"
All around the woman wisp like spirits rose up, trying to take on physical form. There was a sudden pressure, the air thickening even as Lina and Naga moved almost as one. Lina struck with her spells, a flare of fire and light drawing the dead's attention even as Lina strode forward.
"Now!" Naga drove her sword down, slamming it right through the orb.
"No...." the girl moaned as the ball exploded.
The wave of scarlet fire washed across the room first, then it stretched out across the city. The undead stopped, pausing as the light struck them, then they seemed to collapse. Bone and flesh dissolved to ash, the rot and corruption that had gripped the town fading away to simply age....
"The sunrise never looked so beautiful," Amelia admitted, the three of them walking away from the ruined town.
"A long wait for dawn," Naga nodded. The three of them, along with the mad girl, had camped out in the castle. They thought that destroying the orb had destroyed the undead, but there was no reason to take chances.
"So the next town we visit," Lina said, "we'll send someone back for the lady."
"I wish we could have taken her with us," Amelia sighed.
"Considering she had hysterics when we tried to take her from that room, I'd rather leave her for the guards," Lina scowled. "Anyway, without the orb she's harmless, right?"
"I hope you're right, Lina," Naga said quietly.
To be continued....