Part Three: Necromancy
Three shadows crept through the forest. Xadian had contacted a friend of his who happened to be in a neighboring village, by the name of Vapula. Xadian himself knew much of necromancy, but Vapula was wise in all things, necromancy included. He was not very skilled in fighting, but he knew how to kill Shades better than Xadian did. After Vap and Berith had been introduced they had set off. Xadian alone would have been able to track the Shade, but Vapula quickly showed his skills when he picked up an older trail that it had used. As they followed the trail, they were taken into a forest. Following the signs, such as broken limbs and lingering patches of darkness, they grew near to the Shade's origin. Finally, they reached a cave.
It was pitch black, and moisture dripped from the roof off the cave. Several times the three of them tripped over small stones. But, as they went deeper into the cave, it got easier to see. Finally, they got a glimpse of a light.
They drew closer to the light, and saw that it came from a ring of torches. Inside were two circles with stars in them, both drawn in blood. The pentacles that the necromancer would cast his black magic from. Inside one was a figure, the necromancer himself. In the other, was the Shade.
According to the plan they had made, Xadian and Vap walked straight into the ring of torches, while Berith stood by, charging his sword's attack. The necromancer took notice immediately, and with a swipe of his hand wiped away part of the pentacle surrounding the Shade. This released the monster, allowing it to walk out towards Xadian and Vapula, who for their part simply stopped and drew their swords. Xadian attacked the necromancer while Vapula took on the Shade.
Xadian and the necromancer clashed swords. The necromancer quickly showed that he was inept at fighting, and was on his back in a matter of seconds. Vap, on the other hand, had more trouble with the Shade. Even missing an arm it was formidable. Vap had quickly dispelled its black cloud and was dodging blows by a hair at a time. Left, right, then right again. Then the Shade kicked him to the ground, something Shades didn’t usually do. As he scrambled to his feet, the Shade was scrambling to help its master. Xadian turned at Berith's shout and ducked the first blow. Normally he'd grab its arm and execute a brutal take down, but contact with a Shade was deadly. So, he hooked his sword behind its head and pulled it to the ground by its skull. Not an easy feat, toppling a Shade. As the two struggled the necromancer got to his feet. He stood with outstretched arms, and the cave suddenly got crowded. The stones that the three of them had kept tripping over were actually tombstones, and the cave a huge graveyard. As the necromancer exerted his will over the dead, the dirt floor of the cave was clawed apart by dozens of reanimated corpses. As they struggled to gain their footing, Berith looked on in horror. But, the necromancer had raised them without a pentacle and was not safe himself. So he ran farther into the cave, leaving the Shade and Xadian, Vapula, and Berith to deal with the zombies and each other. Xadian was still preoccupied with the Shade, so Vapula went to work rekilling the undead foes. Berith, meanwhile, went after the necromancer.
As Berith disappeared into the darkness, Vapula cut a zombie in two and sent another straight back to death. He was a very accomplished necromancer himself, and could easily dispel parts of the necromancers magic. Meanwhile, Xadian's sword and the Shade's wrist blade met with a ringing sound. As they engaged in battle, it was clear that Xadian was slowly gaining the upper hand. The Shade was stronger by far, but Xadian was the more agile and better trained of the two. He ducked behind the monster. In the time it took the Shade to turn around, Xadian had kicked its legs out from under it, and slammed his sword, hilt first, into the back of its head. A blow that should have killed any mortal creature didn’t even faze this thing. It simply got back to its feet and swung again.
As Xadian was fighting his foe, Vapula was having fun playing with the undead. He had, converted, several of his foes to his own side. The necromancer was good at his art, but Vap was a master. He had studied magic for all of his vampiric life, in the same way that Xadian had devoted his life to training, except with more explosions and fire. Which he exhibited with ease, blowing a clump of zombies to pieces. Just then, the Shade and the zombies stopped for a second, as if the necromancer was distracted. Then they attacked with new speed.
Xadian was almost overwhelmed in an instant. The Shade had attacked with blinding agility and stabbed him in the shoulder. He slid himself off, quickly, before the Shade could steal his lifeforce. Then he ducked a swipe, and straight punched it in the chest, throwing it back a step.
He thought while fighting, trying to come up with a way to kill something that couldn’t be stabbed, crushed, or even winded. Just then, the Shade grabbed his sword, and pulled it out of his grasp.
Xadian was grabbed, and thrown to the ground. His vision blurred with the force of hitting the ground. The Shade readied the killing blow. It struck.
Xadian wondered why he had time to flinch. Then he wondered why he wasn’t dead. Then he looked at the Shade's sword, which had stopped an inch from his face. He rolled away then got to his feet shakily. He looked farther into the cave. At the same time as the Shade had froze, the zombies, which had been piled on top of Vapula, were all dead again. Berith must have killed the necromancer. Xadian went to help Vap, who was struggling to remove himself from under the pile of bodies. Berith walked up as they were walking towards the Shade. His sword still had blood on it, despite his ongoing efforts to clean it.
“No graves farther in, he dug his own when he tried to fight there.” Berith reported.
“And it still took you that long?” Xadian.
“Hey, I had to catch him first.”
They looked at the Shade. Vap stepped forward to return its soul to the afterlife. Xadian stopped him.
“How do I do it?” He asked.
“You touch its head and speak the words.”
Xadian stepped closer to the Shade, with his friend's soul still inside. He touched it's forehead with two fingers.
“Return to peace, Alric.”
The lightning went from its eyes, and it dropped knees. As its head touched the ground, its bones turned to dust. The Shade was no more.
The three of them walked to the mouth of the cave. They had dug a mass grave for all the bodies, even taking the time to collect the dust from the Shade. They started walking. The journey across the forest was uneventful. As they crossed from the forest into the countryside, the first light of dawn peeked over the horizon. In the time it had taken the three to find the cave and vanquish the necromancer, night had passed. The sun rose as they watched the new day start.