Part Seven of The Necromancer of Bern
Albrecht Von Zähringen crawled through layers of loose cemetery soil until he was finally free of the suffocating earth that buried him. The Necromancer’s right arm was all but useless. The knight’s blade had cut deep into his bicep and forced him to claw at the cold earth with only one arm. Albrecht had been compelled to retreat. As the manor started to collapse around him, the Necromancer had fled down one of the tunnels leading to the cemetery.
Albrecht was furious. The badstard knight ruined everything. A look behind him confirmed his operations within Bern were destroyed. The Manor had completely collapsed. The building was now a mighty pyre lighting the night and attracting the people of Bern’s attention. Albrecht took a measure of grim satisfaction in knowing the knight was buried in its burning timbers.
The Necromancer also still possessed his Grimoire. It was securely chained around his waist. Albrecht began to drag his body out of the loose soil that partially interred him. He was about to pull his legs free when a hand clutched his ankle with a vice like grip. The Necromancer looked back. His jaundiced eyes widened in honor at what he beheld.
Crawling up after him was the knight. The warrior’s face was caked in blood and dirt. But beneath the grime, the murderous intent of his eyes blazed brightly. Words of dark magic and black sorcery were forgotten. Escape was the only thought that registered in Albrecht’s mind. Frantically the Necromancer scrambled and twisted to get free.
But the knight simply dragged him closer. He growled furiously as he flipped Albrecht onto his back. The Necromancer kicked futilely at the enraged warrior, but there was no escape. Being one who dealt in the currency of death – The Necromancer knew when it was present.
Mailed fists rained down on his face. The Necromancer heard bones crack. He was barely conscious, but enough so to realize they were his own. The endless flurry finally abated. Albrecht’s vision was impaired due to the massive breakages in his cheek and orbital bones. But even with his failing vision he saw the knight lift his sword.
Albrecht Von Zähringen, The Necromancer of Bern, knew his plans for concurring his homeland were over. He feebly clutched the Grimoire as the knight’s broadsword plunged downward. The last thing Albrecht saw before death claimed him was Reginald’s enraged face staring down at his own.
Reginald stared down upon his enemy’s corpse. The energy his fury provided was spent.
The knight had nearly been buried beneath the manor’s rubble. It took all of his failing strength to free himself from the debris and reach the Necromancer. Reginald had crawled up through the cemetery like one of the ghouls he’d felled. All things considered, the knight wasn’t far from death himself.
His body was a collection of wounds; the most serious were inflicted by the undead abomination. Nevertheless, Reginald stood victorious. A battered and blood stained figure illuminated by the flames of the burning manor. Reginald took a long, last look at the Necromancer and spotted the Grimoire still chained to his waist. Reginald freed the malevolent tome. He could feel the power of the blasphemous book in his mailed hand.
With this artifact he could amass power. Surround himself with his own army of the dead. Those forces that sought this destruction would be helpless against the sorceries he’d wield. All of this would be so. The Grimoire promised…
Reginald held the book close as he exited the cemetery and stood before the conflagration.
The knight held the Grimoire before him once more. His mailed fingers dug into the leather of its cover in a death grip. Reginald heard the approach of Bern’s local militia and knew he needed to make a choice. Forcing himself to look away, the knight heaved the Grimoire into the greedy flames that consumed what was left of the manor.
Reginald wrestled with the temptation of retrieving the book even as it burned. But the militiamen had surrounded him while he was under the Grimoire’s throes. The knight snarled viciously and raised his sword to attack. His reason utterly lost to despair.
Fear saved him.
The fear expressed in the faces of Bern’s citizenry. They gripped their weapons with trembling hands, terrified at the very sight of Reginald. They perceived him as some newly risen nightmare from their cemetery. As his reason returned – the knight realized they were right. Reginald had raised his sword arm to strike down the very people he had struggled to save. This cruel irony tore at his very soul. Reginald howled his anguish and broke free of the loose circle of men.
The militiamen gave chase throughout most of the night. But Reginald managed to escape Bern with a bitter comfort. Its people had driven out the last monster within their city.
Later that morning, The Lady trailed after Sir Reginald. Her presence undetected by the knight who trudged on towards Dijon at morning’s first light. She had been present during his struggle with the Necromancer and witnessed the near tragedy at the battle’s conclusion. Reginald had almost succumbed to the Grimoire’s influence. The blood of Bern’s men would have stained the knight’s hands – ensuring his damnation.
There was darkness in Reginald’s heart. The Grimoire sensed it and tried to claim Reginald as it had Albrecht Von Zähringen. But the knight’s threadbare conscious resisted the artifacts call long enough for Reginald to see to its destruction. Thus Reginald succeeded in what was his true mission all along. Had the knight fallen under the Grimoire’s sway another warrior, much like Reginald, would have been summoned to fight the new Necromancer of Bern.
The Lady did not hold much hope for Reginald. Such a near disaster so early didn’t bode well for the knight whose penance had just begun. Still, her task remained the same. Through portents and her direct intervention, she would guide Reginald in his crusade for redemption.