Donash quickly rushed to the top of the tower. From there, he could see all the surrounding fields. His guards had not been mistaken: a lone rider approached. He wondered what fool would approach his castle so brazenly. The rider went straight for the gate, and then demanded for it to be opened.
Donash commanded his guards to open the gate and descended into the courtyard. This lone rider certainly posed no threat to him, and he couldn’t help but feel curious to the man’s purpose. As the rider came through the gate, he noticed that it was but a child. The boy had to be about twelve years old, had bright blue eyes and blond hair, waving in the wind. It had been years since he had seen his own son, but the similarities were there. “Haran?” he asked.
“Hello, father,” the boy said with a shy smile as he climbed off of the horse. “How are you?”
Donash rushed towards the boy and embraced him. “How is your mother?”
“She is well, but…” the boy paused for a moment. “she’s fallen in with the knight that took us. Wants to marry him. I protested, but she doesn’t care.”
“I’m glad you came here. And don’t worry, together we’ll get her back. And then everything will be all right again,” he gave the boy a warm, comforting smile.
He gave Donash an uncertain look, but nodded. “We’ll set things straight.”
“That’s the spirit,” Donash said as he led Haran inside. “I’ll have a room prepared for you. You should have supper and then rest. We’ll make plans tomorrow.”
“That sounds good,” Haran said and yawned. “Will you teach me your art, then, father?”
“Of course,” Donash said, smiling. This was more than he had ever hoped for. Not only had his son returned, after some training, the two of them would be an unstoppable duo. They could conquer the world! “Do you want to see the lab?” he asked.
The boy’s face lit up. “Yes!” he cried.
As Donash showed his son the various experiments he was working on, mistrust crept into his mind. It had been almost a decade. The boy was three when he had last seen him. Who knew what lies that nefarious knight had fed the boy? He decided that he should keep his most critical knowledge secret until he was sure of the boy’s intent.
Still, the boy was so curious and excited about everything that Donash couldn’t help but answer all his questions. They spent much longer in the lab than he had intended, but it was well worth it. The boy quickly grasped the basics.
When the flood of questions finally ended, Donash took him upstairs for a meal, and started to ask many questions himself, about everything that had happened in Haran’s life, about Rhena, and about Cearnall. Haran’s answers convinced him that he should find and rescue his wife as soon as possible: he could no longer let that villain mistreat her.
After the meal, he sent Haran to bed and went back down to the lab. He had to find some safeguard to protect him from a second betrayal. He had experienced first-hand how treacherous the living could be and though it was wonderful to have his son back, one could never be too careful.
He spent most of the night trying to find a solution to any potential backstabbing. After several hours of searching through his book for ideas and experimenting, he came across a way to conserve some blood in a vial, and with it, some of his life. The vial would shatter upon his death, releasing the stored life energy, which would then return to him and revive him. It was a very dangerous procedure and the amount had to be just right. Too little and it would not be potent enough for revival, but too much would kill him outright.
The risk was well worth the reward, though: if done right, he would be practically immortal! He carefully prepared and performed the ritual. He felt exhausted and weakened after he was done, but that was a sign of success, according to the book. Satisfied, he went to bed as the dawn was approaching.
Haran woke up late in the morning. He had been nervous and awake most of the night. His plan, as proposed by Lady Aras, was to execute his mission as quickly as possible, preferably in the first night. For hours, he had listened, awaiting for Donash to go to bed. Eventually, he had fallen asleep himself, exhausted from the long ride and the stress.
He quickly got out of bed and looked around the castle. Donash was nowhere to be found, merely his dead servants, which seemed to ignore him. Eventually, he worked up the courage to go to the necromancer’s bedroom and knock on the door. “Father?”
There was no response.
He slowly and quietly opened the door and peeked inside. Donash was still in bed, fast asleep. Haran quietly closed the door again and returned to his own room. This was the time. He put on his enchanted armour and headed down to the lab.
The place was a mess. Donash clearly had not bothered to clean up after his nightly business. The floor and tables were littered with vials, sheets of paper with scribbles and dead rats, test subjects, Haran presumed. The room reeked of rot and Haran pulled his shirt over his nose. A few books lay open on tables, mostly covered by other paper and tools. An exceptionally large one was kept free of the mess, though. It lay open on a page about some talisman and immortality. There was a picture of the talisman: a reinforced vial of blood. He didn’t understand more than that the item would somehow grant immortality and that the book described the process of creation. It was enough to conclude that Donash had attempted this ritual during the night.
Haran thought about what to do. This sure hadn’t been part of the plan. Stealing the book wouldn’t do much if the necromancer was still invincible. He had to destroy that talisman. He rushed back upstairs to Donash’s room.
Donash was still in bed. Haran let out a sign of relief. He quietly crept to the bed and looked at the sleeping necromancer. He was wearing the depicted vial as a pendant. Nervously, Haran took the pendant and pulled it very carefully over Donash’s head. Suddenly, his eyes opened. “Haran,” he growled.
The boy leaped back in shock, almost dropping the talisman. “I… I’m sorry father, I was just curious. What is this?” he asked, feigning innocence.
“Dangerous. Give it to me,” Donash replied.
Haran wasn’t sure what to do. If Donash believed the lie, he might try again later. But if he had seen through Haran’s deception, he most certainly would not get another chance. He remained frozen in place.
For a moment, Donash also seemed unsure of the situation, but then drew a quick conclusion on Haran’s hesitation. “Seize him,” he commanded his guards.
Haran dashed for the door, but was quickly waylaid by two dead guards. They picked him up, regardless of the boy’s struggling. But as soon as they did, the two dead men crumbled and turned to dust.
The armour, Haran suddenly remembered. It was supposed to protect him from the dead. Released, he quickly ran out the door, under loud swearing of the necromancer chasing him. “Kill him!” he roared.
Haran didn’t want to find out what the armour would do if one of the guards hit him with a blade. He evaded them as much as possible as he ran back to the lab. He wasn’t sure why he’d go there, but it was a route he was now familiar with and he didn’t know where else to go.
As the stench of rot once again filled his nose, he realised that the lab had only one exit. He looked around. There had to be something he could use. But most things he saw only looked more fragile than the steel-reinforced glass of the talisman.
Donash appeared at the door, a furious look on his face. “Give it to me, Haran,” he said, barely in control of his voice.
“No,” the boy said defiantly. But he was sure he couldn’t prevent Donash from taking it by force. As far as he could tell, the necromancer was not one of the dead himself. As the necromancer closed in to him, he backed away into the window, where he was trapped. They were high above the courtyard.
That was his solution. He threw the talisman out of the window has hard as he could. It shattered on the courtyard. That was one problem solved. Now he still had to escape with the book. And his hide.
The sound of shattering glass made Donash all the more angry. “I gave you plenty chances to surrender, boy,” he growled. Three dead men with spears entered the lab. “Kill him,” Donash said smugly.
Haran tried to stay on the other side of the tables as the dead guards approached and surrounded him, hoping to find a weapon somewhere. But the lab contained mostly vials and books. He threw one of the vials at one of the guards, but that had no effect at all.
Soon, he found himself cornered again, but at least he found an improvised weapon: a burning torch on the wall to light the room. He held the wood in front of him like a sword, glad with the training he had received from Sir Caernall. Still, he had never actually fought before. The thought of having to parry the spear now aimed at him was terrifying. What if he missed?
The spear lunged forward and he reflexively pushed it aside. For a split second he stood surprised at his own reaction, before reminding himself to use the created opening. He charged forward, driving the flames into his attacker’s chest. The dry corpse quickly caught fire and fell over a table.
Using the room he now had, Haran rushed towards the big black book. He dropped the torch as he needed both hands to lift it.
Donash rushed forwards, trying to stop him, but it was too late. It took all of Haran’s strength, but he managed to throw the book out of the window. Immediately a very large bird swooped, caught the book out of the air, and flew off.
Haran quickly picked up his torch again and pointed it at the charging Donash, who ran straight into the flames and then toppled over the boy, screaming in pain. Haran quickly crawled out from under Donash. No longer having a weapon, he hastily looked for a replacement, but only vial and books were in arm’s reach. He picked the first one he could get and threw it at the necromancer, who was still climbing to his feet. He was struck square in the chest and staggered backwards. Encouraged, Haran grabbed two more vials, containing a pitch black liquid, and threw them.
This time, Donash was prepared and evaded the two vials. They shattered on the wall behind him, splattering the liquid all over the table, floor and Donash’s back. Where it touched the torch lying on the ground, the liquid instantly caught fire. The flames quickly spread over the floor and the table.
Donash turned to the fire. “My lab!” he screamed panicked as he looked for something to douse the flames with.
Haran used the distraction to run for the door. He dodged the two guards that came for him and slammed the door shut behind him. To his surprise, he found that the key was still in the keyhole. He quickly turned the key. A moment later, Donash slammed on the door. “Haran!” he yelled. “You traitorous brat!” The necromancer screamed and pounded his fists on the door.
Haran ignored it all and ran for the stables. None of the dead soldiers stopped him from leaving. As he entered the courtyard, he found another pleasant surprise: someone had opened the gate. Smiling, he turned to the stables, only to see a black haired girl leading two horses by the reins. “Your horse, my knight,” she said teasingly.
“Lady Aras! What a pleasant surprise,” Haran said as she handed him the reins of a horse.
“Just Amy, please. Did you trap the necromancer in his own lab?” she asked.
“How did you…,” Haran paused. “Did you put the key there?”
She winked at him. “I promised you my help, didn’t I? Now, let’s go tell the king the good news. Who knows, maybe he’ll be so happy that he makes you lord of Windvale.”
“I think he’s not going to make anyone lord of Windvale for a while,” Haran replied, and they both laughed.