Fighting the Undead: Bona Fides
Anybody who has spent time in the Kingdoms sector of Ada-Kar has probably wandered into the Pirate’s Gold pub for a drink or five. A pleasant and entertaining place, the Pirate’s Gold is always lively. The pub’s owner, Damon Anseti, can often be found pouring drinks, carousing with the patrons, and spinning yarns about his adventuring days. I asked him to sit with me and discuss a few of his favorite subjects.
He has told a number of tales about fighting the undead. I wanted to find out more about these creatures from a real world perspective.
Valhalla Crier: What can you tell me about your experiences fighting the undead?
Damon: I can give you a fair tell about the undead. I ran into a lot of different kinds over the years. I got pretty good at putting them down. Boca over here (gesturing to his half-ogre tending bar) was probably better than me in some ways. He don’t like to talk about it much though.
Valhalla Crier: I see.
Damon: So where do you want me to begin?
Valhalla Crier: Why don’t you tell me a little about your encounters with them? What was the first undead you ever came across?
Damon: My first undead? Hmm, I guess that was probably when I was eight or nine years old. I grew up on Ada-Kar so I’d seen a whole lot of things even before I went out adventuring. They had a parade going through town celebrating some damn thing. Maybe it was Victory Day. I can’t remember.
Anyway there was this float done up like a castle. In front of it there were all of these people pulling it. When it got closer though, I noticed they wasn’t people. It was walking corpses and skeletons pulling this thing down the street. They were all dressed up in Technophile gear. There was this chick up on the castle dressed up like a sorceress. She was waving to the crowd and sticking swords through this zombie that looked like Randolph Newman.
Probably meant to represent triumph of Magic over Technology, or some shit. Most people didn’t like it, though. I remember my dad getting real quiet. Some people started yelling things. It was weird. Real creepy. I never saw no more undead in parades after that.
Valhalla Crier: I see.
Damon: That wasn’t what you wanted to hear, was it?
Valhalla Crier: No, not really.
Damon: You wanted to hear about me kicking some undead ass, didn’t you?
Valhalla Crier: Yes.
Damon: All right, I’ll tell you a little bit about my last adventure. There were plenty of walking corpses that day. Falling like dominoes.
Valhalla Crier: Sounds perfect!
Damon: I’ll get to the meat of the matter. We were on the trail of this buried treasure. We got a line on an ancient text that was supposedly housed in this ruined fortress. We needed the text because . . . oh never mind. It doesn’t matter. It’s the fortress that matters.
The fortress was destroyed during the Great War. Everyone was killed and nobody bothered to rebuild there. Everyone said that it was abandoned, so we didn’t expect too much trouble. We just wanted to get the text and get out.
Valhalla Crier: Uh, I’m sorry. Who’s we?
Valhalla Crier: Who was with you?
Damon: Oh. Well let’s see. There was me, Boca, Bianca, Uffo, Marcus, Angus, Luella, and Hawthorne. Otso and Phil Two-Toes were already dead by then. Phil had been taken by the harpies about a month before this. Otso had been dead quite some time.
Valhalla Crier: Okay. Sorry to interrupt.
Damon: No worries. Where was I?
Valhalla Crier: The fortress. You were expecting it to be abandoned.
We were in the Coalition of City-States, near the Babylonian border with the Assyrians. That right there should have told us we were in for a world of hurt. We were young and dumb though.
It took about a week to get to the ruins. We rode camels for the most part. Not the most comfortable way to travel, but it’s better than walking. When we finally caught site of the old fortress we all felt so relieved! There was nothing out there! It was no wonder that nobody ever rebuilt the place. There wasn’t anything there worth defending!
The fortress was all beat to shit! Half buried in sand and huge holes blown into the side of it. Looked like some big tank just sat there blowing holes in it.
It was late when we got there though, and we’d been around enough to know to wait until dawn to go in. We set up camp that night. Didn’t have a fire though. No wood. It makes it hard to keep watch without a fire. We took it in shifts though. It was a starry night and there wasn’t much of a moon. It wasn’t too long into the night that the first trouble arrived. When it came, it came hard!
Valhalla Crier: What happened?
Damon: Well, as it turned out the place wasn’t abandoned. Big surprise, huh? Turns out that something had been living there . . . well, no, not living . . . existing there for quite some time. Maybe even since the Great War. Who knows? We didn’t exactly get around to asking him. We found out later that it was a White. Do you know what a White is?
Valhalla Crier: Not exactly, no.
Damon: A White was once an evil priest. Normally they worshiped gods of Death, though I have heard rumors that they could worship chaos gods too. I don’t know. All I know is that they were such evil bastards in life that they didn’t stay dead. They came back to torment the living.
Valhalla Crier: Sounds nasty!
Damon: Nasty? Yeah! They’re dead, dig? They can’t feel any pain. .44 to the chest and it’s like you flicked it with a cig.
And it can think! I mean really think! These things weren’t dumb in life. You don’t get to be able to cheat death by being dumb. They were smart and they got nothing but time to get smarter.
Nasty? You think that sounds nasty?
Valhalla Crier: Yeah.
Damon: Well, check this nastiness, square. They can cast spells! Pray to their skulls, shake their fetishes, and bring their god’s will to bear upon you! You think a Priest of Set, or Hades, or Nergal loses power when he dies? And if there is one thing that a Death priest can do, it’s raise and command the undead.
The worst thing about these bastards is that they can create hordes of skeletons and zombies to watch over them during the day. They can’t come out in the sun, see? That’s their weakness. Well, that and a bad complexion.
So, you see, these things, if they can find a place to hole up, can start to acquire dead things over the years. Not just people they trap and kill, though there are plenty of those. They can also reanimate beasts. Anything that once lived can be reanimated. They might still slowly rot, but what the hell, they don’t rot overnight.
In fact, in the desert, these things get mummified.
Valhalla Crier: You mean you fought mummies too?
Damon: Good God, no, man! I said they were mummified, not mummies. There’s a difference, you know!
Valhalla Crier: I’m going to need another drink. Boca!
Damon: Make it two!
Valhalla Crier: Okay, so, you didn’t fight mummies, but you did fight mummified zombies?
Damon: Yeah. And skeletons. Lots of skeletons. Probably more of them than the zombies, if you want to know the truth. You see, the difference . . .
Valhalla Crier: Wait, wait, wait. We can get into that later. Let’s just pick up the story.
Damon: Dig! Where did we leave off?
Valhalla Crier: Skeletons. Lots of skeletons.
Damon: Yeah, there were lots of skeletons! And those were the first things to attack. You see, it was the middle of the night, before my shift sometime, so it must have been a little after midnight. All I knew was that I woke up to Uffo shouting for everyone to wake up.
Before I even had a chance to arm myself, they were pouring out of the main gate. I don’t know how many there were. At least a two dozen. Some of them had swords, but most carried cruder weapons. Axes, knifes, clubs. None of them could use a gun though, thank god! That’s the best thing about the mindless undead. They can’t use advanced weapons. Good news for the good guys!
Anyway, everyone’s arming themselves, wishing they had slept in their armor and what-not. So the first one comes charging up on me, a big, nasty looking cleaver in its hand. I duck out of its way and deliver an awesome killing blow. A sword right through its chest! I’m thinkin’ “yeah, one down.” Bummer is it didn’t even hurt the damn thing! I’m pretty fast, right, so I pull it out and stab it again! Same thing! Nothing happens. Damn thing is just standing there grinning at me!
Valhalla Crier: What did you do?
(Boca Raton enters, bringing two large tankards of ale.)
Boca: Waited for me to save the day. As usual.
Damon: Ha! Yeah, that about sums it up. You see, Boca here had a horseman’s flail.
Boca: What do you mean had? I’ve still got that bad boy!
(Boca gestures to the bar where a small flail hangs over the bar. Above it is a sign that reads “For Roughnecks and Bad Tippers.”)
Valhalla Crier: So how were you so effective when Damon wasn’t?
Boca: Superior combat skills.
(Boca smiles, showing his numerous pointed teeth, and walks away.)
Damon: I don’t know about all that, but he did show me up that day. A lot of it had to do with his weapon choice. A cutlass is meant to slice flesh. Pierce vital organs and make your enemy bleed out. Not very effective against walking skeletons! A flail, on the other hand, is meant to shatter bone. Even if you don’t hit it in a critical area, you are doing a lot more damage than with a blade.
Anyway, Boca shows me and the others how to do it and we start giving back a little. They were still draining our bucket, though. We lost Angus during that fight. Damn shame, too. I liked that guy.
Fortunately, Luella was with us too. Now, I probably can’t stress this enough. If you ever fight the undead, you better make damn sure you have a Life priest or priestess on your side! That is probably the most important thing to remember about fighting the undead. Bring a priest!!!
Luella was a priestess of Sif. She called upon her god and Sif paid off! Some sort of divine light flashed around her and a whole bunch of those things just turned tail and ran! It was beautiful!
Valhalla Crier: How many of them ran?
Damon: I don’t know for sure. I had too many problems of my own to keep count. It was a good bit though. Enough to save our asses. There was still a score of them around, though, and they were turning up the heat. I took out a couple of them. The others were holding their own. Boca was wading through them left and right! He was a damned master at putting down those bad boys!
It was Luella and her second prayer to Sif that finally turned the battle. She scared enough of them away that we could mop up the rest.
The only problem was that most of them ran right back down the corridor they came from. We would have to deal with them again later.
Valhalla Crier: What did you do?
Damon: Doubled the guard and waited until morning.
We tried to rest, though nobody really did. Once the sun came up it was time to explore.
We barely got past the main gate before we encountered the first trap. I don’t know how many we encountered by the time we were done. It seemed like there was a new one at every step. Concealed cross-bows, pit-traps, secret doors that would open up and release zombies and skeletons. We took our lumps. Nobody died, but there were lots of injuries. Worst thing though was that it slowed us down. We couldn’t move without stopping every few feet to test the ground.
Valhalla Crier: And all the while daylight was wasting.
Damon: Absolutely! And that was all part of his plan.
Our plan was to get to find the library as fast as we could, get what we needed, and get out. We didn’t want to find whatever was hanging around that place. We wanted what we came for.
Valhalla Crier: Did you find it?
Damon: Well, we found the library around noon. We were all prime then! Thought we would be out by nightfall.
Valhalla Crier: Not the case, huh?
Damon: Hell no! We found the library, but where was the damned book? We spend hours in there dickin’ around while Luella searched for it.
Valhalla Crier: You all didn’t split up and look for it?
Damon: Hell, Luella was the only one that read cuneiform. You ever try and read that gibberish? How did a society get so powerful writing “line, line, triangle, line, semi-circle, triangle, triangle, line, line line?”
Anyway, all the rest of us could do is watch the doors and see if we could find anything worth taking. Didn’t find much. I think we might have gotten a nice candlestick or two out of it, but not much else.
Mostly we just waited, getting more and more nervous as the sun neared the horizon. It wasn’t until after the sun set that Luella finally found the damned text. Ended up being a scroll, not even a book. Wretched!
Valhalla Crier: What did you do?
Damon: We eventually decided to hang out and wait until the next morning. None of us were too prime on it, but we had an inkling that whatever had set those traps was afraid of the sun. If we could just keep it at bay overnight we thought we could slip out in the daylight. We knew we were in for a long night, though.
(Damon falls silent and looks off into space, a pained look lingering in his eye.)
Valhalla Crier: Please, continue.
Damon: They attacked again, this time well before midnight. It wasn’t probably an hour after the sun went down. We had barred the doors and thought we were pretty safe. For a while, we were. We could hear zombies on the other side of the door, scratching and clawing at the heavy oak doors. After a while they stopped and the skeletons came up and started hacking at it with axes. That got us worried!
We all got our plan in order and waited for them to chop through. We figured that we had the advantage. Even if there were a hundred of those things, only a couple could come through the door at one time. We would stand there and let them bottle-neck and bash them down when they came through. Luella would call upon Sif again and make then run in fear, causing more confusion in their lines.
Seems like a good plan, right?
Valhalla Crier: Yeah, sounds really good. Did it work?
We should have realized that this thing we were fighting wasn’t about to hit us the same way twice. The chumps at the door were just a distraction. The real threat came from right beneath our feet!
Valhalla Crier: Another trap?
Damon: Worse! A wraith.
Valhalla Crier: What are wraiths?
Damon: Ever heard of elementals? Creatures linked directly to the elements?
Valhalla Crier: Yeah. They are summoned by powerful magic users. Some elves used fire elementals during the Great War to destroy a number of ammo depots. It was quite a stunning victory!
Damon: Yeah, that’s them. Well, wraiths are spirit elementals. They are naturally powerful spirits in the ethereal realm. When they are brought over here, they take on a wicked form! Dark like a shadow, but with these terrible claws! And if that weren’t bad enough, their touch kills flesh.
The worst thing, though, is that they are able to move through solid objects. They are only partially in the real world, dig? So it’s also in the ethereal world. Because of that, it can move through solid objects.
Like the floor.
Valhalla Crier: You mean it just came right up through the floor at you?
Damon: Yep. It waited until the skeletons broke down the door and started pouring in. Once they did, it came up through the floor right behind us where nobody was looking. That thing was on Luella before she could cast her first spell. It just grabbed her and she started screaming. I could smell her flesh rotting from twenty feet away!
Boca and the others were holding back the skeleton hoard so I turned to try and get this thing off of Luella. Unfortunately another problem with it only being half in the real world, is that weapons barely hurt it. I thought I would chop the thing’s head off, but my blade just passed right through it!
Then I got a brain wave! I figured, I would sprinkle on the holy water, you know. Blast that thing with a little god juice! Luella blessed some earlier that day and let us know that it could hurt any undead. I was prime to see what it would do, so I popped the cap and splashed it right in the face!
Do you know what it did?
Valhalla Crier: Burned its head off?
Damon: Nothing! That’s what it did! Do you know why?
Valhalla Crier: No.
Damon: Because that thing was an elemental, not the undead! See, that’s a very important distinction. It looks like the undead. The way it kills flesh, you would think it was the undead. Only it’s not undead because it was never really alive! It’s an escapee from another plane of existence, man! Holy water and blessed weapons and crap like that’s not going to do a damn thing!
Valhalla Crier: Well how did you get out of it?
Damon: It was Bianca that got us out of that one. We had a fire burning in the fireplace. She raced over, grabbed a log and stuck it right in the thing’s body. I swear, it shrieked worse than Luella did. I never heard anything like it! It felt like it was in my bones. Chilling my blood.
I grabbed a torch and went after the thing too. Between the two of us we finally managed to scare it away. We didn’t kill it. It just turned and ran through the walls. I kept expecting it to come back, but it never did. Thank god for that.
By this time the skeletons were piling into the room. Boca and Uffo were holding on, but Marcus was down. Fortunately Luella managed to rally. She healed herself from what the wraith did and then started making them run away. A few at a time, but it was helping us to hold the line. We pushed them back and then the bottom fell out again.
Valhalla Crier: Let me guess. The white showed up?
Damon: Yeah. Bigtime!
Turns out that the human skeletons were just the tip of the iceberg. Two reanimated lions jumped in the room first. After that he made his appearance, standing in the doorway all pale and ghostly. Like a man that had been frozen in snow for a thousand years. He lifted a wand he had in his hand, said something, and a bolt of lightning shot out. It just missed Luella, hitting the shelf of books behind her.
The lightning bolt had started a fire in the books. Those things were so dry from being in the desert air for so long. It was catching fast. The place was slowly turning into an inferno. Unfortunately, our passage was blocked in one way by the fire, and the other way by the white.
Thankfully, whites hate fire almost as much as wraiths. It was hesitant to enter the room. It stood back, raising the symbol of his evil god and chanting. We all knew he was about to cast some spell. No idea what, and thank god we didn’t find out.
I had my second vial of holy water and let it fly. Thing hit him smack in the chest and shattered all over him. He shrieked and started sizzling like he’d been hit with battery acid.
That felt good!
Luella tried to turn him too, just end it there, but it didn’t work. It just shrugged it off. Then it ordered all of the skeletons, every last one of them, to attack Luella. They all stopped what they were doing and turned right on her.
Boca used the opportunity to bash a couple of them while their backs were turned. Problem was, he turned his own back to the white. That was all the opportunity it needed. It took a touch, just one touch, and Boca dropped to the ground, completely paralyzed from the waist down.
Let me tell you, it shocked the hell out of me seeing the big guy go down! Total gordo!
Uffo attacked the white, hoping to get him off of Boca while the rest of us tried to defend Luella. We made a semi-circle around her and bashed at any of those bastards that tried to go through. One of the lions leaped over us, but Marcus was there with his trident. Stabbing the thing might not have killed it, but it got all caught up in the tines. He was able to hold it in place while Bianca shattered its skull.
Meanwhile Uffo and this white are going at it toe to toe. What Uffo didn’t know was that the white’s mace was magic. It had a Concussive Blow spell cast into it, so when he finally did connect, Uffo went down hard. Broke his arm and KO’ed him.
Valhalla Crier: So how many of these skeletons were left? It sounds like they were endless!
Damon: Oh, we were hurting them! I never will know how many there were total, but by that time I would say that there was a dozen or so still engaged. Fewer every minute!
Having them all attack Luella was a big mistake. They were ignoring the rest of us so we could hit them with impunity. They didn’t even try to block us. All we had to do was hold the line and let them break upon us. So long as we kept Luella safe we figured we would be all right.
The real danger now was for Boca.
With Uffo out of the way, that thing turned his attention back to Boca. He grasped Boca by the head and then chanted a few words. Next thing I know, he’s sucking the life out of Boca. I could see burns appearing on Boca’s chest as the white’s wounds began to heal. Boca screamed with pain and rage, swinging at the white with his bare fists. It did no good.
Valhalla Crier: How did he get out of it?
Damon: Hawthorne. At least he was there for that.
Valhalla Crier: What did he do?
Damon: He pulled out his heavy plasma pistol and started shooting. It hadn’t been too effective before. Damned Tech Zones made it about the least effective weapon around.
I guess it was his day though. He got in a lucky hit and blasted that thing in the chest. Opened up a big old hole! The shot broke his concentration and stopped leaching Boca.
That was when the battle finally turned once and for all. We had knocked down the skeletons to maybe a half dozen. The white looked around and saw what was going down. Five of us still going strong. A big bonfire behind us, getting bigger every second. He knew the score. He turned tail and ran back to whatever hole he came from.
Valhalla Crier: Did you chase after it?
Damon: Hawthorne ran to the door and fired a few more shots. Didn’t hit though. He wanted to chase after him, but we called him back. Uffo and Boca were down. Most of us were beat up. I think only adrenaline was keeping Marcus on his feet. And that fire was burning hotter and hotter!
Luella called on Sif again and managed to bring Uffo back from the land of Nod. Boca started getting feeling back in his legs, thank God! I wasn’t looking forward to carrying that lug all the way back to civilization! So, we grabbed our stuff and split!
Valhalla Crier: You didn’t go after the white? It sounds like it was prime time for laying it low!
Damon: We talked about it. Hawthorne was all for it. He wanted to find its chamber and throw in a few white phosphorous grenades. I think he wanted to see what kind of treasure it had.
In the end we decided it wasn’t worth it. We were mangled! Plus we had the fire to escape, and who knows what kind of traps were out there. The white had summoned one wraith already, and we figured it could probably call on more. I don’t even want to think about the other nasty tricks it could have had protecting its tomb.
No, we survived the night and we had what we came for. It was time to go, so that’s exactly what we did!
Valhalla Crier: Do you think the thing is still out there?
Damon: Possibly. I know we didn’t kill it, though maybe the fire finished the job for us. I don’t really want to find out though. One go-around with that thing was enough for me. Anybody wants to go check it out though, I will draw you a map! I’ll even buy you a drink if you tell me the tale!
Just don’t go without a priest.