Truth and Consequences Part 8

lich-adventure-time-1004366I happen to be a writer, and on occasion I like to post Fiction stories for my readers to check out.  Sometimes these stories are just random ideas.  Other times they are stories I wrote and the contract fell through so they are just gathering dust.  Its up to you to figure out which is which.

This particular Short story is called Truth and Consequences .It involves two of my more abrasive dungeons and dragons characters going on an adventure together.  The world and setting of this story comes from Josh Weekley.  If you you enjoy the setting of Braeton and the tapestry of the pseudo historical world, he’s written a novel set in the same world called ‘Crown of the Dwarf King’.  Check it out on Lulu.com.

This is the seventh part of the story.  If you are just tuning in, you can find the earlier posts here

The one armed corpse spun on her heels.  Her clawed hand still vibrated from the sting of the yellow disc that had protected the bald thief from certain death.  Her rotting face stared at him as she pushed off from the ground.  Her body flinging itself in a mad rage towards the priest whom kneeled over Aelfric.  Aelfric, whose was awaking from a death that seemed assured.

Gerrit’s arm moved like a blur gripping the battered mace from his hip.  His stocky arm cleft outwards.  The weapon’s ball-shaped top catching the claws in a clap of bone and wood.   The corpse’s body stumbled from the force of the blow.  The priest leaped to his feet in the next instant.

“Oh some spunk!”  The corpse said spitting out a few teeth as she raked the air between them.

“You will submit to your death.”  Father Gerrit told her.  His left hand gripped the wooden weapon, his knuckles whitened.  His muddied boots stepped towards her.  His haggard Buluwa seemed to glow as it smashed through the space in front of them.

The Lich brought her single hand forward to meet the weapon.  The ball slammed into her hand like a slap.  Her fingers curled around the weapon.  She pushed her body forward.  Her head smashed into his crown with a crack.

Gerrit stumbled this time.  His footing slipped in the slick mud as he fell to the earth.  Only inches away from where Aelfric was still breathing and trying to regain his composure.  But the event was enough to get the Half-Elf’s attention.  He sprung up from the ground to see the dead woman fling herself once again towards the cursed priest.

The Lich’s fingers slammed into Gerrit’s shoulders.  The grip threatened muscle and bone forcing him back to the ground.  Her knees wedged into his ribs, weighing down body.  The priest could only look in his dismay as the rotting face drew close to his own.  The repellant breath gagged his nose with the smell of rigamortis and rich earth.

“You cannot kill that which has made the sacrifice of the heart.”  The crone cackled.  Her voice boomed like nausea into his ears.

Gerrit fought with the grip of the dead thing that lay on top of him.  The muscles of his stomach fortifying as he wretched upward towards her gloating face.  Her nails sunk into his leather breast plate as he crunched his hand into a fist.  “We can find your heart, easily enough.  But first you must be committed to ground.”  He told her.

The priest’s fist slammed into the side of her face.  Her rotting jaw came away from her face in a sick splatter of blood.   The force swept her from his chest.  Her body fell to his side in a splat of mud. The bottom half of her face hung together with a single hinge.  Her tongue dropped through the space of her misaligned mouth, black and coiled like a snake.

Father Gerrit flipped to his feet, his left hand scooping the handle of his mace and drawing it to his chest.    He could feel his skin burn with sweat as he looked at the creature at his feet rise once more.  He knew now without a doubt, that this maligned creature was a lich.  An undead creature that was once human, but contorted to a quasi-immortality through the knowledge of necromancy.  A sorcerer who removed her own soul and placed into an enchanted object called a Phalactory where it was protected and allowed the body to resist death.  The only way to kill a lich for good was to destroy the accursed artifact that housed their soul.

Gerrit knew well that it would take more than brute strength to finish this corrupt creature. And though he hungered to end this blight of earth and to purify the corrupt body, he made a promise.   This wretched creature’s heart would have to be destroyed another day.  But that didn’t mean he couldn’t put a stop to her even if temporarily.

The old withered hand felt for her hanging jaw as her milky eyes found his face.  She pushed her jaw back to her skull with a liquid crunch.   “I know that look in your eyes.” She cackled with a brand new vigor.  “The truth has dawned on you.”  She said as she took a step towards him.  Despite the magics that kept her body animated he could see now with the way she moved, that the wounds she’d taken did not heal, as quickly as one would assume.  And though a Lich would keep coming each time it slowed.  But the problem was it never stopped.  Not until its soul was released.

“Aelfric, I will need you to rejoin the others.”  The priest announced turning his head to the blond elf, and swaying to target the group who were a few feet away watching the battle with tight hands on drawn weapons.

“Gerrit, I can…”  Aelfric stumbled his mouth still vacuuming air as it came to him.

The Lich strode forward as Gerrit spoke.  Her dirty claws sliced across his neck and shoulder.  The sharpened fingers cutting through the thick leather armour.

Gerrit stepped back the sting of penetration feeling like coals against his perspiring skin.  He narrowed his eyes as he stepped forward again.  His right boot sunk into the moist earth.  He brought the mace over his right shoulder.  The wooden ball slammed into the armless shoulder with a crack.

“AELFRIC!”  Gerrit wailed; spit flying from between his rows of clinched teeth.  “I need you to get back.”  The warrior shouted frantically,  withdrawing his wooden weapon as the raking of claws threatened his face.  His right foot slid back as the mace came in wide above his head.  The wood and bone met in a crunch.  Wooden chips sprayed the tense space between them.

“Fine.”  Aelfric bemoaned as he leaped to his feet.  He leaned over to grab his long sword sheathing it, as his almond eyes took in the deadly battle.  He had seen tournaments before.  He himself had been in a lot of life or death battles.  But what was playing out in front of him now seemed unreal.  Like the stories that children were told before bed– these glorious legendary affairs of man and monster.

Gerrit spun on the balls of his feet.  The weapon slid through the air in a bronzed blur catching the sharp claws once more.  The priest shot out a heeled foot crashing into the sunken stomach of the undead creature.  The force was enough to make her stumble back several inches.

“GO!”  Gerrit shouted again.  He spun across from his opponent a second time.  The business end of the wooden mace slammed into the side of the corpse’s head.  The brittle bone splashed like a melon.  Green ichor exploded onto the priest’s face.

Aelfric looked behind his shoulder as he ran.  His mind stole by the unreal violence.  Surely he thought, his fear was unneeded for such a priest and hero.  He’d just finished the job?

To the dismay of Aelfric, and the crowd watching the fight– the corpse rose from the ground even without a head.  Ribbons of curling flesh and muscle hung from the stalk of neck where there had been a skull moments before.  The neck that was now more like a tube between the Lich’s shoulders constricted and expanded as it squared its body towards the priest.

Gerrit’s fingers began weave in signs as he recited a flurry of words.  His steeled eyes not leaving the body as it approached him in robotic steps.  How it could see or even sense his presence was beyond him.  Necromancy was a sort of magic that seemed unhinged to the priest.  He had more than a little experience with the darkness of entropy an undeath.  It was the sort of fright he didn’t want to think about.

The footfalls crunched against the dead grasses and moist earth.  The rot and mold of the body easily wafted through his nose as he continued to weave the spell.  His prayers growing louder as he began to step back from the walking body.  Then as the last seal was formed the earth seemed to raise a heartbeat.  A throb of green energy echoed through the priest’s eyes.  Then the earth came to life.

The small grasses stretched like yarn.  The green weeds growing like hundreds of small whips entangling the dead body’s arms and legs.  The cords mummified the body where it stood.  The grasses and browned weeds, even the trees– came to life as though they woke up from a nap.

The priest turned to the crowd of the remaining Brigands and thieves who stood solidly still as the grasses entwined the corpse with more and more threads of green.  “We need to go.  The spell is not infinite.”  He told them.

“Yes” Bryant said with a nod.  His eyes looked to the priest for but a moment.  “I won’t ask what you did.”  He admitted.  I don’t really think I’d like to know all that much.

****

Only nine bodies of the original party remained to continue through the dark forest.  Shaking hands clasped swords and bows as they strode carefully across the frozen ground.  Growls and broken twigs reminded them they were not alone.  Gerrit knew that they were lucky to have left without more assailants catching them off guard.  But that would not last.  The sounds behind them, reminded them that they could be confronted at any time.  Perhaps their dealing with the Lich paused some violence.  But he doubted it.  They were mostly waiting for the right time.  The uneasiness of Bryant’s collection of fellows, made it obvious that is was an agreed feeling.  Yet despite it all, it didn’t stop conversation in whispers close to his ear.

“What was that?”  Aelfric asked walking up beside him.  Gerrit turned towards the thin half-elf that had joined him in this madness.  Of course everything that was happening could be blamed on the fighter who like the others held his sword unsheathed clasped tightly in his right hand.

“What do you mean?”  Father Gerrit asked, his head turning on his shoulder to look at the only person whom he could yet afford any trust to.

“The thing that attacked us.”  Aelfric said his face paling, “The thing that killed me.”

“The thing that would have killed you.”  Garret corrected.

Aelfric turned from the inquistor’s steel-like gaze.  His more vibrant eyes looked ahead of the group and into the darkened gauntlet of frozen trees.  A plum of silver air fell from his mouth as a he sighed.  “I can’t help but be a little unsure about that.”  Aelfric said.  “The things you can do, and the way you are…”

“That is understandable,” The priest said with a nod.  “The ways of the Host are not meant to be understood.  They are beyond ourselves.  We must look past such things.”

“That’s not exactly what I mean.”  Aelfric relented.  “But what was that woman?”

“She is a lich.”

“Is…”  Aelfric asked.

“She is not dead even now.  I must go back and finish her, once this errand is complete.  I must find her heart.”

“I am pretty sure her heart was long dead.”  Aelfric imagined.  “She was like a zombie.”

“A lich is very much like a zombie, they are dead like zombie.”  He told the boy, “But they were once wizards and witches who through the crafts of magic remove their hearts and souls from their bodies for eternal life.”

“where do they put them?”  Aelfric asked his face showing his confusion.

“They store them in a object of their own making, generally they are known as phalactories.  And it must be found and destroyed.”

“seems like a lot of work.”  Aelfric admitted.

“It can be.  But it is the duty of all good men.”

Aelfric wanted to say something else but the line came to a sudden stop.  Bryant’s hand had again raised to his shoulder.  A silence of death rained around them.  The Half-elf noted that even the sounds of the forest had all but gone away.  Was that what spooked the large man?  Had some force hidden in the darkness gone quiet and were on the attack?

“This is where we part ways.”  Bryant said.  His voice carried through the quiet woods like an omen of death.

CONTINUE TO PART 9

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