Raven shuddered. “Gods, don’t even suggest it! Can you conceive of those things smarter?”
“I can. If I could build you the Great Wall, I would.” Uriah also shuddered. “Do you want me there?”
“My friend, you are good and loyal, but no. You’re human, and might die. Besides, we don’t know if their condition is contagious. The men who handle their remains, are wise to use gloves, and burn them. If you became one of those shambling monstrosities, I couldn’t live with myself.”
“In truth, I’m just as glad. But I felt duty bound to offer. I stopped by the bank, and spoke with the manager. He assured me that your holdings are in tact. Though he’d heard you were dead, he’d had no confirmation, so even when my former boss tried to withdraw it, as his pension,” Uriah rolled his eyes. “He was refused. You are the only one who can request the balance of your funds. As it should be.”
“Indeed. Thank you for looking into it. Now, you need to go home. I need to repair to my battleground.”
They headed out together.
“You’ll find it well provisioned. The wives have been busy with food and drink, even as the men secured it. They’re calling you the Defender of the Docks.”
Raven chuckled. “An apt moniker, though I don’t deserve it.”
“But you do,” Uriah said solemnly. “Those in the better parts of town can move about after dark without fear. Those at the docks, the poorest of all, cannot. The true mayor cares little what happens there, as long as he’s well fed. The Governor has done nothing, either. The only reason the soldiers were called in, the ship captains got together and demanded them. Though we know how badly that fared. You are a hero to these folk.”
“Let’s hope that their trust is not ill placed.”
When they arrived at the brothel, the ladies were there to greet them. The proprietress presented herself, smiling.
“For the man who fights for our virtue….”
The ladies giggled, the men laughed.
“You may have your choice of my ladies.”
“My dear lady, I would that I could do so tonight, for they are very fair indeed. However, if I am to earn my keep, I must attend to this mission first. I thank you for your largess, though I shall find it very hard to pick which blossom is most fair.” He kissed her hand.
“Perhaps more than one?” She winked at him.
“I would not be averse. But tonight, I must spend in less pleasurable activities. I may sweat and roar, but not because of gentle hands and sweet kisses. Ladies, I must take my leave. I look forward to seeing each of you, once more.” He bowed, kissed the madam’s hand, and took his leave.
He’d left it a bit close. Dusk was gathering and he sensed something in the air. Letting himself into the office, he locked and barred the door. He saw the windows had been covered in stout timbers, the door replaced with three inch oak, and the walls reinforced. The press was sturdy and well made. Fashioned of hardened oak, it created a funnel where one or two could come in, but no more. He would have plenty of room to swing his knives. The wall, which had been barely four feet tall, now came slightly past his waist. He admired the workmanship and hoped the mortar was a fast drying sort. Satisfied, he repaired to the office, doors barred, to wait. He did not have long.
As if they remembered him, the undead things lumbered and shuffled toward his office, unerringly. Raven waited to see what they would do. As long as he sat still, they did nothing. Once he moved, they did too, countering his motions with their own. They were slower than he, but, he thought, a bit faster than the night before. That did not bode well. He did a count as best he could, with the shifting about. Another thirty.
“How many of you are there?” he said aloud.
A host of moaning voices answered, as if they tried to repeat his words.
“Jesus,” he hissed. “What matter of sorcery is this?” Wishing he had someone, anyone to fight at his back, he decided to beard the lion, walking out the back door.
By the time he’d arrived, two or three had already found their way to his battle zone. They died quickly, hewn down with his silver blades—fresh ones this night. He’d nicked and scratched the others. If this went on too many more nights, he’d have to revisit Mr. Silver.
The hours passed, blurring into one frantic dance of death. The stinking bodies piled up, in the press, but the others stepped upon them and he was glad of the higher wall. When it grew unsafe to continue, he went inside and sat in the front room, to keep their attention away from the rear. They mewled and snuffled, but seemed content to wait until the night passed. Once more, just before dawn, they repaired to their retreat. The urge to follow was great, but he sensed if he went out, they wouldn’t leave, but would turn on him. He kept himself inside, waiting.
At some point, he fell asleep and didn’t wake until Uriah arrived with the men of the town. Once again, they did the grisly job of picking up the pieces and carrying them away.
“Thirty-two this time,” Uriah said proudly. “Did the press help?”
©2021 Dellani Oakes