The following story is intended to be a straight-up, no-kidding gothic horror story. You don’t have to read it to enjoy the rest of the site.
The year is 797AD. The place is part of the Roman Western Empire, where the modern Chech Republic now stands. A group of profit-motivated explorers discovers an ancient tomb in the catacombs of a long-since crumbled castle. We begin inside one of the crypts…
I’ve been entombed for a very long time, I have no concept of how long, waiting, waiting for some disturbance that would indicate I could come out, that the flooding was over. Finally, there was something. In my slumber, I wasn’t sure at first. It’d been so long I’d forgotten that I was waiting for this; someone was digging nearby.
I pushed the lid off my sarcophagus. It was dark – good. I got out, slowly, carefully feeling my way in the dark. I was hungry beyond imagining. My fingers hurt as I removed my staff and put the lid back in its place. I was wobbly and dizzy; it had been an eternity since I’d moved.
There was excitement above, digging sounds had stopped and voices raised as the sounds of shuffling and movement became apparent. Then it happened, a hint of light, a torch! They were making their way through narrow passages searching. I could hear them opening a crypt, I could hear excitement as they allowed the lid to crash to the floor, braking, crumbling. They were looters, here to take anything of value they could find. These people cared nothing for the graves they were violating. They were thieves, and nothing more. They would not be interested in finding me or helping me, only in taking my possessions. That meant I could return the favor, take anything I wanted from them, if I was able.
Every move I made was slow, painful, but I had to be able to move, had to be able to act decisively when the time came. I tested my ability to move, struggled to remember the elements of the skills I would soon need. They had moved to another crypt, opened it, ravaged it, and moved to another. Too soon, they would leave that chamber and come to this one.
I remembered my daggers, checked them, found them safely in their rightful places. I found my staff, and found my way to the edge of the opening through which they would enter my chamber. A short while later, they came. It sounded like 3 approaching. Two of them had torches, the ones in front and back. I’d have to stay clear of the torches. I’m vulnerable enough to them normally, it’s been who knows how long since I had nourishment,… I’d burn like dry straw if they used one on me. I stood stock still and waited until they were in, their attention riveted to my coffin. I was absorbed by them; they smelled like sweat, leather, dust, and filth, but most of all, they smelled of life.
Catheryn had been with me at the end, when we realized the floods were going to overwhelm us. She’d come with me to these mountains, this place that once was my home, seeking refuge. When it was clear there was none, she helped me seal myself in my tomb. The last step had been to close the lid of my coffin. We both knew she would not survive. She helped in the hopes that I might find some existence if the floods ever receded. Her last act was to allow me to consume her life in order that I might have a better chance at outlasting the floods. Now her corpse, or what was left of it, was on the floor on the far side of the room. I was going to need her help soon.
The thieves entered the chamber, set their pole-torches against the walls and turned toward their expected treasure. I animated Catheryn’s skeleton. They heard the clatter as the bones struggled to stand up, and turned to face the danger. I set upon the back of the one closest to me; grabbed him around the chest with my right arm, clamped my left hand over his mouth, pulled his head back to the left, and sank my teeth into his right trapezius. The other two, distracted by the animated skeleton, concentrated on protecting themselves. They were frantic; apparently they’d never seen one before. If Necromancers were that much of a novelty, I was going to be very powerful now.
I found I could not simply devour my victim quickly and move on, I was too wobbly, too unsteady, too weak to feed quickly. I choked and struggled not to cough, not to spit out this precious blood but even more importantly, not to alert the others to my presence. I struggled to maintain my grip as I swallowed very slowly, very carefully. I needed this nourishment more desperately than I imagined.
I drew more blood into my mouth, as much and as quickly as I could. The loss of blood to his head would make him dizzy and less able to struggle against me. As I swallowed I felt giddy, the life of my victim gave me energy, the blood slowly began to fill my long-empty blood vessels. My skin fairly tingled as life slowly forced its way along passages that had not carried blood for,… how long had it been?
The other two had found courage and begun striking at my skeleton-minion. They had discovered they could fight it, could break it apart, could prevail against it by destroying it. My situation had become urgent. I used the time it bought me well. I was able to swallow more easily as my throat and stomach remembered what to do. As more blood found its way into my veins, my heart began to fill up. My victim was almost out of fight and I was just about able to support his weight on my own. I drew from the dwindling blood flow and swallowed in something approaching comfort this time. The tendency to gag was nearly gone. It was amazing how quickly I gained strength.
The other two finished dispatching my minion and now realized that all was still not well; they turned to see their nearly lifeless companion hanging limp in my grasp as I eyed them with newfound power. I had no more time to waste; I ran a dagger through my victim, finishing him off. It was a shame to waste him like that, but I needed to move on to more urgent business – and I needed help. As his corpse fell, I animated him – before he hit the ground, I had a fresh zombie to replace my rather brittle skeleton.
It took the others a moment to realize their friend hadn’t recovered. My zombie lumbered one way around my coffin, I went the other. Using weapons they probably took from other graves they attempted to fight back. I afflicted my zombie’s victim with a palsy curse, making him easy to restrain without having to resort to killing him,… yet. That left just my own opponent.
He’d seized on the opportunity to strike at me as I was casting at his friend, Using a mace, he hit me squarely on my right shoulder. Fortunately the mace was neither wood nor silver. The blow was convincing, but it didn’t damage me. I closed in and grabbed him by the throat. He flailed at me with his mace and one fist. I turned him around complicating his task and easing mine – biting a jugular or a carotid is just so much easier from behind.
I took my time. There was no rush now. I was stronger, one of two remaining enemies was being restrained by a curse and a zombie, and the other I began to think of as an entree. I didn’t have to hurry and feed quickly while struggling against the agony of a body unfed for ages. I had something in me now, and I had the situation,… in hand?!?! I held his throat close to my mouth as I wrapped my free arm around his chest; I licked my fangs, wetting them to make them penetrate easier and I sank them deeply into the side of his neck. Warm, fresh blood, pumped furiously by an adrenaline-charged and terrified body, filled my mouth, flooded my awakened sense of taste, and elated me with the promise of satisfaction.
I drank comfortably, leisurely, holding him against his fiercest efforts to escape, ignoring his pitiful cries as I gained more strength. I cared nothing for his situation. He was a thief; worse, a grave-robber. If he’d come as an explorer with some modicum of respect for what he found, perhaps I’d have been more generous. Over the course of perhaps half an hour, I allowed my hungry body to absorb the life it so desperately needed. My withered flesh became firm, my skin filled with reawakened tissue, and I considered what to do next as I drained the last blood his heart was able to pump. Then I used my dagger again. I could not risk him somehow surviving and contracting my condition – I did not need another hungry mouth to compete with.
I made a second zombie with the body, it could carry the torches and it could help deal with any nasty surprises that might be waiting outside. I collected my staff and examined what was left of Catheryn. She’d been pretty badly broken up, but her skull was intact. I’d need to separate the bit of spine that was still connected to make a nice focal element. She also still had her weapons and some jewelry – ordinarily I’d bury them with her but she was beyond burying now. I checked the bags they were hauling their loot in. The graves were already defiled and I would need the money this stuff would bring.
The palsy-curse had faded, but the surviving looter was still nearly helpless from fear. I had his zombie escort stand him up so that I could see him. I couldn’t understand anything he was babbling, I hadn’t understood a word any of them had spoken. Things had changed. I sent our torch bearer out first and followed with the survivor behind me, almost carried by his escort. We turned the corner and passed by the chamber of graves they’d looted earlier. Soon we’d be at whatever access they’d dug to get here.
We found it only a few feet away, a narrow, rocky hole that showed the way up into some sort of dimly lit chamber. At least it wasn’t broad daylight up there; daylight and I were not friends. The zombies would not climb well. This would be challenging. I decided to go first, that way I could become familiar with the climb and I’d be better able to navigate the zombies through it. The big draw back with minions is they can’t think for themselves, any obstacle of any complexity stops them unless you mentally walk them through it.
I proceeded cautiously. I heard no sounds and surely if anyone had been here waiting, the sounds of us approaching would have attracted their attention, but as they say, haste gets you killed. Once I was sure the room was unoccupied, I climbed into the room to find it was only partially standing. We were in the remains of my crumbled castle, the floor above was falling in, one wall had collapsed into the room, and who knew what was above us. There was obviously not much because light found its way through. The way out was over the remains of the crumbled wall. A couple partially filled packs of supplies rested in a corner. They’d had to make a trip of some distance to get here.
I had the torches passed up to me, or started to. When the surviving looter realized the only light down there was leaving he panicked, broke free and rushed up through the hole. He looked at me, looked around and made a break for the exit.
I was saving him for later. I wanted to make my food last as long as possible, but I couldn’t have it running off and alarming people. I reached out with my left hand and a ghastly apparition of a hand, greenish and smoky, extended from mine, grabbed him, and yanked him back to me. I caught him in both arms, turned him around and slammed him against the wall as he screamed in terror. I could not have this. Screaming people attract attention. I also could not afford to waste food, I didn’t know how long it would be before I would find more. I body slammed him against the wall until he was quiet, then checked to see if he was still alive. He was. He was also bleeding from the back of the head, but not badly. He’d keep.
The zombies and I managed to get the loot and the torches up and took stock of my situation in the generally good light available now. My skin was full, my flesh pliable. The agonizing stiffness from when I had awakened seemed to be gone. I was able to climb and I could fight. I had food and I had goods worth trading if these looters were any judge. I was free of my tomb and had a way out.
I left the zombies to guard my goods and my food and I made my way over the crumbled wall to have a look at the world. I was careful not to knock down anything that might be supporting something else; I didn’t need any sudden rays of bright sunshine lighting me up now.
Climbing over the rubble I found a piece of a wall that formed the other side of a corridor. To my right, collapsed debris, to my left maybe 10 feet of corridor remained. Beyond that was crumbled structure, grass, and sunshine. Until dusk, this was the limit of my world.
I inventoried the goods in the bags and the supply packs. The goods were mostly weapons and jewelry that would bring uncertain reward at market. The packs contained little of actual value to me beyond some water and some rags and oil to refresh the torches with, the food would taste good but wouldn’t sustain me. Farley would sustain me; I decided to call the last looter Farley. The zombies would be worth their weight in gold to me until I reached civilization. By the reactions I’d seen so far, walking dead were unknown now – I’d have to leave them before entering any towns. I extinguished and refreshed the torches.
Farley began to awaken. I wanted him in one piece for as long as possible. The longer he lived, the farther I could go. I might also learn a few words from him if I played things right. I held one of the supply packs out to him at arm’s length. With hope daring to peek through his eyes, he tentatively reached for the pack. When I slowly drew it back, he froze, looked up at me for a moment, and said something. I took this for, “please,” and extended the pack to him again. He slowly reached for it, and uttered something as I allowed him to take it. I assumed this word was something on the order of, “thank you.” I repeated the words to myself to remember them.
Farley sat back, eyed his former partners – the zombies, hugged the supply pack to his chest, and wept. He knew he wasn’t getting out of this.