The Staff of Moses – Chapter 21

Temple of Death

Oliver threw himself back and twisted to the side just in time to dodge a sweeping blow from a long, bronze sword. He landed hard and skidded back across the sandy floor. By the time his body came to rest, his gun was up and Oliver had the doorway in his sights.

The creature hurtled out from the dark, rasping out a terrible cry of rage from its parched throat. It was not a skeleton like the one Oliver had destroyed the night before. The thing that emerged from the dark doorway was a tall man with copper brown skin that had been darkened and worn by countless days spent fighting under the merciless sun. Long ago, the man had been dressed in a fine linen kilt supported by a belt of linked copper, but the linen had browned with age and begun to crumble. Now it was little more than a few threadbare scraps dangling from the scuffed copper links and twisting across the creature’s body. The thing’s head, where it was not bare skull, was covered in a patchwork of short hair, once thick and black, but now a matted sandy gray ripped out in ragged patches. It gripped a long bronze sword in its right hand, the sun glittering from large chips in the blade.

Oliver gaped as he lay on the stone floor, examining the thing over the sights of his gun. He knew that he should begin shooting and running, but his finger froze on the trigger at the sight of the ghastly slash that crossed the creature’s chest, exposing layers of bone and viscera coated in a thick layer of dust and sand. Another wound had ripped away a chunk of the monster’s left side, revealing the sagging shape of a tattered heart behind the ragged skin and splintered remains of brittle white ribs.

The creature advanced on Oliver, raising its sword to strike at him again.

Oliver fired.

His shot ripped into the creature’s chest and exploded out the back of its body in a cloud of dark red dust. The undead monster jerked back, then got its footing and leapt towards Oliver with its mouth open in a cruel scream that sounded like air tearing through the pipes of a shattered organ. Oliver fired again and rolled sideways, stumbling to his feet and nearly tripping over something buried in the sand as the monster’s sword hit the stone beside him with a terrible rasping clang and a shower of sparks.

Three more shots echoed through the chapel as Oliver rolled to his feet. He heard the distinct whine of a bullet passing close by his head before it slammed into the stone behind him. Glancing away from the creature, Oliver saw Diana kneeling behind the altar, steadying her aim by resting her gun atop the flat stones. She fired again and this time the bullet hit its intended target, knocking the creature sideways and sending out another cloud of red dust.