Necromancer Unmanned: Chapter 11

Necromancer Unmanned
Chapter 11
A Show of Power

The city of Limani was dying around Keir.

Smoke and gunfire filled the air, women and children screamed in terror, while men pleaded for their live. The undead marched through the streets looking for any signs of resistance, while soldiers roamed the city looking for treasure, drink and pleasure.

A month ago, Emperor Keir had decreed that Limani and its royal family were to be put to death for treason, murder, rebellion and killing a member of the Imperial family. The men were to be killed, the women and children would be taken as prisoners and exiled to labour camps, and teenage boys would be placed in penal legions where they could earn the right to become proper soldiers. But before that happened, the Undying Army was given three days to do whatever they wished to the city and its inhabitants.

He had only passed a similar judgment twice before, it was not something he did lightly.

Keir stood before the Royal Palace, his imperial guard stood behind him. No one dared get between him and his goal. Bullets and crossbow bolts hit his magical shield. Despite the magical runes that allowed the weapons to harm the undead, his shields held firm.

Marching up to the gate, ignoring the gunfire, he channelled magic through his body, adding his own power to it, creating a physical force far more powerful than any cannon. The heavy metal doors held for a moment, the runic magic the made the doors nearly invulnerable flared a brilliant yellow before fading away. The doors flew off their massive hinges, crushing the guards who had been standing several yards behind them.

Blackness spread from his hands, searching for the living. The gunfire died down as black tendrils touched warm flesh, sucking the life from the guards who dared to fire at Keir and his guards. He absorbed their life essence, allowing the souls to fade away, leaving only desiccated husks that turned to powder as they hit the floor.

His imperial guards entered behind him, their swords and black powder pistols at the ready. A few enemy guards who had managed to survive tried to surrender. They were cut down without mercy.

Servants, members of the household, and guards screamed as his men spread throughout the palace, breaking down doors, slaughtering everyone they found.

Keir headed for the throne room. It was the one part of the palace his ghostly scouts couldn't reach, clearly it was where his prey was hiding. A few brave guards stood in his way, they didn't survive long. He reached the ancient wooden doors, the last barrier preventing his vengeance.

He could feel the enchantments that had been placed in the wood over the centuries. They would not break as easily as the metal gate. Placing his hand on the door, he cast a spell of aging. The doors turned black as rot slowly ate away at wood and enchantments.

The enchantments lashed out at him. His hand began to smoke, the defensive magic burned his flesh, trying to make him stop. Gritting his teeth, he released his tightly bound rage, the pain faded away even as his glove caught fire.

Finally the door fell apart. Stepping over the rotten, steaming debris, he waved his hands and his banshees obeyed, flying into the throne room, grabbing everyone who was there, guards, mages and royalty, stunning them with their screams.

Walking over to Prince Acastus who was lying on a silk bed, the stump of his right arm tightly bound, Keir allowed himself a moment to savour the hatred in the young mans eyes. “Do you have any last words?” he asked.

“Do you think this is the end? The entire Yellow Coast is in revolt, the Coalition has been reformed and is preparing for war. Your Empire will die soon,” Prince Acastus said.

“They've attacked before, maybe they'll succeed this time. But I doubt it,” Keir said.

“You shouldn't be so confident, you don't have your famed general anymore. I'm just sorry I won't be there to see you fall.”

For the first time since his eldest daughter and her fiance had been assassinated, Keir smiled. “That's where you're mistaken, you'll be there. You should thank me, I'm going to give you a gift that most people would kill for. You're going to be immortal.”

Grabbing the former prince, Keir ripped his soul out. The feeble, wispy thing strained in his grasp, trying to escape, magic held it firmly in place. Black magic rippled over his hands, as he pulled and tore at the soul. Its shrieks were music in his ears. Reaching into his pouch, he produced a perfect sphere of white quartz. The tattered soul screamed as it was pulled into the stone.

Holding the quartz to his eye, Keir stroked it almost lovingly. “An eternity of pain, unable to feel, taste or touch. You can only watch and listen, never speaking, never moving. Now watch what I'm going to do to your family and people.”

Taking a seat on the throne, healers began treating his burned hand. Ignoring their ministrations, he motioned for his torturers to enter and begin the days entertainment. He grinned, listening to the former prince wail in his cell of stone.


**

Keir slowly woke up from his memories.

He wanted to stay asleep, there was no pain, no worries then, just his memories. The sharp, pulsing pain behind his eyes, the cold, prickling sensation of ants biting his arm, and the painful cramps of hunger, wouldn't let him fall back to sleep.

Opening his eyes, he saw he was in the same chamber where he'd spent his first night. The youngest of his assigned maids, Galia sat dozing in a chair by his side, a fire warmed the room. His ghostly maid Hanina moved around the room dusting and tidying things in the firelight.

Concentrating, not an easy task with his headache, he felt his personal magic. It was still weak, but not dangerously so. He thought of sitting up, his body refused to move, he hurt too much and he didn't have enough energy.

Lying there, unmoving, he allowed himself to remember what had happened. Slowly vague memories of the battle came back to him. The exhaustion, the fear, pushing himself past his limits, struggling to survive as a wave of death charged at him. The only time he'd come that close to dying had been the day he'd died so long ago.

Then he'd taken not only the life energy of the demons, but their souls as well.

He'd known it was possible, he'd done experiments on it in the past. He just hadn't known that the consequences would be so harsh.

Shivering, he forced himself to look at his actions. If it hadn't been for his geas, he would have gladly killed and feasted on the soldiers who fought by his side. The intoxication of power from feasting on the souls, the power that ran through him, the joy and excess of it all, he'd forgotten he was human.

There was something he could use there, but not on himself. He couldn't risk losing himself like that again.

Hunger tore through him. Groaning, he managed to raise his hand slightly, letting Hanina know he was awake.

“Yes, my lady?” she asked, in an airy whisper.

“Water, food,” he whispered.

The ghostly maid went to a small table where a covered tray rested alongside a pitcher of water, a bottle of wine and several glasses. The cover had runes on it, keeping the food fresh and warm. When she took the cover off, Keir's mouth began to water at the smell of fresh bread and meat.

Hanina helped him sit up, propping several pillows against his back to keep him from falling. The lukewarm water was pure bliss in his bone dry mouth. After draining the glass he felt strong enough to feed himself.

The food was not what he expected. The flat bread was a dark brown, biting into it, it was a little bitter with a taste that reminded him of pine. The meat was heavily salted, and cooked in a thick gravy. It tasted a little like sweet pork, but resembled beef.

“What is this?” he asked.

“Bark bread and demon meat,” the maid answered.

He'd heard of the poor making bread from bark during famines, he had never thought he'd actually try it. Taking another bite of the bread, which had a slight woody texture, he would have happily gone the rest of his life never tasting it. Still, food was food, at least there was a lot of it.

The demon meat was interesting, a little tough, but it had a nice flavour, with an almost honey like undertone. His former head chef would be able to turn the meat into at least three dozen different dishes, each one more fantastic than the last.

Thinking of the demons, he smiled a little. The people would be able to eat well for a while with how many of the monsters they had killed. Hopefully they were salting and smoking the demons for the coming winter. They'd need all the food they could get.

“Regua you're awake. I'm sorry for falling asleep, is there anything I can get for you?” Galia asked, hastily getting up from her chair, as she wiped sleep from her eyes.

“It's fine, Hanina was here to serve me,” he said. He couldn't blame the young girl for falling asleep, judging by the moon it was well past midnight. “How long was I asleep?”

“Four days, Regua. They cast healing spells on you several times each day, but weren't sure if you would wake up.”

“And the demons?”

“They have fled. The Lleial cavalry has scouted the forest for miles and only found a few injured and dying demons.” The girls eyes sparkled in the fire light as she spoke.

Well that was interesting, he thought. The demons must have been surprised by the unexpected resistance and his unknown magic. He wondered how long they'd stay back. It couldn't be too long. If they acted anything like humans, they would want to bring in their stronger forces, test the defences and then hit back with overwhelming strength, crushing the threat before it could spread.

“What has been done since the battle?”

“I don't know much,” she said, “I've been caring for you. But I know that they've had work parties going down the pass, butchering the demons and scouring the forest for food. And they're digging more trenches, making walls and burning more of the forest to prepare for the next attack.”

“Good. Thank you, Galia. I'm going back to sleep. Make sure I'm up at dawn, I need to talk to Von and General Ajani. This is only the first step in avenging the Lleial,” he said.

Hanina took his tray, while Galia helped him lie down. Before he closed his eyes, he saw fire burning in the girls eyes. Smiling to himself, he realized that despite his fears and how close the battle had been, he had accomplished his first goal, he'd given the people hope and gained his first real followers.

It was a good start all things considered.


**

“This won't do at all,” Keir said, looking at himself in the mirror.

He was currently wearing a poorly fitting dress with a skirt that reached the floor and threatened to trip him every time he took a step. His attempts to find a pair of pants that fit had failed thanks to his short legs, and wide hips. No matter what he tried, his body just didn't seem to fit. His old outfit had been thrown out, it had been cut to ribbons along with being covered in blood, mud and smoke.

If he was going to gain some control he had to look the part of a leader and warrior. Pants that barely fit and baggy shirts on the body of a young lady made him look like a court jester. The old gowns that had been pulled out of storage, made him look like a daughter playing dress up in her mothers clothes.

His maids had offered him their own clothes, that they'd worn before becoming maids. The painted blue leather pants, white cotton blouse, and long blue leather jacket, were more to his liking, but they still didn't fit his small frame, and they were badly worn with many stains and patches. He needed something clean and fresh. Also while he saw the Lleial as a large source of support, he couldn't risk turning the other factions against him by obviously courting the warriors.

It looked like something would need to be done.

Going to the bed, and nearly tripping as he stepped on his skirts, he gingerly took a hold of his magic and threaded it into the shadows under the blankets. Grabbing the shadow cloth he pulled it out and laid it on the bed. Mentally he kept a hold of the cloth with his magic, allowing it to be shaped and molded like soft clay.

“Ladies,” he said to the maids, “I need a new outfit.”

While they stripped him out of his dress, he told them what he wanted.

**

It was well past dawn when Keir considered himself properly dressed. The black shadow outfit was a hodgepodge of different styles from all over the continent when he'd first been alive. For easy movement he was wearing a pair of pants, they weren't quite skin tight, until they reached his ankles where they clung to his skin. A long tunic covered his body, hips, and upper thighs, giving him some modesty. The tunic had a split at the sides starting at the hips, so it wasn't quite a skirt. It was tight enough at the chest, waist and hips to show he had a womans body, without showing any details. It opened at the back with a series of tiny, almost invisible hooks.

A scarf was wrapped around his head, hiding his baldness and the tattoo that marked his scalp. One end hung down his back like a braid. A pair of slippers provided some protection for his feet, and a pair of long black gloves finished the look.

He had to admit he looked unique. The sheer black fabric made his pale white face stand out, and made him appear older than his body really was. It wouldn't be good for a party, but the sombre, strict appearance was perfect for formal settings.

Now that he had the look, it was time to show his power.

Taking in as much ambient magic as he could, to spare his own still depleted magic, he wove two spirits into existence. They looked like his old body guards, with silver chestplates and helmets, swords at their sides, two pistols, black shirts and pants. Silently they took their place at his side.

His maids smiled in delight at his show of power.

“Ladies, it's time I make a proper appearance,” he said.

With his guards ahead of him, and his four maids at his back, it wasn't much of an entourage, but it was the best he could do for now. Hopefully it would be enough.

Stepping out of his room, Keir went to rebuild his empire.

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The Necromancer Unmanned will be updated every Sunday. My other story The Oubliette, will be updated every Friday, and Doom Valley Prep School will be updated every Monday.

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