Chapter Two: Fire and Ice

Flames leaped from the barn and the herbalist’s hut. The explosion that had interrupted the team’s gathering must have been from the alchemy building, evidenced by the collapsed roof and the shards of broken glass which littered the grass around it. The fires had likely overheated some chemicals housed in the now-destroyed building. 

But the most horrific sight was the undead. How the zombies had found them, Ald couldn’t begin to guess, but they were here. They roamed the pathways and the alleys between buildings, some with torches in their hands as they burned buildings, crates, and haystacks around them.

Ald heard a crumbling, and he looked to the east wall to see bricks falling from it. No doubt the blast from the alchemy building had been forceful enough to cause damage everywhere around it. He silently hoped that all of the chemicals were gone now. The garrison couldn’t handle any more explosions like the last one.

It felt like a dream. It was like all those times in the battlefield, but this was part of Ald’s home. He didn’t come here often, but it was still his. And they had come. And they were destroying it.

He felt the others gather behind him. They, too, stopped and watched for a moment. It must have stunned them to see the damage that occurred so suddenly after their arrival. Just a few moments before, the place was empty and solid. Now, it was filled with the undead while it crumbled into fire.

Still in a glazed stupor, Ald felt two bodies move past him. Both Trelander with his warrior’s weapons drawn and Bastian who had transformed into a bear rushed past him to attack the nearest group of zombies. Apparently, that was all the invitation the rest of the team needed. Without words between them, the entire party behind Ald rushed the undead. War cries erupted around the garrison’s Town Hall as weapons danced and magic surged through the evening’s autumn air.

Ald couldn’t move. It wasn’t cowardice. It was realization. Even when he was set to stand back, to retire from the war and the death…it found him. It would always find him.

He felt his hand close in a tight fist over the handle of his main dagger. He felt his knuckle pop, and a familiar sensation settled over him. Perhaps he still had some fight left in him, after all.

With a quick motion, Ald removed one of the vials of green poison from his belt, slathered it over the blade of his weapon, and jumped to a nearby zombie who had been trying to uproot the mailbox. Ald stabbed his blade into the zombie’s back. With his other hand, Ald unsheathed his second dagger and ran it across the zombie’s throat. The thin tissue and weak bone holding the undead corpse’s head gave way. It rolled away, down the stone steps leading to the fountain, and the rest of the zombie’s body collapsed into a heap beside the mailbox. Ald closed his eyes and focused, gathering his will and stepping into the shadows between the rays of waning light. Nearly invisible, he surveyed the battlefield that was his garrison.

Trelander and Bastian were a two-man wrecking team. The warrior and the bear had worked together for so long, their movements were in sync with one another. Trelander spun his blade around in circles, corralling the undead towards Bastian. The bear roared fiercely, and mauled the group in front of him. Arms and jaws flew through the air. The ones who still stood after the attack were quickly dispatched as Trelander leapt to the group and sliced them to shreds.

Cald, Archmichaels, and Feniox seemed completely surrounded by a group of zombies near the destroyed alchemy building. The zombies approached, their limbs quivering with hunger and malice. However, it was a ruse. As soon as the zombies were near enough, Cald and Fen’s faces broke into grins, and they each extended their arms towards the ground. The earth gave a gentle rumble which rolled into a quake. Suddenly, two earth elementals erupted from beneath the clay earth and decimated the front line of zombies. Arch popped a protective bubble around himself and decapitated the second row of zombies who were focused on the giant earth buddies.

Kobai and Healpimp seemed to be playing some sort of game. Healpimp’s right hand was extended. A burst of light erupted from his outstretched fingertips, and a nearby undead zombie turned away and walked straight back through the entryway of the garrison. “That’s eleven,” he said evenly. Kobai rolled between a group of three zombies and began pummeling them with furious punches that were almost too fast to see. All three zombies bounced back and forth as Kobai’s flying fists rocked their bodies. They fell, and Kobai solemnly uttered one word. “Twelve.”

The hunters, on the other hand, were playing their own game. Keb, Fuzzy, and Niantae were standing together on the roof of the Town Hall itself. All three had replaced their rifles with bows and were aiming at the zombies from up high. Ald could hear their voices from his position. “Alright, this time, three at once.” Keb drew an arrow across her chest, pulled it tight through the bow’s string, and loosed it at a gaggle of nearby zombies. The flying arrow sailed through the eye sockets of three zombies before pinging into the wood of the barn’s east wall. The arrow pinned the third zombie’s skull to the side of the barn. Fuzzy, who had shed his flamboyant plate armor when it came time to use his weapon, let out a whoop of excitement. Niantae nodded and drew her weapon, aiming it at the zombies. “Now for four,” Ald heard her say.

Finally, the last group of fighters were clustered around another group of zombies with torches. Anda was shapeshifting from bird to tree and back, taunting the zombies while Emma loosed her fel magic and Anth bashed them with his shield. One of the zombies managed to use its torch to light Anda’s tree form on fire. Ald watched in horror as fire engulfed his friend and teammate, but his horror didn’t last long. He could see Anda’s grin through the pain, and he realized this was part of her ploy. As a burning tree, Anda jumped into the group of zombies. Within seconds, all of the zombies were charred beyond recognition, aided by Emma’s immolating spells. As soon as they fell, Opie’s healing magic lit the area. The fire died around Anda’s form, and she transformed into a bear, her wounds instantly healed. Ald could hear Anth’s voice amongst the fighting. “It’s a good thing she doesn’t suck, right Anda?”

Everyone seemed to have the zombies under control. However, Ald’s garrison was still burning to the ground. Hopefully, the two shaman could finish their fight and begin using the water from the fountain to put out the fires. Ald was about to send the order when he spied two zombies sneaking past the side of the Town Hall. They quickly entered the building, and only one thought came to Ald’s mind. “Giles,” he said under his breath.

Leaving the others to finish their conflicts, Ald stealthily but quickly moved through the entrance of the Town Hall. Giles had his back turned to the approaching zombies, and he was fiddling with a chest near the old war table. Ald had but a moment to decide his next course of action, and he chose to draw their attention. “Hey, boneheads,” he called loudly, letting his stealth drop. Face-to-face confrontations flew in the face of everything he had learned as a rogue, a master of the subtle and stealthy arts. But he had to do something to save Giles and let him know danger was near.

It turned out that Giles could take care of himself. The wizened Draenei turned from the chest, and Ald could see that he was clad in his own armor fashioned from silver goblets and steel plates. In his hands, he held large carving knives. With a hellish cry, Giles leapt forward and stabbed both zombies in their faces. A couple of twitches later, their bodies fell to the wooden floor.

“Well, that’s quite an outfit,” Ald said in awe of the gear Giles must have fashioned himself.

The old Draenei gave Ald a sheepish grin. He bowed slightly again. “One must learn to defend oneself out here all alone,” he said. 

The words were barely out of Giles’ mouth when another explosion rocked the garrison. Ald felt a cold twist in his stomach, and he ran back to the door of the Town Hall. He was worried that the alchemy building had exploded again. An explosion that close to Arch and the two shaman could seriously injure them. But Ald’s fears grew when he saw that the explosion was not from chemicals in the alchemy building.

Instead, a large skeletal dragon had burst through the stone wall of the garrison. A cold, icy blue color emanated from a point in the ribcage of the dragon, and its glowing blue eyes settled upon the battlefield.

Enter player two.

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