Chapter 3 Excerpt from The Siege of Anticus: A Zombie Fantasy Novel
Standard disclaimer: unedited and probably rotten.
On the far side of the city, a pair of guards in ill-fighting and cracked leather armor studied the dust cloud approaching them. Already the day had become infinitely more interesting than any they’d experienced before, guarding the least-used gate in the entire city. The gate itself was almost never opened during their tenure, since they used the sally port to get to their station outside the city. Indeed, the only time it was opened was when one particular merchant took a wagon out in spring, and came back months later.
“Hey,” one of the guardsmen said, “you know who this is?” He pushed a toe into the prone unconscious figure between them.
“Ban’s balls, Turg,” his brother answered, irritably shading his eyes from the mid-morning sun, “how should I know?”
“Look at him, moron,” Turgeson said just as touchily, his own hangover making his head pound from the light.
Kurgen sighed and squinted down at the large man in torn and dirty robes at his feet. Several slow and worryingly unsteady heartbeats followed before something clicked. “Hey, it’s that merchant, Trevor or Terrus or something.”
His brother snorted. “It’s Tevas, halfwit. Reap’s Cull, Dad should’ve pulled out all the way with you instead of just partway.”
A mean-spirited exchange went back and forth desultorily before petering out in the bright sunlight. Silence settled on them again for several minutes before Kurgen spoke again.
“That’s pretty odd.”
Turgeson pondered that thought for a minute, its profundity taking some time for him to grasp. Suddenly, his brow furrowed and he said, “Yeah.” Another minute passed, and he added, “That’s really odd. He shouldn’t be back for, like….” He thought painfully for a moment. “Awhile.”
His brother inhaled deeply and added, “Yeah.” He frowned after a few moments and added, “He should have a wagon, too.”
The conversation began forcing Turgeson’s mind to work harder against the haze that engulfed it. Shouldn’t have had quite so much forghan this morning, he thought. “His man, too, you know, the strong one, driver, uhh….”
“Domic,” his brother answered, beginning to wake up a bit. “Yeah, he should have a wagon, and Domic.”
They continued to shade their eyes and study the approaching cloud of dust, the sun making it difficult to see well with their bleary and bloodshot eyes.
“Maybe we should get the corporal,” Turgeson said.
“Ugh,” his brother answered. “He’ll make us do something like scale the wall naked for bothering him.”
After a time, Kurgen spoke again. “So, no wagon, no partner. Beat up. Babbling. Unconscious.”
Another pause. “What would cause that?”
His brother snorted a laugh. “Ever talk to him?”
Kurgen conceded the point with a shrug. “Even then,” he said, “that’s a little extreme, don’t you think?”
Turgeson thought about it. “Yeah, you’re right. So, what, angry customers?”
“Hmmm,” his brother said thoughtfully, “they’d be going to a lot of trouble over that, don’t you think?”
“Good point.” More silence. “Bandits?”
“Ooo,” Kurgen said, “good one. Take the wagon, beat him up, sure.” He frowned again. “But if they got his stuff, why would they want him?”
Turgeson thought that point over, since it made a lot of sense. “Good point,” he said, rubbing his chin. “So, if it isn’t bandits, or angry customers, what are those people after him for?”
They could both now clearly see the dark forms inside the dust cloud, a mass of figures difficult for them to count.
Kurgen turned to his brother, “Well, if they are bandits, or pissed off customers, or something else, do you want to be out here when they get here?”
His brother thought for a second before answering, “Nah.”
The other man nodded. “Me either. Let’s get the corporal.”
The pair bent down, a hint of alacrity suddenly in their movements, and hooked their arms under the large merchant’s sweat-soaked armpits. As they dragged him through the sally port, a low moan from the approaching dust cloud gave them a far greater burst of energy, and the wooden door clanked shut, followed quickly after by the loud thud of a bar dropping.