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Authors: Steve Feasey

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BOOK: Changeling: Zombie Dawn
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It was dark, although the vampire had little trouble seeing in the gloom, and his acute sense of hearing picked up the sorceress’s approaching footsteps from way off. Eventually she knocked at the door, and the vampire smiled to himself, acknowledging her obedience to his earlier command. It was good to know that this ancient creature could be tamed. It would not be easy, but the sorceress could be made to bend to his will.

‘Come,’ he said in a loud voice, taking up his position on the throne and facing the door as it opened.

‘You summoned me?’

‘Did I?’ Caliban shook his head as if trying to remember why he might have done such a thing. ‘Yes. Yes, I suppose I did.’

Helde waited. After a few moments it became clear that the vampire had no intention of carrying on.

‘Well?’ she said impatiently.

Caliban raised his metal prosthetic hand, and studied one of the bladed fingers as he flexed it in the air before him. ‘Something has been bothering me, and I called you here so that you could put my mind at rest. After you left earlier, it occurred to me that it is foolish to wait any longer for you to demonstrate your powers to me.’

‘I created the portal that got us here. A number of portals, in fact. I should have thought that you understood the great skill and—’

‘Yes, yes,’ Caliban said, waving his hand dismissively. ‘But you know which powers I am referring to – those for which you were given your delightful moniker: Queen of the Dead.’ Caliban stared across at her. ‘It seems to me that your search for this “Shield” has distracted you from the real task in hand.’ He paused for a moment. ‘I, after all, went to a great deal of trouble to resurrect you, and I would not like to think that I went through all of that for nothing.’

‘You doubt my abilities?’

The vampire flashed his fangs at the sorceress. ‘Of course not. But you yourself had been dead for a very long time.’ He narrowed his eyes in her direction. ‘Let us just say that I am concerned your erstwhile skills may have become a little . . . rusty.’ Caliban threw up his hands in a what-can-you-do gesture. ‘And I’ve had bad experiences with reanimated undead creatures before!’

‘You have nothing to worry about, Caliban. I can assure you—’

‘Be that as it may,’ the vampire interrupted again, ‘I believe I would like to see what I can expect when we finally unleash your powers. So I think a small demonstration is in order.’ He nodded towards the corpse. ‘In your own time.’

There was a pause while Helde considered this. ‘Do you realize how exhausting a reanimation is?’

‘You can have a he-down afterwards.’ Caliban’s eyes bored into the sorceress’s.

Helde frowned, mumbling something under her breath that the vampire couldn’t quite catch. Nevertheless, she walked over to the corpse, looking down at it as she did so. ‘You’d better get the other human.’

‘Which other human?’ Caliban asked.

‘Please do not play games with me, vampire. You captured
two
walkers when you went out hunting. This one and her partner. You will have to bring the other one out from wherever you are keeping him.’

‘And why would I do that?’

She rolled her eyes, as if she were explaining all of this to a recalcitrant child. ‘Zombies don’t do much near fellow undead creatures like you and me.’ She nodded towards the cadaver. ‘They only react near the thing they prey upon – living humans – so if you really must insist on seeing what
that
will do once I reanimate it, you’d better have something around to pique its interest.’

‘You expect me to give up my dinner?’ Caliban said with mock indignation.

Helde shrugged. ‘It’s your idea to conduct this . . .
demonstration.
Besides, you assured me that you would keep your feeding to a minimum while we were here. I didn’t expect you to start stockpiling your victims. We need to maintain a low profile, Caliban. It would not do to have to leave Leroth.’

‘I take it that you have still not located this “Shield”?’

‘Oh, I’ll find it. Assuming, that is, I’m not interrupted every few minutes to perform parlour tricks for your entertainment.’

Caliban gave her a long, cold look which was met unblinkingly by the sorceress. Eventually he shrugged his shoulders and let out a long sigh. ‘Very well. I will fetch the other human.’

‘Not quite yet,’ Helde said. ‘Let’s get this one ready first.’

The sorceress’s body went rigid as she entered the trance-like state she’d told Caliban was necessary for her to perform the reanimation. Even the multitude of insects that made up her body seemed to slow their usual frenetic jostling. Her eyes were shut, but her lips moved almost imperceptibly, and the vampire could hear the slightest whisper of the long-forgotten, ancient words she uttered. It was an eerie sound, even to the vampire’s ears. At irregular intervals the sorceress’s body would suddenly spasm and jerk violently, as if a jolt of electricity had passed through it.

Caliban watched her from his throne. He was, in a way, attracted to the sorceress. He told himself that it was preposterous to think such a thing, but nevertheless, he found her alluring. He wondered if his recent behaviour – his baiting of her – had been as much a result of this attraction as his desire to bend her to his will.

There was another convulsion, this one even more violent than those before it, and Helde’s eyes snapped open, staring into the middle distance before her. She opened her mouth and issued a harsh hissing sound, like the noise of a retreating wave on a pebble beach. It went on for an impossible length of time, as if the breath were no longer the sorceress’s but was coming from some other source outside her body. At the same time a small contingent of insects detached itself from Helde, falling to the floor and scurrying off in the direction of the corpse. The insects crawled into the mouth and nostrils of the dead body, burrowing their way inside the cavities before disappearing.

Nothing happened for a while. That incessant hiss still came out of Helde’s mouth, and just as Caliban was about to say something he saw, out of the corner of his eye, the body of the dead human buck into the air. Like the spasms that had racked the sorceress, it was a sudden and violent paroxysm, making the corpse’s arms and legs fly out on all sides, leaving it face down and spreadeagled on the floor. The ghastly noise that the sorceress had been making finally came to an abrupt halt, only to be replaced by a low and terrible groaning from the creature on the floor.

The zombie raised its head and slowly pulled its arms underneath it to push itself up. Each and every movement was accompanied by a low groan. With a great effort the creature got to its knees, then feet, until it stood facing the vampire and sorceress, swaying a little on the spot as though it might topple forward at any moment.

Caliban looked from the zombie to Helde. The sorceress appeared to be exhausted, her head lolling as if she lacked the strength to even lift it.

‘Make it do something,’ he said. He was excited to see what his new weapon, the one that would be unleashed in the first wave of the forthcoming war on the humans, was capable of.

Helde slowly lifted her eyes to meet his. She waved an arm in the direction of the door. ‘Bring the other one in,’ she said.

The male was being kept in the room next door. Caliban hissed angrily – he was used to giving orders, not taking them – but one look at Helde told him she was probably incapable of fetching anything herself.

The human was in the same position the vampire had placed him in when he had brought the pair back to the tower. Caliban had spellbound the man: a useful ability that all vampires possess to keep their prey docile and obedient.

‘Follow me,’ the vampire said.

They paused before the doors leading back into the room containing the sorceress and the revenant.

‘Look at me,’ the vampire demanded, nodding as the human raised his head.

‘In a moment you and I will walk through these doors. You will remain under my influence until they are closed behind you. As soon as they are shut, my control over you will cease except for one thing: you will not know that I, or anyone else
except
the woman you were with when I captured you, is in the room. Do you understand me?’

‘Yes.’

‘Good.’

The vampire opened the doors and stepped inside. He walked over to the sorceress and took her by the arm, guiding her to a corner cloaked in shadows from which they could watch. Satisfied with the set-up, he turned back to fetch the human, ushering the man ahead of him and placing him a little way inside the room, facing the creature by the window. Caliban looked about him. Everything was in place, so he reached out and pushed the doors shut.

The sound of the door closing woke the human from the stupor he was in. He shook his head from side to side, as if trying to wake from a particularly disturbing dream. When he lifted his face, he gasped at the sight of his girlfriend wavering on the spot before him. What meagre light there was came in through the window at her back, casting her features into shadow and rendering it impossible for him to make out her face.

‘Anna?’ he said.

The darkness was of no consequence to the vampire. His eyes scanned the man’s face, and it was clear that the latter sensed something was wrong with his erstwhile lover. The vampire leaned forward in anticipation.

When the man spoke again, it was in an urgent whisper, the panic in his voice clear to hear. ‘We need to get out of here. We need to go, now. We’ve got to get away from that creature that brought us here.’ He sniffed the air, looking about him. ‘What’s that terrible smell?’

There was a low groan from the zombie, and the man froze at the strange sound.

‘Anna?’ the man said again, taking another step forward to try and get a better look at the thing before him.

The zombie, which had stood unmoving throughout, suddenly exploded into action. A terrible high-pitched shriek came from its mouth as it leaped forward, snaking out an arm to grab the man round the back of his neck and yanking him forward, so that he stumbled and lost his footing. He went down on one knee, and looked up just in time to see the thing as it attacked him, the long black hair on the zombie’s head whipping back and forth as it set about its helpless victim. It curled its fingers into vicious hooks that it used to grab both sides of the man’s head, lowering its face to meet his. But there was no lover’s kiss at the end of this deadly embrace. The man screamed his former lover’s name as the zombie dipped its head and sank its teeth into his cheek, pulling away and chewing on a gory clod of flesh.

The man’s agonized shrieks echoed around the stone walls of the room, and he fell backwards, hands clutching the side of his face in an effort to staunch the river of crimson that poured from the wound. The zombie set about him again, this time going for the throat, ignoring the defensive kicks and blows that the man aimed back at it. A moment or so later, the human’s screams were cut off forever.

Caliban watched as the zombie straightened up. It was covered in gore now, and it chewed on whatever it had in its mouth before swallowing. It looked down at the dead body beneath it, its face expressionless – the fury that had consumed it seconds before had disappeared as quickly as it had ignited. It appeared completely uninterested in the body now that the man was dead.

The smell of hot blood was almost too much for the vampire. He turned to look at the sorceress at his side who was still wavering on the spot like a drunkard.

‘They move much faster than I would have imagined.’

‘The fresh ones do. Those that have been in the ground for any length of time are not so quick.’

Caliban glanced back at the zombie, which was now sitting beside its victim, staring straight ahead unseeingly.

‘Why does it not continue to feed?’ he asked.

‘The dead body no longer has any appeal. The zombie seeks only to kill the living, as if it seeks to steal back the thing it once had. It doesn’t need to eat to survive, and once it has dispatched its victim, it quickly loses interest. If there were other living humans here now it would move on to them, continuing to kill until they were all dead or it was stopped in some way.’

‘And what of the victim?’

Helde glanced at the dead body on the ground beside the zombie. ‘He is infected now. In a short time he will awaken as a zombie himself.’

‘Infected?’

She nodded. ‘Even if he had not been killed, the bite to his face would have been enough to ensure that he would become undead. He’d have become very ill first: fever, hallucinations, fits and eventual “death”. But he would reanimate a short while after.’

‘And that’s how they spread. Infecting others around them like a virus,’ Caliban said, nodding to himself as he thought about releasing creatures like these into the human realm.

‘As long as I am alive, yes.’

‘What?’

‘The infection has been created through sorcery. Through dark magic. I created it, and it exists because of me. If you were to kill me now, the female zombie would survive as a zombie – she has already
turned-
but the infected one would stay dead and not zombify. If she had not finished him off by savaging his neck in that way, and he’d simply become sick as a result of that first bite, he could fully recover if I, and the zombification sorcery, were to die.’

He looked at her as he took this in. ‘That is interesting,’ he said.

‘I need to rest,’ the sorceress said.

‘Of course.’

‘It will be many hours before I am able to function properly again.’


Hours?
’ The vampire looked at her in horror.

‘I told you that the process of reanimation was exhausting for me.’

Another thought occurred to Caliban. ‘How many zombies do you think you could create in a day? The maximum number?’

‘Two or three.’

He stared at her for a long time, his face becoming a mask of anger and disbelief. ‘And how are we to create a zombie army if the best you can do is two or three at a go!’

‘And I would need at least that many days to recover in between.’

‘You have deceived me, sorceress!’ he said, taking a step towards her.

BOOK: Changeling: Zombie Dawn
3.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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