The vehicle came to a stop, and I opened the door and gasped some fresh breath with vigor. Mr. Xavier’s vehicle did not have air conditioning, and for the windows were taped shut. It certainly wasn’t the nice car I expected he could afford on a teacher’s salary.
For the last five hours I had been shoved in a car with a werewolf, two demons, an angel, an alien, a zombie, and a robot. It wasn’t that they smelled bad. The hawtness never smelled anything but perfect. However, the cacophony of smells started to overload my brain. On top of that, as I got sweatier and sweatier, I was convinced I smelled like a cow, and began to steadily shrink in on myself. Either way, it was five hours being smashed in a car with sexy, muscular, sweaty men, and that wasn’t as awesome as it sounded.
“Are we there,” I asked, perhaps pleading a little too much.
Stephan nodded, pointing off the road and up a hill. “He should be about a half mile that way.”
“He better be,” Mr. Xavier grumbled; I noticed that he had stubble growing out of his chin, and he must have not shaved the previous night.
None of us had really slept, driving throughout the night. It was in the wee hours of the morning now, and the sun would rise any moment. I didn’t feel tired though. This seemed far more important than sleeping right now.
Stephan began to climb up the hill and the rest of us followed. We ended up descending again and cresting another even larger hill. We had driven out to what seemed like the middle of nowhere. There were no major cities or towns anywhere nearby. There weren’t even any farms. The last road we had taken was made out of dirt, a fact that Mr. Xavier hadn’t wasted a second to complain about.
We started cresting a third hill and my legs were about ready to give, still strained from the long car drive. Stephan dropped to his stomach. The boys, all a foot taller than I was, seemed to see what he did. Rune put his hand on my head and pushed me down with him. I slapped his hand off and gave him a glare. He blushed back, and mouthed an apology, then pointed up the hill.
I crawled to the crest and glanced over. It took me a solid minute to realize what I was actually looking at. On the other side of the hill was a massive plain that stretched off into the distance. It was completely full of people for as far as my I could see. There looked to be random tents set up here and there, and there was a lot of movement below. It reminded me a lot of the werewolf camp that I had visited at Landsmeade, except on a much much larger scale.
“What is it?” I breathed.
Allan shook his head in disbelief, “An army… if I’ve ever seen one.”
I tried to get a better look, but the hill was just too high and far away for me to really see anyone. A large group broke off the army and began heading up the hill towards us.
“Oh crap, they’ve seen us,” I snapped.
“Yes, but who are they?” Allan asked.
The group of us continued to stare at those that came towards us. There was something off about the way they moved. Rather than keeping low, staying in a formation, and working to climb the hill, they seemed to move in a disorderly yet steady fashion, shambling up the hill. The features on their faces started to become visible, and I gasped at the sight.
The man at the head was missing an ear and half of his face beside. The bone, sinew, and blood seeped from the side. His eyes were sunken in and completely glossed over with death. One of the women was missing an arm. This guy had no jaw and limped in a way that suggested one of his legs was broken. Another had a hole, a literal hole, in his chest where a heart should have been.
“Zombies,” Rune said in amazement, “Real, legitimate zombies. No offense, Stephan.”
Stephan shook his head as well, clearly as surprised as the rest of us. The zombies started to rise to the crest of the hill, showing no signs of stopping. Suddenly, their movement and tone took on a far more menacing flare. It was more like the zombies were charging us than coming to meet us. We were intruders, and they were coming to eat us.
I got to my feet and took several steps back. The other boys did the same. The head zombie let out a vicious snarl. Flame started to lick up Rune’s arm, Ryan began to move into a fighting stance, and Daniel was already starting to turn into a werewolf, the fabric of his shirt ripping in the process. The zombies leaned forward, looking ready to leap for our necks as soon as we were within reach.
“Wait.” Stephan shouted, “Stop zombies!”
The zombies froze in midstep, as if Stephan’s words had compelled them to do so. Stephan glanced at the rest of us. I gave him a shrug; I was as lost as he was.
“Zombies, turn around.” Stephan eyed them suspiciously.
The lead zombie made a growl that sounded like acceptance, and then like clockwork, each of them turned around.
“Lead us to your master!” Stephan called.
The lead zombie looked at us, eying Stephan with an incredulous look.
“The one who made you, the Necromancer.”
The zombie growled and began shambling forward. The eight of us stared at each other, then began to move to follow it. The group of zombies moved much slower down the hill. Several of them tripped and then ended up rolling down the hill part of the way before slamming into a rock.
“So why aren’t these zombies like you, Stephan?” Rune asked, “The Necromancer made them just like he made you. I thought you were the gold standard on what zombies were.”
Stephan shook his head, “I don’t know. None of this is making any sense to me.”
“At least we’re on the right path,” I added.
“How do you know?” Stephan asked.
“Follow the dead. Isn’t that the message we keep getting?”
Stephan looked forward thoughtfully as we reached the bottom of the hill. The entire army seemed to consist of these same shambling zombies. What looked like a massive camp of soldiers moving about their daily work turned out to be a mass of zombies, haphazardly wondering in no particular direction.
There were so many of them, there were so many faces that it was dizzying. For a second, I even swore I saw Samantha wondering beside a zombie. I shook my head, I really did need some sleep. Besides the zombies that lead us, none of the others took any mind of our presence. It was like they weren’t even aware we were there.
The voice came out from the crowd, snapping me out of my thoughts. I glanced around and then my eyes set on a pale muscular man who moved out of the crowd. Only one person I knew wore that much sparkling glitter on his body.
“Victor?” my eyes widened at the site.
Victor approached the group of us. After everyone exchanged greetings, he looked down to me with concern in his eyes.
“What are you doing here? It’s dangerous.”
“What are you doing here?” I demanded back.
“Some of the things that sorceress’ minions said. I started to grow concerned. This was the soonest I could make it out here. I’ve been trying to get a meeting with the Necromancer since last night, but I can’t find him in this mass of undead,” he glanced at a particular zombie who seemed to be stuck, bumping into a small post over and over again as if it didn’t realize it was there, “and I wasn’t having any luck getting directions from this lot.”
“We’re on our way to the Necomancer right now,” I told him, “Stephan was able to get their participation.”
“Is that so?” Victor scratched his chin, “Then I guess we’re all here for the same reason. Then if you don’t mind, lead the way.”
“Jane,” Daniel broke it, “I also smell werewolves here.”
Victor nodded, “Yes, I ran into your clan here as well. I tried to get some information out of them, but they told me I was on a need to know basis. I guess the old vampire and werewolf rivalry isn’t completely dead.”
Daniel’s eyes widened, “The clan is here? Do you know how many?”
Victor shook his head, “They weren’t exactly letting me count. However, the woman you left in charge is here, Treena was it? Maybe she’ll be more forthcoming with answers for you.”
Daniel gave a nod and then turned to the rest of us, “I’ll meet up with you guys later. It looks like events are happening and I need to check up on them.”
Daniel ran off, the zombies all seeming to ignore him like they were ignoring us. The zombies that had been leading us had continued to move forward, causing the rest of us to have to run to catch up. The continued for another few minutes before breaking in front of a large tent. I could only assume the Necromancer was inside.
We went to head inside and the zombies moved to block out way. They each of us a glare. Then its mouth started moving like it was trying to say something. The words started to come out, they sounded strained and I had to make him repeat before we could understand what he said.
We each looked at each other, but eventually the gaze all settled on Stephan.
“Only I can enter?” Stephan asked the zombie, pointing at himself.
The zombie nodded, “Yes, you… and the girl.”
The looks all shifted to me and I took a gulp. I suppose I had absorbed some of the magic. There’s been mention of me being kind of a Necromancer. The pair of us moved forward, both relieved that we didn’t have to enter the ominous looking tent alone. We took a step through, pushing the flap aside. It fell back in place behind us.
We were cut off from the rest of the world, and standing right in front of us was the infamous Necromancer who was going to destroy the world!