Fighting their way forward, they reached another crossroad. With the dead coming from all sides, Avarron could no longer simply hack his way through and was forced on the defensive. He pulled his shield from his back and slammed it into a skull while cutting off the reaching arm of another with his sword. Slamming his shield into the corpse again, he crushed its skull against the wall, while stabbing the disarmed one in the heart. That didn’t stop it at all, and it wrapped the fingers of its remaining hand around his throat.
“Oh my, I’m so sorry,” Llaweyra cried as he kicked the corpse off his blade. “I can help! I totally forgot!”
Not knowing what she was taking about, Avarron remained focused on the hordes of dead clawing at him. Whatever it was, he could use all the help he could get.
The light she had been emitting faded to even less than her regular glow and Avarron was left in total darkness, except for the glow from the wraiths’ eyes. But then the blade of his sword suddenly flared up in a similar glow and combusted in a bright, blue fire. As he struck another corpse with it, it let out an unearthly cry of pain before the glow from the eyes faded and the body fell.
The fairy glowed faintly. “Faefire,” she said, sounding tired. “Hurts spirits.”
“Really?” Avarron said curiously, eager to test that. He pushed one wraith away with his shield and then then trust the flaming blade hilt-deep into another. It let out terrible screams as the dead body burst into flames and quickly burned to ashes.
“So, what was it you said about not burning the whole place down?” he asked Llaweyra as even the other wraiths forgot to attack and watched the corpse burn.
“Hey, you specified it to corpses. Now look at what you’ve done!” she retorted giggling.
The screaming stopped and the other wraiths furiously charged. Avarron parried and blocked and retaliated as fast as he could, but could not prevent them from coming into arm’s reach and clawing at him.
“Hee, I think you killed that one,” Llaweyra said excited. “I didn’t think I could do that. Did you empower it?”
Avarron didn’t respond. They both knew he was more prone to the opposite, and he was more concerned with his own strategy in this battle. He wouldn’t win it on defence alone. His endurance was limited, and there were too many wraiths, notwithstanding that they, being spirits, probably didn’t even get tired in the first place. That meant that he had to drive them off. Rout them, if at all possible. But they probably didn’t knew fear either. Except…
“Did you just say I killed one?” he asked Llaweyra.
“Think so, yes,” she replied.
“Let’s try that again,” he said with a smirk.
He made a whirling slash, just to make room for himself and then charged forward, driving his sword once again hilt-deep in one of the wraiths. As before, it combusted under terrible screams of agony. And as before, the other wraiths paused and looked at their fellow in what seemed to be horror or shock. And then they charged again, enraged, once again forcing Avarron back into defence.
Whatever happened, the wraiths didn’t like it. However, he needed to build up momentum for it to have any effect, rather than being pressed back into defence.
“Go get em,” Llaweyra cheered at him. “Kill ’em all! ‘Cause we’re the bosses here.”
As clueless as she was about battle, she was right. This shouldn’t be as hard as he made it out to be. The corpses were weak and unarmed. Technically, they were no more dangerous than a mob of angry peasants. Without the pitchforks and scythes and torches, even. All these corpses had were fingernails. But Cullean had engraved the parry-riposte in his mind.
“What are you waiting fóóór?” Llaweyra complained.
Again, she was right without even knowing it. The armsmaster had also told him that the best defence was a good offence and an opening not exploited was a battle not won. “Fingernails,” he muttered to himself and swung his sword in a wide arc, ignoring the wraith that clawed at his armoured shoulder. Two wraiths staggered backwards, loudly voicing their pain. Avarron stepped forward and trust his sword in one of the two while slamming a third that got within range of his shield.
As expected, the wraiths were startled by the combustion of a fellow. Avarron used that moment for another step forward and another wide slash, followed by a trust and hacked at the wraith that now pulled at his shoulder with both hands. Then he turned around to maintain his forward momentum.
With each corpse that combusted, the battle became easier and the wraiths became hesitant as he settled into a wild dance of steel and flame. The wraiths behind him struggled to keep up with him.
“This way!” Llaweyra suddenly cried as they reached another crossroad. “I think I see the exit.”
Avarron turned to the right. Even with the light his flaming sword emitted, he could not see the stairs, but he trusted Llaweyra and followed her, hacking and slashing at the wraiths in between. They didn’t come at him any more, moving backwards as he came forwards.
“Run, you wretches!” he yelled at them. He wasn’t interested in fighting them at all, and it was wearing him out.
Surprisingly, the wraiths seemed to listen. Some of them entirely abandoned their bodies, letting them fall on the ground, while others simply retreated.
“Yes, run, you smelly pests. Haven’t you ever heard of bathing?” Llaweyra taunted them.
A terrible, high-pitched scream echoed through the crypt. It was a voice that was all too familiar to Avarron. The wraiths stopped and turned back to Avarron and they picked up the fallen bodies again.
“Uh oh,” Llaweyra said.
“Let’s get out of here,” Avarron said and charged at the wraiths. But they were not as weak or slow as before. He slashed the first two in front of him, and they howled in pain and staggered backwards. But the wraiths did not let go, sending the dead forward, back into Avarron’s blade. They cared not for losing limbs or skulls and only paused at the sting of the faefire.
He found that he could still drive them backwards, but considerably slower, while he was once again being surrounded. Determined, he continued his relentless assault. As long as he remained some forward motion, there was a chance to get out alive. Several hands clawed at his back and he had no room to move forward anymore. He swiped his shield at the attackers and whirled around with a slash to drive them further backwards as he pressed forward by simply driving his shield in a wraith in front of him.
“Please tell me you have some more tricks up your sleeve.” he told Llaweyra, but for once the fairy remained silent.
“I hear barking,” she said puzzled after a while.
“Dogs? Or wolves? Here?” Avarron asked, equally puzzled.
“Neither,” she replied. “Unless you refer to their level of intelligence. Then you’re spot on,” She added giggling.
Out of nowhere, a decomposing arm flew past Avarron and hit a wraith in the face. Though the wraith didn’t seem to care at all, Avarron couldn’t help but smile at the sight.
“Score!” a yell came from the stairs, off in the distance. It was quickly followed by a lot of barking laughs.
“Today, we ruin the banshee’s day.” a very familiar voice yelled.
“Connin!” Avarron yelled relieved.
“She never comes out to play,” some other goblins yelled.
“So we’ll just come over, if we may,” it echoed through the crypt, and then they all yelled in chorus: “Today, we ruin the banshee’s day!”
An instant later, complete chaos erupted. Decomposing limbs flew in all directions as the goblins ripped them off the corpses to throw them at others. Others, equipped with their metal claws, wildly shredded anything in their way. There were loud bangs and flashes of light, followed immediately by a spray of decomposing flesh and bones.
The wraiths didn’t know what hit them as the goblins simply ploughed through their ranks. The goblins couldn’t really hurt the wraiths themselves, but they were so effective at dismantling the corpses that the wraiths had no response at all. They even forgot to attack Avarron, but he was happy to simply leave them to the goblins.
As the last corpses between him and the goblins were violently ripped apart, goblins rushed past him to get to the ones behind him, cheering at him as they did. Except for Connin. The goblin leader simply walked up to him, pulled a strange metal ball from the large backpack he was carrying and casually threw it into a corridor, where it causes a bright flash and a loud bang, which somehow shredded the walking corpses to pieces and left the remains soldering.
“That was not a flashball,” Avarron said shocked.
“Nope. That’s a boomball.”
“Good name,” Avarron said, eyes still fixated at the blasted corpses.
“It is, isn’t it? Invented it myself,” Connin said proud.
“Enough!” A female voice yelled, followed by a loud scream of pain from a goblin. Almost all the goblins screamed in terror. Many of them ran past Avarron, back to the stairs as he saw Connin’s face grow pale. He turned around to see another wraith. Unlike the other corpses, this one stood proud and tall and seemed well preserved to the point of being able to see facial features. And unlike the others, this one carried a sword that shimmered with a ghostly light.
Long black hair waved in a seemingly non-existent wind and suddenly Avarron realized that this one was female. In front of her lay a goblin with a large, gaping wound in its chest. Avarron immediately recognized the long scar on his face.
“Fullis!” Connin screamed and rushed over to the goblin, but stopped just out of range of the ghostly sword.