Miguela took the next few days to relax, exercising and pampering herself as best she could within the confines of the scrying compound. Caecilia somehow got a hold of some skin treatment salves, and they spent their free time together wearing facial packs and chatting. Despite all that was happening around her, those small pleasures did wonders for her mood.
This morning, like the last few mornings, Miguela got up early and went through her usual sets of calisthenics exercises. After her workout, she stripped off her sweaty trousers and blouse and slipped on a robe. Miguela raised her arms and sniffed. A bath would be nice, but she didn’t really want to go alone. Hopefully, Caecilia didn’t have plans, and they could go to the bathhouse together.
As if the random thought about her friend were a summoning call, someone, almost certainly Caecilia, rapped a familiar rhythm on the door. Miguela tightened her robe’s belt, then opened the door, and, as expected, outside stood Caecilia. One look at the mix of nervousness and excitement on the other woman’s face told Miguela everything she needed to know -- it was time to get back to work.
“Archmage Belvi asked me to tell you that we have a new assignment, effective immediately. I will meet you at the scrying room in an hour,” Caecilia said.
Miguela forced a smile. Why hadn’t the Archmage delivered the message himself? Miguela hadn’t encountered him at all during her respite. She shook her head. She refused to acknowledge the possibility she found him attractive and enjoyed his company. Those sorts of thoughts were unprofessional and messy. No, there she wasn’t attracted to him at all. She just thought it would be nice to bump into her boss from time to time.
“Is something wrong?” Caecilia asked.
“Oh, no. My mind just wandered elsewhere for a moment,” Miguela said, waving her friend’s concern away.
They agreed to the meeting time and spoke for a bit until Caecilia stated that she had some tasks that needed to be finished before their meeting. Caecilia excused herself, and Miguela stepped back inside her room.
After eating a post-workout snack, cleaning herself up with a damp towel, changing into her work clothes, and getting dressed, Miguela made her way to the scrying room seven, where she found Caecilia waiting for her. They nodded to each other in greeting, and without a word, they entered and lit the torches.
Torches lit, they took their seats. Miguela looked over the table while Caecilia poured them mugs of water. The item she was to scry today was a gold wedding ring. Miguela made eye contact with Caecilia then began her spell. After feeling the runes latch onto her ley, she focused on the wedding ring. The world lurched, and she was hit with a flood of information. She was Mortimor Lych, a career soldier and swordsmage in the Arzan military. She was a family man with a wife and three children. The military had treated her well, and in a few years, she could pay off her farm and retire to a life of farming. She braced for the raging surge of energy, and then her world went black.
Mortimor saw a windskiff fly overhead. A mage on the deck cast a spell that exploded like a fire flower at a summer festival. He checked the color, and it was yellow. He was unsure Marlee would signal the retreat, but he was glad that the general did. He barked orders to his unit, and the soldiers quickly prepared to depart. Mortimor looked in the direction of the primary battle, shuddering at the thought of what those soldiers were facing.
“Commander Mortimor,” a voice said, snapping him from his thoughts. He looked to his left and found Ayaan standing at attention. Ayaan was a promising swordsmage and a great soldier. Mortimor believed he would go on to have a prolific career.
“Ryal spotted something on his looking glass and thought you should see it,” Ayaan replied. They walked towards Ryal’s position as the soldiers were busy packing the supplies.
“What is it, Ryal?” Mortimor asked as he approached the young soldier. Ryal was his youngest charge. He turned fifteen on their trek to the Wildlands. He was tall, gangly, and awkward, as if his motor skills had not caught up with the growth of his body yet. He had a light-blue skin tone, but right now, his face was a sickly green color.
“C-c-ccan’t explain, commander, please just look,” Ryal said, his voice quivering with fear.
Mortimor took the looking glass from the kid and scanned where the kid pointed out. It took a moment for Mortimor to find what the young Arzan was talking about, but when he did, he understood why the kid was so nervous. Walking towards them was a mob of the undead that the main force was fighting, and amongst them was a giant skeleton riding a giant horse that was also bone. Mortimor focused the looking glass on the giant. It was a brilliant white and wore a helmet that hid its face. Its black cloak fluttered lazily behind it as it purposely led the mob in their direction.
Mortimor’s unit was a part of the rearguard, and it was their job to protect the main forces from rear attacks and flanks. Their role was increasingly critical during a retreat. If he allowed his men to leave, the main forces would be devastated. Mortimor looked at Ayaan, who stood attentively, awaiting orders.
“Order the soldiers to stop what they are doing. We will break this mob and meet with the main force after. If we have to abandon supplies, so be it,” he said. Ayaan snapped a salute, but before he could turn away to follow Mortimer's Commands, Mortimor added, “Get the battery troops first.”
Mortimor stood with the young Ryal, watching the mob come closer. It looked to Mortimor as if they upped their pace, so he hoped the battery arrived soon. As if his thoughts of the battery summoned them, six Arzan mages trotted into view, coming from the rearguard post.
“Commander Mortimor,” the oldest member of the battery, Jym, said.
Mortimor explained the situation to the best of his ability. The battery members passed a look between them, but nobody objected. They all knew what their duty was. The battery began preparing, and the rest of the troops started showing up. The infantry put up makeshift barriers, and the archers took their positions.
“Incoming!” Mortimor heard the young voice of Ryal shout.
Mortimor looked to see the mob of undead staggering towards them like a bunch of drunkards at a harvest festival. It was time to see what these abominations were capable of doing.
“Battery prepared your assault,” Mortimor shouted. Jym and his men were some of Arza’s finest aeromancers. Mortimor felt the hairs on his arms stand from the electricity collecting in the air. Suddenly, forks of lightning snaked from the sky, surgically striking the undead as they marched. The undead struck by lightning exploded, scattering body pieces in all directions. But the undead that weren’t hit directly kept marching forward.
Mortimor had a startling realization at the moment. The undead did not follow the same rules of the living. If the situation was not as dire as it was, he might have chuckled at the thought. Of course, something that defied nature itself would not be affected the same as the living. It was problematic because lightning attacks did nothing to the undead if they did not strike directly. If the undead were normal creatures, they’d be stunned and maybe even rendered unconscious from the electricity. The same thing must have held true for the other elements, except fire. Mortimor doubted arrows would have much of an effect on them either. Just as the thoughts of arrows formed in his mind, the archers unleashed their volley. Arrows raced towards the undead ranks, and over half of them struck home. Unfortunately, as Mortimor had expected, the undead shrugged the projectiles off and kept moving forward.
The battery unleashed the fury of the skies again, this time focusing their attack on the giant. As lightning rained from the heavens, the giant held its hand above its head, deflecting the bolts with a bubble of energy. The stray bolts tore a few nearby undead to shreds, but the mob kept pushing forward. Suddenly, the undead broke into a full sprint. Mortimor noticed his soldiers take a reactive step back at the surprising speed of the undead.
“Hold your ground! If they could be killed once, they can be killed again!” he bellowed, clearing his sword from its sheath. He heard a few cheers from the troops as if the sound of his voice was the reassurance they needed.
The undead crashed into the spiked barriers with no regard for themselves. Others scrambled over the ones stuck on the spikes. The battery attacked again, blasting the undead to pieces while the infantry met the surging undead with steel. Mortimor had a strange thought as the conflict began. He noticed that the undead did not stink as much as corpses usually did. Now wasn’t the time to consider such things, though. He shook his head to clear it, then started barking orders, rushing to support a group of soldiers who were on the verge of being overwhelmed. That was when he heard an odd, silky voice boom over the sounds of the battlefield, cutting him off.
“You and your troops have fought bravely, but I am afraid I cannot allow you to live.”
He turned to see the giant, trotting its steed towards him. Mortimor squared his shoulders to face the monstrosity, gripping his longsword with two hands, preparing for the giant to rush him. The giant stopped its steed, and with one quick, fluid action, it made a throwing motion towards Mortimor. During the movement, a javelin made from purple energy appeared in its hand just before it released it, sending the javelin hurling at Mortimor.
Mortimor tried to react and throw himself to his right, but the javelin struck him directly in his chest. His body convulsed with pain, and he fell to his side. He did not know what manner of dark magik that creature used on him, but he could feel his life slowly draining away, and then he died.
He was sure he died, but somehow his eyes fluttered open.
“RISE!” a voice forcefully exploded in his thoughts.
His body stood, but not because he told it to stand. His body moved to the will of somebody else. He could feel their presence looming over him. His body staggered forward, and he began to panic as he finally figured out what was happening. He was undead. He saw many of his troops walking along with him. Jym, Ayaan, and even young Ryal. His body stumbled over a rock, and Mortimor could slightly feel the pain of his ankle twisting. His body ignored it, continuing to follow the commands of its new master. Mortimor’s body marched for days, then weeks with nothing but his thoughts and the occasional booming voice of his body’s unseen master. Finally, they came upon two Grang fists with Arzan windskiff support.
“ATTACK! REND THE FLESH FROM THEIR BODIES!” The voice commanded, and his body followed orders without hesitation. He ran towards a Grang infantry warrior. The Grang was in Grang plate mail with its bulbous pauldrons and crab-like gauntlets that made him look like a crustacean. Leaping at the Grang wildly, he heard himself snarl. Grang seemed better prepared to battle the undead than the Arzans were because the Grang shrugged off his attack, tossing him on his back. The Grang then drove its sword through Mortimor’s skull, giving him the sweet release of death.
Miguela's Eyes snapped open, and she promptly leaned over the arm of her seat and vomited. She continued dry heaving and felt the gentle hand of Caecilia patting her back. Miguela continued gagging but was finally able to gather herself a bit.
“Get the Archmage,” she said between gasps.
“But are you,” Caecilia started before Miguela cut her off.
“Now! Go now!”
Caecilia looked hurt at being snapped at in that manner. Miguela would apologize later, but what she saw could not wait. Caecilia stood up and left while Miguela continued to vomit. She was unsure if she would ever sleep soundly again, and she began to sob at the memories between heaves.
- Tokyo, Japan
Charles K. Jordan was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. He attended university in his home state, as well, where he studied Information Technology. After graduating, he decided to move abroad to experience more than what he had seen in the United States. He found his way to Japan in 2003, and since then, he has called Japan home.
Charles K. Jordan was always drawn to fantasy, sci-fi, and adventure. When he was a young child, the first novel he read was Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah and James Howe, and from that point, he was hooked. Since then, he has found inspiration and heroes from various writers in all forms of media. Some of his heroes include Robert Jordan, J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Quentin Tarantino, Terence Winter, Garth Ennis, and Glen Cook, just to name a few. Ever since that fateful day that led him to pick up Bunnicula, he knew his calling in life would be to create and hopefully contribute to someone’s growth and dreams.
Charles K. Jordan vowed to himself that no matter what happened in his life. He would never stop dreaming, writing, and creating.
The Five Kingdoms of Cordizal series available on Amazon:
Book 1: Scourge of the Five Kingdoms
Book 2: Dogma of the Five Kingdoms