Zulimara encouraged the dead to walk toward him. Closer they came, and closer still. Lunging at them, he struck down two before they reached him. Whirling and slashing, he continued to lay waste, but the stream of bodies was never ending. How many of the creatures were there?
Then, as if a message came to him on the wind, he knew what he had to do. Standing his ground, naked as the day he was born, he took careful aim, hurling one dagger at Zulimara. It struck her in the throat. A scream drowned in her blood, as it sprayed from the wound. As one, the zombies fell, shriveling to nothing as the blood poured out of Zulimara’s body.
Raven dressed hurriedly, cursing his stupidity. He’d let a woman get the better of him. Rather than dwelling on it, he found the lamps and candles in the place. Dousing Zulimara, he saw her body was showing signs of decay. Though not as advanced as the zombies, she was still far more than a newly dead corpse. Some dark magic surely lingered. Making his way out the front door, he left a trail of lamp oil. Striking a match, he lit the oil, watching the flames scurry toward Zulimara’s body. When it reached her, it sputtered with a sickly, putrid green flame, before rushing to consume the others.
Glad that there were few buildings beside his own, Raven watched the flames curl around the wood, the inky black smoke swirling upward. Did he see faces in the fire? He couldn’t be sure. Standing alone, he waited until the building was consumed, the bodies with it. No one came to put the fire out, too afraid of the zombies. He couldn’t blame them. They had no way of knowing he had brought an end to it. Or had he?
A part of him remembered that the Annabelle had not yet made port. Was she out upon the water, spawning another shipload of these creatures?
“Osceola, my sweet, will you help me?”
The air shimmered, shifted and split in front of him. Osceola stepped through, the air shifting like water around her.
“What need have you now? Did I not just help enough?”
“It was you who told me to kill Zulimara.”
“Of course, my love. What need have you of me now?”
“My ship. Is it cursed? Does it even now bring yet another load of monsters to land?”
She cast forth, breathing deeply of the wind. Dark hair coiling around her like living serpents, she rose from the ground. “Come.” Grabbing Raven’s arm, she pulled him close.
Horror replaced shock as she flew straight up, then out over the water. Below him, Raven saw the wine dark depths of the sea. The waves rolled and tumbled beneath them, splashing upward, trying to clutch him and draw him under. Not far away, he spied a ship. By the way she sat the water, he knew it was his beloved Annabelle and she was in distress. Listing to starboard, she canted sideways, nearly consumed by the trough, as the sea toyed with her. Not a sailor walked her deck, nor light graced her bow. She was lost, and alone at sea. It was then he saw them, the cold, heartless undead, stumbling up from the hold.
“Do you wish to land?” Osceola asked.
“No! Dear gods, no. Can we do something?”
“What something to you wish?”
“Set it on fire. Keep it from port. Let these people find their rest.”
“As you wish, my love.” Raising the arm which did not hold him, she conjured a flaming globe of purple fire. “This is what you desire, my sweet Raven?”
Casting it downward, she watched it spiral toward the ship. Landing amidships, it burst into a blaze of red and purple, setting fire to anything which came near. Leaping and biting like a living thing, it set the ship and its unholy occupants on fire. The water of the sea closed over it, yet still it burned, sinking to the depths.
“Thank you, my beautiful, bestial love.” He kissed her longingly.
Suddenly, he was falling. Still over the sea, he prayed he would survive. His body reacted quite apart from him, and just as suddenly, he was flying. He couldn’t describe how it came about, and was sure he’d never again be able to repeat it, but there it was. He landed on the quayside, as if he were falling onto a feather bed.
“Thank you, my love,” he whispered to the wind. “Thank you.”
Stumbling with fatigue, he made his way back to the brothel, where he collapsed on the steps. They found him there at sunrise, sound asleep.
Smoke lingered and hot spots still burned in the wreckage of his office building. The townsfolk gathered, wondering what had happened to Raven. Uriah arrived a few minutes later, reporting that their hero was alive and safe.
“He’ll sleep the day away, no doubt,” Uriah said. “But if he’s right, this marks the end.”
“This is cause for celebration,” the dockside mayor said loudly. “When he wakes, we will have a party that has been unequaled in these parts!”
©2021 Dellani Oakes