Chapter Ninety-Nine: ‘The Siege of Rheinhal...’

Dunstan Rofal was not enjoying his new position very much, even if it was technically a promotion. All in all, the Rainlords hadn’t pressed their assault very hard, but every time they did, he ended up directly in their line of fire thanks to his station in the southwestern tower. A week ago, Rhein’s Keep boasted four towers, but the two easterly ones had since been knocked down.


A host of Vanguardian servants protected his tower from the outside, but only Dunstan had the privilege of occupying the tiny Watcher’s Nest at its peak. There simply wasn’t space for another person, especially not with this beastly swivel-mounted .50 caliber HMG in the middle of the chamber. It had an ammo feed up through the floor, which one of Dunstan’s comrades attended to.


For the most part, though, he didn’t get to use the gun. His primary job was simply to keep watch, as per usual, and when enemies came within firing range, they were typically repelled by someone else--often Cpt. General Miles. And so, whenever Dunstan DID get to use the gun, it naturally meant that he was in imminent danger of being obliterated along with the entire watchtower.


And that was not a very pleasant working environment.


As a measure of caution, Rezamaar did not occupy the watchtower with him. Dunstan didn’t like being separated from her, but there was nothing for it. Though, if being separated had meant that he could no longer hear her talk, then he might have liked it very much.


Hey, Dunstan,’ she said from wherever she was inside the Keep.




I’m bored.


That’s too bad.’ Dunstan occupied his eyes with his binoculars. Nothing moved among the ritzy hotels and empty streets below. It had been a few hours since he last saw a Rainlord. Usually, they sent someone to harass his tower at least once an hour.


Most likely, this was a deliberate tactic meant to make him and his comrades lose concentration with a suddenly longer period of downtime. It wasn’t going to work. Not on Dunstan, anyway. Perhaps the Rainlords would have better luck after his shift was over.


Wanna know what I think?’ said Rezamaar.


Not really.


I think this whole business of throwing in with the Vanguard has blown up in your stupid little face.


Thank you for that tremendous insight.


Four years, you let them train you. And now they’ve involved us in this crap. I don’t know what’s going through their fat heads, but I don’t think this is the sort of thing you imagined us doing when you told me we should join.


She wasn’t wrong. Dunstan hadn’t left home to become a pawn in someone else’s war game. He’d left in order to finally do something positive with his life. And to get away from his family. ‘...True, it is difficult to be completely onboard with the abduction of children.


Oh. Yeah. That’s. Whatever. Listen, what I don’t like is having to go up against the goddamnn Redwaters. Or the Merlos. Or the Sebolts. Or just any of the Rainlords, really. These aren’t the type of people we should be fucking around with, regardless of what Lawrence or Miles or any of your other idiot bosses tell you.


They’re your bosses, too, Reza.’


Yeah, sure they are.


Needless to say, she had never quite embraced the ways of the Vanguard like Dunstan had. She could be very convincing with her feigned loyalty when she needed to be, but she certainly didn’t have any reservations about telling Dunstan what she truly thought. Ever since they’d joined, it was like being followed around by some kind of automated complaint dispenser.


Dunstan hoped the conversation would die there so that he could return to watching in peace, but it seemed he was destined for disappointment.


This is so stupid,’ she went on. ‘What is even the point of capturing these Rainlord children, huh? I’ve been asking all around, but no one fucking knows. Or they’re just not telling me. Pricks.


Rumor is, the Elroys are Abolish spies.


I don’t give a shit! Let them be spies! You don’t screw with the Rainlords unless you have a damn good plan! And that twat Miles obviously doesn’t!


Technically, it was Lawrence who ordered their capture.




If they really are feeding intel to our enemies, then we cannot simply allow them to continue.


Sure we can.




Fine, then we could feed them false intel and try to lure Abolish into a trap. That’d be the smart thing to do.


Again, she wasn’t wrong. It was hard to imagine how the handling of this conflict could be anything but foolish and clumsy. If there really was some kind of greater plan at work, he couldn’t see it.


Maybe we should have joined Abolish instead,’ said Rezamaar.


Be serious.


I’m sure they aren’t all crazy assholes. It’d just be a matter of finding the right faction.


Abolish commits genocide, Reza.


Well, yes, that is a problem.


Even if certain factions were not physically involved, they are still guilty by association.


Bit harsh. People make mistakes, you know.


Genocide is more than just a mistake.


Oh, I don’t know. Sometimes, you trip over a loose rock and accidentally stab a thousand people in the face. It’s important to look at the bigger picture, Dunstan.


Your wisdom continues to astound me.


The Vanguard has never been very good with the big picture. They’ve always been too busy winning battles to realize that they’re losing wars. They could probably learn a few things from Abolish. Or maybe Sai-hee.


If that’s really how you feel, then why did you even agree to join the Vanguard with me in the first place?


Because that was when you were all passionate and adorable about everything. I couldn’t tell you no. But now that you’re a turgid old curmudgeon, I can.


You’re talking about four years ago.


Yes, and you’ve aged like a beautiful oak tree that caught fire, fell into a river, and then got pulled along by a current into an illegal dump site for toxic chemicals.


You’re a true poet, Reza.


Really?’ said Rezamaar. ‘Nothing? I wish you would at least pretend to be upset at me for a change.


Sorry. Though, you’ll have to let the aging thing go sooner or later. I know you wanted me to stay a teenager forever, but I--


That’s not what this is about!


Sure it isn’t.


Dunstan, I am so tired of your lip.


Are you, though?


Yes, I am! Agh! Don’t test me! I will release your soul in a heartbeat!


Well, if you’re gonna do it, then you’re gonna do it.


What the fuck do I have to say for you to get angry?! It’s really creepy the way you never get mad, you know! I basically called you a fucking swamp monster, and you don’t even care!


I can’t help it if you’re into little boys, Reza.


I’m not into little boys!


Aren’t you, though?


I’m into young men!


Are you, though?


And it’s not a sexual thing! It’s purely platonic!


Is it, though?


Shut the fuck up!




A long beat passed.


I just find them adorable,’ said Reza. ‘Like teddy bears and puppies. Reapers don’t even have sexual urges, you son of a bitch.


No judgment here. You’re free to lust disgustingly over whomever you like.


God, I hate you so much, Dunstan.


Then I guess I am not long for this world.


Reza just growled at him. For all her talk, Dunstan knew she wouldn’t really do it. But even if she did, he honestly wasn’t too concerned. He hardly considered himself alive, anyway. This was all just borrowed time, and it wasn’t like anyone would miss him.


You really need to make some friends,’ said Reza. ‘This is getting pathetic.


If you say so.


How about the Elroy boy? He seemed nice. Well, not nice, but loyal. Well, not loyal to us, but to his family.


He is also a frozen head, at the moment.


Yeah, but Dennex isn’t.




His reaper. He and I have been talking. Dennex is cool.


Could you please not fraternize with the enemy when I’m not around?


I told you I was bored.


If the wrong person overheard the two of you talking, it could come back to bite us.


Please. I’m more careful than that.


Mm. Did Dennex tell you anything useful?


Well, he didn’t admit to being an Abolish spy, if that’s what you’re getting at. But I have a sneaking suspicion that a spy might be reluctant to reveal that sort of thing.


Then what did you talk about?’ said Dunstan.


Mostly, Dennex has been trying to pump me for information. And he’s pretty clever about it, too. I almost told him all sorts of juicy things.




All in all, he seems like a bit of a stiff, but he’s still way better company than the rest of the reapers around here. Except maybe Overra. But I only got to talk to her a couple times. She’s always busy with Miles.


I thought you hated those two.


Oh, I do. But Overra is a hell of a conversationalist. She’s got a ton of ridiculous stories. Says she knows Tenebrach pretty well, and I believe her. And she’s met most of the strongest Abolishers in battle, too. She and Miles were there at the Battle of Lac’Vayce a few years ago.


Wasn’t that the one where nearly a million people were killed?


Yeah. Lamont and Jackson against Jercash, Ivan, and Gunther. The fight leveled the entire city and completely wrecked the local ecosystem. And Lamont and Jackson almost lost. Barely managed to hold on until Sermung arrived and bailed them out. And Overra was THERE. Can you imagine?


...Yes, I can. Quite easily.


Oh. Well, I suppose this battle is somewhat comparable, but it’s hardly the same scale. Five of the strongest servants in the world all duking it out in one place. Overra said Lac’Vayce won’t be habitable again for hundreds of years. They basically made a mini version of the Dáinnbolg all by themselves.


He didn’t much care for the way she talked about it as if they’d broken some kind of baseball record, but something caught his eye before he could tell her so.


A figure darted out from behind a building, only visible in the split second it took to reach a line of bushes.


He had a choice between two covered buttons on the arm of his chair. One was for the silent alarm, and the other was for the old analogue bell that would alert the entire compound. He lifted the cover and chose the silent alarm.


Without his binoculars, he surveyed the whole network of streets below, looking for any movement at all.


No more than a minute later, however, Cpt. General Miles appeared right outside the Nest, buffeting its bulletproof glass with a sudden flourish of wind. Overra melted out of the man’s body, and Miles gave Dunstan an unworried smile. “What did you see, Corporal?”


How strange it was, looking at this man and seeing someone only slightly his elder. By appearance alone, Parson Miles could have quite easily passed for Dunstan’s brother. Dunstan could almost forget that he was staring at one of the most powerful Vanguardians alive today. But perhaps that was the whole point.


“Only one person, sir,” he said, swinging his chair around to point Miles in the proper direction. “Third street over on your right, behind the bushes, sir.”


He’s right,’ said Overra. ‘From here, I can sense someone there.


Miles fished a pair of compact binoculars out of his coat and gave a look. “Hmm. Can’t see ‘em. Let’s wait ‘till they come a little closer, shall we?”


“Yes, sir.” And he realized that Reza was still blabbering on about one thing or another, so he interrupted and said, ‘Can’t talk right now, Reza.’




He fixated upon the location of the figure he’d seen with his binoculars. A thick silence fell as they waited, but Dunstan had recently come to learn that the Cpt. General didn’t much care for peace and quiet, and indeed, the man soon broke it.


“...So how are you doin’ up here?”


“Fine, sir.”


“Tedious work, isn’t it? I was a watchman myself once, you know. Surprisingly little has changed about the job. With how quickly tech develops, you’d think it’d be completely different by now.” He knocked a finger against the clear wall. “Armoring has gotten a bit better, I suppose.”


Dunstan wasn’t sure how to respond, so he just said, “Yes, sir.”


For some reason, that seemed to amuse the man. “Do you consider yourself a company man, Corporal?”




“A company man. A believer in the system. In the Vanguard’s mission to provide protection and justice.”


“Yes, sir. Of course.”


“Good. That’s good. That’ll take you far.” A beat passed. “What about your family? How do they feel about the Vanguard?”


Dunstan hesitated. “...I’ve never told them about it.”


“Ah, so they’re just nice and normal folk?”


“Yes, sir. Though, I wouldn’t call them nice, exactly.”


“Mm. What is it that they think you do, then?”


“I... don’t know.” He blinked. He hadn’t meant to say that. He’d meant to tell some insignificant lie. That was what he usually did when someone asked him about his family.


“You don’t know?” said Miles. “How can you not know?”


Dunstan shifted in his seat. He wasn’t sure how they’d ended up on this topic all of a sudden. He never liked talking about his family, even with Reza. “The truth is, sir... I ran away from home when I was fifteen.”


“I see. And why did you run away?”


He hesitated again, impulsively pulling his eyes away from the battlefield in order to glance at Miles. A mistake, Dunstan immediately knew. Miles didn’t seem to notice or care, but Dunstan was kicking himself for his unprofessionalism as he refocused on observing.


It was odd, though. Like a faint pressure in his chest. And around his head. His whole body, even. And as much as he would have preferred not to answer that question, remaining silent seemed somehow untenable, nor could he come up with an appropriate lie in time. “My family is full of criminals. If I didn’t leave, I probably would’ve ended up like them.”


“And your reaper didn’t have a problem with that?”


“I didn’t meet her until I was seventeen. She doesn’t have any ties to my family. I doubt they even know reapers exist.”


“I wouldn’t be too certain of that.”


Dunstan’s gaze flickered again, and he had to concentrate in order to keep his eyes where they needed to be. “What do you mean, sir?”


But instead of answering, Cpt. General Miles chose to ask a different question. “Where was your family living when you left?”


And there it was again--that unexplained pressure, pushing him onward, compelling him to speak. “Dante. I think we had some cousins in Atreya, too. Why?”


“What is your grandfather’s name?”


“Damian. Why, sir?”


“Ha. No reason.”


“Sir, please stop being so mysterious. Do you know my grandfather?”


“I don’t know anyone named Damian Rofal, no.”




“But you do remind me of someone I once knew. You have the same eyebrows he had.”


Same eyes, chin, and hair color, too,’ added Overra.


“It’s really the eyebrows, though,” said Miles. “Very distinctive, those things. You could probably pull them off your face and use them as weapons.”


They’re like angry boomerangs,’ said Overra.


Dunstan tried to take that as a compliment. “Apart from his name, I don’t remember much else about my grandfather. He only visited a few times when I was a child. I don’t think he got along well with my parents.”


“Ah, so you’ve actually met your grandfather in person?” asked Miles.


“Yes, sir.”


“Must be a different guy, then. The man I’m thinking of died about forty years ago.”


Unless he somehow survived,’ amended Overra.


Miles laughed lowly. “That would be awkward, wouldn’t it?”


Dunstan was curious now. “Who was the man you were thinking of?”


The Cpt. General took a second to respond. “He was a lunatic. The kind of person that the world is better off without.”


The abrupt severity in the other man’s voice did not escape Dunstan’s notice. “What was his name?” Dunstan asked.


“It’s not important. Best to just forget about people like that.”


Dunstan sensed something contradictory in that statement, but he decided to keep his mouth shut. Miles acted like the most laid back boss in the world, but the fact remained that Dunstan didn’t know the man very well. He’d rather not get on his superior’s bad side by asking too many questions.


Finally, something new caught his eye. Another figure darted across the street in the same location as earlier. Dunstan raised his binoculars in time to see it happen a third time.


“You see that?”


“Yes, sir.”


They waited, but there was no other movement.


Such was the thrill of being a watchman.


Personally, Dunstan didn’t mind the long periods of nothingness. Coping with tense downtime was a skill, like anything else. The trick was to think without getting lost in thought, to wonder without daydreaming.


And in spite of the man’s earlier claim, Dunstan could not imagine Cpt. General Miles doing this job. And this notion was soon reaffirmed for him.


“They could be luring us into a trap.” Miles allowed a beat to pass. “I’ll go check.”


Overra melted back into his body, and then Parson leapt away in a gust of wind that made the armored walls shudder.


Dunstan could see the man going to work, tearing through the air like a missile and falling upon the enemy’s location with just as much force. An explosion of air crushed four buildings at once and flung their remains up from the ground. Broken trees and vehicles and slabs of concrete tumbled down the road together, and Miles just hovered there in the middle of it all, waiting.


After a weighty pause, the storm hit him. Crowds of metal spikes, audible gunfire, visible distortions in space even from this distance, and all manner of flaming chaos came for the man at the same time.


Miles zipped away from most of the assault, endured the rest, and counterattacked with a storm of his own. The resultant explosion made the ground tremble even from this distance, and a thin tornado swirled into existence around Miles, ripping up more of the city.


Dunstan could not keep watching, however. He had to keep an eye on the rest of the battlefield. If the clash with Miles was somehow a diversionary tactic, then Dunstan would not allow it to work. But his caution proved needless, as he didn’t see any other disturbances.


Then the analogue bell inside the Keep went off.


Dunstan held his position, knowing it was not his job to deal with whatever the problem was. He did, however, ask Reza for an update. ‘What’s happening?


Shut up, I’m looking into it.’


And again, he found himself waiting.


Cpt. General Miles got back to Dunstan before Reza did, arriving inside another rumbling gale. The man’s shredded clothes barely clung to his body now, and his airman’s overcoat was still smoldering with blackened stains. “Yep,” he said in the dual voice of pan-rozum. “That was definitely a trap.”


Dunstan’s brow receded. “A-are you alright, sir?”


“Oh, sure, don’t worry about us. We could really go for an ice cream sandwich, though. Think we’ll go get one from the kitchen. You want anything?”


“Er, n-no thank you.”


“You sure? Not even a drink? A bag of chips? One of those giant pretzels, maybe? Do we have those things?”


“Sir, the emergency alarm is going off.”


“Ah. So it is. Guess we’ll look into that, afterward.” He allowed a beat to pass. “So did you want a snack or...?”


“No, sir, I’m fine.”


Miles stared at him. “...We’ll get you something, anyway.” And he was gone again, leaving his residual gust of wind behind as usual.


Dunstan wasn’t sure whether to be impressed or worried. When he looked back at the enemy’s location, he saw a street riddled with blood and body parts.


Well,’ came Rezamaar’s voice, ‘I found out what all the commotion is about.


Tell me.


Someone managed to break into the freezer and destroy one of the captive Rainlords’ heads.


Dunstan’s eyes widened. ‘Which one?


I’m listening for that answer now. Sounds like... oh shit. It was Zeff. They fucking freed Zeff Elroy.


Support "The Zombie Knight Saga"

About the author

George M. Frost


Log in to comment
Log In

13lack12ose ago

Thank you for the chapter Mr Frost!

Chabu ago

Ohoho you done fucked up now, Zeff is going to be PISSED.

Nakkus ago

Thanks for the chapter!

A black sheep of the Rofal family. :D

Jack Blank ago

Even if certain factions were not physically involved, they are still guilty by association.

Bit harsh. People make mistakes, you know.

Genocide is more than just a mistake.

Oh, I don’t know. Sometimes, you trip over a loose rock and accidentally stab a thousand people in the face. It’s important to look at the bigger vote, Dunstan.

Your wisdom continues to astound me.

Log in to comment
Log In