Zhill: Rebirth Part 3

Invasion

Zhill had stopped momentarily on his journey south, leaving a nearly literal trail of bodies along the way. He fumed silently as he rested though he needed no rest, another advantage of this new life.  He was virtually unstoppable, or at least he felt so. He did not sleep, rarely experienced muscle fatigue, and only needed to answer the pangs of hunger occasionally to maintain his strength. But this benefit could not quell his wrathful disappointment, which was largely to blame for the prolific destruction that lingered like the wake of his passing.

The chance to strike should have been his. After all, he had discovered the news about the human stronghold, now known to be a monastery just a short distance from the ruined keep the Forsaken had claimed for their own called Undercity. Yet he had not been deemed suitable for the task. He could not help but feel insulted, and reasonably dealt out his vengeance upon any living creature he came across as he traveled to his new destination. It was not that he cared for honor, prestige, or other simulations of humanity.  He knew such things were passed.  It was the lost opportunity to wreak further havoc against the invading humans that turned him towards a reckless pursuit of carnage.

The town’s name was Southshore, and he was told that it was an important port for humans to bring in supplies and additional soldiers. As he surveyed the sleepy village in the hours of pre-dawn, it seemed as peaceful as a graveyard. Off in the shadows Zhill caught a flicker of movement that would have been invisible to any but their kind. Moving quietly through the low grass, he joined another who looked like himself, while altogether different. This one was adorned by a tall mohawk and eyes which matched Zhill’s in color, but were far more fierce. “Who are you and what brings you here?”

There was no question of loyalty, for all had been taught that one could not be as they were and defy the will of the Forsaken. “I am Zhill.  I am the Shadow of Death. And I seek the blood of any pitiful creature unfortunate enough to be found in my gaze. If you seek to attack this village, then let me spill much blood at your side.”  Looking off towards the sleepy community, he continued: “This will be…delicious!” The other, silently unsheathing a large sword, raised it high into the early morning air, signaling the small invading force. Though there were scarcely more than twenty that noiselessly crept up to join them, Zhill knew that if their determination was half of his own, the town would be in ashes before daybreak.

“The Shadow of Death leads us,” the other had spoken back to his band, indicating the beginning of things. Understanding without being directly told, Zhill slinked off g the town that seemed oblivious to his presence. Though a few were going about their daily chores, none noticed as he lurked from shadow to shadow, piercing further and further into the town. When he had nearly reached its epicenter, he stopped to light a small torch that would serve as the signal for those that followed him.

Looking around the corner, he spotted two guards standing watch in what he supposed was the town hall. All appearances indicated that they were numbly serving their duty without any sense of immediacy. Stepping back behind the building, he hurled the torch high into the air where it arced to the wooden roof of a stable. Within seconds it would be ablaze. As Zhill turned back to observe the two sleepy guardsmen, his eye caught something that his mind challenged him to recognize. When he looked again, there was nothing. But it was a sort of nothing that seemed out of place.

Utilizing a trick he had taught himself, he whipped his gaze back and forth over the spot that was bothering him, watching as the trees and buildings blurred. Yet a single spot had not. Now he could clearly see the distortion of some man-sized figure perched beside one of the buildings, yet it was nearly altogether invisible. It was a trap. Somehow, these humans had known. Quickly turning his gaze towards the stable, he saw a sliver of black smoke snaking into the sky. It was too late.

The invading band had not come in yelling and screaming, as their incompetent foes would, but were already breaching the edge of the town in silence. There would be no warning of the invasion. There was only one action to take and only a moment in which to take it. Hurling a dagger with deadly power, he struck what he had thought was this man, but turned out to be some sort of large cat, as it fell from its invisible cloak dead. Pulling his short sword, Zhill charged the crouching figure, an elven archer who took aim, yelling as loudly as he could.

Before he reached his target, he had been struck twice in the chest with arrows. Yet his decision had proved fruitful. Expecting a wave of attackers much like themselves, men in armor poured from the hall expecting to see a mass of enemies. Zhill could see the surprised confusion on their faces when they saw only one, struggling to reach this elf as he was continually peirced with arrows. They nearly broke out into laughter. Until the horrific shrieks of women and children forcibly brought to the end of their lives pierced the morning sky.

As the failure to surprise registered, the invaders had changed their targets. Now inside the buildings, Zhill could imagine them ruthlessly slaughtering defenseless humans who died in abject terror. Stricken with panic, the humans scattered like an upturned bee hive, desperately seeking to protect their loved ones. The elf, seeing Zhill fall to the ground, foolishly decided to come and taunt him as he died.

“Wretched creature,” he sneered. “May you be banished back to the grave.”

Zhill, expecting such haughtiness from an elf, had waited patiently, showing a weaker hand than he possessed. “You first,” he rasped as he leapt to his feet and wickedly slashed his throat. With the chaos of the invasion, he was barely noticed as he held the elf’s chin and watched him spasm with the throes of death. When he had nearly expired, Zhill let him fall to the ground and then thrust his sword through his skull deep into the ground. “Who is wretched now?”

Quickly retrieving the thrown blade, Zhill paused to look at the battle underway. His only kin fought from the protected corridors of the buildings as the humans poured themselves at the entrances, hoping to force their way in. But battle was no stranger to Zhill, and he could see plainly that the day would be lost. Sprinting off towards the docks, he left the clamour of battle behind him as he pulled the arrows from his body and cast them into the water. Jumping into a small boat, he pushed himself from shore and allowed the tide to take him out. The invasion had been poorly planned, and was only nearly salvaged by his own serendipitous arrival. The Forsaken, for all their conspiring, would never reach that for which they aspired. As he slowed his breathing to match the lazy lapping of the water against the craft, Zhill wondered if perhaps the will of the Forsaken was not as indomitable as his own.

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