Authors: James J. Crofoot
Tags: #adventure, #ghosts, #magic, #necromancer, #dragon, #undead, #skeleton, #dark magic, #bandits
Now I am your fiancé?” asked Thomas in confusion. “The only
words you say to me are words that make it painfully clear you
don’t want anything to do with me.”
They were meant in the nicest way, my love. I only want you
to improve yourself so you’re not embarrassed in court,” the
princess said, putting on a sickly sweet smile.
The king laughed loudly.
I am sorry, Princess,” Thomas said. “I do not love you, and I
can’t marry you.”
Her red lips pursed and the elaborately painted eyes of
Princess Tori Elizabeth narrowed. The blood drained from her face,
turning it ashen, and she straightened her back. “You will regret
your decision, corpse lover.”
With that, she turned and walked gracefully from the room,
head held high. As she left, Thomas noticed the room grow warmer
somehow, even with him being used to the cold of the grave. He
stared at the door through which the princess had departed.
Noticing the absence of laughter from the king, he turned to see a
face wearing a deadly serious expression.
You have made a rather dangerous enemy this day,
necromancer.” Mathis bit into another piece of chicken.
* * *
The next morning, Thomas went to the kitchens for his
breakfast with Hazel only to find her absent. In her place sat a
boy, the wood carrier for the ovens. Thomas noticed the furtive
glances given by the other workers.
Hello, boy,” he said in greeting. “Where’s Hazel?”
I was told you were to follow me, me lord,” answered the boy
as he jumped off the bread table. The boy led him to the servant’s
quarters, and then to a small room with a single bed. On the straw
mattress lay Hazel, unconscious, and shaking with a sweaty fever.
On her face, deep into the flesh of her cheek, she bore a sickly
black cut. Two women sat by her, crying.
What…” Thomas started, but a lump formed in his throat and
prevented more from coming out.
It was the princess, m’lord. She came last night with two of
her guards. The guards held her, Hazel that is, while the princess
cut her. I could see the poison on the blade, m’lord. It was black,
it was, and tarry.” The woman cried and covered her
The three of them stayed with the breadmaker for the rest of
the morning. Thomas held her hand, speaking softly to her. But to
no avail. Hazel never woke from her torment, and when she died,
Thomas saw the face of death he knew so well.
I’m going to the king,” Thomas murmured. He turned her wrist
over and kissed it. Placing Hazel’s hand across her chest, the lump
in his throat still kept him from speaking louder, so he murmured
again. “The princess will be punished for this.”
Nothing will happen, m’lord,” sobbed the woman, who earlier
The princess has done this before,” the other woman said,
holding the first in the comfort of her arms. “And the king has
killed more off the battle field than on.”
* * *
The princess killed my Hazel.” Thomas marched, unannounced,
into the audience hall where the king sat on his throne in front of
the full court.
Now, now, my boy,” said King Mathis, coming down from his
throne. “How can you be sure of that?”
You daughter was seen cutting her by half the kitchen staff.
Two of your guards held my Hazel while your daughter cut her on the
face with a poisoned blade.”
The king patted Thomas on the shoulder and smiled. “Surely
this can wait until we get back from defeating the
Stifled laughter came from the crowd.
Go, prepare your army to leave,” the king said, gently
pushing Thomas toward the doors. “We leave at sunrise. My creature
army is ready, yes?”
Thomas looked around the room and saw several sneering faces,
as if this were business-as-usual. The kitchen women had been
right. He turned back to the king. “Yes, Majesty, when we get
Anger seethed in the young necromancer’s belly. Outwardly, he
kept his face and demeanor calm. “All will be ready.”
Two guards shut the doors behind him.
Naive young man,” he heard the king say through the doors to
the hall, followed by laughter from the crowd.
* * *
Thomas, student of Xavier the Necromancer, stood on a hill
overlooking the risen he had created for King Mathis of the house
of Regis. They were his, Thomas’s army. The wind blew his hair
across his face. Thomas realized the king cared nothing for people
like Hazel. Cared nothing for the kind and loving in the world.
Mathis only cared for how much land, how much gold, and how many
more people he could subjugate; these were his only
After leaving the audience hall, Thomas had returned to the
kitchens to retrieve Hazel’s remains and to warn the servants to
leave quietly and immediately. He turned to look at the blanket
wrapped body on the mule bought for the purpose of carrying her
back to his home to be buried with the only other who ever meant
anything to him. He thought of Xavier’s views on people and decided
he agreed, to an extent. However, perhaps Xavier never experienced
He looked back at his army.
Kill the king and princess,” he commanded. “Kill all in the
* * *
He buried Hazel next to Xavier. There lay both his teachers he
had learned so much from. From Xavier, he learned about death, but
from Hazel, about love and life with all its veraciousness. He
would not bring her back, risen; she would not have her spirit for
life. She would not want that life. The life he knew to give. There
would never be the glint in her eyes when she laughed. Indeed, she
would never laugh again.
Upon visiting Targon, he realized it was not the dreamed of
city of his youth. The sea to the west would be
The dragon has returned!”
Thomas heard these words at the city gates he now stood
between. Placing his hand on the left one, he regarded its
construction: thick, sturdy timber bound tightly by heavy, black
iron bands held with large spikes. Although they had stood a long
time, he knew from his studies in Xavier’s tower that they had kept
out a few armies. He ran his fingers along the grain. These gates
guarded the city, which in itself stood as an entry to the road
through the Bluet Mountains, and beyond them the sea in the
The queen’ll take care of it again.”
Killed a thousand men in Tisel, they say.”
Thomas walked the streets and he heard this all over. Unless
this dragon attacked tonight, he would deal with this in the
morning. Right now, he needed rest from the two weeks spent getting
here. Beside which, he knew some about dragons and doubted it would
be able to kill a thousand men. He located an inn by the name of
The Blue Hound. There he found the same talk in the common room as
well. The only other thing he heard was the calling out of “More
ale!” to the very busy barmaids. News of this return obviously did
not keep the people from drinking.
The bluish haze of the pipe smoke filling the common room
irritated Thomas’s throat and he coughed. He rubbed his eyes which
itched and burned, both from the smoke and sleeping on the ground
for the past weeks. He couldn’t concentrate nor hear with the loud
din caused by the patrons and just wanted the solitude of a quiet
room. A red-haired boy of maybe twelve showed him up the stairs and
down a hall.
Now don’t you worry about no dragon, m’lord,” said the boy as
he placed the key in the lock of the door he’d led Thomas to. “I’m
bettin’ most of these rumors are just the idle talk of people who
love gossip.” He handed the necromancer the key. “Last year, one of
the miners swore for a week he saw a man-eating giant serpent in
the mines. More than a few steins of ale were bought while he told
his story over and over. Turned out his friends put a grass-snake
down there to frighten him.
Now then, ’ere’s yer room, judging by the color of yer eyes,
I’d say you want sleep. So I’ll take me leave.”
Thomas smiled at the young lad. “I’ll take your side in that
bet, boy.” He shook his head. “Lightning from its eyes.”
The boy left, tossing the silver piece Thomas had given
Thomas sat on the soft bed and started dreaming of dragons
from his studies.
* * *
When Thomas awoke the next morning, he washed, donned his
leather tunic, and followed the aroma of sausage down to the common
room where an ample, older maid bustled about serving breakfast to
four other people.
Excuse me,” he said. “About this…”
No questions before breakfast,” the serving woman said. “Eggs
and sausage this morning, and some nice, warm rye
That sounds great, but…” Thomas started again, but again, the
Sit, sit.” She hurried to the fire behind the bar.
It’s best not to argue with her at breakfast. Come sit
Thomas looked at the man motioning toward a chair across the
table form him and decided to take the offered seat.
The man, already eating, wore a rather nice blue and red wool
tunic with only a bit of grey hair on the sides of his head. The
tunic fit his well-formed frame quite nicely, Thomas
The smell of the breakfast began to make Thomas’s mouth water
even more now as the maid placed it in front of him. He ripped a
piece of bread off and put it in his mouth.
Now, about this dragon.”
Not you, too,” the man mumbled with a mouth full of
What?” Thomas asked.
That’s all I’ve ’eard since coming ’ere three days ago, now.”
The man swallowed. “Dragon this, dragon that. Did ya ’ere that
dragon killed twenty thousand men with a swipe of its left
But I want to know its name,” Thomas continued anyway. Now
that he had slept and filled his stomach, his curiosity was working
in full force to get to the truth behind this creature.
Name? Didn’t know dragons ’ad names.” The man offered his
hand over the table. “I’m Reginald of Sorson.”
I’m Thomas, from the east.” Thomas took the offered hand.
“Now, what’s its name?”
The serving maid stepped over to the table. “What’s a beast
like that need a name for? Why would it have a name? Why if it
weren’t for its beastly magic, it would never ’ave come
What do you mean, come back?” Thomas asked.
Why, ya don’t know much ’bout dragons, do ya sir,” she said,
as if she spoke common knowledge. “The dragon was killed ten years
ago by the queen’s soldiers, but the captain didn’t cut out its
’eart. The queen’s mage said that’s the reason it came
Thomas blinked and then squinted his eyes at her.
You’ve got to cut out a dragon’s ’eart or it comes
Thomas smiled and shook his head.
Well, it’s not my job to educate the masses,
The queen knows now though. She’s putting together ’er troops
and this time the captain knows. ’E’ll cut out its heart this
time.” The maid then left to go to another table and continue
spreading her wisdom and dragon lore.
Thomas ate his breakfast in silence and let the man tell of a
few choice places in the city he felt Thomas should see. All the
while though, Thomas could think of nothing but meeting a
Thomas wandered around the city for the rest of the morning,
listening to the absurd tales going around about this dragon. He
found himself in the city’s central park with its cobblestone paths
and beautiful gardens with blooms the colors of a rainbow. All
paths led to an impressive, marble bridge. In the slow moving water
under this bridge swam a dozen swans. All this, he found, the queen
had constructed for the public with her own gold. It seemed she
cared a great deal for her people.
On the bridge, he went over all he had learned of this dragon.
Most of it he dismissed as simply too ridiculous. Once he even
laughed in the face of a man saying this dragon destroyed an entire
army with a glance from its red glowing eyes. Ninety percent of
this foolishness seemed to originate from the mage in the employ of
the queen. Nothing of which seemed believable, of anyone being hurt
by this “monster.”
He decided he needed to see the queen.
* * *
Built partially into the mountains of red granite, the queen’s
castle sat with forty-foot walls lined with wide, sturdy
battlements. A gatehouse, where Thomas stood, reached another ten
feet into the air. Thomas recalled that these walls had never been
breached, and he wondered when the raised portcullis last touched
the ground. The guardsmen present seemed more interested in their
dice game, their blue tunics, bearing the silver fleur-de-leaf of
the queen’s guard, all in excellent repair. Four very shiny and
sharp looking pikes leaned against the walls within easy reach of
their owners. A fifth guardsman bore silver piping on his sleeve
and wore a long sword at his waist. Thomas caught this guard’s