“Why are there so many dead people?” I complained as we pushed our way through yet another listless group of Dead. There were so many Dead walking by it was getting rare to see open path. And they didn’t move out of your way either. The only upside was that my guide couldn’t maintain her ridiculous pace without plowing through the languid hordes of dead souls.
“What?! When did the plague strike again?”
She said nothing, continuing to push through the masses of unfortunate deceased. I glumly realized that lengthy explanations like the one I received in the forest would be a rare occurrence with her. I had gotten nothing but one word answers from her since that time.
I was starting to contemplate striking up a conversation with the nearest Dead out of sheer boredom, when I almost tripped over my companion, who had suddenly knelt down. She produced a lavender bag from her voluminous lavender cloak, and proceeded to sift through its contents.
“What are y-“
“They’re earplugs.” She said, thrusting something into my hand.
“Why are y-“
“So put them in your ears.” She said simply.
“Why?” I asked edgily. I was getting tired of this.
“The particular… variety, of magic I practice involves the manipulation of the Dead through spoken commands. I am about to command a large group of Dead. You are dead. Do you understand?”
“No.” I said honestly.
“It doesn’t matter. Just put in the earplugs, unless you want to surrender your will to me.” She said, standing up and facing the oncoming group of Dead.
I put the earplugs in.
Being just balls of wool, the earplugs only muffled outside noise. I only realized how serious a problem this was until after she started to speak. A bizarre language spouted from her mouth, a jumble of vowels and consonants which followed a strange, undulating rhythm that filled my head. The words echoed in my mind, an unwelcome intruder, and I suddenly became aware of my legs moving below me. I tried to stop moving and force my body under control but the muscles wouldn’t tighten, and all I could feel of my legs was a cold, prickly feeling. The rhythmic speaking only got louder in my head until it was all I could hear, a deafening roar screaming orders that I couldn’t comprehend but my body apparently did. I marched to the side of the path, performed an about-face, and stood at attention, bewilderedly facing my frightening companion.
And then silence. She was standing in front of me, arms crossed. I was at the end of an orderly row of Dead, who had lined up along the sides of the path. She pulled the earplugs out of my ears and distastefully tossed them aside.
“That was one of my weakest, and the earplugs stifled the worst of it. For a soul mostly untouched by this world’s corrosion, you are unexpectedly weak.” she stated, turning away from me and walking down the line of Dead. Their eyes followed her as she passed.
I felt angry at what she did to me, even if it wasn’t her intention to control me. I felt angry at her calling me weak. And, most of all, I was angry at that impassive, uncaring way she looked at me. But I had no choice other than to follow her. As we cleared the rows of Dead, she signaled and immediately they moved back onto the path, arranging themselves into neat soldierly lines across the path.
“What’s this?” I asked, looking at the formations of Dead on the path. I knew full well I would get a brief and mysterious answer.
“A barricade.” She answered briefly and mysteriously.
Seeing my withering look, she elaborated.
“To slow down our pursuer.”