Chapter 29: THE SKILLED SWORD SWINGS
Corson was barely breaking a sweat. The only thing scary about this enemy was how they looked and how many of them there were, but other than that, he hacked at bones and skulls with the same amount of effort as if he was hacking at weeds. What was the point of these skeletons? It couldn’t possibly be a type of army. He had not heard of an army of skeletons before this day, he hadn’t heard of skeletons moving even, but this kind of magic could not be a surprise in a world where it was believed a dragon was protecting a Kingdom, and evil spirits could sail on the winds of a storm.
No, skeletons had to be accepted.
Corson, in his training on how to be a competent knight, also took lessons on the basic biology of a human being. He knew the heart was pretty much in the center of the chest, albeit a little to the right. This, when stabbed, would kill a man instantly. This, when broken, would make anybody cry. Those were the two lessons the man knew about the human heart. It was the most prone to injury, either by steel or love. So, Corson made sure to protect himself from both.
In fact, the rib cage, the collection of strong bones contained in ones chest, was like a cage for the humans’ most important organs. The knowledge that the worst organs to injure were contained in the most bones made complete sense in how human bodies were constructed. The human brain was encased in one, complete bone called the skull. The human brain was the mastermind of everything going on, and all the thoughts one had. It made up what a person was with thoughts and reflexes. It made sense that it was the only organ completely surrounded by bone. It was just a tragic coincidence it was really easy to remove from the rest of the body by the neck.
So the brain was completed encased. The heart was down in the cage of ribs the heart, the lungs, and the stomach somewhat. Once, Corson watched his instructor open up the body cavity of a man who passed away from exposure to the hot sun. This act was called an “autopsy” by his instructor, and it was to determine if any more ailments were afflicting the people of the village. Since it was unnecessary to open up somebody for a basic check-up, the town doctor opened up the dead and retrospectively looked for diseases that way. Besides, this was the only man to die from the sun that day, so it could have been something else.
Once the body was open, every question Corson didn’t know he had was answered. He saw the heart, the organ that pumped the blood to every part of the body, in all its gory perfection. He saw the spiderwebbed veins and arteries that carried the blood everywhere. He saw the lungs that filled with air and deflated if the person was not dead. The lungs would provide oxygen to the blood that the heart pumped, and in extreme circumstances, the heart would pump faster, sending oxygen everywhere, providing warriors with energy, and an extra oomph to win their battles.
The human body from its bone structure to the sweat that poured out and cooled down its skin was built for endurance and battle. This, Corson knew.
So, as he battled the skeletons, he wondered just how they were possibly working. Without a brain, without a heart, without lungs, without sinewy muscles holding the joints in place and the bones together, just how was it these skeletons could move, could think, could react, could live and therefore die? It had to be some dark magic. Some invisible force moving them. Which meant that it wasn’t the army of another kingdom at all, but the work of witchcraft.
His thoughts went to Leila- the missing witch.
Or, it could be the Warlock, who resided somewhere in the woods, although no one knew where. Perhaps he was the one behind the Queen’s disappearance as well.
There was also talk of a man in a hood who talked to the trees.
With so many options of enemies, Corson felt like he was letting the Lishens down. It was his job to protect the children, and yet here they were, Patrick and Thomas, out in the town, battling evil, Kyrstin alone in the castle somewhere, alone with a bear. He knew that if King Daniel came back to Springborough at this moment, he would have temporary relief, because a hard justice would befall all the enemies in Springborough, but at the same time, Corson would be punished harshly for not being able to contain this situation, or any situation for that matter. Some kingdoms rewarded incompetence by removing the person’s head. Others banished the people to remote locations, hoping to never see the person again. Corson did not know, yet, what kind of ruler King Daniel was.
Prince Thomas is the ruler now, Corson thought, not knowing where the thought came from. He is the one with the ring.
Three skeletons rounded the corner where Corson was, their heads down, their hands empty of weapons. With one swipe, shoulder-level, Corson took off all three skulls, lopping them off like the heads of dandelions, and the bodies all fell in piles to the ground. Still, even having killed dozens of the skeletons, screams sounded everywhere in the town still.
Rodolfo ran past him, sword at ready, sweat falling from his face down the front of his armor. The man seemed upset at what was going on around him, but not necessarily fearful, just overwhelmed, similar to how Corson felt himself.
“Rodolfo!” Corson shouted over the terrified shrieks of the townspeople around them. Rodolfo didn’t hear him, and was almost around the corner when Corson shouted his name again. This time, Rodolfo turned.
But, before Corson could get another word out, a skeleton attacked him from behind. He stepped back, grabbed the skeleton’s femur, pulling the leg out from under it. The skeleton fell to the dirt, where Corson stood above it, and lunged his sword down right between the thing’s collarbones. “Ack, Ack!” the skeleton click-clacked with its jaws, and Corson shoved his weight against the handle of his sword, dislodging the spine, neck, and skull from the rib cage and body. The skeleton laid motionless.
“Rodolfo, where are they coming from?” Corson asked.
“Everywhere,” the knight replied.
“Do we have any dead?”
“None dead, Corson. Just some injured. Not badly. If one of these things has a weapon, it’s a lot more lethal. But, empty hands makes light work of them. Strength in numbers, though. For every one I kill, seems three takes its place.”
“We have to figure out where they are coming from, if anywhere. And we have to open up the armory.”
“We need to arm the people. Give them a chance to defend themselves. Maybe make the skeletons practice for the battle with Fortis.”
“Isn’t arming the citizens a decision for a royal?” Rodolfo asked, hesitation in his voice, but not in his conviction that it was a proper question to ask.
Yes, Corson thought, it is. But, if the decision isn’t made, the situation can get out of hand, and I’ve been tasked with protecting the Kingdom.
“Open the armory,” Corson commanded.