Francis Crawford of Lymond, the (Zombie) Master of Culter. PG
Oh, I’ll be going to the very special literary hell for this.
The abridged tale of Francis Crawford of Lymond, the (Zombie) Master of Culter
"Lymond is back."
The news spread quickly in taverns and inns and castles. Sometimes the name was said with disgust, sometimes with curiosity, sometimes with contempt. "Lymond is back," each man would say, and then lower his voice. "Though what I mean by that is, his reanimated corpse."
People speculated about Lymond’s intentions. Some claimed that Lymond had come back to dispose of his brother Richard, but cooler heads pointed out that even if Richard were dead, Lymond could not inherit legally while he was wanted for treason. When some suggested that judgment could be reversed, the cooler heads added acidly, "Also, he’s undead."
Lymond himself settled into outlawry as if born to it, running his band with a firm hand and a sharp tongue--though admittedly his tongue would sometimes fall out in the middle of a multilingual diatribe. As his new follower Will Scott found out, a man picking up his own tongue off the ground isn’t intimidating, but the threat of brain-eating will keep even the roughest outlaw in check. Scott settled into the camp after an unnerving initial interview with Lymond, who cast an ironical cornflower blue gaze over him (one eye fell out in the middle of the inspection, and stared piercingly at Scott from the mud) and asked if Scott had perhaps confused his words-that-started-with-zed and was looking for the camp of a zealot, not a zombie, before accepting him.
Scott learned many things at the camp--swordplay, wrestling, cards, superhuman control over his olfactory senses--as well as the fact that a drunk Lymond was to be avoided, and a hungry Lymond was even worse. When Lymond went around murmuring, "Les cerveaux! Les cerveaaaaaaaaaaaaaux!" and declaiming extemporaneous poetry about red-haired men and the quality of their brains, it was best to run away quickly until Turkey Mat could procure some nice cow’s brains (or maybe they were Englishmens’ brains...it was never quite made clear to Scott) from a nearby farm.
Many events transpired that year, most of them proving that the (Zombie) Master of Culter was so obviously superior to the rest of mankind that, even zombiefied, he still possessed the quickest wits in Scotland. And England. And the rest of the civilized world. Lord Grey would forever bear the scar of being duped--and of course in retrospect, it was obvious that the Spanish captain had been an impostor, and that the smell that Grey had taken for tar and poor hygiene had been the stench of death. The mutterings of, "¡Los cerebros! ¡Los cerebros!" should have been a hint that something was askew, but Grey had assumed that the man was decrying his own lack of brains, not proclaiming his dietary requirements.
Lymond’s cleverness could not forestall some events, however. Scott’s nose adapted to Lymond’s presence, but his conscience grew more outraged. After Lymond had treated two women with egregious cruelty, Will could no longer stand by--oh, Lymond claimed he’d never had intentions on Mariotta’s brains ("As that witless fool doesn’t have any") or body, but that was obviously just a front. Will had seen him with Margaret Lennox and would not soon forget Lymond’s ruthlessness in his dealings with her, the way that Lymond had pulled her close to gather information from her with honeyed words before pushing her away violently, leaving a finger tangled in her hair.
Thus Scott betrayed him and Lymond ended up in chains, where he atypically fell silent, a mysterious circumstance that was only explained when Christian Stewart came running up, exclaiming in exasperation, "You fool! Did you think I only recognized you by your voice? I recognize you by your stink!"
Lymond escaped and made his way to England, and Tom Erskine and his brother followed him until they found him in Gideon Somerville’s house and the confrontation between Richard and his younger, brilliant, wayward, zombified brother came to a head. The two men fought, while the other men watched with admiration. Culter was a known master of the art, worth seeing under any terms, but now they saw what the (Zombie) Master of Culter could do when pressed. He was brilliant with the short sword, which Culter clearly had to take into account, and he also had a knack for wafting his smell offensively into Richard’s nostrils. After the English spy escaped, Lymond went on the offensive. Culter sliced into his side--followed up with a blow at his brother’s forearm--and the men gasped as Lymond’s wrist and hand, still holding the shorter blade, fell to the ground. (The blade clattered. The wrist and hand more...squished.) Thrust, parry, recovery, feint...in a quick move, Lymond ducked close to the ground and his hand, still clutching the blade, leapt up to reattach itself. But now the men saw what Lymond did not, that he was being maneuvered into the soft pack, and then he reached it, and then he tripped--
Richard’s blade fell to cleave that fair, unsettled head, and met a crucifix of steel.
("Shouldn’t he be dissolving?" hissed one man at the back, and his neighbor hissed in return, "That’s *vampires*, you idiot!")
Lymond leapt out the window, yelling, "If you can’t lead, follow!" They did follow, of course--he was shedding skin as he raced across the ground on horseback, leaving quite a recognizable trail. Tom Erskine followed him and saved him, and brought him back to the dovecote. "We can’t take him back with us--he's crumbling to pieces!" Erskine insisted. Richard, thirsting for vengeance, stayed to tend his younger brother.
Revelations ensued. (One of those was the revelation that it’s very, very difficult to decapitate oneself unless one has a guillotine; the suicidal zombie really does need to plan ahead.) Reconciled, they began to return to Scotland.
It was a slow journey, as they no longer had a horse due to...certain circumstances. Fish don’t have much in the way of brains, and neither do birds. Francis had required sustenance, and Richard was willing to sacrifice many things, but not his skull, which led to...suffice it to say, it was a long journey, and upon their return, they were captured.
Fortunately, while lawyers and advocates were still debating the legal status of zombies and the statute of limitations for treason ("Doesn’t it end with someone’s death?" "Clearly. But there are no provisions in the law for someone’s undeath!" "That’s an oversight." "Yes."), Will Scott produced evidence that revealed Lymond’s innocence. Lymond was stunned and could barely speak. Reduced to English, he could only manage a gentle murmur of, "Brains. Braaaaaaaaaaains," and a...really very gentle...nibble on Will’s hair before he recovered himself.
And they all lived (or unlived) happily ever after.