Seventeen

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The general blue was like an oil painting of a hundred tones. White-blue dripped alongside turquoise until the two intertwined and became a soft marine colour slightly later down the wall. Hubert reached out his arm to grab at the twisting silver net which served as something to break his fall.

In the real world, Edgar jolted slightly before returning to his standing position just inside the bedroom door.

You look uneasy. Jenson's pattern was black. A twisted and knotted coil that seemed to be formed of viscous oil rather than the rope-like fibre Hubert was used to.

The necromancer ignored the taunt, keeping his fingers tightly wrapped around the silver. Around Edgar.

And scared. Jenson added.

I am scared. Hubert admitted, as much to himself as to the wraith that threatened his life.

His escape into the necromantic field had been desperation. At first the combat had gone his way; missiles firing at a speed only magic can allow straight from his fingertips and into the misty nothingness of his adversary. Jenson had been shaken, holes tearing at his being and sweeping the black clouds of his form away in chunks. His ability to heal, however, had been staggering, as wisps of sooty smoke closed the gaps almost as quickly as they were rent.

Jenson's counterattack had been with a piercing scream and sudden launch off the playground swing and across the night to try to strike at Huu's chest. Only the thinly protective layer of his hastily erected shield had saved him from the loss of his soul, though the impact had knocked him to the ground. It had been too close.

The wraith's fearsome vengeance had then been made plain as he rained down blow after blow on Hubert's prone form. The shield held, both physically and spiritually, but Jenson's claws were sharp and Hubert knew he had to get out of there somehow. He had run here. To the astral plane of the necromancer.

Jenson had followed immediately, the physical fight forgotten.

Give yourself to me, came the menacing message.

I really don't think so. Hubert said calmly. With all his senses he searched for the dark orange thread that indicated Ursula. She should be close.

Jenson appeared before him then, the oily strands of his connection coalescing into a single form. Here, the wraith had more presence than he managed in the real world.

Oh, Hubert. You don't mind if I call you Hubert, do you? You wronged me twice. Once, we can forgive: turning that old man into this. Yes, that we can forgive. But the other? You tried to undo me!

I did undo you. Hubert corrected.

Yes, I suppose you did. This must be quite the surprise.

Hubert felt nauseous. He had fled here and even when he saw Jenson follow him he had believed he was the stronger. But now, with every movement the wraith made filling him with dread and fear - now, he wasn't so sure.

I admit that I hadn't expected you. I hadn't really given you a second thought since the day you died.

If the barb struck, Hubert couldn't tell.

It seems fitting that I should undo you in return.

The wraith lurched forward, its movement a strange gait which was somehow between the graceful floating it managed in the real world and a drunken man's lurching on the way to the toilet after the ninth pint. Hubert moved, both hands clinging to the silver net.

A third voice joined the conversation. It was slow yet light, pacing the syllables as if testing each one for accuracy.

Se-ven-teen. It said simply.

The net which Hubert gripped so tightly detached itself from the paint-like swirls of the blue wall and turned to wrap the necromancer in a warm covering. Light shimmered between the rope-like filaments and Huu could feel the world of the necromantic field separate from him for just a moment. There was a solid thump and he landed on his knees onto a soft carpet.

Edgar looked down at him and grinned. His twenty-sided dice lay on the floor by his feet. Huu gazed at it; he already knew which number was face-up.


* * *


Ursula returned moments before dawn. Hubert had managed to regain communication with her forty minutes earlier and had followed her suggestions (which had come across as instructions) and prepared the guest room for Dan's return. He was, she assured him, asleep but otherwise well.

He opened the door to the vampire and moved out of her way as she carried the relaxed body of his friend through the hallway and up the stairs. As she passed Edgar she paused, giving the skeleton a long steady stare. If some sort of communication crossed between the two of them, Huu didn't know what it was.

The three of them; Ursula, Dan and Huu, went into the spare room that had once been his mother's bedroom. Huu closed the door behind him, the only light in the room a thin cutting line that crept in between the curtains from the streetlight beyond.

I have severed his connection with the field, Ursula said, once she had lain Dan onto the bed. His connection with Jenson, she amended.

"And the wraith?"

He left. Whatever Edgar did to him was enough to force him to retreat. I could not give chase and protect Dan, so I focused on completing our mission.

Hubert nodded. "You did the right thing."

I am in no doubt. Ursula smiled. Are you well? I was not aware that a physical transference through the field was even possible. The after effects on you may be considerable.

"I'm tired. Shocked. Honestly, Ursula, I don't know what to think."

Then sleep. Sleep the whole day – Dan will not awake and Jenson, I believe, will be too wary to cross us here. When the night comes we can get our answers.

Hubert nodded, unwilling and too exhausted to argue. He left her and went back to his room where Edgar still stood sentry.

"Are you going to tell me how you did that?" he asked the skeleton.

Edgar looked at him, his face as expressionless as ever. In his left hand he held the little D20.

"Seventeen," Hubert pondered as he fell onto his bed, fully clothed. "Good night, Edgar."

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