The fourth shuffler that had stopped to help its ‘friend’ had managed to pull out a part of the arrow. The shuffler pointed the arrow in Thorgaut’s direction as it charged him. Thorgaut wanted to laugh because it was shuffling in slow motion.
He imagined that it may have been a soldier at one time before becoming undead. He deflected the arrow with his sword and sidestepped the creatures attack. The creature turned around and stared at him. He could have run it through with his sword, but Thorgaut actually felt sorry for the slow shuffling thing. He hesitated for a moment.
It looked at him with eyes wide open. This creature wasn’t as decayed and disgusting looking as the others. It looked like it was aware of what it was doing. Its eyes seemed as if they were pleading with him silently to put it out of its misery.
Thorgaut wasn’t quite sure what to do. Should he just stab it and run it through with his sword. That felt so heartless and cruel. Maybe the creature would just turn around and move on back into the forest where it could live out the rest of its days in peace.
The shuffler leaned forward a bit, and Thorgaut took a step backward. He shook his head when he realized what he was thinking. The Viking prince had never felt like this before over killing an enemy. He had always enjoyed killing those he fought. Especial when using his sword. The feel of warm blood running down the hilt of his sword and over his hands. Maybe it was just because this creature was unarmed.
Thorgaut relaxed his stance and shifted to the side. Suddenly, he heard a noise behind him. It was the shuffler he had shot in the shoulder. It walked toward him with its good arm stretched out in his direction. It was so close that its fingers were almost touching his shoulder. He leaped back out of the way and bumped into the other shuffler.
It roared when he touched it and tried to grab him. He threw himself off to the side and away from either of them. He lost his balance and tripped. He stumbled and fell off to the side. He kept right on rolling and got up as fast as he could. Both creatures were approaching him and he kept moving backward while stumbling over himself as he tried to get back up.
After gaining his balance, he managed to get his feet under him to stand up again. Thorgaut had somehow managed to keep his grip on the sword. He readied himself and pulled back into an attack stance.
Both the shufflers had stopped and were now standing in front of him. It was really eerie. Almost like the expected him to do or say something. Again, he stood there silently watching them. And they watched him back.
The shuffler he had shot in the shoulder started to gag and vomit at his feet almost without warning. Thorgaut snapped his feet apart to prevent any of the vomit from spattering on his boots. But when he looked down, Thorgaut noticed that some of it had dirtied his shoes. He made a mental note to not touch them and to dispose of them as soon as possible.
The shuffler looked like it was about to puke again. Thorgaut was already upset that it had ruined his shoes. He pulled back his sword and let it fly. The blade seemed to sing as it swung through the air and sliced cleanly through the shuffler’s neck. Blood from the sword’s arc splattered across the other shuffler. It did nothing, but just continue to stand there as if it was waiting for something.
“What do you want?” Thorgaut asked.
The creature didn’t say anything. It just continued to stand there.
“That’s pretty creepy you know,” Thorgaut said.
He backed up slowly toward the fire. The shuffler continued to follow him. It matched his pace and took a step forward for each one he took backward toward the fire.
Thorgaut reached the fire and jumped over it to the other side. The shuffler stood there looking like it was trying to decide what to do. He took a few more steps backward, but the creepy creature remained still.
Thorgaut noticed the smoldering remains of the shuffler that he had kicked into the fire. Most of his body had burned up and completely disintegrated. They burned up so easily in the heat. He pushed the logs and pieces of wood together, and the flames started to grow once again. The shuffler moved back a few paces but continued to stand there watching Thorgaut and the fire.
Thorgaut picked up a medium-sized piece of wood from the fire. He walked around the fire towards the bodies of dead shufflers he had killed. The standing shuffler took a few steps toward him but stopped when he waved the fire in its face.
It watched him as he touched the flame to the body of one the dead shuffler. The shuffler’s body caught fire easily and started burning where ever he touched it with the flame. Whenever the flame came into contact with blood, there was a small explosion as the flames burst up even higher and hotter.
Thorgaut turned and moved over to the other body. He touched the flame to the stump of its neck where he had beheaded it. The whole pool of blood that had run out exploded into a fireball that knocked him back. The heat singed the hair on his head and body. He pulled himself up and watched for a minute as the entire body was quickly engulfed and consumed by the flames. He also burned up the arms he had cut off one of the shufflers as well.
The living shuffler watched him intently and but didn’t move around after he started burning the corpses. Thorgaut kept a close eye on him though to make sure it didn’t try anything. He got the impression that the creature was waiting for him to do something, but he had no idea what it was. There was an alertness and awareness in his eyes that the others hadn’t had. There was something different about him and it piqued Thorgaut’s curiosity.
“What is it?” he asked. “Is there something you want to tell me. You seem fresher and more alive than the others. You’re still not totally taken are you?”
Thorgaut took a step closer and stretched out the stick with fire in front of its face. The shuffler didn’t flinch or move.
“You just joined this clan recently. You’re under their control,” he said. “If you are still aware of what’s going on, go ahead and blink twice.”
The shuffler didn’t blink, but it did keep staring at him intently. Staring at him in a way that unnerved Thorgaut.
“That’s creepy. Stop it. Go back into the woods and do your thing.” he commanded, but the creature just stood there.
“Better yet, let’s go find that woman,” he muttered. “Where is she? And how many more of you are there?”