The sounds. The sounds were unceasing.
Pale light streamed through the barred windows, a man hurriedly stuffing garments into a hide bag. “Squire?” He yelled, glancing through the doorway. “Blast it, boy, where are you?”
“Helping the madam, sir.” A young boy burst into the room, clothing and supplies piled in his arms. “She has instructed me to get her bag ready.”
“Oh, that won’t do.” The man sighed, rushing out and looking around frantically. “Alice! Alice, where are you?”
“Here, brother.” A women called, trotting out of another room. “What is it?”
“Oh, take that off!” The man cried in desperation. “This is no time for… For dresses, and fancy!”
“It is always time for fancy.” She replied haughtily, twirling in her gown. “Besides, I do not worry. My darling brother will save us.”
“Alice, I am sending you away!” The man cried, leaning against the wall. “I am sending you because I do not believe I can save you if you stay!”
The woman stayed silent for a few moments. “Very well. But I am still taking the dress.”
“Fine, yes.” The man waved his hands. “That I can deal with.” He turned away to see the boy struggling with a bulging bag. “Is that packed, boy?”
“Of course, sir. Supplies to last the missus until she can make it to the castle.”
“Good, very good.” The man turned and gazed out the window at the darkening countryside. “You must leave soon.”
The boy dropped the bag. “But, sir! I am sworn to you, I must stay, I must-“
The man turned and dropped to his knee with a smile. “Squire, you are still young. I have trained you as I can, but my time has come. My last request to you is to get my sister safely to the castle.”
The boy hung his head. “Yes, sir.” He hesitated. “Would you allow me to armour you, one last time?”
The man chuckled and slapped the boy on the back. “Of course.” He easily lifted the overstuffed luggage and strode out to where a horse waited, adjusting the loads. Hearing a creak pierce through the constant noise, he looked to the fence that had protected them. “They’re coming.” He whirled. “Alice! Now, you must leave, now!” He grabbed the boy. “Armour me, squire.”
The boy nodded, running inside and returning with a set of platemail that he hurriedly buckled across the man’s shoulders. “Slowly, carefully.” He chided. “There must be no pinches. No seams. Many of His Majesty’s finest have lost their lives to hastily donned armour.”
“Of course, sir.” The boy muttered, slowing his fumbled movements. He finished the shoulders, leaving the chestpiece hanging while he buckled the knight’s greaves. A feeling of calm washed through him, and he glanced up to see the man smiling serenely at him. There was no fear in his eyes.
The boy took deep breaths while he finished the greaves and arms, buckling the chestpiece and holding the knight’s boots and gauntlets. “Now, sir?”
The man nodded, slipping his hands inside the gauntlets and lifting his legs to allow his squire to put on his boots. “Now. My helmet, my sword.”
The boy ducked back in. “The longsword, sir?”
“Aye. The greatsword would be far too slow.”
The boy returned with the sword held reverently in his arms, the helmet dangling by a strap. The man snagged the helmet before it could fall, taking the sword after. “My thanks.” He watched his sister run out of the house, dress over her arm. “Keep her safe, Henry.”
The boy blinked. “Sir?”
The man turned away without a response, striding to the large building next to the house. He ducked inside, keeping his gaze on the small altar the graced the chapel, rather than watch as his sister mounted the horse with Henry’s help, the two galloping away towards the dark stone battlements that marked the beginning of the King’s court.
“Lord, guide me.” The man whispered, kneeling in front of the altar. “Guide me, my sword, so that I may protect my sister from this evil.” He continued kneeling, listening to the waves of noise. “Lord, I have always asked for strength. I have always asked for mercy. You have always granted my cries.” He lifted his sword above his head, still bowed. “I beg you. Guide my blade tonight as I come into your presence.”
A lantern sparked, sending a blaze of light over the kneeling man. He whirled, clambering to his feet. “Who is there?”
The continual noise did not change, nor did anyone step into view. The knight stood, slowly walking to where the solitary light sputtered on its hook. Gazing into it, he felt compelled to turn. As he gazed back at the altar the light from the lantern cast across his sword, setting a dancing shadow across it’s surface. “If this is what you would have of your servant.” He whispered, slowly setting his sword on the altar and kneeling once more.
On the hill above, the woman turned. The evil things had broken through. They stepped through the mangled iron, some falling as the spikes pierced them, but more took their place. She gazed at the chapel with tears in her eyes. “Brother…”
Inside, the man heard the moans grow to be distinguishable. No longer as a background noise. They were close.
Behind him, the lantern danced, a swift wind blowing into the chapel. As a shadowed figure stumbled in, it fell.
The fuel splashed across the walls, fire racing up the dried boards. In an instant, the front half of the building was consumed. The creature screamed, falling to burn in the holy flames.
And still the knight did not move.
More abominations staggered into the flames, each falling until a small wall had been created. The next few tore it down before falling on the fire themselves. With each it grew weaker.
Finally, the knight stood. His eyes, barely visible, did not look at the chapel, or at the earth around him. They stared further beyond, into a realm no man had a right to. He calmly picked up his sword, turning to the sputtering flames. “My Lord hast Blessed me.” He intoned, kicking a charred corpse out of the way. “Come, demons!” He yelled, gazing out at the milling horde of living dead. “You face the wrath of God.”
One charged forward and the paladin swung his sword, the blade seeming to dance with flame as it sliced cleanly through the creature. Another stepped forward, only to fall. As the horde slowly pressed inwards, the man laughed.
His sister heard the laugh, looked back to see the dying flames illuminate her brother as he strolled through the corpses, each swing felling more until the plain seemed covered in bodies. She watched as the horde slowly pressed in on him. How one made it past a swing and grabbed him, slowing his sword arm for a moment. How another managed to exploit that moment and grab at his feet, tripping him. How as he fell, his sword continued to move.
She turned away with a sob, urging the squire to hurry, to get to the castle, to get help, anything. As she cried, a light flashed behind her.
The knight had been Blessed. There was no question. A radiant light descended, blasting the corpses away as they tried to gnaw on the unmoving paladin. It entered his chest, lifting him off the ground. The corpses fell in, clawing at him as he rose.
The man was tired. It was night, and yet the sun shone for him. He smiled. He had served his liege and his Lord faithfully for his mortal life. He was ready to die.
“My son.” The voice echoed around him, deafening, but soothing. “You have done well. But your time is not yet.”
The man frowned, struggling to open his eyes. Surely this was his time. He had fallen. None rose again, except the Son.
“You have lived to your end on this world, yes.” The voice continued. “But there are still those in desperate need. Another Alice, whose brother could not help her.”
The man frowned, trying to make sense of this. Had he failed?
The voice laughed. “No, my son. You have saved her. And now I send you to save another.”
The man cried out wordlessly as the light grew blinding, it flashing brilliantly before disappearing.
The squire turned in time to see the explosion, holy radiance blasting a hole in the horde. He blinked furiously, trying to clear the afterimage from his eyes.
His master had been taken. He hastily signed a cross on his chest and turned back to the castle, urging the horse forwards. He had no business failing a man chosen by God.
The paladin lay on the ground, dust floating through the air. The deathly silence that surrounded him was broken occasionally by creaking metal, or as an object fell. The destroyed buildings around him teetered, some so unstable it seemed a sudden gust of wind would bring them down.
Eventually, the man groaned, slowly sitting up. His armor was scuffed, but not a single dent or break showed. He slowly struggled to his feet, his sword held in front of him.
Nothing made sense. He slowly turned, inspecting his surroundings. He had been… What had he been doing?
He turned at a sound. A low moan floated on the silent air, flashing feelings of horror and disgust in the man’s mind. He slowly edged to a door, peeking out into the deserted streets.
A figure squatted in the shadow of a building. As he watched it ripped another piece off something, stuffing it into its mouth. He shuddered as the sinking sun illuminated the scene. The thing was crouched over a man’s body, his stomach ripped open.
The man raised his sword, feeling memories rush back to him. These things were the devil’s work. He had been chosen to destroy them. He stepped into the street, raising his sword as he prepared to strike.
The corpse turned, sensing him as he stepped outside and he froze. The woman seemed to stare into his soul as she shambled towards him, a low moan stabbing into his ears and slowing his movements. He screwed his eyes shut as she reached him and bit down on his arm. With a scream, his sword erupted in flame and he swung downwards, cleaving her in half.
His chest heaved as he watched the body crumple. What had that thing done. He shook his head, desperately trying to clear it. It was dead. Had been dead. An evil thing. And yet, it had still been beautiful. It had frozen him in place. He raised his arm, watching a liquid evaporate off it. Venom?
“Get out of the open!” The man swiveled around, searching for the source of the voice. “Over here!”
He managed to see a small cloth waving from one of the buildings. As soon as he acknowledged it it was drawn back inside. He shouldered his sword and ducked inside, looking for whomever had waved it.
“Here.” The voice whispered, and the man was surprised to see a hunched figure sitting in a corner. “Did you get bitten?”
“No. It did not pierce my armour.” He replied, squatting in front of the raggedly dressed person. “Who are you?”
The breath caught in his throat when they lifted their head, another unnaturally beautiful woman looking at him. “I am Sharia.” She took his arm, scanning it. “The venom is gone.”
He gently withdrew his arm. “What are you?”
The woman blinked at him. “I… I apologize, sir.” She bowed her head. “I did not think before I spoke.”
“You have done nothing wrong.” He gently lifted her head. “I did not mean to cow you.”
She nodded. “Thank you.” She shifted, drawing the rags closer around herself. “I am a Megami.”
The man blinked in confusion. “A what?”
Sharia cocked her head. “A Megami? A pokegirl?”
The man shook his head. “I have never heard of one such as yourself.”
Sharia stared at him. “You… You have not?” Her breath caught. “Where did you come from?”
“I was a knight of His Majesty’s court.” The man replied. “I have been divinely chosen to act as the Lord’s sword to destroy those demons.”
“A… a knight?” Sharia’s eyes seemed to unfocus for a second. “Of… Europe?”
“Why, yes, of course.” The man glanced at her strangely. “Where else?”
He was shocked to see Sharia fall to her knees in front of him. “My prayers.” She whispered, her body shaking as she sobbed. “My prayers were answered!”
“Woman!” He cried, hauling her to her feet. “I am not to be worshipped.”
Sharia bobbed her head, her smile shining from behind her matted hair. “No. Of course not.” She gave a choking laugh. “I have prayed for days for God to send me a savior.” She smiled at him. “And he has sent me you.”
The man caught her when she started to fall. “You are fatigued. Rest.” He looked around. “Are you alone?”
Pain clouded Sharia’s eyes. “I am now.”
The man wrenched his gaze from the corpse that lay outside. “I understand.” He gently lay her back down. “If my Lord deigned me be here, now, then it must have been you I was sent for.” He walked to the window, gazing out into the streets. “Do not be afraid.”
The woman watched him, the evening skies beginning to darken. “Do you have a name, paladin?”
“I was known as Walter.” The man replied, shadows casting across his armor. “Though now I am but a tool for my Lord to use.”
“Walter… Sir Walter…” Sharia murmured, her eyelids drooping. “Thank you.”
Walter did not respond, watching over Sharia as she slipped into unconsciousness.
Some time in the night, she stirred, blinking blearily around her. The moon illuminated the front of the building, casting Walter in a deep shadow. The man did not move, seeming to be a statue.
“Don’t you sleep?” She whispered.
“I no longer require rest.” Walter replied, still unmoving. “I feel no fatigue.” His helmeted head turned to regard her. “Rest peacefully.”
Sharia closed her eyes again, a great feeling of calm overtaking her as she reached out to sense his presence. His very aura radiated the peace he told her to feel, and she knew his intentions were true. He would stand as a wall for her until he took his last breath.
She smiled, shaking those thoughts from her mind. “I was thinking I would like it if you chose to bed with me.”
She blushed at his laugh, his head turning back to the streets. “Perhaps. I have no wife, and perhaps you would wish to have my hand.”
“I cannot marry.” Sharia whispered sadly.
Walter stayed silent, then sighed. “Then do not tempt me, woman.”
Sharia rolled over, tears beading in her eyes as she fell back to sleep.
Walter waited while Sharia searched the latest house. Every so often she would ask him to stop walking, then go inside. She would always emerge carrying something, and he had never seen the items himself. When he had asked how she knew where they were, she had just shrugged.
He watched her uneasily as she emerged from the house and dropped something into her bag. Was she just lucky? Was there some part of this world that he did not understand?
Was she a witch?
Walter continued walking at her nod. If she was a witch, he would have to deal with her. He tightened his grip on his sword.
The girl turned, looking at him quizzically. “Yes?”
“You stated to me that you were a… Megami. A ‘pokegirl’.” He prepared himself. “If you are not human. Are you in league with these monsters.”
Sadness filled her eyes as he watched, and she swiftly turned away. “I was hoping you wouldn’t ask me that.” She whispered. “I am neither human nor am I in league with the Zombabes. I am something more.” She glanced back at him. “I suppose-“ She cut off with a scream.
Walter whirled in time to catch the charging Zombabe before it could bite down on him. Wincing, he struggled with it. How had he not heard its approach?
He glanced down. Ah. Its throat was destroyed, so no noise emanated. He gasped in pain as his arm was forced back. This one was stronger!
Suddenly he felt heat wash past his face, fire obliterating the creature’s head. It slumped, lifeless, and Walter slowly turned back to Sharia.
She knelt on the ground, her head bowed, weeping.
“What was that.” He asked quietly.
Her body shook as she sobbed, though she managed to look up at him. “I… I am an abomination.” She cried. “Humanity has turned their back on my kind. It… It is my blessing.” She raised her head and sniffed. “But the world sees it as my curse.”
He knelt in front of her carefully. “You have not used this power before now. Why?”
“I didn’t want you to hate me.” She whispered. “You are truly a man of God. I follow Him, but I do not know if He loves me.”
Walter nodded slowly, then reached up to pull off his helmet. “I do not hate you, Sharia.” He said gently. “I have been blessed with a power far beyond myself. So have you. I was made to give up my one purpose in life in order to continue protecting others.” He cocked his head. “Were you born with this blessing, or did you seek it?”
Sharia shook her head. “It was my birthright.”
Walter smiled. “Then it is yours. I did not live with my own blessing, but it was no more my choice than yours was.” He held out his hand, lifting her to her feet. “Now. Let us leave this evil place.”
Sharia nodded. “I… I told you I could not marry, did I not?” She continued at his nod. “I can not legally marry. Under no terms you know.” She looked at him. “But there are places, ways. And even if the state does not accept our marriage, would it be any less true?”
Walter gazed into the distance. “You say no priest would wed us?”
Sharia shook her head. “None here. We might find one, somewhere, but even if we did, the state would not recognize it.”
Walter nodded. “Very well.” He raised her hand to his mouth. “Sharia, would you swear to be mine?”
Tears once more filled Sharia’s eyes, though now they were tears of joy. “I so swear.” She whispered.
Walter smiled, kissing her hand. “Then let it be so.” He glanced around as the sound of moaning started to grow. “But first we must get out of here.”
Sharia quickened her pace as she noticed the buildings getting more sparse. “We’re close.”
Walter strode behind her. “Aye. There appear to be men ahead.”
“STOP!” One of the soldiers yelled, brandishing a rifle. “Nobody can leave the quarantined area! Turn back!”
Walter snorted, quickening his pace. “The man threatens me with a blunted sword. What a fool.”
Sharia turned, stopping him. “Wait.” She whispered. “We just need to convince them to let us leave. I can do that.” She gazed at him. “Would you allow me to lead?”
Walter nodded. “As you wish, my wife.”
Sharia blushed deeply and turned to the soldiers. “We’re not bitten!” She called. “My Master and I were here on divine order. We must hasten to our next calling!”
One of the soldiers pulled out a pokedex and scanned Sharia. “Fuck.” He muttered. “She’s a damn Megami, man.”
The other looked like he had suddenly bitten a lemon. “Test them. Quickly, before we have twenty Celestials swarming and demanding to know why we disobey the greater good or some bullshit.”
“Alright, approach.” The first called. “As soon as we are satisfied you are not infected, you may go.”
The soldier fidgeted while Walter took off one gauntlet. “Nice, uh, armor.”
“I thank you.” He replied, holding out his arm. “Though I grow weary of your foolishness. It wastes time better spent destroying evil.”
The soldier laughed nervously, inserting Walter’s blood into a testing machine. “Of course.” He breathed a sigh of relief when the light turned green. “You are clean. You may leave.”
Walter whirled at Sharia’s cry in time to see the other soldier pulling at her clothes. “I need to check for bite marks.” He explained, grinning at her. “Come now, you’re not denying a lawful order, are you?”
Sharia screwed her eyes shut but Walter reached her before the man could continue; with a roar he swung his gauntleted hand, catching the man with a solid blow to the jaw. An audible crack could be heard as the soldier tumbled away, skidding through the dust to lay unconscious.
Walter hoisted Sharia onto his shoulder, glowering at the first man. “Do you require her to show herself to you as well?”
The soldier shook his head hastily. “I am satisfied neither of you are infected.” He took a hesitant step towards his unconscious partner. “Ah, you are free to leave.”
Walter pulled his gauntlet on and hefted his sword, striding down the road with Sharia still clinging to his neck.
After a few miles Walter slowed his pace. “Sharia.”
There was a muffled noise from his shoulder and she shakily slid down his arm to land on the ground. “Yes.” She repeated, her voice barely a whisper.
“I did not fully believe you.” Walter conceded. “You appear human. I now see that you were correct; others do not see you in that way.”
Sharia shook her head despairingly. “I see myself that way.” She whispered. “But I am not, and so there are those that disrespect me.”
Walter snorted. “He was lucky I did not take his life.”
Sharia’s breath caught and she clutched his arm desperately. “Please, do not do such a thing for my sake! I could not bear to lose you.”
Walter chuckled and smiled at her. “Very well. I shall not.” He gazed off down the road. “This is such a strange world to me.” He glanced down at her again. “You shall have to teach me.”
Sharia smiled up at him. “I will do so, gladly.” She nestled her head in his chest. “Husband.”
He kissed her mouth. “My wife.”
They continued walking, hands interlocked. “So, is Walter your real name?” The woman asked as they began to fade from view. “Or, is it something you were given?”
The man seemed to shrug. “It has been my name as long as I can remember.” He glanced at the woman. “Is Sharia not yours?”
“No. It is customary for each new partner my kind take to have the chance to rename us.” The woman explained. “Sharia is not my birthname, though I do like it.”
“What is your birthname?”