We were wrong to attack that group of marauders. The last day and a half have been awful, each of us full of guilt and self-recrimination.
We managed to get some help from some locals. All told, twenty of us attacked the fortified camp the marauders were staying in. Bill stayed back with the truck and trailer, as he's healed up enough now to drive. Our volunteers from the nearby community did the same, leaving getaway drivers ready to peel out if need be.
If we hadn't taken precautions, all of us would be dead right now. They may have known we were coming, they may not have. Either way, those marauders were ready for anything. We hit them from two directions, but their sentries were wearing some kind of dense plastic body armor. I only know this because one of the arrows we fired into the trees caught a sentry in the throat, and Will saw the armor. The rest of them took chest shots, which pretty much just pissed them off. Not having a yard of arrow through their lungs gave them the chance to sound an alarm.
Even then, we thought we'd be safe. Will had managed to get close to their camp the other day, and he drew us detailed maps of the area. Our idea was to take out the sentries, get in close, and rain arrows down on the unsuspecting bad guys.
They must have seen Will's tracks after he came back to camp, because the defenses were much better this go round. Two of the volunteers with my attack group were moving about thirty feet in front of the rest of us, and when they got within a dozen yards of the location we were to fire from, the ground beneath them exploded.
Fucking land mines. Though I couldn't hear it at the time as my eardrums felt shattered, the other assault team encountered mines at almost the same time. When those explosions hit, it was game over. We rushed forward to see if the volunteers were alive, and when we saw that they were clearly dead we ran like hell. Everyone on my team had sustained some kind of injury from the blast. The whole escape was unimaginably chaotic, running while trying to keep the more seriously injured on their feet.
We'd moved a few hundred feet when the gunshots started. I was leaning on Rachel when I took a graze to my thigh. She got a bullet right through her shoulder, and I ended up being her support. Some people fell as we ran, and I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't slow to see who they were or if they lived. In shock from the explosion, running in what felt like a hail of gunfire, the only thought in my head was to keep moving. To get away.
You can guess the rest. We hit the vehicles and told our drivers to go. I took enough time to note that my team wasn't missing any members before passing out. I wasn't really aware of it at the time, but I had a chunk of wood embedded in my side. I lost a fair amount of blood.
Seven volunteers died. They took the lead in the assault, chose to do it, because of their familiarity with the area. This was their home, they said. They had the right to lead. Seven people who can't be replaced. The toll on the team isn't as bad as that, but the damage done is severe enough that we're considering heading home if that's even possible.
We're staying with the volunteers in their home right now. It's relatively safe, as the population of their community is in the hundreds. More than enough to deal with the zombies beating at the doors. The massive complex of buildings that make up this stronghold are thick-walled and the spaces between the buildings clogged with cars and heavy debris, making an effective barrier to the undead. But the zombies followed us in, smelling our blood, and they aren't going anywhere.
There's a few competent medical personnel here, but no surgeons. The nurse practitioner that sees to the needs of these people has had to learn as she goes, and her skills so far have been enough to keep my side from killing me, and to manage Rachel's wound, though that's a touchy injury.
Steve took a spray of gravel to the face, tearing his cheek open and destroying his right eye.
Becky was standing in front of him, and was peppered with the same gravel and wood. They're still working on her. This is round three of trying to removed the splinters from almost her entire front. She heard the click as the mine was stepped on, and her hands were already up since she was holding her bow ready to fire. Covering her face probably saved her life, though she's got some terrible damage to her arms.
Will was closer to the blast. He didn't step on the mine, but he took an enormous amount of damage to his right leg. My respect for his resourcefulness and presence of mind has increased a hundred times over: he used his belt to tourniquet his own leg, saving his own life while also shouting orders at the others. Get away, he told them. Run. Reach safety.
Will kept his head, and because of that two of my other friends are still alive, along with eight volunteers. He's one hell of a man.
And he's probably going to lose that leg. He says it's more than worth the trade. As I sit here watching Steve smile as he tries on eye patches, his flesh torn but his spirit whole, I can't find it in me to disagree with Will. I'd trade my leg to save so many. In a heartbeat.
I don't know where we go from here.