I landed squarely on my feet before throwing a few darts at the creature, only for them to bounce off like pebbles. Disappointed, I tossed a few smoke bombs his way while I reached for my swords. Nothing too remarkable about them, really. A standard issued gladius in my right and a spatha in my left. A little unbalanced, I know, but for some reason, it always seemed to work for me. This odd quirk of mine would earn me the distinction of being called ‘Tristan the Hefty Lefty.’
This thing was not human though, much less among the living either; not to mention, this fellow seemed well versed in the arcane arts. Maybe I should not have chalked the fight down to a simple matter of reaction time. What was I to do, then?
I ran at the necromancer as fast as I could, slashing at the apparition sideways. I could feel the bones completely snap in two as the blades effortlessly passed through the ribcage. Flipping backwards towards the door, my hands were almost parted from my wrists as I caught sight of a beam of energy shaped like a crescent.
I rose to my feet and watched as the bony figure came apart, limbs crumbling to the floor as the necromancer let out an ear-piercing screech. Could such a powerful creature that can float on thin air and lift heavy objects with a simple gesture of the hand be so frail and easily defeated?
It would not be an exciting story if the necromancer just toppled like a ton of bricks, no! The fragments of his ribs and limbs floated towards each other, suspended in mid-air. They reassembled into large ballista bolts before dashing towards me with unbelievable speed. One crashed into the wall next to me, grazing my cheek before tearing a big hole through the wall, while the other one pinned itself between my legs, just barely missing my midsection. No doubt, while I was scared out of my mind, I did not have time to be scared.
The bolts swiftly flew through the back into the necromancer’s sockets reforming into proper arms once again, fragments of his ribs returning to his torso, as if he had not lost any of his appendages at all.
‘Fool…’ The necromancer said, his slurry voice growing more monstrous, echoing and thundering across the room. ‘You cannot kill that which is already dead.’
His head jerked around one hundred and eighty degrees, looking towards the ground.
‘Soldiers! Your Governor commands you!’
The room started shaking. Books were tumbling in an endless avalanche as swirls of energy started flowing into every single crevice in the room. Before I knew it, bony arms started tearing through the walls, ripping through the wood with an inhuman strength.
It was those skeletons from before! What were once harmless adornments of a long-abandoned building were now full of life, their eyes glowing red as they drew their swords, their teeth clattering together as their feet clicked against the wooden floor.
But of course! I knew something was terribly amiss in the entire place. That was why the place was in such disrepair. That’s why the remains of the dead guards remained unburied. They had become unwilling servants of the necromancer.
‘We have an unwelcome, uninvited intruder for a guest.’ The governor said, making no effort to mask his droning, slithering voice with something more human. ‘Would you kindly see him out?’
‘We have an unwelcome, uninvited intruder for a guest.’ The governor said, making no effort to mask his droning, slithering voice with something more human. ‘Would you kindly see him out?’ The skeletal soldiers stiffened, straightening their figures in unison before saluting him, their arms moving with clockwork precision and punctuality. They came at me, their swords raised high above their heads before forming a circle around me. Fortunately, while they were excellent at saluting and forming beautiful formations, they were not as good at fighting, nor were they the most tactically sound. Then again, they are skeletons and anything they had resembling a brain no longer existed, so maybe I should have not been too surprised.
They formed a circle around me, sending in one man after another, hoping that they would be able to cheer him on instead of coming at me all at once. They would have been able to completely overwhelm me if they went in all at once, but this gave me an advantage, as I was able to dispatch the first one by shattering its femur, the second by lopping off both of its arms, and the third by lopping its skull clean off its neck.
The fourth posed a little bit of a challenge, though, it wielded a two-handed war axe, perhaps a relic of the old Achylsians when they were still eating wild boar with their bare hands and smelling of sewage. The bones were a lot thicker, as I found out when I tried to rip out the long sword from its upper arm, but the damn blade would not budge. The skeleton let out an ear-piercing scream before grabbing my left arm and throwing me against a wall.
Not only did I find myself without my main weapon, but it is now literally in the hands of the skeleton. He effortlessly ripped it out of his arm and tossed it behind him into the crowd of other skeletons before dashing towards me. He effortlessly ripped it out of his arm and tossed it behind him into the crowd of other skeletons before dashing towards me.
I had to think on my feet. Yes, I still had my gladius, but I felt absolutely naked without my main weapon. I had to get it back somehow. Then I noticed the inexplicably large pile of books on the ground, some of those volumes thicker than the width of my fully stretched hand.
I must have looked incredibly stupid, grabbing the closest books that I could find and throwing them as hard as I could at the brute. They were too small and too fast for him to react with his axe, wildly swinging it in different directions until he fell backwards, crushing himself underneath the weight of his own axe. It was then that I theorised that the brute probably never read a single book in his lifetime.
The other skeletons were so distracted by the spectacle of the brute falling on his axe, or the axe falling on him more like, that I made a cold dash towards the bookshelf, jumping over one skeleton while ducking beneath another, rolling forward as my hand naturally found the hilt of my spatha.
But there still remained the problem of those skeletons, which still numbered in the twenties, maybe thirties. Yes, I could still try and take them one by one, but sooner or later those literally thick skulls would soon get the idea that queuing up for single combat with a First Ranger was not exactly a good idea.
Then there was the necromancer himself. What was he doing in the middle of all this? Could not he have taken advantage of the chaos to finally kill me?
Then I looked up and realised that this thing was not the all-powerful mage I thought it to be. It was caught in a stasis, locked in a stiffened stance while bolts of electricity were flowing out of his hands into the skeletons, while trying to bring in more skeletons from wherever he could find them.
As long as he was keeping me distracted with more skeletons, he simply had to just send in more and more until I became tired and worn out, ripe for the taking. Still, I was not that stupid, or at the very least, not as stupid as those grunts he was constantly sending against me. He was counting on the fact that I would not notice, in the middle of the frenzied chaos, the fact that he was sitting there, defenceless and vulnerable.
I rolled to the side and ran towards the other end of the room, hoping to pelt him with darts, this time heavier and tipped with iginirium. Yes, they would still bounce off harmlessly, but at least the small explosions they made would leave enough of a dent.
All it did, though, was break him into small pieces, and the more pieces I broke him into, the more deadly he became, as I simply gave him more mobility, giving him more ways to attack me. He was laughing maniacally as I tried in vain to destroy this abomination. How he was laughing, I had no idea, as I remembered shattering his jaw with one of the explosive darts. But I guess there are some things about this world that I will never come to understand.
The necromancer did not even maintain the figure of a biped humanoid anymore, simply content to remain a non-descript ball of ectoplasm with blades of bones floating around it, the two bony ballista bolts that nearly impaled me having returned and reformed into small blades. It was like one of those sadistic games at the circus where performers would take turns throwing knives at someone pinned to a board, trying to pop the balloons that were normally very close to the head, arms, and knees without injuring the pinned person. But this time was different; the necromancer had no intention at all of sparing me.
I had one last smoke bomb left. I wanted to save it for later, maybe for a time when I need it a little more than now, but I was about to have what amounted to hundreds, maybe thousands of knives thrown in my general direction. Did I want to possibly waste away my last smoke bomb in a bid to save my life? Or was I content to end my life and get diced into a million pieces before turning into the necromancer’s newest plaything.
I smashed the bomb against the ground, the small ceramic ball shattering instantly. Against my better judgment, I charged, both swords drawn, at the figure, trying to strafe, twirl and jump past all the little sharp bone fragments that were flying at me, but it was to no avail.
I was not even within ten feet of the damned abomination, when I was hit with too many bone fragments for me to move even further without giving into the excruciating pain. I could not even do so much as lift my leg to take a step further.
The remaining bone fragments surrounding the ectoplasm reared, readying themselves to finish me off. I collapsed onto my knees, and all I could do was stare into the ectoplasm, with its weapons ready. I never thought I would see my end this way, killed by this non-descript, inhuman creature in the middle of a darkened corner of a godforsaken excuse of a state-house.
It was for this reason why I did not see fit to end my life this way.
I did all I could to rip out as many of the lodged fragments from my leg and arms as I could, ripping them out one by one with both hands, making as much haste as I could. What stopped the necromancer from launching his last salvo of bone fragments, I did not know, but I was not going to waste any time wondering why he was hesitating.
I charged at him, tossing my swords aside and reaching in my satchel for a bomb, hoping that there was something left. Nothing. But then I remembered those two stones that the killer instructed me to bring. Perhaps they were of some use.
I ran towards the bed and reached under immediately, feeling around for the stones. Then I charged again at the necromancer, this time unprepared to counter my attack. I threw them one before the other into the centre of the ectoplasm. The necromancer burst into flames, its bone fragments beginning to black and disintegrate into ash. It tried to rearrange itself, but all it did was make the burning worse.
The pile of ectoplasm sizzled and hissed violently as it caught flame. But the flames were not only just consuming the necromancer, but the room and maybe even the entire house as well. There was only one way out of this. The window to the top left of the room.
I climbed up the bookcase, the flames giving pursuit, and I pulled myself up through the window before jumping out. The fall must have been pretty steep, because everything went pitch black as soon as I landed.