Chapter 13: Operation Corpse Slap

Flipping his hands about in searching, arcane maneuvers, Tracy focused intently as his spectral mage hand moved about in an awkward fashion, its abilities now a part of his own sinewy body. The hand staggered in its manipulations, not unlike the victim of partial paralysis. It pushed against a crack in the wall and prodded a loose tile, sweeping over the chamber in a strategic way, slow and methodical. 

“Looks alright to me. I’m going to head in and check it out at the source.”

Bern padded forward daintily with balance and dexterity, making sure to keep his weight well-spread and his senses sharp in case of trapped tiles or hidden pits. He was a ballet natural who had, due to his own life growing up on the streets, found a more insidious calling. Despite not being able to attend such schools, he still appreciated them. The street urchin had snuck into many concerts. The flowered white dresses and the muscular, catlike men, had impressed upon him the beauty and power of grace.

He slipped to the first sarcophagus without even the whisper of sound, moving in poetic arcs and weaves of the body to defy the very physics of worldly acoustics. With care, he made his way to the beautiful carving upon its lid, standing it up toe to head. 

Nothing happening, Bern Sandros thought with relief.

He peeked back at the party and shrugged. Then he moved to the second. Nimble fingers felt about the carved figures, sliding over to the lid. He traced the groove with intense concentration, close and careful fingers riding it through its entirety.

Nothing here either, Bern thought. The street urchin inside him almost cried at how easy it all was.

The tremendous width of that well-satisfied second grin threatened the very borders of his face. He swaggered as he made his departure from the room.

“Yenrab, your go, mate,” he quipped.

Dice shook in sweaty hands. The Gamer watched over him with clenched fists and he banged the dice off of the table in his mind. They clattered.

Yenrab was dexterous but not exactly graceful. More of a dodger and a brawler, he simply lumbered to one sarcophagus, then the other, tearing the heavy stone tops off of them and tossing them disdainfully into the corner.

Tracy whistled from the door, “Skeletons.”

“I bet they’re magical and that they’re going to attack,” blurted Carric in an intense and rapid fashion. “In the ballads, they always do.”

“Yenrab, get back here. Guys, I have an idea!” Tracy said, raising his hands in a little dance of self-approved victory. 

Yenrab lumbered back to the rest, taking an almost motherly position in front of them all as he used his muscular bulk to shield the others from what might come. They all gazed over the half-completed task before them, waiting for the dead to rise and do battle.

Tracy sighed and the others followed his lead, “Here is what I am thinking. I’m going to bring my mage hand back and I am just going to slap the crap out of those skeletons until they get tired of the mess and come get us.”

“Heck yeah!” enthused Bern in great cheer.

Images of a comedy performance flitted through his head, in which dancers got conked and slapped to great applause and laughter. He smiled broadly.

“What if they aren’t enchanted?” Carric hesitated.

Bern paused, rolling the data through his brain as if he were the member of some sort of forum that tasted and tested such information before coming to a consensus.

Tracy let out an evil laugh.

“Then I guess we’ll be getting in a few retaliatory lumps for our ancestors, eh?”

They all chuckled at that as Tracy brought back his ethereal extension, which rotated and gave the skeletons the middle finger.

“Yeah. Enchanted or not enchanted, they deserve it I guess,” Carric agreed, trailing off at the end

“Heck yeah, they do,” Tracy chimed in confidently as he prepped for his next bout of cantrip magic, the sort of sorcery that used little energy and could be used continuously in the right conditions.

Willing the hand out to where the skeletons rested, it probed at the centuries-old bones, first slapping the figures about their skulls before proceeding to pull them out, one rusty sounding snap at a time and throwing them down upon the ground in disdain. The skeletons did nothing.

“They’re really dead!” Carric cheered.

They all gaped at one another, eyes shining, then as one they rushed into the chamber. 

Yenrab grabbed one skeleton in a hearty fashion, swinging it into the wall and absolutely shattering it, to gleeful laughter and applause. 

Bern smacked the skull off the other with an awesome sidekick, pounding it off of the opposing wall in a show of athletic mastery. 

Carric, in turn, jumped onto its rib cage, which itself gave way with a crack and a collapse. 

Tracy, not absolutely sure how to show his anger and disdain in this new and foreign culture, humored himself by running a bony finger about the room and through the air, putting it through this inappropriate place or that. The craziness of youth, encapsulated within the world of magic and mayhem about them, found a bit of blissful paradise within that chamber that hour and long would they all remember it.

***

Finally exhausted, the young adventurers stopped for a breather and reflected upon the facts of the place. They were now free to probe the depths of the chamber. Each peeked over the lip of the stone coffins, first the one, then the other. And they laughed and grinned, slapping hands and beaming with delight. Dipping their hands in, palms up and together, they scooped and tossed, tipped and spun the piles of gold, silver and copper coins upon which the maidens of yore had attempted eternal rest. The party resounded in luck-greedy guffaws as they purveyed and calculated the value before them. They had received what was a heck of a bounty for just an hour of work. They would dine well when they finally got to the city of Gennopolis and they would shop heartily besides.

When they were done playing with their wonderful gains, the party put their coins together in a common sack for future purchases and division. They did so with exhilarated and shaky hands. For, as children often realize after opening that first gift on Mythys the Rotund Day, they too had realized that this was just one of what must be assumed many gifts or rooms in this place. 

Bern stared in a dreamlike reverie.

Man, that was intense. Absolutely top kek. Bern examined his nimble, bow-calloused hands and reflected upon the first time he’d cut a purse. His first job and his first payment. The pursuit had been harsh, the mark not nearly as stupid or unaware as the paymaster had told him he’d be. Small feet pivoted and slid in desperation, moving the gutter boy into an alley so dirty and fetid that it might well have been the lair of some horrendous beast.

The guards, clad in mail shirts, jingled and jangled as they jogged. The mark ran alongside them, with a stupid and righteous grin on his privileged face. The eyes gleamed with words. I’ve got you, gutter trash. You’re going to lose a hand and I’m going to laugh when they take it.

Bollux. Young Bern scanned around in frantic desperation. There had to be a way. An exit. He could feel tears coming to his eyes.

And then they were dead. A masked figure swathed in midnight-blue leather armor and shrouded by a cloak of the same had leaped out of nonexistence and danced through all three of the men. Their heads leaped and arced, the blood flying freely in an arc through a sky so sunny that the sharpness of the glare stabbed into his brain.

He stared at the darkness-made-man, struggling to keep sobs from overtaking him.

“It is okay to cry, young one, after the fight and the loss of life. Be more careful, child and when you come of age, come find me.”

And he had faded into the background again and was gone.

This here, this adventuring; this is so much better.

Bern searched through every nook and cranny and put his hands to his hips when the last coin had been put into the sack.

“Mates, this has just been top-notch, really. We’ve well pilfered this place and I hope those stupid goblins have lost their rest and their peace. Now, what do you say that we hop to it and we go through the next door?”

The party nodded in high spirits, just as eager to find out what else waited for them within the ruins. They bounded into the corridor and down to the next room.

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Published by Damien Lee Hanson

I am the founder of Damien Hanson Books. Come check out awesome authors right here at my website!

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