Authors: James J. Crofoot
Tags: #adventure, #ghosts, #magic, #necromancer, #dragon, #undead, #skeleton, #dark magic, #bandits
Yes, yes,” the soft, pudgy man replied. “However, you have
stated yourself that you are just a student of this Xavier. How do
I know you can do what is asked for in this letter?”
Because I say I can. Why would I say such a thing if I
couldn’t do as I say?”
Yes, yes. Nevertheless, I can’t just present everyone to the
king who says they wish to serve him. Do you know how many people I
would have to present to him if I took every one to him with
matters they consider important? Do you know the paperwork
involved?” The man flipped over a piece of parchment. “You will not
be able to get an appointment for at least a month.”
Sick of dealing with the self-important buffoon before of him,
Thomas stood and reached into his shoulder bag. He pulled out a
pouch and dropped it on the chamberlain’s desk. “This is grave
dirt, as if you need to know.” He reached back into his shoulder
bag and produced another pouch. “These are the teeth from a score
of dead.” This bag, too, he dropped on the desk, purposefully in
the middle of the stack of paperwork there.
The chamberlain pushed himself back from the ingredients on
his desk, a look of disgust and indignation plain on his
large-jowled face. He opened his mouth to say something, but Thomas
put up a finger.
Be quiet, moron, and I will show you what a necromancer can
do,” Thomas stated between clenched teeth.
He pulled forth a tooth and placed it on the desk. On top of
this, he placed a pinch of the grave dirt. Thomas started to speak
the words taught him by Xavier. The tooth rocked back and forth
under the dirt and then began to grow. The eyes of the chamberlain
grew wide as the tooth grew arms and legs. It grew to three inches.
Feet and hands grew from the legs and arms. The head formed at two
feet and it continued to grow. At four feet, it kept growing. At
five feet, the chamberlain dove under his desk.
Come out, moron,” Thomas commanded. “Come out,
The chamberlain crawled from under his desk and stared at the
five and a half foot skeleton on his desk. “C…C…Can it
Look at the moron.”
The skeleton turned its cold, blue-flame gaze to the sweating
man in red.
* * *
Thomas stood before the gilt, eight-foot, arched double doors
with the still sweating chamberlain to one side and his bone-risen
to his other. As the man next to him tugged here and there at his
tunic and shifted from foot to foot, the young necromancer
remembered another door he once stood at years ago. That door,
weathered and thick, designed to keep the world out, had held
secrets behind it he needed to know. Now he held that knowledge.
Now he stood at a door to a kingdom. Here he would use his
teacher’s power to create an army.
The heavy doors swung open soundlessly on hidden
counterweights to reveal an audience hall into which he strode with
Five alabaster columns with intricate reliefs of vines lined
either side. They stood five feet from walls covered in
silver-threaded, blue silk.
The throne of Regis lay at the other end.
Thomas wished for better clothes.
So, the magician Xavier is dead?” the king asked from the
blue-cushioned throne. A thin but tautly muscled man, he sat with a
gaudy, gold crown atop a mop of jet black, shoulder-length hair.
The temples’ grey wisps seemed to be the only indication of his
Yes,” Thomas replied. “My teacher is dead. He did teach me a
great many things, though, as you can see.”
King Mathis rose from his throne and adjusted his crown. “May
I approach it?” His right hand went to his sword hilt at his
Yes,” Thomas said. “It will only do as I command.”
Your Majesty, is it safe?” muttered the
Shut-up, fool,” ordered the king as he walked down the raised
dais to approach the creature.
The man reeked of stale alcohol.
I remember the eyes of these in that village were red.” The
king stared into the sockets. “Why are these blue?”
It is a slightly different spell. In order to create those
with red eyes I would need an army of volunteers.”
I could arrange that,” offered the king.
That spell requires a great deal of power.” Thomas looked at
his creature. “My master had those ingredients from years of
gathering in order to write the scroll. This will do for your
purposes, and I can raise them now.”
The Empire of Krasio is marching on our western border,” King
Mathis said. “They have a thousand archers alone. Can you stop
My risen are impervious to arrows.” Thomas put his fingers
through a couple ribs. “See, arrows will simply go through. I will
have to lead them, of course. They will only listen to my
The king continued to stare into the blue-flame eyes. “If you
defeat the Empire of Krosia, I will give you my daughter’s hand in
What?” came a yell from behind the curtains to the rear of
the throne. A girl of about fifteen, dressed in an elaborately
tailored yellow and red flowing gown, now stood beside the throne.
“You will not give your daughter’s hand in marriage to
You will do as I say, girl,” said the king as he turned a
smiling face on the enraged princess.
She lifted her dress above the ankles and marched down the
dais stairs. “He is nothing but a peasant! Look at his
This, Thomas, is my lovely, charming daughter, Tori
Elizabeth.” Mathis then turned to the black-haired girl. “You will
do what I tell you to do. Besides, look what this man can do. He is
going to create an invincible army for me.”
Go, Thomas, student of Xavier.” Mathis patted Thomas on the
shoulder. “Go to the kitchens and get something to eat while I have
a talk with my delightful offspring.”
* * *
The chamberlain led Thomas down stairs and through corridors,
guiding the young magician to the kitchens.
Along the way, he talked. “Be warned, mage. The queen died
under suspicious circumstances.” To Thomas’s enjoyment, his beady
little eyes kept turning to the risen walking behind them. “Not
before spoiling the princess completely though.”
The people they encountered cleared the way. The sharp intakes
of breath and even a few screams, further amused Thomas. Many ran
the other way when seeing the skeletal-risen. One finely dressed
courtier pressed herself against the wall and froze with only her
eyes following them as they passed by.
When delicious aromas teased the young man’s nostrils, the
chamberlain begged his pardon. “The kitchens are just that way.” He
pointed down the corridor ahead of them. “I really do have a great
deal of work to do. I’m sure my lord can find the rest of the
Thomas watched the man bow his way into a hasty retreat, and
when he turned, further glances over his shoulder suggested he
feared the creature would follow him.
Thomas turned to continue down the passage, following the
appetizing smells, which reminded him he neglected to eat earlier
that morning. He heard the bustle of working people and then he
found the kitchens. Remembering how many horrified expressions his
risen received along the way, he ordered it to wait some way off
from the doors, out of the way.
In the first room he came to, people were cutting vegetables,
meats, and baking bread. A boy came into the room carrying wood for
the fires under the ovens. Thomas walked in and grabbed at the
first thing he came to, a loaf of fresh, rich smelling, dark
A girl smacked him hard enough to leave a red welt on his
A brown-haired, rosy-cheeked girl wearing a plain blue dress
stood staring at him through narrowed eyelids. “An’ what d’ya think
yer doin’?” she asked, still holding the spoon ready to defend her
bread to the last.
I’m hungry,” replied Thomas as he rubbed his stinging hand.
“I was told to come here and eat.”
This bread is for the castle’s guards’ lunch. D’ya want those
who protect us t’go ’ungry?” A fiery glint in her brown eyes caught
Thomas’s attention, causing him to pause. “I asked ya a question.”
She looked at him a bit harder. “I’ve not seen ya here b’fore, who
are ya now? Speak up.”
I am Thomas,” he replied, finding his voice again and
remembering to stick out his chest. “Student of Xavier the
The young woman made a slight hissing noise. “Well, my name is
Hazel, student of Xavier. An’ I’d not care if the king ’imself sent
ya. No one will be takin’ food from me friends who protect us an’
keep us safe.”
Hazel must have decided Thomas was no threat to her bread
because she put the spoon down and started kneading the dough
So, what exactly is a necro…what?”
A necromancer. I give life back to the dead.” Again, he
pushed out his chest.
So ya say, though it sounds a bit far-fetched.”
Thomas called to his risen. When the skeleton entered the
kitchen, the other workers stared, frozen with fright, their mouths
agape. The boy carrying wood dropped the pile.
Hazel simply continued to knead her dough and looked at
Thomas. “Is that what ya do? Ya call that life? I call it
unnatural, Thomas the Necromancer.”
Thomas shrank just a bit and looked longingly at the bread
Where’s the spirit?” asked Hazel. “When something’s dead, the
spirit moves on. Can ya get that back? Is this yer
There is that spirit thing,” Thomas replied. “No, it’s not my
companion, just a creation of mine.”
Thomas shrank a bit more.
Ya are ’ungry aren’t ya, Thomas? Go ahead, then. Take a
loaf.” She paused and watched him break off a chunk and stuff it in
his mouth. “In the future, ya come to me when yer needin’ food. But
leave yer creature somewhere else.”
* * *
For the next several weeks, Thomas worked on creating the
king’s army. With the help of soldiers, he dug up the graves of
Targon, gathering the teeth of hundreds of dead, and created risen
numbering over three thousand. Grumbling could be heard from the
citizens of the city, but no one dared speak too loudly against the
king’s wishes. Thomas saw the same looks as always from the
peoples’ faces, the same jealous attitude as they pretended to look
down at him. He knew they secretly wished to know what he knew. It
was just as Xavier said many times. He received these same things
from everybody, except from Hazel.
He continued to go to her for his food and came to look
forward to seeing her, enjoying the time they spent together. With
her, he did not receive the same cold welcome as the people of his
village had given him, once upon a time. He loved it when she
laughed, even if it came as laughter due to his naïveté. When he
told her of the way Xavier had answered the demands of his former
friends and family, he saw tears form in her eyes.
You have no one to love, then?” she asked.
This statement haunted him for some days, until he realized…he
Unfortunately, the king made him spend time with the princess.
These times proved to be much less pleasurable. He made extra
efforts to engage her in conversation. Nevertheless, these extra
efforts brought only snide little comments like, “peasant,” or “you
smell.” He bought new, and finer, clothes. He made sure to wash
thoroughly before donning his new attire. It did not matter,
though. She only made more cutting remarks like she smelled grave
dirt on him still.
* * *
He made a decision and approached King Mathis on the subject,
in the royal private quarters, while the king ate lunch one
I do not wish to marry your daughter, sire.”
I do not blame you,” said the king through a smirking smile.
He bit into a piece of chicken. “But surely you wish to be paid.
I’ve seen this army you’ve created for me, and I’m sure it will
defeat my enemies. Is there something else I can give? I will have
much more land and more gold, as well. A title, perhaps? A title
and land to go with it?”
There is one thing,” Thomas said after a moment’s
Then ask, my friend.” Mathis stuffed two grapes into his
There is one of your servants, in the kitchens. She is a
baker. Her name is Hazel. Would you release her to me?”
What!” The princess stormed from behind one of the mahogany
panels, which made the west wall of the room. “You would rather
marry a kitchen wench than me?”
Isn’t it you who’ve made it perfectly clear that you have no
wish to marry him?” remarked Mathis as he shoved three more grapes
into his smile.
This isn’t your affair, Father,” said Princess Tori
Elizabeth. “This is between me and my fiancé.”