|The Baby Necromancer
Author: Solomon Sia PM
Epic-Fantasy. The World of the Deathly Powers. Raised by a zombie dragon, a child grows into the legacy left by his father amid a backdrop of war, devious allies and implacable foes. Magic, fantasy, adventure, and a journey into the heart of darkness.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Fantasy/Spiritual - Chapters: 38 - Words: 100,510 - Reviews: 87 - Favs: 14 - Follows: 8 - Updated: 07-24-12 - Published: 02-07-12 - Status: Complete - id: 2995489
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chaos reigned in the skull chamber as the Ghost Council mocked the living caught like flies in their trap. The eerie foe entreated all present to join them in death and madness.
Shon Kingston was the first to react. The witch hunter superior took aim with his crossbow and fired. The bolt penetrated a skull cleanly, right between the sockets. Splintered by the force of the blow, the skull fell in several pieces onto the ground. The green light from the skull vanished like extinguished flame from a snuffed candle.
The Ghost Council's laughter was deafening. ~Very good~ very good~ par excellence~ excellent shooting~ but do you have more crossbow bolts~ more crossbow bolts than we have~ do you have more crossbow bolts than we have skulls~ can we have pumpkin?~
Three more skulls rose, laughing, to take the fallen skull's place. They mocked Shon Kingston's futile efforts.
~At our command~ our command~ easy~ like lifting a finger~ licking a finger~ finger licking~ at our command the skulls~ at our command the whole cavern of skulls could come alive~ the skulls could swallow you alive!~
~Have a taste of our despair!~ screamed the Ghost Council.
The humans felt their will melt under the force of the Ghost Council's attention as intense despair threatened to strip them of their sanity. Prince Charming drooled, his jaw hung slackly, as he was struck dumb by the assault. Adrift in a boundless sea, he struggled feverishly to stay afloat.
"Fight the power!" yelled Shon Kingston, splitting a skull with his silver knife.
Easy for you to say, thought Prince Charming. Every breath as a monumental effort, every stroke sapped more strength than he felt he could afford. The body was willing but the spirit was weak.
"Don't give in! Fight the power!" yelled Shon Kingston, as the witch hunters around him shook off the lethargy that had temporarily overcome them and struck back at the Ghost Council, breaking skulls with every blow.
Why, muttered Prince Charming. Why is it the witch hunters can fight it but I cannot? I am not weaker, am I? He had no idea that the Ghost Council had singled him out from the moment they pulled him underground, and even now were focusing the bulk of their attention upon breaking his will. The witch hunters had long since been relieved of the pressure.
Prince Charming struggled on blindly, uncomprehending, alone against a thousand ghosts. He was but one human against a Deathly Power. Mentally, Prince Charming started to thrash, furious and defiant, but his efforts were like that of driftwood against a whirlpool.
At this point, the Deathly July began its frenzied attack. Possessed skulls began to lunge at and gnaw upon the intruders with savage force. A dense cloud of mad skulls descended like feasting crows upon the party, a hundred skulls for each human and Chk'lid.
Witch hunters hacked at the thousands of skulls flying in the air. The witch hunters, accustomed to an acrobatic fighting style where they rolled and tumbled to catch the enemy off guard, were forced to adopt instead a defensive stance against this unnaturally agile foe. The few who chose to fight alone soon stumbled or twisted an ankle on the treacherous ground and were devoured piecemeal by clouds of laughing skulls.
Prince Charming sank to the ground, giving in at last. Why not, he thought to himself. He was hurt beyond anything any mortal man had experienced. Under the pressure of the Ghost Council, his mind had refused to bend, had refused to break, had chosen instead to shatter. Drowning was now the only option left to him. He slipped under the rising waves of despondency and began to drink deeply from the Ghost Council's power.
"Not while I draw breath!" yelled Shon Kingston, noticing the prince's plight. The aged but oaken witch hunter grabbed Prince Charming's limp body and punched him hard in the gut. The shock of the blow startled Prince Charming into consciousness, breaking the Ghost Council's hypnotism as the witch hunters formed up around him. He was quickly pulled into the relative safety of the circle's interior.
The Chk'lids had already grouped themselves up into a defensive ring, protectively encircling Princess Irri and the Maroon Dragoons. The witch hunters did the same, gradually backing up until their circle overlapped, then merged with the Chk'lid position. It was the first ever instance of humans fighting alongside Chk'lids, and the desperate alliance saved all their lives.
The Chk'lids, while being too slow to hurt the Deathly July, nevertheless possessed natural exoskeletons (heh, exoskeletons) that protected them from skull bites. The faster but more vulnerable witch hunters found much needed protection amidst the Chk'lid bodies, while helping to guard the sensitive eyes and antenna of their insect allies.
There was no time to philosophically ponder the implications of such an alliance. There was only space for momentary reactions amidst the hell of witch light and bombing, screaming skulls. The group battled, steadfast, at the eye of the storm. They were surrounded on all sides, above and below by grinning skulls that leaked and trailed green smoke from their orifices.
Yet, in the moments of their last stand, the witch hunters found an emotional reprieve. No longer did they feel the exhaustion and despair that had dogged them every step of the way in the tunnels; rather, by facing a physical death that they could defy, they felt only an uplifting sensation of exhilaration.
They were witch hunters, sworn to do battle in the deepest darkness to protect their country against evils it was best the common man never knew anything about. They were heroes sworn to give their lives fighting the Deathly Powers. This was their element, in their twinight hour, the darkest moments before the dawn.
Shon Ton's fingers blurred as he loaded and loosed his crossbow with inhuman speed, hitting every mark with unerring accuracy. Several times, Princess Irri was saved from harm by the lightning reflexes of her new bodyguards, who struck wild skulls out of the air around her.
Shon Kingston stood in the center and formed the immovable core of their formation. The witch hunter superior kept a hand always on Prince Charming's shoulder. The prince slipped freely in and out of consciousness, but somehow seemed to take a measure of strength from the allies surrounding him.
We have a chance, whispered Prince Charming.
"Stand firm!" yelled Shon Kingston, "Cool like fire."
Frustrated by the unexpectedly staunch defence, the Ghost Council played their master stroke. They launched an all out psychic assault on the party, attempting to stun the humans and take control of the Chk'lids.
The blow never connected.
This was the moment Princess Irri had been waiting for. Till then, she had kept the extent of her powers carefully hidden, waiting for just such an over commitment by her psychic opponents. She immediately directed an unreserved counter attack upon the Ghost Council, holding nothing back.
The effect was immediate and staggering. Hundreds of skulls dropped like flies, their wails silenced forever. The chamber darkened instantly with the extinguishing of much of the green witch light. Princess Irri laughed, confident in the knowledge that she had struck the decisive blow.
~!~ screamed the Ghost council. They, who could not be touched by mortal means, they who had lasted through the centuries were wounded, perhaps fatally. The remaining skulls went into a frenzy. If they had been a gale before, they were now a cyclone. Before anyone could react, screaming skulls reached out and seized Prince Charming, hoisting him into the air and speeding him out of the defensive circle.
Shon Kingston roared in rage and sprang after the prince. Heedless of the skulls that pounced on him, the witch hunter superior dove for the prince. Alone, Shon Kingston struck out against the ghost council with holy fervour. Skulls tore pieces of flesh freely from him, and he was soon bleeding freely in several places, but the witch hunter superior caught the prince and freed him from the Ghost Council's grasp. The skulls dove down to end their resistance.
But Shon Ton was there, and every other surviving witch hunter as well, meeting the last attack of the Ghost Council with their own righteous fury. Knives and flesh flashed against spirit and bone in that last fight.
Yet this was not the only card the Ghost Council played in their final hand. Jesse Carmikel, confident that the Deathly Power had been defeated, seized the moment of distraction and put his plan of escape into action. He signalled to the other Maroon Dragoons, and as he did so plunged his sword deep into Princess Irri's body.
The Chk'lid princess gave an inhuman scream as Jesse Carmikel pulled the sword, dripping with Chk'lid blood, out. At the same time, the other Maroon Dragoons surrounded Adam Loving. Adam, shocked by the brutality of Jesse's betrayal, moved towards Princess Irri but was held off by Jesse's weapon.
"Call the Chk'lid soldiers off," commanded Jesse.
"Jesse, what the shiv have you done?"
The Chk'lid soldiers thrashed in mindless fury, maddened by the scent of spilled royal blood.
"I mean it," snarled the soldier. "Call them off, or the insect dies here."
Adam Loving commanded the dim-witted Chk'lid soldiers to stand down. "Why do you do what you do?" cried the captain. "She saved all our lives!"
"I want to see my home again, or die trying. The men are all with me on this. If this is the only way we can be certain of freedom, then so be it!"
As the battle between the witch hunters and the Ghost council raged on, the Maroon Dragoons systematically chopped off the docile heads of the Chk'lid soldiers until none were left alive. The ground, already soiled by the detritus of battle, was soon awash with insect blood.
"I need something to believe in, and I don't believe in you anymore," said Jesse. "Anymore." The fury in Adam's eyes confirmed Jesse's suspicion that his captain was now beyond all human emotion. "So this is goodbye." Without another word, the Maroon Dragoons made their way to the far exit, leaving their former captain behind.
Adam sank to his knees and cradled the wounded princess, tending to her wounds the best he could. The cut was a vicious and deep one to her abdomen, and had most likely touched several of her major organs. Tears of grief and rage ran freely down his cheeks, blinding him. "Are you hurt badly, my princess?" he asked in the royal tongue.
Princess Irri was very weak, and furious, and above all, terrified. "You worthless piece of shiv, how dare you let this happen to me? I'm hurt. I suffer...because of you! This is your fault... kill yourself. Kill yourself now! You don't deserve to live."
"I can't!" replied Adam. "If I died, who would look after you?"
Princess Irri trembled. "Don't let me die. I want to live."
Adam Loving looked into the Chk'lid princess's compound eyes. Was this what he had been looking or, all these years? The proud, alien and indomitable insect princess had ever always been cold and aloof from his displays of loyalty and affection. Did she now place her faith in him, truly, or was she merely putting her life in his hands because she had no other choice? Adam bit his lip.
"I trust you," she said.
Waves of uncontrollable emotion washed over the captain. Here was everything he had been looking for: connection. In his heart he had always known. The alien creatures were not so alien. In a place like this! He had found it in a hopeless place.
From the far exit, a new force entered the chamber, heralded by light and thunder. Vincent, travelling at the speed of Heartseeker's lightning, had arrived, having traversed the great distances in a matter of hours. Even the desperate struggle between the witch hunters and the Ghost Council stopped as all eyes turned toward the unexpected arrival.
The necromancer had changed so much in the past days that he was scarcely recognisable. The caress of magic held him tighter than ever. Heartseeker, the seneschal, burned within and around his body. The tendrils of bright pink and purple that crackled from him seemed to steal light rather than shed it, deepening the darkness in the cavern.
The cloak of Sasha whispered and sighed as it fluttered about him like a kite caught on the branches of a tree. It whipped eerily, blurring his human form, as the winds of magic that bore the necromancer aloft caused it to whip and billow.
Vincent dispelled Heartseeker, and the light and winds that surrounded him faded, allowing himself to sink slowly to touch the ground.
"The four soldiers that tried to escape?" said Vincent by matter of greeting. "I killed them." As Vincent spoke, the Melody within him resonated to the point of instability. "Who is next?"
The Ghost Council trembled collectively. Embattled, outfoxed and on the verge of defeat, they had committed too much to this battle to stand down against their prey. The arrival of another Deathly Power shocked some sense into them at last. Here was a being who had the strength could end them. Even whole and uninjured, they could not have stood against Vincent. Now, at the nadir of their power, they no longer had the strength to resist.
Sensing their imminent doom, they tried to flee. What remained of the hovering skulls lost their animation and dropped from the sky like grotesque apples. The Ghost Council discorporated, seeping through the cracks of reality towards whatever shadowy home they inhabited.
They could not hide from Vincent's magical sight. He could see them, streaming away in thin wispy strands like green scum down the drain. The necromancer raised both hands, forming a square room with his fingers, and the cloak of Sasha whipped forward. The folds of the cloak, phasing freely between emotion, illusion, magic and reality, stretched out an inestimable distance, ensnaring the weakened Ghost Council.
~The cloak of Sasha is impenetrable and endless. It's not something you can escape.~
Vincent sucked the wailing ghosts into the space between his palms, chanting as he did so. Under Will's guidance, the Melody he sang mingled with the condensing Ghostly Power, until every last one of them was imprisoned within a milky white orb the size of his fist.
"There you go, Vincent," snickered Will. "A Deathly Power to serve as your personal oracle. As long as you control the Ghost, the might of the Deathly July is also yours to command. You came looking for revenge but obtained an object of inestimable value. This is not luck, Vincent. This is fate. This is the potential that the Fool saw in you."
"Now I will avenge Sasha," said Vincent.
The necromancer's dark eyes turned toward the witch hunters. No more than ten still remained, of which none were uninjured. They were sunken eyed and their weapons hung limply from their arms. Their breath came in short, ragged gasps. They had the faces of defeated men who knew they were going to die. Their eyes, however, still flashed defiantly.
Shon Kingston pushed himself to the front. "Vile necromancer, you are past redemption."
With a wave of his hand, Vincent seized the witch hunter superior in his magic and lifted the heavy man into the air as though he weighed nothing. Vicious, cacophonous Melodies swirled around Shon Kingston, cutting into him and opening new wounds in the witch hunter superior's flesh.
"Should I kill you, or kill you?" whispered Vincent.
"You can't make up your mind, please don't waste my time," said Shon Kingston with finality.
"No mercy to the dishonourable spineless cowardly snivelling servants of mortality."
"For Sasha," said Vincent, as the melodies converged, turning the witch hunter superior into diced meat that fell in tatters onto the floor.
The other witch hunters had thus far made no attempt to resist. They were bone weary, and looked too tired and wounded even to remain standing.
"Giving in? Witch hunters, you are the famed destroyers of evil. Where is your pride? Where is your faith?" mocked Vincent. "Or do you not have the strength to stand against a necromancer? Are your petty tricks reserved only to murder babies and defenceless women?"
The witch hunters exchanged grim glances under their dark, broad brimmed hats. None made a move to their weapons.
"Fight me, you cowards! You did your best to end my life on Fool's Errand, did your best but failed. Come, test my power."
The necromancer raised his dead hand. A whorl of dark magic emanated from it menacingly. "I'll count to three."
Vincent snapped his fingers.
The witch hunters stiffened collectively with the sound, but relaxed as soon as the echoes returned from the chamber walls. Prince Charming looked on intently, a trace of hope rising in his chest. Had the witch hunters somehow resisted the necromancer's spell?
"What were they playing at?" muttered Vincent.
"Not attempting to resist was their last act of defiance against you," said Will.
"They wanted me to murder them in cold blood." It was the first time Vincent had killed people who were not trying to kill him.
"So you did. Good job, brother," said Will evilly. "But you should have tortured them for their defiance first."
The witch hunters started striding towards Vincent. They positioned themselves around him, forming an impromptu guard of honour.
"With a snap of my fingers, I ended their lives," said Vincent. "Then I brought them back to life as my undead slaves. A bitter irony indeed, to spend your death serving the individual you spent your life trying to destroy."
The cloak of Sasha whipped, tormented, around the necromancer. Its folds flowed up Vincent's body as though caught in an updraft, caressing his chest and face in a brief display of longing.
Vincent turned his eyes to Prince Charming. "Who is… last?"