After watching Mark shift into his hybrid form, ‘American Werewolf in London’ style, we head into the graveyard. Forming up behind Jennifer, we move off the main path into the gravestones on the left side and head along the fence.

Billy continued the lecture he started while we were in the wagon. “Again, we want to start slow and give you a chance to fight together so you can better understand how to coordinate as a team. Once we find a zombie, we’ll halt and let Toby lure it to us by shooting it with his crossbow. I don’t want anybody to be in front of Jennifer so she can capture its attention and our polearm team can fight over her shield with her. Our skirmishes will then move off to the sides and come up behind the zombie to burn it down. Let’s go slow with this, there’s no hurry, and it’s better to build a rapport while things are simpler.”

I still can’t get over the disconnect between his ‘James Earl Jones’ voice and his cherub-like face. Trying to shake it off, I get into position on Jennifer’s left while Oki Ren takes the right side. Since I’m left-handed and he’s right-handed, this worked out well in our match-up. It’s only a few minutes before we see the first zombie; he’s some kind of day laborer – he’s got muscles on his muscles, and his whole left side looks like it’s crushed. He’s moving slowly and limping badly. It’s the only zombie in the immediate area, and Toby doesn’t waste any time putting a bolt into its chest. The zombie worker screams and then charges at us, Jennifer positioning herself to be directly in front of it. Ren and I take a step away from her and prepare for the charging brute. The zombie rushes up and smashes himself on Jennifer’s shield, and we then impale it with our polearms and work to hold it off of Jennifer. It flails at her, and she bashes its arms away with her shield and chops at it with her gladius. Enraged, the zombie pushes at us to get at her, ignoring how it’s tearing up its arms and shoulders from our embedded blades. Suddenly the zombie twists to the right and falls to the ground, wiggling off my ranseur. Ren continues to pin it down. It’s missing the left leg from the knee down, so it won’t get back up, and before we can do anything else, Toby’s mace smashes its head open like an over-ripe cantaloupe. The visual and smell get both Jennifer and I, and we vomit.

Billy says, “And that’s why we do this slow. You want to get control of that gag reflex before we are really in it deep, or you are going to be another zombie we have to put down. Don’t look so shocked, Pretty – if you are killed here in the graveyard, your body will rise as a zombie about ten minutes after you drop. That means that your teammates have less than 10 minutes to splatter the brains of your corpse all over the ground before you start attacking them. That is one of the other reasons that people don’t like doing the suppression runs.” Looking around at us, “Otherwise, good job. Let’s find a few more solo or dual zombies and do this several times. Don’t forget to get your bolt Toby – and loot the corpse while you are at it.”

We spend the next forty-five minutes killing these small fries and seeing the other suppression teams doing the same. During this time, Billy ensures that everybody on the team knows the basic cantrips – lighter, band-aid, clean, and my recent contribution, freshener all get a workout. Billy also points out how to smartly apply the cantrips to get the best use out of them.

I’m trying very hard not to use any cantrips. I’m not supposed to have much mana as a newbie. Knowing a lot of cantrips isn’t that big of a deal, but constant casting would draw attention. I did manage to cast the freshener cantrip on Oki Ren sneakily. Since I knew he was conserving mana, I thought it would be nice for him to experience it.

Injuries were few during this initial period, and mostly we found things we needed to fix in our kit, like tightening straps and changing the placement of armor pieces. Like me, the others are starting to understand just how complex it is to wield a weapon. Some have more experience than I do. However, stance, hand positioning, grip, orientation, and many other little things make it easy to do it wrong. Working as a group gives us a chance to recover from our mistakes and gain confidence that we can work together to overcome the threat, regardless of our proficiency. It must be how peasants felt fending off wolves with pitchforks – except they were probably better at it since they used those tools routinely.

The suppression groups all stayed within sight of at least one other group as we cut our teeth on the singular and small-group zombies, systematically clearing the first part of the graveyard. Billy called this out to us in addition, “Not only will we work to stay where we can see at least one other suppression company, but it’s also expected that we will come to the aid of others if they call out for help. It’s important to keep an ear out as we go, as there are times when a horde seems to appear out of nowhere and starts to overrun a squad. I’ve even seen events where a whole company, ten squads to you newbies, has triggered some event and been overrun. It’s also not uncommon for adventuring teams to open a crypt looking for treasure, only to find that a hundred zombies have been waiting for the doors to open, the gargoyle statues animate, or something equally terrifying.” He lets loose with a deep chuckle, “Nirvana likes to keep it challenging out here.”

Server-Wide Event!
A Grave Situation
I said the temple was open to everyone, and the dead have been bitching that I didn’t include them. So all graves, crypts, and other resting places will yield their dead at midnight tonight. They all want to become death knights, crypt lords, and liches! Citizens, take up your arms and defend yourselves against the dead! Keep them out of your cities and towns! Protect your teleporter pads! The dead are on a pilgrimage to the temple. If they get there before dawn, Nirvana may experience a dark age!

It’s like she was waiting for him to say it. Shit.

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