March 16 at 1:00 AM
Photo courtesy of Voltphoto
"My lord!" Lawson dragged aside Lord Vangley as the cobblestone walk crumbled.
Demons erupted from beneath, black and gold stripes adorning their amorphous forms. One slithered out, spearing a cadaver with its crooked teeth. As it took the zombie in its mouth, a second monstrosity snapped off a piece for itself.
Laurent gasped. "They are nearly the size of a house."
"Any other infestations I should be aware of?" Lawson raised an eyebrow.
The behemoths snaked forward, twitching eyestalks dangling from their bulbous heads. They prodded the adjacent grounds, snatching up the remaining corpses before setting their sights on the hunter.
Laurent cocked his bow.
"No Laurent, you are too close!" Lawson screamed as he pulled the trigger.
The metallic arrow hummed through the air and detonated, shattering the advance, and tossing the hunter through a window. Pockets of gray sludge rained down, dousing the courtyard in a warm bath.
"Get if off, get it off," Dionte and Deverrell screamed, rubbing their faces against the Taurus' coat.
Lawson shook his head, and scanned over the store. A punctured barrel lay next to him, white crystals pouring out in a steady stream. He tasted it, and spit it out. "Perfect."
Scores of heinous shapes crept into the courtyard.
"I fear there are not enough arrows for all of them." Laurent got to his feet. "What should I do, father?"
"Salt kills slugs." Lawson stepped forward, hoisting a barrel over his shoulder. "Quick, help me toss it into the air while the other shoots."
"Allow me, sir." Essinger crawled down from the rooftop. He grabbed the barrel and chucked it into the air. As it soared, Laurent fired. The barrel exploded in a white plume of smoke.
The slugs wallowed, squealing at the crystalline hail scalding their skin. One by one they receded from the courtyard, poking their heads into nearby residences. Families shrieked as they slithered inside. Splintering the houses from the foundations, the giants hoisted them atop their sprawling backs.
"What are they doing?" Laurent asked.
"Improvising," Lawson replied. "A dusting of salt is inadequate; they are simply too big." He scratched his mustache. "But a steady barrage of seawater might do the trick. Send word to the brigade." He turned to Essinger. "Tell them to treat the snails as they do fires. Also, use the boats in the harbor to evacuate the women and children. Go, now!"
"Yes, sir." Essinger nodded, and scaled the building.
"Lawson, they are back." Laurent pointed the bow.
The snails ambled forward, houses and storefronts creaking on their backs.
"Lord Vangley, take your family, and hide in the tunnels below. Laurent and I will solve this," said Lawson.
"Vangleys do not cower in their castle," the elder replied.
"Very well, sir."
As he backed up, Lawson's glove snagged the pouch on his belt. It fell to the ground, glowing orbs spilling out. The mollusks lunged forward, and scooped them up. Heaving the bag across the courtyard, Lawson stood beside Laurent's ready bow as they turned and fetched.
"Wait, don't fire." Lawson raised his hand. "They are only after the seeds."
The snails exited the courtyard, and engaged a swarm of listless corpses.
"Perhaps they are doing us a favor," said Laurent.
"Blasphemy," Lord Vangley hissed.
"I am sorry, father, but Lawson extracted the seeds from their bodies. It was the only thing keeping them alive," said Laurent. "None of them were in their right minds."
"I know, son. I know." Vangley buried his head in his hand.
Lawson gazed over the courtyard. "Clever girl. Fire was never a consideration; instead Enura wished to crack open Vissorouy just long enough to-"
In the distance, a bell tolled.
"Brambles!" a voice echoed.
Culverins exploded up the street, igniting the sky.
"I am sorry, my lord." The hunter jumped atop his steed. "But if I am to protect you, I must break my word." He pressed forward, snatching the bow from Laurent's hand, and galloped up the street.