The Believers – Chapter 14

Dana went over her own bedroom one more time. She knew Tya, her personal servant, wouldn’t miss anything, but Tya had directed one of the other housekeepers to check on this room.  That young girl would not be around very long, Dana knew.  Some people could handle working in Dana’s house, and this girl wasn’t one of them.  Dana didn’t remember the girl’s name, and didn’t care to learn it.

Tya was a lot like Dana was, but knew her place well and never once had deviated from it.  Some people took a long time to figure such things out, and some people never did.

Surprisingly enough, the bedroom had been taken care of properly.  She strolled around the room, slowly, her eyes wandering over the last few pieces of furniture that remained- the bare mattress on the bed, the small table beside it.  These things had already been replaced in their new home, so they would be left behind.

Tya entered the room, silently, watching her mistress finish the inspection.  Her skin was lighter than anyone else she’d met, a marble-white that wasn’t affected by being out in the sun.  Her eyes were large and round, and her black hair was in a long braid that lay on one shoulder and dangled just below her breast.  She was thin, but not starved-looking.  Tya’s face curled into a discreet smile as Dana turned toward her.  The expression on Dana’s face had already conveyed her satisfaction, even if she wouldn’t say anything.

Dana was wearing a clinging red shirt with no sleeves, and a long white skirt that draped down to just above the ankles of her tall black-leather boots.  Her hair was down, as if she hadn’t wanted to bother with it any more than to brush it straight.  Upon meeting her servants eyes, she turned to survey the room one more time.

“I must say I’m surprised your girl got everything the first try,” Dana said, moving back toward the door.

“Ma’am, she was about half-way finished when I instructed her to leave.”  Tya paused a moment before finishing.  “I know you weren’t happy having her around.  She’s cleaning out her residence.”

Dana allowed herself a smirk.  Once again, Tya had been ahead of the game.  “So you finished in here yourself?”

“No, Ma’am.  I had Brania finish.  She had already completed her work in the kitchen.”

Dana passed her servant in the doorway, crossed the short hall, and began to descend the stairs.  Brania had been around long enough to learn the rules, as well, and while there was occasionally a hint of rebellion in her eyes, she kept it to herself.  Dana didn’t yell at her staff, but she did expect a lot from them.  They were kept comfortable, especially relative to the other inhabitants of the city, and she felt justified in setting her standards high.

*****

Sylda stood at her post, bored and overheated. She’d taken off her helmet through the worst of the day’s heat, but even now, with the sun sinking in the sky, it was dreadfully hot.  Her lieutenant had already shouted at her for leaving her helmet off, and she didn’t want any more attention like that.  It was bad enough that the man had a crush on her, and that she’d ignored his advances.  Now he was making advances in private and shouting at her in public every chance he got.  She shook her head, turning to look inward from the fence.  Everyone was packing their households into wood boxes, and the next day they’d spend loading them onto carriages.

She wished she knew where they were going.  It was clear that her lieutenant knew, and was holding it over her head.  He was distantly related to the ruling family, as he incessantly reminded her, and was in on many of the secrets that abounded in a city like Carter’s Hill.  Sometimes it seemed to her that moving out to one of the outer villages would be a good idea.  Unfortunately, it would be a long time before she could afford to go anywhere.

She turned to look back out through the fences, and saw a few of the corn-stalks moving.  It was 20 meters from her, and the tall green stalks prevented her from seeing what was inside, but something was definitely moving in there.  It couldn’t be the Turned – there wasn’t that much shade in there- most likely it was one of the city’s children, playing hide and seek with his friends and thinking he was clever.

Then she saw the spark.  It looked like a flint-steel kit, but then something began burning, throwing off light-blue sparks.  The sparks moved slowly across the dirt between the fence and the corn, eventually sneaking between the wires.  Sylda took a step closer, trying to get a good look.  Soon the sparks stopped, and then Sylda’s world literally turned upside down.

*****

The blast shook the ground, nearly sending Dana and her servant tumbling down the stairs.  Dana caught her balance, then looked back to be sure Tya wasn’t going to fall on her.  Immediately afterward, she dashed down the stairs, nearly tripping on the long white skirt she wore.  She reached the bottom of the stairs just as the second explosion happened.  She had opened her front door when she heard the third.

She had to race around the side of the house to see where the sounds had come from.  The dust thrown up from the first blast was starting to settle, but from the other two locations, all she could see was a brown cloud.  Pieces of dirt and debris were still falling.

The first explosion had happened behind the city office buildings,  the second near the house Donovan lived in.  The third was close to the stable where the four carriages assigned to the ruling family had been staged.  These were nearly ready to go, and the plan was for them to leave in the morning.  The people themselves would ride in other carriages just after noon.  It was an hour’s journey, and they’d easily have enough time for three trips.

But not now.  She still couldn’t see what had happened in the later explosions, but behind the stable building, a terrible hole had been rent in both of the fences.  A crater large enough for her carriage had been carved out of the dirt, and the posts holding up the fence had been flattened out away from the blast.  One had broken off completely.  The hole in the two fences had to be 3 meters wide.  She took a few steps closer, then looked over to the other two blast sites.  Her fears were confirmed as the dust settled; there were three holes in the fences.  Both the inner and outer fence had been breached.  It would take hours to fix just the outer fences – the posts holding up the steel wire had been broken in many places.  And the sun was setting fast.  They had less than two hours before the Turned would be streaming through the holes in the fences.

*****

Not too far away from where Dana stood, shocked by what she saw, the guards around the gate to the middle section of town were similarly stunned.  They had trained for breaches in the fences, though, and at its core, that was what had happened. They had received new orders for situations like this just within the past two days.  The lieutenant in charge of the shift barked orders, and the guards on the upper side withdrew through the gate.  In one hour, they’d be closing it, no matter who was on the breach side.

*****

Donovan had been coming out of the house when the explosions started, and the second had nearly deafened him.  Now that his head was clearing, he was giving orders to the guards who were coming to see what had happened.  The first man he spoke to was an off-duty captain, who nodded to acknowledge his orders, then sprinted toward the gate.  The second man to report to Donovan was sent to find the lady of the city, Miss Gina, and ask her to meet at the stable.

It wasn’t long before all of the wealthy families in town were out, looking at the holes in their fences and wringing their hands with worry.  Donovan began gathering them near the stables, then began giving instructions to each of them.  The heads of the families all scattered to carry them out.

Gina arrived a few moments later.  Donovan was still trying to gather his hearing.  She was dressed to ride, which was fortunate.  She saw the holes in the fences, and didn’t need to ask what had happened.

“Ma’am, I advise you all to make for the new city immediately.  I’ve sent for the travel carriages to be brought around to the outside of the fence, right through there.  These four carriages are all set to go.  The other families can leave their belongings here until morning, when we can send for them.  But we have barely enough time to get everyone out of here.”

Gina nodded, then turned as hoof beats announced the approach of someone on horseback.  Troy had been outside the fences when the explosions hit, and had picked his way through one of the craters.

“That’ll take almost a day to repair,” he said, to no one’s surprise.  “Mother, we need to go.  I’ll ride ahead to warn them that we’re on our way.”  Gina nodded her assent.  Troy turned his horse, rode over near the stable, and shouted at three of the soldiers there to mount horses and follow him.  Then he headed out of through the holes in the fences again.

Donovan had tasked a group of men to cutting a new hole in the fence, making the breach near the stable larger.  While a horse could easily navigate one of the craters, a carriage could not.  He had no illusions about moving the carriage through either the gate to the outside or through the rest of the city.  It would take more than half of the city’s soldiers just to maintain a path.  And then everyone would know that they were leaving.  This was the fastest path, and no one would be rebuilding this fence anyway.  It took only 15 minutes for carriages to begin pulling up outside the breach, and the other wealthy families immediately began to stream through and climb aboard.

Within a half hour of the explosions, they had gotten underway.  More than half of the city’s soldiers rode or jogged alongside the carriages.  There were 45 carriages total, and at the head of the train were the four carrying the Carterson’s belongings.  Most of the servants of the three households were perched atop them or were on foot nearby.  Gina drove the lead carriage herself, with Dana beside her on the seat.  Both of them had a steely look in their eyes, angry from their plan being led astray.

They pushed the horses hard, forcing those on foot to fight to keep pace.  It didn’t take long before many were worn out from the trip, falling behind in the train farther and farther until some were trailing the last carriage by several meters.  The mounted soldiers kept their eyes on the edges of the road, preparing themselves for anything that might endanger their charges.  This would be the perfect opportunity for bandits, but hopefully the sheer number of soldiers would discourage any would-be attackers.

Heading east meant that they had less time to get to the new city than they’d foreseen.  Dusk was quickly approaching their destination, and for a good portion of the journey, Gina wasn’t convinced that everyone would make it.  None of their carriages were strong enough to keep the Turned out all night, and the one she rode on was completely full already.

*****

At the gates to the middle section of the old city, the guards were preparing to close the gates.  The two captains who lived in the upper section had hurried their families back through.  They looked at each other, then around at the guards they had assembled nearby.  It took only a few moments to realize that they were the two highest-rank officers that remained in the city.  It wasn’t long after that they realized that they had a fraction of the fighters they’d need if the Turned breached the fences anywhere else.  The bulk of the defenders of the city had ridden off to the East.

Many of the city’s people had gone out to see what was happening, but now they streamed back inside.  The Turned would be out again soon.  The two captains looked at each other, both thinking the same thing;  When would the people start asking questions? And what should we tell them?

*****

The ride was rough, but Gina had endured worse. Dana was complaining about it occasionally, but it was good for her, and her mother didn’t console her for it.  She merely kept her eyes on the track in front of her.  Her head turned occasionally to mark the position of the sun.  They were running out of time, but she believed they would all make it.

Donovan rode up beside her carriage, and kept pace beside her.

“What is it that happened?” she asked, crossly.  She knew what the answer would be, but she needed to voice her displeasure.  Everyone needed to know how important it was to find out what had happened, who had been responsible, and it had to start with her.

“I don’t know, ma’am.  Those explosions were louder than any I’ve seen.  A flame weapon’s tank wouldn’t have made craters like that.  Maybe if they were buried, but we’d have seen people doing that.”  He took a deep breath.  “I’ve spoken to all the guards on duty at that portion of the fence, and no one noticed anything out of the ordinary.  One guard was knocked unconscious by the blast, and she was moved back to the middle section of town.  I think she’ll be ok, judging from my look at her.”

Gina turned her head to meet his eyes, wearing an expression that clearly told him to quit wasting her time talking about the guards.  Donovan looked back to the road.

“I don’t have anything else to report, ma’am.  I’ll be trying to find out what happened, and who is behind it, but I feel confident that it wasn’t anyone from Carter’s Hill.  If my people hadn’t heard of it, I’m sure Dana’s would have.”

Dana smirked at his sideward compliment.  Her people should have heard about something like that, but whoever had conspired to destroy their fence had done a good job of keeping it quiet.

“The thing that bothers me, Donovan,” Dana said, “is that I can’t think of a way that someone could get close enough to the fence to do anything like this without being spotted.  Whatever it is that they did, how did they do it unseen?  Unless it was one of the guards, I can’t imagine how it’d be possible.”

Donovan nodded.  “That is a possibility, but again, either yourself or I would have been made aware of it with plenty of time to stop it.  To me, this means it was either an individual who was acting alone, or it was a group from outside Carter’s Hill.  An attack on us.  The most obvious culprit I can think of is the group that our soldiers encountered at Silverlake.”

Gina’s head snapped around at that.  “We still haven’t heard from the force we sent there, have we?”

Donovan shook his head, embarrassed again at his lack of knowledge.  “No, ma’am.”

Gina took a deep breath.  “If that size of a force was unable to take Silverlake, we’ll need to find a better way to deal with them.  Especially if they were responsible for the incident tonight.  If you find anything that connects them, I want to know immediately.”

Donovan nodded again, then turned his head to look forward.  They had reached a widening of the road, just before it left the forest.  In another minute, they could see the outer walls of their city.  And not a moment too soon, either- the sun was close to setting, and certainly the Turned were moving within the forest.  Within a half hour, they’d be swarming around the walls of the new city.  Already the passengers on the carriages behind them were casting nervous looks into the forest on either side.

They headed directly for the west gate after passing the edge of the forest.  The trees had not been cleared enough to provide the farmland that the city would require.  That would be done over the next few weeks.  Woodcutters would take the trees down one rank at a time, watched over by teams of soldiers with flame weapons, just in case the Turned had found a dark enough patch that was close enough to grab one of the living.  But for now, they emerged from the forest within 80 meters of the western gate.

It didn’t take very long to realize that something was wrong.  In the tall grass on the south side of the new city, four horses had scattered and were now calmly grazing.  They looked up as the huge column of carriages emerged into the field, then went back to eating.  At first, Donovan thought it was a good sign.  The horses would smell the Turned coming, and would panic long before the walking dead got close.  Seeing them relaxed and eating meant they had time to get inside.

He rode ahead of the carriages, approaching the gate, but stopped not far from the huge doors.  He still marveled at the size of the wall and the doors, but then turned toward the grazing horses behind him.  He pushed his horse to the edge of the tall grass, looking down at something that lay there.

It was the hand that caught his attention.  It lay on the road, the arm sticking out from the grass and prairie flowers.  It had been hidden from view before, but now that he was close to it, he could see it perfectly.  It was a large man, dressed in the uniform-armor that Carter’s Hill issued its guards.  An arrow had hit him in the upper chest.  Most likely one of the horses was his.  Donovan pushed his horse again, to approach the others in the field.

When he was 10 meters from the first, he took a deep breath and closed his eyes.  It was quite plainly Troy’s horse.  Donovan turned to scan the grass, looking for him, but didn’t see him.  He wheeled his horse around to face the carriages, then spurred her hard to return with a report.  Gina’s eyes were steely as he approached.

“Those horses,” he said, pointing, “belonged to Troy and the advance guard that had come ahead of us.  I found one of the soldiers dead, shot with an arrow.”  He didn’t continue, knowing Gina had made the connection.  She didn’t speak for a long moment.

“But who would have…”  Her voice trailed off as her carriage approached the wall.  Her eyes went upward to the top of the wall.  At a distance, they hadn’t seen anyone posted on the wall, but now they were within 40 meters, and could see the dozen or so people who patrolled over the gate.

They were not soldiers from Carter’s Hill.  They were dressed in black, and carried long spears with curved, wicked blades.  They looked down at the approaching caravan, but showed no signs of moving toward the bolts on the great door.

The leading carriage stopped 10 meters from the door.  Donovan stopped a few steps ahead, looking up with his mouth agape.  The other carriages began to cluster on the road behind them as those behind made haste to get out of the forest and closer to the door.

“Open the gate!” Donovan called.  “Carter’s Hill was breached.  Let us in before the Turned come out!”

For a long moment, there was no answer.  In his heart, there was a glimmer of hope that they would be allowed inside, but his subconscious mind had already guessed at what had happened here, and what was going to happen next.

Then a voice called down to them from the rampart over the gate.

“I fear the gate will remain closed,” the man called.  He leaned over the edge of the wall, looking down at them with an angry look on his face.  “After what you did to us at Silverlake, I don’t believe we will allow you inside.”

Gina sat still, turning her head slightly to look toward the forest.  She could see the underbrush moving, here and there.  This city didn’t have as large a clearing as Carter’s Hill had, or as most villages had.  There hadn’t been time to prepare the land to produce crops yet.  The trees were much closer to these walls than they were elsewhere.  When the Turned came out, there wouldn’t be much time.

The road behind them was hopeless.  Even if they made it past the line of trees, they would be swarmed long before they made it back to the old city.  Their horses would be eaten first, and the carriage doors broken open, and everyone here would be ruthlessly devoured.

Dana looked up at the speaker with terrified defiance in her eyes.  “This is our city!  We built it!”

The speaker’s eyebrows rose, and a faint smile cracked his lips.  “And you built it well.  Thank you.  We will make good use of it, I assure you.”  Then his eyes shifted to the trees.  The Turned had begun to shamble out towards them, slowly marching toward the smell of living flesh.

Donovan turned his horse around, spurring her to the end of the line.  Once, when he was a very young man, he’d been part of a caravan that had been caught by the Turned before reaching a protective fence.  He remembered clearly how he’d survived that night, and hoped they had time to implement that strategy again here.  Once at the end of the line, he barked at the driver of the last carriage, loud enough to be heard by the two or three drivers ahead.

“Get up to the other wagons, and form a circle!  Form a circle, right now!  The Turned are coming out, and we can’t get inside our wall!”

The driver’s jaw dropped open.  The woman beside him drained of color.  “What are we going to do?” she shrieked.  The children in the back of the wagon began whimpering, sensing the fear from their parents.

“We’ll make two circles of the wagons, and set the outer circle on fire,” Donovan said.  “It’s all we can do.”

The driver closed his mouth, his expression shifting to grim resolve.  Donovan had given him a plan, and it had a chance of working.  He whipped his team of oxen, and they drove forward again.

Donovan rode up the line slowly, shouting the plan over and over as he passed the straggling wagons.  One of the soldiers from the front of the line, a Captain, rode back and let his horse fall into pace beside Donovan’s mount.

“I heard your plan from up front, sir.  What orders should I pass along?”

“We need two wagon circles, Captain,” Donovan said.  His trip to the end of the line had served two purposes; to get the tail end of the line moving, and to double-check the number of wagons and carriages.  “Miss Gina and Miss Dana are in the middle circle, and the next 6 wagons behind them.  Move them 50 meters back from the wall, into that clearing there,” he pointed.  “Then set up another circle around them, starting about 15 meters from the inner circle.  Use up all the rest of the wagons in the outside circle, Captain, and when you run out, we’ll see where we stand.”

“Yes, sir,” the Captain nearly shouted, spurring his horse forward.  Donovan shouted the plan at two more wagon-drivers, then rode forward to report in to the ruling family.

Gina was scolding Dana when he approached, and he slowed his horse’s pace, giving her time to finish before he interrupted.  She saw him approach, and waved him to come closer.  “It appears you have a plan, Donovan.”

“Yes, ma’am.  We’ll make two circles with the wagons and carriages, and set the outer ring on fire.”  He tried to keep hope and resolve in his eyes, but Gina had known him for too long.

“You aren’t sure it’ll work,” she said, evenly.

“I believe it will work, ma’am,” he said, honestly.  “I’ve seen it work before.  I’m just not sure how many of us it will save.”

Dana wiped her eyes, trying hard to keep control of the panic.  “You’ve seen it work before?”

“Yes, I have.  When I was young, I was with a caravan that got caught in the wild, and this was what we did.”  He shrugged.  “Obviously, I made it through that night.”

“How many of the others in the caravan made it with you?” Dana asked, suddenly hopeful.

He sighed, looking to Gina.  She knew the answer- she’d seen the report the following day.  Donovan didn’t know if saying it out loud would be a good idea, though.

“She needs to hear it now, Donovan.”

He nodded, then looked back to Dana.  “Ma’am, out of 65 people, we had two survivors.  Myself… and you.”

She shook herself, as if a shiver passed down her spine.  “Me?”

“Yes, ma’am- you were less than two years old,” Donovan said.  He looked toward where his Captain, and three other soldiers, were organizing the rest of the inner carriage circle around the Cartersons.  Given a job to do, they were performing well.  That was the secret, he thought.  Keep them busy with a task that might work, and it’ll keep panic at bay. “Ma’am, I need to get more of the wagons in place.  Stay here, please, and climb atop your carriage in a few minutes.  Let the others see you.”  He wheeled his horse around, heading toward a pair of carriages whose drivers had yet to receive instructions.

Donovan had just enough wagons to complete the circle, and they were almost in place when the Turned got close enough to smell.  He rode toward the west, where the Turned were closest, meeting his Captain as the walking dead came within 20 meters of the carriages.

“Set loose the animals!” Donovan shouted.  “Set loose all the animals!”  The soldiers, scattered throughout the formation, passed the word along, and soon horses and oxen were pressing through the spaces between the wagons.  They would be panicked by the approaching Turned anyway, and set free, they would give the Turned something else to eat.  Donovan sighed, watching the first few animals trying to find a way to escape the broken claws and rotting teeth of the Turned.

“Flame weapons!” Donovan shouted.  The Captain had anticipated this order, and two soldiers stepped forward, triggering their flame weapons and bathing the wagons in fire.  They moved quickly around the outer circle, lighting the entire circle within five minutes, then darting between the last two unlit wagons before working together to light these, as well.

Inside the wagons, the families had clustered around the belongings they had pulled off their wagons and carriages.  Not everything could be saved, but they tried.  Donovan moved between them, heading for the inner circle, motioning for the Captain to follow him.  Once past this inner circle, Donovan gathered the remaining soldiers close, and moved them toward the Carterson’s carriage.

“All right, troops, good work.  Now, with what’s left of the flame weapons, we’ll light this circle and stay inside of here until dawn.”  Donovan looked back toward Gina and Dana, perched atop their carriage.  “Everyone not inside this circle right now will be kept outside this circle.  If they try to force their way through, kill them.”

The eyes of the soldiers went wide.  The officers knew to keep their mouths shut, but a Sergeant spoke up at once.  “Sir, we can’t just leave them out there – what if the Turned break through the outer ring?”

“They already are, Sergeant,” Donovan said, pointing.  The entire group followed his gesture, and sure enough, the Turned were already moving close to the spaces between burning wagons.  While a single one of them wouldn’t approach the fire and heat, the swarm behind was pushing the leaders forward, right into the fire in some places, and wouldn’t stop pushing toward the living flesh they could smell.  “If you want to go out there and defend them, you’re welcome to, but it’s a one-way trip.”

The Sergeant looked at the ground, and shook his head slightly.

“Ok then, now that that’s settled,” Donovan growled, “Let’s get these wagons lit.  Those families out there will figure this out real fast.”  The soldiers scattered, forming a ring around the inside of the inner wagon ring.  The flame-weapon carriers lit the remaining wagons, all except for the Carterson carriage in the center.  As soon as the fires took hold, the families outside began to panic.  Donovan looked to the West, seeing the first of the Turned push past the burning outer ring.  They were on fire, but those behind them were not – at least, not yet.  A group of three got ahold of a young man, pulling him three directions by his arms and one leg, spreading their own fire to his clothing while they bit into his limbs.  His screams were contagious – within a minute, everyone outside of the inner carriage ring was shrieking in terror.  Donovan looked away, meeting Gina Carterson’s gaze as she sat atop her carriage.  Her face was grim, but still thankful and approving of his actions.  He closed his eyes, listening as the screams turned from terror to pain, and then slowly died out.  Soon, all he could hear over the popping and crackling fires were the crunching of bones as the Turned pulled their victims apart.

And then, the Turned began to approach the inner ring.  The outer-ring fires were beginning to die down- the dry wood of the carriages and wagons was burning faster than Donovan had predicted.  He looked around the inner ring, knowing that these fires wouldn’t last, either.  The sun had barely set, and they were running out of heat fast.

“How are the flame weapons?” he shouted at the Captain.

“Both are empty, sir,” the soldier replied.  “What do we do?”

Donovan shook his head, slowly.  “Keep them off the Carterson’s carriage as long as we can.”  He looked into the Captain’s eyes.  “Good luck, Captain.”

The man’s eyes widened with fear, then closed for a moment.  It was the way of a soldier- the fear of death washed over him for a moment, then was replaced by resolve.  This is a good man, Donovan thought.  I wish he had a chance.

The first of the Turned pushed between the burning carriages, not 5 meters from him.  Still on fire, missing half of its left arm, blackening from the heat, it lurched toward him with both arms outstretched.  Donovan turned toward one of the soldiers on the other side, holding out a hand.  An extra axe was passed to him a moment later.  He stepped forward, beheading the corpse, then swinging for its torso a moment later.  The axe didn’t quite make it through the thing’s body, and was pinned in place by the dead body’s spine.  The others, on either side, reached for his arms.  He felt the heat before he felt their grip.  He tried to step back, but the one he’d beheaded already had a grip on his shirt.  It seemed to know it couldn’t bite him anymore, and swung it’s stump of a right arm into his head instead.  Donovan saw start for a moment, then felt himself pushed to the ground, his face covered by a charred torso.  He couldn’t draw breath to scream, choking on the smoke and infected blood dripping into his mouth.  They started biting him, on all his limbs, and the weight on him grew as if they were piling on him, each trying to get a grip and a bite before there was none left.  The wind left his lungs completely, and he blacked out.

*****

Cheszalt watched from the ramparts, a cold witness to the Creator’s plan as it took its course again.  He had never heard such screaming from so many people.  Some of the parents put themselves between their children and the Turned, but that only delayed the inevitable.

Their plan had been admirable, even if it hadn’t worked.  The wagons just didn’t have enough fuel to burn through the night, even if the heat had been enough to stop the swarming Turned.  Cheszalt could see what they couldn’t – the swarm must have numbered in the thousands, and those in back would put too much pressure on the leaders.  The fire had no chance of stopping them.

At the center of the fires, like the heart of a tornado, was the lead carriage.  The Cartersons, he’d thought, watching with detached interest.  It took a long time for the Turned to reach it, but they did, and once there, it was only a few minutes before they’d broken open the door.  Cheszalt turned away, knowing how it would end – they’d break through the ceiling, and pull the two women down into their midst, devouring them, leaving no flesh behind to re-animate.

It pained Cheszalt to abandon the children, so many who could be taught the way of the Order and the words of their Creator, but there was no saving them.  He whispered a short prayer for them as the screaming died down, then turned away from the wall to descend the stairs.

It truly was a magnificent city, he thought, letting his mind wander away from the carnage outside.  It would make a worthy place for him to rebuild the Order.

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