Deadly Setback

          The young man poured over the dried parchment in an unusually hurried pace.  His forehead was slick with sweat despite the air being quite cool, only an occasionally wipe from an already dirty scrap of cloth kept it from touching the scrolls he read.  The originally white robes hugged him tightly, the mix of sweat and incense had turned them yellow in spots.  Around the man were odds and ends of equipment only he knew the purpose of.  The huge cave that was his current home and laboratory also contained a dragon.  Its corpse appeared to be months old; the putrid smell may have overtaken the man if not for the strong incense masking its stench.

          At last the man came to the passage he sought.  A slight smile creeped across his face as he read through the mystical symbols.  He was about to speak them out loud when a burst of shouting broke the silence of his domain.

          "No!" he shrieked, "Not yet, I need more time."

          The shouting turned to battle cries as his hunters came upon the first of the guardians he had placed for just such an annoyance.  His smile returned and he began his chanting.

{ "I call upon the dark power of Anrakis, }

{ taker of life, rise.  I call upon the power of }

{ To'totonner, puller of strings, Rise.  With my power I so }

{ animate.  With my strength I so control.  With my }

{ will I so own.  Now with these dark rites I do }

{ command.  RISE!  Your master so wishes, now RISE!" }

            The great corpse began to stir and a mad laugh erupted from the Necromancers' lips.  He didn't notice several blood stained figures appear a hundred feet from where he stood.  Their shouts of recognition, however, didn't escape his attention.

             "Vockrihn, we've come to stop this madness!", screamed the lead warrior, "Give up or we'll destroy you and the rest of your unholy creations!"

             The menacing chuckle that slowly escaped from the dark wizard's lips surprised the whole group of adventurers.

              "You may try", he said barely controlling his mad laughter, "you may certainly try."

              Vockrihn pointed a bony finger at the group and let out a malicious command.

              "ATTACK!"

              The sound of crackling bones filled the cavern.  An uprising form cleared away any thoughts of attacking the wizard from the minds of the would-be heroes.  They stared in horror as the enormous bulk of the draconian corpse rose.  Its empty eye-sockets seemed to burn like the gleam of hot irons.

               Not having signed onto this task to fight such a horror, the group decided to exercise the better part of valor and hastily fled.  The dragons' head, which was mostly skull at this point, watched their departure with an empty hunger.  Inside it's almost fleshless head still burned the memories of this beast.  It then noticed that it wasn't quite alone.

               "Run insects", the wizard shouted after them, "you shall soon enough feel the height of my power no matter where you hide."

               Vockrihn turned to face his greatest creation and found it staring at him.  Its rotten jaws were open, an eery smile revealing many cracked teeth.  The necromancer smiled back at his creation and willed it to lower its head. 

It did not. 

Puzzlement worried the wizards' mind, the back of his head began to itch ominously.

                "Go to the back of the cave."

                The dragon began to arch its neck.

                "I said go to the back of the cave!"

                For just an instant the skull stared back at the wizard displaying, as far as Vockrihn could determine, a burning hatred.  The jaws opened impossibly wide and it lunged.

                 The Necromancer had sensed his creations' independence and so he was able to dodge death, barely.  Small pieces of bone and strips of flesh were scraped from the skull as it crashed into the granite floor.  It's next strike came from the sagging flesh of a tail.  Luckily for the wizard a good - sizable chunk of stalagmite deflected the blow.  Fetid meat ripped from the appendage, revealing bone that needed no longer had a use for it.

                 The dragon shook its head angrily and began to scream mute frustration; Vokrihn made a mad dash for the oaken tables that were still intact.  Ducking under the largest, he began weaving a new spell.

                          { "Fleshless tips of ivory spear }

                        { I call on you to rise and steer }

                         { My course I ask is straight and true }

{Kill my enemy upon my cue!"}

                 The spell recitation was repeated in increasing volume as the Necromancer rose to face his wayward creation.  A strengthening glow poured from his hands and then he pointed at the head of the monster when his power climaxed. 

                 The dragon, having regained control over its anger, turned to face the wizard just as he had finished the incantation.  The air had begun to blow faintly around it, the monstrosity noticed a stirring around its body.  Fragments of bone, lifted by the man's power, turned to face the beast.  One shot off to scratch the dragon's bony forehead.  An instant later half a dozen bone fragments shot at the beast.  Within a few seconds, dozens of bones and bone fragments fired at the creatures' neck.  Now completely enraged, the dragon whirled about, smashing everything around it. 

                 But just as suddenly the spell ended and calm again resumed in the great cavern.  The great dragon stopped its' tantrum and began a furious scan in search of its elusive prey.  An intensive scan only showed broken stone and bones but no fresh corpses.  With a high pitched scream only the dead would notice, the beast announced its horrible anger.

Vockrihn slowed his pace as he came to the smaller corridor.  He breathed a sigh of relief as he noticed that he hadn't been followed.  His spell had kept that upstart creation busy while he escaped.  His hidden laboratory would require the navigation of miles of tunnel to reach, but when he did...

                 "There won't be any setbacks," he stated to himself in a confident rage.