Codex Nekromantia: Section 25

Only Ivy's hyperventilation stopped Amy from rushing out of the room. Casimir ran around the desk, sending piles of papers to the floor with shuffling crashes, and helped her into her chair. Her choking gasps gathered a crowd at the door. Emblem barged in a moment later. He held a bowl and spooned its contents into his mouth.

"What'd you do?" Emblem asked Casimir, who was awkwardly rubbing Ivy's back to try to calm her down while Amy paced in front of the desk and fumed.

"That fucking moron, I'm going to choke him after I hug him! Or choke him while I hug him! I'd go all the way across this damn necropolis just to kill him!" Amy muttered.

"You c-c-can't!" Ivy choked out.

"What happened?" Emblem asked, spraying a cloud of dust out of his mouth.

Amy stopped pacing. "What are you eating?"

"Instant coffee," Emblem replied. He offered a spoonful to her. "I needed a pick-me-up. Do you want some?"

Amy wrinkled her nose. "That sounds disgusting."

"That's what I thought, too, but I added some powdered coffee creamer and that's alright," Emblem said. His eyes flicked to Casimir and raised an eyebrow while he leaned against the doorframe.

"Somebody named Dom is at the University of Constantinople, not at home like they expected," Casimir said.

Ivy let out a wail that made Casimir jump.

"That's it. I'm sorry Aunt Ivy, I have to go find him."

"But if something happened to you, my niece and nephew both gone..." she said, trailing off.

"You know that I have to," Amy replied, picking up her spear from where it was leaning against the wall. "I owe my brother my life, and if there's even the tiniest chance that I can do the same for him, I have to do it."

"Now, wait a second," Emblem said, mumbling around another mouthful. "The sun's going to be setting soon, and the thought of going out to face a city full of zombies at night gives me the creeps. My skin feels like it'll crawl right off and go shambling around with 'em just thinking about it."

Amy stood in front of Emblem.

"I've still got to try. Move," she said.

Emblem didn't move out of the doorway. He simply stared her in the eye and kept chewing. Casimir watched the confrontation. For a moment, he was scared that Amy was going to use the spear to fillet Emblem.

"I want to go help my girlfriend Jane," Casimir said.

"Great," Amy said flatly. "You can slap some zombies. But first we've got to shove this idiot out of my way."

Emblem jammed another spoonful of the instant coffee and creamer into his mouth.

"But Emblem has a point," Casimir said. "Have you been out there? It's chaos. We barely made it, and that's with the help of a gang of fighting revenants. Two people against a cityful of zombies doesn't make much sense."

"Then I'm glad that I'm not your girlfriend," Amy said. Emblem flinched but didn't reply.

Casimir felt like Amy had pulled open the top of his skull and poured a bucket of icewater into his body.

"What's that supposed to mean?" he asked.

"My brother is out there getting eaten by zombies and you shitheads are holding me up!" Amy yelled. She tried to shove past Emblem. To Casimir's surprise, he folded out of the way and Amy stormed down the hallway.

"Emblem, do something!" Ivy said.

"Okay," Emblem said, "I'll see you when we get back." He peeled away from the doorframe and followed Amy down the hallway.

"I meant stop her!" Ivy called after them.

Casimir fidgeted for a moment, and with a shrug at Ivy, followed Emblem and Amy. He turned the corner to find Emblem talking to Amy as they walked.

"And it'd be safer tomorrow. If he dragged you from a burning car wreck, then I don't doubt that he'd be happier to know that you're being as safe as you can when you try to rescue him. If the zombies haven't gotten him by down, a few hours to rest isn't going to hurt anything. Any barricade that he's behind will last until dawn. And when was the last time that you slept? I know you look better than Casimir here, but it's been a long day for everybody," Emblem said.

"And I'm serious about wanting to find Jane," Casimir said. "But I am going to be useless to her if I don't get some sleep."

Amy stared off into a corner of the ceiling. Her eyes glistened and her voice was too calm.

"You're right. I'll stay until dawn. But I'm leaving then, whether you two come or not."

"Of course," Emblem said.

"Somebody pulled some blankets out of the display cases and bundled some tarps into beds in the hall with the archaeology labs. It was the furthest away from those awful moans. I'll bet if you sleep next to somebody who snores you won't notice them at all."

Amy led them to the impromptu dormitory in the hallway. Casimir, who had been up late the night before and had started the day hungover and hunted, dove into his tarp and immediately fell asleep on the tile floor beneath the flourescent lights. Emblem set his can of instant coffee next to him, sprawled out on the floor much like he had been when Casimir had tripped over him the previous night, and began to snore.

And for the second time in a row, Casimir woke with the glare of a flourescent light making his pupils pucker up. He couldn't tell how long that he'd been asleep, but sleeping on the floor meant that his stiff shoulder wasn't giving any clues.

Then he realized that Emblem wasn't laying next to his coffee can. Somehow, that made him more suspicious than if he'd taken the coffee. Casimir got up. Several other people had taken spots in the tarp. He paused as he saw a young couple, the young man sprawled halfway off of the tarp onto the tile and his lady friend partially wrapped up in his portion of the tarp.

Casimir's heart ached and he suddenly felt a surge of panic and, oddly, excitement. He was sure that his gallant rescue of Jane would bring her back to him for good.

As he wandered down the hallways, looking for Emblem. First he stopped in Ivy's office. She was asleep at her desk, face-down on a massive tome. Then he went out onto the balcony. Several guards patrolled the barricades on the stairs that led down into the zombie-filled Grand Hallway. Casimir carefully peered over the edge. Several dozen zombies and the fallen bodies of revenants formed a circle where the rope had towed him to safety.

Casimir wandered into the back hallway and heard a grunt. He peeked around a corner and saw what had made the grunt. It was Amy. She was awake and prying a pair of vambraces off of a Roman soldier.

He wondered what the story was behind her and her brother. He felt bad that he wasn't going to be around in the morning to help her, unless he and Jane had returned safely by then. He'd made up his mind. A dashing warrior arriving at the last moment to rescue his beloved from an uncertain future couldn't wait for assistance, daylight or sleep.

Besides, he figured that he'd move quicker without the help.

He stopped spying on Amy and slunk away down the hall. He took the wrong turn, got lost, got startled by opening a door into a room with a skeleton lurking in the shadows, got found, and finally got on his way. As he slunk through the dim warehouse where he and the entourage of revenants, he marveled at the job that they'd done on their way in. He hardly ran into a walking corpse.

Then he saw why.

The weak moonlight shining on the water backlit a feminine silhouette. A silhouette with a spear and a pair of shiny, stolen vambraces.

"Amy!" Casimir said.

The silhouette turned.

"Who is that? Casimir?"

"Yes," Casimir said.

"Don't try and stop me," Amy warned. "Because it won't work."

"No, no," Casimir said. "I'm leaving too. I'm going to rescue Jane."

"I'm impressed. You seemed a bit of a coward."

Casimir frowned, but before he could respond they heard a loud, obnoxious yawn.

"Who is it?" Amy asked.

"Now I wonder which one of you that I should help," Emblem said, strolling out of the shadows with his hands in his pockets.

"I don't need any help," Amy said.

"Neither do I," Casimir said.

"So neither of you need guns?" Emblem replied.

Casimir and Amy both paused.

"Guns?"

"Tons. At my house. All kinds, with all kinds of adjectives. Short, long, loud, quiet, violent, vicious, dangerous, but they all put pieces of metal into things very hard."

"You have a house?" Casimir asked, before imagining himself blasting his way into Jane's apartment, a bandolier slung over his shoulders and holding a knife in his teeth.

"How far out of the way is it?" Amy asked.

"Not far at all. We'll take one of the cars in the parking lot."

"You can't just take any old car," Amy said.

"I'm sure that its owner probably couldn't figure out how to use it anymore," Emblem said, pulling his hands out of his pockets. One contained a screwdriver, and the other the tiny alligator mouth of a wire stripper.

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