Zombies came slowly up the stairs of the Ziggurat. More than one lost its footing and rolled to the bottom, but all except one simply picked itself up and started the climb again. That one lost its head, but there appeared to be plenty more where that one came from. Behind the crowd of zombies, they saw people with torches. That gave them enough light to see the zombie’s human shape, even if they could not see the faces.
The travelers pulled their handguns. It was all they had, and they figured they would not be much good against people who were already dead. Decker, standing by the stairs and holding his military rifle, shot one zombie. The zombie jerked when the bullet hit it, but it kept on coming. He flipped his weapon to automatic and sprayer five shots into another darkened figure. It jerked plenty. It almost fell, but caught itself with its back foot and kept climbing.
“I see a crowd of them,” Elder Stow said, holding tight to his scanner. “I mean living people. They appear to have herded the zombies to the steps of the ziggurat. I am guessing the zombies have enough presence of mind to know fire is a danger to them.”
“The people are feeding the zombies to the gods, hoping the gods will take care of the issue,” Lincoln guessed.
“Any suggestions?” Katie asked Lockhart.
“I’m wishing I had my shotgun,” he answered.
“I’m doing no good,” Decker admitted. “Who else wants a turn?”
“Might as well,” Alexis said. “These have flesh, not like the skeletons. I could blow them off the steps, but they would just get back up again.”
Alexis put her hand on Boston’s shoulder. Boston tried to aim. What came from her wand was something like a flame thrower. She set the three out front on fire. One fell and rolled down the steps like a ball of flame, but she commented. “They are still pretty far off. I’m afraid they might wander off into the vines and trees.”
“Let me,” Elder Stow said, and took Boston’s place as they heard Ninlil’s voice.
“Mary Riley!” she scolded Boston, who heard the words all the way to her gut. “You will set the whole place on fire that way.”
“Sorry,” Boston said. The scolding was not as bad for her as an elf than it would have been for a human. Alexis lowered her head, but Ninlil patted her shoulder.
“That’s all right. I know you were just trying to help.”
They turned and watched Elder Stow turn his weapon carefully on one after another. The zombies turned quickly to piles of dust and ash, but it looked like slow work, and there were so many of them.
“This will take forever,” Ninlil complained.
“I am trying to be careful,” Elder Stow said, even as he dusted a zombie and took a small chunk out of the step. “I am trying to preserve my power sources. My batteries are running low again.”
“I’ll charge your batteries, but move. Otherwise, this will take all night.” She stepped up, and sounding very human, she rationalized her actions. “This place is dedicated to the gods. I claim my portion of ownership. These dead ones are trespassing on my property without permission.” She blinked, and all the zombies down below turned to dust at once. She also dusted the zombies still in the city, which was only nominally hers, but no one was going to quibble.
“The necromancer,” Lockhart said.
“I know,” Ninlil said, as she led everyone back to the fire. “He is working for Ashtoreth, wicked girl. She came to the city. I thought she was helping. I should have known better.”
“The necromancer?” Lockhart asked this time.
“Ashtoreth whisked him off to the next time gate. Hopefully, you will catch him soon and end his activities.” Ninlil said, end his activities because she was too polite to say, “Kill him.”
Labash yawned and smiled. “Well, now that the great and terrible zombie curse has been dealt with, I am going to sleep well.”
They pretty much all did. Only Decker turned a little in his sleep, because not far away, Millie kept making sweet little noises. He finally got up and slept by the fire.
Everyone got up with the sun. The dwarf wives returned and began to cook a breakfast feast. Labash looked up to the temple when a sound caught his attention. He rushed up and caught the girl before she fell down the steps. She seemed groggy.
“Are you the gods?” she asked
“Sorry. Just the gardener. Labash. Do you have a name?”
“Kishilani,” she said, and then she smiled for him. “You can’t be just a gardener. You look like a god to me.” They held on to each other as he brought her carefully down the steps and imagined she had a bit of a goddess look about her, too. He had not been lying when he said the priests picked out the young and most beautiful girls they could find. This one qualified on both counts; double qualified.
“What did you find?” Ninlil asked, but she smiled when she spoke, like she knew a big secret. It made Labash suspicious.
“Millie,” he called her over. “Meet Kishilani. My teacher Ninlil and my fellow gardener, Millie.”
Kishilani nodded to each and added a word for Ninlil. “Named after the goddess?”
“Yes,” Ninlil said. “That is exactly right,” Ninlil said, as she went to sit and wait patiently for breakfast.
Labash and Kishilani still had one arm around each other as he took his free hand and introduced his friends. It looked like he still held her up, though she looked perfectly capable of standing on her own by then. She held on to him, and looked like she did not mind holding on to him.
“Lord,” they got interrupted.
“Oh,” Kishilani seemed startled by the dwarf and slipped into Labash’s arms for protection. He happily accommodated her.
“Yes, Missus Hearthstone. What do you need.”
Missus Hearthstone rubbed the stubble on her chin and nodded, like she knew Ninlil’s secret. “How do you want your eggs?”
Labash looked a smidgen down at Kishilani, and she looked up at him with her eyes wide and her mouth part way open. “Eggs?” he asked her.
“Two votes for scrambled,” he told Missus Hearthstone. “And I’ll appreciate you keeping your thoughts to yourself.”
“Oh,” Kishilani said again. “I’m supposed to be ravished by the god.” Like, she just remembered what she was there for.
“Well, you found him,” Missus Hearthstone said, simply unable to hold her tongue. Millie who kept looking at the two, and grinning broadly, thought to look to Ninlil. If she understood one thing it was the gods frowned on imitators.
“Close enough,” Ninlil said, and did not bat an eye.
Labash did not want to let go. Kishilani laid her head on his shoulder and smiled that smile again. Labash felt it in his toes, and he thought he better let go before she started to purr. “So, while we wait, let me show you Rome after Nero burnt it to the ground.” They stepped to the edge, still holding each other.
They looked and he pointed, and Alexis leaned over toward Katie and whispered. “We need to catch him in one of these time zones when he is getting married.”
Sukki might have heard. Boston should have been too far away to hear, but her good elf ears did not miss much.
“Yes,” Boston shouted, and then in a smaller voice added, “Or her.”
The Necromancer is not finished. Avalon 6.6: The Count begins on Monday. Don’t miss it.
Until then, Happy Reading.