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Chapter 1: 2 Days Till Death Arrives

Lisa’s eyes snapped open to a world of blurred vague shapes. Lurching forward with quivering hands, she ripped the tube in her throat. She choked and gagged as the contents of her stomach spilled from her lips. The smell of bile, week old fruit and wet dirt filled her nose. She felt something wrapped around her legs, it was soft but tight, constricting. Lisa flailed around, trying to escape, when she felt hands grip her shoulders and a voice say, “ L-a, ca-m, on-y, us.”

That voice! Lisa’s mind was pulled from her endless nightmares and she relaxed in what must have been Master Faith’s grip. Lisa sat there in her master’s hands, as the world around her became clear. The first thing she saw was the ancient face of her master, streams of tears rolled down across the cracks of her wizened bronzed skin. Faith blubbered, “By the Mortal Soul, I’m so happy you came back to us!” The elderly woman rubbed her warm hands across Lisa’s face and used a soft cloth to wipe the throw up from her face.

What is going on? Why am I in bed? She looked down at her stained white sheets and said, “Master Faith—-”

“Don’t call me that. It’s Ma and you know that,” Faith corrected in between her sobs.

“Hellion girl,” a man’s voice behind her cursed, “you wake up after seven months and the first thing you do is puke and almost knock poor Ma out?”

She turned and saw the smiling wrinkled face of Garmul. He released her, lifted up his Flat Hat and ran the back of his tan weathered hand against his forehead. He patted her shoulder, walking across the room toward her garment chest next to the door. “Good to have you back. Do you have any clue how much work this old bat has made me do since your little fall?” He nodded to Faith, “First off, she made me pick your bloody self off—”

“Hush your mouth, Pa! The little one just woke up and you're already complain’n,” Faith snapped.

“Well if you walked into the bathroom and found her naked as a digger rat, you would be complaining too,” Garmul said, rolling his eyes.

Fall? Lisa tried to think back to what they were talking about, but her mind was foggy. She looked around and saw several strange contraptions around her bed, there were several colored bags on poles. Other machines had blank buttons with gauges filled with pretty colors. “Ma? Pa? What is going on and what is all this stuff?”

Faith carefully pulled the dirty blanket from the bed and sat down next to Lisa’s feet, gently rubbing her shin. “Like Pa said, you took a nasty fall and have been in a coma for several months. Then when General Petals and General Zeel were removed from their positions, and the undead got closer, the city sealed its gates. Doctor Emerald, bless her soul, started making house visits to help take care of you. Since most of the people in the city left before the lockdown, she had excess equipment and brought it here so you didn’t have to be moved to the hospital.”

Garmul nodded sitting on the chest, “Thank goodness too, the people still here are acting like Death and his army are gonna spare them if they burn the place down before they arrive. Bit late for that though. By the Ten Hell’s, Ren told us last week raiders attacked one of the major hospitals in the common district, looted everything and burnt it to the ground.”

Lisa raised a brow and looked out the window beside her, her jaw dropped as she gazed outside. The mortal capital that once glittered in the middle of the daylight with light elementals bouncing around in their clear floating cages, now rested dark and asleep. The sky was a sea of black and grey clouds, swirling above the city as if at the center of a whirlpool, waiting to swallow everything up. 

She let out a long exhale at the bleak and barren sight. Lisa looked at Garmul and Faith asking, “What about the soldiers? Why aren’t they keeping things under control?”

Garmul spit on the floor, frowned and looked back up at Faith who was shaking her head. “Sorry, I’ll clean it up—-”

“Don’t worry about it Pa, I will do it later. You both have done so much, more than you should.” Lisa said, pushing herself to the end of the bed, her shoulder lightly touching Faith’s.

Garmul quickly raised his arm, hand out. “Take it easy Lisa. Me and Ma have been applying some Relli Jelly the doc gave us. Appears to have stopped your muscles from shriveling away, but I wouldn’t go pushing yourself unless it’s urgent. Anyway, the soldiers. General Zeel and General Petals warned the seven clans and council about needing to call all seven armies under the Great Collections banners, stopping the invasion East of The Perch. So when no one listened and The Perch, Raven Flood, and Fran Keep all fell to the undead in a sad simper, the generals were criticized and stripped of command for letting the three eastern clans fall. Naturally the council was shocked when most of the Great Collections soldiers went with them, the perks of being right I guess. As the remaining four clans fell and it was obvious Death was saving us for last, the rest of the soldiers left in droves. Now only the stupid and too loyal man the walls and gates. Too few to watch the streets and keep order.

Faith was looking at the auburn floor boards shaking her head, a thoughtful look on her face, eyes shaded. Lisa looked over at the poster on the wall in between two ceiling-to-floor dressers. It showed a small, brown haired farmer girl who stood there in shiny armor, coated in decorations. She stared at it for a moment then looked back to Garmul, “Well, if General Petals said we should have left, why didn’t they listen?”

Garmul laughed, “Stupidity I guess. They even put an inexperienced idiot in charge of the Collection’s military.” Garmul stood up, pulling his pants up to his stomach. He smiled, pulling his hat down over his face as he spoke, “Story about that later tonight if you want. I got to go down to the Guild District to get supplies from the main guild hall. I can’t promise they will have anything extra, but you want me to pick up something?”

Her eyes shot up toward him, knowing that Garmul was in his eighties and crossing the Common District on a good day was a journey. Lisa rubbed her thumbnail against her index finger, forcing the words, “no thank you. I appreciate you asking.”

Faith gently gripped Lisa’s shoulders as she got up. “Pa, don’t take eastern arc street along Harrion. While I was in the back, I ran across Betrix—-”

“Big booty Betrix?” Garmul stopped with his hand on the door.

Faith took in a deep breath and shook her head, “she said, some of the members at the church have gone a bit overboard. They took over the church and started harassing people they deem as having lost faith.”

Garmul scrunched his face like he stepped in shit, “I’m gonna get ready to go before you tell me some more bad news.” He closed the door quickly. 

Lisa felt Faith’s hand left hers, she had to catch herself as she instinctively went to grab it again. “Master Faith—-”

“I already told you, I don’t like that Master or Mistress stuff. You’re family, it’s Ma.” Faith said, putting her hands on her hips.

“How long do we have...till the undead arrive?” Lisa’s throat went dry. She felt like the words themselves were choking her.

“It doesn’t matter sweetheart. We are together,” Faith kissed Lisa’s forehead.

Lisa felt the air caress her skin from above, it was stale as if the air itself was rotten. the two-hundred-and-twenty-two square miles of the Great Collection. Purple lightning streaked between the clouds in equal intervals, as if presenting a dreaded countdown. Lisa sighed, “I doomed you both to die, didn’t I?”

“If you weren’t injured, I’d bop you one. We still have about two days before Death arrives. Get some rest, I will make some breakfast for us, and say goodbye to Pa.” Faith said, closing the door so quietly behind her, that Lisa didn’t even hear the latch.

Lisa looked around the ten-by-ten room and noticed her standing mirror uncovered. I guess I shouldn’t expect them to know it would be covered. Where’s a towel? Looking around, she saw the dirty cover on the floor, some stained clothes in the basket,. 

Lisa felt sick to her stomach at the realization that her elders were doing chores, that wasn’t their job, it was...hers. She jumped out of bed, walked toward the bin, but she only made it three steps before she found herself on the ground, knees throbbing. “Slow and steady,” She muttered to herself.

“You okay!?” Garmul’s voice called out.

“Yes Pa!” Lisa called back, looking up and saw the poster of General Petal hanging on her wall. The thought of Garmul going out by himself sat in the pit of her stomach, “he will be fine.” Lisa slowly made her way to her feet and to the dirty clothes, she stared at the pile of soiled white cotton shirts and panties.

She refused to let a peep slip from her lips, but she couldn’t hold back the streams of tears flowing down her face. Lisa put her hands to her face, hiding her shame from no one. She didn’t know how long she had been standing there when she heard the front door open and Garmul yell. “Bye! Love you both!”

Lisa called out, trying her hardest to sound calm, “Hold on Pa. I wanna say goodbye, let me get changed.” She stripped down in a hurry, throwing her clothes and dirty cover in the bin for later. Rushing toward the dresser, her steps were steadier than before. Lisa pulled out a long flowing knee high dress that cinched at the waist. It was decorated in warm flower designs on a cool deep blue background, it was soft and smooth to the touch. The cloth was soft and silky, the floral design and deep blue background was soothing and peaceful. It was her favorite. 

She turned and found herself staring face to face with her reflection. The back of her head pulsed with pain, she gritted her teeth and struggled to not close her eyes. There she stood, face to face with her naked body. Her face scrunched, looking over her pasty, slender frame. Her eyes rolled over each of the dozens of scars that covered her waist, hips, and thighs. She was happy she couldn’t see the whip and claw marks on her back. When she saw the black ink on the side of her neck forming the beginning of the serial number that had defined who and what she was, her fist clenched and her cheeks grew hot against cool tears.

Lisa looked back at the poster of the first female grand general and then at the picture of Faith, Garmul, and herself on her first birthday with them. Coming to a decision, she threw the dress on the ground. Lisa then grabbed tan under shorts, a long cotton blouse, and dark brown trousers. She dressed hastily then made her way out of her bedroom into the living room. “Pa, I’m going to get the supplies!”

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