Authors: James J. Crofoot
Tags: #adventure, #ghosts, #magic, #necromancer, #dragon, #undead, #skeleton, #dark magic, #bandits
The bandit still hesitated.
I think I need to talk with your chief.”
No, I’ll do it.” The man handed his torch to his friend and
walked over to pick up the shovel. With his face turned to the
side, he did as instructed. He then threw the tool to the ground as
if afraid to catch his death from it. Slapping his hands together
to get any dirt off them, he backed away again. Seeing his
companion smirk, he snatched his torch back.
By the time he returned to the cave, the first rays of
sunlight colored the horizon. Season sat by the rekindled fire and
looked up with a mix of fear and curiosity in her eyes.
Christina had been returned from her escapade to face her
punishment. One bandit held her arms behind her.
Yer not getting away,” said a second bandit standing in front
of her. He slapped her across the face. “You’re here as our
servant, since we can’t sell ya! Yer not leaving to fetch anyone
back.” He slapped her again.
Slap me one more time…” Christina said through clenched
The man raised her dagger up to her face. “And ya took my
knife!” he slapped her one more time.
Christina spit in his face and followed it with a vicious kick
to his groin. The man’s mouth opened as he tried to take a breath.
Grabbing himself, he fell to the cave floor and curled into a
Ya better let ’er go, Brandon,” said a round bellied bandit
lying on the floor to the side as he laughed from that round
Thomas’s face broke into a smile he couldn’t hold
The leader led him down a couple passageways to a larger cave.
On a makeshift bed lay what could only be the body of the leader’s
woman. Thomas recognized the ashen pallor of death, and for just an
instant, regretted what he contemplated doing.
I must be alone with her body,” he announced.
Her name is Bethany,” the leader said. “Bethany!”
Yes,” Thomas said. “I must be alone with Bethany.”
The leader took the necromancer by the shoulder. “I swear, you
She will be raised,” Thomas assured him. “Now you must
The necromancer watched the leader of the bandits leave and
set to work. Putting all thoughts from his mind, he placed the
teeth on the stone floor. As he did he noticed the tidiness of
everything here. This home showed a loving woman’s touch, even if
she had been the woman of a thief, small trinkets of affection lay
on rocky shelves. Two rough chairs sat on either side of a worn
Shaking his head to clear these things from it, he placed the
soil over the teeth and chanted the arms and legs from the teeth.
He chanted feet and hands from these arms and legs. They grew to
stand five feet tall with the cold blue flame in their eye
Then he approached the fresh corpse. Around this he sifted
more of the grave dirt through his fingers. Raising a flesh-risen
could be tricky and he had only done this once. He sat at the dead
girl’s feet and began to call the power from the dirt of that
lonely grave outside. Beads of sweat formed on his face, some
dripping into his eyes. His muscles ached from sitting in one
Finally, it happened. He felt the semblance of life in the
woman’s remains and stood to examine his work. “Look at me,” he
The dead, filmy eyes turned to look at their
* * *
The thing that once took the shape and personality of a woman
named Bethany walked from the passages. The leader smiled, then
laughed, and clapped his hands together.
Bethany! My only love.” He approached her, but stopped just
short of the embrace when he saw her lifeless gaze. “This is not my
I raised her, as I said I would,” Thomas stated flatly. He
had known what the outcome would be. “You must set us
An angry fire came to the leader’s eyes and he started to
shake. He turned those eyes on the necromancer. “You’ve deceived
You cannot cheat death, only a fool thinks so. Here is your
Bethany. You can do to her what you wish.”
Take ’im,” the leader said.
Kill all in the caves,” Thomas instructed, very low, and with
a good deal of sorrow.
Bethany attacked the leader, and more risen, from the teeth
stolen from their grave, erupted from the passage behind the
* * *
I never would have guessed you capable of such things, Thomas
from the East,” remarked Season.
Screams still came from the cave behind them. Managing to
bring the girls out and retrieve the gold belonging to Royla and
himself, Thomas now heard the disappointment in Season’s voice. The
boy that once learned many things from his teacher heard it. He led
them back down the path.
They deserved it,” said Christina. “They found a good deal of
pleasure in inflicting pain on others. The world is a safer place
without them, trust me.”
No more conversation took place until they reached Season’s
father. He still sat, waiting, in the same place as when Thomas
went on his rescue mission. “Thank you, Thomas,” came from the
merchant more times than the necromancer thought necessary, but the
merchant would not stop until Thomas laughed.
The merchant’s daughter kept a quiet distance between herself
and Thomas the rest of the way to the western part of the kingdom.
He couldn’t blame her. The thing he gave back to the bandit leader
only resembled his love. It could never return his caring; never
give that lover’s touch. It would only obey simple commands, never
I don’t care what you saw, he saved your life,” Royla replied
to something Season said.
She spoke again, but Thomas could not hear.
He saved you, and you will give him this,” Royla replied to
his daughter. “I don’t know what I would do if I lost you as well.
You will personally give him this and offer your eternal gratitude.
You will tell him that if there’s anything he ever needs, he has
only to ask.”
Season gave a very cold look to her father and snatched the
bag of coins he held in his hand. She then walked over to Thomas,
eyes turning everywhere except at him.
Goodbye, Thomas of the East,” she said holding out the bag.
“I’m afraid this is all we can give.”
That took place ten days ago. He and Christina had left the
capital the next morning, Thomas decided he needed as much distance
between him and Season as he could get, and quickly. In the end,
he’d started feeling sick to his stomach whenever she looked at him
the way she did—with disgust.
Now they were in a new town and new inn. The inn being full of
ambassadors from neighboring countries, he and Christina bedded
down in a hayloft.
I still have my dagger, Tom,” Cristina said for the tenth
time in as many nights.
At first, she made him nervous. Then she made him laugh. Now
her nightly reminder about the weapon was old.
Go to sleep, Christina.”
He lay thinking of Season, just as he thought of her every
night. For the first time, Thomas regretted what he knew. The fear
and disappointment he had seen in her eyes tightened his stomach.
He wanted to vomit. He turned on his side and looked at Christina
in the light of the moon. She turned out to be quite attractive,
once she donned the new blue dress he bought her. She definitely
liked to talk; with Thomas lost in his thoughts since the capital,
she really found no trouble in filling the silence.
Then he heard the scream.
Please, Raymond, leave me alone! What did I do?”
Both Christina and Tom sat upright and looked at each
The scream came again.
Please, I didn’t do it! Leave me in peace, my
Both he and Christina went down the stable ladder and ran out
the door. They looked up and down the street at the houses and
other buildings lining it, but saw nothing. Then a softer cry could
be heard in the silence of the night from a house three doors away
to their left.
Let me live my life. Please let me be.”
They ran to the house and knocked on the plain but newly made
door. Like the rest of the town, it didn’t speak of wealth, but it
did speak of comfort. He felt an angry presence behind it,
something which once walked as a person. A light appeared inside
and the door opened. A woman stood in the doorway holding a candle,
her hair ragged and knotted, her bed clothes torn and stained with
blood. Her eyes were lined with very dark circles, as if sleep
posed a threat.
What do you want?” she asked weakly.
We heard screaming coming from your house,” Christina said,
trying to peer past the woman. “Are you all right?”
The young woman leaned against the doorframe. “I…I…” She
started to slide down, but Thomas caught her. Christina grabbed the
candle as Thomas lifted the woman and carried her to a chair next
to the table that stood in the middle of the room. Christina placed
the candle down and sat in the other chair. Taking the woman’s
hand, she spoke soothing words meant to comfort.
Thomas looked around and saw broken glass and shattered
pottery everywhere. On the bed against the wall, he noticed the
sheets bore bloody stains and rips. He looked down at Christina and
saw that she, too, saw the same things.
What’s going on here, lady?” the girl asked.
It’s my husband’s ghost. He thinks I killed him or had
something to do with his murder.”
How do you know it’s your husband’s ghost?” asked
Because it started right after his murder,” the woman
answered. “It started a couple of weeks ago.”
Thomas looked away at nothing as he listened to the young
woman. Christina sat back in her chair.
The whole town thinks I did it, and I don’t know why, but I
guess he thinks so, too.” She looked at them with wild, glazed
eyes. “I didn’t kill him. Please help me. No one in town will even
talk me, except Cedric. He’s got my boy with him. Please…I
Her head tilted forward and she passed out again. Thomas
grabbed her shoulders. “Help me, Christina. Help me get her into
They put her on the mattress and tried to cover her with the
wrecked sheets, but as soon as they straightened up, a shard of
pottery flew up from the floor and struck her in the head. The
woman just cried and covered her eyes with her arm.
Tom,” Christina said. “You’ve got to help her.”
Pull the bed away from the wall,” he told Christina. With
that done, he went to the cold fireplace and grabbed a piece of
wood with one end charred. Around the woman on the bed, he drew a
circle on the floor.
What are you doing?” Christina asked.
I’m putting a glyph around her,” Thomas explained. “It’s only
temporary, but it will let her rest.”
Can you help her, Tom?”
No,” he replied. “There’s nothing I can do.” He looked
I don’t believe you. I saw what you did to those bandits. You
control the dead.” She reached for his face to turn it toward her.
“I don’t care what that merchant’s daughter says. You saved us from
I purposely deceived a man suffering from terrible grief.”
Thomas pulled away from her. “There was such joy in his eyes just
before he realized what I attempted to trade for our release. I
gave him an abomination. It is not a good thing I do.”
He sat down as if suffering from a great weariness. Christina
knelt down in front of him and took his hands in hers.
There was a family traveling through the mountains. Instead
of letting those bandits take his wife, the husband fought back,
killing one. Do you know what those vile men did? They brought the
family back to those caves and did terrible things. They made the
husband watch, and then, before they killed him, made sure he knew
his son would go to the southern kingdoms. Those screams went on
for days. Then, for the next couple weeks, they laughed about
Thomas looked back at her and took his hands from hers.
“Perhaps you’re right. Now, though, we must sleep, we’ll start in
* * *
The next morning, Thomas sat across the table from Angela, the
woman they’d met the night before. Christina placed a cup of
fragrant mint tea in front of their hostess.
My husband was killed a fortnight ago,” Angela said, staring
at her tea. The dark bags under her eyes were lessened some. “One
of our town’s cattlemen found him stabbed in the back four
Do they know who did it,” asked Thomas. He studied the woman
closely, watching her hands shake.