Prologue: Aggresive negotiations
The room was in chaos. Arguments spread like brushfire, with raised voices creating a bizarre chorus. Some conversations sounded like rumbling thunderstorms wrestling, while others were akin to intense exchanges of gunfire. All together created something akin to art. Director Nathan couldn't help to smile, despite his mounting frustration. He had known all along that calling a meeting of this kind would result in a storm of feuds being brought to the surface. “At least they aren't shooting each other” he smirked. It all strangely resembled how humanity really is: divided and afraid. Nathan reached for his hammer on the table. His people, the Privations, had survived the Sundering, now 20 years ago. The Immortality Drug was intended to give eternal life to mankind. What it did instead was give an eternal scar on the psyche of every man and woman. Zombies had been a part of folklore and horror movies, but they were real this time. Nathan grasped his hammer tightly and studied the notches and blemishes on the weapon. The zombies, the Infected, quickly overwhelmed the cities. They were hard to kill and while the military kept them at bay for a while, they too succumbed. Now the survivors must make due with simple weapons and guns. To make matters worse, survivors banded together and formed several clans and affiliations. Humanity was divided once again. But today, that would change.CLANG.
Several of the closest delegates startled at the sound, sending questioning looks towards the main desk. CLANG.
More delegates seized their discussions. CLANG. CLANG. CLANG
. It took several more swings to get everyone to quiet down, but silence did reign supreme at the end. Nathan put his hammer aside, slowly, deliberately. It was an act and he knew it, but one he had to play.
“Honoured representatives, while I encourage debate, senseless shouting will not get us anywhere. We must not lose track of what we are trying to achieve here. The founding of this central settlement will be the first step on our road towards retaking this world.”
There came a grunt from his right. Blair, the Warlord leader, was an impressive man. Tall and muscular, he dominated everyone in the room, both physically as emotionally. It took all your willpower to stare into his one remaining eye, let alone do that when standing right in front of him. “I agree. Talk will not get us anywhere. Witty remarks and fine speech won't stop the Infected from eating you and using your bones as a toothpick. I have fought long and hard in order to rid the pests from my lands, a fight done without the pleasantries of high society. We should go forth, take the land away from the Mutants, with a roaring gun in our hands.” His aides cheered at the bravado. Nathan wasn't surprised that Blair preached the aggressive way. The Warlords as a whole were known for their agression. And their pride.
“I respectfully disagree.” The whooping died away instantly. At the left side, another delegate rose. Covered in colourful robes and hoods, Mistress Helena also proved an imposing sight. But while the Warlord ruled by strength, Helena ruled by using intelligence. She was one of the Enlightened, preservers of what remained after the Great Sundering. They guarded both human life and nature. The future generations needed both to be alive and actually have something to return to once the Infected had been extinguished. “While the Lost indeed are a potent threat to the Human race, one would be wise to think before he acts. Rash decisions will only lead to loss and strengthen the hand of the Enemy. We must be cautious and preserve all our resources, both intelligent and sentient. The gun might indeed be the solution, the bullets for its righteous task do not grow on trees. Planning will prevail.”
Blair laughed loudly. “You and your damn trees. Who cares if we have to destroy a few forests here and there in order to win? Why should we be so hesitant to spend the resources we have? You cannot win a war using sticks and stones from afar. A man with a gun and enough bullets can easily match the Infected.” Helena replied coldly: “I had expected nothing else from a man who uses his followers like his bullets: the more you throw at the Wicked, the merrier.” This caused Blair to spring to his feet and point an accusing finger at the Enlightened delegates. “At least I'm not afraid to fight the Mutants. I'm not afraid of using life to fight death.”
Before long, the room returned to chaos once more. Nathan buried his head in his hands with a sigh. It was going to be a long day.
While the negotiations were progressing at a snails pace, the atmosphere in the dining hall was more relaxed. The guards of both the Warlord and the Enlightened delegation sat together at a long table, with members of the Privations spread amongst them. The drink was flowing freely and the food was plentiful. Dohon was enjoying the camaraderie immensely. In a time where death lurked about every corner, one had to enjoy all the moments of peace when they showed up. Dohon was just to ask one of the Warlords about the peculiarities of Infected hunting when he felt a heavy hand on his shoulder. When he glanced about, his eyes met the gaze of an old friend. “Sven, you old dog!” He got up and embraced him. “I started to think you wouldn't come to the feast.” Sven smiled back. “I'm not.” Dohon gave him a puzzled look, but Sven motioned to follow him. By the time Dohon had managed to pry himself loose from the mob at the table, Sven was already waiting at the exit. “What's going on?” “We'll talk in my room.” Dohon got the hint and so they marched alongside eachother to the residence area of the fortress. Outside, the sun was lazily drooping down to Earth, sending red rays across the towers and buildings inside the walls. They marched across the central courtyard and down a few alleys. All the while, Sven seemed to look tense and Dohon's small talk was always met with jovial, but curt answers. Clearly he had something big on his mind.
Sven unlocked the door swiftly and ushered his friend inside. Afterwards, he glanced about the hallway before locking the door again. With darkness fast approaching, Sven ignited a few candles and a lantern. The lights gave the small room a cosy glow. Sven seemed to think alike, because he immediately opened up a bottle and poured a clear substance in two small glasses. “Isn't it a bit too early to already start on the vodka?” Sven handed him a glass and then settled down in his comfortable chair. “You'll need it.” Dohon stared for a few moments at his glass, before gulping it down in one go. “Enough with the secrecy. Out with it.” Sven looked at the lantern for a few moments.
“You know about the negotiations, right?”
“You know the meaning of them?”
“I guess we are trying to find an alliance between the three biggest factions there are in this part of the world. I wouldn't mind that. The more guns we can point at the Shamblers, the better.”
“That's what I want to talk to you about.”
Dohon laughed. “If you wanted to talk politics, we could have done that at the Inn.”
Sven however remained serious. “Others cannot hear about this. Especially not the other delegates.”
Dohon motioned for him to go on.
“They are indeed trying to form an alliance and they intend to do so by creating an outpost at a central location. It would be a camp, fortress, whatever consisting of members of all the factions. This would facilitate research, cooperation and allow for a launching pad for further expeditions. Basically, a step further in sweeping across the land and reclaiming land.”
“That's all swell, but what does it have to do with you and me? Are we volunteering or what?”
“Not exactly. Despite negotiations, there is still great reluctance to actually commit to the project. If this project isn't getting off the ground, it will take months or even years before another joint-initiative can be undertaken. So, the Director decided to force the hands of the other parties involved. The Privations are going to start the project alone and the others will join in once it is up and running. If the Warriors and the Weirds see that we are willing to commit fully, they might be more persuaded to bring in their own resources as well.”
“This means ...”
“This means that you are looking at the new administrator of that outpost.”
Dohon blinked. “You are going to lead that outpost?”
“Congratulations are in order then.” He grabbed his glass before noticing it was already empty. Sven got up and poured a refill for them both.
“Thank you. Now, I wanted you to join me.”
“You know I will. I owe you for saving my butt at Fortunepeak.” Sven smiled sadly and they both remained silent for a few minutes. Fortunepeak still haunted them both. It was Dohon that broke the silence.
Sven reached for a stack of wooden slates on his desk. He sorted them, then wrapped a small binding rope around them.
“Take those with you. I have compiled some plans regarding the outpost. We'll meet again tomorrow morning because I still have a few errands to do. You know where the quarters of Captain Ivanov are?”
“Erhm, yes, but why ...”
“He gave me the mission.”
“Oh. I see. Well, I'll give them a look and see you then.”
“Alright. We meet at dawn.”
The two friends separated. As Dohon returned to his own chambers, he looked at the first slate. In large letters, it said: Angelgate