The frightened badger squealed, as Eldrick held it aloft by the scruff of its neck.
Roaring cheers from the audience in the arena above drowned out the cleric’s chants and incantations.
From his deep pockets, he produced the black and purple starglass, just larger than his thumb. The crystal emitted a high-pitched hum, an audible hint of its inherent magical energies.
As his shrill voice rose to a crescendo, he drove the starglass into the badger’s chest. Such bloodshed was not necessary for the ritual to work, but Eldrick felt a surge of satisfaction while the helpless animal trembled and the crystal absorbed its spirit.
While the small heart beat for the last time, the hum from the starglass changed, now slightly out of tune. The taint of the necromancy would distort the crystal and its magic as long as it lasted.
Eldrick winced as he briefly considered the cost of the ritual, but regained his composure by reminding himself of the benefits if the experiment succeeded.
He dropped the limp badger to the dungeon floor and moved over to the stone table, and the second part of the ritual.
The arena provided plenty of corpses, especially when the gladiatorial games coincided with the full moon festival.
Eldrick admired the muscular frame of the fallen combatant. He let his pale hand glide slowly over the blood-smeared skin as he performed the incantations of the animate dead spell. His fingers found the stab wound that had sealed his faith: a deep hole at the side of his neck. A proper gladiator’s death, executed by a superior fighter.
With his left hand, the cleric inserted the starglass into the fatal wound and pushed it as deep in the broad chest as his fingers could reach. Satisfied, he put both hands palms down on the dead gladiator’s torso and finished the ritual, combining the animated corpse with the badger’s spirit trapped in the starglass.
‘Rise,’ Eldrick said.
The corpse obeyed, its movement slow and limbered. It stood, motionless and unblinking, as the cleric pressed his bloodied hands against its temples.
Eldrick did not utter a single word, instead conveying the commands of his quest spell as images until the undead shook as its muscles tightened.
The instructions were received, and the quest was accepted. Eldrick glanced over at the small table by the door. The hourglass showed that the whole ritual had taken him less than a quartermark.
Eldrick stepped to the side, and smiled as the fallen gladiator exited through the open cell door.