There was a skeleton. Hubert Grange gave himself a moment to focus, blinked twice like they do on the TV to show that they cannot believe what they are seeing, and then stared open-mouthed at the scene before him.
The skeleton looked like it had stepped from a Ray Harryhausen studio from the early-1960s. It stood, equipped with a short sword and round buckler reminiscent of the famous animation, but moved with a fluidity that convinced Hubert very quickly that it was real. Its adversary was even stranger - a cloud of black smoke that whipped around at speed, occasionally forming the shape of a floating legless man. Together the skeleton and the smoke seemed to dance, though it was no twirling of flirtatious movement, this was a dance of enmity where the participants seemed desperate to cause harm to the other.
It was warm. Fires from outside the strange half-constructed building breathed hot toxic air across him, while the orange light that danced through the shadows was the only illumination in a dark night.
You need to move.
The voice was in his head; female, delicate. Hubert turned his head automatically to see the woman who must have been the speaker. She looked desperately into his eyes and held out her hand. Hubert took it, a feeling of trust quickly building between him and the stranger that he couldn't explain, and let her help him to his feet. Again her voice entered his mind:
Edgar cannot fight him alone. We need to help.
Her words made sense individually, but as a sentence, Hubert was lost. Edgar? Fight? Help? Did she mean the skeleton? How could he help?
The number thundered through his mind. Hubert turned to the skeleton and noticed the small jewel in the back of its sword had settled on a number. Despite the distance and the flickering light, the 14 was visible.
The skeleton's sword had managed somehow to cut through the cloud. Hubert couldn't comprehend how this tangible piece of metal could cause any problem for the smoke, but evidently it did. There was a twisting of wisps as the particles parted from the blade, seemingly struggling to reform a second later. The jewel was spinning again.
The woman moved forward as if eager to enter the fray. Hubert restrained a shout of warning; no doubt she had some idea what she was doing. Both the skeleton and the smoke were too fast, however, and their darting movements prevented her from safely approaching.
The jewel settled. It's a dice, Hubert reasoned as another number came up. Eleven; just as predicted. The skeleton thrust forward once more, but the strike wasn't good enough and missed the target by a handspan.
Edgar, let me assist!
The plea from the woman came into his mind loudly despite still being silent to his ears. It was obvious that the fighting skeleton heard it too, as it caused him to break off slightly and take a step back.
It was all the cloud needed. Solidifying for a brief second into the definite form of a man, the black ghost-like form stretched out a dark hand towards the woman and a blast of pure energy seemed to pulse from it. Caught off-guard, the woman was thrown backward, her back smashing hard into an opposite wall. Simultaneously, the smoke reached out to the skeleton and tore its hand from its arm, divesting it of appendage and sword in one movement. This was hurled far from the combat, clattering against the wall with one of the few sounds to pierce the night.
Hubert felt fear. His mind was foggy and he had no idea why he was a party to this strange fantastical fight, but he knew he was on the side of the skeleton and the woman, and definitely not that of the ghost. He had been watching with a strange detached relaxation, assured that the combat was very much in their favour. Now the situation was frighteningly reversed.
The sword, still held in a skeletal grip, lay a mere three metres from Hubert's position. He crossed the gap in two seconds and reached down. As soon as his fingers touched the hilt, the sword dissolved, dropping its small red gem onto the floor. Instinctively, he caught it before it hit the ground.
He looked up. Both combatants were looking at him, he realised, despite neither of them having eyes. The scene was eerie beyond his imagining and Hubert shuddered.
The ghost glided forward and Hubert felt his body lock in fear. Spasms flickered through his muscles, causing him to stagger. It laughed then, its voice like the other two erupting inside his mind rather than crossing the air between them.
Poor little Hubert, seeing the truth for the first time. Have you pissed yourself in fear of me, little boy?
Hubert didn't need to look down to know that the smoke was right. He couldn't move as it approached. There was no hurry in its movements, more a languid casualness born from confidence. Behind the ghost, the skeleton held out its remaining hand, palm up.
It wants me to throw it the dice. Hubert reasoned, trying to regain control over his own body. Desperate, he flicked his hand and the little red gem flew into the air.
They all watched it turn. It didn't cross the distance to the skeleton's upheld grasp but fell unceremoniously onto the floor a mere step from Hubert's foot.
Twenty. The voice came with an echo of satisfaction.
Hubert watched as the skeleton crouched and then launched itself, himself, at the evil smoke. Despite the full tangibility of one, and the incorporeal nature of the other, they collided and crashed to the floor as a mass. The sound of bones on rock clattered repeatedly as they struggled. Energy was building, Hubert could sense it.
Hubert felt, more than saw, the power that was Edgar tear into the black ghost. There was a soundless scream that tore into his mind and then suddenly nothing. When he opened his eyes, nothing remained from the fight except for a small pile of scattered bones that disintegrated as he gazed.
Both Edgar and Jenson were gone.
YOU ARE READING
A Very English NecromancerFantasy
** Wattys 2018 Winner! The Wild Cards! ** Living in his mother's house, thirty-four year-old Hubert Grange has aspirations - beyond simply becoming the best FPS zombie assassin, watching everything Netflix has to offer, or completing an all-foil Sli...