Prologue to the Story to be Named Later, XI
The massive chamber stretched ahead of him, dark as the Void until the wizard illuminated it with a wave of his hand. The three-score figures scattered around the chamber in various postures – some standing, others sitting or sprawled completely onto the floor – began to stir shortly after. A deep sepulchral moan began to echo in the chamber as the first of the figures saw the massive robed figure in the doorway. In moments the entire chamber writhed with the semblance of life as the noisome things that lived there moved eagerly to the door as if to greet their benefactor.
The creatures looked like a scene from a vivisectionist’s nightmare. The skin of each figure was bleached pale, a washed out version of their living pigmentation. All of them bore hideous, vivid wounds that still stood out red and angry from their flesh. The wounds ranged from a small patch of skin missing from an arm to a few that gaped from throat to crotch as if the victim was torn apart by a pack of ravenous dogs. Each eye, of those that still bore them, was filmed over, yet a faint glint of blue light was visible from the depths of each pupil. Most still wore the remnants of clothing, caked with blood and other unidentifiable fluids. Their movements were stiff as the lifeless muscles atrophied and they were slow to recover their feet and shuffle across the chamber, but the tide was inexorable, stopped at the threshold only by the will of the master of them.
Troius looked down at the ravaged and desiccated faces before him as they loudly clamored for sustenance. Most would have been recognizable to friends and loved ones, if any of them had survived this past century since the Last Tower was disbanded. Troius recognized every one, even those whose faces were mostly fleshless. There was Furian, clutching his dead wife’s necklace in one hand as he reached futilely towards the mage. Ossiver, with his now eternal grin because his lips had been chewed off by a former student, knocked those more frail aside in his eagerness to greet his master. Troius smiled as his eyes lighted on his favorite: Escalion, beard still looking oiled as it stuck in a point from his chin, held firm by the dried blood of the disciples of his erstwhile attempt to refound a Tower. The obese master surveyed his charges, imagining them to be sycophants and worshippers eager to lay a hand on their holiest lord.
The wizard knew better, of course. The straining of the moving corpses towards him heralded their hunger and desire to rend his flesh with their teeth and nails. Their hunger would not abate if they reached him, of course, nor would it ever. This hunger was the secret he’d sought from El Sof. Any necromancer could animate dead flesh, giving it a parody of life. Some of the wizards would use the creatures as guardians or servants, as they could obey simple commands. The hunger, developed by the secret cabals rife in the royal family of the distant land, overrode the ability of the mindless creatures to obey commands, giving them instead an overriding order they could never be rid of: to feast on the flesh of the living. It made them useless as servants, but as unsleeping guardians of secret crypts or underground lairs, they were an improvement. No living creature could pass unchallenged, unless they possessed the ward the sorcerers of El Sof held as another near-impenetrable secret. Troius had thought the resultant abomination as nearly perfect, but he desired to improve upon it once more.