Part Six of The Necromancer of Bern
Reginald guardedly descended into the cellar’s first chamber. The odd bit of rotten flesh and stale blood on the earthen floor marked the recent passage of the undead. Brackish light illuminated the scene. Its source was burning pitch held in metal brackets fastened to the walls. The manor’s foundation was built upon crude stones. A haphazard masonry that divided the cellar into separate chambers.
Putrescence filled the air. Reginald took shallow breaths to keep from being overcome from nausea. Nothing human could stand to be down here. The knight considered that fact as he hugged the wall and crept closer to the doorway at the end of the room. Cautiously he peered around the corner. The adjacent room stretched the entire length of the manor.
This meant the cellar was divided into three chambers. Two on the right side he entered from and a large one he now peered into. At the far end of the large chamber stood the Necromancer. From his unseen position in the shadows, Reginald took stock of his enemy.
Even with his hunched posture, the Necromancer was noticeably tall. His skeletal frame was wrapped in layers of black rags. He wore a wide brimmed, pointed hat. A wild, ill groomed beard hung halfway down his chest. No weapon was at his side, only a large tome chained to his thin waist.
Taking one last look, Reginald stepped into the chamber. He was now in plain sight of his enemy. The Necromancer shifted slightly upon seeing Reginald and spoke,
“You’ve overcome my minions and now stand before me. But you won’t be taking my grimore, fallen knight.”
Reginald shook his head disdainfully, “I’ve come here to kill you and whatever horrors are down here. That bundle of moldering vellum at your side is of no interest to me.”
“Then what do the damned gain in fighting each other? …What did the angel promise you?”
The Necromancer asked knowingly, a sneer on his revolting face.
Reginald grew silent, embarrassed by the revelation of his motives. The knight did not reply to the Necromancer’s rhetorical question, only focused on his enemy before him. Before Reginald got within range to strike, a shower of mortar and stone struck him. A hulking form had crashed through the wall and wasted no time in attacking Reginald.
Reginald gave ground. He tried to remain disciplined, but the mere sight of the abomination before him filled his heart with dread. This was no ghoul, but an amalgamation of corpses.
The creature possessed four legs. They were jointed like a beetles and it used them to scuttle towards Reginald. Arms longer than an average human’s were without hands. The bones of its forearms ended in sharpened points. The monster’s bare chest was covered in stitches. A tale-tell sign the creature had received further augmentation from the Necromancer who cackled maliciously at the sight of Reginald’s fear.
Reginald nearly allowed despair to claim him. It was the Necromancer’s laughter that steeled his resolve. The fact the Necromancer mocked his purpose and now laughed at his eminent death, spurred the knight into action. He raised his sword and parried aside a forearm meant to spear him. Reginald then ducked down as his back swing hacked into one of the monsters legs. The monster’s other forearm had slashed the air just above the knight’s head. Reginald tried to follow up by thrusting his broadsword into the creature’s guts. But its other undamaged foreleg slammed into Reginald and he tumbled backwards.
The breath was knocked out of him. Reginald rose painfully to his feet and once more retreated. The monster had enormous strength and possessed more ways to attack than Reginald was prepared to defend. Even if he possessed a shield – he would be hard pressed to overcome the monster’s attacks and strike a decisive blow. Reginald could not overpower this creature. He needed an advantage.
An idea came to the knight as the monster arched both of its arms towards him; they struck only earth as the knight rolled clear. Reginald got to his feet and ran back into the first chamber. His pursuer followed him. The knight sprinted into the room and immediately reached for one of the crude torches he noticed upon entering the cellar. He wrenched it free from the wall as the monster barreled through the narrow doorway. Again the poor masonry crumbled. Parts of the wall collapsed around the undead horror.
Reginald charged the abomination. The creature was still trying to get clear of the rubble as Reginald leapt atop its wounded foreleg. The monster roared, tried to orient its arms in a way to intercept the knight. But Reginald had already sprung forward with the torch in hand. The knight thrust it directly into the creature’s rotten face, grinded the burning pitch into its eyes with all the hatred and might he could muster.
Sharp pain registered at Reginald’s sides as he was shoved away. The knight landed flat on his back as the blinded creature thrashed about wildly. A quick look at his torn surcoat verified where he’d been hit. His chain mail had prevented the sharpened bones of the abomination’s forearms from impaling him entirely. Nevertheless, blood was already beginning to bleed through the white fabric.
He needed to end this.
Reginald stayed clear of the monster as it collided into the walls blindly. The knight re-entered the large chamber in search of the Necromancer, the sounds of the abomination’s inhuman screams and destruction filled the air. The Necromancer still stood at the far end of the room.
A look of confusion on his revolting face as Reginald closed in. Realizing that the monster he sent to dispatch Reginald was not coming – he began to chant something.
It took a moment for Reginald to recognize the danger. He was used to fighting enemies with sword and shield. Dark sorcery existed only in the stories he heard as a child. But as the low, guttural tones of the Necromancer’s voice reached Reginald’s ears, a sense of urgency grew.
The knight sprinted forward just as the Necromancer pointed a withered finger in his direction.
Pain erupted in Reginald’s stomach and he staggered to the side. His knees buckled and would not support his weight. He managed to stumble into the last chamber before he vomited uncontrollably. Through blurry eyes he gazed upon severed rats tails and maggots squirming in a pool of bile he puked out. Reginald dry heaved as he stumbled and crawled away from the Necromancer. He heard the dark sorcerer’s steps towards him and willed himself to seek cover.
The knight crawled behind a stack of wooden coffins. He could only hope nothing decided to crawl out as he desperately fought to keep from vomiting again and thus reveal his position.
Reginald heard the shuffled gait of the Necromancer as he entered the chamber. He didn’t know if the cover would even matter, what if the sorcerer’s spells didn’t require line of sight?
The Necromancer issued a low cackle, “The valiant knight whose come to slay me now hides?
Such a pity. I imagine you’ve accepted there is no escape. Not from here or from the grisly torture that awaits you in hell. What a cruel predicament!”
The top coffins on the stack Reginald hid behind suddenly fell around him. Somehow the sorcerer had shoved them from where he stood across the room. More dark magic at work, Reginald thought, but remained still. The Necromancer wasn’t certain he was there. The man’s footsteps further into the chamber, but away from his position confirmed this.
Strength returned to Reginald’s limbs as the moments passed unbearable slowly. He braced himself to make a desperate charge at the Necromancer when a thunderous crash was heard on the other side of the room. Reginald peered around the corner quickly. The blinded abomination had stumbled into their conflict and given the knight his opening.
“What are you doing? You mindless collection of rot, you’re –!”
The Necromancer didn’t finish berating the monster, but turned to face Reginald who charged towards him. The abomination provided the distraction the knight needed. But the Necromancer spoke again – the words hurried, but clear. Again he pointed and this time a numbing wind struck Reginald. But not before the knight’s sword hacked deeply into the sorcerer’s arm.
The Necromancer screamed and his control over the spell broke. Reginald’s hand ached and he removed his mail glove to see the flesh of his hand a bluish, death like hue. Gradually color returned and the knight looked up to see the Necromancer flee the room. Reginald chased after him, but the floor above him groaned loudly. Suddenly the timbers snapped altogether and a sectionof the first floor rained down.
The abomination’s rampage had damaged the already weak foundation of the manor. With nothing to hold the home up, it was collapsing in upon itself. Flaming timbers buried the maddened creature and smoke filled the cellar. The manor was on fire. Reginald didn’t dwell on this as he pursued the Necromancer who was fleeing down a narrow tunnel. The knight was about to reach him as another section of the first floor collapsed, pinning him in place as burning wreckage fell around him. The entire manor and its flaming contents were about to come crashing down on the trapped knight.