“Hark!” exclaimed Lord Pennyfeather, grabbing the arm of his trusty valet Thimble. “Dost I hear the clattering of hooves approaching our gates?”
“Aye, m’lord.” Thimble replied. “A rider approaches.”
“Who is it? Is it Archibald? Has he returned at last?” Lord Pennyfeather sounded expectant, straining his milky white eyes in a vain effort to see the mounted visitor.
“It is indeed, m’lord. Lord Archibald has come home from the war. But he’s not the same man he was, I’m afraid.”
“Ah. Of course.” Lord Pennyfeather’s bony shoulder slumped and he hung his head in relfection. “The ravages of war can break even the most hardened warriors. Such carnage and devastation wreaked upon sons and brothers who fight for some unseen glory. My poor boy. Who knows what horrors he hath witnessed on the field of battle that would have changed him so.”
Thimble fidgeted, looking back and forth between his master and the young man who was now outside the gates.
“Uhh no, m’lord,” he said, twiddling his thumbs nervously. “That’s not quite what I meant. I wasn’t referring to a psychological or mental change. No sir. Lord Archibald is not the same man in a more literal sense.”
Lord Pennyfeather’s bushy eyebrows leaped up to his crinkled forehead in surprise.
“Whatever do you mean, Thimble? I pray, speak not in riddles, my most loyal friend. Tell me, how has my son changed?”
Thimble paused a moment, deciding how best to break the news, settling for the most direct approach in the end.
“Well, he’s a zombie, m’lord.”
“Oh.” Lord Pennyfeather’s brows now came together in conference as he considered this vital bit of information. “Well, seal the gates and shoot the bugger. No point getting everyone else infected.”