Codex Nekromantia: Section 14

"My master" Dan cried, dropping to a knee and bowed his head before Arkephalous' skeletal visage.

Ravilious would've dropped to his knee if he hadn't been busy staring at what they had just summoned. Scenes of thundering cruelty had been carved into the side of Arkephalous' sarcophagus. The upper half featured four misshapen heads carved out of the fire-blackened stone, their evil faces bound into grimaces. Ravilious knew them well for even the foulest souls of Expanse spoke of them only in circumlocution. They were four of the lesser children of Calamignon, the Mother of Pain - the Four Fiends of Ict Lihis.

Grey, sinewy arms with long yellow fingernails that looked like fat maggots biting the end of each finger gripped the edge of the sarcophagus as Arkephalous pushed himself from his seated position. Even though he arranged himself without any hurry, his movements left faint green tracers glowing in the air behind him like a glowstick furiously waved in the dark.

Ravilious had spent so much time studying Arkephalous that now he couldn't pull his eyes away to bow his head. Tattered raiment of once-fine cloth peeked out from beneath the corroded ceremonial plate armor of a praised warrior inscribed with his great deeds in a long-dead tongue. Ravilious grew nauseous as he realized that Arkephalous' decorations in the histories had not been exaggerated: braided gallow-ropes criss-crossed his body and from them hung the tiny skulls of dead children.

"Bow to me, slave, or be forsaken," Arkephalous hissed at Ravilious.

Ravilious fell to a knee and fought a sneeze. Arkephalous was as good at raising dust as he was at raising the dead.

"You mortals, hiding behind those pillars. Emerge and recognize your lord or be destroyed!"

Ravilious heard them shuffling out from behind the pillar and their knees hitting the concrete as they knelt before Arkephalous. The sneeze charged up the back of his sinus and left electric tickling with every fall of its foot.

"Do you enter my service of your own free will?" Arkephalous asked.

"Yes, my lord," said Dan.

Ravilious began to answer, but a sneeze leapt out instead.

Arkephalous turned to stare. Ravilious sneezed again.

"How dare-"

Ravilious sneezed over a dozen times before the attack subsided. His head spun from the fit and as he regained his wits, he realized that he'd drawn the attention of everybody in the room, even Arkephalous.

"Are you quite finished?" Arkephalous asked.

"Oh. Uh. Yes," Ravilious said, bowing his head again and wiping his nose with his sleeve as surreptitiously as he could, which is to say not at all.

"Then join my resurrected army as my loyal servants, and realize that as the rewards for service will be great, so will be the punishments for betrayal!"

"I don't want to," said one of the students in the back. With his head bowed, he could see the student perfectly. His name was Edward, and he fancied himself to be a vampire, although Ravilious recalled that he'd had to leave the room in Biology class when they dissected a worm. "I pay homage to only one lord, and that is Dracul."

"I do not know who that is, but let's see how well he protects his chosen," Arkephalous said. He flicked his fingers at Edward, who immediately aged several hundred years in the space of two seconds. The corpse fell forward and hit the concrete floor with a thud. "This Dracul does not seem to protect his followers very well."

The other students kept their eyes glued to Edward as they continued to kneel.

"And what is your command, my lord?" asked Dan, his head still bowed.

"My command is that we open the Plug between this world and the next, the Plug that closed the Path Fantastic many moons ago, so that magical energy may once again flow forth into this magic forsaken world. And I shall use that power to end death itself. The Grim Reaper's fields shall lie fallow in my wake," Arkephalous said. His empty eye sockets flashed with the same green light that left tracers as he held up his clenched skeletal fists.

"As you wish, my lord," Dan said.

"But first," Arkephalous said, "we will need an army." He gestured at Edward's corpse.

It stood up and shuffled over to Arkephalous' sarcophagus.

"The first of many. And now we must summon my pets: the Four Fiends of Ict Lihis. And to do that, we will need sacrifices."

Arkephalous' glowing green eye sockets focused on Ravilious.

Ravilious' eyes would've been wide with fear, but it's very hard to keep them open while sneezing.

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