Chapter 4: Episode 16- "City of the Dead"
“Confound this miserable city.” Felix grumbled as he and Khali walked the dusty streets of Lucrid, a town northwest of the capitol. Not too close to be heavily influenced by the corrupt culture of Jong Kabur, but close enough to feel the effects of it’s perverseness and brutality. The indulgent lifestyle of the elite and posh was salt in the wound of the majority of Kodian people who lived with little more than what satisfied their daily needs, and many lived without even that. Khali looked coolly at the dirty faces of children dressed in rags, hopelessness in their eyes as they hid behind shop posts and fruit stands shyly. Felix pitied them and felt a connection with them all at once. Felix knew what it was like to be alone and helpless, to live on the streets eating from the trash. These children were not so different from himself: another unwanted mouth to feed that society wrote off as nothing but a street urchin who would never amount to anything. In some ways they were right. Felix would never amount to anything, at least not by their standards of success: standing high upon the backs of their fellow men.
It sickened Felix to see the state of the world in which he lived. It reminded him of why he’d ever chose to be a demon hunter in the first place. He’d gone from bloodthirsty beast to defender of the weak and powerless in one moment of humanness. Looking now into the eyes of a young boy, not so different from his own young self, as Felix walked by he saw himself as a child again: felt the same hurting this boy felt.
“Lively now, step lively brother.” Khali cautioned, picking up the pace, noticing the looks from lurking bodies hiding in the shadow of alleys. “This ain’t I place where decent people frequent.” Her rich, accented tones were an alto, sultry and yet extremely serious. Felix wondered when and where she had picked up such an accent, casually following his sister, matching her increased pace. Felix was in no particular hurry and did not seem the least bit concerned, whereas the experienced, legend ranger of Ironwood was rushing to avoid trouble. What was wrong with this picture, Felix wondered. What could the fearless Khali Savoor possibly be afraid of?
“Unsavory types for certain.” Felix remarked, taking idle notice of the several action-hungry, scraggly beggars closing in on the two, mirroring their movements with what could only be described as inevitability. There was no subtlety in their intent and approach as they walked boldly from the shadows. The men, barely skin hanging from bones and clothes hanging from skin, limp and haggard, looking in worse shape than Felix was when Khali had found him near dead in the desert. Yet somehow these pale, thin frames had the energy to keep up a solid chase as Kahli quickened her steps all the more.
“I knew we shouldn’t have come here.” Khali said as her breathing quickened with her steps, more of the strangely slow and obvious men emerged from all along the sides of the road, from out of buildings and between buildings. It was at this moment Felix realized there were no other travelers in this town: just the two of them. “I knew we shouldn’t have come here.” Khali repeated under her breath, frustrated with herself, worry hinted in the shakiness of her voice,
“What do you mean? What’s up with these people?” Felix turned to look at his sister as she broke off into a full sprint, the approach of the men did not stop and it seemed as though the faster the two travelers ran, the more quickly they attracted more of the strange pale men to follow them, coming out of hiding places along the way.
“Men. No. This place is called the city of the dead…. These are not men, they are Shade, one of Agva’s devilish creations. The shade are the spirits of the fallen dead given life again in the corpses of the dead.” Khali’s face contorted as she explained the nature of the Shade to Felix.
“Corpses, eh.. That explains the wretched smell of this place.” Felix was confused about something. “But-, the children. They were actual children.”
Khali grimaced. “They were real children…. Children are the only real thing in this city. The Shade devour any adult living creature in sight. The children are trapped here in the middle of the desert, living among these undead creatures, haunting their every waking thought.” Pity and disgust mingled with fear for her life and the lives of the children of the city filled Khali’s throat and overflowed from her eyes.
“That’s-, that’s-….” Felix was so disgusted he could not even finish his thought. He could not bring himself to speak. Agva was a true monster, he’d experienced it first hand and thought that was the worst of the man’s debauchery, but this-, this was sick.
“It’s awful. I know. And I did not want to believe the rumors were true. It appears as though they are. If I had known, we would never have taken the path through this city.” Khali breathed hard as their pace continued to increase, every step she was checking her surroundings frantically for the undead spirits who, despite their lack of speed were somehow closing in.
Like a magnet which attracts metal to itself, or meat that attracts the ravenous predator, the evil creatures began swarming at Felix and Khali. The two of them took off in full sprint.
“Can’t we kill them?” Felix yelled as the two ran for their lives. Khali’s cloak whipping back behind her by the air current of their swift pace, Felix somehow keeping stride with the quick ranger despite his lugging a massive flail over his shoulder. He had nearly forgot about the flail, it was so attached to him that he hardly noticed the enormous weight and bulky size of the thing.
“Ya can’t kill the undead, dummy.” Khali yelled back. Suddenly Felix stopped running and halted where he was. He let the flail fall from his shoulder and thud upon the ground. Khali did not stop as quickly, not anticipating such an action from her brother. “What are you doing? You’re going to get yourself killed, ya know that right!” Khali screamed back at Felix with equal amounts of concern and sarcasm. Both of them had seen enough death in their times so as to treat it lighter than most. To warriors, death was merely a part of life and the end of a glorious career.
The Shade halted too, taking their attention from pursuing Khali, to surrounding their new prey.
“You said I couldn’t kill them.” Felix called back to his sister who stood a small distance outside of the growing throng of Shade encircling her younger brother. “You didn’t say I couldn’t destroy them.”
“What’s the difference?” Khali called back over the bald heads of the walking corpses.
“These stupid things are just containers for the spirits of the dead, no?” Felix asked rather lacklusterly, lifting his flail from its resting place on the ground and letting it hang idly by his side, swinging every so slightly back and forth.
“…Yeah, I guess. What’s your point?” Khali called back as the ring around Felix narrowed, the Shade getting closer to their feast of human flesh.
“Well, this sort of falls under my job description.” Felix’s eyes took on an unearthly blue gleam, his blood in his vein illuminated into a neon blue that screamed color throughout his skin like a map painted on his body. The group of Shade was close enough to strike out at Felix, and that was all he had been waiting for. With a jerk of his wrist and planting one foot, Felix pivoted off his other foot and swung the flail in a complete circle around him. The Shade were struck and plowed through by the flail which seemed to have a gravity all of its own. On impact of the firs of the shade, the flail pulse and energy shot out in a ring throwing ten of them back from that spot. Felix twirled his wrist and arm and brought the flail in a faster circle around and around, then allowed its momentum to swing both itself and him, still clinging to the handle, high into the air above the group of Shade. Felix came crashing to the ground, flail first and struck the center of the circle on the earth. A wave of energy exploded blue from the flail and struck dead the Shade, ripping the spirits of the dead from the bodies of the corpses by physical and spiritual force. The corpses fell to the street entirely lifeless. The dead could be killed after all.
“Who are you?” Khali asked, looking at her brother with curious eyes. Such power and yet she was the one who had to save his life before. Such strength and such weakness within this man. Maybe that was why they were siblings. They need each other, even more than either of them knew.