Sample chapter from Pursuing Necromancers

Chapter One, The Mirean Ruins

A dirt road ran through the middle of a grassy field.  Nestled in the dead brown stalks were slabs of granite and gray-veined, white marble. Once part of a city, the stone lay crumbled all around, buried in the prairie like a hidden monument to the devastation of an ancient metropolis.

To the west, hunks of granite and wedges of marble blocked the road at random spots. To the east, the road was clear, the hard-packed path cracking from the sun.

A low rumble began out of the east, sounding like thunder. Birds nesting in nearby trees called out in response; several more flew away sparking an eruption of motion as the sky filled with crows, black larks, and a flock of dark gray thrushes.

A column of sand became visible along the road and lumbered westward. The sound grew louder and a dust storm approached; it rose into the bright blue sky and stood out sharply against the azure firmament. A light breeze caught bits of dust and whirled them higher into the air until the particles blended with a streak of long, thin clouds that stretched across the sky, as if they been painted onto the cerulean dome.

Suddenly the thunder stopped. The cloud of grit and dirt intensified briefly and then dissipated, leaving only a ring of silence and settling motes to descend upon the land. Evan Pierce, a priest of the Order of St. Michael and a demon hunter, reined in his horse, a chestnut stallion named Alsvinn. Behind Evan rode a host of a hundred knights, a mix of swordsmen and archers, wearing leather sleeves and leggings. Around their torsos were polished breastplates emblazoned with silver swords, hilt towards Heaven, on a field of red. The knights slowed their horses waiting for Evan’s next command.

Surveying the broken road ahead, the Michaeline priest saw it had all but vanished under large chunks of stone toppled from collapsed buildings. Crumbled walls littered both sides of the dirt path and spilled into the track. They would have to ride more cautiously than they had been or risk crippling their horses. 

Evan signaled to continue on and urged his horse forward. Alsvinn responded, picking his way around blocks of stone scattered in the road. The knights behind him did the same. Signs of the old city’s destruction, and the castle that had been at its heart, were everywhere like an architectural junkyard. Stumps of marble columns lay before them on the left and the base of a statue showing only the boots of some figure were arrayed on the right. More rubble and debris followed. The crumbling foundation of a tower came next along with several slabs of stone that formed a crude doorway. A stone bench split in two followed and then more deteriorating foundations, and more rubble, and more debris. On and on it went, a testament to the people who had once lived here and the devastation that had killed them. 

Finally, the debris in the road thinned and the way ahead looked easier. Evan signaled a halt. 

“Let’s continue on foot from here,” he commanded. “Our orders are to capture or kill any necromancer we find.”

Sir Ahlan Falconhead, the captain of the knights, inclined his head. He had shoulder-length, dark hair combed straight back, sharp brown eyes, and a firm jaw. “Company, dismount. Move out.”

The knights obeyed sliding off their horses and trotting into the ruins along a faint path in the ground. The swordsmen went first with swords drawn and the archers followed behind with arrows nocked in their bows. The trail ran straight for twenty strides and was bordered by low walls of natural flat stones stacked one on top of the other. At the end of the path, they saw granite walls that towered fourteen strides above their heads. The walls were twenty strides long and as they cleared them, they emerged into the remains of a large plaza.

Grass and weeds had overgrown the cobblestones and two collapsed stone structures lay in a heap about thirty strides from the plaza entrance, a large one of red clay bricks and a smaller one of granite. On the far side of the granite debris, a column of marble lay on its side in pieces about three strides from the pile of crumbled brickwork and another three and a half strides further on were worn marble stairs leading down into a basement or underground passage.

Sir Ahlan gestured for some of the knights to explore the piles of debris and the knights paired off entering the plaza slowly picking their way. They heard no sound aside from their own footsteps on the cobblestones. A few pebbles rolled off of one pile of debris and several knights turned quickly ready to attack the source of the sound. 

They looked about nervously, saw nothing, and resumed their exploration, but the fear that a dark mage would jump out and slay them all remained. An eerie silence descended upon them along with the heat of the sun; it was palpable like a heavy weight on their hearts and minds. A large caw filled the air suddenly; many of the knights jumped at the sound. Large ravens took wing and flew away.

Evan wasn’t sure if the avians were necromancers that had transformed themselves. It was possible, but with everyone on edge he decided not to chase after hypothetical threats. He scanned the area and pointed to Ahlan. “That way.” He indicated the other end of the plaza. From here it looked like a flat field lay beyond. 

The Michaeline captain took the lead, gesturing for five archers to come with him. They approached the field. It was twenty strides long and thirty strides wide. The grass had been stripped away to reveal the soft brown soil. In the dirt at the far end of the field, a large inverted five-pointed star had been carved about a quarter of a span into the soil and enclosed in a three-stride wide circle.

Standing in the middle of the earthen etching was a bald man, wearing a black cloak, a workman’s tunic and trousers, and black boots. His back was towards Ahlan and he made no indication he was aware of the knight. 

The captain of the knights wasn’t sure why the stranger made no movement, but it did not matter. He stood in the pentangle, a known magic symbol for summoning demons. They would eventually have to cleanse the field with holy water. First, however, they needed to deal with this stranger.

Ahlan gestured to the five archers to line up and take aim. The bowmen went down on one knee and pointed their weapons at about a thirty-degree angle so their arrows would arc and impale the man.

The knight captain drew his sword and Evan came closer to stand by his comrade and behind the archers. 

“Surrender,” Ahlan commanded, shouting to the wizard, “or we will be forced to shoot.”

The man turned to see the archers ready to strike. In his hand, they could now see, he held a willow rod, the end of which was charred. 

Evan recognized the bald stranger immediately as he faced them; it was Jormundan, the necromancer he had been pursuing for months.

“Surrender?” said the bald wizard. “One who serves the Great Lord does not surrender.” 

A sudden stream of red and orange fire erupted from the rod, enveloping the archers. They screamed in horror as they burned, dropping their bows. A few arrows sailed through the air but hit the ground. 

“No!” Ahlan screamed, as his men were incinerated. He charged forward. Jormundan retaliated pointing the willow stick at him and launching a large sphere of fire at him. The knight jumped aside narrowly avoiding the magic fire; it crashed into a pile of stone behind them. He recovered quickly, rolling to his feet. Instantly the Michaeline captain knew he needed cover and had to draw the wizard’s attention away from Evan, giving his friend a chance to strike. A plan formed in his mind and immediately Ahlan moved to the wizard’s right.

Evan, meanwhile, struck with horror at the sight of the burning knights, he watched helplessly as the five men turned to ash before his eyes. Saddened by the loss of such fine men, the Michaeline priest turned his attention to Jormundan. He must do all he could to see the mage captured or slain; those were his orders. Watching Ahlan move to the right, the priest scanned the path ahead, smiling to himself. He knew what his friend was trying to do and ran to the left, forcing the death mage to select only one of them as the target.

The necromancer cursed as the two men moved apart. Although still far enough away not to cause him any harm, they were nonetheless far enough apart that he could not attack them both simultaneously. Worse still, he had to kill them before he could complete the ritual he had come here to perform. Both were out of range for him to invoke pain upon them and he couldn’t rely on the magic rod in his hand. It could run out of power at any time now. He needed another plan.

Since one of his assailants was the Michaeline priest that had been dogging him for months now, it seemed to the bald wizard worth the effort to summon power from the Great Lord. He wasn’t sure he could do this by himself; still, the inverted pentangle was complete; it should work. 

He concentrated while Ahlan and Evan continued to move into position. 

“Zortan,” shouted Jormundan. “Great Lord of Darkness, come to me. Smite your enemies; drink their blood, take their souls.” At first, nothing happened; then foul smelling steam rose from the ground.

Evan frowned to himself. The man was calling on the most powerful of demons, the Lord of Darkness. If he succeeded, they would have a much tougher fight on their hands. Perhaps the wizard was not strong enough to complete his summoning, but the demon hunter wasn’t about to risk that if he didn’t have to.

Jormundan cursed. He had skipped a step or had overreached himself like some novice apprentice. “You Michaelines will severely pay for my failure,” he screamed. Quickly, he glanced at Evan who was still making his way around the edge of the field. Movement to the right caught his peripheral vision and he turned to see Ahlan release a throwing knife at him. The wizard snared with contempt. How easy to sidestep the attack, he thought. Obviously, the knight is more dangerous to me. So he will die first.

Evan saw Jormundan turn and face his friend after avoiding the thrown knife. The wizard’s back now faced the priest. At last the opening I’ve been looking for.

Immediately the Michaeline priest changed direction, charging directly at the dark mage.  He watched Jormundan carefully and prayed he had enough time to reach the man. Fear swelled up inside him as he saw the necromancer point the willow rod at Ahlan. He was running out of time. In another second the wizard would fire his weapon. 

Evan pushed himself to run harder and asked St. Michael to give him strength. Gritting his teeth, the demon hunter felt his lungs ache and his legs throb but this did not deter him. He drew a dagger after three more strides and leapt. 

Jormundan thought he had heard a noise and turned his head to see what Evan was doing. Wide-eyes and a furrowed brow froze on the necromancer’s face as he stared at the sight of Evan airborne and coming directly at him. An instant later, the Michaeline priest tackled him, sending the willow branch flying and burying his dagger’s blade into the wizard’s left arm.

Ahlan smiled at the sight of Evan tackling Jormundan, but the battle was far from over. Instantly he ran towards the combatants, sword in hand. From the other side of the field the other knights, who had been exploring the plaza, came running in from the ruins. 

With his right arm, Jormundan punched Evan in the face and broke free. He rolled into a crouch only to feel Ahlan’s sword press against his chest. 

“Move, and I’ll run you through,” said the Michaeline captain.

“You can try,” said the wizard; he gestured with his right hand and Ahlan lunged but his sword passed through empty air. The necromancer had faded away like a ghost.

“By St. Michael’s sword,” said one of the knights, who ran up. “I’ve not seen anything like that before.”

Ahlan said nothing but frowned deeply.

Evan groaned as he stood up. “He got away?”

“I’m afraid so,” said Ahlan. “He just vanished.”

The demon hunter shifted his jaw to one side. It was sore. He sighed. “Well, at least we stopped them from doing whatever they were planning. Let’s bless the cursed field and find that wand of his.”

* * *

Evan ordered holy water brought in to drench the pentagram and had the carved lines in the ground filled in with other dirt. Then the Michaeline priest invoked the name of St. Michael to remove the desecration and bless the field. 

With that task done, the priest turned his attention to searching the rest of the ruins. Knights were deployed looking for what else they could find. At the same time, tents had been erected and graves for the incinerated archers were dug. The Michaeline priest said a few words over them and prayed they would rest in peace.

A short time later, Ahlan went to find Evan. He found the priest feeding his horse. Alsvinn neighed as the Michaeline captain approached.

“Easy, boy,” said Evan. He stroked the horse’s nose. The demon hunter glanced at the knight. “Report.”

“We found the horses the necromancers had ridden into the ruins,” Ahlan stated.

“Any signs of them?” asked the priest.

The Michaeline captain shook his head. “No, but we did find a letter addressed to Jormundan.” He handed Evan the parchment; the demon hunter opened it and began reading.


I believe I have found what we have been seeking these many months. If the stories I’ve heard are true, the prize is in the port town of Clearbrook. I am sailing there now and should arrive in a few days to confirm. I will rendezvous with you at the standard location.

Sailor’s Guild

“His Grace will want to see this,” declared Evan.

“Then it’s back to Wrightwood?”

“Yes, we’ll leave in the morning.”