Here is the reboot of They're Among Us! Hope you enjoy. The Characters: Gerald, Devon, Raina & Avery Beauregard - Me Sydney Alex Parkes - @violn Knox & Bradley Garretson - @Huskyyyy & @Temqer Teddie Yoav - @Boricua551 River Crystal Ravenhunter - @stelth_elf007 Fluer Candenza Waters - @Meeponn Gabriella Rose Fenton - @DarksSenpaiIsGrim This story has finished! Thanks for reading Spoiler: Prologue The sweltering sun was low in the sky as the horizon began to turn orange. Summer was fading; autumn was beginning. Raina Beauregard sat at the bottom of the stairs in her family's home, she wore ripped jeans, their colour faded, and walking boots, caked in dried mud. 'Avery! For God's sake, hurry up!' Raina shouted to her younger sister, Avery, who was upstairs. 'Alright, alright! Quit your moaning; I'll be down in a minute!' Avery retaliated, as she stomped around her bedroom. Raina rolled her hazel eyes, twirling a piece of her dark blonde hair in her fingers. She looked out the window, watching the sun sink behind the houses. Mumbling to herself she said, 'God if I still had a phone, I would have seen a photo of that sunset a thousand times by now...'Her words trailed away as realisation sunk in, 'No one's left to do that...' 'What's that?!' Avery asked, standing on the steps above Raina. 'Nothing, nothing,' her sister said before jumping up from the bottom stairs, 'Come on, we're late.' The two sisters ran out of the house, slamming the door shut but never locking it. Crime was non-existent, even small children stealing sweets was unheard of, a utopia in the middle of a dystopia. Years before, the small town Rosewood was home to Christian 'extremists' who believed the end of the world was near. To save themselves, the townspeople shut themselves off from society, hoping to avoid their deaths. None of them expected this; they had not prepared themselves. No one had. No one was fully ready to face the zombie apocalypse. The first appearance of zombies was four years ago, slowly plaguing the cities of each continent. It took six months until civilisation had broken down and over half the world's population decimated. This was all unknown to the original residents of Rosewood; they were one of the last standing towns. But this lasted for only a year when the zombies overrode the town. Those who fled died fast, those who didn't, died quicker. In the same year as Rosewood's demise, a small flock of survivors found the destroyed town. Leading the group was Gerald Beauregard, Raina and Avery's father. As young children, they watched their father build the town back up, brick by brick. The two sisters ran through the town, their feet slamming against the once cracked cobblestone. They wore broad smiles as they ran towards the middle of the town. In the middle was the crops, as autumn neared, so did the harvest. As they reached the crowd already there, Avery sighed, 'It's good to be in Rosewood.' 'Yeah,' Raina replied, smiling, 'Almost nothing bad could happen.' Spoiler: Chapter 1 Devon Beauregard stood in one of the guard posts dotted around the edge of the town of Rosewood. He smiled as he watched his sisters run towards the cropland where the rest of the townspeople were. 'You sure you don't want to go down there too? Celebrate with your family?' Bradley Garretson asked Devon, standing off to the side of him. 'No, no, I'm all right, anyway, this is my job,' Devon replied, turning away from the crowd. Bradley shrugged, turning towards the outside of the town. Both Bradley and Devon were guards; their job was to defend the town and keep it safe. While the concentration of zombies had died down in recent months, the guards were still on top formation. Opposite from their guard post was Sydney Alex Parkes and Bradley's younger brother, Knox Garretson. The two were silent in comparison to Devon and Bradley. However, neither minded the silence, Sydney was new in her job as a guard post. At first, she found the whole standing around with another awkward; she began looking forward to it, standing in a comfortable silence where she could wait for her next fight. Knox was mostly the same, he did prefer staying alone, even on guard, but he didn't mind Sydney's presence. They stood next to each other, obviously making no attempt to communicate and watched over the town. Teddie Yoav, one of the newest members of Rosewood, walked slowly through the quiet streets. They smiled softly, taking in the peacefulness. After travelling through the zombie-ridden landscape, Teddie was happy to be away from danger finally. Even if it might just be temporary. River Crystal Ravenhunter, Rosewood's lone scouter, walked towards the locked gates to the town. Her eyebrows were creased into a frown as she entered the quiet town. For the last several days, River had spent her days trying to track down an old foe. Every week she would return angrier and angrier as her searches ended in a trail gone cold. Fleur Candenza Waters stood amongst the crowd of the autumn festival-goers, a notepad in hand. She, like Teddie, was a newcomer. She moved to Rosewood in hopes to forget the memories of her childhood. However, sometimes, in the dead of night, she would wake fear in her eyes as she would relive her adoptive family's abuse. Gabriella Rose Fenton, a young girl of 14, slipped through the crowd that Fleur stood in as well. The small girl was quiet as she rushed through the crowd, trying to find something but she didn't know what. Whenever someone looked at her, concern or confusion, she would throw them a look of disgust, making them turn away from her. When she pushed through the crowd, she continued running, further into the town and further from everyone. Gerald Beauregard, mayor of Rosewood, stood in front of the crowd that stood by the crop fields. He smiled at the group, their chatter loud and happy. His brown hair was peppered with grey flecks. Lines drove deep into his face, the creases even more defined as he smiled. 'Good evening Rosewood!' He shouted, hushing the crowd. Instantly, the guards on post looked towards him, Teddie looked up, hearing the booming voice, River looked up as well, but with a less intrigued smile, Fleur scribbled delicately in her notebook, and Gabriella carried on running. 'As you all know,' Gerald continued, 'Autumn is upon us! Harvest is near! May we all celebrate another harvest in this stronghold of a town!' With a hurrah, the celebrations began. Rosewood showed that even in the darkest of time, humanity can still thrive and celebrate. Spoiler: Chapter 2 As the evening faded, and the townspeople trailed back home. The Beauregard sisters wandered through the town, with only the moon as their light. 'So, tomorrow's the first day or harvest, right?' Avery asked Raina, looking up at the stars dazzling the midnight sky. Raina nodded, her eyes focused on the floor. A churning a feeling in her stomach. Avery looked at her sister, concern wrinkling her brow, 'You okay? You seem a bit down.' Raina's head snapped up, 'No, no, I'm fine... just tired.' 'Well, it is late, let's go home,' Avery returned, still concerned. The two ran home, disappearing into the night. ~ Teddie woke up in one of the town's inns. It became frequent having people come to the town. While some stayed for only a couple days, others remained in the inns before moving into their own house. Teddie was still unsure whether or not they would stay or go. For now, they would think of only the present. Daylight broke through the window as Teddie changed quickly and padded downstairs into the dining area. The arrangement of tables and chairs felt almost comforting to Teddie, outside the walls of Rosewood, everything was broken and smashed; nothing remained. After hearing rumours of a town in complete working order and with almost indestructible walls, Teddie was sceptical at first. But after hearing of a small group heading near the area of the town, they tagged along, disappearing from the group and into the forest where Teddie found the town. Teddie sat at one of the tables, looking outside. Already, people were out in the morning sun. Today was the first day of harvest, many people worked as harvesters and were making their ways to the croplands. They ate breakfast quickly before going out into the warm autumn sun. Children ran around giggling and screaming as their parents trailed behind them. It's lovely here, huh. Teddie thought, smiling at the children as they skipped past. 'This town isn't perfect, you know,' a voice said behind them. 'Huh?' Teddie questioned, whirling around. Walking away from them was a tall figure that could have easily towered over Teddie. As the figure disappeared, they stared dumbfounded, the words running through their head over and over. This town isn't perfect. ~ Avery trotted down the stairs in her house, running into her brother, Devon. He wore his guard gear, readying himself to leave for work. 'Hey Av, you okay?' He asked his little sister, trying to ruffle her hair. 'Oi, get off me!' She replied, dodging his hand, 'But no, I'm not okay. Have you seen Raina? She's not in her room.' Devon shook his head, his brow furrowing, 'No, I haven't seen her, I've been up all morning.' 'Well, then where the hell has she gone?!' ~ 'Finally! He's here, Knox Garretson has awoken!' Bradley said as his brother joined him at the guard post., 'What took you so long?' Knox shook his head, his face expressionless, 'Just running late, kay?' 'Sure, sure, not trying to chat up any ladies?' His brother joked. 'Have you ever seen me try to 'chat up any ladies'?' Knox asked incredulously, though joined in with his brother's laughter. 'HEY!' Cried Sydney, who stood outside of the town's walls, concern written all over her face, 'You two! Get down here! I've found something...' 'Something? What is it?' Bradley asked, his tone turning serious as he grabbed his rifle. 'I – I don't know, I don't think it's something but... someone.' Spoiler: Chapter 3 River yawned loudly, stretching her aching limbs as she tumbled out of bed. After spending another week in zombie territory, she was finally beginning to feel the damage she sustained on her trip. For months, River had been spending her time outside the walls of Rosewood. After being granted permission to come and go as frequently as she wanted by the mayor, she rarely stayed in the town for longer than three days at a time. After all, she needed justice. Before the Beauregards, Garretsons or anyone else ever dreamed of Rosewood, there was River's past home. She lived in another settlement, miles away from Rosewood. It was one of the few existing towns created because of the apocalypse. When River was 18 turning 19, she became a member of the settlement. After showing off her skills, she became the settlement's top guard. Joshua Wyvrentail, another member of the settlement, was a crooked and jealous man. Reasons unknown to River, he was angry of the settlement's prosperity. Thinking about it now, she thought he wanted the power for himself. However, she never was sure why he turned against his people. After less than a year of the settlement's survival, Wyvrentail unlocked the gates of the town. Instantly, zombies overwhelmed the people, killing and changing people left and right. Wyvrentail made a speedy escape, leaving the men, women and children of the settlement to die. Unknown to him. However, River managed to escape. As the settlement's guard, she tried to save as many people as she could. But it became increasingly clear to her that either they all died, or she survived. Making that crucial choice, River abandoned the people, knowing she could not save them. Now at 22 River was still on the look for Wyvrentail. She couldn't save the people, but she could at least bring justice to them. She became a member of Rosewood when she was 20, after spending an entire year searching non-stop. It was only when she met the mayor of Rosewood did she slow down and stop. Only Gerald knows of her past, letting her scout the town's borders and search for her enemy. After washing, River began to repack her bags. Knives, maps and food all fell into their places as she prepared herself to depart once more. She shrugged her pack onto her shoulders, pulled up the hood of her jacket and exited her small house. The late morning was still warm and summery. However, curls of breeze whistled through the town, pushing River onwards. She walked past the houses and shops of Rosewood, her head down as she ignored it all. Until she found Wyvrentail, she had no time to have a normal life. As she got to the gates, a guard called to her. 'Is that you River?' They asked, squinting down at her. River removed her hood, confirming her identity before putting it back in place. The guard began to lift open the gate for up, she slid under the small gap, nodding to the guard in thanks. Adjusting her pack, she walked into the surrounding forest. 'Hey! Wait a second!' The guard shouted making her stop and turn, 'If ya see Sydney can you get her back here? You'll figure out who she is.' River shrugged, 'If I see her, I'll tell her. But if I don't, you're gonna have to do it yourself.' 'Ha, thanks, Riv!' River rolled her eyes, mumbling under her breath, 'Don't call me that...' ~ 'I'm lost... I'm so bloody lost!' Sydney muttered, using a knife to cut down foliage in her way. She was stationed on early morning surveillance. Her higher-ups had already forgotten that she was new and hardly knew her way around the town. Instead of letting them know, she accepted her fate, cursing her awkwardness. She continued traipsing through the forest; fortunately, she saw no zombies lurking around. However, she still did want to slash something that wasn't a tree. Her steps were silent as she walked barefoot through the forest. She had taken off her converses around an hour ago, hoping it would help her get back. Unfortunately, this was not the case; instead, she found something else. With one more slash through the thick branches, Sydney stopped dead. In front of her were several zombies, all who were feasting. As they began to notice her presence, she whipped into action. She now held two blades; her posture was rigid as she attacked. Her blades slashed across the nearest zombie, plunging into its torso. She kicked it away from her, heading towards the next. In less than five minutes, she stood alone. The zombies lay around her, motionless. Sydney wiped her brow, letting out a ragged breath. She looked around at her handiwork before seeing the body the zombies had been feasting upon. Sydney made her way over to the body, checking to see if it had changed to a zombie. Instead, she screamed. ~ A scream echoed through the forest, causing birds to fly away haphazardly around River. She tried not to grimace as she began to make her way towards the scream. Probably that Sydney girl, maybe trying to get herself killed. After a couple of minutes trekking, she realised she was wrong. Very wrong. She found Sydney surrounded by the zombie corpses. She was no longer screaming but instead staring blankly at the body she'd found. River made her way over to the girl, putting her hand on her arm. 'What is it?' River asked, concern rippling through her. 'Not what, but who,' Sydney replied, her eyes still on the body, 'Look, who is it? You must know who this is.' River turned to the body. It was covered in blood and bite marks. Looking closer, River realised too. 'Is that... the Mayor's daughter?!' Spoiler: Chapter 4 Fleur sat on a bench in the afternoon sun, scribbling away on a notepad she had found. After arriving in Rosewood less than a fortnight ago, she had been excited to record her experience in the protected town. Before the apocalypse, Fleur had been a best-selling author, using her name and writing talent, she managed to hitch a ride with a trade runner into the town. Promising the trade runner, Fleur began to write the tales of the zombie apocalypse, all in her perspective. She hadn't realised how interesting the story would be until she sat on that bench. 'HEY! Come back here ya little runt!' A man shouted from a distance, causing Fleur and many others to look up. 'Never! It's MINE!' Cried the young girl, Gabriella who skipped past Fleur and the other onlookers, in her hand was a loaf of bread. Looking towards the tired man and the small girl, Fleur pocketed her notepad and chased after Gabriella. It didn't take much for Fleur to catch up as she was older and faster. 'Stop!' Fleur ordered, grabbing the smaller girl's arm. 'Get off me!' Gabriella shouted, trying to wrench herself free. 'Not until you give that back,' Fleur said calmly, her grip tight on Gabriella's arm as she struggled, 'And also once you've told me why you want it.' 'I'm not giving it back! I gotta eat! Do you want my death on your hands?!' Gabriella retaliated. Fleur smiled sweetly at the girl, took the bread and letting go of her arm. Gabriella stood dumbfounded as she watched the older girl walk towards the man she had stolen from. Finally, she came back, holding the crumpled piece of bread up to her. 'There, I bought it. It's yours now,' Fleur said. Without hesitation, the fourteen-year-old grabbed the bread from her and began tearing through it. Fleur waited patiently, watching Gabriella wolf down the loaf. When it was gone, the girl looked at Fleur expectantly, waiting for more. She suppressed a smile at the girl's wide blue eyes and held her hand out. 'Come on, you can stay at mine, if you would like.' 'Of course! Are you crazy?!' ~ River knelt by the body of Raina Beauregard; her dark blonde hair resembled mud as twigs and dirt clogged it. One of her hazel eyes were open. Wide and bloodshot as they stared glassily. It was obvious she was dead, her skin was pale and translucent, zombie bites covered her bare skin. She wore the same clothing from the evening of the harvest celebrations. Sydney had run off over five minutes ago, using River's trail as a guide to get back to the town. After the initial shock, River began giving orders to Sydney. What they had uncovered was serious, the oldest daughter of the Mayor had somehow exited the walls of Rosewood. The consequence was her death. 'What happened to you?' River whispered, inspecting the girl's ruined corpse, 'How did you get out of town?' Within her inspection, River found Raina's hand clenched into a fist. Gingerly, she untangled her fingers, releasing a piece of paper. The note was dirty and scrawled haphazardly were the words: She may be the first. But she will not be the last. -JW Spoiler: Chapter 5 'Someone?!' Bradley barked, staring down at the jittery Sydney, 'The hell are you talking about?' 'Look, I was lost in the forest,' she said, scratching her head, 'I was on patrol last night, and I've been trying to get back ever since. I found a small pocket of zombies, which I took care of,' she added quickly. 'But it wasn't the zombies I was concerned about, it was their prey... The person they were feeding on. I panicked, and River, the scout? She found me, and she confirmed exactly who it was.' 'Who..?' Knox questioned, he seemed more intrigued than worried in comparison to his brother. A lump formed in Sydney's throat as she tried to choke out the name, 'It was... Ra... Raina. Beauregard. Raina... Beauregard. The-- the mayor's daughter...' 'What?!' the brothers exclaimed in unison. At their reaction, Sydney began to shake as she nervously began speaking, 'I k-know! I-I don't know what to do... River told me to go here but do what?! I'm not sure... but help me, please. Please!' Bradley nodded, and looked at his brother, 'Go with her to the body. Bring it-- her back. I'll let the mayor and his children know.' Knox nodded and made his way down onto the ground next to Sydney. 'Lead the way,' he said. She clenched her fists and took off, Knox sped off behind her. The two of the disappeared into the forest, leaving Bradley on his own. ~ Devon sat at the kitchen counter of his home. He had guard patrol later in the afternoon, so he sipped on black coffee, reading a yellowed book. In the other room, he could hear Avery, his sister, storming up and down the corridor, cursing every so often. 'Av, there's no need to be crude,' he said, flipping the page, 'Raina will be back soon.' 'How do you bloody know that?!' She said, storming into the kitchen, 'She's gone off to God's knows where and she didn't say anything to me! We're meant to be sisters! We tell each other our secrets and plans, and we help make them happen! But she doesn't seem to give a crap about sisterly bonds does she?!' 'Avery, watch your language,' Gerald, the mayor of Rosewood said as he entered the kitchen. 'Uh... yes father,' she said quietly, looking down at the floor. He continued walking through the kitchen, on the counter was a pile of paperwork. He picked it up and walked away into the dining room. He sifted through each one; each had an impact on the town. More guards on patrol, renew the walls that protected the town, fewer migrants, more zombie ridding. The list went on. Gerald sighed heavily before picking up his pen. Knock knock! The sound of knocking of the front drew Avery out of her quiet episode. Her face lit up s she made connections. 'Raina's back! Bloody finally!' She cried, running towards the door. She opened the door, ready to give an onslaught of abuse towards her sister when she stopped short. Standing there was Bradley, he gulped air heavily after running to the house. Avery raised an eyebrow, though concern seeped through her bones. 'How can I help you?' She asked him. 'I need to see the mayor, your father,' he said between gulps of air. 'What's happened? Can't it wait? He's busy...' She said, her voice trailing off as Devon appeared behind her. 'Bradley,' he said, 'What's happened?' 'It's Raina.' Bradley said, looking Devon directly in his eyes, 'I need to speak to the mayor.' 'I'm here,' Gerald said, 'What's happened to my daughter?' 'She's... Can't we do this privately?' 'No, say it now or don't say anything.' Bradley took a deep breath, 'Raina was found. Outside the town. Sir, she is dead. Raina Beauregard has been found dead in the forest.' Spoiler: Chapter 6 'DEAD?!' Avery cried, pushing past her father, 'What do you mean she's dead?! What's happened to my sister?' Bradley stood silent, unable to answer as he watched the sixteen-year-old breakdown. Her fists were clenched, shaking uncontrollably. Her hazel eyes glimmered with tears, the golden flecks shining. 'She's not dead... Please, p-please,' she whispered, grief radiating off her. 'Devon, get her into the house,' Gerald barked at his son who stood motionless, staring at Bradley. 'Devon!' 'Y-yes, father.' The two siblings disappeared from the doorway, Devon grabbing his sister's arm as tears broke free from her eyes. A lump had formed in Devon's throat as his youngest sister fought against him. When the two had trailed into the kitchen, Gerald moved towards Bradley, leaving inches between the two of them. In a hushed voice, he spoke, 'Do not let this get out, not yet. Instead, tell me everything you know about this... situation.' ~ 'Come on, you can stay at mine, if you would like,' Fleur said to Gabriella, still holding her hand out. Instantly, the girl grabbed her hand, her face alight, 'Of course! Girls gotta eat, huh?' Fleur laughed, leading Gabriella through the town. When Fleur first arrived, she rented out one of the small cottages in the town. She wasn't one for fighting so she knew Rosewood would become her home town. Even though she had arrived only weeks ago, she knew the town's outlay like the back of her hand. The two stood outside of Fleur's cottage, its name 'Driftwood Vale'. The exterior was whitewashed with black panels supporting it. The thatched roof was dark, matching the dark oak wood door. It was surrounded by green shrubbery, according to the owner, by spring the bushes would be heavily covered in white roses. Ever since she saw it, Fleur had been in love with the home. 'Driftwood... that's in the sea right?' Gabriella asked, squinting at the hand carved sign. 'Uh, yes?' 'It's like your hair, the sea,' She continued, obviously happy with herself as she made the connection. Fleur laughed shakily, self-consciously touching her hair. It was true, back before the apocalypse she had dyed it light blue with dark undertones at the top. She had mostly done it because of the sea; her anxieties put her under much stress. The ocean was one of her ways to calm down, stroking her ocean blue hair almost had the same effect. She was just surprised Gabriella had instantly pointed that out. 'Anyway, let's go inside,' she said, pushing open the door. The cottage was small, the open space included a kitchenette, with two counters, a fridge and a stove. There was a small dining table with two chairs and a vase of wildflowers arranged next to the kitchenette. Through an archway, there was Fleur's living room. An overstuffed sofa faced a bookshelf filled with trinkets and notebooks. In the corner of the living room was a spiral staircase that led to the bedroom. The loft included a queen sized bed; a chest lay at the foot of it. Fleur was sat in the living room, flicking through her notepad as she let Gabriella wandered around. She heard the occasional 'ooh' and 'aah' as the floorboards creaked loudly. She smiled to herself as she began to imagine life with her newly found roommate. Spoiler: Chapter 7 River crushed up the note in her hand. It wasn't the sentence that made her blood boil. It was the initials, JW. The one person she had been hunting down for months, spending fruitless weeks in search only to find his latest tragedy crumpled on the floor. 'Wyvrentail,' She growled through clenched teeth. She imagined him standing above her, arrogance radiating off the man. His sandy blond hair was smoothly groomed, and his piercing blue eyes drove holes into River's skin. On his face was a cocky grin, psychotic delight fixed onto his visage. 'Missed me?' He said, 'I had to do all the hard work, eh?' 'You killed a girl to get my attention?!' River countered, standing to face the imaginary Wyvrentail. 'Oh, no, not your attention, I've had that for some time,' he said, his grin ever present, 'What I want is your motivation, and it looks like I have it, don't I River?' 'You demon!' She screamed, leaping up to scratch his face. When her fingers made contact, the imaginary figure disappeared. Realising what had happened, she fell to the floor. Her fists clenched as she shook her hand violently. She thought they had stopped, the hallucinations, they had stopped. 'But they never stop.' ~ The darkened library was musty and overheated. The yellowing books were mostly leather bound novels from decades before. Many were religious texts, but the addition of zombie-hardened Rosewood residents brought their books of what was once modern civilisation. Teddie stood in the library, inspecting the large oak wood shelves. They didn't have much interest in the books; they just wanted to be surrounded by the novels. One of the only memories of life before. After five minutes of wandering around the hall, Teddie had received several weird looks from the librarian. Nervously, they grabbed a random leather bound book and hurried off to a desk. The book was small and thin; it was more like a notepad rather than a novel. Flipping it open, Teddie found a handwritten book. The Moonlit Man by Raindrop Intrigued, Teddie began to read. Our Cast! Raina – The protagonist, a funny girl with more secrets than the government. She is seventeen years old and is the middle child of her siblings. Avery – Raina's younger sister, she curses more than a sailor and is fearless to the end. She is sixteen years old and is Raina's closest friend. Devon – The oldest sibling out of the three! He is twenty years old and spends almost every waking moment babysitting his crazy sisters. It was a late summer evening, the sun had sunken behind the horizon, and the stars began to erupt from the darkness, Raina sat on the grass with Avery, the two of them pointed out constellations, mostly Avery making crude remarks. 'It does not look like that Av!' Raina shouted while Avery roared with laughter. 'Yes, it does! It looks exactly like a---,' 'AVERY!' Devon yelled, running down to them. He looked unimpressed but cracked a smile as Avery continued laughing. He ruffled her hair, making it stand up on end. 'Come on; it's late.' He said, pulling up his youngest sister. Avery shrugged, already running off. But Raina stayed on the grass, staring up at the sky. The moon's glow illuminated the town, lighting up her wide eyes. 'Can I stay out a bit later? It's too pretty to go inside,' She said, looking at her brother with sad eyes. He scratched the back of his head before shrugging, 'Be back before midnight, okay?' She leapt up, kissed him on the cheek and ran off, shouting, 'Thanks, bro!' Teddie shut the book. It wasn't their taste in novels; it seemed a bit childish to them. But it still held some mystery and suspense that Teddie was embarrassingly eager to uncover. Picking it up, they took it to the librarian to check it out. 'This isn't in our records... It doesn't have a tag.' The librarian said, her brow creased. 'Oh... Can I still take it out?' Teddie asked. The librarian shrugged, 'Knock yourself out.' Spoiler: Chapter 8 Sydney sprinted through the forest, batting foliage out of her way using her blades. Knox sped after her, ducking every time a branch snapped back. Their fast pace brought them to River in no time. She sat in a crumpled heap, ripping pieces of grass up from the ground. Her tears had dried, but her breathing was still harsh and rapid. When Sydney and Knox burst through, River stood up unsteadily, trying her hardest to hide any sign of weakness. Knox completely ignored River; his eyes were glued to Raina's body. It was obviously her; the willowy figure was bitten and bleeding. Her dark blonde hair was matted, and her one hazel eye was glassy and bloodshot. 'This isn't right,' he murmured, looking down at her. 'What?' Sydney asked, her voice high-pitched. 'Nothing, let's just get back.' 'Right,' River said, her strength returning. Altogether, the three of them carried the body back to Rosewood. As they journeyed through the forest, rain began to fall, splattering on the group of fighters and the empty shell of a girl. In the rain, a mantra ran through Knox's head. This isn't right; this isn't right, this isn't right. The body has her appearance, but it's not her. ~ Teddie quickly left the library; dark clouds filled the sky, hiding the autumn sun from the town. They squinted at the stormy clouds with unease. It's going to rain, better get inside. Picking up their pace, Teddie made their way back to the Inn. Just as they saw the cosy inn, rain began to pound down onto the streets. Sending chills down Teddie's spine. Even though they sprinted for the rest of the way, Teddie was still drenched as they entered the inn. The wooden sign, clearly inscribed with the inn's name 'The Crescent Inn' rattled drops of rain down as wind picked up. 'Looks like it's going to storm,' the innkeeper said briskly behind the counter, 'It's never a good sign when it storms, bad omen.' Teddie shivered before racing up the stairs into their room. Draping a thick blanket over themselves, they picked up the now damp leather-bound book and continued reading. Raina crept to the east side of the town; she knew her father wouldn't like it if she wandered close to the walls of the town. He feared a walker would get in and attack her. She knew he was paranoid, so instead, she kept to the blind spots of the guard posts. It was only by chance that she found them but still was happy she did. She knew she should tell her father, but she wanted to sneak around just for a little while longer. Wandering the circumference of the east side, the moon lit up the town. Revealing every nook and cranny of the walls. But with a start and an audible gasp of breath did Raina see something most strange and mystical. Standing near her was a tall figure, shrouded in the moonlight. Raina's eyes lit up at the handsome figure, watching closer she saw him widen a gap in the wall. Completely undetected by the guards. It looked like someone had found her blind spot. It was fate. Teddie scoffed, before sneezing. Realising now that the story may be a bit more immature than they originally thought. Quietly, Raina sneaked up to the handsome figure. Her heart raced as his facial features hit the moonlight. With all her courage, she spoke. 'What are you doing here?' Instantly the figure flinched, moving away from Raina. She squeaked, realising she had frightened him. 'Please! I mean you no harm... I won't tell anyone.' 'Do you promise, little girl?' A low voice asked, sending shivers down her spine. 'Who're ya calling a little girl?!' She asked defensively, hands on her hips. A small chuckle escaped the handsome figure, making Raina's heart melt. Teddie inadvertently snorted. 'A competent girl, hm,' he murmured, 'Most useful, no?' 'I can be useful! I can help you!' Raina said, pushing her head through the gap to see her moonlit man. 'What's your name?' He asked. 'Raina. Beauregard. I'm the mayor's daughter.' His eyes lit up with fascination, 'We might have a change in plans then.' 'I can help you?!' 'Yes, my dear, you will be my greatest asset,' he said, taking her hand and kissing it, 'My name is Joshua.' Raina beamed, a deep flush covering her cheeks, shyly she asked, 'Can I call you Joshy?' He smiled sweetly at her, 'Darling Raina, you may call me anything.' Spoiler: Chapter 9 'You... you horrible person!' She screamed, her voice hoarse. 'Is that my name now? Is that what you want to call me, dear?' He returned, his voice cunning. 'Let me out! We had a deal!' 'You've finished your part; now I need to complete mine. Without you.' 'No!' ~ Avery collapsed miserably onto her bed; tears threatened to spill from her hazel eyes. Her lip quivered as she disappeared under the covers, hiding from the world. Within the darkness, thoughts plagued her mind. Her sister severed from life. Her entire being gone. The reality crushed her. 'Reality will break your heart,' she murmured to herself, her face wet with tears. ~ Fleur leant against the kitchen counter, scrawling notes into her book. Mostly it was a description of Gabriella. Bright blue eyes, dirty blonde hair that curled at the ends. Her snide comments were hastily written into Fleur's notepad as she began to create Gabriella's character on paper. 'Whatcha writin'?' Gabriella asked, appearing behind her shoulder, trying to read the notes. Instantly she slammed the book shut, a nervous laugh rising in her throat. 'Nothing, Gabby. Just doodles.' Gabriella shrugged, suddenly uninterested. She stalked out of the kitchen into the living room where she flopped on the sofa. A small sigh of relief escaped Fleur as she returned to the notepad. Smiling as she scribbled away. ~ Teddie shut the book hastily; it was worse than they thought. The writer must have been a child, a silly story of a stranger. Romanticising him breaking into the town. However, the blind spot of the wall piqued their interest. Was it there? They looked out the window, watching fat droplets of rain flood the glass. 'An adventure for later,' they said, feeling childish themselves, 'But first, the rest of the story.' Every week from then I met with Joshy. I always returned home giggly and pink cheeked. He was the first person to notice me for who I was. He was like a prince from a fairytale. Too good to be true. Teddie felt their features turn into a scowl. It was too much for them; they almost chucked the book across the room when they noticed the change in ink. In the end, I guess that is the case. He's stolen my heart and my pride. I stood too close to the edge. And now everyone will pay in their blood. I am his Harley Quinn; he is my Mr J. A psychotic man and a love driven woman. It all began when he would ask me questions. The answers had flown out of my mouth before I realised what they meant to him. His flirtatious manner hid his darker demeanour. He was using me. I wasn't his romantic interest; I was his spy. In those two paragraphs, Teddie realised the meaning of the story. In the beginning, a naïve girl lovesick wrote stories of her enchanting lover. But as time went on, the girl began to find out the truth of her toxic man. 'Reality will break your heart,' a quote from my sister's favourite song. I always thought she just listened to depressing songs. But now, I too know. That once your ignorance has shattered, the truth will break you. But in my case, I have destroyed Rosewood. Once my 'body' is uncovered, it will be all over. Spoiler: Chapter 10 The door slammed, and the bolt slid into place. Locking her in, her jagged nails clawed at the wood. Weak sobs escaped her as reality set in. She slid to the floor, cradling herself as she shook violently. Tears filled her eye, the light hazel glimmering in the dark. 'Why Joshy...' She whispered, 'Why did you destroy me so brutally?' ~ 'All over...' Teddie murmured, their brow creased. The Moonlit Man lay open on the last page. It had taken a far darker turn than Teddie expected. The author's perspective had changed drastically in the last entries. An unhealthy relationship, leached with lies and betrayal. 'It can't be real... but what if it is?' Teddie wondered aloud, flipping back to the beginning of the novel, 'It's based in Rosewood, and she called herself the mayor's daughter...' They skimmed across the page, finding the list of characters. It detailed Raina's siblings, Devon and Avery. 'Please don't be real,' Teddie said sadly, fearing the worst. ~ Avery's tears had long dried. But the misery never left. She felt fragile as if one mention of her sister would bring her down. She watched the rain splatter against the window of her bedroom. With a huff, she wrenched the window open, letting the cold air cover her. 'It was the zombies, wasn't it?' Avery asked the pouring rain, 'We got too comfortable, too willing to forget all the tragedies. You could say we let our guards down... But that isn't true, is it? We never had our guards up. We also let someone else save us,' A weak laugh rattled her, 'We were the damsels in distress after all.' She paused, letting the rain splash on her skin. The chill no longer bothered her as she listened to the rumbling of thunder. I don't want to be a damsel any more. She thought bitterly before climbing out the window, crawling down the house before running into the mist. Her feet pounded against the ground, running towards the guard posts. Avery pounded her fists against the door, announcing herself. The door was wrenched open; a guard looked at her with confusion. 'Train me. Train me to kill zombies.' ~ The gates of Rosewood appeared in the distance, the forest no longer obscuring it from view. River, Knox and Sydney were all drenched as they entered the walls. They had covered Raina's body, hiding it from view. Bradley met them at the gates, Gerald and Devon at his side. The mayor halted the carriers, lifting the cloak showing her face. Devon felt a wave of nausea, turning away, panic shaking him. 'It's her, it's really her,' He moaned, hot tears flooding his eyes. Gerald appeared emotionless as if he was immune to death. It was true that they had all faced death, his wife had died years before. He draped the cloak back over Raina's face, almost uncaring. 'Take her to the morgue, subtly,' he said before walking away. Bradley helped the three, relieving Sydney of carrying. She watched the group walk to the edge of the walls, avoiding the centre of the town. She knelt down next to Devon, watching him shake uncontrollably. 'It'll be all right, it'll be all right,' she murmured, in an effort to comfort him, 'The pain will always be there, but you'll just have to bear the burden. She's in a better place now, at least she wasn't turned.' They stayed like that for five minutes; Devon seemed to have calmed down. He looked at Sydney, sadness still in his eyes. 'Did you lose someone?' He asked. 'I wish I did, my sister, she wasn't like yours. I haven't seen her in years.' Sydney replied, looking up at the sky. The two of them stood up, the rain showered on them, though neither of them seemed to care. Together, they walked back into town, finding the nearest café to warm up in. They both sipped on cups of coffee; the beans were fresh from the harvest. Sydney shivered, icy water dripping down her spine. Just as Devon tried to speak, the door of the cafe was pulled open. Rushing in was Teddie, they stood half-drenched, clutching the leather-bound book. 'Are you Devon? The mayor's son? Ra-Raina's brother?' They stuttered, bristling with adrenaline. 'Yes, why?' 'You need to read this!' They said, shoving the book at him before running back out. Picking up the book, he read the title, 'The Moonlit Man?' Spoiler: Chapter 11 The rain began to calm down outside, Devon and Sydney still sat in the café. The small leather-bound book, splattered with raindrops lay on their table. Devon had gone pale; all colour drained from his face. 'It's her handwriting, whatever is in that, it's hers,' He said, feeling sick. Gingerly, Sydney picked it up, opening it to the first page, she felt Devon's intense eyes watch her movements. Scanning the page, she slowly began reading it aloud. 'The Moonlit Man, by Raindrop,' She said, flipping through the page, skimming to find anything important. Sydney's narration slowly dropped off halfway through the book as her concentration increased, her brow creased. The silence left Devon in deep thought. Who was that? Why did they give me the book? Where did they find the book? 'Oh my God,' Sydney exclaimed, dropping the book. 'What is it?!' 'Raina... she isn't dead.' ~ Raina stood in front on the dirty mirror in her locked room. The days she had been gone had changed her dramatically, her hair was cut short, the edges uneven and jagged. Her biggest change was her face; she now had only one eye. Her right eye had been removed, added to the corpse girl along with her chopped hair. 'Why did you do this?!' She screamed at the mirror, hot tears covering her left cheek, 'Why did you let him take advantage of you!?' ~ 'This isn't right,' Knox repeated for the eighth time, apparently annoying River. 'What isn't right?' She demanded, stalking up to him, 'That a girl has been found mauled by zombies in a zombie apocalypse?!' 'No, not that. The body! It's too... too perfect,' he returned anxiously. Before she could shout at him, Bradley entered the room, the morgue owner behind him. River and Knox had been in the reception area of the morgue while Bradley had gone through with the body. 'You can both go down, just keep quiet about this; we need to let the mayor announce it.' They both nodded, even though his suspicion was high, Knox realised that a girl was still dead or missing. River immediately swept out the morgue; the cold room gave her the creeps. 'River! Wait up!' Knox said, jogging to catch up with her fast pace. 'What is it now?' She spat, whipping around face him. 'I know what I said came out badly... I'm not good with...' He began gesturing vaguely. 'With talking?' She filled in, disgust in her voice. 'Look... I just think it's a good idea that you stay in town. Something is going on here; we don't need our best fighter out of commission.' 'Fine, I'll stay, the weather is bad anyway,' She said, turning away to walk back to her house. ~ Teddie ran back into the Crescent Inn, only ten minutes ago had she ran out of there. Breathing hard, the innkeeper popped out from behind the counter with a thick towel, placing it around their shoulders. 'Shouldn't have gone out in a storm,' the innkeeper chirped, 'Told ya not to didn't I?' Teddie laughed nervously, 'Yeah... but after what you told me, I had to.' After finishing the novel, Teddie had gone down to talk to the innkeeper. Keeping it vague, Teddie spoke of the mayor and his children. The innkeeper had happily filled them in, revealing what Teddie had dreaded most. 'What is it, sweetheart?' The innkeeper said, her apparent motherly instincts kicking in. 'Oh, nothing, I just had a book that belonged to one of the mayor's kids, I didn't know their names, that's all.' 'Oh well, they're a nice bunch those three. It would be awful if something had happened to them, I'm glad you braved the storm to return their book.' She said, still smiling. 'Hm, yeah.' Teddie said, thanking the innkeeper and climbing back up to their room. When in their room, Teddie sank down on the floor, shivering uncontrollably, 'Hopefully I've done more than returning a book, there must still be enough time to save her... and the town.' Spoiler: Chapter 12 Outside the sun had begun to break through the dark, stormy clouds. Fleur had been sleeping through the downpour, the splattering of rain had sent her to sleep, forgetting her notepad as it crashed to the floor. 'Hey! Wake up!' Gabby shouted, making Fleur jump up. 'What, what?!' Fluer squeaked, suddenly thinking back to her adoptive mother who screamed at her at every giving moment, 'I'm awake! I'm awake!' She pleaded, cringing back. Gabby's aggressiveness dropped off as she saw Fleur's defences drawing up. Although she was young, she had seen her fair share of trauma, even at fourteen, she recognised it on Fleur's face. 'So, uh, the sun's out, and I went out, and there has apparently been an assembly called. The town is meeting in the crop fields.' Gabby said, hurriedly. 'Oh, when is it?' 'Tomorrow morning.' 'Okay, thanks, Gabby,' Fluer said. Gabby nodded before running up the staircase. It seemed that she had taken over the top floor, a statement Fleur didn't mind as much as she thought she would. Sitting up, she picked up the fallen notebook, flipping through the pages to some of her earliest entries. They were from when she was fifteen years old; she had first started writing when Erin, her sister had disappeared. Back then, her entries were mostly accounts of her adopted parents' constant abuse, her fear for Erin and all the other memories that haunt her still. In this notebook, her fifteen-year-old self-had only just restarted writing. After Erin had turned up dead and Fleur had won the court case against her parents, she had dropped off in writing. Being pushed back into the adoption system made her act emotionless. She didn't want the others to find all her secrets out in her notebooks. But after two years of silence, she began writing again. Entry One – Book 6 It's been two years since I've written last. I couldn't help it, mustn't help it. This silence has kept me alive. The other children, they're no longer happy children. I'm no longer a happy child. We've all been through it all, while nothing can break us, nothing can help us. I'll try writing more often; I've been thinking of some novel ideas. But for me, an author? No way. This is just to pass the time, fixate me on fictitious misery. Tears welled up in Fleur's eyes, remembering it all. But it was also tears of joy, her fifteen-year-old self never imagined herself as an author. 'And here I am, writing us into history.' She said, smiling. ~ 'Raina... she isn't dead.' Instantly, Devon wrenched the book out of Sydney's hands, flipping through the pages quickly. Only catching glimpses of the story but enough to understand. His eyes focused on the last page, drinking in all the new possibilities and dangers. With that, Devon bolted out of the door. Not stopping to say anything to Sydney but just to run. He sprinted towards the Beauregard house; passer-bys watched nervously as his thunderous steps echoed across the town. But he didn't care; he ignored it all 'Father!' He shouted, wrenching open the door of the house, 'Father!' He repeated, running up the stairs into his office. 'What on earth is it, Devon?!' Gerald demanded as Devon ran into the room. 'This is urgent; you need to read this!' Devon said, holding out the leather-bound novel. 'Devon, I do not have time to read one of your stories, shouldn't you have grown out of this yet?' 'Father, this is Raina's.' Instantly, Gerald's demeanour changed, grabbing the book from his son's hands, he began to read it. Devon stood awkwardly by the door, watching his father intensely scan the pages. 'Impossible,' Gerald murmured, his voice barely a whisper. 'It has to be true, right Father?' Devon said, jumping into action, 'We can get her out, she's still alive!' 'Bring me River,' Gerald said, ignoring his son's exclamations, 'Raina has caused something catastrophic if these passages are true.' 'You don't believe it?!' 'Devon, there's one thing I've noticed from her since we took up Rosewood, Raina is... was naïve and gullible, this could all be a silly tale, your sister is dead.' 'Don't say that!' Devon cried, his voice hoarse as he stared at his father with disbelief. 'Bring me River,' Gerald repeated, once again ignoring him. With a quick nod, Devon murmured, 'Yes, sir,' Before quietly leaving the room. Spoiler: Chapter 13 Joshua Wyvrentail sat at his desk, sipping on a mug of tea. After the demolition of his old settlement, he encountered a farm and a large country house. The original owners of the estate shortly disappeared after his arrival. It didn't take him long to establish his keep and find the town of Rosewood. What took him by surprise was one of its members. 'River,' he said to himself, 'She's still alive.' After dispatching of Raina down in the basement, Joshua began his next mission. In the stormy weather, he ventured to Rosewood, gathering last minute details as he began to smooth of his plans. While he was peering through his precious crack in the wall, he saw her. River had stood in the pouring rain, her hood down as she talked to a man before throwing it up and disappearing into the town. Joshua was sceptical of both her death and survival of their past home. She was a skilled warrior; he acknowledged that so. But he believed her willingness to save humanity would cost her life. Regardless, she was alive, making her a threat. 'We will meet again, River,' he said confidently to himself, smiling cunningly, 'Soon.' ~ River had barely settled down her house when the sound of knocking echoed through the room. She sighed, heading towards the door. Standing in front of her was Devon, his face was grim, after his father's ordering around, he felt uneasy. 'Devon, what's happened?' River asked she had given up with pleasantries years ago. 'The mayor would like to see you; he did not specify why,' Devon informed her, preparing to escort her. This scenario frequently happened, mostly when River had first arrived at introduced her need to go out the town regularly. She followed him, a comfortable silence falling between the two. They had also abandoned the small talk they used to make when she first entered Rosewood. Once inside the house of the Beauregard's, Devon disappeared, letting River take herself to the mayor's office. There she found him as she usually did, sat at his desk, flipping through papers. This time he held the leather-bound book. 'Read this,' Gerald said, also avoiding pleasantries and greetings. As many had done before her, she quickly read the novel. Her nails dug into the soft leather as she recognised a name. 'Joshua?!' 'Is it the same one?' 'It must be, it sounds exactly like him. He's planning to destroy the town! It's happening all over again.' 'How do we stop him?' 'I need to find him, kill the source. He's dangerous, I've left him too long.' Gerald nodded in agreement, 'We need him removed by the end of the week, who knows when he will strike?' 'A week?!' Devon cried, bursting into the room suddenly. 'Devon! Were you eavesdropping on us?' His father demanded, his face going red. 'Of course! This is both my town and my sister! A week is hardly enough time for River alone to catch this psychopath. A proper search team should be developed.' 'We do not have time for that, Devon,' Gerald continued, already dismissing his son. 'There isn't much time for anything, mayor,' River interjected, 'We should find this apparent crack in the wall first and see if it leads to any sort of trail.' Devon nodded in agreement while Gerald sighed, 'Fine, you're both dismissed,' the mayor said. They both left, Devon insisted on joining her. 'Better to have two pairs of eyes than just one.' A crash from downstairs caused the two to stop. Downstairs, the sound of loud cursing filled the hall. It was obviously Avery, shouting and muttering to herself. She was soaked with rain, her body bruised and aching. 'Avery! Where have you been? I thought you were in your room,' Devon asked, going down the stairs. 'Well, seeing as no one else seems to care that a seventeen-year-old girl was killed because she had no training. I decided to at least try to change that for myself. As you can see, I would have died just as quickly as Raina!' Avery screamed. 'Avery, listen to me. Your sister. She isn't dead,' River said, following Devon downstairs. 'Liar! You dirty liar! She's dead!' Before they could protest, Avery pushed past them, wincing as she grazed her cuts. Her eyes were filling with tears, she ran up the stairs, unwilling to let them see her crack. 'She's dead, she's dead, she's dead,' Avery whispered, sobbing. Spoiler: Chapter 14 'Before we go, I need to tell you something. I'm afraid I haven't told your father everything,' River said, halting Devon as they exited the Beauregard house. 'Can't it wait? My sister is out there somewhere,' Devon asked, though he stopped to listen. 'You cannot underestimate this man, let me tell you everything.' Devon eventually nodded, letting her talk. 'It was two years ago when I met Joshua. He was apart of a settlement, Leakal, it was very technologically advanced, surprising after the zombies appeared. My father sacrificed himself to save me; I had been alone for a year after his death. It was by chance I found the settlement, to me, it sounded like a horde of zombies. I can admit now that I was paranoid, I managed to attack a large group of the settlement members before being dragged off. Joshua was one the first I met at Leakal, he and I became friends. He's an absolute genius, but he's ruthless. One night, out of the blue he asked me for all of the schedules of the guards and zombie fluctuations. It was a mistake. He exploited this information, using it to unleash hundreds of zombies on the lesser guard day. But he didn't stop there; he set the settlement alight. I tried to kill him, but he knows my one weakness. I cannot fight him, he knows me inside and out. He is cunning and calculating; he exploited me as he did to your sister. Using us to initiate complete chaos. After the destruction of Leakal, he went to Freen. South of Leakal. When I got there, it was already decimated. He's taken down two large settlements by using his intelligence and ability to use people. And now he's coming here, no, he is here. You must not underestimate him. He is dangerous. I hope your sister has been put out of her misery. He is a demon.' Once she finished, Devon stayed silent. Slowly taking in all the information, he had never heard of other large settlements similar to Rosewood. To think that they had been destroyed with such ease sent shivers down his spine. 'What do you think he's done to her?' He finally asked. 'If she's still alive, he would have crushed her mentally, physically and emotionally.' 'Then I want to bury her body, not that fake at least.' River nodded, in silence, they both headed towards the potential crack in the wall. Ready to uncover the next mystery. ~ Loud growls woke Raina with a start. She yelped, expecting a zombie to attack her. Instead, she found herself alone in her cell. The groans of zombies surrounding her. Her lip quivered as she looked towards the door. A small slot exposed Joshua's eyes through the door. 'What is this?' She cried, her voice raw and high pitched. 'Your freedom.' She whimpered, unable to hide her fear, 'What... What are you talking about?!' 'I'm letting you go,' He said simply, the locked door hiding his cunning smirk, 'Tomorrow evening I will be unlocking this door and letting you run back home to Rosewood. If you survive that long.' 'You've rounded up hundreds of zombies to chase me?!' Tears streamed down her face. 'Of course, my dear, what better way to end Rosewood than letting their prized darling bring on their demise?' 'No! Please!' She began to cry, running up to the door and slamming on the tough wood. 'I hope you make it, dear,' Joshua said before sauntering away. Raina collapsed on the floor, the sound of her cries drowned out by the growls and groans of the zombies. They too were locked in cells, around thirty per room. They could all smell her, all ready to feast. The growls grew louder as their hunger increased. ~ 'That's it, isn't it?' Devon asked. River and Devon stood on the east side of the town. Devon was above in the guard towers, pointing out all the blind spots he never realised were there while River inspected the walls. She had paused, taking a deeper look at the specific patch of stone. 'It sure is, the rocks are all loose. One kick would send them flying. He's been chipping away brick by brick.' 'How long will it take to brick it back up?' 'We're not doing that, not yet. We need to find any trails that lead out of this gap. This is the closest I've got to finding some hard evidence. We're going, now.' 'Right now?!' 'Yes, come on.' Spoiler: Chapter 15 Sydney sat next to the north guard post, cleaning a knife. The blade was still stained with the blackened blood of the zombie that had mauled Raina. What was meant to be Raina. After Devon stormed out of the café, their coffees still steaming, she realised he wasn't going to come back anytime soon. She had been relieved of her guard duties, letting Sydney off for the afternoon. She was about to scrape away the last of the blood on her second knife when a voice disturbed her concentration. 'Uh, can I ask you something?' Sydney looked up at her handiwork, above her was Avery, a deep cut was slashed across her brow, and a purplish bruise was developing under her eye. 'What happened to you?' Sydney asked, knowing the short girl was a total stranger to fights and injury of this scale. 'Well, um, I wanted to get some training of sorts... Turns out those guards are a bunch of bullies,' She grumbled, unsavoury descriptions of the guards floating from her lips. Sympathy filled Sydney; she too had dealt with bullies who took advantage of the want to fight against her. Her family was a line of fighters; she also wanted to keep this up. In effect, her family's heritage kept her alive through the devastation of the apocalypse. Sydney's sister, Sarina, was her biggest bully. Beating her to a bloody pulp or left on the ground unconscious. This brutal way of fighting left Sydney to train rigorously until she beat her sister consistently. Sarina's ingrained hatred to her sister increased tenfold every time she was defeated. 'Sure, I'll help,' Sydney said, standing up before pausing, 'May I ask, has anyone told you about Raina?' Avery's entire demeanour changed, her posture turned rigid, a lump forming in her throat, 'What? That she's dead? Or... or that she's not actually dead?!' She shouted, anger rolling off her in waves. Sydney began to stutter, unsure how to reply to her. There infinite evidence that Raina was both alive and dead. But she knew in her heart that Avery's sister was alive. 'Please, she's alive. Whatever you do, don't lose the chance to save your sister,' Sydney mustered, not looking Avery in the eye, 'Do something for your sister like I could not.' ~ Knox sat at his guard post, a rifle slung over his shoulder. He had been offered the evening off, but he refused, finding the high up post a good place to think. After talking to River, multiple theories passed through his head about Raina. He could tell that River had some secrets, he had always been confused why she scouted the area of Rosewood continuously. He began to ponder whether or not Raina's disappearance had any connection to River. Although he was in deep concentration, the sound of a branch snapping harshly roused Knox from his thoughts. Cautiously, he raised his rifle towards the sound of the broken branch. Sweat dribbled down his forehead as he feared it was more than a zombie. Suddenly the release of an arrow filled his ears. He barely had time to turn as an arrow lodged itself into Knox's arm. The angle it was at was originally desired to pierce his heart and kill him. Knox hissed through clenched teeth, the black shaft sticking out of his shoulder. With a curse, he wrenched the arrow out, blood shining on the pointed tip. Discarding the arrow, he tried to exit the scene when another arrow him. The tip was blunted, barely breaking the skin. Instantly, everything went hazy, Knox barely had time to murmur, 'Paralysis,' as he collapsed onto the floor of the guard post. 'Hm, if only you hadn't moved. Wyvren will not be happy about this.' Spoiler: Chapter 16 Night had fallen on Rosewood. It was still unknown to the town's members of what had happened to Raina. It was decided that the confessions from her diary would make it difficult to announce her death. Gerald sat alone in his office; Devon had gone to River's as they prepared to follow the trail hidden by the east wall. Avery was still with Sydney, fighting in the dark, slowly but surely toughening herself up without her family knowing. Gerald sighed heavily, sifting through papers, he could only assume the worst from his daughter's foolish actions. Her betrayal was something he would never forget. ~ Bradley climbed the steps up to the guard posts. Unsurprising to him, he never saw his brother return from his afternoon guard duties. He rolled his eyes as he climbed upwards, expecting to find Knox brooding in the corner. 'Come on, little brother! It's way past your... Knox?' Bradley's teasing dropped off suddenly as he entered the guard post. Although darkness surrounded him, he found himself alone; a fallen rifle had been left on the wooden floor. Bending down on one knee, his heart stopped. 'Blood.' Splattered next to the rifle was a small pool of blood. The dark liquid had begun to stain the wood. Two arrows were also on the ground, Bradley hadn't noticed them until he looked closely at the floor. A lump formed in his throat, his only brother gone. Chills went down his spine. After their mother had died, Bradley took the lead of the brothers, looking after Knox and protecting him. That was his job, to look after his little brother. 'KNOX!' He shouted, dropping to the floor, his breathing uncontrollable, panic and anxiety taking over, 'Brother...' ~ 'You can stay here for the night, it's easier if you do,' River said, closing her rucksack. Devon looked up from the kitchen; they were both packing for their scouting mission the next morning. River had dozens of maps, a selection of weapons and a sleeping pack. Devon was placing the last of their food resources into his bag. They weren't sure how long they'd be out in the forest so as a precaution, they brought a surplus of everything. 'Okay, we'll leave at first light,' Devon replied, zipping up his pack. Spoiler: Chapter 17 Daylight streamed through the windows of Joshua's manor, he smirked at the blinding sunlight. A loud knock on his office door disturbed him from his thoughts; today was the big day, his entire plan was going to be set into movement tonight. He did not want anything to ruin it. 'Come in,' He said, not moving from his spot at the window. A girl, no older than Joshua himself entered the room. Dirt smudged her olive skin along with her clothing. A leather arm guard encased her forearm, she wore primarily black, making her stand out in the daylight but easy to blend into the darkness. Her dirty blonde hair was cut short, barely touching her shoulders. Her ice blue eyes shone angrily as she slammed the door shut. 'There's a problem,' She said, removing the arm guard, 'I found a guard, a logical one for once, brooding on the west side, I assumed the worst.' 'And?' Joshua asked, still not turning around. 'And, was fast on his feet, too fast,' She continued, anger rolling off her, 'I missed my shot.' 'Where are they now?' 'Bound and gagged into the caravan.' Joshua turned around suddenly, slamming his hands down onto the desk. He sized up the girl, his height dominating her. 'So you're telling me, Sarina, that you kidnapped a guard?' 'I missed my shot! It would have been conspicuous!' 'What were you planning to do in the first place?' 'I was meant to shoot him with my paralysis arrow, keep 'em quiet, keep 'em asleep, tip 'em over the edge and let the zombies do the dirty work.' 'But that all failed, and you brought him here?! Just as my plan was about to begin?' Joshua roared, disgust flooding his voice. Panic rose in Sarina's chest; she had always feared Joshua. After meeting him outside the walls of Rosewood, their shared interest of the town brought them together. It was incidental for Sarina to find the settlement, her interest sparked when she found her little sister, Sydney scurrying around the town, playing soldier. 'I can get rid of him, finish off my plan,' She said quickly, 'Obscure the wound and throw him to the walkers?' 'It's too late for that,' Joshua growled, 'Throw him downstairs, give my darling a friend on her last day alive.' Sarina tried to keep her face neutral as she nodded before leaving. She could accept Joshua's psychotic tendencies but not his liking towards Raina. She found it sickening how the girl was treated; she shuddered, thinking of all the times she saw the pair together. Knowing the harsh truth of their relationship. Exiting the manor, Sarina found the caravan; it was horse-drawn, she usually travelled to the town on horseback but had to return to bring back the body discreetly. Thinking about it now, her plan wasn't the most efficient, wasn't the most logical. Sydney could have done better. Shaking her head, she pulled out her unconscious victim. Sarina had no clue what his name was, no idea what impact he had on the town, nothing. After all, she was just taking out a potential threat. With a heave, Sarina dragged the body downstairs into the basement, opening the trapdoor, she could hear the groans of the zombies that lay beneath. Nausea rose in her throat as the smell hit her, she couldn't perceive how the mayor's daughter was coping in the depths of the house. With another heave, she dragged the body down the stairs, cursing every so often, until she reached the basement of the manor house. It was a wine cellar, shoved to one side was all the wines, still corked. The wines originally were stored in the large rooms in front of Sarina. Now, they held Joshua's undesirables. Raina's cell was the middle room, on either side were the rooms of zombies. Two were left empty, in case of emergencies. Such as this. Kicking the door open, Sarina chucked the unconscious body as far as she could into the small cell before slamming it shut and locking the door. It was almost as if she was sweeping her mistakes under the mat. Gone and forgotten. Spoiler: Chapter 18 Sydney sat alone, she stayed in the communal all girls house, she felt it unnecessary to buy her home, and she'd been in Rosewood for too long to stay in an inn. She was sharpening her blades again, her ocean blue eyes shining off the metal. It was a repetitive action she did when she was anxious and restless; she couldn't concentrate. After a couple of hours of training with Avery, darkness had fallen, and they returned home, agreeing to train again. When she had woken in the morning, she was told of Knox's disappearance. She remembered him as the guard who she led through the forest, but that was her only recollection of him. What had shaken her was the potential murder weapon, a black arrow. Her sister loved bows; they were her favourite weapon. Sydney had many scars and bruises from the times Sarina whacked her with her bow or shot her with an arrow. She shivered, it was unlikely her sister had gotten to Rosewood, it had been years since Sydney had seen her. But still, the thought stayed present in her mind all through the day. ~ With a start, Knox awoke, his arm throbbed causing him to hiss in pain. Looking it around, he found himself in a darkened room, wooden shelves stacked up against the walls. Instantly, Knox ran to the door, ignoring the pain, he inspected the old wood. The door was obviously locked, the door was tough, difficult to break down, even if he wasn't bleeding out. With no ideas, Knox sat defeated on the floor. It only then did he hear the sounds of his prison. Low growls of zombies filled his ears, his heartbeat and rushing thoughts had drowned out the gruesome noise. Sweat coated his forehead, What sort of hell is this? ~ The sound of a door slamming made Raina jump. She squeaked, her heart beating rapidly. It took her hours to fall asleep; her sheer exhaustion was what made her pass out. The deafening sound of zombies was impossible to ignore as she shifted uncomfortably through the night. Raina had no clue what time it was, nor why a door slammed. Her cell was still the same, the door still tightly shut, the stagnant water still dripping down the walls. No one had come in; she hadn't eaten in days. Before, she ventured to Joshua's mansion every so often in the night. She had her own bedroom in the twenty room house. This all abruptly changed just as were to meet in the forest. Joshua had told her to meet him at the broken wall the night of the autumn festival. Raina arrived late; she wanted to take a couple of things with her to the country house. She knew that in the morning, she could never go back to Rosewood. In her backpack, Raina had a knife, some clothing and her notepad. Her notepad was her story, The Moonlit Man; she still hadn't told Joshua about it, too embarrassed to admit it. In Raina's mind, she was running away with Joshua. She never knew his full plan; she never realised her poignant part she played in it all. It was only when she was heading to the wall that everything about Joshua came to light. 'Do I honestly have to put up with her?' An angry voice hissed in the distance. Raina looked up, sweat beading on her forehead. It wasn't a voice she recognised, too high-pitched to be Joshua's and too angry. Quietly, she tiptoed to the wall, hiding behind fallen rocks to conceal herself. 'Be quiet, Sarina.' Joshua said, silencing her, 'Once Raina donates some last pieces, we won't need her.' Raina's eyes widened, shaking uncontrollably as he continued talking. 'The town will collapse soon enough, after that you can silence her. For now, stay out of sight, she still doesn't know you exist. The foolish girl.' With her heart pounding in her chest, she knew what she had done. What she had become. Hurriedly, she got up and ran, her legs burned as she sprinted through the silent town. Looking around desperately, she found the library. Running in, she grabbed the nearest pen and wrenched open her notepad. She had to be quick, she was already late and knew she could not anger him. Joshua still needed her, but after that, she would die. Her hand cramped as she wrote quickly, tears welled up in Raina's eyes, the truth pouring out of her within those minutes. Dropping the pen, she left the book on the desk, hoping someone would find it. She didn't have the time to tell her sister, didn't have any time at all; it was all she could do. 'I'm sorry,' Raina wept, running out of the library and towards her destroyer. Spoiler: Chapter 19 As the sun began to rise, turning the skies a deep orange, River awoke. She lightly shook Devon awake, 'It's dawn,' she said. He nodded, not saying anything as he arranged his pack. The two swiftly left the town, completely unnoticed by any of the townspeople or guards. It made Devon's lip curl with anger as he looked up at the morning guards, they were so oblivious to them, who knew how many blind spots there were. River caught his gaze, 'There's probably several spots, and he probably knows them all.' Their sombre mood continued for the rest of the morning; River identified several covered up tracks. Sending the pair deeper and deeper into the forest. It had been months since River had got this far to find Joshua. She thought she had scoured the entire forest, but right under her nose was everything she dreaded. 'Look,' Devon said, stopping River's thoughts. The foot tracks had stopped, the further they had walked, the less covered they'd been. The sudden halt gave way to something much worse. 'He used the roads?' Before the collapse of society, the town of Rosewood primarily used dirt roads. The isolated settlement didn't use them that often, even before the townspeople had shut themselves off from the world. River had never thought to take the roads; it was too obvious. But ahead them was the roads leading to and from the town, a ditch was to the side, easily large enough to hold a vehicle of sorts. River stared in disbelief; her fists were clenched tightly, anger building up in her. 'This keeps getting worse and worse, he made it so simple, but I was too blind to see it,' She said, turning away from the road, 'We need to get the horses, and fast, we're losing daylight.' ~ Gabby was sat by the window; her eyes were near bloodshot and dark circles were sunken into her skin. Fluer had gone to sleep that night, completely clueless that the fourteen-year-old was still awake. Dawn was beginning to rise as Gabby continued to stare out of the window. The past 10 hours had been confusing but intriguing to her. She saw odd people running around at all sorts of times; she found the schedule of the guards strange. The biggest oddity to her was the sound of a man falling and a woman cursing a lot. All she remembered seeing was a tall woman with ice blue eyes climbing gracefully onto the guard posts, grabbing up the fallen man and disappearing back into the forest. Gabby had tried to investigate but found the front door locked, either Fleur didn't trust the townspeople or didn't trust her. Whatever the case, it barred Gabby from finding out more. She almost smashed the window just to find out; it frustrated her that no one noticed the occurrence. After a couple more hours of staring at the slowly waking town, Gabby shrugged, yawning loudly as exhaustion began to take over. 'Whatever, it was probably nothing. Spoiler: Chapter 20 Hooves thundered across the dirt roads, scattering powdery dust into the air. River and Devon cantered out of the town and further down the roads on horseback. It didn't take them long to reach the ditch. When they did, they stopped, letting the horses drink while they talked. 'There are a set of country houses a couple of miles out,' Devon said, sweat glistening on his forehead, 'Do you think he would take one?' 'He's too obvious, I wouldn't be surprised if he was residing in the closest one,' River replied, clenching the reins tightly. No longer sprinting, the horses trotted down the roads. River's scouting eyes were scanning the surrounding area for any clues or hints. She still could not believe how oblivious she was, months and months she had spent trying to uncover an elaborate plan with its mastermind impossible to find. In reality, she could have found him and stopped him easily if she knew how open he'd be. 'But that's why he was so obvious, he knew you wouldn't look for the easiest target,' Devon said, trying to lift River's mood. River's face was emotionless, 'It doesn't matter anymore, we still need to get going.' Kicking the shins of her horse, the stallion began to gain speed, galloping hard. Her anger seemed to cloud her rationality; she barely noticed the zombies running to meet her until Devon shouted. 'RIVER, WALKERS.' Looking up she saw several zombies tumbling over each other, hunger in their eyes as they saw River riding down the road. Instantly, she slid off her horse, letting it trot away. Landing on the ground, she jumped up at the zombies, two long knives in her hands. With ease, she slashed through two of them, before dispatching another two. Within seconds, she stood, breathing hard as she looked at the dead zombies. Turning around, she expected to find Devon with his rifle. Instead, he was still on his horse, his brow creased in confusion. 'What is it?' River asked irritated, although Devon had warned her, he didn't seem so inclined to help her. 'Come over here,' He replied, ignoring her irritation. Reluctantly, she walked over, first grabbing her horse and jumping back on. Trotting over, River saw Devon's horse nudging an object that hung from a low branch. It took her a moment to work out what it was. 'Is that... meat?' She asked, eyes wide. 'I believe so, it seems as if they're directing the walkers to somewhere specific,' Devon said, his voice calm but his fists clenched. 'Rosewood.' They said simultaneously. Without another word, they began to gallop again; adrenaline pumped through their veins as they cantered through the forest. It became increasingly obvious to follow the meat-trail, an even easier way to get to Joshua. 'I'm coming for you, Wyvrentail,' River murmured, the wind stealing her words, 'And this time, I will kill you.' Following the branches, they drew closer and closer. But even at their speed, Raina was even closer to running for her life. 'Come on, Raina,' Joshua said through the eye slit in the door. 'No! Please! Just kill me now! You can't expect me to outrun them!' She screamed fresh tears upon her cheeks. Joshua let out a low growl, unlocking the door with such ferocity that even Knox jumped from the other cell. Raina cringed back as he flew across the room and grabbed her by what was left of her hair, dragging her across the floor. 'Let's. Get. Going.' Spoiler: Chapter 21 Avery woke up in the late morning, wiping the sleep from her eyes, she plodded down the stairs. Her throat was still raw and aching from her tears; even her father was telling her Raina was still alive. If this was the case, Avery again could not get over that her sister was gone. Just like Sydney's sister, missing, but not dead. Sighing, she entered the kitchen. Surprising to her, Devon was not there. Only the late morning sun greeted her as she quietly made her breakfast, she already had plans for the day with Sydney, so she ate quickly and disappeared back upstairs. At noon, Avery returned downstairs; her house was ghoulishly quiet as she traipsed to the door. She was almost glad to leave the empty house but halted as the door refused to budge. Incessant clicking noises followed as she tried to turn the knob. Her movements became panicked as she realised the door was locked from the outside. With a frustrated pull, the metal doorknob clattered onto the floorboards, completely ripped off the door. 'Oh, God.' ~ Sunlight burned into Raina's eye, making her flinch back. It made her realise that she had no clue what day it was. She had truly forgotten how long she'd been gone from Rosewood. Her heart pumped madly as Joshua continued to drag her up the stairs into the front gardens. The basement entrance was outside, along with the side of the manor house. Perfect place to unleash dozens of zombies. Abruptly, he stopped and released Raina from his iron grip. She scrambled to her feet, her cheeks burning as she stared him down. Ignoring her, he spoke, 'Don't want your head start?' 'You can't be serious!' She cried again. 'But I am serious,' he said cunningly, 'You are to run, run, run for your sad excuse of a life and will bring the downfall of your hometown. Because if you don't, everything you've experienced will be like a daydream to what you'll face instead.' Joshua began to walk away, leaving Raina shaking on his front gardens. Walking past the basement entrance, he hit the door several times. Loud booms echoed through the manor house, sending shivers down Raina's spine. 'Here they come.' With lightning speed, the once imprisoned zombies leapt up from the basement. Their cells no longer locked. Joshua had already disappeared as they ventured up the stairs, running towards Raina. A panicked cry escaped her, and she began to pick up speed, the mini head start would only give her so much time to avoid her death. The zombies' innate sense of smell meant they would always find her, always chase her, always kill her. Leaping over the fence gate, she continued running, adrenaline coursed through Raina's veins as she ran towards the dirt roads she knew would lead her home. Her gut told her that her survival was more likely heading towards to Rosewood. She could warn her people before Joshua attacked. It was apparent that even if she did die before reaching home, he would still destroy the town. Just keep going, keep running, keep trying. ~ Knox had thought the terror had ceased for the moment. The gut-wrenching scream and the continuous growling of the zombies were enough to spook anyone. Then the deafening sound of knocking from above which opened the cell doors that held the hellish zombies filled his ears. He could not describe his fear, but then he realised something much worse. The zombies were released from the cells. And his cell door was also swinging open. Instantly, he slammed the door shut. It seemed his captives had completely forgotten about him and that the zombies were too focused on their escape to attack him. He waited, his entire body weight against the door in case of attack. After what felt like an age, silence surrounded Knox. Quietly, he opened the door, wincing at the creak of the door. When nothing came towards him, his pace began to speed up as he jumped up out of the basement. He surveyed his surroundings, his brain already working for the best possible exit. Looking up, he saw the horde of zombies, their movements slow as they appeared to be struggling behind a fence. Further on from that, a small figure was sprinting away from the horde. Even from a distance, he realised who exactly it was. 'She's alive.' Spoiler: Chapter 22 Not looking back, Raina thundered down the dirt road. Her lungs burned, and her legs ached fiercely as she sprinted down the path. Her vision was one-sided, her peripheral vision near gone; she was running into an unknown area with no one to examine her surroundings. 'I'm not gonna make it,' Raina whimpered as her pace slowed, her legs felt like they were on fire as she could barely jog, hot tears fell down her cheek. 'Yes, you are.' Raina yelped as someone grabbed her arm, pulling her forward, all she saw was dark brown hair as Knox dragged her forward. She barely recognised the guard that usually watched over Rosewood. She never learnt the names of the guards; she only knew her brother. They continued running, Knox in the lead as he dragged Raina further into the forest. After another five minutes of running, Knox turned his head, daring a look at the road, his piercing blue eyes scanning the area. 'We can stop,' He said decisively, letting go off Raina's arm, 'We've lost them, for now.' They instantly halted, Raina began coughing violently, after countless days locked up in a cell, her body was on near collapse. Knox hadn't been paying attention to this; his focus was entirely on getting them as far as possible from the zombies. When he turned to Raina, his blood froze. 'Your... your eye,' He murmured, eyes wide. She looked up, giving him a full view of her dramatic change. Dried blood covered the right side of her face, where her eye used to be. Tears and lack of sleep left her remaining eye bloodshot and glassy. Raina's hair was so short it didn't even touch her shoulders, dirt and blood clung to the dark blonde strands. 'Please,' She whispered, 'Do not do this.' 'But... why?' 'He manipulated me, alright? I don't know!' Raina's voice came out panicked as she tried to defend herself, 'Everything he said was a lie, I fell into his trap, I couldn't stop myself, please, do not bring it up.' An uncomfortable silence followed them both, Knox couldn't help but look at Raina's drastic appearance change, so he began walking on. Reluctantly, Raina followed, her legs still ached as they continued on. ~ Sweat glistened on Devon's forehead as he and River cantered further into the forest. Their morbid breadcrumb trail was becoming more and more obvious as they thundered down the dirt roads. Throughout their journey, multiple straggler zombies cropped up, transfixed on the meat that decorated the forest. They usually came in groups of two or three, but Devon could tell a much larger horde would meet them soon. But at the moment, it wasn't a zombie horde they found. Two figures walked in the distance, their movements, however slow, did not resemble the traipsing of the undead. River, noticing this, kept her blades sheathed and pushed her horse on. The figures had obviously seen better days, but that didn't mean they weren't human. Devon followed River, leaving his daggers where they were and his rifle across his back. His eyesight was not as good at analysing like River's so he rode close to her. ~ Raina and Knox's silence was disturbed by what sounded like thunder. Raina stopped dead, thinking only the worse. 'They've found us,' She moaned, 'He's followed us!' 'Wait,' Knox said calmly, holding his arm out in front of her, 'They're in front of us, not behind, it can't be him.' Knox was also an analytical type; his eyes scanned their surroundings, two horses rode towards them. 'Humans, not zombies,' He said, relief flooding through him. Raina shook her head, 'They couldn't have found us, right?' Her voice was high-pitched, she wanted to believe it too, but her optimism had been cruelly crushed by Joshua. 'It has to be. They must be from Rosewood,' He said solidly. ~ River worked out who they were long before Devon could even comprehend it. Knox and Raina, both severely wounded and malnourished. It was both a happy and terrible sight to her; it confirmed Joshua was still alive. It proved everything. 'It's her,' She said, trying to ignore the underlying truth. 'Her?' Devon asked, heart, hammering against his chest. Before River could say any more, loud growls suddenly filled her ears. Coming from all sides of the dirt roads, zombies appeared, the massive horde rushing towards their small group. 'RUN!' Spoiler: Chapter 23 Fleur couldn't help but squeal when she found Gabby still awake. The girl was sat on the sofa, in the exact spot Fleur had seen her last. When Gabby didn't move, fear flooded her. Gingerly, she tiptoed over to her, finding the fourteen-year-old dozing quietly. Or so she thought. Walking away, sighing with relief, Fleur jumped as Gabby spoke. 'Why did you lock the door?' 'So no one comes in..?' Fleur answered uneasily, Gabby was obviously smart in her way, cunning and impulsive. 'Last night I saw someone, she jumped up from outside the walls, and she pulled someone over with her.' 'What?!' Fluer whipped around, Gabby's eyes were unfocused, staring out of the window glassily. 'I wanted to do something, see what they were doing. But the door was locked. All I could do was watch.' Suddenly turning around, Gabby's eyes fixed on Fluer, 'I wanted to help. I think.' 'You think?' 'It doesn't matter now. It's done and gone.' Gabby said with such force it left Fleur speechless. Silently, she stood, walking further into the house. ~ 'RUN!' Instantly, Raina was moving. The aching in her legs and burning in her lungs were all forgotten as the shrill cry of River hit her. Sprinting forward, the horde came to join her. Raina could tell that the horde was not just the ones trapped underneath Joshua's manor. More and more zombies had accumulated while she and Knox tried to escape. The horses in front of them were galloping towards them, and their riders came into view. A small cry escaped Raina as she saw her brother wielding a rifle. The other rider was a blur to her as River swooped off her horse, blades unsheathed and moving. 'Get on my horse and get back to town!' River shouted, not pausing her movements as she attacked the zombies, 'I want able-bodied fighters here as soon as possible.' Knox nodded, grabbing Raina and placing her on the empty saddle. Before she could react, the horse was already galloping away. All Raina had time to do was hold onto the reins as the horse carried her away. She didn't even have the chance to talk to Devon. Adjusting herself, she saw the three figures joining together into a pack of fighters, Knox now held a longsword slashing the blade into anything that came close. Tears flooded Raina's eye, turning away from the soon to be a massacre and gripping tight onto the reins. It was a race against time. Otherwise, those brave souls behind her would never make it out alive. 'Please,' She murmured into the horse's mane, 'Please hurry, for their sakes, not mine.' ~ Sydney sat atop the guard's post, the spot next to her vacant. Usually, Knox stood next to her during the late afternoon watches. Instead, she sat alone. Her nerves were rattled, she had noticed a new pattern of zombie activity; they had all gone. Her blades remind sharp and polished, her voice silent, nothing had happened for days. The satisfaction of putting down zombies hadn't been fulfilled for any of the other guards. No one had seen one in the past week. It made her think of Raina; it seemed everything was connected to her. 'She disappears, a fake body turns up, Knox disappears, an arrow so similar to my sisters turns up. It isn't right,' She breathed, her voice hoarse. Sydney looked up, eyes sombre as she scanned the forest ahead of her. From her high vantage point in the distance, a hurrying figure was heading closer and closer. The figure was on horseback, galloping towards the town. They were still miles away, but within the hour, they would reach Rosewood. Sydney sat back down, knowing she could not do much but wait and watch. 'A warning,' She murmured, 'It has to be a warning.' Spoiler: Chapter 24 Joshua was once again sat at his office. A cruel smile on his lips as he sat alone. He had overseen the release of Raina, making sure she completed her part of the plan. All that mattered to him was that she led the zombies further into the forest. There they would find his secondary trail, in case his first plan died prematurely. His malicious thoughts were suddenly interrupted. 'Did you release the girl?' Sarina panted, ripping open the door. Joshua growled, 'Isn't it polite to knock?' Sarina ignored his growls, slamming her hands on Joshua's desk. 'Did you open all the cell doors!?' 'Why do you ask?' Joshua asked, his voice dangerously low. 'That... guard... did you let him out?' Silence followed, Joshua stood up, not making a sound. Sarina's heart stopped as he grabbed her throat tightly. Her breathing was cut off as he shook her violently. 'You idiot!' He seethed, clenching tighter, bruising her throat, 'If you had just left him alone, he wouldn't have escaped.' Sarina's ice blue eyes widened as he released her, dropping her to the floor. Air flooded her lungs, leaving her choking violently, tears in her eyes. Without missing a beat, Joshua grabbed her short hair, holding her head close to his mouth. 'Kill that guard and make sure my girl dies, or I will personally lead you to your own demise.' With that, Joshua slammed out of the office, storming away further in the manor. Sarina stayed collapsed on the floor, taking in large gulps of air as her heart pounded rapidly. Erratic emotions boiled her blood, anger, resentment and envy. Growling quietly, she burst out of the manor. Armed to the teeth with blades and arrows, Sarina became a one-woman army ready to destroy her emotions through bloodshed. ~ Avery hit the front door violently, the doorknob abandoned on the ground. Neither her father or brother were in the house, she was alone, locked in. Avery's assumptions led her to believe that her family wanted to keep her inside, for what reason, she did not know. With her efforts yielding no results, she thundered up the staircase of the Beauregard house to her bedroom. With ease, she slid open her window, surprised to find it unlocked. She left it ajar, as a way to get back in, as she climbed down the walls of the house. Landing on the ground, she sprinted towards the guard walls. Avery avoided the main streets, cutting through the town unnoticed by everyone. The obliviousness of everyone in Rosewood sent shivers down her spine. Her sister's supposed death had opened Avery's eyes as she realised just how easily everyone had forgotten that they were all still living in a zombie apocalypse. Finally, she reached her destination, on the east side, she found Sydney sitting alone on the guard post. The guard was silent; deep concern was set into her brow as she watched over the town. 'Hey, Sydney!' Avery shouted, out of breath. The woman blinked, focusing on Avery standing below her. She beckoned the girl up onto the guard post, letting her sit down to rest. 'I almost forgot you were coming,' Sydney admitted, looking up again, 'Did something happen?' Avery nodded, 'My house, it was locked from the outside. My family shut me in.' Sydney hid her reaction, keeping her face neutral. She was certainly surprised that she was locked in but found it more concerning that she managed to get out. 'Do you know why?' She asked instead. 'Not a clue,' replied Avery, 'Devon wasn't there, and neither was my father, though I have this unpleasant feeling that it was a way to keep me out of harm's way.' Sydney nodded in agreement, 'Something is going on, I haven't seen your brother in a while, I think he and River are planning something. It seems something is coming to the town, something big and dangerous. I saw a lone rider heading here; I bet that they're a messenger.' Avery's eyes widened, 'Shouldn't you tell someone?!' Sydney's chest tightened, before nodding. 'Stay here; I'll tell Bradley.' With that, she disappeared off the guard's post, running off into the distance. Avery was frozen, left in charge with watching over the eastern side of Rosewood it seemed. Spoiler: Chapter 25 Bradley sat alone in the guard station; he couldn't concentrate at all. Knox was gone, and he blamed himself entirely. The gloomy guard station reminded him of the black night that he found his brother gone. The dark stain on the wood, the fallen rifle, the scattered arrows, all came rushing back to him. Bradley broke out in a cold sweat, his breathing harsh. Suddenly, a hard knock on the door brought him out of the past. 'Come... come in,' He huffed, his pulse slowing. Entering the guard station was Sydney, her chest was rising up and down after her sprint to him. After her breathing had calmed, she spoke. 'Something is coming.' Bradley was expressionless, 'Elaborate.' 'There's a someone on a horse riding towards the town; I think it's a messenger, someone that knows something we do not.' The seriousness of Sydney's face let him almost forget his brother, a distraction, something is coming. Instantly his brain went into thought, analysing the situation before replying. 'It might be River and Devon; they took the horses with them as they went in search of the mayor's daughter.' Sydney blinked in surprise, not many people knew of this. Two of their best fighters were gone, looking for the missing. 'But,' Sydney said slowly, thinking, 'It was one rider, not two. They travelled together; they wouldn't leave another behind. Even if one of them... died, they wouldn't have left the horse.' 'So you're saying it's someone else?' Bradley replied, understanding Sydney's hesitation. She nodded, wringing her hands together. 'It could be someone on our side, but it may not. Someone took Knox, what if it's them?' What if it is him? Bradley thought, he knew he shouldn't get his hopes up but, it was his brother. They were fighters, through thick and thin they had survived the loss of their mother and the apocalypse. 'Go back to your post, Sydney,' He said, standing up himself, 'I will go to the gates of the town and keep watch there, tell me if they go anywhere else.' With a nod, she exited the guard station, jogging back to Avery, her heart pounding. When she reached the guard post, she found the young girl staring into the landscape, completely silent. It was only when Sydney moved close to her did she speak. 'The rider, they're getting closer.' ~ Raina found it challenging to ride, her lungs hurt, she had no more tears to shed, but misery still filled her. It had taken her a few moments to realise she didn't know where she was going; her horse continued thundering down the dirt roads, sweat drenching its coat. Raina had hoped she was going the right way, but she knew that they could have galloped past the town and she'd never know. 'They're going to die,' She cried, her face crumpling, 'And it'll be my fault!' It was at this moment her horse could not go any further. The speed dramatically decreased, turning into a slow trot. It was faster than walking on foot but not by much, Raina tried to stop herself from crying again. Their slow travels reminded her just how vulnerable she was. Alone, in the forest infested with zombies, Raina had no weapons, they were just a tired horse and a crumpled girl. Before she thought it couldn't get worse, it did. Low growls filled her ears, Raina gripped the reins tighter, her heart pounding crazily. She scanned the area frightfully, finding the zombies. Her heart stopped, they weren't heading towards her, instead, away. The zombies were feasting, from what she could hear and see. Shivers went down her spine; her eye widened when she realised what they were feasting on. Hanging on the trees, was raw meat. It was everyone, Raina couldn't believe she didn't notice the trees filled with it. 'It's a trail, a trail home,' She whispered, shaking. She knew if she made enough noise, the zombie's attention would turn to them. Raina was surprised they hadn't already turned, but she was thankful none the less. Her horse slowly trotted past, but she noticed more and more zombies lining the roads. They were almost there. 'Come on,' She murmured into the horse's mane, 'We're almost home.' Spoiler: Chapter 26 'Keep up!' River shouted at the two males standing next to her. Her blades decimated anything that came near them. She was obviously more skilled than any of the fighters of Rosewood, and their small group at hand. She had mixed feelings when she saw Knox remain with them, he seemed almost a dead weight to the team, though the fire in his eyes made her not voice these opinions. Zombie blood shone on the longsword he gripped tightly. Devon was still saddled on his horse, his rifle swinging around, taking out the ones further away. However, for every zombie, they took out, more and more would join. Sound attracts zombies, but humans were their real desire. 'How long will it take for her to get back?' Knox shouted back, slashing a zombie away from him, 'How long will we be fighting on our own?' Neither Devon or River answered. It had taken them almost two hours cantering through the forests to get here, even with a fresh horse galloping it would take at least an hour. But for more soldiers to join them? It was unclear, but they knew it would be too long. Being left unanswered, Knox continued speaking, 'We need to get closer to the town so that the reinforcements will come faster.' River felt her insides twist, she was so close to getting Joshua, she didn't want to turn back, not when she had gone this far. He was surely at his most vulnerable; it was the perfect opportunity to kill him. But she knew the guard had a point, Knox knew his tactics. River looked up to Devon, he gave a quick nod, reloading his rifle. 'Knox, swap places, we're going to have to run,' He said, dismounting from his horse, letting Knox leap on himself. All three of them nodded, then they ran. Cutting a small path through the zombies, they sprinted further down the roads, away from Joshua and back to Rosewood. ~ Teddie sat alone in the café; they had felt uneasy ever since they gave the book to Devon. They were glad he had gotten it, for they hadn't seen him nor any of the Beauregard family. Though Teddie found it quite odd how there hadn't been an announcement, the majority of the town still didn't know what had happened to Raina. 'Excuse me?' A low voice suddenly asked, disrupting their thoughts, 'Are you Teddie Yoav?' Teddie felt the blood in their face drain as they looked up to see the mayor standing above them. Timidly, they nodded, Gerald Beauregard took this as an opportunity to sit down with Teddie, before they could say anything, he began talking. 'I hear you were the one who found my daughter's book?' He asked, which Teddie nodded at again, 'I'm grateful for this, and I am hoping you have kept this a secret?' 'Y-yes,' Teddie stammered out, unsure what to think of this meeting, 'I gave the book to your son, Devon and the other guard, I didn't catch her name...' They trailed off. Gerald nodded appreciatively, 'Thank you, that will be all, I just came here to make sure,' Instantly, the man began to stand, 'Good day.' With that, the mayor left the café, leaving Teddie alone a little stunned. That was not odd in the slightest. They thought, shivering slightly. ~ Bradley stood at the gates of Rosewood, rifle in hand, he was surrounded by the gate guards. They all stood to wait, unconsciously waiting for the ghost of a girl they all thought was dead. Bradley was still hoping it was his brother, fighting his way back to the town. Though he was still not sure, maybe his brother was already dead? All thoughts of 'what if' diminished from his mind as the sound of thundering hooves greeted the town. Looking closer, he saw her, Raina on horseback, waving her arms wildly, screaming words he still could not hear. He didn't realise who it was until she cried in his face. 'They need help! Devon, River and Knox need help!' 'Knox..?' Spoiler: Chapter 27 Bradley practically jumped, his brother was still alive, and so was Raina. Her horse came to a stop, sweating profusely, the young girl leapt from the saddle, grabbing Bradley by the shoulders even though he towered over her. 'You need to help them! They are battling a horde of zombies on their own!' She cried, her cheeks slick with tears. 'A horde? How close to the town?' Bradley instantly asked, his fighting instincts kicking in. Raina shook her head, 'I don't know, but it is getting closer, that's for sure.' Bradley nodded then turned to the gate guards who all stood silent. He began barking orders, every able-bodied guard or fighter would be needed to fight the horde. Bradley turned back to Raina, taking in her appearance. 'Who did that to you?' 'The same person who took Knox,' She murmured, averting her eye from him. Bradley didn't reply, only ushering her back into the town. When she was through the town's walls, she began to run, Bradley didn't try to stop her as Raina sprinted further into the town, to her home, to her sister. ~ Avery and Sydney sat in silence; the rider had disappeared from their view ten minutes ago. Avery was slightly shaking, raring to go and do something, though she didn't know what. Sydney sensed the younger girl's agitation but had no resolution to it, so the two remained silent until the shouting started. 'Horde! There is a horde on its way to the town!' Screams and cries suddenly filled the town. Hysteria Sydney had never seen before since she entered Rosewood. Usual civilians ran about, shouting out the same warning, a horde is coming. 'What the hell?' Avery murmured, standing up to get a better look. 'Someone is either spreading rumours,' Sydney said, 'Or someone didn't keep their mouth shut.' 'Which one do you think it is?' 'The latter.' Just then, another guard popped up. She ran towards them on the guard post, her cheeks flushed. 'There's a horde heading to the town; we need as many fighters to attack, though some are still needed to defend the walls. Your choice?' The guard asked. 'Attack.' Sydney said without hesitation. The guard nodded, 'Then you need to go the guard station, they're sorting out the numbers.' The guard noticed Avery blinking with surprise, 'Avery? What are you doing here?' 'I was helping; I can still help!' Avery said with enthusiastic determination. The guard looked at Sydney, her brow creased with concern, 'She's not even 16, you need to get her back to her house.' Sydney opened her mouth to argue back, but slowly closed it, realising that this was true. She gave the guard a small nod, letting her run off further through the guard posts to tell the other guards the news. Sydney turned to Avery. 'She's right, come on.' 'Seriously? It's not as if I'll be going out there! What's the point in me cowering in a house that my father tried to lock me up in? Sure, I can't fight, but I can still help in other ways!' Avery countered, moving away from Sydney. 'You can't help here; you have to get back to your family!' Avery's eyes shone, her lip curled, 'People are going to die, my sister, my mother, they're already dead. At least let me limit that number.' 'You can't stay here,' Sydney said after a pause, 'You can help, but not here. The town now knows about the horde, if you truly want to help, help them.' The fifteen-year-old nodded, without another word, she disappeared from the guard post, running further into the town. Sydney was also moving, heading towards the guard station as she just had done to warn Bradley about the rider. She made the assumption it was that rider who brought the news of the horde. 'Whoever you are, I thank you,' Sydney murmured to herself, 'We need all the warning we can get in an apocalypse.' Spoiler: Chapter 28 Low murmurs filled the guard station, the majority of people there weren't even standing in the building. The town of Rosewood had around five hundred members, although most were civilians, there were easily over one hundred and fifty guards. There were always at least thirty guards on watch, though the average of guards on duty at a time was more than fifty. Now around one hundred and twenty-five fighters stood together, weapons ready, to protect the town. A small pack of civilians also stood in the group, those who could fight but never took up the role as a guard held their own weapons, small hunting knives, an odd axe, whatever they could get their hands on. It was obvious that the members of Rosewood were planning to stay here for a long time, regardless of what was thrown at them. Bradley now stood in the doorway of the guard station, there had never been a set head guard, but at this moment, Bradley took the role instantly. He clapped his hands together, silencing the pickpockets of murmurs. 'As you know,' He began, his voice flat, 'There is a horde approaching, we received this message from someone of the town. However, their identity will stay anonymous. We are unsure of the number, but at this moment, three of our guards are already fighting. River, Devon and Knox.' Bradley had to choke out the last time, he still couldn't fully believe his brother was still alive, 'They are some of our top fighters, but they still need our help!' A chorus of cheers went up, none of the fighters seemed afraid. Though if you looked closely, you could see the sheen of sweat on their faces, the uneven breathing and the concerned eyes. Sydney stood in the group, eyes filled with concentration. She appeared weaponless, as she held nothing in her hands. Though, sheathed all over her body were daggers of different sizes as well as a sword strapped to her back. Her dirty blonde hair was already tied away in a ponytail, and she wore black converses. Even at nineteen years old, she looked terrifying, not someone to mess with, human or zombie. 'Everyone divide into two groups, those who are staying to defend and those who are choosing to attack,' Bradley continued, indicating the two sides. The majority of fighters stood at the right of Bradley, the attackers. A few members switched, filling out the defensive unit until Bradley was satisfied with the numbers. Then the defensive group were gone, hurrying to the guard posts and surrounding the town with guards. Sydney found the efficiency of the fighters impressive, she hadn't been at Rosewood for long, but they were prepared. 'Alright!' Bradley shouted, unsheathing his own weapon, 'We'll be heading on foot via the roads, keep an eye out for straggler zombies, but do not exhaust yourself, we have a horde to destroy.' Simultaneously, the fighters shouted, 'Yes sir!' With a quick nod, Bradley began moving; his heart thundered in his chest as he marched to the gates of the town. To the horde but also to his brother. His dark brown eyes scanned the area; the forest surrounding Rosewood turned awfully quiet as the fighters exited the town. The gates slamming shut behind them. Then, the growling started; the fight had begun. ~ Raina silently thanked the townspeople as she ran home. Their hysteria and panic from her message gave her the ability to sneak through the town unnoticed. Even before she had met Joshua, she preferred to be left alone by the townspeople. They had looked at her as something to worship and adore, the mayor's daughter, a beautiful, innocent girl. A perfect example for all their daughters to follow. Now that wasn't the case. Even though they hadn't seen her yet, she still imagined the rumours that must have followed her disappearance. But then, Raina realised with a jolt, that her father might have kept it a secret, like her mother's death. The mayor never revealed his wife had died until two weeks after she had died during childbirth, Raina hoped he didn't do the same for her, but deep down, knew that the townspeople didn't know. She stood at the front of the Beauregard house. Her heart pounded as she reached for the doorknob instinctively. Then faltered, lowering her hand, gingerly, she rang the doorbell instead. The bell rang angrily, making a shrill noise that made Raina's chest tighten. She realised she'd been holding her breath as if Raina couldn't accept that she was home. A couple of seconds passed without anyone answering. She found this odd, Avery, her sister, never left the house. And her father rarely went out as well; he was always stuck in his office, filling out papers and discussing town politics. But the house was dormant; no one was home. Abruptly, she grabbed the doorknob, though it refused to budge. Tugging on the knob, she found it locked from her side, she let go and trotted down the steps to a potted plant decorating the front of the house. Underneath it was a spare key, which she used to unlock the front door, even then she struggled with opening the door. Finally, Raina forcefully shouldered the door, letting it open completely. She didn't say anything as she walked in, knowing no one would reply. The house looked entirely the same; it was only until she stepped further into the doorway that she found a difference. Lying on the ground was the other half of the doorknob, whirling round, Raina saw the inside of the door without its handle. She made the immediate assumption that it was her sister who had ripped the doorknob off. 'Is that why she's not here?' Raina asked herself quietly, 'Because someone locked her in the house?' Without an answer, she ran upstairs, first looking in Avery's room where she found her window wide open and no sign of her sister. Then she went into her own room; everything had been left the same with not even a layer of dust of the furniture. It made Raina feel like she had never faked her death and disappeared from the town. Instead, she had just gone away for a couple of days. Raina left the room, feeling uneasy thinking about everything that happened. Instead, she gingerly pushed open the door to her father's office, partly to check if he was there but mostly to look around. Her siblings were rarely allowed in the room, so she was intrigued to see what was in there. Stepping inside, she found the extravagant yet simple working space. In the centre of the room, was the dark oak wood desk and leather back chair. Lining the walls were bookshelves, most held folders, with the odd stack of paper. A small photo frame was in the corner of one of the shelves. It had been taken before the zombie outbreak; there were five smiling faces, Raina, Avery, Devon, their father and their mother. Raina's heart ached as she felt tears prick the back of her eye when her mother had died she felt utterly hollow. They had all survived the zombie apocalypse, but a complication in childbirth had ended her mother's life. She turned away from the photo frame, not wanting to think of her mother. Looking around a bit more, she found it. The small leather-bound book that she had treasured for weeks. The Moonlit Man. Looking at it now, she found the story slightly pathetic, Raina couldn't believe how blind she was. How she could only see through the deceit when it was thrown at her face. Picking it up, she flipped through the yellowing pages, wondering who else had read it. Who else had seen it as a silly story before then realising the dark truth hidden within the folds of paper. Gripping the small book tightly, she left the office, letting the door shut behind her as she tiptoed down the stairs. Her body ached, from the running and riding but also the grief she had been put through. She felt exhausted, but Raina knew she couldn't rest yet. Sitting alone in the house, she picked up a pen and began writing once more. Spoiler: Chapter 29 Fleur had already known something was wrong. When the screaming outside started, it confirmed it all. Unlocking the door, she ran out to see members of the town banging on one another's door, shouting out warnings. Fleur ran into the fray, trying to hear the message that had sent the town into haywire. 'Horde!' 'It's coming to the town!' 'The guards are gonna fight it!' 'Rosewood is going to fall!' Fleur's heart raced, her cheeks were flushed with warmth. Her dyed hair was a beautiful shade of icy blue that complimented her sea green eyes. Slowly, she turned back to her cottage; she felt numb, Fleur had finally thought she was safe. Even before the apocalypse, she never had any semblance of safety, even after winning the court case against her abusive adoptive family she was simply thrown back into the cycle of adoption. She had no one that truly looked after her, never had a place to call home truly. Rosewood was her last resort, and now, it too was crumbling. To her, the townspeople's panicking meant that this rarely happened, that they usually controlled the zombies that roamed outside the town. They hadn't faced a horde in years. Slamming the cottage door shut, she found the sleep-deprived Gabby staring at her. Her blonde hair was a mess, knotted and standing up haphazardly. Gabby yawned loudly before speaking. 'What's going on now?' She moaned, wiping the sleep from her eye. 'There's a horde heading towards the town,' Fleur said quietly, wringing her hands, 'Everyone's in a panic.' Gabby perked up a little, her blue eyes flashing, 'Really? A horde? How'd it get so close without anyone noticing? How many zombies are there? What are they gonna do about it?' She continued asking questions. 'I-I don't know,' Fleur said anxiously, taking a step back, 'I only heard that it's coming here...' 'Can I go see it!?' Gabby burst out, adrenaline coursing through her veins. 'WHAT? No!' She cried, 'You're just a child! They'd never let you go anywhere near that.' 'I just wanna look!' The fourteen-year-old pleaded, all signs of fatigue leaving her body, 'Just a quick peek!' 'No! We stay indoors; you're not going to see it unless there's a zombie right in your face!' Fleur cried venomously. Gabby's words died on her lips; it was her that took a step back. Fleur had never snapped at her before, even though they had only known each other for two days, Fleur had never acted like this before. Even she was surprised by her words, as she began wringing her hands together again. Quietly, she spoke, 'Just, go upstairs, I'll tell you if there's any more news.' Gabby timidly nodded, heading towards the stairs before stopping. She quickly turned around, ran into the small kitchen and grabbed a knife. Fleur watched without speaking, letting the girl run up the stairs, kitchen knife in hand. Defeated, she slid to the floor, Fleur's hands began to shake as she sat in silence. ~ River's twin katanas slashed through zombies like paper as the small group continued running. Her dark hair was tied away, and her eyes of dark blue were filled with concentration. She was the shortest of the three, with Devon and Knox towering over her by a few inches each. Regardless, she was the most lethal. River had sheathed her smaller blades, where she pulled out her two katanas. She had hoped she wouldn't need to use the twin blades, but their situation demanded deadlier weapons. The dirt roads they stood on were plain, only covered in dust and old tracks. They were surrounded by dark forests, before the apocalypse, it was a nature park of some sorts, now it was a mostly impenetrable woods filled with zombies. But at that moment, the zombies were no longer lost in the forest, Joshua had given the mindless undead a trail to a meal. Knox was ahead of the small group, although the horse was bone tired, he still took the lead. He and Devon had traded weapons, so he sat as the three's sharpshooter, while the two on the ground slashed through the horde. They had decreased the number of zombies, though the odds were still tipped against them. All three of them knew they needed reinforcements, without help, the town would be doomed. The group took a turn at the bend of the roads. River guessed they still had around three miles before they got close to the town. On the roads ahead of them, there seemed to be no signs of any straggler zombies, which sent relief down her body. It appeared they had all grouped up here, Knox had mentioned in quick breaths where he and Raina were, he described the horde of trapped zombies chasing the partially blind seventeen-year-old out of Joshua's county home. His words made River's vision tinge red, but she had tried to calm, knowing to not go overboard in her attacks. Her energy was low already; rage wasn't going to make the situation any better. 'How much longer d'ya think it'll take until they reach us?' Devon asked quickly, not wanting to waste his energy on speech. 'An hour at the most,' River replied bluntly, 'Though that's hoping your sister's gotten back yet.' Blood drained from Devon's face; he liked the odds as much as River did, which wasn't much. Their attacks were much weaker than when they first started; he only had one idea. One that could either keep them alive for longer or would cause their deaths much quicker. 'We're gonna have to run, abandon this useless attack, while we still have the strength.' A small nod was all he got in reply as River began sheathing her katanas. She felt hollow inside; it was the coward's choice. But regardless, she followed suit. Their light jog shifted instantly to an increased speed; they caught up with Knox who understood the change in tactic. Kicking the sides of his horse, he too sped up. All three of them pulling down their guard and running like hell. Spoiler: Chapter 30 The group of guards from Rosewood were making good time, marching hurriedly into the forest. Sydney was close to the rear of the group; she had drawn one of her smaller blades, holding it tightly as the group moved. They stayed in a tight pack, with only one or two members drifting to stop a straggling zombie. Sydney guessed they'd seen at least ten zombies, though that amount began to increase at every step the group took. Five minutes earlier they had noticed the trail of meat hanging in the trees, adjusting their direction to follow it. It was a macabre display that sent shivers down the group when it was first identified. Bradley stood at the front of the pack of fighters, sword in hand. He had estimated that they'd been running for three miles. Bradley silently hoped the group would soon find River, Devon and his brother. He still hadn't fully come to the full realisation that his brother would be alive, with him once more. It was this that made him run farther, made him push the group further, they needed to be there, they were necessary to fight the horde. Thirty minutes later, the groups joined. Bradley's fighters had just turned a corner wherein the distance a guard spotted the mass in front of them. Three distinct figures, one on horseback, ripping up dust and dirt as they sprinted down the roads. At some points, they'd turn their heads, looking back at what loomed behind them. The horde was ferocious and relentless, growling loudly as they too sprinted towards them. Bradley halted his group, letting them catch their breath. It hadn't taken long for the three to notice the seventy-five or so people that stood before them. 'Come on!' River yelled, 'Get behind the group and let them fight!' 'Get ready!' Bradley shouted as well, 'Let them through, we'll finish this.' Within seconds, the masses of humans and zombies collided. Growls and shouts alike filled the air, River and Devon never slowed, slipping through the crowd of Rosewood fighters, until they reached the rear. Instantly the two stopped, sucking in as much air as they could, their limbs burned and sweat-drenched their skin. Knox was slower; his horse whinnied with panicked eyes. The group of fighters gave him a large gap to manoeuvre the frightened horse. Eventually, he joined Devon and River. He stayed mounted, his rifle swinging through the air. 'We'll stay as backup?' He asked, breathing heavily. River nodded, unable to speak as air filled her lungs. She was glad the group had arrived when they did, her legs ached fiercely, almost giving out. Devon lay on the ground; dirt brushed into his brown hair. All their cheeks were flushed with blood, heat coursing through their bodies. Knox sagged a bit in his saddle; he didn't want to dismount just yet, as he knew it'd be more effort to get back up when the other two were ready to fight. Instead, he remained saddled in, squeezing his rifle tightly. Knox watched the carnage in front of him; the seventy-five fighters were tackling what Knox assumed was over a hundred zombies. He knew that the horde had grown significantly from the crowd that initially chased him and Raina. Knox felt that the odds were in their favour, silently hoping for only a small amount of casualties. He had been a guard for a couple of years for the town; he knew what the fighters were capable of, it had become an emergency because it was at first only chasing one girl. 'Come on,' River finally said, her breathing had evened, and Devon was now standing, 'We'll help from the back, but try not to intervene too much. We haven't got the energy.' Knox nodded, lifting his rifle to aim and fire. His horse whinnied loudly, the animal sweating profusely. Ignoring the horse's fear, he began shooting zombies that crept too close to any of the fighters. River's blades were out again, slashing quickly through the air, Devon following suit. Their small assistance in taking out zombies was suddenly disrupted. An arrow flew through the air, barely making a sound as it was released into the frenzy. The sharp end was aimed perfectly, this time not missing its old target. In an instant, the black arrow struck Knox's chest with such force he collapsed onto the ground, the rifle scattering from his grip. The panicked horse whinnied again, without a rider, it galloped away, hooves ripping up the dirt. 'KNOX!' Devon shouted, faltering in his attacks. At the sudden shout, Bradley turned around, only to see his brother fall to the ground. His body went numb; heart pounded intensely. His body reacted before his mind, pushing him into a sprint, pushing anything that came near him. Hot tears filled his eyes as he fell to the ground, letting the fight continue around him. Crumpled in the dust, Knox lay motionless, blood stained the road. The light in his eyes was fading. Sydney had watched it all happen; she now held her sword. It was slick with zombie blood as she cut through anything before her. Though when Sydney saw the arrow, her blade had slowed. She knew the sound of an arrow too well, and it felt like a punch in the gut when she recognised the arrow that was now embedded in Knox's chest. 'Sarina,' She growled dangerously, breaking off from the group of fighters. Spoiler: Chapter 31 Standing opposite the horde of humans and zombies stood Sarina. In her hand, she held a black bow, with a quiver of arrows slung over her shoulder to match. Hatred filled her ice blue eyes, with practised ease she notched another arrow, aiming at another fighter that was cutting down zombies. She was about to release the arrow when she heard her own name. 'Sarina.' Sydney stood stricken, her back against the chaos of bloodshed. Ocean eyes meet those of ice, Sarina simply smiled, flexing her fingers, readying for a challenge. She had arrived here long before Sydney, the surprise on her younger sister's face was amusing to her, as well as the inexplicable anger that flowed from Sydney. 'What are you doing here!?' The younger barked, waving her blade in a wide arc, 'Why are you killing humans?' 'It doesn't matter what they are, I've been given a mission, I need to complete it.' Sarina returned nonchalantly, 'And you're all in my way.' 'A mission?' Sydney asked curiosity filled her; she also knew this was an opportunity to stall. 'It doesn't matter,' She said, raising her bow again, 'Get out of my way or I will kill you.' 'You killed Knox; I won't let you kill anyone else!' Sydney shouted, raising her sword once more. The elder sister simply laughed, fluidly she placed the arrow back into its quiver. Sarina slung the bow over her shoulder, pulling out two knives instead. They glimmered in the sun, their sharp blades glinting at Sydney. Twirling them in the air, Sarina smiled, 'Come on little sister, let's see who's the best fighter.' Sydney didn't have time to react before Sarina pounced, the knife in her right hand aimed straight at her sister's heart. Sydney instinctively brought her sword up, letting the two blades clash, sparks filling the air. Sarina began laughing, dropping away from her sister, circling around. Sydney attacked next, thrusting her sword forward, nicking Sarina's arm. She didn't make a sound, letting the small droplets of blood collect on her left hand. 'You're going to pay for that,' She said, clenching her knives tightly. Sarina pounced once more, but then feigned to the left, dodging Sydney's sword. A gasp escaped Sydney as the knife slashed into her skin. Her side began to burn, from where the blade made contact with her body. Sarina stood behind her, blood glimmering off the knife. She made small tututut sounds at her bleeding sister, twirling the knives again. 'You let yourself wide open, little sister! And this little cut? So shallow it's stopped bleeding! I thought father taught you better, or are you being soft?' 'Just stalling.' Sydney murmured, her hand pressed against her wound, her words were almost inaudible, but she knew her sister understood. Sarina's expression turned deadly, 'You're in my way.' Keeping her distance, she threw one of the knives. Her expert precision aimed at her younger sister's chest, Sydney's movements were sluggish, but she managed to move in time. She cried out as the knife stuck out of her shoulder, not a fatal blow, but still painful. Gritting her teeth, Sydney stood, knowing to keep the blade in place otherwise her blood loss would be too significant. Slowly, she began walking towards Sarina, letting her sword drag in the dust. Sarina threw another blade, this time missing completely, agitated, she pulled out several more daggers. Before she could throw anymore, Sydney dropped her act. Running as fast as she could, she approached her sister, sword raised. Sarina raised her daggers; the blades screeched against one another. Sydney pressed against her, pushing her to the ground. Falling into the dust, Sydney placed the sword onto her older sister's chest, breathing heavily. 'Why are you here?' She murmured, barely able to speak, 'What mission do you have?' Sarina spat blood, deep crimson sinking into the dirt, 'Why should I tell you? All you're doing is stalling my death.' Sydney tried to hide her reaction, her hand shaking. It was slightly true, Sydney never had a good relationship with her sister. They hated one another, always competing to be the best fighter, usually through tricks and deceit. Even so, she hesitated with the blade, letting it cut into her skin, but not deep enough. This hesitation was all Sarina needed. Pushing the sword out of the way with her own blade, she kicked Sydney hard in the legs. She faltered, her wounds slowly taking their toll. Sarina swung her fist, connecting with Sydney's left cheek. It took her less than ten seconds to bring down her sister. 'You're so slow!' Sarina cried, now holding Sydney's sword, 'You're pathetic, and yes, you're still in my way.' 'Please, I don't want to kill you,' Sydney wheezed out, hardly able to breathe. 'Why does that matter? I have a mission, and you're slowing me down, I need to get you out of the picture, little sister.' Sarina raised the sword, the final killing blow. Sydney simply closed her eyes, finally accepting and giving in to let her sister win. Sarina brought the blade down, but it never made contact. Two knives cut through the air, distorting the sword's path, causing it clatter to the ground. Sydney opened her eyes in time to see Sarina fall to the ground. River stood above her; a fire burned in her dark eyes. She ignored Sydney, stalking over to Sarina who began to rise slowly. Small grazes decorated her cheek from where she fell, though she ignored the pain, only standing before River. 'And who are you then?' She asked, though suddenly recognition filled her icy blue eyes, 'Oh wait a second, you're River! Joshua never shuts up about you.' 'Where is he?!' River demanded, her blood boiling. 'Like I care, he's got his mission, I've got my own.' 'Which is to do what?' Sarina huffed, 'If I won't tell my sister, why would I tell you?' River unsheathed her katanas, the blades still slick with blood. She raised an eyebrow, letting the weapons do the talking. Sarina tried to hide her hesitant reaction but then unslung her bow from her shoulder, while also removing an arrow from its quiver. She twirled the arrow in the air for emphasis. 'I won't be telling you that easily,' Sarina smirked. River gave her a dark look. Swinging her katanas, she pounced. Sarina had notched the arrow, aiming for River's heart, an attack she was expecting. With fluid ease, she dodged the flying arrow, letting it soar into the distance. River closed the space between the two women, slashing one of her katanas at Sarina's bow, snapping the string in half before knocking it out of her grasp. Before Sarina could react, the second katana rested on her neck. Sweat dampened her skin; dried blood covered her arm, Sarina was unarmed and out-gamed while River had barely taken a breath. 'What is your mission? Where is Joshua now?' River asked, her voice dangerously low. 'It... it was to make sure the girl got to the town, with this horde,' Sarina murmured, feeling defeated, 'Seems as if that failed.' 'What about Joshua?' 'Gone by now. He's probably realised everything's gone wrong.' River let go of Sarina, allowing her to stagger away. It became clear to River that if Joshua had fled, he would try to bring down Rosewood in the process. In the same way, he brought down Leakal, by setting it alight. Thoughts buzzed through her mind; it seemed obvious where he was heading now, the zombie horde had now become his distraction, along with his accomplice. Looking at Sarina, River didn't have the heart to kill her, but she was tedious, to say the least. With a swift blow, River brought the woman down, unconscious. She turned to Sydney, who was now only just standing up. Devon stood above her, helping her up, blood poured from her side with a dark bruise decorating on her cheek. Sydney looked sadly at her sister, not too sure either what to do with her. 'We're just going to leave her?' Sydney asked, standing next to Devon. 'If you're fine with that,' River said simply, sheathing her katanas, 'We have work to do, we need to get back to Rosewood.' 'What did she tell you?' Devon asked, his face serious, 'What's happening to the town?' 'It's what will happen to the town, Joshua's going to blow it to hell.' ~ Sunlight stung his eyes as he cantered further into the forest. Joshua's first plan had failed, but Plan B was still conceivable. He was racing through the dense woods, using the dirt roads as a guide to the town. He had two bags with him, one on his back and the other attached to his horse's saddle. One was filled with destruction while the other was filled with his plans for a new life. He had momentarily watched Sarina's miserable battle but could see its apparent end when River pushed through the crowds, cutting down anything to fight. He had high hopes they would meet face to face, finally put her down and continue his plans for ultimate demise. 'I will finish this all myself.' Spoiler: Chapter 32 'We need to go, now!' River shouted to Devon and Sydney. 'I'll stay,' Sydney replied calmly, blood still trickling down her arm, 'I can help finish off the horde.' Devon nodded, 'Let's go, River.' The pair split off, dashing through the horde, avoiding flying blades and hungry mouths. Without a horse, they had no choice but to run once more. Sydney watched the two sprint sadly, her body slightly sagging. The physical pain had subsided, but her heart ached for her sister, Sarina, the woman lay unconscious on the ground, undisturbed by the chaos behind them. With a sigh, Sydney took her position at the front of the horde, sword swinging through the air, defending herself, the town and her sister. ~ Raina had barely started writing when she heard the nervous cries from outside. She knew exactly what they were panicking about; she still believed it was all her fault. Raina tried to ignore the shouts and screams, but then an incessant banging on the front door Raina had to force shut. Looking up, she saw a figure through the frosted glass, a member of the town she assumed. Instinctively, she shied away from the door, hoping they would leave when no one answered. Raina wasn't even meant to be there anyway; the house was supposed to be empty. The banging on the door finally stopped, letting Raina sigh in relief. She began to write again, scribbling down the heartache and that roiled within her. Before disappearing with Joshua, Raina's writing had been childish, filled with naivety and foolishness. Now, it held only the brutal truth, the raw emotions she truly felt, it made her want to cry again. Remembering everything she did, everything that was planned and how easily she went along with it all. Raina felt as if she had aged by a tenfold since she last stood in Rosewood, but it barely been days, though those days were ones she would never forget. She had just finished a sentence when the sound of cursing and muttering filled the house. Raina felt her blood freeze as she recognised the creaking of the floorboards above her. Avery. Her younger sister was indiscreetly coming home, by more or less falling into her bedroom from the open window. Raina didn't know what to do, her sister was quite hotheaded and never shy to give a piece of her mind. Avery was a passionate girl, with crude logic and a refusal to back down from an argument. Raina knew she couldn't avoid her sister, but whatever was going to happen, it wouldn't go down smoothly. Deciding that scaring her sister would be a terrible idea, Raina abandoned her writing, only quickly grabbing the book and rushing out of the kitchen and into the hallway. She was grateful that Avery was as loud as she was, the fifteen-year-old was talking to herself in her room. What she was saying was lost to Raina, who only tried to focus on the task at hand. Her original plan was to sneak outside and knock on the door, but seeing the doorknob roll lazily on the floor halted that idea. Instead, Raina decided to wait, clutching the leather-bound book tightly, she remained at the bottom of the stairs, just as she had done on the night of the harvest festival. But this time she was patient, silently waiting for her sister as she loudly stomped down the stairs as she had done so before. '...Raina..?' Looking up, Raina found her Avery's deep brown eyes shimmering with tears. She had frozen on the stairs, her legs shaking uncontrollably. But then all at once, the fifteen-year-old began to move, almost tumbling down the stairs to grab her sister. The impact caused Raina to lose grip of the book, letting it slap to the ground next to the fallen doorknob. The sisters embraced, both shaking as much as the other. 'They told me you were dead, then they told me you were alive, I didn't... I didn't know what to believe!' Avery began talking quickly between gasps of air, 'What happened to you?' 'I made wrong decisions, too many to count...' Raina murmured, not sure how exactly to respond. 'Who did this to you? Who made you do this?' Avery cried, anger and sadness filling her voice, 'They hurt you! Who was it?!' 'It doesn't matter now,' She replied, burying her face into her sister's shoulder, 'I'm home now, and we'll fix these mistakes.' 'It does matter!' Avery retorted, slightly pushing her sister away, 'You're missing an eye! What sort of wrong decisions can you make to get into this sort of situation? We thought you were dead!' 'Please, there are other issues to think about, how do you think I got back?' Raina pleaded, trying to change the conversation. Avery paled, 'You were the rider... Where did the horde come from!?' 'I had to outrun it, but then Knox found me, and we met with Devon and River. They stayed behind to fight the horde while I ran like I always do...' Avery was about to speak when the knocking on the door began once again. The two unconsciously jumped, as the person outside smacked the frosted glass insistently. Though this time they were shouting. 'Mayor! Mayor! There's a horde coming to the town! Where are you? We need help with defending the town now the guards are all gone!' The two sisters looked at each other, eyes wide. Gingerly, Avery stepped away from Raina towards the door. The older noticed her sister shaking as she spoke. 'He's gone, he locked me in the house. I don't know where my father is...' She said through the glass quietly. 'Are you okay in there?' 'I'm safer in here than out there, please, go find my father, I'm no use to you.' The figure nodded, leaving the doorway quickly. Avery sighed with relief, her shoulders sagging. She turned to Raina, her brown hair flying around her. She sensed the miserableness coming off of her older sister, even if she was home, Raina was still internally conflicting with herself. 'What did you mean by... other issues?' Avery asked, her voice quiet. 'I think he's coming to the town. The one who started this... he's coming to finish it.' Spoiler: Chapter 33 It didn't take long for Joshua to arrive at Rosewood. His horse trailed into a slow trot as he dismounted. He stood at the eastern side of the town, looming over him was the stone brick wall that the old townspeople of Rosewood had placed up. Although it had been reinforced and added to by the zombie apocalypse survivors that now lived there, this one section was still extremely vulnerable. The eastern border of the town was the furthest from any buildings or civilians in the town, so Joshua's painstaking work of slowly breaking it down went completely unnoticed. Now all he needed to do was knock down the façade and unleash true chaos. 'Brick by brick, this town will no more.' Quickly and efficiently, Joshua began tearing down the stones, each of them fell easily. It wasn't long before there was only a gaping hole in front of him. With a cruel smile on his face, Joshua stepped into the town and began his work. He slipped his backpack off his shoulder, unzipping it and pulling out one of his many explosives. After destroying two previous towns, Joshua had learnt how to break it down from the inside. This time was slightly different of course, as he had to watch from the sidelines, Raina's failure was something he had prepared for. The only best way to finish a job is to do it yourself. Holding the explosives, he began placing them around the edge of the town walls. His new plan was simple, destroy the walls and let the walkers do the rest. Though he still had more elements of destruction, he truly wanted Rosewood to go out with a bang. Joshua set all the timers, within twenty minutes all that should be left of the town would be rubble. Which left him with one last task, to finally finish off his last nuisance, River. ~ 'We're not going to make it in time,' Devon gasped out as he ran beside River. 'It doesn't matter, we have to stop him,' She retorted back. 'Even if we do catch up to him we'll be in no state to fight him! Our biggest task should be to minimise casualties.' 'FINE! You do that, and I'll get Joshua.' 'We can't split up! Devon shouted, almost faltering in his step. 'We have no choice!' River snarled. With those words, River's pace sped up almost inhumanely. Devon had to choice but to watch her dash further down the path, leaving deep tracks in the dirt. He shook his head, letting her disappear into the distance as he kept his own pace. Devon had hoped he could have found their horse, but it seemed the horse had truly spooked when Sydney's sister had attacked Knox. Devon had become so wrapped up in the danger of Rosewood's destruction he had almost forgotten about Knox. Devon suddenly felt hollow as he continued his run back to Rosewood. He imagined the two brothers in the middle of the zombie horde; he remembered Bradley's tear-stained face as he shouted uselessly at his dying brother. The sudden deadliness in Sydney's ocean blue eyes when she recognised Knox's killer. Everything had happened so quickly, neither himself nor River knew how to react. The image Devon had in his head was Knox's chest slowly losing air, his eyes dull, his raw and unjust demise. A sudden whinny drove Devon out of his thoughts. Cantering towards him out from the woods was the horse River, and Knox had ridden. A smile appeared on his lips, slowing his pace down, he approached the horse. As well as being a guard for the town, Devon loved looking after the horses, so he knew exactly how to calm down the panicked animal. Before long, he was saddled up and on his way to Rosewood. He guessed that River would reach the town before him, even on horseback. Regardless, he needed to get there; he needed to warn the town as he sister had done so already. ~ 'So, what should we do?' 'We?! Avery, there's nothing we can do!' Raina cried. 'Of course, there is,' Her sister replied, her voice serious, 'You were his spy, now you're our spy. What is he doing next and how can we stop him?' 'He didn't tell me much...' Raina stammered. 'But you said he's coming to finish this all, so how?' 'I don't know, but, if anything, he would be coming through where we first met. The gap in the border.' 'There's a gap in the walls?! How has that gone unnoticed?' Avery tried to keep her voice down, though it still shocked her nonetheless. 'He would patch it up every night; no one saw the fragility of the stones.' 'Well, let's go.' 'Through the door or the window?' Raina asked. Avery smirked, her smile dangerous, 'The window, of course.' Neither of the sisters hesitated, both of them climbing up the stairs onto the second floor of their house. However, instead of going into her room, Avery quickly dashed into her brother's room, Raina watched quietly as her younger sister picked through his bedroom. Devon was one for neatness and order, his bed was made, without sight of wrinkles and his small desk was minimally decorated. None of this was what brought Avery into the room; however, instead, she pulled open a small chest under his bed. Inside the chest were multiple knives and daggers, all sharp and perfectly cleaned. Avery grabbed four of them, before shoving the box under the bed again. Raina raised an eyebrow, 'I'm not even going to ask why you knew those were there.' Avery handed two of the blades to Raina, 'You wouldn't like the answer anyway.' 'What exactly are we going to do with knives?' Avery shrugged, 'Look threatening enough to distract your mystery man.' Raina didn't reply, their plan wasn't the most solid, but it was the best they could deal with in this apparent time constraint. Together, they left Devon's room into Avery's own room. The window was still wide open, with warm sunlight streaming in. Avery suddenly paused, turning to her sister, particularly at Raina's face. The haunting after-image of Raina's ruined face still sent shivers down her spine, turning away from the window, Avery grabbed a pair of scissors. 'What are you doing now? We don't have time to stop.' Raina said, confusion set in her brow. 'This will only take a second, and you'll thank me,' Avery replied, grabbing a piece of cloth. A couple of minutes passed until finally, the younger sister held up a small eyepatch. It was scruffy but practical, Avery handed it to her sister without a word, the patch was a message in itself. Raina only nodded as she slung it over her head, letting the large piece of cloth cover her what was left of her right eye. Raina had almost forgotten about her appearance, but that was mainly because there were more significant issues at hand. She tried to smile, silently thanking her sister who turned to the window. With practised ease, Avery climbed out, gripping the small gaps she had indented into the stones over time, Raina followed suit, though at a slower pace. Once on the ground, the two picked their way through the town, they tried to avoid any of the townspeople but found they were all too busy panicking and preparing for the worst to notice the girls. It took them less than five minutes to find the large hole in the wall left by Joshua. 'He's here?' Avery asked, staring at the large gap. Raina's gaze was fixed on the rest of the wall, 'No, he's left, but he's dropped off some gifts.' Avery followed Raina's stare, also spotting his 'gifts'. At equal increments along the perimeter of the wall, small black boxes beeped quietly to themselves. Ticking away the twenty minutes Joshua had given the town. The sisters ran over to the closest box for further inspection. 'They're explosives, all of them,' Avery growled, 'He is trying to blow up the walls!' 'We need to turn as many of them off,' Raina replied, trying to keep a state of rationality, 'They must be all across the walls.' Avery pointed at the small screen of the box, 'We have ten minutes to shut down all of these explosives. There's no way we'll be able to turn them all off.' 'Then we'll need help, Avery, find some of the guards, I'll try and shut this down, if you get anyone, we'll have a better chance at saving the town.' Avery nodded, already running off to one the guard posts. Raina could hear her shouting dull into the background as she turned her attention to the box. It was a simple design; a small screen displayed the time that blinked down to destruction and five little red buttons. The buttons each had white text signally which each button did; START, ADD 1HR, ADD 10MIN, ADD 1MIN, STOP. Taking a deep breath, Raina squeezed the last button, the incessant beeping stopped, and she looked down to find the time blinking the same numbers. She had stopped the explosive. 'One down,' Raina murmured, wiping the sweat off her palms, 'So many more to go.' Standing up, she saw her sister rushing back to her, three people in tow. Raina clenched her fists together, preparing herself for one of the worst ten minutes of her life. Spoiler: Chapter 34 'Bradley? Bradley, listen to me!' Sydney cried, shaking his arm. But he didn't pay attention, the horde around them had diminished significantly, with only a few stragglers. But Bradley remained in silence, his tears had long dried, but he was utterly hollow. He had failed his brother. Knox's heartbeat had stopped almost the second he collapsed to the ground. Now, all that remained was his glassy eyes and cold body. 'Bradley! Please!' Sydney cried again, dropping to her knees to look Bradley in the eye, 'He's gone.' 'Who did it?' Bradley suddenly growled. 'What?' 'Who killed him!?' Sydney blanched, Bradley was on the verge of pure anger. She placed her hands on his shoulders, feeling them shake heavily, the muscles tensing. Fear shot through Sydney as his breathing harshened, he was using rage as a way to distract himself from grief. Her voice was barely inaudible, 'Please, don't kill her.' But it was too late, Bradley was now standing. His eyes were seething with rage, his dark hair covered the majority of his face, yet his expression was clear as day. He scanned the area, the majority of the guards and fighters were still standing, with minimal injuries, it appeared that no one had been bitten. This piece of good news did not matter to Bradley, so many were still alive and breathed, but it had to be his brother to be killed, and by a human no less. He'd already made the assumption that whoever had taken him those couple days ago was the one that had ended his life. Sydney had a connection to them as well, which set his emotions off even further. Pushing through the crowds, he ignored the zombies that growled, letting someone else kill them, his priority was revenge. His strides were more extended than Sydney, and her injuries were significantly slowing her down. She didn't want to shout, lest to attract more zombies, so she trailed on, trying to catch up with Bradley, but failing. It didn't take him long to find Sarina; she still lay motionless on the ground. The dust had settled all around her, blood absorbing into it. Bradley saw the woman lightly breathing, still alive, still a threat. He whipped his head around to find Sydney panting, his expression deadly. 'Is this her? My brother's killer?' 'Please... Don't kill her in cold blood.' Bradley ignored her. Standing over the unconscious Sarina, 'She killed my brother, this isn't cold blood.' ~ River's legs carried her far, expending all her strength into the dead sprint. Devon's words still circled round in her head like a drumbeat. In some parts he was right, they shouldn't have split up, she wouldn't have the energy to fight Joshua, but she was so close. So desperate to put down the man that haunted her memories and dreams since she met him. Her entire body ached, she'd been running back and forth from the town over and over all in one day, sweat-drenched her pale skin. But ever since she was young, she ran, running was, along with many ways of fighting, was a strong suit of hers. River's height always seemed to contradict this fact, standing at only 5'5, it was surprising to many to see her outrun those far taller than her. But even she had a breaking point. Before she could stop herself, her legs suddenly stopped, bringing her to the ground. River began coughing violently, gasping for air as her legs burned viciously. Her head became foggy, her vision almost blurring. Absently, she slung her pack off her shoulders, shoving her hand into the bag, she pulled out a bottle of water. Greedily, she drank deeply, rehydrating herself and clearing the dull pain in her skull. River bitterly admitted to herself that she wasn't going to make it. She had truly wasted all her energy and now was left collapsed on the ground, accepting her defeat. Both her mind and body were on the brink of shut down, it wasn't wise, but she wanted to slip out of consciousness, just for a little while, River's eyes drooped. 'Tsktsktsk, I don't think so, River.' Instantly, she jerked up. Her disorientation left her completely exposed; she never noticed the horse snuffing at her. River's stomach dropped when she saw its rider. Her fingers dug into the dirt, churning up dust and debris, her emotions entirely taking over her mind and body. All exhaustion seemed to melt away, she stood, albeit a little shaky. Anger creased her brow, turned her mouth into a scowl, rage boiling through her blood. 'Joshua.' ~ Fluer was still sat on the ground in her kitchen, she'd long since stopped shaking, though tears were still drying on her cheeks. Her mind had become clouded with thoughts of death, loneliness and everything she had to experience from such a young age. Fluer was an overthinker, anything that could go wrong would go wrong in her mind. Her attempts at making it better usually were in vain, save for the justice of her adopted sister, but even then, the outcome was adverse. Even so, a significant part of her told Fleur to go and try and do something, so she did. Without another word, she disappeared out the cottage. She instinctively went to lock the door, then remembered the younger girl hiding in her room with a kitchen knife. Fluer silently closed the door, leaving Gabby to her own devices. Unlike before, the town streets were deserted. The only thing Fleur could hear was the deep breeze that shuddered the trees and her heart pounding violently against her ribcage. Clenching her fists, she began moving into the town, trying to find a hint of human life. Her blue hair became tangled with the wind; her dark roots showed from the multiple sea hues. After leaving the adoption system, she dyed it, disguising herself and pretending she wasn't that shy girl. Even though her hair changed, the girl didn't. And now, her true self was pushing through, whether Fleur liked it or not. A sudden flash of brown and electric blue entered her vision. Looking up, Fleur saw a short figure nervously running out of the café. A burst of confidence escaped Fluer; her legs moved before her brain did as she found herself running towards the figure. 'Hey! Wait!' She cried. Turning around, Teddie looked at the blue haired girl sprinting towards them. They tried to remain calm, but since the mayor's odd talk to them, Teddie had been left on edge. Gingerly, they stopped moving, letting the blue haired girl approach. 'Hi...' They said nervously, unsure what situation they were getting into. 'I'm Fleur,' She replied, introducing herself, 'Do you know what's going on?' Teddie blinked, 'What? Is something happening?' Fleur nodded, 'A horde is heading to the to the town.' Their eyes widened, 'Huh!?' 'Come on, let's get out of here, find a place to hide, what's your name?' 'Oh, sure, my name is Teddie Yoav, you can call me Teddie.' Fleur nodded, 'We can stay at my cottage, it's on the outskirts of town, one of the furthest place from the front gates.' ~ 'I thought better of you, River.' Joshua talked, 'Using up all your energy for a fruitless run back? Your companion was right, what was his name? Devon, isn't it? The mayor's son? Raina told me much about the town.' River tried to stand, tried to slash his throat from where he sat atop his horse. But she was too slow, she had fully drained herself, and it seemed Joshua had expected her attack, for he dodged with ease. Instead, he dismounted from his horse, standing above the fallen River. A sneer lifted his lips, framed his face. He was truly enjoying her defeat. 'The town is lost, my dear, there's nothing anyone can do to stop me, not even you.' He continued, 'It's like Leakal all over again, is it not? We'll be the town's lone survivors once more.' 'No, you can't decimate this town!' River yelled. Joshua raised an eyebrow, 'Oh, but I already have.' ~ 'How many more!?' Avery yelled, her fingers aching furiously. 'We've barely gone around the entire town,' Raina cried back, she was shaking uncontrollably. The two sisters and three guards had gone separate ways, hoping to meet back at the first bomb they found. However, switching off the rest of the explosives had become increasingly difficult as Joshua had begun to change his tactic. The other bombs were out of sight, difficult to spot amongst the foliage. They'd switched off at least ten, but neither sisters knew how many would still be left, or how many they may have missed. There were less than five minutes left ticking away on the bombs, ever the cynic, Avery was full of anger, 'We're not going to finish this.' 'Then what can we do? We can't just give up, Av!' Before she could answer, the continuous beeping suddenly stopped. The silence penetrated the two sister's spat, they both looked down at the nearest active detonator's screen. The two girls paled, the numbers ticking down had been a lie. The bombs weren't going off at 0:00. They were going off now. 'RUN!' Avery screamed. All that followed was fire, debris and misery. Spoiler: Chapter 35 'NO!' River yelled. The ground underneath her shook with intensity, already filling the blue sky was black oxygen-consuming smoke. The explosions had reverberated throughout the forested area, anything moving heard it, including the undead. River was now standing, her breathing was still laboured, but her eyes were wide. Joshua was laughing behind her, his voice filled with harsh darkness. River turned to him, holding a knife to his throat once more. 'Why do you enjoy this?' She said breathlessly, 'Why?!' Joshua suddenly stilled, any speck of humour draining from his face, 'It's quite simple,' He said dangerously quiet, 'This is a zombie apocalypse, yet there are still so many humans roaming around. No one can save this world, so why do you try? It's the end of the world; I'm merely hurrying its demise. What are you planning on doing next anyway, River? Kill me and let the town die, or let me go and risk your own death saving those townspeople? Or are you just going to run away, as you always do?' Anger flooded River's veins, instead of replying to his twisted words, she attacked. Her clenched fist made immediate contact with Joshua's nose. He swore loudly as blood gushed down his face, he snarled at her. Wiping the blood off with his sleeve, he pulled out a knife of his own. 'So this is the choice you've made, can't say it's your best decision, just like you trusting me,' He snarled. They were both exceptional fighters, though Joshua towered over River and his wit was far greater than hers. If she were thinking rationally, she would have realised that the odds were stacked against her. Instead, she raised her knife, waiting for a challenge. Joshua attacked then, his arm forming a wide arc as he swooped his knife towards her. River barely dodged it; a small slash licked her cheek. However, it was only a shallow wound. A small smile lifted her lips; You're going to have to do better than that. She thought. But her cockiness was short-lived. Joshua continued attacking, his leg extended, kicking her directly in the chest. She grunted as she skidded into the dirt, dust billowing all around River. Through the cloud of dust, she could see Joshua's smirk. Her expression was dark, standing up, River wiped the dirt from her trousers and tightened the scarf around her neck. 'Let's now actually fight.' River said, unsheathing her katanas. 'I thought you'd never ask.' ~ Both Teddie and Fleur had made it into the cottage when the bombs went off. The entire building shook as they sat in Fleur's tiny dining room. The two of them yelped, as their mugs went crashing to the floor. 'What on earth was that!?' Teddie asked first, horror in their eyes. 'I-I don't know...' Fleur replied, shaking uncontrollably. Before either of them could say anything more, the debris began to fall. Fleur's cottage, Driftwood Vale, stood at the edge of the town. It was, along with a few other cottages, was directly in front of the west walls. They were on the opposite side of where Avery and Raina had found the explosives. Making where they stood the place with the highest concentration of active bombs around them. As the stones of the walls were ripped apart, they were thrown into the air, ready to crash and destroy anything close. Including the Driftwood Vale. Screams filled Fleur's cottage as a large chunk of the roof caved in. Teddie and Fleur were frozen on the spot; it was only when Gabby came tumbling down the stairs did they truly begin to react. The fourteen-year-old was still holding the kitchen knife; dust covered the majority of her blonde hair. Her green eyes were blinking rapidly, and her voice was wheezy. 'The entire building is going to collapse!' The girl gasped out, 'We need to go!' All three began to move, heading towards the front door. The house shook even more as debris continued to rain down, dust scattered onto the floor. A boom thundered through the house, a larger piece of stone suddenly broke through the roof. It crashed down, inches away from Gabby's small frame. Fleur's eyes widened, instinctively, she pushed the younger girl forward, so she missed the stone. It was only then did she realise she was right underneath it. 'FLEUR!' Gabby screamed. Without looking back, Teddie grabbed Gabby dragging her forward to avoid watching. As the two collapsed outside the house, the entire building's structure broke down, leaving only a pile of rubble. Tears filled Gabby's eyes, Teddie had no choice but to console the young girl. Fleur sacrificed herself to save a fourteen-year-old girl she had only known for two days. ~ The horde had been killed. Standing around in small clusters, the remaining guards murmured quietly, taking a small break before heading back to the town. Sydney and Bradley stood at opposite ends of the groups, refusing to look one another in the eye. Sarina's body lay amongst the other guards who had lost their lives. No one had noticed she wasn't a part of Rosewood, only Bradley and Sydney knew. Tears threatened to spill down Sydney's cheeks as the more she stood in silence, the more she realised she didn't belong in the town. She and her sister were the same; they didn't fit in anywhere they went. The small murmurings of the guards were suddenly silenced as the echo of the explosions filled their ears. The large group all looked up at the sky, the dark smoke billowing into the air. They all could tell where it was coming from. Rosewood. In an instant, the group was moving, though not in the orderly fashion that they had when running to the horde. Bradley was still at a loss for words, his confidence and determination of being the group's leader had shattered. The group of fighters scattered, many of them taking off towards the town. Others lagged behind, unsure whether to wait for the rest of the group. Their organisation was gone, everything was in chaos. Angered by it all, Sydney pushed through the crowds, straight towards Bradley. Grabbing her shirt, she shouted at him, 'Go lead them! The town is still in danger! Do your job!' 'My brother's dead!' He yelled back. 'And you killed my sister. Now lead them.' His eyes widened, he hadn't realised what connection Sydney had with Sarina. Only that they both knew each other, he had no words. Her expression was deadly yet full of sorrow, she shoved him backwards, her voice breaking as she spoke. 'Do it for him.' Spoiler: Chapter 36 'We need to get everyone to the town centre! At least there we'll have a chance of surviving,' Avery cried to her sister, Raina, who coughed violently. The sisters had narrowly avoided the detonation of the active bombs that surrounded them. Screams echoed through the town; their side seemed the least affected, which spoke volumes as they were still covered in ash and dust. Civilians flooded out of their homes, fear in their eyes as they ran in different directions. Powdered stone clung to Raina's skin, irritating her remaining eye and suffocating her lungs. All she could do was nod to her sister as her throat burned profusely. Together, the ran further into the town, with Avery shouting loudly. 'GET TO THE MIDDLE OF THE TOWN! BRING WEAPONS.' Eventually, Avery and Raina arrived at the crop-field as they had done only a few days before everything went wrong. Raina's insides twisted as she remembered that night. Following behind the sisters was a large crowd of Rosewood townspeople, the two girls recognised many of the people standing amongst them. Though they could tell, this wasn't the full population of the town. 'There's still people missing, not everyone could have heard us,' Raina rasped out, her throat still caked in dust, 'You need to get the rest of the town here.' Avery nodded and began shouting what Raina had just said. Volunteers agreed to help search for the rest of the population, knives and axes in hand. The small group split up in the town, it was almost deserted now, and those who were still running around were quickly directed to the crop fields. One person Avery had noticed that no one had seen was her father; it seemed he had disappeared yesterday and that no one could locate him. Worry filled her, where could he be? She thought nervously. Running through the town, Avery saw the true damage of the explosives. The guard posts had crumbled completely; the wooden structures were collapsed on what remained of the stone walls. She saw some of the guards helping one another out of the rubble; dread rose up in Avery, already there were so many casualties. And yet, she still hadn't seen the full damage. The walls had been almost completely blown out; the town had lost its primary defence, leaving civilians exposed to the zombies. Avery abruptly stopped running; her heart pounded heavily as she found Gabby and Teddie. The two had fallen on the ground; Gabby was clutched in Teddie's arms, consoling the younger girl. Avery looked up at what lay behind them; the collapsed cottage spoke volumes to her, she already knew what tragedies the two people in front of her had faced. Someone had died due to the cottage collapse; lives were being lost so quickly it made tears well up in Avery's eyes. Gingerly, she made her way towards Teddie and Gabby who were both too absorbed in their emotions to notice her. 'Hey...' She said quietly, unsure what else to say, 'You need to get to the centre of the town, it's safer there.' 'There's nowhere safe in this world!' Gabby suddenly spat, tears flooding down her cheeks, 'This town was meant to be safe and now Fleur's dead!' The fourteen-year-old girl tore herself away from Teddie's arm, pulling out the kitchen knife she still had with her. Before either Teddie or Avery could speak, the girl sprinted away, behind the house and into the woods. Avery's eyes widened, as she tried to stop Gabby. 'WAIT!' She yelled. But it was too late; the small girl had disappeared into the wood, skipping over fallen rubble into the foliage. Defeated, she turned to Teddie, their eyes were dry, yet misery still fell on their face. Quietly, they spoke. 'I-I barely knew either of them, and now they're both gone...' 'Come on, we need to try and stay together,' Avery replied, her voice cracking slightly. Teddie only nodded, and the two quietly made their way back to the crop fields. Having no choice but to leave behind both Gabby and Fleur as they tried to save themselves. ~ Devon had almost reached the gates of Rosewood was the explosives went off. He had decided to travel through the forest, using the dirt roads as a small guide so he could avoid any zombies. His horse spooked at the deafening sound that filled their ears. He barely could calm the horse down, so Devon could only watch as the walls of his town were blown to pieces. He was far enough to avoid any debris flying towards him; his heart sank when the dust cleared. Already, Devon could hear shouts and cries for help, though his horse was frozen on the spot, refusing to move towards danger. Instantly, he dismounted, letting the horse skitter away from the town as he ran straight towards what remained of the gates. 'To the crop-fields! Get to the crop-fields!' Many of the shouts were commands to head to the centre of the town as Devon hurtled past the gates of Rosewood. Looking around, he saw fallen guards, including many unconscious members. He instantly ran to them, pushing back rocks and wood off of those awake, all the guards had been on their guard posts, watching over the town and what lay outside of it as they always did. The detonations had sent them scattering, though many seemed to have survived the fall, a fact that Devon was thankful for. 'Come on,' He said to those now standing, 'Get as many people as you can out of here, even those unconscious!' The guards nodded, helping one another up and moving. Devon himself was supporting one of the guards, whose leg was broken. The two limped towards the crop-fields, sweat coating his back. Devon knew that the complete exposure of the town would be a perfect trap, the explosions had been deafening, and he knew that they were running out of time. Sooner or later, the town would be swarmed entirely with the undead. Arriving at the crop-fields, he saw the vast majority of the town. He sometimes forgot just how many people resided in Rosewood, they all held their various weapons, they too were waiting for a fight. He saw children, huddled behind the legs of adults, saw the injured on the ground, completely out of commission and the elders of the town, who had no chance of fighting. Devon realised they needed to be out of the way before blood would be spilt. 'HEY! EVERYONE!' Devon yelled, bringing the town's attention to him, 'We need a safe place for the children, for the elderly and the injured. We need doctors.' He scanned the area, finding the town hall, 'Get them into the hall! It's large enough to hold them; we need people to guard the building as well. The rest of us, we will be fighting. An unknown amount of zombies will be getting here; we'll need to cut them down, like the beginnings of Rosewood, we need to bring the walls up once more!' The town cheered in approval of his message, although his job was merely a guard, his personality fit as a leader. Instantly, everyone began moving; volunteers agreed to stay in the town hall while scouts started to organise bricking up the walls. Devon knew the process would be time-consuming, it could possibly take weeks before Rosewood reverted to normal. But he knew that town would survive; no one was inclined to giving up. Deep down, they were all survivors. 'Devon!' His attention jerked to the seventeen-year-old running towards him; Devon braced himself as his sister hugged him tightly. Raina held onto her brother, tears already filling her eye. They'd only seen each other for a few seconds on the dirt roads and hadn't been able to speak to him. She had feared the worst for he and River had decided to face alone a horde of zombies. 'Are you all right?' She asked, 'Is everyone okay? River? Knox?' His face suddenly fell, 'Knox... He's... He's gone, Raina,' Devon murmured, 'And River... She should have gotten here before me... Right?' Raina's expression changed completely, from a sad joy to misery, 'Gone? No, no, he should have left with me! No...' She hugged Devon again, burying her face into his shoulder, 'River isn't here, either...' 'Then... Then, where is she?' Spoiler: Chapter 37 'Give it up, River,' Joshua hissed, wiping blood off of his cheek, 'You're no match to me.' She shook her head, dark hair flying around, 'I can't say that's true,' She replied simply. 'Oh, really? I clearly have the upper hand, seeing as I know your weakness, while you don't know mine.' River's expression remained neutral, yet inside she was frozen. She had forgotten she had revealed all her secrets to him, hidden under her hair, was her weak spot. A thick vein that transferred the blood from River's body to her brain was her only vulnerability. Joshua had used this weakness before, bringing her to her knees and allowing him to escape. He had left her alive that time, knowing she'd come after him. But Joshua had finished his task; he'd destroyed Leakal and Freen. And that now Rosewood was on its way to collapse, he had nowhere else to infiltrate and ruin. So, to him, River was no longer needed alive. And Joshua had an easy route to killing her off. Joshua moved forwards, his long legs cutting the distance between the two instantly. Instead of a blade reaching for her, his outstretched arm came forward to grab her. River's legs reacted before her mind as she bent away from his grasp. As she moved back, his hand grabbed what he truly wanted, her scarf. Ever since she had gotten it, River had always worn the green scarf, wrapped around her neck it covered her weak point. It was also a gift from Joshua, now a constant reminder of what he had done. With her throat bare, the hairs on the back of her neck lifted, he was ready to destroy her from the inside. A new mantra, a new tactic was running through her mind, run away, get away, you can't fight him. It was true; River couldn't possibly beat the man who had destroyed three settlements and knew everything about her. Not alone at least, she needed other fighters, where they would overpower Joshua through numbers and not skill. But she knew that would be impossible, if she were to run, he would surely follow, especially with his horse. They'd end up in the town again, where he would help destroy it even further. River had no choice but to try and kill him now or die trying. She swung her katanas in the air, letting the scarf drop to the ground. She had no time to waste, the longer she took, the more time he'd have to take her down first. River sliced the blades in the air, making Joshua draw back from her. His distance didn't last long as he lunged at her, knife raised. He slashed forwards, the end of the blade nicking her chest while his raised fist connected with River's face. She grunted loudly as blood gushed from her nose, she collapsed to the ground, skidding into the dirt. Instantly she began shuffling backwards to avoid him grabbing hold of her. Even so, River just wasn't fast enough as he paced angrily after her. Joshua slammed his foot onto her chest, knocking the wind out of her, breathless; he used this opportunity to grab her throat, picking her up from the ground and holding her in the air. River struggled relentlessly as his fingers inched closer and closer to the bluish vein that pulsed crazily. 'As I said, you're no match to me.' Joshua grinned evilly. 'I never thought you were that evil,' She gasped out, 'Even after you destroyed Leakal, I still thought there would be a shred of decency within you, even now, with us both screaming for blood, I still believed you were striving for good.' Her words made him falter, his grip on her neck slightly loosened. River didn't even react, only looking at him with sad eyes. However, Joshua's bewilderment didn't last long; seething anger quickly replaced it as he tightened his fist around her throat. Her breath caught, she could hardly breathe as his fingers snaked across her skin, brushing against the vein. Instantly, pain flared up in River's body; her vision tripled as he pushed down harder. She began to lose consciousness within seconds, becoming limp in Joshua's arms. With her unconscious, Joshua dropped River to the ground, letting her breathing return to normal. He sheathed his blades and mounted his horse. Without another look back, Joshua cantered away, leaving nature to decide her fate. There were in an apocalypse; he could let the zombies kill her instead. Joshua had had enough with playing god for the day. ~ 'Everyone listen up!' Bradley shouted to the guards, 'What we can assume from the blasts is that the town is in danger. I know we just fought a horde, but we now need to make the march back and prepare for the worst. With me!' And so the marching began once more. Though this time significantly slower, the guards were lagging behind. It did seem improbable that they could fight whoever had set the bombs right after destroying a horde. The guards had to leave behind the bodies of fallen fighters, there was a sombre mood in the air, beforehand the horde, they were filled with confidence and willingness to fight. Now, they could barely run at a decent enough speed to get to the town. And as the guards began to notice, they weren't the only ones who had heard the explosions. More and more zombies cropped up on the dirt roads, appearing from the dense forest out of nowhere. The guards were slowing down even more as they fought the zombies that started to make their way to Rosewood. 'We're not going to make it!' Sydney yelled. 'We have to! The town's in danger.' Bradley seethed back. 'We're in danger; we don't have the energy to run and fight! Bradley had to begrudgingly agree, 'Take out these zombies! Limit the amount that gets to the town, for now, the people of Rosewood are on their own.' ~ Avery and Teddie rushed to the crop-fields, a small group of civilians also in tow. Shouting could be heard from all around; the two noticed children being picked up and carried further into the town. Avery watched as this small portion disappeared into the town hall. Running forward, she asked anyone who would listen what was happening. 'The children are being put in a safe place, zombies are coming to the town, and we're all pulling together to kill them.' Teddie blanched, they hadn't ever been one for fighting. They had pretty much avoided killing any zombies throughout the apocalypse, they simply avoided the fights and stuck close to those who could kill. 'I-I can't fight, who is staying with the kids?' They asked, their face pale. Avery nodded, 'You can stay in the town hall; also, I take the injured are also there?' With this information, Teddie headed towards the town hall, assisting with bringing one of the unconscious guards into the building as well. True chaos was going to begin, yet everyone was ready for it. Avery watched the ten men, and women stood outside of the town hall, shotguns, kitchen knives and swords raised, the scouting groups disappearing further into the town, hoping to block up any of the gaps in the walls. She had been young, but Avery still remembered the reinforcing and organisation that went into fortifying Rosewood when her father took over. It had been a long process, but she knew this would be a lot worse. Dread filled her stomach; death was coming. 'Av!' Her two siblings instantly crushed Avery, Devon and Raina grabbed their youngest sister, holding her tight. The three of them hadn't been together for so long; she'd almost forgotten about her family. Avery realised that they'd all faced their own tragedies and that if they had all stuck together, maybe they wouldn't have to deal with so many. Tears stung at the three siblings' eyes, as they held onto one another. 'You two need to get to the town hall, now,' Devon ordered, his leadership qualities flooding in, 'Neither of you can fight.' 'I sure as hell can!' Avery seethed, 'This isn't going to be a short battle, I can pull my own weight as well.' 'Av, you're sixteen! Children go to the town hall; you still count as a child, both of you do.' 'I refuse to stay holed up in a building while people of this town die because you won't let me fight!' Avery yelled back. 'Maybe he's right,' Raina murmured, 'We're still in an apocalypse, Avery.' 'You think I haven't noticed? That's exactly the reason why I should fight; we need the numbers, you're playing soft because I'm your sister!' 'We both thought Raina had died, Avery! Think what would happen if you actually died. We've already lost mother; no one knows where our father is, I don't want to lose either of my sisters, not again.' Devon said sadly. 'Then what about you? Why can you fight but we can't? We can't lose you as well! We're siblings, and siblings stick together, right?' Avery replied. 'Both of you stop bickering! Maybe you can both fight, I'm in no state to, I can quieten the children and stay out of the way, but if you two would stop fighting one another then you could stand a chance against zombies.' Raina burst in, a small smile on her face. 'Is that a deal?' Avery asked, eyes eager with ferocious delight, 'We both fight?' Devon sighed, 'I guess so, but you're staying close to me.' Before either of his sisters could reply, the shouting of the townspeople suddenly silenced. Looking up, they saw what had replaced the human's noisy work. Sprinting towards them were several of the scouts who had disappeared further into the town, behind them, hungry zombies foaming at the mouth came hurtling after them. Devon instantly began moving, grabbing Raina and pushing her through the crowds towards the town hall. Panic bubbled through the air as everyone watched in horror as the scouts ran for their lives. That's when the shooting began. Those of the townspeople who had guns began blasting the zombies to pieces. Some of the fighters had silencers while others did not. It didn't matter too much either way as the entire town became increasingly louder by the second as the two groups of the living and the undead was inches apart. Avery stood amongst the other fighters; her two blades were drawn. Devon rushed towards her, Raina was safely hidden in the town hall, with his rifle aimed at the new horde. 'Round 2, I suppose.' Spoiler: Epilogue It took two weeks before the town had a shred of normalcy. The townspeople of Rosewood spent almost twenty-four hours fighting alone; the zombies came in successions, a pattern that was there before the destruction of the walls. The guards that remained at the appearance of the horde gave details of when the next attacks would be. Those who had fought the horde returned battered and bruised from their onslaught of battles; more fighters had lost their lives in the second attack as they returned to the town. Their attacks had become slower, bringing up the list of casualties by the dozen. If it were not for Bradley and his constant shouts of encouragement, many more lives would have been taken. There were around one hundred men, women and all those in between who left the town to take down the horde. The returning number was at least sixty. The population of Rosewood was never set, new people came all the time, and many left. But the averaging amount of members living in the town at the time of the explosions was around 500 people. In total, that number was slashed in half. Many people escaped the town as soon as they could, deciding to hit the road and head to a further, safer and more technologically advanced settlement. Teddie kept a record of those who left; they couldn't bear those two weeks of hell, so they tried to distract themselves with statistics and the children who nervously followed them around. Altogether, Teddie found that over 150 decided to abandon Rosewood and let the town fend for itself. The other one hundred members succumbed to their injuries, many of the defensive guards were seriously injured from the explosions. Brave civilians lost their lives fighting the zombies that appeared in the town, in attempts to save lives, those who had been bitten had limbs amputated, to stop the zombie virus. One of those who agreed to have his leg removed was Devon. While shooting down zombies from afar, he never noticed one creep up behind him. It instantly bit his right leg, sending nauseous pain through his body. As he had passed out, he remembered shouting, 'CUT IT OFF', before losing consciousness. By the time he awoke, his right foot up to his knee was gone. Both Avery and Raina survived as well; the two sisters retreated into one of the houses in the centre of the town to look after their older brother. Avery helped where she could, assisting in scouting missions and also safely sending people out of the town who decided to leave. One of the most significant tasks in restoring the town was bringing the walls of Rosewood back up. Retrieving the supplies wasn't too complicated, they had their own reserve of stones in case patches of the wall were worn away. Though the town mostly depended on the trade lines of their area, there was a settlement that resided by an old quarry, it was around twenty-five miles away from Rosewood, but over the two week period, they managed to make a deal with the small settlement. What proved most difficult was the building, it was difficult to bring the walls up with zombies being able to enter from every angle. The townspeople managed to devise a plan in which they tried to make as much noise as possible to distract the zombies and deter them away from one half of the town while the walls were brought back up. Raina also helped with the plan, telling the townspeople of the country houses that lay further in the forest, it became a hotspot for zombies as a tolling bell drew them to the buildings every day. When Bradley and his army of survivors arrived, the fighting tactics began to change. When Devon began to recover, he and Bradley started to sort out the plans of reconstructing the town. They were the ones who began to crack down on rebuilding and restoring the town to its full glory. They both knew Rosewood could not remain a battleground of humans and zombies. It was also the last time either of the men fought in the battles, Devon could never stand again, and too many bad memories scarred Bradley's fractured mind. Instead, scouts were sent out, the bell was transported to the country house, and the survivors of the first horde fought the new horde with vigour and relentless fire. Sydney was one of these fighters; she had survived everything, she had also volunteered to bring back the bodies of those who had died on the dirt roads, including her sister, Sarina. But soon after the town regained a semblance of normalcy, Sydney left. She was one of the last members to depart from the town, though her reason was far different from those who had already gone. Quite simply, Sydney could not stand living in the same town as her sister's killer. But, to her, Rosewood was a place of destruction, and now she knew she would never truly belong. All that remained was the body count. On the first day of the restored walls, a funeral was held for all of those who no longer stood amongst them. Even those whose remains were never found had graves, including the original mayor of the town. Gerald Beauregard had simply disappeared before the detonation of the explosives. No one knew where he went, nor did many care, some townspeople blamed him for not keeping the town safe. It was only his children who truly were affected, though they banded together, all three of them agreeing to take over their father's position as leader of the town. More members remained missing, the young girl, Gabby had become lost in the woods, and she had never been found again. Not many knew who she was, with only Teddie and Avery remembering the fourteen-year-old that screamed as another had sacrificed themselves. Fluer was hailed a hero for her bravery, both Teddie and Avery had spread her story like wildfire through the town, neither wanted her death to be in vain nor be forgotten. Knox was also portrayed as a hero, Raina told the full story about her contribution to the town's destruction. She told everyone at the mass funeral how Knox had defended her and how she regretted ever falling for Joshua. The only person who was almost left unaccounted for was River. The volunteers who had gone to retrieve the bodies of the fallen fighters also found her when returning to Rosewood. Even when Bradley and his survivors had headed back to the town, they missed her. River remained unconscious for almost twelve hours, when she did come around, her injuries had been bandaged up back in the town. When she woke, her mind was blank; it took a couple of days before her fight with Joshua came back to her in bits and pieces. Tears welled up in her dark eyes at the thought of him, he was so close to killing her, yet seemed to refuse to end her life at the last minute personally. River knew he was long gone, and she agreed with the Beauregard siblings that she wouldn't go searching for him again any time soon. After she recovered, she remained in the town, acting as the deputy-head guard, with Bradley as the leader. All the members of the town had taken a hit, but now, they were coming back even stronger. Even with the zombies among the humans, Rosewood refused to back down. The town and its people will always remain.