Aglaril Cycle:Chapter 06 The Willow Rod by Rich Feitelberg

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SUMMARY: Evan and Lan battle the head necromancer, Jormundan.

Lan showed Evan the location of the inverted pentangle while the other knights searched for the remaining necromancer. As they approached the field, Evan and Lan smelled charcoal.

"What's burning?" asked Lan drawing his sword.

Evan looked around. "Nothing now, but look up ahead." He pointed. There were blackened shapes lying in the field.

"What are they?" said Lan.

"I don't know," said Evan. "But I don't see your men about."

"You don't think..."

"Yes, something burned them alive." Lan's eyes widened with dread at the thought and he grabbed the top of head as if to keep his head from exploding.

"It's not your fault, Lan," Evan began.

"Isn't it?" Tears were in eyes. "I gave the orders and now five good men are dead."

Evan said nothing. He knew had Lan felt. He had felt the same on the road to these ruins. He sighed and gave Lan a moment to mourn.

After a few minutes, Evan said, "We need to continue on and finish what they started."

Lan nodded his acknowledgement. Instantly he straightened his back and dried his eyes and prepared himself for what he would see.

They continued on and after a few minutes reached the edge of the field. Now they clearly saw what had happened. The five knights Lan had left behind lay scattered about the field charred to a crisp, their metal armor blackened. A bald man, wearing a black cloak, a workman's tunic and trousers, and black boots, stood in the center of the star holding a willow rod, the end of which was charred.

The bald man looked up as Lan and Evan approached and pointed the willow stick at them. Instantly a ball of fire, four inches in diameter, erupted from the end of the rod and hurled itself at the two Michaelines. They jumped aside in opposite directions and avoided the magic fire by less than half an inch as it crashed into a pile of stone behind them.

Lan rolled to his feet and readied his sword. He could not count on any help. Even if the other knights heard the explosion, there was no time to wait for their appearance. Lan needed cover and he needed to draw the bald man's attention away from Evan, giving his friend a chance to strike. A plan formed in his mind.

Evan, meanwhile, got to his feet, saw Lan move right, and scanned the path ahead, smiling to himself. He knew what Lan was trying to do and ran to the left, forcing the bald man to select only one of them as the target.

The bald man cursed as Lan and Evan moved apart. Although still far enough away not to cause him harm, they were nonetheless far enough apart that he could not attack them both simultaneously. Since one of his assailants was a Michaeline priest, it seemed to the bald man worth the effort to summon a minion of his Lord. He wasn't sure he could do this by himself; still, the inverted pentangle was complete and the blood used in it would help to power the summoning.

He concentrated while Lan and Evan continued to move into position.

"Zortan," the bald man shouted. "Come to me. Smite your enemies; drink their blood, take their souls." At first, nothing happened; then foul-smelling steam rose from the ground.

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