The sky grumbled from the dark, heavy clouds that it held. They prevented the light of the sun above them from covering the demanding world below in its warm embrace. All the effort of the sun could muster were the brief rays of light that managed to pierce through the canvas of grays and blacks.
The valley over which the clouds floated was something of an anomaly, but the trail within it was useful as a travelling routed for many people. Ever so calm, the dusty road was flanked by two elevated cliffs that appeared to be eroded and ready to crumble at the slightest breeze, but they held fast, intent on staying up and continuing to watch those who passed between them. A sign of stubbornness of the land, perhaps.
The path ended at an immense chasm from which a person would not be able to recount any tales were they to fall within. Fortunately, one could cross it were they to use a bridge just as long as the road in question. It was expertly crafted and appeared to be made of a single, solid, beautifully polished, gray stone. The railings were etched with bronze at their edges as were the figures crafted at their start, but these were more finely etched.
The figures represented small men with a hand resting on the hilt of a weapon planted into the ground. The bronze trailing ran along their eyes, surrounded their hands, and covered the hilt of the weapon. From the end of the trail, the two figures were a beardless man and the other a bearer of facial pilosity reaching his knees whose beard was surrounded by a thin bronze lining.
What was one the other side was a great unknown, but something more interesting came into view besides the great mountains. An abandoned fortress or reinforced gate was built in front of an immense cave, supposedly with the height of a five story building. The doors of this road were known to be kept wide open as there was no way to close them. Whatever opened them had long since left the world, but its actions remained. The doors in question, now closed and forming an arc at their top, had very large dents and scrapes on their surface. Not many a creature would see itself capable of scraping, let alone denting such immense and thick, metal walls.
Above the door was a gatehouse that had been destroyed a long time ago, preventing anyone from using the levers to operate the gate. All that remained were a few crumbling bricks resting on a rusted support beam jammed into the walls of the cave tunnel. The exterior of the mountain had many towers and platforms built into it, creating an impression of floating fortifications. Quite a few of these had a ballista or two built onto them, but many more had decayed from the effects of passing.
The entire fortress looked like it was supposed to crumble at any moment but was being kept alive by some dark force that shouldn’t be. The mountain fortress in question was not as abandoned as it once was or should have been. Animated skeletons wearing pieces of armor were occupying the towers and platforms and were actively fortifying everything they could. Some of them were carrying crates of supplies up steps jutting out of the mountain sides to bring to those manning the ballista.
Balls of light of various sizes twirled around the air in proximity of the cave and even flew around the skeletons in question. One would think that spirits ripped from their restful slumber would have more erratic and violent patterns of movement, but these ones appeared calm and serene, something that shouldn’t be at all.
Weapons, armor, and ammo were being taken everywhere via ‘naked’ skeletons towards the bridge from which they could see a bright glint in the distance. Every minute that passed saw it getting brighter until it became clear what it was.
Soldiers with cuirasses armor and knights and holy knights both wearing solid mail and plate armor were approaching the fortress. Several men and women with rough and unkempt appearances were flanking these disciplined units and rarely wore anything but leather armor with, perhaps, a shoulder or two of metal armor.
Banner bearers carried a wide assortment of battle flags, from the typical horizontal and vertical flags, to a more uncommon circular or triangular banner as well. They came in all colors and sizes and were covered with many different symbols showing to what city, duke, or other medium they belonged to. The fortress also had banners on the three remaining poles it still possessed: One atop a rounded tower at the highest point of the fortress, one stretching out from the broken gatehouse, and another in front of the gate. The banner was a nightly blue with a golden trim and on it was an image of a waxing gibbous moon above a waning gibbous. All the textiles flapped and fluttered in the strengthening wind.
Once the bridge was nearly reached, a knight stopped them all with a shout and a sword to the air. He took off his full helmet, revealing his long, orange hair, and turned towards the army. His brown eyes demanded obedience, discipline, and respect, and he got these quite fairly.
“Soldiers! You have come with me to fight against these...these desecrated creations of a deranged mind. They have been torn from their slumber and from the embrace of the great deity of the sun and afterlife. My order; The Solar Orbituaries, the Et Vidam Dim, wish to destroy these monsters and keep humanity safe.” He started walking back and forth and met eye to eye with each mercenary captain but held no contempt for them. Instead, he showed respect, and they showed it back. “We have been joined, not only by town guards and other purification orders, but also by mercenaries from far and wide. You may not be animated by the same reasons I am, but I will see to it at that you are justly rewarded for your contributions today!”
The mercenaries raised their arms and cheered. The skeletons all hissed and growled loudly at the army amassed before them, their voices sounding like an echo in a deep cave.
“I hope that the majority of you have a brought with you something to protect your body if you were to fall in battle.” The knight pulled a talisman from behind his armor. It was shaped like a bright sun on the horizon with twisted orange strands of metal on its edge representing its rays. “This talisman is one carried by all knights of the white. I hope you all have your own wards for this battle.” The man tucked his talisman back under his armor and punched his chest. “Together, we shall rid the world of the being, the monster, who has summoned and disgraced these dead!”
There was no cavalry present due to how narrow the path and bridge were, but there was a plethora of archers and crossbowmen sitting behind a row of spearmen. The undead chanted loudly on the bridge they had fortified. They had their own row of makeshift walls with arrow slits in pieces all over the bridge, making some soldiers question why they would only defend small portions of the bridge and leave large gaps. Hubris blinded them to the true purpose of this action and the first row of spearmen charged forward on orders from the knight.
Far away from the frontlines of the undead stood a lone figure upon the support beam of the broken gatehouse. It watched from afar and scoffed at the scene while thinking to itself.
“What happened that caused everything to reach up to this point? What did I do? How did this all start, again?”
In memory, the entity could recall a town, one that no longer existed. It was something it regretted but wasn’t sure why. Was it because it would have preferred to live through the last moments of it, or because it hated the town and would have preferred destroying it personally? It couldn’t remember, but it did recall the day everything started quite clearly.
The village was on fire and many buildings had been destroyed by the orgams; a race of blue humanoids with a extremely strong physique. There were bodies of both humans and orgams scattered everywhere along the village, and now only a hundred remained and were going through a single pathway leading to the large town’s center, but they were blocked. Not by a barrier or an entrenched army, but by two humans wearing black robes and hoods. Standing behind them was a large amount of townspeople still alive since the attack and quite terrified of the giants. It wasn’t enough that they were tremendously strong but they were also at least twice as tall as an average human.
Orgams growled at the duo blockading them, but they all started to move away when an event taller and bigger orgam walked through them. He wielded a giant metal club with teeth on its surface and an extended hilt for spinning around or wielding with two hands. His body, however, was covered in basic leather armor, some of which did not even have the fur removed. This orgam was a strange entity that stood out from the rest considering the orgams took pride in their armor and weapon smithing. As with most orgams, the top-middle of the giant’s hair was tied into a tail while the surrounding head had been completely shaved and polished.
Finally in front of the two humans, the orgam dropped the hilt of its weapon onto the floor, creating a loud thud on the now broken stone, and looked down at one of them.
The confronted human looked up at the orgam and chuckled. “Hoho. A chieftain. I’ve never come across one of those before,” she said.
“Why’s you blocking mys grunts? We’s going to enslaves the humans here and makes this our news town.”
The confronted human took her hood off and threw it aside, revealing long, mulberry hair, and a smooth, angular face. “So amusing, this beast is. I will most certainly enjoy experimenting on your body when you are done.”
The orgam clicked its twisted, lower teeth and raised its mace to strike down the human but met with a barrier lined with waving purple threads that seemed to fade out when they went too far away from the barrier. The woman flicked her wrist, causing the barrier to erupt outwards and tossing the chieftain a few feet away onto the ground.
“Pfff. Orgams can only use brute strength? I thought chieftains were capable fighters and strategists. How disappointing.”
The woman lifted her right arm and started chanting quietly. A strange, black ooze with lavender outlines started to leak out of her arm and cover it, occasionally dripping onto the floor. The chieftain never knew what happened that he was impaled through the heart with a javelin of the strange substance. In mere moments the substance had spread all over his body and no matter how much he struggled, it wouldn’t get off of him, and he simply fell to the ground, a single breath leaving his body.
The others saw that a single human, a tiny one in fact, managed to kill their chieftain and decided that the best course of action was to flee, so they turned tail and ran back across the cobbled road. The second cowled human stepped forward and pulled back his sleeves. Just like his companion, he began to chat quietly under his breath and made many half-moon shapes with hands and fingers until a massive shockwave burst from his body, blasting everything around him with a powerful shockwave. Long hair fluttered, dust and dirt were kicked up, and robes fluttered. Sounds of battle and screams of agony resonated through the streets soon after, leaving one to wonder just what the man did.
A huge group of the orgams were pushed back towards the center of the town but were stopped by a ‘bump’ on their path. The bump in question was the dead chieftain brought back to life and still covered in the toxic substance. Any normal person would have given up then and there, but the orgams weren’t people. Those up front sliced and stabbed at their late chieftain, but it amounted to nothing. They were promptly smashed by the giant mace while others were crushed in a giant hand and tossed aside. In just mere minutes, the orgams were all dead and the town had gone silent with the voices of the living.
An elderly woman with a hunched back came to the two people with no true way to express her joy.
“I can’t thank you two enough for protecting my town. What can I do to thank you? Would you like a free meal and a place to rest?”
The second mage walked forward and took off his hood to stuff it in his pocket. His eyes looked like they were encased in glass and couldn’t be seen through the ends of those ‘bottles’. His silvery hair was rough and pulled back, but a large portion, mainly an ‘L’ shape starting from the center of his and going towards the back, were devoid of any kind of hair.
“We only want the agreed upon fee.”
The woman started to wring her hands together nervously. “W-w-we don’t have the agreed amount. We only managed to scrounge up one-thousand five hundred coin.”
The man was going to speak but was interrupted by his comrade stepping in front of him and getting up close to the elderly woman’s face. “What do you mean you don’t have the money?”
“I’m sorry, but the orgams have destroyed almost every exterior facility that provided this town with jobs and, thus, money.”
“That’s quite unfortunate,” the woman said as she cracked her knuckles.
“THAT’S ENOUGH!” the other mage erupted.
The woman found herself encased in a semi-transparent film of magic from which thin strands of purple thread came out and dissipated like ink in water. She was visibly in pain as well but her comrade did not care. He simply calmly walked towards the mayor in question and spoke with a crystal clear voice albeit rugged voice.
“If you do not have the money, then we can come to another agreement.” He raised his hand up before the mayor could speak. “I do not need a meal, thank you. However, I will be taking all the bodies here in this village.”
“It’s a town, but take all the orgams. I don’t care.”
He leaned in closer and his gaze became much more menacing. “Let me reiterate: I will be taking ALL the bodies.”
The color faded from the old lady’s face when she heard his demand. She felt a mixture of anger and fear boiling up inside of her and didn’t know how to respond.
“B-b-but you can’t do that!”
The man casually checked his nails and cleaned them while speaking. “If you don’t agree to them, I’m afraid your village will no longer be under our protection.”
“That’s fine. There are nearby towns and the province’s capital that we can call upon, or even the Purification Knights!”
The mage started to walk back and forth, citing everything he knew about the situation. “But how many will answer the call? And how many will actually come in time? How many do you think will accept your help without substantial fees or demands? An additional tax imposed upon the people? Conscripting your sons? Forcing their beliefs upon you like fools? Using your own as experimentation subjects?”
The female mage forced a chuckle through her restraints but screamed quietly as she was tortured some more.
“The world isn’t as ‘pure’ as you think, mayor, and we are more than willing to help when needed.”
The mayor clenched her fists angrily, but this man’s words had an underlying truth to them.
“Honestly, I would much rather keep your village and citizens here alive as they do supply us with much needed materials and nourishment. I do feel a bit parched in this moment, however.” He stretched his neck and looked at the woman from the corner of his eye. “However, those who are higher than I would not see things that way. You would serve them both alive...and dead.”
The words struck the old lady like a blade. She had no choice but to accept.
“Fine. I accept...” the mayor reluctantly replied.
“Good. I would like at least six wagons with two horses on both, all to be returned, of course.”
The man looked at his colleague in her containment and released her with a simple wrist movement, allowing her to fall on the ground and gasp for the air she was deprived of.
“Get up. I’ll need your help.” He turned back to the mayor and continued what he was saying earlier. “And I will take the bodies of the dead townspeople when they have been properly buried. I am hoping it will be tonight.”
“Wh...You would let the families know what befell their own? You would let us give them proper burials?”
“Yes. I don’t want...problems to occur.”
“I...While it is still desecration of the dead and against the deity, I am thankful for this. Even if the tombs are empty, the families will be able to know peace.”
“And do not mention our ‘abilities’ to any soldiers or knights of an order. We don’t want that, and it could cause YOU more harm than good.”
Several hours passed since the incident and the last orgam bodies were ready for their trip back to wherever the two went. While it was already sunset and the sky was darkening with a last hue of orange gold, nobody in the town noticed that a single individual was watching the whole event from the safety of a half-destroyed house and was more than aware that these two weren’t simple mages; They were necromancers, and the individual wanted to know more.