INTRODUCTION

I wrote this story a couple of years ago. It was meant to be a collaborate of a couple of folks I know and me. It didn't quite work out that way. After furiously complaining about the text being written in first person, one member decided to write it in a NC-17 manner, and the other guy just flat out couldn't write first person, and these guys have been praised as creative geniuses. I am good at beginning stories, but I have problems with the good parts, so I wrote about three chapters and gave up. If I am encouraged, I do have some plans for this story, but if this story doesn't do well, I won't continue it.

The other comment to be made was what brought this story about. James has put forth an effort to try and teach me about D&D. I confuse him, and likewise, because I know more about folklore than I do D&D. (Let's put it this way, his idea of a Kobold and mine differ quite a bit, and he was in the process of teaching me. Well, I didn't know they were a communal critter!) So, in an effort to teach me a few things, he loaned me a book about the critters, and I came up with some strange ideas by reading descriptions. After a couple dumb questions and the creation of "Quest for the Purple Unicorn", this piece was written. Expect humor in a twisted sort of way, although this was not meant to be a humorous story.

Chapter 1: The Awakening

The winter festival of Jeral had managed to escape unscathed by the oncoming first snow of the season that the heavy brooding clouds spoke of. The weather had been unseasonably kind this year, and the grass remained mostly green and a good portion of the trees continued to hang their leaves. It was uncommon for the Winter Festival not to have a couple of inches of snow clinging to the ground. It seemed more like mid-autumn than the fifth day of winter. The Winter Festival always started on the first day of winter and ended on the fifth day. It was the first celebration before the true fury of winter set in. So, all the people and merchants took in all of the cheer they possibly could get (mostly by way of the heady mead at the "The Happy Goose" tavern, which was known for the most potent brew, if not the best tasting.) This cheer had to get them through the four months until the Year's Beginning Festival was held. All sentient being should do like the bears and sleep in until spring thaw.

The journey back to Maykigs would take two days and a night by horse. Something of speed was needed to stay ahead of the coming snow. Al visitors to Jeral were in a bustle to pack their things and get to their homes. They acted like snow was lethal. Yet, the snow would slow down the progress home to Maykigs, that was thirty miles straight kick South-East from Jeral, but a nameless small woodland stood directly in the middle of the path. No one treaded there for the unknown terror that walked abroad through its quiet well kept darkness there, and the woods and the darkness had been there for countless generations beyond living memory. No one knew why the woods was forbidden or what lurked there. All the villagers knew was, whatever it was, it hungered for human flesh and souls. The mystery was soon to be solved.

Elendi decided it was time to find out what the fuss was about. She was quick to point out that the woodland was a shortcut that would cut off a good twenty miles off the trip home, and there would be no need to stay at the "Dancing Boar" inn at Byrill, and thus paying out money for lodging. My sister knew me all too well.

Elendi and I have made this journey several times in the last two years. Elendi was talented in the art of woodcutting. She often sold many pieces at these festivals. If the folks were not interested in the intricacy of her work, they found her charming and pretty, and they bought from her. I was able to fetch a good price for my services in the security. We were able to be comfortable, even during and after this festival. I also picked up a couple of silver coins for escorting Inaciga from and to Jeral. the escort was not necessary for him, but we both profited from it. He got to enjoy our company (especially Elendi's company) and I got the silver in my pocket.

Inaciga was a young magician of great talent and had an adoring eye for my sister. The villagers of both Jeral and Maykigs agreed that there was more to this blonde blue eyes magician than he would easily let be known. Although I pretended otherwise and tried to convince myself that he was only a lovesick puppy for my sister, I knew better. No one said much about him. He was not really welcomed in either village. he would only smile and shrug off their cruelties that were spoken about him, and he never returned their retorts. Inaciga's mother was a total mystery. She was late in years when Inaciga was born, and no one ever seemed to have met his father. Inaciga's family lived on the far reaches of Jeral near the swamplands. Rumor spoke of Inaciga's mother making unholy pacts with the swamp demons, and the whole family was deep into witchcraft. Nothing was ever confirmed on those rumors. I was of the opinion, what of it. This world was full of magic and magical creatures, both good and evil. So, what was the big deal of using some of the natural magic of this world. About five years ago, Inaciga's mother disappeared. Some say that she wandered off in the swamp to die. Others say she conjured up something nasty, that took her away screaming into another dimension. I, personally, think that one of the villagers of Maykigs kidnapped her and brutally killed her, then fed her remains to one of the many swamp creatures, but that was one of my many opinions of the situation. Whatever the case, he was 16 when she disappeared, and he did better than us at these festivals with his silly parlor tricks for the children of Jeral.

Elendi and I have survived since father's death . . . her father's death, that is. My father died before I was born. Mother had lead me to believe that father was a great hero and the like, and he died a hero's death. It wasn't until later that I found out that my father died in a barroom scuffle. I have gotten into some interesting scuffle myself over this fact. Kerem, Elendi's elvish father, often had man to man talks with me about these scuffles, my smart mouth, hot temper, and my arrogance. He would tell me that it didn't matter how you died, but how you lived your life. He told me that a great hero could be runned down by a runaway dung cart as well as dying on a villain's sword. My father could have been a great hero before he settled down with my mother to start as family, but I doubt it. My mother's high words, about how great my father was, contrast greatly with the stories of abuse that the villagers, who claimed to have known him, tell. Some of the scars and the physical weaknesses, that my mother had, give more credibility to my know-it-all neighbors. Whatever the truth, for some unknown reason, my mother wanted me to think highly of my father.

Mother wanted me to think highly of Kerem, too. She married him when I was five, and they had some of the most interesting arguments, but nothing physical ever happened in their fights. Kerem was as delicately built as mother was with reddish blonde hair and emerald green eyes, that Elendi had inherited. His movements, speech, and general elegant appearance spoke of high breeding. My mother was slightly taller than him with dark brown hair and dark blue eyes and a frail little body, thatn I had inherited from her. She had little education and was not exceptionally smart, and the attraction Kerem had for her was beyond me. As a young man myself, I would have found someone less plain if I were him. Whatever the attraction, there was obviously signs of love between them.

Although elves were common travelers through Maykigs, they were not exactly smiled upon when one took one of the village women as a wife. My mother's marriage to Kerem was the big talk of the town that year. I got jeered at by the other children, and I was often told all sorts of horror stories about stepfathers. I was even more afraid when mother died with Elendi's birth when I was seven. It didn't help that not only did Kerem not share the same blood as me, but we did not even share the same race. I found out that my fears were uncalled for. He treated me as a father would a son and with more patience than I deserved, because I was horribly jealous of Elendi, who got a lot of attention from Kerem. He gave me more my fair share of attention. He taught the ways of the sword and the bow. I was an eager student for these lessons, because in hand to hand fights, I usually got beaten up. The sword was more to my liking, and I took up more training in its mastery than I did the bow. I could hit the target, but I could not guarantee a bull's eye, especially on a moving object. I outdid father's skill with the sword.

He also taught Elendi and me academics. I learned to read and write as did my sister. This put us up a notch above the other villagers, and it pissed them off more at our family. Kerem taught us about art and history, which I didn't do so well at. Father only smiled and shook his head, because Elendi loved them and did well with these subjects. He was an elf of many carefree joys of life and all it had to offer like his daughter. His naive trust of others is what led to his murder. Whatever the reason given for his death and the pardons of his murderers, Elendi and I were left with enough expenses that each day was a challenge to survive. I had to sell our home. this paid for father's funeral and unpaid bills that he had left behind him. Elendi and I moved into a smaller house, and we paid a fair rent. My stepfather's race and my acceptance of my half elven sister made the prejudices hard for us to find work in Maykigs. So, the festivals of the nearby villages made it possible for us to survive. Somehow, I couldn't bring myself to leave my mother's homeland, and neither could Inaciga, whom we befriended on one of our out of town expeditions.

Elendi was a wonderful girl so far as pretty and friendly, but she had the common sense of a dead horse. I have always looked out for her. She was 18 and a pretty picture of a young woman. Her sharp angular face with high full cheeks with her petite body and naiveté, she was often mistaken for a child. She had short reddish brown hair with slanted but large emerald green eyes, that she could use to look into the eyes of any man and get her way. Her little full mouth could create an incredible pout, that made any request she might have impossible to refuse. The both of us were dark skinned, because of our many summer travels. Physically, Elendi's elvish blood was hard to tell for sure, except for her slightly pointed ears. Her high spirits and curiosity of everything got me in more trouble than I deserved. I really didn't need her to get myself into trouble. My fiery spirit got me into enough on my own.

Such was the case that day. When Elendi pulled out that charm, then that part about our finances, we ended up going through that damn woodland. Elendi was a highly intelligent woman. She just didn't have sense enough to keep her out of trouble. Elendi's curiosity took priority over everything in the hierarchy of her mind. Inaciga was a lot of help. He would happily follow along with my sister. So, I threw up my hands in disgust. She had won over all three of us. I really had no fear of some terrible flesh eater monster of unnatural origins. I was more worried about the bandits that might have created such stories for their hideout. No matter whether we faced monsters of lore or bandits and we lost, we were still just as dead. So, I drew my sword and was on my guard for anyone or anything that may want to rob or kill us or both.

We were able to find and tread the overgrown path. The disuse of the path wasn't what bothered me as much as the stillness in the dark overgrown forest. The lack of animal life created tension in the horses as well as myself. The silence seemed to be displeased with our presence and the sound of the crunching and crackling leaves under our feet. My nerves jumped with each crack of the leaves and with each step we made. I started to believe that the villagers weren't so full of it after all. The temperature dropped as we passed, but there was snow coming behind us. A chilled wind blew to our backs and made ominous noises as it tried to lift us up and push us forward onto the path ahead.

Although Elendi started this journey off oblivious to all the frightening signs, she became frightened. Elendi was good at feeling the spirits and emotions around her. Slowly, but surely, the curiosity turned to slowly eating fear. She stopped in her tracks and turned to me. Chances were good that there was something here, and it did mean us harm. My sister was not afraid of the unknown and the unnatural, but she was afraid of pain and death. "I'm frightened, Darius," she said at last.

Whether it was brotherly affection I held for her or not, I held back a string of accusations. "It's about time," was all I could manage to say.

Suddenly she stopped dead, stood frozen a moment, then took an apprehensive step back. The horses screamed and bolted. They broke free of Inaciga's grip. I felt the icy claws of fear dig around my spine. I swallowed hard. The overwhelming stench of rotted flesh filled the air. I stood up straight and taunt. Slowly, nervously I turned around. My knuckles of my right hand turned white with my grip. My free hand's fingers spread wide and trembled. I looked around in quick successions. Ever fiber of my body and soul told me to run, but my sense told me that that was what it wants me to do. We would be hunted and slaughtered as prey to wolves. I forced myself to stay and fight. Elendi, for all her flaws, would not abandon me. Inaciga would not abandon Elendi. So, we would stand together.

Time passed slowly. Seconds can feel like several minutes as you wait for something to happen, but you don't know when it would come. Finally my apprehension was finally confirmed. My thumping heart drowned out the exact direction of the crunching leaves. Within my sight appeared an a dense path ahead of us a well armed, with a heavy broadsword, more than half the length of my body, warrior. The dense light of the day filtered through the heavy branches of the tree and overcast day made the features of this tall strong warrior not recognizable until he made his strange swift movement to our frightened party.

His movements were strange in that he moved slowly then lightening fast. He would jerk and move slowly again. I gripped my sword tighter, as I realized that underneath the helmet the face I stared at was no longer human. The sight of the burning blue flames in the otherwise empty eye sockets of the fleshless face threw me off balance and back into my companions.

With a foul exclamation that should not have been used in Elendi's presence, I managed to break away from the confines of fear and dodge his first attack. As we spread three ways, I was singled out for attack. Because of the fierceness and the speed of the attacks, I was unable to break free and run. All I could do was block the devastating blows, that came at me. I guess I wasn't crushed or maimed by the attack, because the skeleton wielded the sword awkwardly with one hand and it was off target. All the same if the broadsword would make contact with my sword or me, I would be shattered. For a being without muscles, it wielded an amazing amount of strength. Another blow was aimed at me. I jumped out of the way. Although its blows were slow and inaccurate, it would wear me down, and its hit would score. Suddenly, its attention shifted away from me.

Inaciga spoke out strange words. Guessing from the rumors, I would assume that he conjured a spell. Whatever he was doing, I was grateful for the distraction. The words had no effect on the undead warrior. The magician moved out of the way of the oncoming sword. The skeleton completely missed him. I studied its movements. I could do little else, as I regained my strength and breath. The skeleton's rather slow and jerky movements were what I would expect out of undead creature from the tales I have heard of such monsters. There seemed to be fragments of knowledge of sword fighting. Its skills reminded me of my early training, when I thought I knew it all, and I really didn't know squat. I access that the slowness of its movements was not caused by the stiffness of its limbs. It could move with great speed and fluency at times. It seemed to be more of a delay between the mind's messages to its limbs, and then there was uncertainly afterwards. What a strange way to fight, but what did I know of the undead.

Elendi took a fallen branch and hit the skeleton between the legs. It stumbled and fell forward. I recovered myself sufficiently and knew enough of its inadequate fighting style to be of use. I went to my companions' aid. The skeleton unsteadily regained itself and returned its attack to Inaciga. I was ignored. What an insult!

I hit the undead warrior from behind. I missed breaking any of its bones hidden within that ancient armor. Damn! I had hope to hit and sever the spine. The skeleton paused and pulled itself straight, as I pulled my sword free. Inaciga spoke another spell. the skeleton stood up straight again and lowered its sword. It lowered its head slightly and looked from side to side. I backed up and prepared to flee, but the skeleton showed me what speed it could produce. It raised its weapon at me as it broke the distance.

I turned around for the attack. I made the mistake of looking into those flame blue eyes. Fear cut down my back. I swallowed hard and backed up to a tree. It jumped at me with its speed, but its sword moved in an unsure manner. I was able to move out of the way of the blow. The sword hit the tree with enough force that it should have severed me with it, but it did not. The blade was dull, and it stuck into the bark of the tree. Although the blade was dull, it would not save me if I got hit with it.

I struck the skeleton's legs as it tried to pull its sword free. It fell again. I raised my sword to behead it. Unnatural as it may be, it would be hard to function without a head. It grabbed my ankles and pulled me off balance. I fell hard to the ground. Ignoring my new collection of bruises, I kept my mind to more pressing matters. I waited for its attack. I expected it to retrieve its sword, but it fell on me. We were going to fight hand to hand. Its grip on my right hand made me drop my sword. I tried to kick him away from me, but my foot caught in the hanging leather of its midsection. Its heavy leather worn gloves reached out and achieved my throat. I tried to push it away with my feet. It began to squeeze the life from me. Darkness closed in on my vision.

Suddenly, a branch hit it at the side of the head. This action knocked its helmet off and broke its concentration. the overwhelming stench of rotted flesh with my near strangulation caused me to choke. From a distance I heard Inaciga's clear voice rang through my consciousness. My opponent pulled up and put its face in its hands. its head shook from side to side. I couldn't move. All I could do was cough. Shit! I couldn't escape! The skeleton retrieved its sword. it turned away from me. It went for Inaciga.

A strange event occurred. the skeleton's foot caught the tangled overgrown grass, and it fell face forward. I caught my breath and collected my fallen sword. I prepared for flight. The skeleton recovered quick enough to stop Elendi. My sister's wide green eyes looked into those blue flames like I did earlier. She stood frozen. The skeleton raised its sword to smote her. Griping my sword, I ran to her.

I heard Inaciga's voice speak another spell. The skeleton's gloved hands spread wide. The sword fell straight behind it and thudded into the ground. Elendi couldn't move. The skeleton gave out a hideous shriek and fell forward, knocking my sister down with its collapse. It pulled up and buried its face in its gloved hands.

Elendi recovered her feet, prepared to run, but stopped. She paused and turned slowly around to the skeletal warrior. Puzzlement crossed her face, as she looked at our hunched up assailant. She knelt before it. She reached out her hand as if she were being controlled by some unknown force. I was still frozen from the sudden collapse of the enemy. She placed one hand on its shoulder, and the other hand moved to the bare face.

I jumped awake. What the hell was she doing! I ran to her and roughly grabbed her hand away from the cursed being. She let out a startled cry. the gloved undead hand grabbed my wrist in a bone breaking grip. Fear shot up my back. I trembled throughout my body as I looked into those blue flame eyes. I knew I was going to die right here and right now.

"You will leave her be!" came the strong yet hollow voice of that terrifying creature.

I could not move. Elendi softly touched the gripping arm of the undead warrior. "Please," she said in that sweet voice that she could produce, as if it would matter, "He is my brother. He only looks out for me."

The skeleton slowly slackened his grip. I wasted no time in pulling away from him. Elendi moved her hand to the bare skull again, as if some power provoked her. I hesitated in pulling her away. She gently touched the dirt encrusted maggot eaten bone of the warrior's face. I was sickened, but I dared not approach her. She didn't seem to notice the horrible decay as she touched him. The skeleton gently took her hand away from his face. He looked Elendi over, then he turned to me. The head moved slowly but smoothly as he took in the sight of me. He turned his head to Inaciga and surveyed him in the same manner. The bare skull tilted to one side as he watched the antsy wizard.

He held up one of his gloved hands for us to wait. Honestly, I couldn't believe that we were still standing here. His other hand held Elendi's hands loosely. he took in his surroundings. the extended glove hand faltered as he turned his head about. He let go of Elendi's hands and climbed to his feet. he gave every appearance of being confused by his surroundings.

"What did you do?" I asked Inaciga accusingly, since I was afraid to disobey our overly strong dead companion's request.

"Well, I have learned a few things about real magic. Not the silly tricks that I do for the festivals. I have studied a bit further than I have been taught. Well, . . . I've rather done some deducing and the like, and . . . well . . . I've made up a few things. These spells have worked out rather promising."

"You didn't answer my question, boy!" I argued, as I crossed in front of the confused skeleton, who was still engrossed by his observations. I grabbed hold of my fellow villager's collars.

The skeleton took hold of my collar before I could achieve my goal of throttling the young sorcerer. As I was lifted backwards off of the ground, I had the distinct feeling out of the three of us, he liked me the least. "Before the two of you engage in beating the crap out of each other, would one of you like to explain where the hell I am, and how did I get here."

Inaciga gave a nervously but mischievous grin. I could have kicked him. I did not see what was so amusing about this situation, especially my position. The skeleton slowly put me back on the ground, and I remained. I was amazed, but as insensitive as I was to things, I knew that the skeleton was not quite as dangerous, and we could reason with him.

"The spell worked better than I expected. I tried a couple of defensive spells, and you didn't pay any attention. I tried to dispel you. That did nothing. On a longshot, I tried a memory spell. It affected you somewhat," Inaciga explained, "you paid attention and paused in the fighting. You shook your head as if you remembered something, but you lost it and went back to the fight. So, I tried a spell with an inflection of power on the key word. This is one of my experimentations. You not only stopped fighting, but you put your face in your hands. So, the final time, when I worked the spell, I put inflections of power on all words of power. This last spell hit home. I was so surprised that it worked at all, I agreed with Elendi to hang around for awhile. I don't know how long it will last. When the spell fades, you will be trying to kill us again. I rather think I will be first on your list, because sorcery got you into this mess. My sorcery didn't do it, but it was sorcery all the same, and in your other state, there is no difference." He looked at me. "So, I suggest we get out of here NOW!!!"

The skeleton, whose movements were much more fluent than before, grabbed hold of the wizard's shoulders firmly, but not in a harsh painful grip. "No!" he commanded, "Don't leave me! Tell me what has happened. Why am I trying to kill you? Why do you think that my presence will hurt the girl?" His voice softened, "please, tell me.' He paused, then he firmly stated, "I do not harm women, and I certainly don't hurt children!"

I looked at him rather strangely. He didn't get it. Elendi kept me from the obvious series of remarks, that I had to make. She put her arm around him and made him sit down by a tree. She gathered his gloved hands into his lap. "We will try to explain this as gently as possible," she told him softly, "as soon as we figure out how to."

"This isn't good, is it?" he commented.

Elendi couldn't stop me this time. "Well, that all depends upon your definition of good," I remarked, "If you define good as being a bit on the dead and bony side, you are in good shape!" I just couldn't resist this time. He already hated me. Elendi got up and hit me hard in the back of the head.

"I can't believe you!" she cried out, "He's not here by choice! he obviously doesn't know what happened. So, leave your nasty remarks to yourself."
"Would someone, please, just explain what the hell is going on here," the skeleton said with forced patience, "Instead of pitying me and making fun of me!"

Elendi sat down across from him and took his gloved hands. he shook his head and pulled away from her. "I really don't want your pity. It almost hurts as bad as his jibes," he told her gently. "I only want to know what happened before you abandon me."
Inaciga sat down beside Elendi. he gave up on running away just at the moment. He dropped his chin into the palm of his hand and studied the quiet skeleton for several minutes. For someone, who was so impatient to leave this undead, he was taking his time. Elendi wasn't helping matters any. She's the one who started this. I sighed as I watched them. How long did it take to tell a skeleton, that he was now a skeleton, and we're all scared shitless because he will revert back to a skeleton, who will not listen to any reason for not killing us. I would do the honors, but somehow it was amusing watching my companions trying to figure out how to say this and in a tasteful way.

"I am having a hard time figuring out where to start," Inaciga said.

"I thought my earlier comment explained it all," Not to mention, surely he should have guess something was amiss because of the utter filth upon his armor and his worn peeling gloves. Although his body is quite decayed, the armor for the most part was quite whole, and none of his bones showed through the leather or the flexible mail underneath. I would have guessed that he originated from a colder region, because of the glimpse of the ruined matted fur and wool that showed at the neck. his heavy leather gloves, that also had the heavy wool, showed signs of digging, because the tips of the fingers were worn to the blackened wool and beyond. If the dirt I spied be his rotted lingering flesh, it mingled well with the rest of the filth. The bone fingers were not evident through the heavy decay. I gathered that he must have been buried at one time in his existence, but his soul seemed never to have left this plane of existence. Somehow, I think he would have guessed what had happened to him if he had gone on to the afterlife. Given the fact that he had not tried to kill any of us since he had been conscious of himself again (and I have given him enough reason to do so), I would not say that he was some evil creature, who fought to return to this form. The intelligence needed for such a thing did not seem to be possible for him. He did not seem wicked enough to be denied death by his god, and he had conveniently forgotten his death and his condition. All the same, common sense would dictate, as loosely as his armor and other clothes fitted, and his boots sagged for lack of calves, he should have guessed that something was amiss with the size of his body and possibly lacking the muscle that was once there. Yet, somehow, I don't think he has noticed the lack of volume yet.

"I really don't like the sound of what you say, wizard," the skeleton answered, "And I like his comment even less!" He indicated me.

I only grinned back.

"What is the last thing you remember before waking to us?" Inaciga asked.

The skeleton looked at each of us in turn. "It is muddled." He leaned against the tree and hunched up those long legs. He lowered his head and remained silent for a few moments. Inaciga became rather nervous at the delay and pulled at Elendi. the skeleton looked up suddenly as the memory hit him. "I remember my daughter, Katalyn, playing in the corn fields, but I wasn't dressed for battle then, nor were my clothes ever in such a state." He leaned his head back to the tree. "I'm certain that much has happened since then."

"That is a strange thing to remember out of a lifetime of experience," I commented.

"I am most proud of my daughter," he answered.

"This is going to be most interesting," Inaciga remarked as he calmed and sat back down. "Can you remember your name?"

He looked down. He was silent for a long time. Finally, he looked up at the sorcerer. "I thought everything was going to be alright until you asked that. My name is on the edge of my memory. There is like a heavy fog that hides it from me. I am trying to pierce that fog and see beyond, but in some ways, I am kind of afraid of what might be there."

"Is there nothing else that you remember?" Inaciga asked.

The skeletal warrior put his face in his hands and hunched up those long legs again. "When I was twelve, we had a dog named 'Mutts'. I got to name him instead of one of my other six siblings! Well, I guess, it was only five. Perry couldn't talk yet."
I shook my head. "This is a joke!" i argued, feeling impatient about this charade.

Elendi shook her head. "His armor suggests that he was part of the country Arcia. They were noble humans," (with a dog named Mutts!) "Until their country fell 500 years ago. The last battle, some three hundred warriors disappeared. It is told in legend that they were forced in an undead state by an evil wizard they battled. They were used as his slaves to conquer their own nation and other nations until the wizard fell at a stray arrow to the throat."

"So, why didn't the handiwork die with him?" I asked, "Isn't that the way of wizards?"

Inaciga shrugged. "Perhaps the spell had divine intervention. There are evil deities out there, you know." Inaciga looked at the skeleton, who seemed strangely quiet throughout the explanation. "Perhaps, there is more to the curse that would hold them here after his death."

"So, why did he attack us?" I asked, "We have no political importance."

"When the master died, they were set to wander with the last command being kill any being that did not belong to his legions. The way I figure it, the exception to command got lost, and he just went around and killed anyone or anything in his path. Of course, there is the possibility that there was no exception to the command. I think that would have made the spell easier. Our friend here went after you first, because you were the only one of us armed, thus, you were a warrior to fight. Then, he went after me, because of my magic. Magic is a powerful weapon, and it must be defeated in a battle, is one of my theories why he attacked me. The other theory is, magic got him into this mess, and he wanted to avenge himself on that magic. My magic didn't do it, but that didn't matter to him. By killing me, he would have avenged himself for the wrong done to him."

"You frighten me," the skeleton answered. Elendi stroked his arm sympathetically. He gently pushed her away.

"In what way?" the magician asked.

"First off, all this undead talk, then I can't feel this gentle lady's touch. I feel numb all over. It terrifies me. Then you speak of all this magic stuff, undead, and killing all in the same breath. I know nothing about magic and the undead. you talk of me trying to kill you for vengeance of a curse. What curse? I don't know why I would want to kill any of you. I don't know any of you! Then you talk of Arcia falling 500 years ago. This cannot be. Nothing lasts that long, especially not a mere mortal such as myself."

"Do you remember the battle?" Inaciga asked.

The skeleton lowered his head, then he leaned back tot he tree in silence. His long legs slid across the still green grass and the fallen leaves. His hands quietly laid at his sides. Minutes passed slowly. I thought we had lost him. Inaciga watched Elendi's reaction this time. She remained quiet at the undead fighter's side. So, we did not run. Suddenly, he sat bolt upright and grasped the overgrown grass at his sides tightly. "I remember trying to escape a dark dungeon. the others fighters are there, too. We are condemned and frightened. My brothers are there, too. Even my eldest brother paces in fear. Many of us have been sacrificed to their beastly gods and used by the evil minion for unspeakable deeds until death finally releases them. I don't want to die, but I am afraid to live through these horrors. What does the evil one plan for us?" He gripped his shoulders. Startled by being able to completely circumference his shoulder with his hand, he allowed his hands to drop to his sides again. "That is all I can remember of that scene. I feel like I am searching for something, something important, something that will bring my salvation. I must find it at all cost, but I don't know where to start."

He lowered his head and turned it from side to side slowly. he stopped the movement and pulled his legs up. he began to pick at the peeling leather of his gloves for a couple of minutes, then he suddenly grasped his arms again. the fingers of both hands were able to encircle both arms. He let go as he looked straight ahead. Trembling fingers reached for his face. The shaking fingers outlined the face. His jaws gaped. He pulled away from the discovery and shook his head vigorously. He placed his right hand on his midsection. his jaw trembled as he pressed his right hand through the leather, mail and woolen garments. His left hand dug deeper and deeper into the hollow midsection. He shook all over as his right hand finally discovered the bottom. He swiftly pulled his hand away and shook his head in denial. He sat upright. A shaking right gloved hand took hold of the left glove. He paused. I guess, if he had a throat, he would have swallowed deeply. He held the edge of the glove. He looked at each of us in turn. Then he turned his head away from the scene as he prepared himself. With a forced effort, he pulled the glove. It did not come off right away. He continued the effort, and, finally, it tore away. The stench was stifling, but I don't think he noticed. Trembling throughout his body, he turned his head unsteadily to look down at the exposed hand. He spread out the yellowing bone fingers with clinging rotted flesh and dead maggots. He gave out a hideous wail. he backed away from that bone hand, as if it was some unknown monster instead of an extension of himself. His back hit the tree. He cried out again. He pushed that left arm away from the rest of his body, as he tried to escape the apparition. Elendi took hold of him in his frenzy, but he was easily able to push her off. Elendi climbed to her feet and tried to calm him. Inaciga joined her in trying to take hold of him again. If anything would drive our undead companion over the edge, this would be it. I stood nearby and watched. There was no way I could help even if I wanted to. Finally, the fear calmed from the skeleton, and he collapsed into Elendi's arms. He cried quietly without tears, as my sister tried to comfort him.

Inaciga touched her arm. "We must leave," he told her, "He will lose his identity again, and he will kill us."

"You are finally making sense, boy!" I exclaimed.

"No," Elendi answered, "We should not leave him behind to become that horrible monster again."

"It is out of my control," Inaciga stated.

"Is there nothing we can do?" she asked, "It is crueler to return his memory and leave him to forget again. What have you accomplished?"

"The idea was to give him back his memory just long enough to make him quit fighting, and we run for it while he was confused and disabled," he answered. he looked into my sister's emerald eyes and sighed. "If he could remember his name, he may be able to fight the part of the curse that makes him spiritually numb, and he would remain himself."

The skeleton pulled himself away from Elendi. he sat up and looked at Inaciga in silence for a few moments, then he climbed to his feet. he was careful not to look down at himself. "You will help me if I remember my name?" he asked slowly. Inaciga stood back awestruck. "You will not leave me once I acquire this knowledge, will you?"

"You would be less dangerous if you remember. I don't know how to help you," Inaciga answered.

"But you will try for a little while?" he asked, "Please."

Inaciga looked up at the tall skeleton. Finally, the wizard nodded the acceptance of the request. "You will prove an interesting study if nothing else, but first, you must remember your name. I need some assurance of my safety."

The warrior pulled himself up to his full height of 6'5". He lowered his head a moment, nodded, then he held it up proudly as a great warrior. "I am Sir Waldemar Roderick Gamaliel Roseus of Arcia, son of Gunther Elijah Ferril Roseus of the court of King Sempala of the Seventh Royal House of Arcia. I am the Captain of the Knights of the Red Hawk."

"Quite an impressive title for one, who has been so humble in the last hour," I said suspiciously, "and for one I deem a coward." I thought my words would bring the fight to him, and we could run like hell away from him.

"You would be afraid, too," he replied calmly, "if you woke to a strange world of strangely dressed people, then you find out the reason they are terrified of you is that your bones are a bit bare of flesh, and you can't remember going from being a happy father, watching his daughter playing in a field to a mindless murdering monster."

"You have got a point there," I answered. I rubbed my chin and eyed him. He stood relaxed as a normal living human person would, unlike the creature I fought. "I guess your awkward fighting could be blamed on the lack of your true persona and the absence of your reality at the time."

"I don't remember how good of a fighter I was, but I haven't remember everything that I should either. I guess I must have been a pretty good fighter with a title like that, and I seem to recall I did a lot of fighting. Given time, I'm certain my memory will come back, but I hope not to be given that time. I don't want to continue on in this undead state. I should be completely dead. How do I get there?"

Inaciga scratched his head. "I don't know. I have to find out more about the spell that holds you to this world, that will also help me understand why my spell worked on you."

"I only want what is right," he said, "If 500 years have really passed, then Catherine and Katalyn will have already died and will be waiting for me to join them. I wish I could have seen Katalyn as a young woman. She was a most beautiful child."

"How do you know that he won't revert back to his murderous ways?" I asked Inaciga.

The wizard friend smiled. "He remembered his name and his family. These are links that as long as he holds on to them, he will not revert back." He looked to the tall warrior. "So, that means you need to hold onto the memory of this Catherine and your daughter, or else, we will abandon you as fast as fleas from a drowning dog!"
"If I lose the memory of my wife and daughter again, then I do not deserve your help," the skeleton answered.

"Alright, you dingleberries," I remarked, "How are we going to get him into Maykigs without anyone noticing him? He is obviously undead in plain light and he smells of the long dead."

"Thank you," the skeleton remarked.

"You have no sense of smell, or else you would have used it to your own displeasure!" I returned.

"My home is on the edge of the swamplands," Inaciga pointed out. "There are many secret ways for me to get home without going through Maykigs. Still, the swamplands have eyes, but I have several cloaks in my pack. After all, it is winter, and I was not sure how long before it got really cold. Sir Waldemar's clothes are whole enough. My hooded cloak is a bit short for him, but it will hide his face. Sir Waldemar, you will have to keep your head down as we pass the swamp. This will hide your face and the lights of your eyes."

"I don't want to know!" the skeleton commented as he taken aback by the mention of his eyes, "But I will do as you ask."

"As far as the smell, well," Inaciga stated, "We will have to live with it. In the swamplands, no one will notice. We will take care of the smell when we get back to my place. You have an obvious preservation spell about yourself and your belongings. We should be able to clean you up a bit, and the smell will lessen."

I sighed with relief. It was only the ten hour journey that worried me. I decided it was time for Elendi and myself to find the horses. What a lot of time we saved on this short cut! The only good thing was the snow was slow in coming. Well, there was another good thing. Come the first of the year, we could cut across the woodland without the terror lurking there. if Inaciga succeeds. And finally, more importantly, Inaciga owed me a few more coins for the escorting of this new luggage. We camped in the forest that night. Inaciga created a calming spell for the horses, but they did not seem as intimidated by Sir Waldemar when we first arrived here. Elendi replaced his glove back on his hand, but we all felt that it would be best to leave the helmet where it lay. He didn't want ot know anymore about his decay. Sir Waldemar talked for a little while with me on watch, but for the most part, he was caught in his own thoughts.

At the grey dawn, we started out again. Ever since Sir Waldemar had dropped his sword at the end of the fight, he had made no effort to retrieve it. This kept me happy enough. When we packed up our things and left, he suddenly stopped in his tracks and exclaimed "Sword!" He left us and ran back to the campsite to get it.

I looked at Inaciga. "For a great warrior, he really is truly scattered brained!"

Interesting thing, while I was retyping this, I was listening to the stereo. Just as I started the fight sequence, the Edge of Sanity played. That was the only loud obnoxious death metal CD in the player. Hey! It fit!