Part Four of The Necromancer of Bern
The sun shined through a stand of evergreens on the outskirts of Bern. It was welcome relief from the endless rain and snow of the previous days. Cloudless blue skies stretched overhead. Bird song could be heard from adjacent trees near Sir Reginald. The knight camped at the base of a towering pine tree. Its snow-encrusted branches sagged to the ground and formed a natural shelter from the wind.
The weary knight busied himself with repairing his armor. His shivering hands worked to replace damaged rings with new ones he stole from the blacksmith’s workshop. A small fire provided little warmth and his cough was growing worse. But he would survive. Reginald refused to consider what the alternative meant at that moment.
Besides he had already tended his wounds. Injuries he was not able to properly treat while in Bern. His shoulder was mostly just bruised. Only two small puncture wounds marred his flesh where the spiked mace struck home. The wound on his thigh received from the spearhead was worse. Still, the wound was now stitched close. The intense cold had helped clot the gash and prevented excess blood loss.
It throbbed excruciatingly, though. Yet the physical pain paled in comparison to the despair that filled Reginald. Monsters hunted him. Mankind hated him. It wasn’t fair. Why? All this pain and suffering for the death of one man. A life that was taken by someone else’s hand, yet this damnation was all his. Reginald clutched the mail he held until his knuckles turned white.
“Reginald,” a voice called just outside the shelter of the tree.
Instantly Reginald’s hand had shot towards his sword. It stopped and hovered over the blade as recognition slowly crept over him. The knight gingerly rose to his feet and cautiously stepped out into the daylight. The sun’s light was blinding as it reflected off the snow. Standing only a few feet away stood The Lady.
The knight’s hands shook nervously at his sides, but he said nothing. Anger and desperation filled his being as he gazed upon her. She wore the same long white cloak as before. In fact, everything she wore was white. From the hood of her cloak down to the sheepskin boots she wore. Only two distinct details stood out. The long curly red hair that framed her face and the startling blue eyes that held his stare.
“What have you come to do now? Not satisfied with letting the monsters and sickness kill me?” Reginald mocked hatefully.
“I delivered a sentence, Reginald FitzUrse. The judgment was passed by His hand,” The Lady said unemotionally.
The knight looked down. Guilt and despair filled him as he realized his anger towards The Lady could not reverse his condition. He began to walk back to his make shift camp when she hailed him again.
“Do you not wish for this to end? Have you already accepted the darkness that shrouds your soul?” The Lady asked.
She walked up behind him. Waited patiently for him to turn around. When Reginald did, his eyes were sorrowful and tired. The prideful and defiant stance was gone. He fought down a coughing fit and asked,
“Are you saying I can be forgiven?”
The Lady nodded, “No one is beyond His forgiveness. Serve Him faithfully Reginald. Take up a new crusade, one in which you can fight for something you do believe in.”
“Belief in God? After all this?” Reginald started coughing; his raised voice dislodged more phlegm in his congested lungs. “I doubt that. I will serve if it means this curse can be lifted.”
Nothing is said for several moments. There is only the wind.
“That may not be enough in the end. But for now it must do. There is an evil within Bern that must be dealt with,” The Lady began.
“Yes. The imp that tried to kill me mentioned a Necromancer,” Reginald confirmed.
“I did not think you would be discovered so quickly. This will make confronting the Necromancer difficult. The practitioner of the black arts is located in an old manor beside the cemetery of Bern. The current owners of the home are minions of the enemy and have provided him a place to cast his vile magic. Reginald, you must purge that home of the evil residing within. You know what to do,” The Lady commanded.
Reginald did indeed. But he was in no condition to do anything about it. Wounded and feverish, he could not overcome the living dead as he had in the wintry pass. It was a suicide mission. But one he could not refuse.
“I will get ready to lea—,” Reginald stopped.
The Lady rested her small, delicate hand over his heart. The move startled the knight as a warming sensation spread throughout his body. The throbbing pain in his thigh disappeared, along with his fever and cough. Reginald stared into the cerulean depths of her eyes. He was speechless, overcome with a feeling of gratitude he couldn’t put into words.
The Lady sensed this and simply stepped back. A moment later she was gone. Her form grew transparent and then altogether disappeared leaving Reginald standing alone in the snowy drift. The knight looked back towards the town he fled from last night.
What new horrors would he encounter?
Albrecht Von Zähringen was born to nobility. His family, the Zähringens, had grown prosperous by founding many of the southern cities in the Holy Roman Empire. Little was denied to him. He was a tall, handsome, and broad shouldered young warrior. Women and adventures with his brothers were in abundance.
And then plague had struck Bern.
Though the city was not as heavily populated at that time, it spread quickly and ultimately claimed Albrecht. The young man’s once powerful figure was ravaged by disease. Burst pustules had scarred his face. His powerful body was left wraithlike and ruined. No longer did women fawn over him. No longer could he follow his brothers into battle.
Already of diminished value as the third son, his father essentially disowned Albrecht.
Many of his days were spent in self-exile in the family’s large home, unable to bear how people gazed upon his ruined form. Until the day he rummaged through the storeroom. He didn’t know what he was looking to find. In retrospect it was probably the book that called to him.
The black grimoire that he discovered amongst so many of the looted relics, his family claimed in their conquests.
With the blasphemous tome in hand, Albrecht Von Zähringen left Bern to become a disciple of its dark power. Over the course of many years the unholy knowledge inked upon its pages was made his own. Now he had returned to Bern to reclaim his homeland and was close to securing his base of power. At least that’s what he believed until he sensed the knight’s tainted presence.
The Necromancer of Bern hurried to complete the last minute preparations. His blood stained hands worked to cobble together an abomination he planed to have ready when the knight arrived. Harvested organs in varying states of decay lay piled on the rotten workbench he toiled over. Additional organs, like multiple hearts, meant augmented strength and durability for a ghoul. A contingency that was most likely unnecessary.
The manor’s cellar was expanded. His undead minions required no rest and had dug further into the cold, worm ridden earth. Stretches of tunnel now connected the cellar with the cemetery.
It provided him easy access to raw materials. Though the supply was limited. After all, people didn’t die everyday in Bern, though he preferred it otherwise.
The cellar was now a heavily fortified tomb, guarded by dozens of his undead warriors. It was more than enough to handle a mere mortal. Though the loss of his imp familiar was troubling.
It should have experienced no troubling in killing the knight. The mortal was either very lucky or more resourceful than he expected. A smile crossed his bearded face. He’d see for himself.
The necromancer had sensed the fallen knight’s presence when he first approached Bern. That same presence was felt now and it was growing closer. In the darkness and moldering decay of the cellar, the Necromancer finished his latest creation.