Part Three of The Necromancer of Bern
Deep lines gouged into the Saracen’s face tell Sir Reginald that his enemy has seen many battles. Further confirmation comes in the form of his foes scimitar strikes. It’s all Reginald can do to intercept the blows with his battered shield. A cold certainty fills the pit of his stomach as the battle wears on.
The Saracen is relentless. He wields his wicked looking weapon with frightening efficiency.
The blade hooks and slashes ever closer to Reginald’s exposed face. Midday heat makes wearing a great helm impossible, the unforgiving sun would cook the insides of his head. A thin mail coif is all that prevents his opponent from splitting his skull like a melon.
Reginald gives ground as the Muslim presses the attack. The heat and exhaustion of battle rob him of strength. The white surcoat he wears does little to prevent his own chain mail armor from cooking him alive. Reginald is dehydrated. Every ragged breath he takes only robs his throat of what little moisture remains. This doesn’t escape the Saracen’s notice.
The recognition of Reginald’s disadvantages is visible upon his enemy’s smiling face.
The Saracen was born here – can whether the intense heat. His weapons and armor are lighter, allowing him to move quicker. They also keep him from overheating in the harsh climate.
But more importantly, the Muslim is fighting to drive a Christian invader from his homeland.
He is fighting for something he believes in.
Reginald is not.
He cannot win this fight. The scimitar that slashes into the flesh above his collarbone seems to confirm this. The knight’s sword slips from his numbed fingers. He is going to die now. His bones will litter the sands like so many others, sun bleached monuments to the will of God. Reginald can see his enemy rearing back his sword. The blade falls in a deadly arc –
Reginald screamed in the darkness.
It took several long moments for him to realize he wasn’t in the holy land. He’s awoken from another nightmare, like so many before. Familiarity filled him as he gazed around the darkened workshop. He immediately began to cough forcibly. Fever had claimed him during the long night spent in the cold. Reginald was still lying down when he noticed movement from the corner of his eye.
There was a face in the darkness. It weaved in and out of shadow. Green hued skin was visible in the dim light. There was a strange sound and Reginald felt breezes on his face. He squeezed his eyes tightly and reopened them – the face still floated hauntingly in the darkness. The corners of its mouth sloped upwards in a smile that revealed pointed teeth.
Reginald tensed. Lethargy shaken as he realized he was not alone. The thing before him swayed closer. In the lurid red light cast by the dying coals of the forge, he saw the entire creature.
A being held aloft in the air by bat like wings that sent gusts of air his way. The source of the mysterious breezes he felt. The wings, like the body, are a dirty green color. Soot covered and smelling of sulfur.
The winged fiend isn’t large, perhaps only a third of his size, but it’s muscles are heavily corded. Its body is also protected by a miniature set of scale armor. Tarnished and stained, it covers the creature’s chest and arms. Reginald also took note of the menacing looking trident leveled at his head as the denizen of the depths of hell began to laugh.
”Didn’t sleep well?” It asked mockingly, swinging to the right of Reginald.
The knowing way in which the flying creature asked the question angered Reginald. He stayed still though. He wasn’t ready for battle and he didn’t want to provoke the strange being. Gradually, Reginald raised himself into a sitting position. The move doesn’t go unnoticed.
“Careful human…don’t make me kill you before my questions are answered,” the fiend threatened, pressing the tip of the trident to Reginald’s neck.
Reginald cleared his throat and asked, “What do you want, devil?”
“I am an imp, human! You insult a demon by calling it devil,” Reginald’s antagonist clarified.
The imp pressed the trident harder into the flesh of his neck.
The knight held his breath and said nothing more until the imp eased the trident away.
He coughed into his hand weakly and leaned back against the wall. This move increased the distance between him and the imp without looking intentional. Reginald looked over to where his sword leaned against the wall, too far away to grasp without getting impaled. The knight looked back to the imp as it began to speak again,
“I saw you fighting them in the pass, the recently raised dead. Part of an army the necromancer will summon. What business does one of the damned have in Bern. Speak mortal!” The imp demanded.
Being hailed as one of the damned again, reminded Reginald of The Lady. He had wanted to forget her pronouncement, wanted to believe her judgment was somehow untrue. Reginald could no longer deny it. The reactions of the Broken Spoke’s patrons and the recognition of his condition by the imp removed all doubt. He was truly damned.
“Answer the question human! Who has summoned you to Bern?” The demon asked.
It’s rusted and scorched trident thrust towards Reginald’s face again.
The knight locked eyes with is opponent. He couldn’t die here. His damnation meant immediate internment in Hell. Reginald needed time to think.
“…No one sent me. I am on my way to Dijon,” he answered.
“Lies,” the imp hissed, “You were sent here by that angel.”
Reginald surprised himself by laughing. His laughter broke down into a fit of coughing as phlegm worked free from the lining of his lungs. As he coughed, Reginald looked about the shop. He noticed a heavy set of forge tongs within reach on the table next to him. He swung his eyes back to face the imp,
“You think I follow her? No. I am just as forsaken as you. But — ”
Reginald exploded into motion. His right hand shot up and reached for the handle of the tongs.
The imp thrust its weapon towards his face, but Reginald pushed himself aside with his left arm.
A move that allowed him to grasp the tongs and get clear of the attack. The imp stabbed the points of its trident towards Reginald again, but the knight parried the blow downward. His adversary’s weapon was now securely pinned to the floor with the tongs.
With his free hand, Reginald grasped the imp’s weapon and hauled it closer. The sudden tug unbalanced the creature and left it open for the tongs that Reginald slammed into its face. Utterly dazed from the blow, it wobbled in the air. The knight wasted no time wrenching away the trident from the imp’s hands. He deftly spun the weapon around and impaled the vicious creature as it hurled itself towards him. Two of the tridents tips pierced the scale armor covering its chest.
“ – It will be a cold day in Hell when I’m considered one of you, demon.” Reginald finished.
The imp gave Reginald a look of utter contempt and hatred. Blood streamed out its mouth as it gargled out curses. Weakened hands still tried to reach for the knight, to gain purchase in order to strike a blow. Disgusted, Reginald pinned the creature to the floor, even as its wings flapped desperately. The knight stomped his booted foot upon the imp’s skull repeatedly. Flesh tore free, bone shattered, and its head became nothing more than a gory pile at Reginald’s feet.
Reginald shook uncontrollably as adrenaline coursed through his veins and fever racked his body. He turned away from the corpse. Unsteady steps carried him to where his cloths and armor were laid out to dry. Reginald put the garments back on. The noise from his battle with the imp could have awoken the owner of the workshop. He took a quick look around, stole whatever he could easily stuff into his pack, and retrieved his sword.
By the time the sun rose, Sir Reginald had fled the city of Bern.