The Lord of the Socks
Episode 11: A Smashing Reunion
I stared at the evil sorcerer Xern. I silently cursed myself for so easily falling into his trap. I had Arnabet’s bone shard that Sister Nyn gave me still in my pocket but no idea what to do with it. Poke Xern’s eye out? Yeah, and he could probably turn me into a crispy critter before I took two steps. At least my socks could protect me from Arnabet’s spells, and Xern couldn’t approach me while I stood within the death spell radius of the pedestal.
“Myrick, are you okay?” Xern asked. “You look frightened.”
“It’s because I am,” I answered honestly.
“Trust me, Myrick, you have nothing to fear from me.”
“What about your little army of undead?”
Xern tilted his head as his eyebrows scrunched. “What army?”
“You know, the skeletons and zombies that have been chasing me and my friends.”
He smiled and shook his head. “Oh, those undead. They aren’t mine. Those are Arnabet’s.”
“Huh?” I intelligently argued.
Xern sighed. “Arnabet was the necromancer. A very expert one, too. Probably the best ever.”
“But aren’t you working on creating an army of indestructible zombies for your own ends?”
His eyebrow went up. “No. It’s a good idea, though. I might have to give it more thought.” When he saw my panic, he smiled and said, “It was just a jest, Myrick. I don’t do zombies.”
We continued staring at each other.
After a couple of minutes, Xern turned his gaze to the Orb before looking back at me. “Myrick, I promise to free your friends if you bring me the Orb. You have my word.”
“I don’t accept the word of evil, undead sorcerers.”
Xern jerked his head back and winced. “Evil undead sorcerer? Do I look undead to you?”
“And tell me, since you have his anklets, how was Arnabet looking last you saw him?”
“Kinda thin, like he hadn’t eaten in a couple millennia.”
“And did his skeleton attack you?”
“Yeah. Until Nonac knocked him into puzzle pieces.”
“Nonac? The big hunk of flesh out there? I’ll have to thank him for that service. That must have been what allowed me to finally break free from Arnabet’s spell. Look, Myrick, trust your eyes. Do I look like an evil necromancer? True, I’ve dabbled in the art a little, but Arnabet was the true master. I focused my studies on the schools of sorcery and wizardry.”
I still didn’t know what to do. So far, Xern had been friendly, supportive, and cordial. But the legends told of a man of unsurpassed evil. Could that be part of his deception, to be all nice and cuddly and then turn on you when you least expected it?
Clacking and scraping sounds came from back in the tunnel. Xern spun around. “Uh oh, Myrick, we’re running out of time. Quick, get me the Orb so I can stop them.”
I turned back to where the Orb of Trineer floated above the pedestal but stopped myself again. Xern had to be lying about the undead belonging to Arnabet. Arnabet was long gone. Xern had to be the one controlling them. I figured the impending attack had to be a ruse to trick me into getting the Orb for him. He must have instantly known I had Arnabet’s socks and planned to use me to do the dirty work of getting past the magical traps.
“I’m not that stupid. I know what you are trying to do. It won’t work on me.”
Xern looked at me and frowned. “Then we are both lost. It was nice knowing you, Myrick, as short as it was.”
Did he really think to fool me with that line? No, not Myrick the Magnificent! I was too smart for him. All I had to do was stand there behind the protection of Arnabet’s death spell and wait for an opportunity to dash out of there with the Orb.
Skeletons and zombies flooded through the archway. I backed up until I was right below the pedestal and waited. Would Xern spin around and sneer at me for calling his bluff?
Instead, Xern shouted, “Tralgot!” A circle opened up in front of him and several glowing beings emerged from it. They flew forward and engulfed the first wave of undead. The skeletons exploded and the beings disappeared.
Ah, so he was going to put on a show for a while. I could handle that.
At first, I thought about grabbing the Orb and making a run for it, but with all the undead between me and the exit, I figured I’d be sliced to ribbons. Instead, I decided to put my sword and shield down, sit with my back to the pedestal, and pull some jerky out of one of my pockets. There’s nothing like supper and a show all in one night.
Xern dipped into an impressive arsenal of spells, too. Besides the first spell, he threw fire balls, ice chunks, and summoned different types of light creatures that would do their damage before disappearing again. And the undead onslaught seemed endless. As soon as he’d dispatch one group, another would arrive to take its place.
Sweat formed on Xern’s brow as he continued his pretend fight. I had to admit, he was a talented actor. During one brief lull, he looked back at me with a pleading look on his face. “Myrick, please, I can’t hold out much longer.”
Dang, but that looked convincing. The firmness in my belief began to waiver. What if he was telling the truth? No, he couldn’t be. The legends can’t be wrong. Can they?
Sounds of shuffling feet came from behind me. I jumped up and peeked around the pedestal. My bladder almost released when I saw more skeletons pouring out from some other entrance lost in the darkness on the other side of the chamber. “Oh, cabbage.” Would the death spell keep them from reaching me?
Of course it didn’t. They were already dead. They charged toward me with weapons raised. I picked my sword and shield back up but they shook in my hands as if there was an earthquake. Just before the skeletons reached me, a well-timed burst from my socks took me out of the way. Fortunately, my socks had recharged enough to give me back my speed. But the room was filling fast and I knew I wouldn’t be able to outrun them for long before they buried me in an avalanche of moving bone and rotten flesh.
“Myrick, hit the floor!” Xern shouted. Out of reflex, I did as he said. “Zark!”
I felt a wave of force blast over my body before it slammed into the skeletons closest to me. There was a bright flash as they disintegrated into dust. I looked back to Xern who gave me a quick nod before casting the same spell at a group coming at him.
Okay, now I really felt confused. Before I could think things through, more skeletons charged toward me. I jumped up and sprinted away until I almost ran into the far wall. Out of desperation, I spun around, ducked my head behind my shield, and charged at full magical speed toward my adversaries.
Now, since I’m not a swordsman, it wasn’t pretty. All I did was stick the blade out in front of me as I ran. It did catch the skeletons by surprise. The speed of my charge knocked them apart and sent their pieces scattering about the room.
There wasn’t time to celebrate as another group charged me. I charged back and achieved the same result. Hope sprang up in me as I realized I might survive this after all. I grinned as the next group of hapless victims entered the chamber. So this was how Nonac felt.
My excitement increased when the light from Xern’s staff illuminated a large pile of gold items in a back corner. So, if I got out of this alive, I could be filthy stinking rich. I now had a good reason to survive. This adventure was looking better and better.
I took out two more groups with my speed charge tactic. After shaking a rib cage off my sword, I looked for the next closest group to shatter to pieces.
“Myrick, help!” Xern shouted.
I spun around and saw the sorcerer swinging his staff like a mace. Whatever it touched turned to dust, but Xern was now surrounded and about to be overwhelmed. He must have finally run out of magic.
Okay, if he were really trying to deceive me, would he go this far? I didn’t think so.
“Myrick. Orb. Now.”
I didn’t hesitate as I dashed to the pedestal and snagged the Orb from where it hovered.
I hoped he knew what he was doing as I lobbed it his way.
Xern caught it with one hand, dropped his staff, and quickly put his other hand on top of it. “Kar-ah-d’lsol!”
A visible wave pulsed out from the orb. Every zombie and skeleton instantly vanished, sending their weapons clattering to the floor. Even the bodies of the defeated ones were gone.
Xern collapsed to his knees, panting. “Thank you, Myrick. Thank you for trusting me.”
I walked over to him with my sword and shield still ready. “I’m not sure if I trust you yet, but I’m starting to. You’re not quite what the legends say you are.”
Xern closed his eyes and nodded. “Arnabet did a good job of publicizing those lies after he defeated me.” He picked up his staff and used it as a crutch to push himself back to his feet. “And for your trust, I shall give you a reward.” He leaned his staff against his body and placed his hand on top of the Orb again. “Vernatz!”
A high-pitched whine came from the pedestal behind me before it exploded into a shower of rock and powder. I raised my shield to protect myself from several chunks that flew at me.
As the dust settled, Xern said, “There, the time binding and death spells are undone. Your friends are now free. You are also welcome to any and all other treasures you find here. I got what I came for.”
We stared at each other. The man who stared back at me did not look evil. He seemed more like a kindly tavern keeper as he smiled warmly at me.
“Come, my friend, let’s get out of this place,” Xern said. “It reeks of Arnabet’s foul magic.”
At that moment, Nonac, Frederica, Bum-stabber, and Fil ran under the archway and into the chamber. Nut-boy was nowhere to be seen, and I still had no idea what had happened to Korac. Nonac and Frederica had found some rusted swords from somewhere and looked ready for a fight.
“Sorcerer!” Nonac yelled when he saw Xern. The giant barbarian charged.
I used my socks and zipped between Nonac and Xern. “Nonac, stop!”
He did, but not before he rammed into me, knocking me backwards and to the floor in front of Xern. I jumped back up before Nonac could charge again.
“Nonac, this is a friend. He helped me save you. His name is Nerzon. He’s a traveling wizard from Norego.” I hoped Nonac bought it.
Nonac lowered his sword as his bushy eyebrows rammed into each other. “Norego? Nice place. Very green. Kick Nonac out.”
“Well, I’m sure they didn’t mean it personally,” I said.
“Yes,” Xern stepped in, “when I get back, I’ll put in a good word for you. But for now, I need to be leaving. Thank you for your help, Myrick.” Xern turned and headed for the archway.
“Stop!” someone shouted behind us.
We all turned around and saw Korac. He had somehow entered the chamber from a back door.
“Stop him, that’s Xern the Sorcerer. He must not escape with the Orb.”
Nonac and Frederica stepped in Xern’s way, blocking his path of escape.
“No!” Xern shouted. He dropped his staff and put his hand on the Orb again. “Fyloaz!”
Nonac, Frederica, Bum-stabber, and Fil all flew backwards and into the surrounding walls. They collapsed to the floor and didn’t move.
Xern spun around and faced Korac, snarling. “Foul child of Arnabet. You must die!” He kept his hand on top of the Orb as he began to cast his next spell.