February’s short story contains a new cast of characters that randomly appeared in my head one day. I’ve only spent a little time with them so far, but I like their dynamic.

As with most of my writing, this four-part story explores themes of death and grief. I hope you enjoy it and thank you for reading.

Necromancy [Part Four]

“I don’t understand how someone could be so stupid to fiddle around with necromancy magic!” Nordak exclaimed to the skies. “Anyone who thinks they can learn necromancy seem to think they’re high and mighty but, in reality, they’re the weakest of us all.”

Silver groaned, riding piggyback on Greeba. “When is he going to stop…?”

Greeba sighed as well. “I know, it’s been a week.”

Silver tilted her head to the side. “Well, no. We’ve only been on the road for two days, but yes. I guess you could say it feels like he’s been complaining for a week.”

“Anyone who can’t get over death shouldn’t be in this business!” Nordak continued to rant to no one in particular. He led the group as he stomped his feet so loud no one wanted to be near him.

“That’s a new one,” Rowan observed.

“It certainly is,” Tristan said, sighing. “And it doesn’t even make sense.”

“I think you made a good call explaining the logistics of the mission to everyone after we’d already left.”

“I guess so, but I feel like we’re going to listen to Nordak’s grumbles for a long time.”

Silver giggled, overhearing their conversation. “So, it sounds like Nordak is being the Nordak we all know and love, right?”

Tristan and Rowan smirked.

“What?” Nordak stopped, whipping his head around to stare at everyone. “I heard my name.”

“We were just saying how we’d love to listen to one of your songs,” Silver replied with quick thinking.

Rowan and Greeba both groaned. Normally, Nordak’s songs were great. But he had been ranting for so long now, that Rowan just wished he would keep his mouth shut.

Nordak eyed Rowan and Greeba, noticing their distaste at Silver’s suggestion. But he chuckled. “Alright, then, let me see…” he turned back around, still leading the way, belting out into song.

Greeba, with Silver still on her back, took bigger strides in an attempt to get ahead of Nordak. She succeeded, but the dwarf trailed behind her, his lungs bellowing into a song about birds.
Rowan slowed her pace to distance herself from them, though stayed close enough that they wouldn’t lose one another. Tristan did the same and, if Rowan knew anything about him, it was that he preferred to keep the rear. He liked keeping an eye on everyone and watching their backs.

“Hey,” she said, lightly elbowing him, “are you okay?”

Tristan nodded. “Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?”

Rowan shrugged. “Well, one of your good friends is missing and may or may not be summoning the dead.”

“When you put it like that…”

“I’m sorry.”

Tristan stopped and stared at her. “What are you apologizing for? You didn’t do anything.”

Rowan stopped a step ahead of him, confusion at the sudden halt. “I was the one who reminded him of necromancy. I lost my head for a moment while talking to him and wanted him to teach me the magic.”

Tristan chuckled, putting a hand on the elf’s shoulders. “Please, you did absolutely nothing. Whether you spoke with him or not, Milo was already going down this path. I was just too blind to see it. Besides, I was the one who told you to speak to Milo in the first place.”

“True… so, then, really, this is all your fault,” Rowan replied, joking.

Before Tristan could reply, Nordak called to them. “Oi! Are we walking or what?”

Tristan raised his arm in the air, signaling they had heard him. Rowan began walking again, not realizing how far away the others had gotten from them. Nordak had a pep in his step from his song and Greeba was most likely walking faster to get away from him. However, when Rowan noticed the other three had stalled, waiting for them to catch up, Rowan broke out into a jog with Tristan close behind her.

“Where do we go now?” Silver asked as soon as the group was in close proximity with one another.

Tristan sighed, pointing toward the forest a few feet away from them. “I think our best bet is to go through there. If I remember correctly, that’s headed toward the graveyard.”

“And how do you know your friend would have gone to this specific graveyard?” Nordak challenged.

Tristan shrugged. “Maybe he didn’t. But, the graveyard I have in mind, is the one where Milo got the necromancy book.”

Nordak blew air through his teeth. “Alright, I guess that’s better than nothing.”

“What are we going to do for camp?” Silver questioned. “It’ll be night soon and if we head into the forest now, we may be in for some trouble.”

“I know,” Tristan agreed, “but we can’t let that slow us down.”

“We’ve already been slowed down by your yapping back there,” Nordak spat, jutting a thumb behind them.

Ignoring the dwarf, Tristan looked toward Greeba. “Would you please lead the way?”

Greeba nodded. “I’ll be the ears,” she said, turning and walking away.

Silver shook her head at Greeba’s words. “I guess that makes me the eyes, then, huh?”

Nordak pinched the bridge of his nose. “Why’d you choose that one to lead?”

“Silver’s got Greeba covered,” Tristan said, dismissively. “She’s the tallest and, with the help of Silver, they’ll have a better vantage point to see anything farther away.”

Nordak took out his axe, clutching it with both hands, grinning. “I’ll step up right behind them and lob off anyone who can’t see me between those long legs of hers!”

“Sure,” Tristan agreed. “I’ll take up the rear.”

“Per usual,” Rowan said with a dismissing wave of her hand.

*

“No one said anything about bats!” Nordak shouted.

Rowan hissed at him to be quiet. She put her staff away on her back, her eyes scanning the dark forest for a sign of more bats or anything else unfriendly.

Silver breathed heavily, sitting back down by the campfire they had made earlier. “That was rough… we’ve faced bats before and I feel like they were a lot tougher than usual. I must be out of shape.”

“Oh, come on,” Nordak said, “we’ve only been home from our previous mission for about four days. None of us are out of shape.”

“Nordak’s right,” Tristan piped up, “we all fought well and valiantly.”

Rowan tried to hide her eye roll at Tristan’s leader-esque words. It was only bats, not the undead. They didn’t do anything too impressive. If anyone wanted to be impressive, then they needed to take a page out of Jasper’s book.

The elf stiffened at the thought of Jasper. She shook her head, trying to get the thoughts out. She shouldn’t be comparing her companions with their fallen comrade. Jasper’s story was over and, while Rowan missed him terribly, they had bigger things to worry about at the moment.

“Oh, don’t tell me you speak bat now,” Nordak grumbled sarcastically.

Rowan tuned back into the conversation, though she was confused about what exactly was going on.

Tristan shot the dwarf a look of disappointment. “All I’m saying is that something wasn’t right with those bats. With our skills, we should have been able to take them out in one, two swings, tops.”

“But we didn’t,” Silver added. “Maybe if Rowan was able to use her magic, then it would have been easier.”

Taken aback, Rowan joined the conversation. “It’s not that I’m unable to use my magic, it’s the fact that we’re in the middle of a wooded area. One wrong move and this whole forest would have gone up into flames.”

“Of course,” Silver replied gently, “Sorry, that’s not what I meant. All I’m saying is that if you were able to use your fire magic, without the forest getting in the way, then it might have been easier to get rid of the bats. I’m sure they would have been weak to fire.”

Nordak snorted. “Of course, most things are weak to fire. Fire hurts.”

Silver narrowed her eyes at him, but said nothing. She was the nicest one out of them all, which was why she got along with Greeba so well. But even if someone said something mean or stupid, Silver would always let it roll off her back.

Tristan pointed to Silver, looking impressed. “No, I think Silver’s onto something. Those bats weren’t ordinary which means someone out a spell on them.”

Nordak scratched the top of his head. “You mean someone has pet bats that they’re experimenting with?”

“Experimenting,” Tristan repeated, deep in thought.

Silver raised his hand to speak again. “If I may, what I was getting at is those bats might not have been alive.”

Nordak, Rowan, and Tristan stared at the gnome in disbelief. Though, neither one of them could speak up and tell her that there was the possibility of her being wrong.

Greeba added a log to the fire, causing sparks to spew into the air. She grinned, turning her back.

“One log is enough for now, thanks, Greeba,” Tristan stated.

The orc glared at him, but she listened anyway, sitting back down on the ground. Her eyes glowed as she watched the flames dance before her.

The human sighed. “Silver, I think you’re right. Did anyone actually kill any of the bats?”

Silver shook her head as did Rowan. “Every bat I faced ended up flying out of reach from me and flew away,” Rowan explained.

“I tried with all my might, but yeah,” Nordak agreed, “they all flew away from me as well.”

“Me too,” Tristan said with a nod.

“That’s what I mean. Fire might have been able to kill them, especially if they’re undead,” Silver explained further.

Rowan frowned, upset she didn’t try her fire magic. She was great at controlling it, but she was so nervous about burning the forest down that she didn’t want to risk it. Besides, she had a feeling that the bats were a fluke. She had no idea that they were going to be more important than plain bats.

“I killed them with fire,” Greeba piped up.

They all turned to stare at the orc, but Silver was the one who replied. “No, Greeba, we’re saying that maybe the fire could have killed those bats.”

“Fire did kill the bats.”

“Maybe.”

Greeba shook her head, standing. “I killed a bat in the fire.” She pointed to the campfire before her. “I grabbed a bat’s wing and slammed it down into the flames.”

The rest of the group stood with their mouths open. Silver swallowed a lump in her throat.

“And, uh, what happened to the bat?”

“It burned,” Greeba replied, turning her attention back to the flames, a wide grin stretching across her face.

“Okay,” Silver replied gently, “well, thank you for that, Greeba. Good job.”

“Buuuurnnnn…” Greeba chuckled at the flames.

“Wait a minute,” Rowan said, shaking the weirdness from Greeba off of her, “if we’re all to agree that the bats were undead, then they’re still around the forest somewhere.”

“And, if they retreated, then they probably went back to their master, or whoever it was that revived them from the dead in the first place,” Silver added.

Tristan snapped his fingers. “This is brilliant! We have a trail.”

“I thought we already had a trail,” Nordak huffed.

“Well, now we have a wider trail.”

“Who’s to say that whoever revived these bats is your friend, huh?” Nordak challenged. “And besides, if Greeba picked me up and tossed me into the campfire, I’d burn and perish, too. That doesn’t mean the bat was undead. All the other bats flew away before we would really give it to them, so there’s no way of proving that they were revived in the first place. They could have been normal bats for all we know.”

“But there’s also no proof saying that they weren’t undead,” Silver replied. “I think we should follow the trail of where the bats went.”

Nordak scoffed. “The bats are long gone by now!”

“I second Silver’s suggestion,” Tristan stated.

“Any opposed?”

“No,” Rowan replied.

“Yes!” Nordak shouted.

“Greeba?” Tristan asked, ignoring the dwarf.

The orc chuckled at the fire.

“I’ll take that as an agreement,” Tristan stated.

“You can’t take that anything other than stupidity!” Nordak snapped. “You’re not even listening to me.”

Tristan sighed. “What do you propose we do then?”

“We need to sleep!”

Rowan pressed her lips together, pointing to him, while looking at Tristan. “He does have a point. It’s late and we’re tuckered out from that fight. We should probably get some rest.”

Tristan hesitated, but finally shook his head. “I agree with you, but I really do think we should follow the bat lead.”

Nordak rolled his eyes. “Is something stuck in your ears? The bats flew off a while ago while we were sitting here arguing. How are we supposed to track them?”

Tristan was about to reply when Nordak held up a hand to silence him. The dwarf continued speaking. “If they truly are undead, then I’m sure they’ve headed back to the graveyard we’re headed towards. We’ll find them in the morning. Not only will we be well rested, but the bats should be sleeping at that time anyway so we can get the jump on them and figure out what’s going on.”

“But if the bats are undead then they’re not going to need sleep,” Silver added.

Nordak shrugged. “Well, yeah, that’s a point… but then that’ll help us figure out whether they’re actually undead or not. We’ll have the light to our advantage either way. This forest is so dense, I can’t see shit.”

“I can see,” Greeba replied.

Nordak groaned. “No one asked if you could see.”

“Alright,” Tristan interrupted. “Nordak, you bring up some good points. We should definitely get some rest. Rowan, are you alright to keep first watch?”

Rowan nodded. With her training, she could go many nights without sleep. As long as she had a chance to meditate here and there, she was pretty well rested.

“Then it’s settled. We’ll rest now and we’ll set off first thing in the morning,” Tristan concluded.

Without another word, the group settled into their sleep sacks around the campfire. Greeba took some coaxing because she wanted to watch the fire some more, but she too eventually fell asleep.

Rowan sat down at the base of a tree trunk, watching her friends get some much needed rest. The elf scanned the forest for any more signs of bats or anything else that could jump out at them in the middle of the dark forest.

At last, she was alone with her thoughts. However, she wasn’t sure if that was comforting or not. The longer they took, the quicker Milo would get ahead.

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Rachel Poli

Rachel Poli

Author

Rachel Poli is a multi-genre author with a soft spot for mystery.

She often experiments with short stories and flash fiction, however, she's currently working on the first book of her detective fiction series.

When she's not writing, she's usually cleaning, reading, or playing video games. She currently resides in New England with her zoo.

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