Flames lit the survivors’ faces from below. Not so long ago, that would have been an image used to frighten, but nothing like that would scare them again.
Sticks cracking in the fire were the only sounds to be heard until the two ragged bundles curled into Siobhan’s sides stopped moving. When he was sure it wouldn’t wake them, Conley whispered: “Kids. Amazing, ain’t they?”
Siobhan nodded wearily. “After everything, they can still sleep soundly. Johnny gets nightmares sometimes, but his sister’s always perfectly peaceful.”
“Any peace now, it’s a blessing,” said Conley, placing a branch into the pit and coaxing the flames to grasp it with his breath.
“Finding you here was a blessing. I thought we’d be on our own forever sometimes. What made you come to the Hold?”
“Grew up nearby. Took trips to Three Lions in school.”
“Great position, strategically. Up a hill. High walls. Easy to defend.”
“You sound like military.”
“Aye. I was a pilot. Helicopters.”
“My husband was a marine.”
“Is he… was he yours?”
Cricket sounds bounced through the castle’s courtyard. Siobhan just nodded.
“That wasn’t him. It looked like him, but there’s nothing left inside of these things of the people they were. Whatever you did, whatever you have to do, you have to remember that.”
Siobhan risked waking her children to press her fingers to her eyes. If a single tear fell now, they would never stop. She chose rage instead of sorrow. “Why is this happening? Why couldn’t it just be like in the movies? Roger’s body was supposed to be thousands of miles away still. But I woke up with him at the foot of our bed.”
“Whatever’s happening, it’s not random. This thing is targeted. People being attacked by their own dead friends and families. It’s all wrong. But thank Christ for that.”
“Why?” asked Siobhan, tightening the blanket around her.
“Because under Three Lions Hold are crypts going back centuries. If everything dead is coming back to life, we’re on top of about a thousand corpses ready to dig their way up.”
The wind was the only sound for a while, bringing with it the smell of earth and damp.