The Lord of the Socks
Episode 10: The Enemy of My Enemy?
Actually, I wasn’t alone. I had about a dozen unanimated skeletons lying about me, grinning. I looked at the closest one and said, “Well, it’s just us now. Got any suggestions?”
I sat down on a rock to figure out what to do. Should I even go back to the cave? After all, Korac was as stiff as a statue and couldn’t activate the control spell on me anymore. I was free to leave and do whatever I wanted. I could travel great distances and see new lands that would be years away from being conquered by Xern and his indestructible zombies. I would be able to find a home, a wife, and live to a ripe old age.
Just when I thought I’d convinced myself to make a run for it, guilt pinged at my conscience. It wouldn’t be right to abandon Nonac like that. The guy had the brains of a rock but for some reason he was willing to lay down his life to protect me. Could I do any less?
And what about the Princess? I’d promised to help free her but now she was trapped in a greater prison than any dungeon. Their fate would be worse than death if I didn’t do something.
Oh yeah, and I supposed I should help Nut-boy, too.
Against my better judgment, I put my boots on and grabbed the best looking rusted sword and shield from my former racing buddies. Once heroically equipped, I walked stiffly back up the hill and toward the cave.
My socks weren’t much help, either. They must have still been recharging because I felt every footstep as I struggled up the hill.
Eventually, I reached the spot where the others from my group had been caught by the spell, except they weren’t there. I knew it was the right place because their gear was there, including Nonac’s sword and Frederica’s mace. I thought about upgrading my sword for Nonac’s but decided I didn’t need a hernia while battling the evil sorcerer.
I rifled through Korac’s pack to see if there were any magical goodies I could use. What I found looked useless to me, but I decided to take the pack anyway just in case. Maybe if I threw the whole thing at the sorcerer, the pack would somehow magically explode and solve all my problems.
As I resumed my climb, I could feel my socks starting to offer a little help, making the rest of the trip easier. A few minutes later I found myself facing the cave entrance again.
Doubts assailed me. Did I really want to go in there and fight with a sorcerer? But maybe all I needed to do was dash in there, grab the Orb, and run away like a fire dragon out of a glacier.
Except the cave was blacker than Bum-stabber’s foul heart. I couldn’t tell if there were any undead waiting in the shadows to invite me to join their legions.
Before I’d realized it, I’d backed several steps away from the cave. All of my limbs were trembling. No. There was no way I could go into that cave, not by myself. I was just a peasant messenger, not a warrior. No matter how much I wanted to be a mythic hero, I knew at that moment that it would never be. The legends made it sound so easy; just march in there and cut the sorcerer to ribbons. Believe me, when you are looking into that gaping cave mouth, it doesn’t sound easy at all. It sounds like suicide.
I jumped several feet off the ground, landed hard on my butt, and spun around on it to see who had sneaked up behind me. A man stood there, with short, black hair and a short-cropped beard. He wore a black robe and carried a staff.
He let out a jolly laugh for several seconds before saying, “Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you, lad. That was quite a leap, though. Very impressive. I would have never expected someone of your stature to be able to jump that high.” He came over and helped me back to my feet. “Are you alright?”
“Uh. I’m fine.”
His expression grew serious. “You’re not dead, are you?”
I looked down at my chest before looking back up at him. “Uh, I don’t think so. Last time I checked I wasn’t.”
He nodded and relaxed. “Good. You know, there are a lot of things running around here that aren’t quite living anymore.”
“Yeah, encountered a few of them.”
“What’s your name, son?”
“The name is Nerzon. Nerzon the Black.” He examined the cave mouth before looking back at me. “You weren’t about to head into that cave all by yourself, were you?”
I looked over the traveler. He definitely looked like a magic practitioner of some kind. I figured he had to be none other than Miloc of Duragath but I didn’t want to let on that I knew his real identity. “I was thinking about it.”
Nerzon, or Miloc, or whatever his real name was, nodded. “Wow. Brave man. Braver than I am. Do you have any idea what’s in there?”
How much should I tell him? I decided to tell him what he probably already knew. “There’s supposed to be some ancient evil sorcerer in there. And he’s captured my friends, and my king, and some other people.”
“Were they caught in that time binding spell?”
Nerzon nodded again. “I see. I, too, was stuck in it for a little while. Fortunately, I managed to break free. And, if my instincts are correct, the solution to the spell is in that cave.” He stared at me intently for a moment. “Say, would you mind accompanying me in there? It would be nice to have someone who can watch my back.” He smiled warmly and put his hand on my shoulder. “I can reward you handsomely.”
I had about convinced myself to abandon the whole thing, but with this stranger with me, perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad. He could handle any creepies that came our way, then at the last instant I could use my socks to run past him, snag the Orb, and escape. I could take it to Father Jem and have him use it to cancel the binding spell. But first, I needed to find out more about this so-called Nerzon.
“Are you a wizard?”
He grimaced and shrugged one shoulder. “Kind of. It’s a little complicated. I’m not really sure what I am.”
I put Korac’s pack down and opened it. “This belonged to the wizard who was with me. Is there anything you can use?”
Nerzon leaned forward and peaked in. He shook his head. “No, nothing that I’m trained in.” He slapped my shoulder. “But don’t worry, I have a few tricks of my own up my sleeve. So, do you want to come with me?”
The answer was ‘no’, but this seemed the best chance to succeed with my mission to help my friends. If things got dicey in there, all I had to do was a super sprint back to safety. “Sure. Let’s go slay us an evil sorcerer.”
Nerzon laughed. “Sounds like fun. Is it okay with you if we split any treasure we find fifty-fifty?”
I smiled back. “I can handle that.” Things were looking up.
Nerzon walked up to the cave mouth and put his hand up near it. “Hmm. There was a magical trap here that triggers the time binding spell, but I’m not sensing it anymore. Someone destroyed it. That was mighty nice of them.” He winked at me before walking into the cave.
I followed him, but paused before going through. So it was me who triggered the time binding spell that froze my group? Then why didn’t it affect me? And more importantly, how did I destroy it?
As we walked further into the cave, it grew darker. Nerzon muttered something and the end of his staff lit up to illuminate the tunnel. It went straight for as far as the light penetrated.
We continued forward. I kept my eyes peeled for any more undead but nothing came out. Had we eliminated all of them? I could only hope. We passed several dark archways. I half expected to see skeletons leap out at us but, to my relief, nothing emerged. Yet.
“Stop,” Nerzon said. “There’s something here.” He waved his staff in front of him. Long, iron spikes fell from the ceiling and penetrated into the stone floor. Nerzon barely managed to yank his staff back in time before the spikes hit it.
Once he was satisfied that all the spikes were down, he looked at me and smiled. “That would have hurt.”
I swallowed and nodded. We skirted around the spikes and continued forward again.
After about five minutes, I glanced into a side passage and saw something reflect Nerzon’s light. Several dark shapes loomed within but didn’t move. I tugged on Nerzon’s sleeve and pointed. He nodded and stopped, whispering, “Good eye. Let’s get them before they see us.”
We proceeded slowly into the room. I gripped the rusted sword and shield and readied myself for a combat I hoped would never happen. I took Korac’s pack off and set it aside in case I needed to move quickly. Nerzon raised his hand and the light from his staff flared out into the chamber as he started to cast a spell.
I recognized the still motionless shapes. “Stop! That’s my party,” I said, feeling relieved to see they hadn’t been zombified yet.
Nerzon lowered his hand and nodded.
“But how did they get in here?” I wondered aloud. Along with them, there were several Fringolian soldiers scattered about the chamber in haphazard fashion, like they had just been tossed in there quickly.
Nerzon shook his head. “This is not good. It looks like they’ve been brought here to be turned into zombies. See that altar there? It is one used for necromantic spells.” He turned and almost bumped into Nonac. “Whoa. That is one large fellow.”
“Yeah, that’s Nonac. He comes in handy in a fight.”
I scratched my head as I looked over my group. “Someone is missing. Our wizard, Korac.”
“Hmm. That’s odd.”
“Do you know how to break them out of the spell?” I asked.
“I only know of one way. Have you ever heard of the Orb of Trineer?”
Once again, I wondered how much I should let him know that I knew. Of course, this could be an opportunity to wrangle more information out of him. “Actually, I have. I know a lot of people have been looking for it.”
“Myself included. And if my senses are accurate, it should be up ahead a little further. Keep your eyes open, Myrick.”
I nodded and we exited the chamber to continue down the main hall. We soon came to the end. On the right, an archway opened up into a large, dark chamber beyond. We crept ahead and Nerzon stuck his lighted staff in for a better look.
In the middle of the room sat a pedestal. Just above it, hovering in the air and glowing softly, was an orb. “The Orb of Trineer, I assume,” I said.
“You would be correct.” Nerzon and I started forward until Nerzon stopped suddenly. “Myrick?” he said in a strained voice.
“I…I can’t move. I feel a death spell besetting me.” He closed his eyes for a second before shouting, “Negatz!” His body jerked and he staggered back several steps. “Okay, I’m free, but I don’t think I can go any further without falling to its effects again.”
Even though I was several steps closer to the Orb, I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t like the sound of ‘death spell’ though. “What should I do? Will it kill me?”
Nerzon said, “The Anklets of Arnabet will protect you. After all, he’s the one who placed the spells here. Just go and get the Orb.”
I started to head toward the pedestal until the little voice in the back of my mind stopped me. I turned back around and faced him. “What are you talking about? How do you know about the Anklets?”
Nerzon smiled and pointed at himself. “Wizard.”
I guess I should have known. “Yeah, but how do I know I can trust you? I’m pretty sure you lied to me about who you really are.”
Nerzon stared at me for several seconds before nodding. “Fair enough. If you are to trust me, I need to be honest with you. Arnabet and I are mortal enemies. He locked me in his time binding spell for what feels like centuries. I recently managed to escape his snare, but have been blocked by the traps set around this complex. That is, until you came along wearing the one item that can negate them.”
My jaw dropped, I’m sure, as I realized who I was facing. My assumption that he was Miloc of Duragath was all wrong. “Are you…Xern the Sorcerer?”
He smiled and bowed. “In the flesh.”