The Zealot

By EM Malachi

A few weeks ago…

“Grave robbing. Almost no skill to it.”

The thief muttered to himself as he carefully pushed aside the stone door. He waved his torch in front of him and tossed a few pebbles onto the stone floor. When nothing happened, he moved deeper into the tomb. When Sherry had challenged Ricardo to be the first Britannian thief to steal something from another world, he had expected exciting rooftop chases, clever disguises, and better locks. Then the mage Mythran had gotten him here with a single spell, and so far, there hadn’t been even one trap. Where was the challenge for Britannia’s greatest thief?

Moving down through the crypts, he saw the still forms of generations of warriors in rusting armor. They seemed peaceful, so he was respectfully quiet when sneaking forward to steal from them. Ricardo quickly found the fallen king’s treasure horde. It wasn’t the largest room of treasure he’d ever seen, but the thief had to admire the heaping pile of dark gems. A few made their way into a pocket. The room hummed with mystical power, and it seemed to direct the thief toward a pyramid-shaped artifact hidden in the back. The base was worn, as if it had broken off a larger structure. When Ricardo’s hand touched the relic, there came an inhuman screech from down a tunnel and then the sound of something terrible and angry coming toward him.

He was about to run when a sword caught his attention by shouting at him, “Hey, kid! Yes, you! Pick me up! Pick me up! Let me help! Unless you’d rather be cut down in your prime.”

Ricardo grabbed the sword just as a large skeleton dressed in an assortment of lavish robes and armor burst into the room. Without ceremony, the skeleton swung a giant scimitar at him again and again, trying to cleave him in two. The sword in his hand leapt back and forth to block the undead warrior’s strikes.

The feral skeleton paused for a moment to ask, “Who steals from Khumash-Gor?”

Ricardo without thinking replied, “Who is Khumash-Gor?”

The sword chuckled, “You shouldn’t have said that.”

“Khumash-Gor, the Sword of Odion! Khumash-Gor, mortal husband of the Goddess Amoras! Khumash-Gor, Uniter of the Zealans, he who was judged worthy by Apathas himself! Khumash-Gor, who stands before you!” The skeleton’s eyes glowed red with rage.

The sword twitched to parry the great black scimitar, “Well he’s certainly full of himself. Husband, really? We all know it was just a fling!”

The skeletal warrior gave a yell and slammed a boney shoulder into Ricardo, knocking him square across the room.

The sword continued to taunt Khumash-Gor, “And Uniter, really? Really? You just killed everyone who wouldn’t follow you.”

Ricardo held the sword desperately, as the undead king continued to slash at him. “I’m not really sure you’re helping.”

“Would you like to take over? Let me know if you feel capable of tirelessly parrying the supernatural blows of the undead wraith of a murderous raider king. I’ll take a break. Actually, I think that’s going to happen soon anyway.”

The great scimitar hit the black longsword a final time and shattered it like glass. There was a flash of light and the smell of brimstone. Standing beside Ricardo and Khumash-Gor was a grinning red fiend. The daemon stretched and swatted away a strike from the skeleton. “It’s good to be free after so long. I’m glad I was able to find someone willing to wield me so recklessly.”

Khumash-Gor turned his attention back to the thief, and Ricardo pathetically tried to parry with the broken hilt of the sword. “Are you going to return the favor?”

“What turnip patch were you born in? I’m a daemon. We don’t do favors. We make deals. I protected you as long as the sword I was bound to would allow. Blame the people who made a blackrock sword. Wonderful for binding daemons for millennia, but not a terribly practical martial tool.”

“You mentioned a deal?”

“You are about to be cleaved in half by an insane undead despot. I think you’re a bad investment. Nice knowing you, kid.” The daemon disappeared in a puff of smoke.

The broken sword hilt was knocked out of Ricardo’s hand, and he fell to the ground trying to dodge the supernaturally fast strikes. The skeleton held his scimitar within killing distance of Ricardo’s neck and held out a bony hand. Ricardo handed over the artifact he had traveled so far to recover. The glowing eyes looked at the relic before raising his blade to finish the thief.

There came a great wind through the passages of the tomb as if three voices were arguing. Khumash-Gor stopped mid-strike to listen. When the wind died down, the skeleton dropped the blackrock artifact in front of Ricardo and returned to his throne.

Around Khumash-Gor, ghosts and skeletons started to gather, at first a few, and then hundreds of warriors: an army. When it seemed no more would fit in the room, Khumash-Gor strode through them and lead them out of the tomb.

Ricardo recovered his senses and the obelisk top. “I wonder what that was all about.”

A strange woman appeared beside him, her gown shimmering. “My husband has your world to unite.”