“Hold!” A man cried out as a thump resounded through the courtyard immediately before the Northgate.
“What is the status?” I demanded, walking up to the man who looked to be in charge.
“About time you got here!” The man said bitterly. “But it’s probably too late. The undead are tearing down the gates as we speak. We’re not going to be able to hold them.”
After the short-lived battle in the diplomatic section, I was healed up and headed over here. My four guards joined me, but they had uneasy looked as they approached the North Gate and say numerous breaks in where undead were reaching through. Soldiers were desperately trying to add wood planks to brace the door and keep it from collapsing, but it looked to be on its last leg despite their efforts.
Baba was guarding the diplomatic gate, but I also decided to leave Aeryn and Saria behind. Neither of them were warriors, and I didn’t want their lives to be at risk. Other than the sneak attack that Lucy dished out, the diplomatic gate was a difficult place to attack. Under Baba’s protection, I had a feeling the diplomatic gate would be the safest place from here on. Any undead that even wanted to press against the gate first had to make their way through the burning diplomatic quarters.
Meanwhile, the main force was descending on the North gate in ever-increasing numbers. Even if I had arrived earlier, there seemed to be very little I could do to change the course of this battle. At least, that’s what Lord Stebes wanted. He wanted me to run away so that he could come in and save the day. There was no other reason that I could think of for him to give me the North gate other than embarrass me or kill me if he gets the chance. I won’t let him get that chance.
“Give me a quick overview of the troops here,” I demanded from the man.
He shook his head. “Mostly archers. They snuck up on us on the worst night. We didn’t even see them until they were nearly on the wall. The men are shooting as many as they can, but there are more undead than there are arrows. We have no choice. We need to start considering abandoning the gate.”
“If we abandoned the gate, most of the northern population will be slaughtered. It will be fighting in the streets. The loss of life will be catastrophic!”
I spoke those words loudly so that they were heard by most of the soldiers nearby. Some gave worried looks, while other expressions turned angry or frustrated. The man in charge blushed, a look of indignancy on his face.
“That may be… but I don’t see any other option. The undead are coming. Unless we have major reinforcements on the way, that door will be gone in five minutes! Do you have any other plan?”
The man spoke just as loudly, clearly angry with what I had said. Many of the men who were previously looking our way lowered their heads. The truth was hard to face.
“What if I said I had a plan?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
The man stared at me for a second. “If you have a way to stop this flood of undead, I’m listening.”
“That’s the thing about a flood.” I grinned. “People are always wanting to stop it. Stopping a tsunami is impossible. The amount of energy it would take is genuinely unreasonable.”
“What are you saying? Speak man, there isn’t time!”
“I find the best way to deal with too much water… is to build a floodway.” I finished and then turned to the soldiers. “I am Prince David, your lord, and future king. I may be a devil, but I’m also the man you need to get out of this night alive! Do as I say, and you might survive. Do as I say, and your families will survive!”
The last line, in particular, caught every ear, the soldiers all turning to me. Like that, I had nearly one hundred men who were putting their lives and their futures will me. I took a deep breath and began to give orders.
“I want carts! We’re creating a path from the North wall to this alleyway. I need someone to reinforce that door! You, keep that door closed. But us as much time as possible. Everyone else, crowd around.” I pulled out a large map and tossed it down the length of a wagon. The soldiers that had a free moment ran up to look at the map. On it, was a very clearly demarked path. It led from the North gate straight to the west gate.
“Wh-what is this?” The lieutenant said in disbelief.
“The undead are dumb. They’re only trying to go through this city because it’s in their way. I’ve seen them move. They’re not being guided any more by their creator. We’re no longer going to stop them. We’re going to herd them. We’re playing a game of tower defense… ahem… I mean we’re going to create a killing path. Line it with pikemen or give them and sharp stick and then go to town.
“Captain Moar, your men all know the plans…” I glanced at each of the men. “Take five men and start securing the path. I want the undead harried the entire length of the city. I want a zombie dead every step of the way.”
“This is mad.” The lieutenant shook his head. “Some of these undead are a bit smarter than the undead.”
“The vast majority of them are undead though,” I spoke up. “In fact, if you took out the undead, there are barely enough of the spectrals, skeletons, and liches to even be considered a threat. The archers will focus on these smart undead, choosing their targets as the real threats. Meanwhile, the vast majority of their protection will get filtered out through our pathway. The non-zombies will become extremely easy to pick out after the horde is thinned out.”
The lieutenant glanced at me, to the soldiers still desperately holding the door, and then to the men sitting around the cart. “Well, what are waiting for! The Prince gave orders!”
The men immediately broke into groups. Anything available was being grabbed to add to the barricade, but the carts were the start. I gave out orders when it seemed relevant, but the men seemed to get the plan, and they were more war savvy than I was, so there was very little I could help them with.
“It’d still be nice if we had a bit more firepower.” The lieutenant sighed, “What I wouldn’t give for a little bit of explosive powder.”
I blinked. “What did you say?”
“Eh?” The lieutenant blinked. “I said, we could use some explosive power. However, there isn’t very much in this city and I don’t even know where to look. My family used to be miners near the dwarven border and a single keg of that stuff could knock an entire squad off their feet.”
“You… you’re brilliant!” I let out a laugh. “Fire… of course. The undead hate fire!”
“Oi… don’t start setting fires in the city! You could cause more damage than the undead!”
I chuckled. “But that is exactly what I plan to do! Except, these kinds of fires don’t take. Isn’t their miller here on the north side?”
I grabbed the map and began scanning through it. The lieutenant put his finger down on the page, signaling a certain building.
“That’s the grain mill, but I don’t know what you want. It’s just flour.”
“Finely ground flour ignites quite magnificently,” I explained. “It won’t cause a fire, but it does make a pretty impressive flash. We gather it, toss it at an enemy and ignite it with an arrow…”
The lieutenant’s eyes widened in realization. “Then we can create a massive fireball that’s bound to light a fire under the undead’s asses and leave them too panicked to think! Brilliant!”
“Well, at least it’s something…”
The lieutenant shook his head.
“No, this will work. We need this to work. You two, come with me and bring a free cart.” He turned back to me and saluted. “My lord, I’m going to get the flour personally. You have charge.”
“Me?” I said, my eyes growing furrowed.
“Don’t worry, my lord, these men know what they are doing, and so do you. In case I don’t have a chance to say this later, I’m honored to fight under the prince.”
He put out his hand. I took it and shook it. The lieutenant was choosing to leave me in command on purpose. Part of it was probably because he wasn’t a Northern resident, so he didn’t feel right leading these men. I had picked him that way for this exact reason in case I had to fight him over command. The other reason was to show his trust in me. Now that these soldiers saw him place me in charge right now, they’d be more likely to follow my orders later when we were split up across the killing trail. It was inevitable that he would be at one part of the trail and I in another, so both of us being seen as leaders only strengthened the command structure of the Northern gate’s soldiers. He was a smart man. I liked him a bit.
“Alright, men! Get out of the kill zone! You see those spikes, put them over the trail. Maybe we can trip the zombies and get them crushed each other to death. Remember, your job is to push them along. Once the path into the alleyway is stable, I want half the pike to get on the roofs and start stabbing down. Archer’s watch out for any monster that doesn’t act mindlessly. Take them out quickly. When you got flour, only use it when the zombie start pushing out of the kill zone too strenuously. Remember-”
My shouting was cut off as massive cracking sound erupted and the Northgate fell down. A flood of undead shuffled through the doors all at once. The men stood on the carts with whatever weapon on hand, ready to bash the zombies down. Remarkably, their forward momentum carried for half the distance to the alleyway. When they hit the barbed wire placed across the path, the first group of zombies fell down. The second fell on top of them. However, the momentum behind was too great, and zombies kept coming forward even as others fell to the ground. In a few moments, the zombies had created their own meatgrinder, hundreds of zombies being stamped to death by their brethren. Still, the flooded forward.
Although some tried to move to the side carts, the majority went the path of least resistance, and it created a flood that swept up any zombie who had other thoughts. In fact, with them caught up so tightly, even the smarter creatures were being dragged along, Unable to fight or defend themselves as they were pelted with some well-aimed arrows.
The massive horde shambled forward, entering the alley. Of course, more zombies were coming from the gate, and it was a pure stream from the gate to the alleyway, but now that the floor was in motion, there seemed to be no stopping it.
“Pikemen!” I ordered, causing about half the men to jump down and leap up on to the roofs using stacks of boxes and wagons. Then went on either side of the alley, following until they were on some lowrise buildings that barely came up to the zombie’s heads. They immediately started thrusting their pikes. At this distance, each strike impaled a skull and led to an instant death. It quickly turned into an assembly line of death, as the zombies walked down the path only to be stabbed. If a pikeman missed one, the next got him.
The flood pushed more and more into the city, and the carts started creaking from the sheer mass of undead. I tapped my foot impatiently as more and more came in, threatening to plow through our barricade by number alone. I pulled my sword and cut a few on the sides, but there was just way too much for me to make a difference here. The men were having to beat more and more zombies off of the carts as the momentum started to slow.
“We’re here!” a voice called out, and I immediately breathed easier.
I jumped over to the cart traveling up with the lieutenant on it. I grabbed a bag of flour and punched it with my dagger.
“Light your next arrow,” I called to one of the archer’s on standby, looking for any dangerous undead to fell.
He nodded and dipped the tip of his arrow in oil. A moment later, it ignited. I chucked the flour up into the crowd between the north gate. The man shot his arrow and it stuck the bag. Flour spilled out in a stream, and a moment later a flame followed. There was a woosh as the flame exploded over the zombies. The zombies coming into the city were momentarily stunned, several of them ceasing their press into the city. Meanwhile, the zombies in front of the fire started to increase their speed. The flow of zombies was reestablished, and the pressure was taken off the wagons for the moment as zombies were steadily fed into the alleyway.
“The zombies have to be passing the pikemen by now,” I said anxiously.
“Go!” The lieutenant nodded, unloading the flour. “I’ll keep things going here. Take these men, they’re my best.”
I nodded and gestured to the men he indicated. There were five of them in all, two archers and three swordsmen, including the two he had taken to the flour mill a short while ago. The group of us continued down on the path, following the zombie barricade. Had my men done their job properly, the zombies should have no path but to follow straight out on the east. I wasn’t sure if there were monsters pressed on the east, but if I could get them to create a similar path, I believed we could get the zombies moving in a circle. Adding the east gate’s soldiers to the north gate, and we could put the entire undead thread on a spiral of death, grinding them through the city until there wasn’t a single one left alive. This was many times more efficient than even if we just repelled them. Had they been kicked away, the undead would still kill people and harass the countryside for months to come. This method was absolute carnage.
The undead had managed to get past the pikemen, but at the moment there were only a trickle of them. That number would grow, however. Pulling out a pair of binoculars, I got to the highest point I could and then glanced over at the western gate. It’d still be about ten minutes before the zombies reached there, but I didn’t see them setting up any carts or completing the circle. I frowned.
“Damn it, what are they doing?”
Bala was over on the western gate, so I didn’t expect any issues with my commands being followed. I turned to the men and gestured.
“Two of you go relay my commands to the western gate,” I ordered.
I didn’t know where Captain Moar was, but in this case, I wasn’t against redundancy. It was absolutely vital that Bala knew the zombies were coming and prepared. If a sudden horde of zombies hit her from behind, the results could be devastating.
“You three… just to kill off these stragglers. Buy them some time.” I ordered the others.
They nodded and jumped directly into the kill zone, cutting down the few dozen zombies in front, and creating a barrier just of themselves. With the tight quarters and the skill of these soldiers, they could probably hold off a few thousand zombies.
“When the horde’s pressure grows too much, don’t hold it in!” I said, “Retreat immediately and then set up another pike kill path to weed out what you can.”
The three men nodded, and then I turned to follow the two men heading for the eastern gate. However, I stuck to the kill path rather than heading their directly. There was no undead here yet, and I just wanted to make sure the barricades were all up. Something about Captain Moar’s absence unnerved me. I was hoping he was just slow with setting up the barricades. Barricading a solid mile of walking path to be impenetrable was a pretty hefty task, even with the majority of it being alleys.
As I walked down, my eyes narrowed at an open area. It was a gate that hadn’t been secured. Had the zombies reached here and entered it, they potentially could walk all over the city. I cautiously jumped down to the street level, carefully looking around. Was Moar just careless to leave a gate open? I stopped about ten feet away from the gate. My instincts were telling me something was wrong. I turned to head back and felt the three men. It’d be a mad dash to close the gate before the zombies got here, but I wasn’t the kind of man who took risks.
Just as I turned around, I felt something and dived to the side, sliding into a nearby alley. A fireball slammed into the mouth of the alley, very nearly taking me with it. This wasn’t a flour fireball, but the kind thrown by a magician. I was tossed ten feet down the alley before stumbling to a stop.
“Damn it, what now!” I growled, looking around for an exit.
Had the beastkin still had people in the city? Were they trying to rip apart my plan and destroy the city still? As the smoke dissipated, a man appeared at the foot of the alleyway. He walked toward me, a malicious gleam in his eyes. When he came into sight, I could only shake my head in disbelief. I had originally discounted him as being the one. This was far too volatile of a time to risk the entire city. After all, if my barricades broke down, Lord Stebes would lose everything.
“I never would have guessed you were a man who went all in,” I said, pulling my sword from my scabbard.
Lord Stebes grinned pulling out his sword, which suddenly gleamed with energy. “For your death… sacrifices must be made.”
“You’re a will user?” My eyes widened for a moment and then narrowed. “Then, since you put everything on the line, I guess I will too!”
I lunged forward. Our fight had just begun.