We return to Dunman the Unturned from the 7th Fire this week in another preview chapter. I'm making it a two-parter, in true epic fashion. I've been toying around with this idea of Dunman and his universe set in medieval-style zombie far-future for so long, that to see it come to life brings a smile of satisfaction. I think it's pretty cool and I hope you enjoy it, both this one and next week's fire.
As Dunman scanned the lit horizon, the flicker of torches and the sparkle of steel, he knew that he was not coming out of this one alive.
The offensive had been going well for the King's army. So good that they made the mistake and stopped advancing. When an army stops, it allows the opposing army time to gather their strength at the front.
That’s what Dunman had witnessed over the course of five days. Tall, spindly pines, worthless trash wood compared to the forests of his homeland, he saw slowly replaced on the outskirts of their King’s encampment. In its stead arose towers, built by the same shit wood, but lined around and encroaching slowly in.
They had studied the Easterner’s tactics. They rattled it off constantly over those five days. Those towers are just distractions, they use them to keep your eye up high, and off the undead below. Each of those towers could contain hundreds of undead, all ready to unleashed at the lift of a latch and funneled into the battle.
The Easterners liked to use undead as both discouragement and as actual weapons of war. Some were cleaved below the shoulder blade, able to crawl fast and low. And when dozens of torso-less zombies came at you, you either ran, or you saw your own flesh fall out of those undead bodies, as they nashed and tore you to death.
Dunman had heard it before, seen it before. He was not like the soon-dead recruits they pumped to the frontline, a swelling of numbers before a battle. They looked nervous, sickly, young. Not a lot of training is given when they scrape you off from the third or fourth conscript visit to a village. Just some armor, maybe a weapon, and a direction to march. Want to argue about it? The King has need of bodies elsewhere too. Most would rather have the choice to fight their death.
He tried to reassure some of them, but a few he couldn’t. He couldn’t look a scared kid in the face, lie and tell him that he was going to make it out of this and see his family and friends again. He just couldn’t. A few battles ago he could. But he saw of more than a few die, and in front of him. He didn’t want to see anymore dead faces that he lied to anymore.
A hollowed-horn sound came bellowing across the battlefield. A chorus of moans and groans came out in reply, a sign that the undead were already crawling across the battlefield, and that the Easterners wanted to terrify the King's army. It worked on the soon-deads, but Dunman had heard it before. It held nothing for him but the promise of a two or three day struggle to survive and obey orders at the same time. Not an easy task.
The first scream of a casualty came from the right side of the defense wall. Though spikes, pits, and all sorts of obstacles were placed along the edge of the wall, the torso-less undead were in such great numbers that they slithered across the top of the entire ground, covering it in a wriggling mass of arms, heads, and teeth. And they were all headed for the wall.
No one is quite sure how the Easterners are able to direct the undead. Some who escaped and survived the journey across the expanse say that they train their undead, teach them where the food is coming from by the sound of the horn. You can’t teach a dog much unless there is food involved and they took that approach to training undead.
Dunman rescanned the horizon from apearched a watchtower towards the front middle of the King’s encampment. Dunman chuckled to himself at the thought of “King’s encampment”. The King was nearly 1,500 miles to the west, nestled inside his cozy kingdom, keeping his people at war with the Easterners for the past decade.
But Dunman knew as the King and all his top military brass: The Easterners had to be conquered. If they, as human beings, allowed another group of humans to wage war, attack innocents, and, the most depraved act, using undead as weapons of warfare to continue, not only would they see their own destruction, but finally kill humanity after its long never-ending war against the undead. Sometimes you just had to kill the dog, and Dunman understood that that was exactly what the King was doing.
The screams were growing louder and closer, a sign that the wave of torso-less undead were about breach the wall altogether and make the last line of defense gone before the opposing army even approached.
At the Lineman’s torch-dancing signal, men clad in yellow, trained in the arts of chemistry and textiles to protect themselves from said chemistry, uncapped the barrels lined under along the wall, the tarps covering the front leading right up to the funneled output of the barrels contents.
With a turn of the bottom tap, the barrels began sloshing their material out from the funnels and sloshing down the tarp.
The steadily rising mass of undead began to dissolve and pool in piles at the base of the wall. Smoke steamed from their chemically burning arms, head, and teeth as they slowly slid down the tarps, grabbing their undead comrades, like crabs in a boiling pot of water.
Dunman knew that this would stop the mass of torso-less undead, but this was just the first assault. The first test of the walls defenses, built in the five days.
It always amazed Dunman how fast a structure in war could go up. The wall itself was built in less than the first day, the rest of the time spent on defenses, including the acid slide, installed fully just yesterday evening.
That had to be the largest mass Dunman had seen yet, a good call on his part to double the usual barrel amount. The only thing worse than a torso-less undead attacking you would be it dissolving everything it touches while it does so.
Dunman refocused on the towers, their speed picking up dramatically. The Easterners must have seen their first column fall and knew that it was now or never. This was their final push, their final fight to secure their existence, their barbaric way of life.
This would be a fight to the very last deaths, both this one and the undead one. Dunman knew when he saw those towers close in their approach that he definitely wasn’t going to make it out this alive.
As the arrows flew, the cannons roared, and the bombs lit up the battlefield, the towers closed in closer, the cannonballs did nothing but going straight into the shit wood used to build them and absorbed inside. Dunman knew what was inside.
Well, he guessed it, but he would still be right. The towers closing on the right side of the wall, the weakest and least defended by cannons, arrived the first.
The frontside of the towers fell down on and over the wall, acting as a ramp for the hundreds of mutilated undead contained inside each one. They poured over the wall and into the King’s encampment, enveloping everything they touched.
Men screamed as they ran away. Some of the brave ones stood their ground and hacked away. Because of them, the fight continued. Men rallied to the lines and began pushing the undead batches back to the wall.
As the cannons on the left and mid sections of the wall continued to roar and take out the other encroaching towers, Dunman ran down the tower and to those lines on the right, ready to fight.
Five days without cleaving a head off made him a little itchy at this point, like he wasn’t doing enough for his King and their entire way of life. He has seen enough of the Easterner’s ways to justify wiping them out, and every man, dead or alive in the East, needed to be dispatched to hell.
He unclasped the strap for his battle scythe, a solid four foot pole with a one foot double-ended blade sticking out of the bottom, and the large, double-ended scythe jutting out the top side.
Dunman had included the bottom blade, a skull sticker, during their five day reprisal. He replaced the spiked chain flail he had on the bottom in the battles prior. He had gotten tired of bashing in the torso-less undead heads and replaced it with the fixed blade. Much easier to stick through undead skulls. Plus, the flail was unwieldy as all hell with a double-ended scythe on the other end. It had worked, but only for human foes. The deeper they went into East, the more the undead were used to fight them back.
The first few undead scattered around were easily taken care with a downward thrust or sideward swipe of his scythe as Dunman hurried to the thick of the battle, where the grunts were hacking and wading through pockets of undead near the front of the wall. There were still a few left for Dunman to take out.
“Aye, I was wondering when we’d get a good Slayer to join us in the chomper slough,” One of the grunts called out as soon as he saw Dunman next to him, swiping and stabbing away at undead head after undead head.
“A man is not done until he sees every single one of these abominations wiped out from this world, including his own turn into these demons,” Dunman coldly recited an oath of the Slayers in reply. During battle he recited those oaths among others to keep his mind on the task, the gruesome task of cutting into flesh over and over and over again.
As they cleared all the way to the base of the wall, Dunman looked over down the right side and saw the few remaining towers launch their undead assault to much rebuttal. The rest of the guard had already steadied themselves into formation and easily cut down the tumbling undead as the spilled down the ramp and over the wall.
Dunman felt a sudden sting on his right palm. He jerked his blood-torn hand back from the jaws of an undead head floating upon the mass of dead corpses.He had been bitten. Hard.
Dunman stabbed the head with his blade and began to prepare the wound from his kit. If he acted fast enough, he could delay the turn for a few weeks, allowing for a more timely passing and preparation into undeath. “I knew I would fucking die today,” he swore at himself, breaking his usual vow recital.
His application was stopped by a sudden and violent explosion at the base of the walls, starting from the right side and working its way to Dunman. Chained explosives at the base of every tower, enough to blast apart the wall defending the King’s encampment,shredding it across the battlefield.
Dunman dropped his bite kit and ran from the impending explosion. He looked around to see everyone else follow his lead. A huge push on his back and taking of breath hit Dunman and everyone forward and into the dirt.
The explosion rang out and dissolved his hearing into a ringing mixes of screams and clumps of earth hitting the ground.
As they all slowly gathered themselves back up, they could hear a roar of warriors. The Easterners themselves were entering the battle.
Clad in multi-layer skins of dead. Arm and leg bones wrapped around their anatomical placement of the Easterners bodies, giving them a formidable defensive armor from slashing. Some of the upper chieftains had their bone armor bronzed, giving them a little more protection and shine to distract you from their jagged, poisoned blades.
They ran out from the smoke, towards Dunman and the rest of the King’s forward guard. This was it, the real reason they had come here: To kill the Easterners.
Dunman blocked a high swing from an Easterners blade, his red eyes telling of the substance and brutality inside the Easterner's soul. Dunman brought his scythe around and slashed the Easterner through his head and right in between his eyes. Those were the eyes of death that Dunman wanted to see.
And he did, over and over, almost as many as the undead. The Easterners were using this last push. If they couldn’t win here, they couldn’t win at all. They fought with that desperation now.
Dunman could felt his right hand throbbing, burning with the undead curse coursing through his veins. He had to keep fighting, he had to see as many of the Eastern savages wiped from this planet as possible. So he kept slashing, blocking, and stabbing, blood distorting his vision, his muscles beginning to whine out in resistance. Still, Dunman kept fighting.
Blasts from behind the King’s encampment, from the upper cannon placements rang out. Dunman looked up behind him and saw the cannons go off, their aim clear: They were going to destroy the forward encampment, Easterners and King’s Guard alike.
Dunman grinned. It was as it should be, he was dead, but he knew he would die today anyway. He was prepared and he was ready. He had taken more than his fair share of souls today. His work for the King had been done. The battle would be won for the King, and Dunman had done his part to make sure that these few final cannon blasts would be the end of this war.
He continued slashing and stabbing widely, as a cannon blasts exploded near him, knocking him down and buried under the earth. He could feel himself bleeding, but he didn’t know where and he couldn’t move if he did.
Dunman allowed himself one last thought of his village, his life in the ancient green forests before this decade-long war, and then faded into darkness.