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Reveling in Sadness

I groaned and stood back up, glancing down in time to see the fatal wounds on my body healing. I felt my hamstring reconnect, and saw an arrowhead and broken shaft fall out of my stomach. I grimaced as I felt my ribs quickly un-snap back into place. I looked around myself, watching one warrior decapitate another, and, for a moment, wondering which side I was on. That’s one of the problems with being resurrected; you’re always a little disoriented for a little while after it.

Actually, people usually describe resurrection in quite glowing terms. “I was filled with light and warmth,” “I could feel life flowing back into my body!” They all felt as disoriented, weak, nauseated, and otherwise unpleasant as I did, even if none of them would admit it. Anyway, they only said all those nice things because they were resurrected by priests, and they wanted to stay in good graces with their god.

Due to the incredibly short supply of healers that the generals could scare out of hiding from their places of worship in tiny villages hidden in some remote valley, my company was not blessed with a priest. We were given a specially trained warlock, who could bring us back to life by sending the demons that he controls to find our soul and put it back in our body. It was an extremely unpleasant experience, made all the worse by the fact that the demons would usually siphon off a little of our life force as they returned us to our body.

It was made even worse for me, because I was a necromancer. Necromancers are in constant competition with warlocks on who has a “better” or “more powerful” or “more effective” type of magic. While warlocks summon and command demons (usually they are too small or weak for humans to see) through a “well of power” within themselves, necromancers work our magic by devoting a portion of our life force to our task, which usually involved killing someone. Each variety of magic had its own inherent risks should a spell fail. A warlock ran the risk of a vengeful demon turning on him and possessing him. Necromancers, on the other hand, would only put too much energy into a task, leaving them with too little to stay alive.

Although this has all certainly been interesting back story, it leaves the question of how long I was going to stand there, wondering which army I worked for. Once I figured it out, I focused on an enemy priest standing nearby, watching a group of his army’s warriors, ready to heal them should one of them get wounded. I decided to weaken their healer and heal myself at the same time. I extended my arm towards him, pulled out a small portion of my life force, and traded it with him. He wasn’t aware of the trade. In fact, people almost never are. Whenever someone forms a connection with another person, on any level, they trade a small amount of their life force. The spell that necromancers use is the ability to take the small amount of energy that they give us, and then just keep taking it. Talented necromancers, such as myself, are able to keep draining our victim’s energy, often until they die.

Unfortunately, this was not to be one of those times. Shortly after I started taking the priest’s health, he noticed the change, glanced around, and noticed me. Seeing that I had only recently been resurrected, decided to take advantage of my weakness and attack me. He ran towards me, drawing his mace, and muttering prayers in his language. I continued to drain his health, hoping to be as powerful as possible for the coming fight, when one of his prayers of protection abruptly cut me off.

Deciding that about 50 yards was a good distance from which to start attacking him, I gathered together some of my energy and shaped it carefully, aware that the spell I was attempting to cast was dangerous. I gestured towards him with both hands in the shape of a claw, feeling a twinge of pain on both of my palms as thousands of tiny black beetles tore their way out of my body and flew towards him. He yelled out another prayer of protection as the dark swarm of beetles approached, but not fast enough. The vile insects landed on his arms, torso, and head, and immediately began to burrow into his body. Because they were magical constructs, all he would have had to do to destroy them was to cast any one of his many dispelling prayers, and a large chunk of the swarm would have vanished. He didn’t know this, however, and as the bugs burrowed into his body, they began to try to send his life force back to me.

I knew that I wouldn’t get the life force back. The prayer he had defended himself with earlier would still be guarding him, preventing anyone from taking energy from him. The prayer worked like a bubble of energy around him, preventing life force from moving out. In this case, the spell would actually work against him. The beetles would take the energy from him and attempt to send it back to me. On the way, it would hit the inside of his “bubble” and would bounce back to him. Because energy can’t be destroyed, the life force heading back towards him would turn into ordinary light and heat, which would leave him covered in tiny burns. This may not sound like a lot, but when you consider the fact that he is constantly being weakened by a small amount of energy per thousand or so magical beetles, and then is being wounded by the same amount of energy, you can easily understand why he died just as he reached me.

As he keeled over, I knelt down beside him, reaching out for his remaining life force. People die when they don’t have enough energy left to run their body, but there is still quite a bit of energy in their bodies. If a necromancer or warlock is there at the right time, they can take the remaining energy, as well as the energy from all of the spells that were on that person at that time. I actually did quite well from his death, retrieving enough energy to heal all of my remaining minor wounds. I converted the spell that had prevented his life from being drained into energy for myself, removing my exhaustion from the battle beforehand. I kept the other two spells that had been on him, however, salvaging a spell to improve my reflexes, which had enough energy to last for almost an hour, and a spell to improve my intelligence, which would only last for a few more minutes.

Standing up and moving away from his body, I returned to combat. Over the course of the day I killed numerous warriors, several priests, and a lieutenant. I died twice more. At the end of the day, I looked out over the plain, looked at all the blood that had been spilled, the people who had been killed, and the land that would now, most likely, be ruined. I walked to the top of a nearby hill to look around at what we had won. As I reached the top, I saw the sun setting behind towering mountains. On the plains in front of them sat a towering castle, surrounded by soldiers and siege equipment bearing our banner. There was so much more for us to do before we could consider this continent ours. We were making progress, though. One battle down, one war to go.

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