I held tightly to Viveka's waist. Behind me, Dany had his hands on my waist and Daray was holding Dany's. Viveka was digging as fast as she could even though the earth trembled under her fingers. A hand broke through and I almost let her go in shock. She screamed in pain as the hand gripped her hair.
"Don't let me go!" she screamed when I went to find my sword.
"Daray!" I roared. "Do it!"
"I might hit Viveka!" he yelled.
"You're the best shot! Do it!"
"Viveka, don't move!"
"Did you hear him?" I panted.
"Yes," she whispered. "Tell him to hurry. This pain... it's too much."
"Now!" I shouted.
Viveka went still and Dany and I ducked our heads. The sword went whizzing through the air and he chopped the hand off. Unfortunately, a lot of Viveka's hair went with it. She didn't waste any time, though, and started digging again. The other hand popped up but Daray had seen that coming and snatched Dany's sword, tossing it so that it sliced the other hand before it could get to Viveka.
We were slowly sinking as she dug deeper and deeper into the earth. She screamed when a man's face stuck up out of the earth.
"No!" it shouted in a contorted voice. "They feed me! You will not live! Now my minions! Now!"
I felt a jerking behind me and Daray screamed. I looked up. We were surrounded by the mutants. Viveka reached back and punched the man's face. If the situation weren't so dire, I would have laughed.
"Let it go!" she screamed to the man.
"Let them go! You've done enough damage, damn it!"
She was grasping for a necklace around the man's neck but he kept biting at her hand, his hands both being gone.
"Use both hands, Viveka," I said. "I've got you. I won't let you go. You can trust me. I swear."
She hesitated but eventually gave in and used both hands. With one she reached to the left, the other snatched the necklace.
"No!" the corpse screamed.
"Pull me out!" she screeched desperately.
I tugged with the twins' help. She was panting and I looked at the orb. It was the size of my fist. She looked around desperately and saw my sword. She whimpered and I watched in horror as she put the orb on the ground and picked up the sword.
"Don't let go, Cian!" she cried. "If you let me go, they can take you!"
The man was fighting in his grave, trying desperately to scramble out without his hands.
Her hand was shaking as she held the orb in place.
"Don't close your eyes," I panted. "If you close your eyes, you'll surely miss."
"I can't watch it, Cian," she sobbed.
"Just do it, Viveka," I said. I kissed the back of her neck. "Please. Please, my minx."
She gripped the sword by the blade and screamed in pain as it cut her hand. She panted, waiting until the blood had gone down to the tip of the sword, then stabbed the orb. For a brief moment, the world froze. Then the orb shattered into a million pieces.
The man fell back into his grave. The mutants around us screamed in pain as they started melting back into humans. The four of us scrambled together, Viveka gripping her bleeding hand. She leaned into me, panting heavily. The humans all fell to the gorund.
Some were dressed in villager attire, others were dressed as soldiers.
"Daray, Dany," she said in a weak voice and they hurried over. "I need you to go to the kingdom as fast as you can. Tell Nelo and Darcey to send ten men to dig graves for these poor people."
"Are you going to be safe?" Dany asked nervously.
"Yes," she said. "We'll be fine. Go."
"Just do as she says," I said when they turned to me.
They ran off.
"How long do you think it'll take?" she whispered.
"Not long," I said. "They're fast. Tell me what happened."
"We have to go to the lake first," she panted.
I sighed but helped her up. I tore my other sleeve and tied it tightly on her hand.
"Can you walk?" I asked. She shook her head no so I picked her up. "Tell me where to go."
She leaned into me and did as I said. The village no longer looked like a maze. I could see the front gate but she told me to go to the back.
"Climb over the wall," she whispered. "But you won't like what you see."
"Okay," I said slowly.
As soon as I was over, I gasped. At first it looked serene. The grass was green, the lake was shining from the sun but then I saw the bodies. They were rising from the water and coming ashore.
"Take me over to them."
"No way," I said. "They-"
"Just do it, Cian," she snapped.
I groaned but walked down there. I set her down on the ground and she looked around at all the bodies. She was crying.
"I'm sorry for what he did to you," she said, facing the lake and the cemetery over the wall. "I'm really, really sorry. As soon as the men get here, we will bury you as you deserved to be. The necklace is gone and will be forever." She wiped her face. "I'm sorry it took me so long to get here." Then she turned to me. "Take me to the house with the drawing on the top deck."