The door creaked as the armored man opened the door. It was odd. His armor was still on his body. The humans I knew always took off their armor when they’d go inside. At the very minimum, they would usually take off their helmets. Something wasn’t quite right with this tower. I had an uneasy feeling as the armored man gestured for us to come inside. No words had been spoken.
The floor was rough stone which was unpleasant to walk on, only the small tattered carpet in the center of the tower provided any kind of comfort for my feet. Although torches lit up the tower, they did little to heat up the room. It was colder inside the tower than outside in the dark forest.
Two armored men stood by the stairs. My face went pale. The guards wore armor similar to that of the limping warrior, the one who had brought us inside. Unlike the man we followed, however, these guard's armor was broken and tattered, revealing bone underneath their human-like form. They were undead.
Mark and I realized this seconds too late, as the limping warrior had already drawn two draggers and pressed them to Mark’s throat and the crevice between my neck and head. Any amount of pressure would lead to a quick and painless death.
The other skeletons latched onto Dunk’s arms holding him back from either of us.
The sound of footsteps suggested that someone was walking down the tower steps. I wondered who the necromancer behind the undead was. I had an uneasy feeling that I might know who the necromancer causing the disturbance was.
Sure enough, Malik came into view as he descended the few final steps and into the room.
“Malik you’re safe!” gasped Mark as a wave of relief washed over his face.
Malik laughed. It wasn’t a sweet laugh, more of a deranged one. If a knife wasn’t pressed to my throat I’d have shifted uncomfortably. I didn’t realize that Mark could be so dense. I wondered if he just assumed the best in everybody and took their word as the truth. Even I wasn’t that gullible.
“I am” Malik replied snidely. A sarcastic grin plastered on his face.
“You don’t know how good it feels to be standing here in front of you, knowing that today will be the day that we part ways. I haven’t felt joy like I did today since the time you found me in the village, Mark. Last time you robbed me of my happiness and more importantly my dreams.”
“You’re confused, Malik. If it was not for me, your family wouldn’t have been avenged. I saved you from the undead infestation.”
“Is that right? I hate you, Mark. You’ve thwarted my plans for the entire five years we’ve traveled together and you’re so dense you didn’t even realize it was me. It wasn’t the divine that led you to the undead. I tried numerous times to get rid of you. At first, I tried to send packs of skeletons to capture and torture you. I barely hid my frustration when you cut them to pieces with your holy sword. You always assumed it was the bad memories that angered me.
I tried everything from ghosts to ghouls to explosions of necrotic energy. Nothing worked. I eventually gave up hope trying to kill you so I decided it would be best if I escaped. I tried and tried to convince you to let me leave. Every time I fabricated a lie you always volunteered to come along. It was your divine duty to help me visit my long lost Aunt or search for my family heirloom. Every time I screamed at you that I needed to be alone, you viewed it as me dealing with the trauma of my dead family. You tried to console me, but never was I left alone.
Now you’re the prisoner. But unlike you, I won’t make you suffer the way you made me suffer. Your life will end swiftly and for once in my life, we’ll have parted ways. I will conquer the world piece by piece with my undead army!” spat Malik angrily.
A small part of me felt sorry for Malik. While he was definitely an evil maniacal psychopath, I could see how taxing it would be living with Mark. He was a dense fellow whose cheap enthusiasm rubbed the wrong way. That didn’t make me want to bash him to death any less. I still needed to save Darryl’s life.
I glanced over to see Mark his face contorting in anger. It was one of the few times I was certain he was being genuine and the first time I had seen him truly angry. Every vein on his head and neck bulged and his skin took a red tone. He was seething from the mouth.
“Death has tainted you Malik. I never should have taken you on my journeys. It has taken your mind into madness. I pity the man you’ve become. It isn’t too late to turn back from the divine gods,” Mark stated.
At this point, I realized that Malik wasn’t the only person in the room suffering from madness. Mark was delusional. Clearly Malik was a necromancer but Mark dismissed the notion any and every chance he got.
“I’ve always been this way. You don’t realize the power mages wield. I’m a god among men and now the world will get to know who I am.”
Mark burst free from the skeleton with speed I didn’t know he had. It was an unnatural speed that was unwarranted for his size. The knife the skeleton held over Mark’s throat hit the ground with the arm Mark had ripped off of the undead knight. Any average person would have had their throat slit before they could even grasp the undead’s arm.
I watched as the armored undead tumbled to the floor in front of me. I didn’t think twice before I stomp on its head. A loud crunch reverberated throughout the room before the skull was pulverized.
In one miss nearly knocking Dunk’s head off and two perfect swings I had defeated the other skeletons holding Dunk back. They didn’t put up much of a fight, only following their task of holding onto Dunk. It was clear they lacked a mind of their own.
I swiveled my head to find Mark on the ground with Malik standing over him. Dark energy was pulsing through Mark causing his muscles to shake uncontrollably. His mouth was open as if he was screaming but no sound came out of his mouth. Whatever was happening to Mark wasn’t pleasant.
I loomed over Malik as the last of his dark energy entered Mark’s body.
“Finally! You’re dead! I’ve waited so long for this moment. I’m finally free!” Malik rejoiced, at that moment forgetting anyone else existed.
One fist to the face and Malik slumped to the floor right next to Mark. They were each other's worst nightmare, both driven to madness through devotion. Mark devoted himself to the divine and Malik to his dark magic. I wondered how their lives would be different if they hadn’t met.
Dunk stood in the corner, shivering. This was not what he had signed up for.
“Let’s search this tower before we head back Captain Pickford” I said.