“Are you sure you know where you’re going?” Nyx whispers, cautiously following Sari. The gypsy is only three feet ahead of the half-elf, but she is only partially visible. The hallway they are in is a long path of darkness with an inviting torch found every fifteen feet.
“This should lead us into the banquet room,” Sari replies while nervously twirling a dagger in each hand.
Nyx watches her carefully, a small frown on her face. “You don’t sound confident.”
Sari puts a hand to Nyx’s mouth and stands still as a slow form crosses the hallway ahead of them. The zombie sniffs the air before taking a step toward them. Sari raises her arm, carefully aiming a dagger at the monster’s forehead. She drops her arm when the zombie’s eyes pop out of its head and it collapses to the ground.
“I don’t know how you’re doing that, but would you stop killing the guards,” Sari urgently hisses. “That is the fourth one you’ve killed. Eventually, Kalam is going to notice that he’s missing several of his minions.”
Nyx innocently holds out her hands. “It’s not me. My friend keeps running ahead to take them out.”
“Your mystery friend is going to get us caught . . . or worse,” the gypsy argues, continuing down the hallway.
“I agree. Watch our backs instead of our fronts, buddy,” Nyx orders the invisible warrior.
Sari rolls her eyes and sighs in frustration. She gets close to Nyx to speak in a whisper. “I was going along with this dead ally thing before, but I’m starting to think you’re insane.”
“Why would you say that?” the half-elf asks, obviously insulted.
“You keep talking to this invisible ally who doesn’t seem to be listening to you. I’m starting to think that he’s nothing more than an excuse for you to cast spells and avoid blame,” Sari explains, her mouth almost touching Nyx’s ear. “The only thing preventing me from truly believing that scenario is that you have yet to make any casting motions. As good as you are, Nyx, you still need to make a slight movement to direct your magic.” Sari pauses and looks around the empty hallway. “Then there is the biggest problem I see with your story. Even if this ally does exist, I don’t see why you would risk facing Kalam alone to save him. Do you think you will help him by getting yourself killed in a place where nobody can retrieve your body? It will be worse if Kalam decides to turn you into an undead that can still use her magic. You’re dangerous as a mortal, so an undead version would be a nightmare.”
“I won’t die here,” Nyx bluntly swears.
Without warning, Sari presses Nyx against the wall and watches another zombie disappear into a distant doorway. “I just don’t see how any sane person can risk everything for someone that they consider nothing more than an ally.”
“He’s not just my ally,” Nyx whispers, keeping her eyes on her ghostly ally, who is wandering the shadows. “He is my friend and I know he would do the same for me. It wouldn’t be right for me to keep myself safe instead of risking my life to bring him back. It is the least I can do for him.”
Sari turns to the half-elf, a cold look in her eyes. “Everyone dies, Nyx. Learn to accept such things.”
“Well, what made you all dark and gloomy?” grumbles Nyx, who is visibly shaken by Sari’s words.
“It’s a fact of life you learn when every member of your clan is butchered before your eyes,” Sari says, tightening her grip on Nyx’s shoulders until the half-elf winces in pain. “Your parents, siblings, and friends are all gone. The last memory you have of them is of them being killed. The best that I can do is try to keep up a strong, fun-loving front, but it isn’t easy.”
“I’m sorry, Sari,” Nyx apologizes, easing the girl’s hands off her. “Though, I hope you remember who you’re talking to. It isn’t like I have any blood relatives left in my life either.”
“I . . . forgot,” the gypsy whispers. Realizing she upset Nyx, she feebly tries to cheer the half-elf up. “I’d rather have your situation where you don’t remember them.”
“I’d trade you no memories for bitter memories any day. My dreams never have any faces when they involve my parents. It forces me to wake up cry . . .” Nyx slowly stops talking and twitches as if being prodded from behind. “Would you stop poking me in the back, Luke? It’s making me queasy.”
“Did your friend kill another zombie and want some praise?” Sari sarcastically asks.
“You might want to turn around,” Nyx mentions in a slightly louder voice than before.
Sari sighs and turns to see a terrifying sight no more than twenty feet away from her. The swarm of zombies is moving steadily and
silently toward the two women. Every zombie has its mouth sewn shut and they appear to be pulling themselves along the walls and ceiling. The zombies suddenly break into a mob of slavering chaos when the head of the nearest monster explodes into a curtain of gore. Nyx and Sari waste no time sprinting down the hallway and charge through the first door that they find.
“How did they sneak up on us?” Sari asks.
“I got a quick look at them before common sense took over and I started running for my life,” Nyx replies, almost skidding into a locked door instead of turning the corner. “They aren’t touching the ground. I’m guessing Kalam made those zombies with a permanent levitation spell. That probably explains why they are dragging themselves along the walls and ceiling. Though, I don’t see why he didn’t make them invisible if he was going for stealth.”
“That would be-” Sari starts before she slams into an invisible form, which quickly lifts her into the air.
“Sorry,” Nyx gasps.
“You and your big mouth!” the gypsy shouts, kicking out in front of her. Her foot hits exposed bone and she feels the clammy hands of the zombie release her. She lands on her back and sweeps her leg to knock the invisible monster to the floor.
“Get behind me,” Nyx urgently demands.
Sari scrambles on all fours to reach Nyx. She looks up to see the swarm of hovering zombies coming around the corner. The gypsy gets to her feet and presses back to back against Nyx. She whispers and signs the first spell that comes to her mind, creating a layer of white ooze on the walls and ceiling. The zombies lose their handholds and collide with each other. Within seconds, the monsters are coated in the slippery goop and helplessly floating against the slick ceiling. Sari turns in time to see twin streams of fire spiral down the opposite side of the hallway. Several previously hidden forms can be seen falling to the ground and burning into smoking piles of invisible ash.
“Wow,” Sari gasps in awe.
“Where’s my friend?” Nyx asks, starting to run again.
“How should I know? I can’t see him or hear him. I’m still not even convinced he’s real,” Sari answers, staying a step behind the half-elf.
“I think we got separated from him,” Nyx says, risking a quick glance around the hallway. “Maybe he decided to handle some of the zombies.”
“He’ll be fine. It isn’t like he can die twice,” Sari declares. She cringes when she steps in a pile of warm zombie ashes. “Considering we no longer have the element of surprise, we should head for the main ballroom. All of the hallways eventually bring you to the ballroom, so we can get our bearings there. I just hope Kalam doesn’t have anything other than zombies.”
Nyx shakes her head and takes a deep breath. “We won’t be that lucky.”
“Always the optimist, huh?” Sari teases before the sound of shuffling feet catches her attention. “Next wave coming up!”
Another group of stumbling zombies are at the far end of the hallway while the sound of the hovering zombies, dragging along the walls behind them, gets closer. Nyx and Sari skid to a stop when they see a swarm of distant, orange orbs appear in front of the new zombies. They hurl themselves to the ground as the fire orbs sail overhead. An explosion shakes the hallway and the hovering zombies are torn apart by the powerful attack.