Authors: James J. Crofoot
Tags: #adventure, #ghosts, #magic, #necromancer, #dragon, #undead, #skeleton, #dark magic, #bandits
Alexander shifted to a more comfortable position. “Yes, I’ve
been hunting farther away from a person, that’s all. Mountain goats
are tasty, but they don’t repopulate too quickly, you
So you’ve come back to feed on the livestock.” Thomas nodded
and looked around at the gathering creatures. “I’m sorry, but the
people are asking the queen to do something about you. As I said,
she’s growing very afraid someone is going to get hurt.”
I cannot leave. Who will protect my friends? How am I to
Protect?” Thomas shook his head. “The queen will send an
army, and we’ve seen how you protect.”
I can’t kill an intelligent creature, this is true,”
Alexander said, almost like a litany. “Killing for food is one
thing, but killing civilized beings that have mothers, fathers,
sisters, and brothers—I can’t do it. I remember how I felt when my
mother was killed. I even kept her bones.”
Perhaps we can come to some sort of agreement, me and this
queen,” Alexander mused. “If you tell the people I won’t harm them,
maybe I can take one or two old heifers a month, what harm would
that do? You know?”
Perhaps if you paid for them,” the sergeant put in. “Don’t
dragons have a great deal of gold lyin’ about?”
I have never sought gold.” The wyrm shook his head. “As for
my mother, she once did some great favor for some king in the
north, or something or other. But you took my inheritance,
Just then, Alexander’s ears perked up. “Men, many men. There
are men coming, you were sent to distract me!”
No, no, I swear it.” Thomas looked at the sergeant. “The
No,” replied the sergeant sternly. “Queen Rosa wouldn’t use
such a trick. She said she didn’t want to kill ’im and that’s what
she meant. It’s that damn captain! I always knew ’e was a glory
seeker. ’E must have followed us!”
Thomas’s face lit up. “Alexander, didn’t you say you still
have your mother’s bones in a cave?”
What would those soldiers say to a risen dragon and a live
one together?” Thomas asked no one in particular.
They would probably run screamin’ for their mamas.” The
* * *
Within minutes, the three stood looking over the meticulously
neat stack of bones of Alexander’s mother.
Don’t kill ’em, necromancer,” said the sergeant. “I know
those men, and although the captain’s a self-serving ass, those are
good men, for the most part. And they are my queen’s
Thomas pulled his pouch of grave dirt from his shoulder bag.
He knew he’d have to empty his precious material to do the job
right. So that’s what he did, in a circle around the long skull. He
sat and began chanting. The sun-bleached bones, which stood as a
kind of monument on the grassy ridge, slid apart and a wyrm’s
skeleton formed to snap together. Before the trio now stood what
remained of a creature which, in life, reached forty feet in length
with the tips of its wings sixty feet apart.
Attack the soldiers, but do not kill,” commanded
The risen spread its wings and opened its jaws as if silently
roaring and moved lithely through the forest toward the valley
I’ve gotta see this,” said the sergeant.
They watched as the dragon-risen reached the men standing on
the rocky slope at the valley’s entrance. A volley of fifty arrows
went through the ribs of Thomas’s creature. Alexander flew over the
troops while letting loose a torrent of flame just above their
The jaws of the risen closed on the leg of the captain as he
tried to scramble back out of the valley. The risen shook him from
side to side a few times and then let him fly to land in a heap
among the other intruders.
Bah,” laughed the sergeant. “’E screams just like a lil’
girl, doesn’t ’e?”
Thomas couldn’t help but smile at the sergeant’s
Obviously not expecting what they encountered, all fifty
soldiers were now trying to squeeze through the man-sized opening
in a pell mell escape. The captain could be seen pulling his men
back and out of his way in an attempt to get out first. Thomas
glanced at the sergeant to see fists balled at his side and a rigid
stance. The blood filling his face made the necromancer almost feel
sorry for the captain’s future.
Boy, when I get back…” the man started. Then, “’Ow does it
know not to ’urt ’em? It doesn’t think, does it?”
Thomas watched Alexander do a roll in the blue sky as the
risen snapped at the heels of the last of the soldiers still
pushing through the too-small opening. “It’s really more the intent
in the weaving of the spell, the calling and focusing of the life
in the soil.” Then to himself, “I used the last of my grave soil on
What ya say?” asked the sergeant. “Grave what?”
Nothing, tools of the trade,” Thomas said louder. “What do
you think the captain’s going to say to the queen?”
I don’t know, but ’e’s always a bit too eager to make a name
fer ’imself, always with ’is men, mind.” The sergeant looked back
to the opening to the valley. “I think I’m gonna be there, though,
to tell just what did go on here.”
Maybe a bit of fear will help keep this valley safe for that
fellow,” Thomas said as he looked up at Alexander doing some more
aerial stunts. “You must help him, sergeant. Tell the queen how
gentle he is. Two cows a month is nothing from some of those herds
I saw while coming to your city.”
Ell, I’ll help pay for two cows a month. And I’ll explain
’bout that inheritance, too.” He looked at Thomas. “Yer not comin’
No, I’m going to stay and get to know this pacifist wyrm,”
the young necromancer replied. “After, I’m continuing to the sea. I
really want to see all that water.”
Good journey then, student of Xavier. By the way, me name is
Brian. Brian of Solos.” He offered his hand and Thomas took
The mountains at sunset turned from a bright red to a deep
crimson. There being little water, only strong grasses sparsely
grew. The road connecting the eastern part of the kingdom to the
western part was really little more than a wide, dirt path. In some
parts, it was only wide enough for two wagons to pass each other.
However, it provided for troops to travel in times of war, and it
allowed for commerce as well.
Normally, he would bed down well before the sun set, but this
night he kept moving, wanting to make up for lost time from his
stay in Alexander’s valley. Tonight, however, lessons learned in
the dragon’s home about the spirit of living things weighed heavily
on his mind.
He crested a hill and saw a small group of people setting up
camp. The group consisted of four people, two obviously guards as
they wore padded leather armor, and carried short swords at their
waist. Working on getting a fire going, a girl of maybe eighteen
who wore a brown dress and whose auburn hair reached to her waist.
Thomas liked the way it reflected the little sun still shining. A
portly man of maybe forty busied himself unhitching two horses from
When he got closer, one of the guards noticed him and alerted
the others. The guard came forward, his hand on the hilt of his
sword, as did the portly man.
Evening, stranger,” the portly man said in greeting. “How can
I help you this fine dusk?”
A spot at your fire for the night would be appreciated,”
Thomas replied. “Maybe some bread, too. I can pay.”
Are you alone?” the man asked.
Of course he’s alone, Father,” said the girl. “Do you see
anyone else in a ten mile radius? Come, stranger, we have bread to
Thomas smiled at the girl’s spirit.
I am alone, good sir. I am Thomas.”
The father looked at his daughter and then back at
Forgive me, Thomas. There’re rumors of bandits lately.” The
father came closer and held out his hand. “We have some stew, too.
I’m sure there’s enough. I’m Royla, a humble merchant. The young
woman is my daughter, Season. The two guards, and friends, are
Brian and Troy.”
The necromancer took the hand and then they went to the fire
Where are ya heading, Thomas?” asked Royla.
To the sea in the west,” Thomas replied. “I’ve wanted to see
it since I was young, when I first discovered it
Where are ya from?” asked the girl. The girl’s eyes took in
everything, and her easy walk said to Thomas she was more mature
than her years suggested. “You don’t sound like you’re from
Garnet.” She handed him a loaf of some light-colored
I’m from a village that was too small to even have a name,”
Thomas replied. “And you, are you traveling east or west? Where do
you come from?”
We’re traveling west as well, this trip,” Royla said with a
smile. “Would you like to join our little band, Thomas from a
village too small to be named?”
Thomas glanced into the girl’s eyes. “Yes, I think that would
be great. There is safety in numbers after all.”
A bit more conversation between the other men took place, but
Thomas missed most of it. He couldn’t take his attention from the
girl and her smile, when she occasionally showed it to
* * *
Upon being awakened in the morning by the sunrise, he saw
Season already up and washing her hair. In the light of the morning
sun, her hair appeared more red than auburn. He watched until she
finished, finding her attractive even in her simple brown dress. He
also liked how her skin glowed tan from the sun, not the pale of a
She’s not washing her hair for us, stranger.”
Thomas looked up and saw a smirk on the guard’s face. A smirk
the guard stuffed a piece of bread into.
Here,” said Brian as he offered Thomas half a loaf and some
After wiping the sleep from his eyes, Thomas accepted the food
with a thank you. Looking back at Season, he saw she had noticed
him. With a smile and a wave, she said good morning and started
brushing her hair.
The guards finished their breakfast as they harnessed the
horses to the wagons. Season took the reins to one of the horses to
lead it. “Walk with me, Thomas.”
A light case of butterflies took wing in his stomach. “It
would be my pleasure, Season.” He gave an overly formal bow. It
accomplished the task in bringing a spark to her eyes.
They fell in behind Royla leading the first wagon.
Thomas searched for something to say, something she would
reply to so he could hear her voice. “What does your mother think
of you traveling about with only men?”
My mother died of fever when I was six,” she stated lightly.
“I’ve been traveling with my father since.”
Oh, I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”
There’s nothing to forgive.” She smiled at
him. “It was her time
I wouldn’t trade my life with my father for anything. I’ve
seen quite a lot as the traveling daughter of a merchant. For
instance, I’ve seen this sea of yours already,
Then tell me, please, what is it like? Is it blue, blue as
far as you can see?”
Oh, that would ruin it for you.” She shook her head a bit and
gave a sideways smile.
You can read, can’t you, Thomas? I can tell by the way you
talk that you’ve had some education.”
Yes. I can even read a couple languages that aren’t spoken
anymore.” He cocked his head slightly at what sounded like pebbles
falling in the rocks above them. He squinted his eyes but saw
nothing. “What about you? A merchant’s daughter surely must know
some in order to keep records.”
Yeah, my father taught me when I was a child.” She laughed.
“Someone has to take care of him after all.”
Thomas returned her laughter, but he did because of the
pleasure he found in her sincerity.
That’s when the arrows appeared in Brian’s chest. Royla caught
the guard, easing the man’s fall to the ground. Thomas’s head
jerked around to see Troy grab at one of the three arrows in his
chest as well.
Royla’s horse neighed and snorted fearfully, as if in protest
of the men dying.
The necromancer’s head turned back around at the
Season ran to Brian as he breathed his last breath, a cough
filled with blood. Thomas watched for a second, until the scraping
noises of four men drew his attention as they scampered down from
the rocks to either side.
None of you move,” said the one with the gaudiest clothes.
“Unless you want to end up like those two. Bleeding into the dirt,
as they are.”