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Chapter 11: Desecration

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: ScribbleHub

Zombie after zombie fell. Released from the horde’s control but with their minds destroyed, they fell where they stood, becoming a mountain of entangled limbs. A battle raged over them as Carmen’s black mist slammed against the collective, giving and taking.

Everything else but survival and the destruction of her enemy faded into the back of Carmen’s mind. She saw nothing but the bodies of zombies and the writhing black mist.

Consume!

She opened her mouth and sank her teeth into the fallen zombie before her, absorbing its remaining undead mana. Without bothering to process it and make it hers, she threw it out as black mist like a shield. It was incredibly wasteful, but she was willing to do anything to dampen the mist’s mental onslaught.

Consume! Join!

She couldn’t kill the zombies fast enough. She couldn’t even tell which thoughts were hers and which ones were planted into her mind by the horde collective.

“Ahhh!” A hoarse cry escaped from Carmen’s throat.

If this continues, all her hard work, everything she’s worked toward this past week will…

What was the point of becoming a zombie knight if she became mindless? She needed this strength to cleanse the Church.

Something had to change! Squeezing out every bit of power and will she had left with a scream, she drew most of her power back into her own body, fortifying her mental defenses, leaving only a token amount still outside to fight against the horde’s mist.

It was meant to delay the inevitable in a time when every second count.

Although her mental defenses didn’t work perfectly against the mental spears, it still slowed the speed that her thoughts were being taken over.

Carmen didn’t want to admit it, but she was still no match against the combined might of the gem of control and the zombies under its command. She had to escape first. Escape, and then strike back on her own terms, taking down the zombies one by one…

If she could just escape…

Slowly, she rose to her feet. The immobilization command was totally gone now, worn away when the gem attacked her.

Carmen flexed her fingers and swung her arm, feeling rotten flesh easily part as her nails clawed through a nearby zombie’s neck. But that alone wasn’t fatal.

The zombie lurched as its head tilted back, attached to its shoulders by a few muscles and skin. It did not heal. Instead, it raised the pickaxe in its hands and slammed it toward Carmen.

The tip of the pickaxe buried itself into Carmen’s shoulder.

Destroy. No, I must…survive. Escape.

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She ripped the pickaxe from her shoulder and threw it away. The pick spun in the air until it slammed into the ceiling, the tip burying in the stone,

With the weapon in her way gone, Carmen punched the zombie in the chest and sent it crashing backwards into the crowd, clearing a way for her escape.

As the storm of darkness surged, writhing and colliding with each other, Fleur took a step back, shivering. She took another without realizing it, and the back of her shoe caught on the uneven surface of the ground.

She fell hard on her butt, but the pain almost didn’t register as she continued to stare at the battle raging before her and the black mist pouring endlessly from the ruby in her hands.

“What the hell is happening?”

One moment she had the zombie girl surrounded by the zombies still under her command, but the next the girl was shouting something about a lesson. And before she realized what was going on, the whole situation devolved until it turned into this mess.

The gem in her hand was useless now. The commands she gave it didn’t work. The zombies under its control endlessly attacked the zombie girl even when she tried to get them to stop.

For some reason, she didn’t really want to see the zombie girl dead. Fleur hadn’t seen many zombies in her life, and it was her first time meeting one that could talk.

The zombie girl was interesting. She talked as if she had decades of experience and she sounded knowledgeable—almost as knowledgeable as Father Arvel. Were all higher undead like that girl?

She watched as the spiraling dark storm grew, filling up the interior of the cavern, enveloping the crush of zombies in the center of the open space. Her holy magic seemed so meager in the face of the two colliding undead forces.

At first, the two forces were evenly matched, but slowly, one of them began to overwhelm the other. Fleur sensed that the losing side carried a trace of that zombie girl’s personality, while the stronger side matched the feel of undead mana coming from the gem in her hands.

At this rate, the zombie girl will probably die.

“I should go…”

Fleur stood up and dusted off her cloak. She turned to leave, but she hesitated at the entrance and turned back around. “No, I should at least watch until the end.”

The undead force of the gem grew stronger and stronger as more energy flowed endlessly from the gem. Fleur lifted the gem of control high up in the air as if it would help the gem win its battle. As if emboldened by her action, the flow of power from the ruby increased.

“How much longer will this take?” she muttered. From the way Fleur saw it, the zombie girl was just barely hanging on. The problem is, she had been “just barely hanging on” for the past minute already. Fleur had no idea how the girl was so persistent.

“What the hell do you mean, ‘how much longer’? What the hell did you do with my zombies?”

Fleur jumped a rough hand grabbed her shoulder, and the owner of the hand began to shout in her ear. “What the hell is going on here?!”

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Fleur felt a sense of deja vu, but she didn’t dwell on it. Brushing off the hand on her shoulder, she whirled around to face the stout man who stood no higher than she did. “Orlog! I thought I told you to stay up on the surface?”

Orlog spat on the ground. “Like hell I will when all my zombies abandoned their work and marched down. Don’t you know I’m on a timer? I’d better be compensated for this!”

“Don’t worry, you will,” Fleur said. She turned away from him to watch the battle.

Orlog followed her gaze before he stomped around and stood right in her face, planting his feet with his arms on his hips. “I’d better! Now tell me what’s going on. You just came up to me and asked me to give you the gem without explaining anything!”

“Time was of essence.” She stepped to the side so that Orlog’s face wasn’t in her way. “The zombie girl seemed to be evolving into something stronger so I needed the other zombies as a backup in case I couldn’t kill her alone.”

“And where are they now?”

Instead of answering him, Fleur tilted her head toward the storm. She could only imagine the ruckus that Orlog will kick up if she told him directly. Here was a man that was unwilling to lose a single zombie to her Purification even if he was going to be compensated for it.

Orlog turned to look at the dark storm.

Now that Fleur thought about it, didn’t she have a chance to kill the zombie the first day she was at the mine?

She had been about to purify her to put the girl out of her misery, but Orlog had stopped her. If only she had gone ahead and unleashed the spell, damned be the consequences, then things wouldn’t have escalated to this extent.

She glared at the short man before she scoffed and went back to observing the battle raging before her. It’s been so long and the zombie girl was still hanging on by the skin of her teeth.

Although the storm hid much of it, Fleur still saw hints of zombies here and there. If she could see it, Orlog could as well.

The man turned back to her with a glare. “Those are my zombies! Get them back!”

“I can’t,” Fleur said. As the man was about to protest, she stuck out her hand. In her grip was the red gem of control, still billowing black mist. “But you’re welcome to try if you want.”

Orlog blanched and backed away. “Now don’t get smart with me, missy! I—”

“Wait, look!” Fleur cut off his words, pointing at the storm. Was it just her, or was the mist subsiding? Did the zombie girl finally lose?

The mist provided no answers. Instead, something flew out of the mist, too fast to track. The object slammed into the ceiling of the cave, burying itself deeply in the rock. “That was way too fast,” she muttered. If that thing had been thrown her way…

An instant later, a huge number of bodies exploded from the mist, sent flying. A small shape shot out from the mist, her long hair trailing behind her.

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It was the zombie girl. She was about to escape!

Fleur rushed to raise the gem of control in her hands. Even though it didn’t work, the action had been instinctive at this point. Alone, she had no hope of stopping the girl’s escape. Only the gem’s control over its undead provided a chance.

She fumbled it as she raised it, almost dropping the gem if not for its chains wrapped around her hand. She held it up high. “Stop!”

At her shout, the gem glowed red. The light was brighter than ever before, bathing the room in a bloody light.

The figure of the zombie girl, nothing but a blur now, charged toward Fleur and the entrance behind her. Time seemed to slow down; sounds became muffled, as if Fleur was underwater. A loud crack, crisp and clear, cut through that slowed time.

In that instant, time resumed. The gem in Fleur’s hand exploded into countless shards. From within the gem, a cloud of black mist blew outwards, swallowing Fleur’s hand before spreading and filling the cavern in an instant.

“Ahhh!” Fleur screamed. A mind-numbing chill struck up her arm like a bolt of cold lightning. At the same time, a golden radiance covered her, pushing back against the black mist of the gem. The golden radiance froze all that it touched, as if time had stopped for the cave. Fleur dropped to her knees, clutching her arm.

Tears streamed down her face. “It hurts…it hurts!”

Through the tears, she tried to see what happened to her arm. The sight almost stopped her heart cold. The black mist corroded the sleeves of her robe and cloak all the way up to just above the elbow of her right arm. It was the arm she had used to raise the gem of control.

Only, the arm wasn’t her’s anymore. In its place, a mass of putrid, warped purple flesh writhed. Five fat protrusions sprouted at the end of the swollen mass, ending in sharp, wicked claws.

Bile rose up in Fleur’s throat and she doubled over, vomiting on the ground. “Urgh.”

Once wasn’t enough and she knelt there as tremors shook her body, with her forehead against the ground. “My arm…it’s gone. That’s not my arm.” The sheer pain she felt from it was almost unbearable—she wanted to just curl up and scream. Dying would be better.

But as an acolyte of the Church, she couldn’t. She still had to report what had happened back to the Father. No matter what. She.

Where was Orlog? He would be the witness.

He was right in front of her a moment ago, but she couldn’t see him.

Fleur lifted her head and looked around. For a moment, she couldn’t find him, missing what was right in front of her, but finally she saw it. A twisted blob of purple flesh, bloated like a drowned corpse. It trembled as if alive, but Fleur felt the distinctive power of undeath from it. Just like her arm.

Resisting the urge to vomit again, she held up her arm.

Blinking back tears, she raised her left hand, gathering a ball of holy energy with the meager amount of mana she had left. “Purification,” she whispered.

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A ray of light that should have been warm and conveyed a feeling of safety burst from the ball and covered her undead arm. Instead, it burned—burned like she stuck her hands into a bonfire.

She tasted copper as she bit through her bottom lip. Before her wide eyes, her arm disappeared, melting away in the light as if nothing had ever been there. The holy light closed the wound on her arm where the rotted flesh had been connected. The flesh looked melted.

Trying hard to not cry again, Fleur looked away to survey the rest of the cave. What had happened after the gem exploded, and what was that golden light? Why was she spared when Orlog died?

The cavern was clear of black mist. Fleur was so used to seeing the black mist obscuring the rest of the cavern’s interior that for a moment, the clarity gave her pause.

Shards of the shattered ruby hung in the air above her, suspended by some mysterious force. When she touched one, it fell to the ground. The pile of zombies in the center of the cavern didn’t move. Except for her, the whole room seemed frozen in time.

“The amulet,” she realized. It was the work of the amulet Father Arvel gave her. When the gem broke through her shield and desecrated her arm, the amulet activated and pulsed a massive amount of holy energy through the room, freezing everything that carried the gem’s power, including the shards of ruby and the zombies.

What about the zombie girl?

Fleur looked behind her. The girl lying prone, right at the entrance. She staggered to her feet and walked over to her. Her dazed mind managed to remember her mentor’s instructions. Fishing the amulet that the Father gave her from her pouch, she placed it in the girl’s hand.

A golden light emanated from the gem and expanded to enclose the girl in a glowing bubble, sealing her within.

When the bubble stopped growing, time resumed. A moan sounded from the zombies in the center of the cavern, sending shivers down Fleur’s spine. Almost a hundred pairs of eyes trained on Fleur all at once—even the blob of flesh that used to be Orlog staggered to its feet.

Without the gem keeping the zombies under control, they were wild undead. They listened to no one.

Fleur stood up, backing away. This time, she did not trip. As the zombies began howling, she turned and ran up the tunnels.



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