Fallen Paladins

by Heather Dunn

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The six of them called themselves the Paladins, after the ship they had travelled in for so many years, so many millennia lost in the depth of space. They worked to fight evil and bring justice wherever they went. But sometimes, there wasn't much that could readily be done, even with the new abilities they had acquired from the School of Thought. And sometimes disaster struck.

After the chaos that erupted in Torn Elkandu, they'd decided it was probably best to return to Jathassi for the time being, hoping things would settle down again later. There were always things to be done on Jathassi, hunting down leeches and other creatures that stalked the deep caverns of the subterranean cities.

Drekkin was glad that he had picked up those enchanted guns in Torn Elkandu which never needed ammo. Four pistols, one which shot simple force bolts, one fired tiny exploding fireballs, one holy rounds, and one 'mage-buster specialty' that fired force bolts charged with antimagic. And right now, it was the fire and the holy in each hand fighting for his life against the hordes of zombies. But it still wasn't enough to keep them off of him.

Their filthy claws ripped at his flesh, but Drekkin kept stubbornly fighting until the last one of the zombies fell, running mainly on adrenaline and blocking out the pain from his mind. Between him and Victring, they managed to destroy most of the undead who were attacking them. Drekkin looked out at the carnage as Victring ripped the head off the last one, and leaned against a cavern wall with a sigh as the pain finally hit him and he passed out, slumping down to the floor and everything going black.

Drekkin groaned softly as he slowly regained consciousness, blinking up into the darkness and finding himself laying on his back on cold stone. His Seeking-enhanced darkvision outlined his surroundings, telling him that he appeared to be in a cavern somewhere in Jathassi's undercity, and far from the nearest magma flow judging by the temperature. He wasn't sure how he'd gotten there, but spotting Victring's form nearby, he could guess that it wasn't entirely by his own power.

He grunted softly as pain registered sharply, and he shifted a little to examine his own injuries. The gut wound was deep, and bad enough that he knew there was no way he would recover from it without magic or surgery. He might still be alive for the moment but he knew his time was limited, and he was dying. As well off, he figured, for what had happened to his wife and sister, but he wished that he could avenge them somehow before he died, and make sure nobody else was hurt by those zombies and their master if he could.

"Vic... Victring?" he rasped, turning his head toward where he could sense the other stirring faintly. "Are you alright?"

"For the moment," replied the other quietly, shifting over toward him. "You're wounded pretty badly."

"Yeah," Drekkin agreed, coughing hoarsely. He could taste his own blood on his lips. "I don't think I'm going to make it, Vic."

"There is a way you could," the vampire told him quietly. "We've discussed this before."

"Yeah, but I didn't think it would be like this, or so soon," Drekkin replied, sighing and coughing some more. "I'm understandably not particularly eager to be a vampire myself. No offense."

"Even a vampire as powerful as I am has limits. I'm dangerously low on blood here," Victring murmured. "Were it not for my own strength of will, I would already have lost control and taken what I needed from you as it is."

"That's really reassuring. I'd have thought if one of us were going to get out of here it would have at least been you," Drekkin muttered. "Are you sure you can't manage it? I mean, there's probably somebody you could feed on somewhere up there... I guess..."

"Drekkin, listen to me," Victring said quietly but insistantly. "Only one of us is going to make it out of here alive. Now, are you willing to take the chance I'm offering you to avenge your wife and sister? The only way I'd manage to make it out of here is with your blood, and although you'd not be likely to make it out of here anyway, I'd rather give you that chance instead, if you're willing to take it."

Drekkin sighed softly. "Fine," he muttered bitterly. "Alright. I don't like this. I don't like it one bit."

There were sounds of commotion from somewhere above. Victring whispered urgently, "No more time to argue about it. They're coming. Will you accept it?"

"Yes," Drekkin said reluctantly. He certainly wasn't looking forward to it, but it was either that or dying, and he wasn't ready to die yet. There were still things he had to do.

Drekkin climbed out of the cavern to take a look around quietly and make sure that he wasn't about to become zombie food. He could hear their movement nearby. The zombies were not exactly the most stealthy of creatures. He spun around to face a solitary one that was approaching him through a side tunnel.

He would not have recognized the shambling corpse stumbling toward him were it not for the distinctive X-shaped birthmark on its forehead. Katul certainly had looked better, his clothes torn and bloody, but the wounds he had sustained before had closed up.

"Katul?" Drekkin said, warily lowering his pistol a bit and looking to his brother-in-law hopefully.

The zombie showed no signs of recognition, however, staring at him blankly for a moment before moaning, "Braaains?"

"Fucking hell," Drekkin muttered. As the zombie started shuffling toward him again, he pulled out his holy pistol and fired. A bright flash of white light from the weapon struck the creature dead on, shattering the spell that had artificially animated his flesh and causing him to fall back onto the ground, dead again.

Drekkin steeled himself and crept through the tunnels of lower Jathassi quietly, swiftly laying a holy shot into any undead which crossed his sight. He found that his reflexes, which had always been good as a living being, were far better as a vampire. While he despised that nature now upon him, he supposed he could appreciate that at least, as he would need every advantage he could get if he was going to find out where the one behind the zombie invasion was and stop him.

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