Ondo 19th Morgron – Year of the Stonehammer
Monsters Slain (0) Dungeons Looted (0) Gold Earned (0) Treasure Looted (0) Lord Cleaver (He’s the man. Sword. Whatever)
The walls ran red. Blood in the cracks and grain of the rock, the taste of iron on my tongue as I crept down the stairs under the tower. Soiling myself all the way. It was one of those times when every hasty, shallow intake of breath sounds like a wind storm and every footstep on stone is like the clanging of a chapel bell.
This was the lair of a Necromancer all right – or worse and by the state of the place, a powerful one too. Curse my luck.
You see, the more powerful the Necromancer, the more his surroundings begin to reflect the nature of his dealings. Bits of the other world begin to leak through into our Natural world. The blood soaked walls were pointing at a very experienced bone fiddler. The other thing about Necromancers? They are all evil, black to the bone. It usually starts with the inclination to heal, oddly enough. Most of their kind are failed clerics, the calling just wasn’t strong enough for them and their lack of conviction results in their inability to heal the living from injuries and diseases, stuff like that. When they realise that faith isn’t enough, they start looking for other ends and means.
Kester, an old friend of mine told me once in Kewoon that he’d been part of a desert raid on a Gith camp and had taken shelter from a sand storm in a ruin with nine other men. All experienced, all veterans. Only he and one other came out alive into the hot morning sun. He told me that the floor had given way in the night and down below the walls were made of bone. Old death magic that. Although that one other had made it out alive, he cut out his own eyes two days later before drowning himself in an Oasis. Kester went the other way and is a full time Paladin or some such. He got a dose of religion and spends his days hunting down the ‘darkness’ as he calls it. Good man in a tight spot, but a little intense.
Down and down that narrow staircase wound in a rough spiral, like the engraving on a Corrun Lion, the stone under foot giving way to hard packed earth and the roots of the earth poking through the dirt. The air was dry and dead on the tongue. To be expected.
I had been holding The Lord all this time in a sweaty grip. I was so tense that I barely noticed the dull glow that comes off him when bad things are nearby. He’s a stuck up arse most of the time, but like my man Kester, good in a spot. I stopped, narrowed my eyes at the darkness ahead and held my breath. Times like these, I go cold. Not fear, but something else more like fate has stepped in and taken hold.
‘You’re probably going to die in a minute Strongblade, no point squirming over it’ That’s what my head says to me
‘Stephan, this is bad’ That’s what Lord Cleaver says in a whisper and the fear comes back. The Lord don’t ever talk like that. Can a sword feel fear?
Catching a dry cough, I step forward into the darkness. Lord Cleaver’s glow has vanished and from experience I know that this darkness ain’t natural. This is bad.
I can hear this sound like itching, if that is a sound. Sweat is pouring off me and I can feel bile rising up, burning the back of my throat. Dark, dark magic all around. Tears in my eyes, visions of old Gra’ swimming in front of my eyes.
S’all right Stephan, I’ll get the blood off your knee, brave boy… brave boy…it’s only a scratch…’
‘If you’re going boy, take this with you. It ain’t much but it will get you food and lodgings for a few weeks. Your Ma and Da are going to miss you boy… they are going to miss you sore… we all love you lad, there ain’t no need to go… we all love you…’
‘Stephan, focusss!’ That’s The Lord hissing in my ear. Almost lost it there. Almost. Hells.
‘Enough of your shit and tricks! Show yourself’ Says I. I know I’m being watched.
I hope that anyone reading this never has the misfortune to be confronted by a real Necromancer. There are dabblers all over the place, most of them give themselves away and end up hanging off a spike or burned alive, but the real ones? They are clever enough to find somewhere well away from people and get right down to it.
This one stands before me dressed in stinking rags, his teeth filed down to points. Self mutilation is evident in his cloven tongue and the golden rings hanging, jingling from his rib cage. Runes are carved or burned into every scrap of skin. It takes me a moment to notice that the darkness is gone, banished by a thought, but not one of mine.
Behind that emaciated figure is a raised plinth and on that slab of cold stone is old Gazoo The Magnificent, still dead but in worse condition than when he’d been under my tender care. His skin was hanging in sagging ribbons about him and what looked like most of his insides were all placed around him in flat golden dishes. In his eye sockets rested two Ulgadalian coins. Nasty things and never meant for currency, or at least those coins don’t buy the usual things in life like a hot meal. Behind Gazoo’s head is a large glass jar pulsing with a dim light like a sick heartbeat.
‘Ooh. I like what you’ve done with him’ Playing the charming card. It’s a favourite tactic when I’m terrified ‘Never looked better’.
The Necromancer just put his bony head on one side and smiled, his teeth dragging along his bottom lip, drawing blood. ‘Chance…’
‘Eh? Chance?’ Odd thing to say at the time, but now I know better.
‘Behind you!’ Yells Lord Cleaver and I spin round to see something that looks like one of those Monks up at the Skaylian Monasty standing right behind me. He’s head to toe in grey robes and cowl, but I can see eyes gleaming from the shadows of the hood. A thin, mottled white hand shoots out and grabs my arm before I can spin out of the way.
‘Just one Chance’ Giggles the Bone Fiddler ‘Is all I need’
… Oh. Too tired to write anymore. Thomas looks like he needs something. I’ll continue in the morning.