Authors: James J. Crofoot
Tags: #adventure, #ghosts, #magic, #necromancer, #dragon, #undead, #skeleton, #dark magic, #bandits
You’ve killed them,” Season shouted through her tears. “Why
did you have to kill them?”
Shut up, girl,” Royla said.
Three more bandits could be seen still in the rocks
That’s good advice the merchant gives you, girl,” said the
gaudy leader. He walked to the wagons and started going through the
cargo. “Now then, what have we here?”
A long sword hung at his side with rubies and emeralds
decorating the hilt. His wool jacket had buttons of gold and gold
thread formed vertical lines all through it. It had seen better
days. Acne scars marked his face, and on his right cheek, he bore a
strange “w” shaped brand. His blond, greasy hair he tied back into
a short ponytail.
Season grabbed Brian’s sword and rushed at the leader. Thomas
grabbed her arm. An arrow struck the ground where her next step
would have gone.
There are too many, Season,” Thomas whispered. “Let them have
Season turned her angry gaze on him, but he just gave a slight
shake of his head. She relented and grudgingly dropped the
You’re a spirited girl,” the leader remarked, pausing in his
search of the wagons. “Is she your daughter, merchant?”
No, no,” Royla replied. “She’s just a servant. Please, take
the wagons, there’s gold in the second one.”
The leader found the gold and hefted the bag a couple of
times, feeling its weight. “Thank you,” he said mockingly. “We’ll
leave the wagons, they’d be too hard to move.” He looked at Season
again. “I think we’ll take the girl, though.”
Two of the bandits grabbed her by the arms as she fought them.
The leader walked over and slapped her across the face hard.
Stunned, she became silent.
I told you, she’s just a servant. She’ll not bring much,”
Royla said. “I assure you she’s used.”
I don’t believe ya, merchant.”
Royla charged at the leader’s back as he turned away. The
fourth bandit tripped him and then put his foot on the merchant’s
Here, wait.” Thomas stepped between the leader and Royla and
pulled his pouch of coins from his shoulder bag. “I’ll buy her,
here, I have gold.”
The leader took that bag also. “Look boys, more gold. We’re
doin’ good today.” The men laughed. “I think we’ll still take the
Thomas swung at the leader only to be blocked and hit in the
stomach. Doubling over, he fell. Next came a swift kick and Thomas
drew in painful breaths.
The gaudy leader looked at both men. “I’ll tell you what, you
be back here in ten days, with the weight of these two bags in more
gold, and I’ll let you have her back.” He smiled, showing yellow
teeth. “She may even be untouched.”
The bandits left, leaving the two men in the dirt and joking
Thomas struggled to his feet, still gasping. He stumbled to
kneel beside the merchant.
I can’t get that gold, Thomas,” Royla said, crying into the
red dirt. “That was three months’ worth of work in that
I’m going after her, friend,” said Thomas.
Get her back, Thomas! Please, get her back!”
* * *
He followed the bandits, keeping just out of sight. Following
them proved rather easy as they behaved as if they thought
themselves safe. When they entered a cave, Thomas settled behind a
Now,” he said to himself. “How do I get in there?”
Oh, you don’t have to worry about getting in.” He heard
laughter coming from both sides.
* * *
Pushed to the floor, Thomas landed on his face. Lying there
with his hands tied behind his back, he could smell the unpleasant
aroma of what had to be a good many unwashed bodies.
Look what we found, boys and girls,” said one of the men who
found him outside.
Look here girl. You’ve got a knight in shining armor.” The
words of the gaudy leader sparked a bit of laughter. He came and
lifted Thomas’s head by the hair. “You don’t even have a weapon,
Thomas remained silent as he looked into the face with the “w”
brand. He remembered what that “w” meant now; it meant thief in the
southern lands. Big surprise.
Take ’im to the cage boys. The girl, too. Maybe we can have
some sport with ’im later. And don’t touch the girl, I’m gonna
retire on the gold we get for her.”
Two pairs of hands grabbed Thomas by the arms and pulled him
to his knees. In a glance, he saw about fifteen people, men and
women, all in rather dirty, worn clothing. Lifting him to his feet,
the two men half-dragged him for a few minutes through several
twists and turns, deeper into the bowels of the mountain, before
throwing him to the ground again inside a cage. Another thump
beside him, and a curse about the sexual habits of their mothers,
told him Season lay next to him. He looked around in the light of
the single torch they carried and saw the cage consisted of thick
branches tied together with leather cords.
Season sat up when they removed the rag from her eyes and
kicked futilely at one of them. Laughing, they shut the cage door
and locked it with a heavy chain and large padlock.
They lit another torch wedged into a crack in the chamber wall
Season’s hair displayed none of the brushing and washing of
earlier that morning and a large hole had been ripped in her dress
at the bottom.
So, my would-be rescuer, are you all right?” she
Yeah, just my pride’s hurt.”
* * *
Noises of people coming from the only entrance to the cage
chamber woke Thomas. He saw Season open her eyes as well, and both
looked to see a girl enter carrying a plate of food in either hand.
Her clothes looked to be in the same condition as the rest, the
dress might have been yellow once. Dirt and grime covered her from
head to foot.
A man with his white shirt opened to the waist walked behind
her carrying two torches. He replaced the torch already in the wall
with the unlit one and lit it.
The chief’s woman is very sick so you’ve a reprieve for a
time,” the man said. “Stand up and give me your hands so I can
untie you to eat.”
They did as told and the girl pushed the plates into the
Eat, and do it quickly,” the man said. He then laughed. “I
sure wouldn’t want to be you, knight. The chief’s gonna be in a
foul mood come tomorrow or the next day. That woman of his is gonna
die, for sure.”
When the prisoners finished their plates, they were told to
stand with their hands toward him again.
Let us keep our hands free,” Thomas suggested.
What? So you can untie our little cage. No thanks,” he
replied. “Now put your hands up here, or I’ll come in and see how
much cuttin’ I can do.”
* * *
Already half-awake from seeing torchlight through his eyelids,
Thomas opened his eyes all the way. He couldn’t be sure how much
time had passed, long enough for their torch to be out though. He
nudged Season with his foot and her eyes snapped open.
The girl who had accompanied the open-shirt man knelt at the
side of the cage.
I’m awake, I’m awake,” he said, blinking a couple times.
“What’s going on?”
You know the way out, the way here,” said the girl. “You’ve
got to help me.”
You’re not one of them?”
No,” she said. “They took me several months ago.” A smile
came to her lips. “They tried to sell me, but I got a bad temper.
Look, they blindfold everyone they bring here, but you found them.
You’ve got to help me.”
Get us out of this cage, and I will.”
I will if you promise to help. I’m not risking it unless you
can get out of these mountains.”
Yes, yes. I can get us to the road. Not get us out of
The girl produced a dagger and started cutting the ropes
holding the branches together. “I’ve tried to run a few times, but
I can’t find my way out of these damn mountains.”
For an instant, Thomas remembered Xavier mentioning other
forms of magic that didn’t need material ingredients, like the soil
from a grave, but Thomas never asked to learn much of those and
Xavier never offered to teach them.
The girl cut a few ropes, creating an opening. Season and
Thomas stood and backed up to the cage branches so the girl could
cut their bonds. They crawled through the opening the girl just
Give me the knife,” Season said, reaching out her
No, this is mine. Now be quiet in the tunnels,” the girl
said. “They drink themselves into a stupor most nights, but some
are still light sleepers. This way.”
She led them through a labyrinth of tunnels and Thomas knew he
would never have found his way out if not for the guide. When they
started passing comatose bandits, the girl put the hand holding the
dagger up for them to stop. Carefully, she stepped over the tangle
of bodies. One snorted quite loudly and turned over. They froze and
stared down at him. He did not wake up so they started moving
Season kept her eye on the man and did not watch her next
step. A woman’s leg was sticking out and Season tripped over it to
land on her hands and knees. The woman opened her eyes for a brief
second and then closed them again. They snapped back
They’re escaping! Wake up,” she screamed.
The girl ran, taking the torch.
In the light of the low burning fire still going, Thomas went
back to help Season to her feet. The bandits woke and started
yelling as well. A couple stumbled around, turning their heads
around, but Season didn’t have time to get to her feet before
Thomas and her were surrounded. One bandit held a dagger to
Thomas’s gut. If it weren’t for the necromancer sucking it in, the
dagger would have been in him.
Damn,” whispered Season, as she bowed her head. “You could
have made it Thomas. I’m so sorry.”
The leader came from a side passage carrying a torch. He
walked a steady, straight line, but his eyes were bloodshot. The
screaming woman told the chief about Christina taking off and the
Again?” he hissed through clenched teeth. He pointed to two
of the less staggering men. “You two, go get ’er.” He then looked
to Season and Thomas. “Put her back in the cage and just kill
I can raise her,” he stated quickly. “I can give life back to
her. She’s dead, isn’t she?”
The leader stared at the necromancer. The other bandits
waited, their breaths held, and waited for their chief to
Yes,” the leader said at last. “She died a few hours ago.”
Tears could be seen in his eyes, but they didn’t fall. “What did
you say about raising her? You can bring her back.”
Thomas heard the desperation in the man’s voice.
I’m a necromancer. My teacher was a great mage who taught me
to bring people back from the dead.”
The leader took a step closer to Thomas and his eyes narrowed.
“You better not be lying to me,” he said, his voice low. “I cannot
describe to you the pain your girl here will go through before you
I can do it. But, you must promise to let us go. You must set
us free, as payment.”
The leader continued to stare for a moment. “All right,” he
said, suspicion heavy in his tone. “You have my word.”
Where do you bury your dead?”
* * *
No stones or grave symbols marked the place where the dead
lay. The only indication people lay here, were the mounds of grave
dirt. Thomas thought it a rather sad thing they would not be
remembered in any other way. Time would erode these small hills,
and that would be that. He dug into one of the mounds and found it
Thomas stood over the remains as the bandit guards backed away
holding their noses. Thomas chuckled to himself. Picking up a
nearby rock, he smashed the teeth from the skull.
Ere now.” One of the guards stepped forward holding his torch
in front of him to ward off the dark. “What are ya doing to my
friend? Don’t ya ’ave any respect for the dead?”
The necromancer picked up the teeth he’d just dislodged and
poured them into his newly returned pouch. “You want the chief’s
girl back? You want me to tell him you wouldn’t let me gather what
No, no,” he replied, raising one hand palm forward and waving
Since you’re so interested in my work, come here and help me
shovel some of this soil into my other pouch.”
The bandit’s face squelched together as he looked at the
You’re a squeamish one, aren’t you?” Thomas pulled his other
pouch out of his shoulder bag.