Dragon Fire: Episode 57

From atop the building, Aric watched in horror as Degan’s army of the dead crawled over the cultists like wolves over a wounded animal. The cries of the cultists were lost in the shrieks of the bloodthirsty dead pouring from the ground like ants from a disturbed hill.

“May the gods forgive us for what we have done,” Aric said.

 

 

*          *            *

 

 

From the shadows, Vanamir watched gleefully as the cultists struggled to overpower the growing horde of dead.

“Master, your new vessel is powerful indeed. Once he is under your control, you will not be stopped,” Vanamir said with a smile.

He knew his followers the cultists would not last long against such raw power wielded by the necromancer. Drawing his knife from its sheath, Vanamir held his hand over the burned soil and drew the blade across his flesh. Black blood seeped from the wound and dripped to the ground.

“Give me power, Master, so that I may fight this army in your name.”

As the drops of blood seeped into the soil, the earth began to bubble like potion in a boiling cauldron. From the ground rose a hand of bone, reaching upward then slamming to the ground. Slowly the body formed from rock, dirt and black blood given in sacrifice emerged, rising to full height and strength.

Towering above the rooftops, it stretched out its arms and howled, shaking the earth.

“Slaughter them,” Vanamir commanded. “Tear them apart.”

 

 

*          *            *

 

 

Aric took a step back in horror as a humanoid creature from the earth rose high above the buildings.

“Degan!” Aric yelled down. “Beware!”

Degan turned and saw the creature then looked back at his army and ordered,

“To me.”

Immediately the army of the dead stopped and returned to Degan. As the cultists formed rank, rallying behind the creature, Degan went down on his knees and whispered something only the dead could hear. At once the dead fell upon him, piling higher and higher until Degan could no longer be seen. From under the pile of dead flesh, a large hand suddenly reached out, followed by another. The two arms of dead flesh pushed up and a towering golem rose from the earth.

When the cultists saw the giant golem of decayed flesh, their cheers died down and they moved closer to the creature of black blood.

Laying down the leather bag with the sleeping Gonorap, Aric searched the street for Degan.

As the cultists advanced, the dead golem crushed their bodies beneath its feet, growing larger as each dead body attached itself. Lunging at the blood creature, the golem struck it across the jaw, sending it staggering backwards. Pulling earth up through its feet, the creature quickly reformed.

Aric watched in wonder as the two traded blows. Each time the creatures went down, they were restored with earth or the scattered dead.

“Fie,” a man groaned behind Aric. Aric spun around, drawing his sword in one motion, to face Vanamir the ranger.

“These battles rage far too long.”

“Much time has passed since we parted. What were you about?” Aric asked.

“Come now. You seek the answer to another question. A question for which you have the answer, do you not? Vanamir asked.

Aric looked into Vanamir’s eyes.

“Who are you?” he asked.

Vanamir winched then said, “That is not the true question, is it? I am Vanamir. I obey the evil that was once in power and will soon return to its glory. Your friend Degan is the vessel my master was to command, but you have made repossession of this vessel somewhat difficult. That is why I am here, to carry out my master’s will.”

“At what price?” Aric asked.

Vanamir considered the battle for a moment. “Every victory has a cost. Look beyond the war,” he said, pointing to one of the buildings below.

Aric looked in the direction Vanamir was pointing.

Standing at a window was one of the cultists, restraining a young boy. He held a knife at the child’s throat as he pressed him against the windowpane. Aric took a step closer then said with sudden panic and realization,

“Isaac?”

Seething with anger, Aric spun around to face Vanamir

“Who are you!” he roared.

Vanamir smiled.

“There it is. That is the question I have been waiting for. I will tell you everything and even spare the boy’s life under one condition.”

Vanamir pointed down to the battle waging in the burned out street.

“Tell Degan to cease,” Vanamir opened his hand and held it out to Aric, “and surrender to me.”

Aric felt his muscles tighten and his heart begin to pound in his ears like a horse’s hooves across a battlefield. But in that moment, he dropped his swords.

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