The Lord of the Socks
Episode 7: Death Never Sounded So Good
Chains rattled as Nonac stood up. He let out a loud grunt as he pulled against them. Muscles bulged as several links stretched apart. A few seconds later, Nonac yanked the chains off his body and threw them to the floor. “Nonac’s fault. Nonac help.”
Korac shook his head. “Over my dead body.”
Nonac shrugged. “Okay.” He bared his huge teeth as he stepped toward Korac.
Korac paled and took a step back. He brought his trembling hands up to start weaving a spell.
Father Jem stepped between them. “That is not necessary. All of you will be needed for this quest to succeed.”
Korac turned to Father Jem. “Who says I’m going on this? I just wanted to rescue my king. I wasn’t planning on encountering the most powerful undead sorcerer of all time. I’m not strong enough to defeat him.”
“You are correct,” Father Jem said. “That is why I’ve also sent a message to Miloc of Duragath.”
“You what?” Korac asked as the back of his neck turned red with rage.
Father Jem put his hands up to placate him. “You are indeed a formidable wizard, Lord Korac, but I believe it will take your combined abilities to succeed. Right now, Xern is weak from his many centuries of slumber. This is his most vulnerable time. If you move quickly, you still have a chance to steal the Orb and defeat him. If you do not stop him now, Xern will use all of your king’s army to resume his experiments.”
“What experiments?” Princess Frederica asked as she sat up, her shoulders stiffening.
“Before he was defeated by Arnabet, he was working on creating a new, indestructible zombie to invade the world.” Father Jem turned toward Korac. “So, you see, Lord Korac, we must use all resources to stop him before it is too late.”
Princess Frederica stood up from the sofa. “We’ll do it. All of us.”
Korac shook his head. “Princess, I don’t think—”
“As your princess and in the name of my father, I command it,” she barked. “I cannot let my father and our army become a part of Xern’s horrid plans.”
Korac stared her in the eyes for several seconds until he nodded. “As you command, Princess. But the barbarian stays behind.”
“Nonac comes with us,” Frederica ordered in a tone leaving no room for argument.
I glanced over at Nonac and saw a goofy smile spread across his face as he stared at Frederica. I could almost hear romantic harp music playing.
“Then it’s settled,” Father Jem said. “Lord Korac, if you will accompany me to my study, I have some items and spells that may come in handy. As for the rest of you, Brother Marc will show you to some beds so you can rest. You will need to leave early in the morning.”
And when he said early, he wasn’t kidding. It felt like I’d only been asleep for five minutes when Brother Marc shook my shoulder to wake me. After a quick breakfast of bread and cheese, we were all gathered again in the foyer next to the main entrance. Nonac was there, too, with his giant sword strapped to his back.
My heart skipped when I saw Sister Nyn enter the foyer. This time she wore a clean brown robe and her hair was neatly braided instead of sticking out at odd angles. She wore a shoulder satchel and looked ready for traveling.
I sidled up to her, smiling. “So, I get the pleasure of your company once again.”
She gave me a hard stare back. “I’m not going with you. Father Jem is sending me on a different errand. One, I should add, I am not happy about.”
“Because I’d rather be back with Frbg and Gtk and repairing the mess you caused.”
“I said I was sorry, what else do you want?”
She didn’t answer. Instead, she walked to the other side of the foyer and stared at the door. Okay, so she’s not the most talkative. I sighed and watched as Nut-boy stumbled into the room with his hair a mess.
A few minutes later, Father Jem entered. “I wanted to come and wish you luck.” He handed a parchment to Korac. “Here’s a map of where I sense the Orb to be located. May the spirit of Arnabet watch over you.”
I said, “Don’t worry, I’ll keep them out of trouble.”
Bum-stabber rewarded me with a slap across the back of the head. Unfortunately, Nonac was too busy staring at Frederica to notice the unjust act.
“Farewell, my friends.” Father Jem opened the door for us and we stepped out into the light of early dawn.
When we stopped for lunch, I noticed Sister Nyn a couple hundred yards behind us sitting on a rock. She reached into her satchel, pulled out a piece of cheese, and took a bite.
“I wonder why she’s hanging back there?” I asked.
I scratched my head. “She said she had a different mission, but if she’s heading the same way we are, she might as well travel with us.” I started toward her with the intention of inviting her to join our group.
“I don’t think she likes people,” Nut-boy said.
Sister Nyn looked up at me and glared.
I stopped. “Yeah, I think you’re right.” I decided it might be better to leave her alone.
After lunch we resumed our journey. Before I knew it, we reached the last hill before the trail descended into the Valley of Death. We all stopped to catch our breath and wits before venturing in.
“Valley of Death,” I said. “What a stupid name for a valley.”
Korac, who had been silent and brooding the whole way thus far, said, “That’s not its real name.”
“What is it, then?” I asked.
Korac’s demeanor darkened as if a black storm cloud hung directly over his head. His eyes took on a reddish glow and a sound came from his throat that didn’t seem human. It sounded more like a troglyn being tortured. Horror shook my entire body and visibly affected everyone else as well. Even Nonac shuddered.
When Korac finished the horrible utterance, his eyes returned to normal and his face lightened again. “That is what the ancient elementals called this place. It is a place where wizards, sorcerers, and necromancers battled for millenia as they sought to control the mystic powers.”
I gave one last shake before saying, “Valley of Death is a wonderful name.”
“Yeah, I’m good with that,” Nut-boy agreed.
“Which way now?” Bum-stabber asked.
Korac pulled out the map he had received from Father Jem and studied it. He pointed ahead. “See those jagged peaks? There’s an underground complex below the ridge between the two tallest ones. That is where we’ll find Xern and the Orb.”
“Und smash him,” Nonac said with a smile that could make a dragon wet itself.
Korac rolled up the map and put it away. “That is also where the king’s army is. Here, everyone will need these.” He pulled out wooden medallions with leather straps tied to them. “Put them around your neck and keep them there while in the valley.”
“What are they?” Frederica asked as she took hers and put it on.
“Father Jem and I wove some spells into these to counteract the time binding spell. It should protect us from the effects.” He reluctantly handed one to Nonac.
Nonac folded his arms. “Nonac not use magic. Magic evil.”
Korac shrugged. “Fine with me. Go ahead and be trapped by the sorcerer for all I care.”
I took the medallion from Korac and approached Nonac. “Look, my friend, we are going to need you in there. You can’t get your revenge and smash the sorcerer if you’re frozen by the spell.”
Nonac’s brow furrowed as he obviously had to use his brain for the first time in months. “Nonac not like. But Nonac will use for friend Mah-reek.”
“Good, buddy.” I handed him the medallion. He tied it around his thick neck but the strap was barely long enough to reach around.
I took one for myself.
Korac looked around. “Where are the other guards?”
Bum-stabber jerked his head around as he searched the area. The only one left besides him was Fil. “Those cowards,” he growled. “Should I go find them?”
Korac shook his head. “They’re long gone. If we survive this, I’ll make them wish they came along and kissed Xern’s rotting feet.” He picked up his pack. “Let’s go. I’d like to be there before it gets dark.”
“You mean, you want to get there before Miloc does,” I muttered.
Korac glared at me for a second before nodding. “That, too.”
“But wouldn’t it be better to wait until morning?” I asked.
“Sure, we could wait until morning and give Xern more time to raise additional undead for us to have to fight through,” Korac said. “Does that sound better?”
“Uh, no. Now’s good.”
Nonac’s shoulders slumped. “Nonac vant to vait ’til morning. Kill more zombies dat vay.”
I patted him on the arm. “Don’t worry, my friend, I’m sure there will still be plenty of zombies for you before this is over.”
That seemed to cheer him up a little.
The last time I’d ventured into the Valley of Death it had been pouring rain. At least this time the sky was mostly clear, but it still felt like the area was covered with thick, dark clouds. The sun couldn’t penetrate the darkness emanating from the ruins.
“I think I see why this is a part of Fringolia and not another kingdom. No one else wants it.”
Nut-boy nodded his agreement as he gulped.
We marched along, not speaking because of the oppressive feeling hanging over us. The deeper we got into the valley, the more I wanted to kick my socks into action and high-tail it out of there. Korac seemed to know what I was thinking and a couple of times made like he was about to snap his fingers. The cabbage head.
At dusk, as we were walking through an outcropping of ruins, we heard noises all around us. Nonac drew his giant sword and Frederica unslung her mace. I tried to bravely cower behind Nonac except Nut-boy was already there.
My worst fears manifested themselves. Skeletons and zombies shambled out from the remains of the buildings and headed for us. We were completely surrounded by hundreds of them.