3. In the Dead of Night

Follow the comical trials of the anti social warrior Stacy Brancomb.
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3. In the Dead of Night

Post by Wraithwriter »

Dark heavy clouds hung over Vargbriton threatening to release their burden in a downpour that would wash the city streets clean. Business in the city continued as usual if only a bit more rushed in hopes of avoiding a soaking; however, for some, their work would offer no respite once the coming storm loosed its fury.

In a fallow field about a mile outside the city's eastern outskirts, a group of workers dug laboriously away in a large trench. The trench was one of many in the field and would be used to bury the city's dead, a practice dating back to the city's founding as the area that it was built could not easily yielding enough corps to feed the growing populace, let alone trade.

As a new free city struggling to maintain its autonomy, the council knew that it could not request help form an outside power. So the council mandated, on the advice of the druids of the area, that all bodies of the dead be used to fertilize the fields. Today the practice had nothing to do with fertilization, only a disregard for the earthly remains of the deceased, a direct result of the uses of the departed as fertilizer. It was in one of these trenches that Stacy Brancomb found herself.

She hadn't lasted a single show at her last job. Only minutes into the performance and the feel of a rider's crop swatting her rump had caused her to snap. Letting loose a war cry she’d torn away from her front end to catch the crop as it came down to meet her rump. She’d then ripped it from the actor’s hand and proceeded to educate the man on why you didn't use a crop on one Stacy Brancomb. While her actions had earned a huge uproar from the crowd, she was escorted out of the arena by heavily armed guards.

From the arena she had marched directly to the Hiring Hall and punched the proprietor, breaking his nose. Afterward she took to the streets to inquire of anyone if they had a position to fill since she was not about to return to her place of dwelling to face her landlord. It was only by chance that she had glanced up as a man completed pasting up a poster on one of the city buildings. The poster was one of those motivational government posters that attempted to generate civil responsibility in the populace; though for Stacy it was just what she was looking for.

It was a job advertisement sealed with the Vargbriton Council seal. The offer promised hard work, good pay, and the best thing of all in Stacy’s opinion, a letter of reference awarded at job completion. With that letter she could find something more fitting to her talents, and maybe a job with a merchant caravan, anything that would help her get out of the city. So it was that she arrived at the appointed place and time specified on the poster, and here she was, throwing dirt and mud over her shoulder and being covered from head to toe in return for her troubles.

After tossing earth over her shoulder three more times, Stacy grounded her shovel to stretch her back. At only twenty-five she was feeling like an old woman, it just went to show her that a body conditioned for fighting was not one conditioned for digging holes. Digging apparently worked a completely different set of muscles than fighting with her axe. For one, there was much more up and down movement, which contributed to her current back complaint, and another was the burn between her shoulder blades. Just as she finished her stretch and was about to get back to work the foreman whistled, signaling the evening meal.

Meals on the job site consisted of some thin gruel or soup with bread and dried meat served out of the back of a covered wagon. Tonight’s soup was a watery beef broth with thin slices of turnips while the meat and bread was the same as always: tough dried strips of beef accompanied by dark rich bread. It wasn’t a feast but in Stacy’s thinking it was even better since it was free, it allowed her to stretch her meager funds further.
All too soon the meal break ended and she was about to go back to digging when she noticed that the others were just standing around and giving nervous glances toward the setting sun. Whistling again, the foreman waved for everyone to gather around him. In a manner of minutes all the workers stood in a semi-circle with the foreman in the center.

“Now,” the foreman began, “I know that you are all a little nervous about the rumours of the undead wondering the streets. This is why I am going to let anyone that wishes to head home to do so without docking of your pay. So how many of you are going to take me up on the offer?”
It was no real surprise to Stacy that she was the only one who did not raise her hand, for which she received a dirty look form the foreman; he apparently had wanted to check out early as well. Well that was just tough in Stacy’s thinking, she was being paid to do a job and she was going to do it for the allotted amount of time per day. Besides, if all of these cowards were afraid of a few zombies they only had themselves to blame. What did you think would happen when they disrespected the dead by burying them in mass unmarked graves?

“Alright,” the foreman stated after taking notice of everyone who had raised their hand, “it looks like all those who raised your hands can go, but I will expect you all to be here before first light.”

For some time the area was confusion as the others gathered up their jackets and departed. Very few of them even bothered to give Stacy a nod of farewell; she was not the most liked individual in the work party. Once they were gone she hopped back into the hole and began digging once more. She did not stop till the foreman whistled again to signal the end of the workday.

By now the sun was three hours into its bed and the only light in the dark field were the torches burning close to where she had been digging. Just then lighting skittered across the sky and was followed by a great peel of thunder. Soon after, the promised rain arrived.

Giving Stacy a glare, the foreman waved her off and she began to walk back to her apartment on the other side of the city. Normally she would stick to the outskirts of the city respecting the sensibilities of the citizens by not subjecting them to her dirt covered countenance; however, due to the rain she decide to take a more direct route through the city. She figured that the rain combined with the late hour would keep most of the citizens indoors.

Her journey was for the most part uneventful, except when she slipped on a wet cobblestone twisting her knee. After that, she slowed her pace both watching her footing and trying to keep her weight off her injured knee as much as possible. The result was a slow shambling walk made even slower by the ache in her lower back that forced groans past her lips. Close by someone screamed and she could have sworn she heard another shout “Zombie”, but the sounds of the rain and her exhaustion made her question her hearing.

Upon arriving at her apartment building she attempted to open the door but it was locked. Cursing at the landlords orderly habits, Stacy searched her pocket for her key before realizing that it was sitting on the bedside table in her room; she had not wanted to lose it today like she had almost done over the past four days. Cursing again, this time at her own fallacy, she banged on door shouting the landlord’s name, “Forwithe!” She knew that the man was not asleep and his own apartment was close to the entry door so she was sure he would hear her racket.

Shortly a shout from within rewarded Stacy’s efforts, she heard the locks and bolts slide out of the rests. As the door swung open she heard Forwithe begin on his usual tirade but as he looked out at her he froze. “It’s true!” Forwithe exclaimed in a breathless voice. “The dead walk the night!” He then fainted there on the threshold leaving Stacy bewildered by his reaction.

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