JUNDRUN CAS V.S. LADY GREYMORA
Dusty and Bleeding!
Dusty and bleeding, Jundrun Cas hauled himself panting over the rocky ledge.
“Let’s see that bitch get up here…” He gasped peering over the edge.
Looking down the jagged rock face, he saw the all too familiar black steed bearing the relentless armored rider that had been harrying him since this whole fiascos had begun. A month ago, he had been offered a tidy sum to steal a trinket from a landed noble in a nearby city. A simple job, the bauble in question, a small jewelry box carved of bone had been easily acquired. Child’s play in fact. But almost as soon as he had set foot outside of the city he had been pursued by a relentless woman in plate armor. Twice she had caught up with him, the first she had killed his horse with a well aimed crossbow bolt, the second had been in a tavern, and only luck had saved him them.
A wrong step had caused another man to take the bolt that would have ended his life. Now, safe atop this plateau. Cas had the opportunity to rest, and wait for his employer. Standing slowly, he dusted himself off and hobbled over to a ruined wall. This place, atop the plateau, might have once been a grand temple or palace. But now it had fallen to ruin. If there had been any stair leading up to this place, they were long gone now. It had taken him nearly a week just to find this one way up. The jagged rock face was too difficult anywhere else. Even lightly clad it had taken all of his skill just to get up here. He had assumed the old man used magic to get up here, as he never saw him arrive or leave. It was the only real answer. There was no way anyone wearing armor could make it. Initially, he had griped to his employer about the unusual location, but now he felt it was a godsend.
“Where could he be?” Jundrun muttered irritably. The last three times, the strange old man had been here waiting. Usually with a skin of wine and a bite to eat. This time, only the empty ruins greeted him.
Growing bored, he dug the box out of one of his many pouches and examined it for the hundredth time. It was very small, fitting easily in the palm of his hand and perfectly square, looking almost like an ornately carved and oversized gambling dice. He traced the lines of the carvings over and over again, trying to find a seam or hinge. The old man had warned him not to open it, but Cas had always had a curiosity streak a mile wide. So out of respect he had waited nearly a week until disregarding his employers warning. So far he had been unsuccessful. Rolling it over again he tried something new. Turning it over and over he pressed opposing sides simultaneously. After several minutes he was rewarded with a faint ‘click’. “Let’s see what we’ve got.” He muttered as he opened it, emptying it into his hand. A plain obsidian ring, with three iron bands bounced into his palm and lay there. He grunted with amusement.
“All this trouble for a ring?” Shaking his head with a laugh, he replaced it in its box and pocket it once again.
Jundrun waited a few minutes more, then able to bear it no longer, pushed himself to his feet and walked past the crumbling walls. Curiosity always got the better of him. Every time he explored this place he found something new, a trap, a hidden door a forgotten statue. Last time, after he had met with the old man, he had spent a day scouring one of the many large chambers. His efforts had rewarded him with a splendid dagger, almost long enough to be a shortsword and untouched by the ravages of time. He had a wizard examine it but the mage could tell him nothing beyond that it was enchanted with some latent magic.
“come out, come out, wherever you are…” he muttered as he picked his way up a ruined staircase.
An all too familiar click made the hair on the back of his neck rise. Sheer reflex made him throw himself down as a black bolt screamed over his head, missing him by a hairsbreadth.
“Gods!” He swore loudly as he rolled to one side, pressing his back against a crumbling pillar. Slowly he glanced around the edge and spied an all too familiar figure. “Impossible…” He whispered.
Turning, as if she had heard him, the armored lady, aimed her crossbow and fired.
Jundrun ducked back as the bolt flew unerringly toward s his head, striking the pillar next to where his cheek had been and sending rock fragments flying.
Almost immediately, the sound of a crossbow being cranked echoed through the ruins. Wasting no opportunity, Jundrun leapt to his feet and sprinted deeper into the ruins. He twisted and turned, running this way and that, knowing he could lose his pursuer in the twisting maze of rocks. After several minutes he stopped and scanned his surroundings. Quietly panting he took in everything around him. This area was not as filled with rubble as the other. Eight stone pillars stood within the walls although the ceiling was gone. Jundrun noted the fading sky and realized he only had an hour or two of light left. He grinned to himself, darkness was his ally here. If he could evade the stalker until dusk, then he could dispatch her at his leisure in the darkness while she stumbled around in her bulky armor. He knew to stay away from the corridors, that would give her too great of an advantage, so he stuck to the twisted and crumbling walls that could afford him some cover.
A sudden noise caught his attention. Standing perfectly still he strained his ears to catch it. After a moment the sound was clear, boot steps. His pursuer was making no pretenses of stealth. The rhythmic clop of heavy riding boots drew closers. How had she found him so quickly?
Running was obviously going to do him no good up here. She must have some sort of magical aide. This was no good. The odds were too much in her favor. Quietly he slipped over to a crumbling wall and scaled it. Once at the top he listened again. The foot steps here closer. Moving slowly he squeezed himself into a shallow depression on the wall that concealed him from sight. Working quietly he pulled a sling and a large stone from a pouch. One good shot could render a man or woman unconscious. Or at least foul their aim up enough to let him get more time to escape.
Pushing himself up, he peeked over the edge of the wall just in time to see his assailant. She stepped through an archway, crossbow at the ready and stepped boldly into the large room with her back to him. Her stance was tense as she scanned the pillars and the other archways out of the room. Jundrun grinned slightly, as a plan formed in his head. She never even looked up.
Slipping a second stone from his pouch, he raised himself and flung it toward the far wall, lobbing it high so it carried over a pillar and landing noisily against the far wall.
Predictably, the armored woman turned towards the noise and fired. Jundrun pushed himself to his knees and spun his sling once, whipping the stone as hard as he could, aiming for the woman’s head.
His aim was low though, striking the woman in between her shoulder blades. The stone rang off her heavy armor, but the force of the blow was sufficient enough to drop her to one knee. By the time the stone had hit, Jundrun had already thrown aside the sling and drawn a short sword and knife. Leaping catlike he hit the floor in a roll that carried him within a few feet of the kneeling woman. He came to his feet, ready to throw the knife when she spun on her knee leveling the crossbow at his chest. Jundrun had only a moment to realize his error before she fired. Double crossbow!
As she fired, he continued his roll, the bolt opening a gash down his back. Fiery agony broke his concentration and he crashed heavily into a pillar. Running on pure instinct he shoved himself to his feet, leaving a large smear of blood on the pillar and ran for an archway.
The armored woman stood and threw her now empty crossbow, catching the thief just behind the knees before he made it to the archway. Sending thief and crossbow into a tumbling heap that crashed to the floor.
Dazed and bleeding, Jundrun found himself hauled roughly up by his shirt.
“Where is it?” The woman hissed harshly.
Jundrun grimaced, his head a haze of pain. His nose was broken from the fall and he could feel the blood pouring out of the wound in his back.
She slapped him roughly twice. “Where is it?” She repeated, shaking him roughly.
Jundrun coughed up blood and grinned weakly. “What?”
His assailant growled and gritted her teeth. Throwing him roughly to the ground. He grunted as she placed a knee in his chest and began rifling through his clothes.
After a moment she pulled the box from his pocket. “At last.” She whispered, entranced.
Jundrun blinked and shook his head, seizing his opportunity, he thrust his body upwards, sending the surprised woman tumbling backwards. Rolling unsteadily to his feet, he picked up the fallen box and took off at a dead run, only to backpedal as a sword blocked his way.
“Not so fast. The box. Now.”
Jundrun let his free hand drop to his side and flicked his wrist. A trio of iron throwing spikes dropped into his hand. “lets be reasonable now.” He grinned as he stepped back, stalling.
She would have none of it. “Give me the box.” She warned, taking a step towards him, sword aimed at his throat.
In the blink of an eye he flicked the spikes, throwing himself backwards as he did. The sword bit empty air as two of the spikes bounces off plates, the third finding a bare spot of flesh and digging deep. If she felt it, it didn’t show.
Jundrun dodged behind a pillar as her sword swung around, sending a shower of sparks as the clang of metal on steel echoed.
Jundrun whirled away from the pillar drawing two knives as he danced away, throwing them in a desperate attempt to buy a few seconds of time.
Both flew wide and he backpedaled as the sword sliced inches from his body. He fell back as she swung her sword overhead, a blow that would have cleaved him in half. But she had misjudged her swing, her sword connecting with the wall over his head. The force of the blow snapped the sword in half.
Silently thanking whatever god watched over him, Jundrun kicked out, catching her in the knee and turning to one side. She fell heavily on him and he elbowed her across the side of the head. Pushing her roughly off of him he pulled himself up. Rolling over she kicked out and caught his feet. Sending him face first into the wall. Jundrun flailed as the woman grabbed him by the hair and slammed his head into the wall. Once, twice, then again splattering blood on the wall before letting him drop to the ground. She rolled him over and put a heavy boot on his chest, pinning him to the ground. Leaning down she pried the now bloody box from his nerveless fingers.
A faint tap of wood on stone drew both their attention. Standing a few feet away was a gray-cloaked figure, leaning heavily on an plain ash staff.
“What are you doing here?” She asked angrily, stepping off of Jundrun’s beaten form.
Jundrun rolled onto his side and spat out flood and broken teeth in a gasping cough. “Thank… Thank… God… Help me…” He implored towards his employer.
Behind him the woman picked up her broken sword and eyed it disdainfully. With a growl of disgust she turned and hurled it, sending it spinning into the thief’s back. It sunk up to it’s hilt, the jagged end protruding from his chest.
The gray cloaked man grinned slightly. “You broke our deal. I warned you not to open the box.”
Jundrun let his hand fall and sank to the ground, blood pooling around him.
Shaking his head slightly, the gray cloaked man looked up. “Lady Greymora.” He bowed slightly, mockingly. “It has been ages.”
The armor clad woman eyed him coldly. “Yes. It has. Far too long. It ends now.”
The old man cocked his head slightly and held out his hand. “I think not. The box. Please?”
Lady Greymora ignored him, pressing the sides of the box and dropped the ring into the palm of her hand. “At last…” She whispered as she let the ring clatter to the ground. Raising her boot, she crushed it beneath the heel. “Freedom.”
A faint breeze stirred the old man’s cloak and Lady Greymora gasped, her body fading from this plane of existence into the next. Her armor clattered noisily to the ground, empty.
He poked the armor with a distant look. “Such a waste.” Turning to the body of Jundran Cas, he frowned. “I don’t take disappointment well.” He scolded, walking to kneel next to the corpse, unmindful of the cooling blood that stained his clothes. He pushed his staff under the body and levered it so that it rolled over, arms askew, head tilted back. Chanting quietly he dipped one finger in the blood and traced an arcane symbol on the corpse’s forehead. “You may still be of service to me.” He whispered after he finished his chant. He stepped back with a wry grin.
“Rise.” He commanded. The body was still for many long moments, then a finger seemed to twitch. Suddenly the body sat bolt upright with a hoarse scream, as if the lungs couldn’t find enough air, which they couldn’t. Slowly, the zombie shambled to its feet, turned towards its new master and waited for its command.
The Necromancer nodded with satisfaction. “Now you can serve me for eternity.”
And deep within the corpse, Jundrun Cas’s soul screamed in anguish.
By: Jason Haley