Flash Friday 14/10/2016: A Bone To Pick
Arnok stomped his way down the stone passageway, walking past a stream of zombies going the other way.
The passage certainly looked as if it would stink of damp and with a cold biting wind blowing through. Arnok wouldn’t know for sure, however, because he was a walking skeleton, and such things didn’t really leave room for senses. When your sight alone was forged by intense magical powers, necromancers didn’t care so much about adding a magical tongue so their minions can enjoy foie gras.
Beyond the passageway, Arnok stepped into the abandoned war room, just as rotten and soggy as the rest of the derelict castle. Zombies bustled (as much as shambling corpses can) around the room. A single man was at the war room table, pouring over the mouldy map of the land, dressed in grand purple robes and gold pauldrons, both of which were visibly too big for him. The man adjusted the glasses on his nose as he shuffled small wooden figures around the map.
Arnok stood beside the man and waited. He would have cleared his throat, if he had one.
When the man finally stopped peering at the map, he turned and gave a small start. “Ah!” he said, his slight surprise turning into a warm smile. “Yes! Just the man I was looking for. I have a fantastic opportunity for you, friend. Was just thinking about where to put a particularly famous minion such as yourself, and then — I had it! I had the best idea.”
The man pointed to a town.
“See this? The town of Oakbridge? Not very affluent, I know, but it is a main hub where news and rumours are traded. Given it’s near a crossroads to the largest cities of the land, the tales of our impending army of doom are sure to spread.”
“And you want that,” Arnok said, “why, exactly?”
“Because — and here’s the good bit — if we cause enough terror, hopefully those in lesser-defensible towns and villages will flee to the cities for protection. That opens us up to their cemeteries and crypts, and that makes us stronger. If we skulk in the shadows and try to raise a few corpses without anyone seeing, we’re bound to be seen as nothing more than a shady cult.
“No, we need to hit hard and fast, look bigger than we actually are. Then when they realise we were more bark than bite, we’ll have all their corpses and we really will be as big as we claimed. And that’s why we need you! You, Arnok the old hero, to declare your return with a vengeance to kill the people of this land. Strike fear that you’ve returned! Let the people know that evil rules supreme! Do that thing where you cackle madly and throw torches at straw roofs and prod at helpless citizens until they cry! Sound good to you? Yes? Yes? Excellent. There you have it, then.”
Then the man turned back to the map.
When he realised Arnok was still standing there, he said, “oh, you actually wanted something?”
“Yes,” Arnok said, folding his arms. “You said after you raised us from the dead that if we had any questions, problems, or general feedback, to not be afraid to approach you right away.”
“Oh! Well, what is it, what is it?”
“I was just wondering how…literally every other member of the undead horde is a zombie, yet I’m a skeleton. Everyone has skin, clothes…hell, some even have hair. And here I am walking around in my birthday suit’s birthday suit.”
“Ah! Yes. Right. Well, then. That’s an easy one. When I got to your corpse in your crypt, your skin had long since decayed. Nothing to work with. Nada. All the other graves around your crypt were much more recent, and thus had some skin tissue that I could work with my necrotic magic to regenerate as much as I can.
“But don’t feel bad! I only raided that graveyard for you, after all. You being a hero of legend, and all. That’s why you can talk, and think, and not constantly walk into walls, and such. Because they were boring. You were the hero. You had power.”
“Do you know what else I had?” Arnok said. He flexed his arm, which, given he was only bones, looked pathetic. “Muscles. You know, the things needed by all heroic warriors.”
“Oh, yes, well. I’m sure all your heroic…I don’t know, abilities, talents, wits, whatever you had. They’ll lead you to victory. If you’re feeling bad, you can try some of this bubbling ichor I made!” The necromancer took a mug and a large bottle from the side of the map, pouring a thick green liquid into the mug. “The zombies love it. Raises their spirits. Not sure if they have one. But they do get raised regardless.”
Somehow giving the necromancer a look of disdain, Arnok proved his point by taking the mug and pouring the ichor through an eye socket, maintaining ‘eye contact’ with the necromancer as it dribbled through his ribs and down his spine.
“Thanks,” Arnok said, placing the empty mug back. “I feel so refreshed.”
“Right. Yes. The ‘no organs’ thing. Well, I’m sure you being the legendary, strong warrior–”
“–with no muscles–”
“–you’ll find your niche soon enough. And then you’ll be spreading undeath and causing chaos like the best of them. And that’s what being undead is all about, isn’t it?”
“Sure,” Arnok said, with a sneer. His question answered, he slowly turned and walked out the war-room just as the zombies locked onto the spilt ichor and began to shuffle towards it, lapping it up from the floor.
“Well then,” the necromancer said, beaming as he got back to his map. “Always good to have a heart-warming one-to-one with the workers. Can I get him on a skeletal horse? Oh that would be good…”