Published by Tom Morris at Smashwords
Copyright 2011 Tom Morris
It was a most unpleasant burial. A thin autumn drizzle misted the air, dripping from the ancient oak trees surrounding the small glade onto the sweat soaked backs of the two troopers. Stripped to the waist, they dug slowly and with great effort into the sticky, grey clay. Grunting as each spade full was laboriously extracted, pausing often to draw great gulps of air into their straining lungs; they were now so daubed with earth that they would easily have been mistaken for forest trolls. Santil stirred restlessly in his saddle, seeking relief for his aching back and stiff legs, then hunched deeper into his thick, woollen cloak. The rain trickled down the curve of his bassinet and dripped onto his shoulders, saturating his cloak and seeking his already cold flesh through the gaps in the old leather jerkin which he wore beneath his chain mail. The corpse of the sorcerer, partly covered by a canvas sheet, lay beside him in the bottom of the cart. An unhappy accident of rigor mortis had crooked the empurpled fingers so that the hand beckoned to Santil, urging him to join its owner. Although less than a day old the body was apparently decaying rapidly and a charnel house stench fouled the air. Santil shivered, not just with the cold. Under his breath he cursed his ill luck. As a newcomer to the Imperial guard, despised by his fellow serjeants as a boorish northern barbarian it had been inevitable that he should have been charged with the execution and disposal of the warlock. He had accepted the task phlegmatically. In his travels he had encountered many enchanters, necromancers and self-confessed witches. However this one had certainly seemed more confident of his powers, more insolent in his heresies than the others. He had appeared from the direction of the high plateau of Scarril the year after Santil himself had arrived at the city of Chacum. Within weeks the wizard had gained a growing notoriety. It was claimed that for a fee he would conjure demons from the air to answer questions regarding the past or the future or summon basilisks and harpies to do his client’s bidding. The tales grew. Graves were found opened and bare of their contents. Two young children vanished without trace. Yutha Gregod the Presbyter challenged the warlock in the street, calling him foul witch, spawn of Ashpiaal the Evildoer and struck him a heavy blow with his staff of office. The necromancer made no reply but grinning malevolently, blood spilling from his mouth, made a strange and secretive gesture. In the morning Gregod's corpse, disgustingly mutilated was found head down in a cess pit.