“Come down from there, my friends. I have opportunities for Celns of your polish,” spoke the voice. It echoed around the walls below them, but seemed to come from many places. It was loud, but the speaker wasn’t shouting. Like a voice projected. It was confident, as if used to giving orders that were then obeyed.
Theros leaned against the stone wall. If they could just get access to the keep, they might be able to keep these foes at bay, or bottleneck them in and fight them one at a time. They’d have to stay low, once they knew they were making it for the keep though, those trolls could cover ground fast, and they’d be at risk of being flanked from atop the battlements. A fight they couldn’t win. Theros looked over at the dead bodies around him, lying in their frozen blood, hacked down and left like meat. One of the lighted infantrymen, lay feet from him, his blank eyes staring at him sideways. Theros imagined the man was probably stationed here at the fort for seasons. Now, dead. He wondered who waited for him to come home, who would receive the terrible news.
“If you will not come to me, and if you will not show yourselves, then I’ll have my people get in touch with your people.” The sinister voice called out nonchalantly yet menacingly. Gerrell, unlike the others, knew the sounds produced in the making of that voice, speaking common, unnaturally. He knew the speaker wasn’t of this new place, he had found. He knew that whoever was speaking would know he wasn’t of here either. And he knew that showing himself to whoever or whatever was under that hood was not a good idea.
The trolls somewhere below were pacing. They couldn’t see them but their steps thudded on the street cobblestones, jarring their teeth.
Just then, the dead soldier laying near Theros jerked! The ranger kicked his feet out at it and with a sound that came out like “ergghhh!!!” he gasped and tried to jerk the rest of his body away. The blank eyes rolled around in the dead soldier’s head until they pointed right at him! Then, it’s head and shoulders followed, and it began to slump, like a puppet without strings towards him, dragging itself across the battlements. “My people can speak for me, since you won’t parlay here!” said the dark voice of the hooded figure. “Let me introduce you to them!”
“It’s a necromancer!” yelled Theros to the others. He knew well what it could do, and he knew that dying from valley fever was now what he wished for.
Gerrell hobbled around the corner to where the tops of this battle wall would take them to the tower keep, and saw nearly a dozen of the dead figures, now come to life. They picked themselves up but with a freakish force, they quickly streaked at them. He looked to his other side, and saw a dozen more.
They were surrounded!
“Into the keep!” yelled Theros. “Damn you two to Ket! The keep is the only place here we can defend from. I’ll need you to bar the entrance while I keep them at bay!” Theros shouted commands at them. He couldn’t be sure they understood or if he could trust them. But all their lives now depended on two gates, and if they didn’t help him, they’d all be dead, or worse soon enough. He hoped they would at least see that as well.
Around him, the walking dead surrounded him. Some of their faces were turned around completely. Some were missing arms and others still crawled on nothing more than their torso, their lower half elsewhere, gone.
The necromancer had somehow changed them, and not just brought them back from the dead. Their teeth were longer, their nails long as knives and crooked like winter branches. Their back rippled in an inhuman beastly way as though the spinal cord had shapened itself into something more monstrous. They were a mockery of mankind in every way. Brave soldiers who now in death were unwilling devils.
“The gate!” yelled Theros.
He continued to fight off the animated bodies, with axes he had carried under his robes. Several times, a claw ripped into them, but it was impossible to tell if he had been wounded or not. His robes were dark red already.
Ares, Gerrell atop his shoulders, ran past and down the keep stairwell. Together, they barred a small portcullis at the base of the tower’s stairs. Just below them, the hooded figure followed by the two massive ice trolls broke through the tangle of metal that had once been the keep’s outer gate. It stopped. And tilted it’s mysterious face upwards towards them. They felt a chill trickle down their arms and into their fingers. Turning quickly, they hid their faces and ran back upwards towards where Theros had been. If he had not barred his gate, or survived the onslaught they had run through, they’d all be dead soon enough. An aura of evil seemed to chase them up from the figure in the dark robes. It wasn’t just the trolls. Something about it was hauntingly evil, and although none of them were without their misdeeds, whatever this was wanted to see the world burn. Next to the figure, the trolls snarled and pawed the ground, throwing metal to the sides. The figure simply stood there. A cavern of darkness staring at their backs racing up the tower.
Unfortunately, this gate was much smaller than the keep’s main one. Ares had clicked it into place and Gerrell had found a way to magically seal it, but soon enough, from below they could hear the sounds of the dark voice speaking magic and there was another click.
Theros had indeed barred his gate, just as a dozen or more of the living dead had rushed him. But he knew it wouldn’t last. He raced upwards looking for the right place to make his stand, hoping he’d have help. He didn’t know what the Hammer of Ket would say about the dark little figure calling itself a gnome, but he knew that the hooded figure was everything he had fought against since donning the crimson robes.
And he’d need help defeating it.