“Hiding behind a girl, Witch?” Igor called out, checking over his crossbow as he loaded another bolt into it. “Seems pretty petty, don’t you agree?”
“Perhaps, but if we want to oust you from your little nest, dear Raven, then we’ll have to make do with what we have,” the Witch called back. “You could always come out here and try and take us on in a fair bout if you wished to save the maiden. Otherwise, you’ll have to live with this girl’s blood on your hands before we send you to your false God.”
Igor growled, twisting around the cover he’d gained and dropping to his belly, crossbow thrust forward as he took a half-second to line up his shot. With a twang of the string, the bolt launched into the air and struck the Witch in the chest, knocking him back several feet. Bumping into his giggling dead, the Witch looked down at the bolt sticking out of his chest with a wince, blood running from the wound slowly, staining his black robes silver. He muttered an incantation under his breath, waving a hand over his front to seal the wound around the bolt to stem the bleeding. He looked up triumphantly, a flurry of snow whipping over the graveyard almost as chilling as the Witch’s glare.
“Nice try Raven, but I was the Priest of a town close by before I answered my Dark Master’s call. I know how to seal wounds and treat the injured.” The Witch crowed, earning a fresh round of cackles from the gathered dead, and a scream from the girl. “Now little bird, I ask you again: will you let this child’s blood stain the snow just so we can come in there and get you, or will you cooperate?”
Rolling back behind the interior wall, Igor took the precise movements of loading his crossbow as a moment to contemplate. He’d been sent here to root out the Witch by his Roost, which he’d done well enough considering the bastard was bearing down on him. The fact that he had a young woman with him and his lost souls didn’t bode well for the hunter of the damned; his meager protections offered by the sacred ground would falter if she was properly sacrificed, and the towns lone defense would evaporate like smoke on the wind should that happen.
No, Igor needed to take the fight to them.
“You win this one Witch!” Igor called out, ignoring the giggles as they rose in tenor. “Release the girl and I’ll come out peacefully!”
The girl shrieked, prompting Igor to look around the corner. The Witch was holding her by her hair now, her hands tangled in her locks as they fought with his firm grip. The curved ritual knife was clenched tightly in his fist, the lost souls around him looming on the outskirts of the holy ground, snarling and growling as they waited for the chance to come in after Igor. The Witch smiled, almost as if he was thinking about Igor’s promise.
Then he plunged the knife into the girl’s chest, twisting the blade and pulling it down as he gouged a long, ragged line in her pink flesh. Her outfit quickly stained red as blood rained down from her body, a scream echoing throughout the countryside as she was thrown into the snow of the graveyard, a faint hum of ancient magic’s buzzing ever so slightly, a feeling that you could sense with the back of your teeth vibrating.
The hallowed ground was ruined, defiled by a ritual sacrifice to a Dark God. The lost souls came bounding down the path towards the decrepit church, scrabbling over flagstone and each other to get close enough to use their rusty knife and spiked clubs on Igor in a chance to impress the Witch.
Igor quickly fired off a bolt, the dart whizzing through the air to splinter into the face of an old woman, her lone eye going wide as her nose crunched inward, teeth flying from her upper palate as the bolt busted her skull wide open, revealing her gray brain which began to slide out of the wound slowly. She fell to the ground, trampled by her brethren who paid her no mind as they closed in on the church, rising to their feet to wield their weapons effectively.
A one-legged lost soul with a broken jaw and glassy eyes wielding a dented crowbar stopped at the entryway, swinging the crowbar into the framework, splintering rotten wood as Igor rolled to his feet, pulling his hand axe from his hip, along with a vial of holy water for his other hand.
“Your head will bring me favor with the Master,” the lost soul somehow managed to gurgle despite his dangling jaw. He lunged forward, crowbar raised high in the air to bash in Igor’s head. He barely had time to bring his axe up to sever the hand holding the makeshift weapon, a slice that Igor made with a flash of silver glinting in the moon. Dark blood sludged forth from the wrist, the lost soul backing away howling in agony as it stared at its second stump.
The hand that had been holding the crowbar now lay on the ground, flopping about like a fish on a dry dock.
Igor didn’t have time to celebrate his success as two more lost souls pressed past their injured comrade, each wielding clubs that required them to use both hands to handle them correctly.
Igor popped the cork off the vial of holy water before throwing the holy water like acid on the lost soul to the left, the water bubbling up on the damned souls gray flesh. It screamed and dropped the club, rotting fingers moving to tear at the skin that the holy water touched, ripping away large gobbets of muscle and skin as it frantically attempted to remove the blessed waters from its body.
The other lost soul swung the club in a lazy arc, forcing Igor to back up into a room that could have once been a sitting room if the rotted chairs were any indication. The lost soul pressed its advantage and came at Igor swinging its club wildly. Igor ducked beneath a wild swing and moved in close enough to bring his hand ax to bear, cutting deep into the lost souls chest. Thick ichor seeped out of the wound, staining the haggard linen that hung from the lost soul’s frame, the blow having snapped a few ribs within the body. Had he been a living, breathing man the wound would have been fatal.
But that wasn’t the case.
“Gah!” The lost soul cried out, kicking out with a leg to try and push Igor away. Igor swung the ax down into the leg, cutting deep into the thigh and into the femur, lodging the weapon in bone which, when pulled by Igor, splintered within the meaty tissue. The leg gave way, causing the lost soul fall to the ground in an ungainly pile of foul-smelling rot. Igor finished the creature off by stomping on its head with his hard-soled boots, using the move as a step towards the pained lost soul, bringing the ax down into the skull, silencing it forever.
Igor smiled for a half-second, his victories over the lost souls bolstering his confidence in his chances of survival. This proved to be his downfall as two arrows, fired from the short bows that the lost souls sported about, struck him in the chest and gut, His leather chest piece absorbed the brunt of the sharpened wooden stakes, but each one sank half an inch into his flesh drawing blood and rocking him back on his heels.