This story is one of the more recently completed ones. It deals with Nathaniel Drakkon attempting to save a town from the forces of a necromancer. This would be somewhere in the middle of his career as a mage of Weissland, although I don't think I worked out an exact time for it to be taking place. The title was a line from a Biffy Clyro song which gave me the idea for a piece of dialogue and developed into the story. Hope people will enjoy it.
The Ones we are supposed to Bow to
The undead closed in about the lone, black-clad figure. Nathaniel saw the futility of direct combat and spoke the words to a spell. Holding his obsidian staff in both hands Nathaniel paused before slamming it into the ground. A rushing, roaring sound and a vortex of air swirled and rotated around the mage. The undead were undaunted, moving to attack the mortal. Dead flesh was stripped from dead bone; limbs were torn from sockets no longer deeply rooted in muscle. Nathaniel braced himself and lashed out with the staff, cracking skulls and pulping cadaverous bodies. Magic was clear upon the staff, a crackling nimbus of red light darting across its obsidian surface.
As the final zombie collapsed and gave a last spasm before going still, Nathaniel stopped the spell. The wind died down to little more than a murmur. The undead in the immediate area were destroyed, but more of them were spread out in the town. The handful of living people the mage had seen were being set upon when he reached them, when he reached the edge of the town. Nathaniel had been able to save a couple but had simply told them to run as fast and as far as they could. The only reason Drakkon was still here was to find out who was controlling the undead and stop them. A carefully targeted strike was needed here. Remove the head and the body dies. An old saying, but Nathaniel knew the wisdom in it. Nathaniel looked around for signs that he had been spotted, but seeing none he made haste into the town.
Nathaniel moved carefully through the town. Ahead was the square, but the street the mage was in ran at an angle to it. By heading to the left he could stay out of sight of the square. Drakkon wanted to get a look at the centre of the town without anyone seeing him, to assess the situation. A blind leap into action could be worse than doing nothing. Such practicality could be considered cold, but Nathaniel knew he was already too late to save all but a handful of people. And, he thought, if I get myself killed I can’t help anyone. It was abhorrent to Nathaniel Drakkon that an entire town could be massacred so easily, and he only knew its name from reading his map. Micero it was called and Nathaniel wondered what its history was, what was it known for, and how many had lived here, in peace? Until now of course, now it was just the site of another tragedy caused by necromancers and the undead.
The Weissland mage chose a building, a two-story house of stone. He tried not to think of who owned it, or what fate had befallen them. With his staff leading the way like a spear, Nathaniel pushed the door open gently and stepped into the darkness beyond the threshold. Only pale light entered behind him, a narrow strip of moonlight illuminating the first few inches of the stone floor. It was made of slabs of stone, roughly cut but flat, similar to the cobblestones of some city streets. Larger stones were used though, and Nathaniel looked at them in great detail as he noticed the smear of blood running across them between the doorway and the kitchen table. It was like a body had been dragged across the kitchen then probably lifted when it neared the door. That was why the smear stopped.
Nathaniel sighed and closed the door. He steeped over the blood and into the room. Pots and cutlery, dishes and food, it was all strewn about. There had been a struggle here. Whoever had lived here had fought back. That thought made Nathaniel feel a little better, but not much. As Drakkon moved towards an interior door a shadow loomed at him, an arm grasping from the doorway. Nathaniel thrust with the staff, hitting the zombie in the chest and knocking it down with a mindless groan. He stepped forward to kill it but became entangled in its floundering legs, almost falling as well. Finally, and before the zombie could get hold of him, Nathaniel brought his staff down, crushing its skull face first. It was a bloody business, and Nathaniel could no longer count the times he had emerged from a fight, a battle, covered in blood from a variety of sources, not least of all his own.
Taking a moment, the mage went into the other room, holding the staff in both hands to ward off any other undead. Even in the dark he could tell the room was now empty. It was little more than a pantry, so Drakkon left it and returned to the kitchen. It was when he headed further in that he caught the thicker scent of blood in his nostrils, blinking and forcing his gag reflex back on instinct. At the other corner of the kitchen was a large pool of blood, clearly where the body had been for a time before being dragged outside. Finding a door at the far end, at the corner where he stood, away from the blood thankfully, Nathaniel quietly spoke the words to a spell and the door opened. Gripping his staff tightly and clenching his jaw, he walked towards it. No sounds, no shadows, and no attacks came from the new room. Slowly and cautiously Nathaniel headed into the room. This room was empty too but Nathaniel did not lower his guard. What he did find was a set of stairs leading to the first floor of the small house. With foreboding Nathaniel climbed the stairs, each creak of wood adding to his sense of unease. The staff was in his hands, but Nathaniel knew the weapon was little use on the close confines of the stairs. Luckily he was not attacked and found himself on a small landing with two doors leading off to either side. Drakkon selected a door, and began to open it. The door was suddenly pulled inwards and the mage staggered as a sword struck down at him. The tip of the blade sliced through black cloth and Nathaniel grunted as he felt it carve down the front of his chest. Luck was all that made it a shallow cut, and mind-boggling luck which stopped the skeleton which held the sword from thrusting and running Nathaniel through. He slammed his staff sideways, trapping the sword against the doorframe. Then with a quick gasp Nathaniel invoked magic, a tendril of blue energy whipping out of the air between man and undead, snapping the skeleton in half at the spine. The skeleton collapsed in a heap of bones and Nathaniel fell to one knee, holding his free arm tightly over his wound and wincing. That was a foolish mistake, the mage thought.
Standing up, Nathaniel checked the room and walked inside. It was a bedroom, and contained a window which looked out on the square, as he had hoped it would. Taking a deep breath he stepped up to the window and looked out. In the square was a statue of the Archmage, broken down on its side, the legs shattered into rubble. Undead milled about, zombies, skeletons and ghouls from what Nathaniel could see. Nathaniel could make out cages made from wood and rope. Inside huddled people, the town survivors perhaps, Nathaniel could not tell. A crude altar had been placed near the fallen statue and beside it Nathaniel saw a figure who must have been the necromancer, wearing brown robes. Drakkon took everything in and came up with a rough plan. This would be difficult but he hoped he could get the cages open and distract the undead long enough for the townsfolk to escape. Then he would either face the necromancer or make a run for it himself. Nathaniel turned and head back to the landing.
Nathaniel came down the stairs and into the kitchen once more. He noticed the door to the outside was ajar. Nathaniel had closed that, had he not? He turned quickly, his robes swirling, but too slow as Nathaniel felt the cracking impact in the back of his head. He was pitched forward and slammed into the wooden table before slipping sideways to the cool stone. Just before Drakkon passed out he distinctly heard a voice say “Bring him.”
Nathaniel began to stir. He groaned as sensation came back to his body. His head pounded and throbbed as he groaned “Unuugh...”
Nathaniel dimly heard a voice say “Ahh, back in the land of the living are we? Not for long I’d imagine.”
Other sounds came to him, people crying, sobbing, the crackle of fire, the shuffle of feet on the ground. Nathaniel tried to sit up but his body rebelled. He forced his eyes open, catching a glimpse of the sky before his eyelids felt as heavy as iron and closed again. Drakkon tried to speak but all he could muster was a half-croaked “What?” He unsteadily put his hand to his head.
The voice replied with a mild chuckle “My, my, this one’s not so strong. A little knock on the head and he loses it. I must admit I’m disappointed, I expected better.”
A second voice, gruffer, raspier, and angrier than the first said “He killed over a dozen of our hunters on the east side of town.”
“Well there is that I suppose.” The first voice said in a tired, bored tone. It continued “Kraark, help him wake up.”
All of a sudden Nathaniel was kicked in the gut. He hunched up and spluttered. Finally he sat up, alert, and wheezed “Bastard.”
The undead creature moved to attack him again but the figure in the brown robes held up a hand and shouted “No!” The creature backed off, but glared with hatred. The necromancer, the first voice, said “Kraark is rather angry, you see, you killed his men. Or at least what I turned his men into.” He smiled as if laughing at some private joke. The necromancer wore rich brown robes clasped with a gilded belt. In his ears were large gold hoops, and his fingers were covered in jewelled rings of silver and gold. His head was shaven and painted or tattooed red and black. It looked like a square within another square on top of his head, but at an angle so the point of one corner came down between his eyebrows. They were black, while his eyes were dark brown. The man looked rich, not ragged, dirty or disgusting like most necromancers. He would perhaps be regarded as strange if one were to pass him on the street, but no more than that.
Nathaniel replied “Well he’ll join them soon enough.” This time the undead creature, which looked like something akin to a zombie but obviously with a mind of his own, could not be contained. Kraark kicked Nathaniel square in the jaw, and as the mage turned punched him twice in the back, hammering his kidneys.
Nathaniel gingerly pushed himself back to a sitting position as the necromancer laughed wickedly “Oh bravo! You’ve got balls mage. I might cut them off, but for now you have them.” Turning slightly he said “Kraark, don’t be so sensitive. Go and check the perimeter, make sure he was alone.”
Kraark grumbled but did as he was told, leaving the square with some undead. Nathaniel could still make out at least fifty assorted undead in the square, and his sword and staff were lying on the altar. The necromancer stood between him and them though. He said “Tell me necromancer, why does your kind bother when Weissland always wins in the end?”
A deep, throaty laugh echoed through the square, making the caged people wail even more. The necromancer said “Poor ignorant boy. You think you can win against the awesome power of necromancy? Deluded, blind, weak-willed, your kind will never understand. We are your rightful lords and masters; we are superior in every way. In the end you will die and become merely another one of our flesh-puppets.” He swept his arms to encompass the townsfolk “You will all do our bidding, my bidding!”
Nathaniel laughed back darkly “Now who’s the deluded one, necromancer?”
A contemptuous look crept across the necromancers face and he said “I see why Kraark enjoyed hitting you. I don’t like the way you say necromancer, mage.” He raised his head, up-turning his nose slightly and declared haughtily “My name is Lucius Strusuran! I who led armies before you were even born!”
“Who cares?” Was Nathaniel’s only response.
The necromancer glowered but did not resort to violence. He said “And what is your name? Or do they just refer to you as ‘hey you’?”
Locking eyes with the necromancer he answered “Nathaniel Drakkon, the last name you’ll ever hear.”
Now an arrogant smirk appeared on Strusuran’s face. He nodded “Yes and how do you think you’ll achieve that? No weapons, surrounded by my troops, not to mention that I could kill you in seconds. You mortals never seem to learn. We are the ones you are supposed to bow to. I am beyond you, above you, simply put you are nothing more than something I scrape from my boot.”
Nathaniel looked up at the necromancer and scowled “I’m going to make sure every necromancer dies, you are unnatural, a disease which must be eradicated. We might not live forever, but you are the ones fighting the losing battle.”
Lucius sighed “I grow bored of this.” He looked sideways and said “Kauror, Gothand, deal with him... kill him!”
Two armoured men walked slowly forward from the other side of the square, where Drakkon had been unable to see them. Both of them wore ancient, ornate armour. It was plate and covered them from head to toe; even the joints seemed to be covered by some sort of interlocking plate. As they got closer Nathaniel could see the visors of their armour. No man was within the armour, they were spirits, just two glowing orange orbs where eyes should have been. One of them said slowly “It has been a while since we killed a mage Kauror.”
The other replied “Over a decade Gothand.”
Nathaniel stood up, prepared to fight. How to beat two spirits encased in armour was still something he did not know. Time to find out, he thought sarcastically. The necromancer, Strusuran said “I might as well be sporting.” He picked up Nathaniel’s sword and tossed it onto the ground in front of the mage.
Nathaniel picked up his arming sword and said dryly “Gee, thanks. I’ll be sure to tell my friends you were the nicest necromancer I’ve killed.” Drakkon swept his sword left and right a couple of times, flexing his muscles for the coming fight.
The necromancer said in a shrill tone “Kill him now!”
The two spirits rushed forward, armour clanking and creaking. Nathaniel braced himself and waited to see what they would do, how they would fight. One of the spirits drew a sword from an ornate scabbard. The weapon was inscribed with runes on the surface and the hilt was bound in a rich redwood. The other spirit pulled a short-handled axe from a sheath across its back. The axe-haft was long enough to be held in two hands by use of a small handhold at the back of the single axe-head. Once again, Nathaniel could see runes and the expert craftsmanship which had gone into making the axe.
The spirit with the sword swept its blade up at him and Nathaniel blocked instinctively. Almost before he could react the axe swung round at his head. The mage raised his sword, deflecting the attack inches from his face. Once again, he struggled to block a low strike aimed at his leg, arming sword clashing with ancient blade. Nathaniel moved back step by step, defending against attack after attack. The spirits were relentless, they did not tire, and Nathaniel did.
When the sword-armed spirit broke into a series of quick slashes one after the others, Nathaniel barely held them off. He was finally able to parry and bring a couple of attacks to bear against his foe. It was then that the axe-wielder spun on its heel and slammed the haft of its weapon into Nathaniel’s side, launching him sideways to the ground. Drakkon rolled, dazed, but competent enough to keep rolling and scrabble to his feet. Now with some room Nathaniel called on his magic. He shouted the words to a spell and lightning forked from his hand. It struck the sword-armed spirit, and poured into the armour. The spirit seemed to grunt, and then as more lightning coursed through what counted for its body, it went down to one knee. The second spirit surged forward and Drakkon was forced to abandon the spell to fend off heavy axe blows that would have felled trees.
Nathaniel dodged away from another swipe by the spirit with the axe. He found himself close to the zombies and ghouls that stood around the square. The spirit lashed out again, and Drakkon moved quickly out of the way. One of the ghouls paid the price, being carved in half by the axe. The mage took the opening, slashing with his sword before the spirit could readdress to face him. The sword bit into the pauldron of the armour. It seemed to have no effect, no matter how deeply he had cut into the shoulder. Nathaniel ran behind the spirit, back towards the centre of the square, and the spirit swung, missed, and gave chase. Nathaniel turned to face the spirit once more. Quietly he said “This is going well.” With concentration furrowing his brow, Nathaniel spoke the words to a spell. As the axe-wielding spirit ran forward it was bombarded by a fireball, then a second and a third. The fireballs struck the chest plate one after the other. The spirit in the armour staggered, the armour was badly dented and scorched.
Drakkon saw his chance. As he backed away he cast the spell again, sending four more fireballs at the spirit. It was rocked by the impacts and the fourth one knocked the spirit down to the ground, and punched through the chest plate. The spirit roared in pain, it was an other-worldly howl. Still it was only wounded, not destroyed. Nathaniel ran forward, his sword aimed down to plunge into the undead’s heart. Even as the spirit tried to get up, Drakkon impaled it on his sword, which pierced the armoured back of the spirit. But it had little effect. The spirit still tried to rise up, gauntlets reaching out for the mage. Metal scraped on metal with a spine-tingling sound. With one more chance, Nathaniel called out the words to another spell. Flame shot along the length of the blade of his sword, burning deep inside the armour. The glowing orbs behind the visor flared once, and then they were extinguished in a rush of energy. It almost knocked Nathaniel from his feet, but despite his tiredness, he held onto the sword.
Pulling his arming sword free, Nathaniel was just in time to defend himself from the rapidly approaching spirit carrying its ancient blade. With one spirit defeated, Drakkon felt confident he could prevail again. The spirit thrust, slashed, swept around and made a side-kick. Nathaniel blocked as best he could, but the kick floored him. His ribs ached, and Nathaniel could do little to fend off the spirit from this position. He whispered a spell as he crawled backwards, looking up at the advancing spirit. A jet of cold water like a wave sent the spirit tumbling and sliding away. As the water receded into the ground the spirit got to its hands and knees. The black-clad mage stood and used his mind before his sword. He spoke words of power and the spirit was engulfed in a sheet of fire. Nathaniel could hear the hissing as the cold water evaporated in the flames. The heat was intense, but the spirit stood. Just as the fire died, Nathaniel cast his last spell. Even as the spirit turned it was encased in ice. The armour strained, it moved, and the ice shattered. The armour was broken as well, fragmenting into a pile of cracked and steaming metal. Nathaniel said dryly “Looks like when the situation got heated, the spirit just fell to pieces.” He turned slowly, wearily, to face the necromancer before adding “Let’s finish this.”
The necromancer crowed “Oh I think that’s an excellent idea.” Green bolts of energy shot from his hands towards the mage.
Nathaniel was too tired to move, to react. Nathaniel was struck so hard that he almost did a back flip, landing with a thud belly-down on the ground. He groaned, he felt pain jarring throughout his body, and Nathaniel heard the approaching footsteps. It was hard to look up, but he did so. His sword was just out of reach. It would not be much use anyway. It was even harder to get up, but at least he made it to his knees.
The necromancer walked steadily forward, chanting foul words which made the very air recoil in disgust. The words made Drakkon’s head tingle and he tried to shut them out. Great orbs of sickly green, necromantic magic hovered at his outstretched palms. Lucius said “Now, you will die! I will strip the very flesh from your bones. Your body will disintegrate and you will feel every exquisite moment of agony.” The necromancer stood over Nathaniel, looking up at the sky as he ranted “You have angered me greatly, destroying two of my favourite minions. But it was an impressive display, I must respect that. You made an impressive but ultimately futile attempt. That should be remembered, but unfortunately for you, nobody will survive to tell your superiors what you did.” He was so confident of his victory, it was so assured, that Lucius turned in a slow circle, looking at the people in their cages, as if he was playing to an audience. He continued talking, but by this point Nathaniel was not listening, just trying to stay conscious. All he heard was the sound, a blur of words.
While Lucius talked, Nathaniel used his time. He whispered the words to a spell. If Lucius noticed, he did nothing to stop it. Slowly, and gently, Nathaniel levitated his sword closer until it finally rested in his hand. Then he waited, biding his time and resting for his final exertion.
Lucius looked at the fallen mage with arrogant eyes and declared “The end has come!”
As Lucius moved to unleash his attack, Nathaniel surged up. With a last effort he pushed one of the necromancer’s arms outwards away from him and thrust viciously with his sword. He rammed the blade into his enemy’s gut right up to the hilt, hearing the squelch of blood spurting and organs bursting. As Lucius fell in towards him, the necromantic magic was unleashed, scorching the ground to either side of Nathaniel. Drakkon said darkly “This is the end for you.” He pulled the blade back and thrust once more, as blood spat from Strusuran’s mouth and landed on Nathaniel’s chest in a gooey mess. Twisting the sword, Drakkon pulled it clear and turned, letting the body slump to the ground. The undead wavered for a moment before they crumbled and disintegrated from existence. A howling wind rushed away from the town, and Nathaniel thought he caught a voice mixed in with it. The mage breathed deeply and said to the dead body “The ones we are supposed to bow to? Not while there is a drop of blood flowing in my veins.”