After Armageddon: 5) Very Insincere Forgiveness

Read Part 4 of After Armageddon: Hunting the Jester

The “mage turret” who stood before them now had raised an undead army, which already had Achilles and Andiel surrounded. Their short foray into the swamps had already proven to be a more dangerous path than they’d intended.

The dark elfs studied the mage. His skin was broken with lesions in multiple places. A large scar rent his right eye. No glow to his skin or staff this time. He’d surely become one of the walking dead beginning to plague the lands.

As his undead approached, Achilles and Andiel split in two directions. Achilles rushed the wizard while Andiel hid in the shadows and snuck around to the wizard’s back.

 

Seeking Eternal Death

Arms of pure white bone struck at Achilles. As much as he ducked and evaded, there were too many to simply run past. The muscles in his back and arm tensed, blade whirled, and a skeleton fell in pieces. The death groans of the monsters were hideous. He’d never faced a vampire mage before and was not prepared for the decayed flesh and rotted bone before him.

All dark elfs were undead, creations of the Necromantic Being, but none were like these. These creatures had no mind whatsoever. Structures of broken souls, forced into the bidding of their master, moaning with grief. Achilles knew he might die from disgust. His stomach was about to empty from the smell alone. He cut down two more skeletons, each with rotted patches. They surrounded him entirely. The murky swamp was around his knees, sucking him to his grave. Finally, the undead elf might know true death.

In his mind, he’d yearned for this moment ever since he’d experienced life. The cursed items he’d touched months ago had for a time turned him into a golden elf, and he’d known life. They were forged by a blacksmith who claimed to know death by his proper name. To those who lived, the items gave them the experience of living death – what a dark elf always knows, what these abominations experienced. But to those who were undead, the items brought the fleeting promise of breath, hunger, fatigue, desire. Meaning.

When the curse had been lifted, Achilles wept. Or came as close to weeping as he could as a dark elf. He knew he would never experience pleasure again. The deep fulfillment of a heartbeat. And so he yearned for death as skeletal hands approached.

But the skeletons stopped. Their hands mere inches from Achilles’ throat, and his last wish. They fell around him. Some fell on top, glancing off before splashing midst the swamp. Across the watery field, the “mage turret” slumped to his knees. Water lapped gently against his stomach, covering his arms up to the elbows. Andiel stood behind him, a wild-eyed specter. His glistening dagger-turned-crimson protruded from the wizard’s upper back.

 

After The Fight

Achilles sighed and dropped his head until the ends of his white strands soaked in the swamp. He breathed in deeply, unnecessarily. A habit from those days as a golden elf.

Andiel was chipper. “Almost got yourself killed again, I see.” He flicked the bloody knife upwards, casually catching it in its descent. “Did you see that final five feet I took towards the mage turret? It was glorious. Perfection. He did not notice anything until the dagger stuck.”

After some moments and another curse, the gloomy elf finally raised his head. “It is good to have vengeance on that one.” He stood up, drying off his sword as best he could. “He did almost kill us twice. The ‘good people’ of Calciphern might even reward us. That wizard caused havoc after we woke him down in those chimaera caverns.”

Andiel cleaned his dagger, sheathed it, and peered around the corners of the blackened swamp. “So, where did he come from?”

“And why was he here?”

“And since when did he gain the powers of necromancy? I’d heard there weren’t any orders of vampire mages south of Morgana. The occasional rumor about Leonic, I suppose.” Andiel briefly placed his head in his hands, rubbing his temples. “How did he survive the attack on Calciphern?”

 

The Paladin

“In any case, I didn’t want anyone knowing about the eternal spark. Much less that personality-less death mage.”

Golden elfs emerged from the swamp’s shadows. Even with fast reactions and swords unsheathing for the second time that night, they quickly encircled the dark elfs. One wore the gleaming golden armor of a Morgana paladin.

“Not to worry. I already knew about the eternal spark. Saying things out loud that you shouldn’t actually did not harm you this time, Achilles.” The fallen paladin recognized the voice immediately. As he came closer they saw his form and knew for certain. Ranroth. “I’ve tracked you since your first meeting with the Jester, in Iota. You probably knew nothing of what he was after. Yet I’m glad that you somehow obtained that artifact, and not him. But now that I have you here, and you appear to be tired from facing that… monster? I’ll be taking the spark.”

Yearning for death, Achilles was only a split-second from rushing to eternity when he saw Andiel wordlessly hand the eternal spark to the nearest golden elf.

A New Direction

Achilles still felt that giving their hard-won Eternal Spark to Ranroth had been a mistake. He couldn’t help pondering it, reliving the scene, trying to understand how they’d lost the artifact without even a struggle. Even now, balancing on a support beam for the castle’s structure, 30ft above the king he was about to assassinate with Andiel. He just couldn’t keep his head in his work these days. Important things had to be done, but his heart just wasn’t in it. Moonlight filtered in through massive stained-glass windows on the side of the room, illuminating the dark elf. He knew Ranroth would have killed them had they tried to keep the Spark from him, but still.