Ill Met in the Necropolis: Part III

William T. Thrasher

Continued from Ill Met in the Necropolis: Part II

Kneeling at the foot of an overgrown grave, Myrrine intoned the final syllables of her prayer. The gentle nimbus of emerald light wreathing her supinated hands faded leaving only the velvet darkness and a silence bordering on the cosmic.

            With a single hollow rap on her tympanum, Saph brought the scene from cosmic to comic. “On to the next one?” the young woman asked from her perch atop a tumbledown sepulcher.

            Myrrine rose to her full height, towering over the percussive bard. Speaking in the voice of a waif half her size she spoke. “Do not disturb the dead. There’s been enough of that here already.”

            “As I well know,” Saph replied, tossing her wooden drumstick high into the air. “We’ve both heard the Ballad of Selene. Hells, I wrote most of it. Between orc grave robbers, cultists, and that half-elf’s band of mad crusaders, it’s a wonder the entire necropolis hasn’t risen up against the people of Kos.” Saph caught the descending stick in her outstretched palm.

            “All the more reason to complete our good work. By reconsecrating these graves we assure the eternal sleep of the dead and the protection of the living. Such is the will of Persephone.” Myrrine spoke the last with utmost reverence.

            “You’re here for the holy work,” Saph said while alighting from her perch. “I’m here because you don’t like to travel alone and I need inspiration. The oracles say a plague is due, and I’d like to have a few new dirges prepared.”

            “Then join me in prayer,” Myrrine said as she knelt before the next grave and gathered herself for another funerary supplication. “Familiarity with the Queen of the Underworld can only make your inspiration that much more divine.”

            “And ruin my trousers with grass stains and grave mold? I’ll sit or stand as it pleases me and sup from the muses’ cup as it pleases them.” Saph strode away to lean against a nearby tree. As Myrrine invoked her goddess yet again, Saph made ready to keep time with the ritual chant on her tympanum, then thought better of it. Instead, she took in the sights, sounds, and smells of the necropolis, marveling and the blessing Myrrine had called down allowing them to see by night as clearly as by day. Despite the surrounding landscape of quiet, moldering death, inspiration did not come, and Saph found herself longing for the jug of wine she new rested in Myrrine’s pack. Sacramental it might be, but as Saph herself sang in an ode to Dionysius during the Hekaton in Kos City, “any libation is fuel for the artist’s fire!

            Saph’s reverie and Myrrine’s prayer were cut short by a guttural shout of “Pup!” in the distance. The bard ran to the priestess’s side as the divine light flickered and died along with her concentration.

            “Others, here? Have the cultists returned?” Myrrine whispered to her companion.

            “No. I’m sure it’s just Hades calling for Cerberus,” Saph remarked.

            “No one about this late in the necropolis could be up to any good.”

            “No one but us, you mean,” Saph replied with a smirk.

            “This hallowed ground has been disturbed too many times of late,” Myrrine said, rising again. “I won’t have my good work be for nothing.”

            “No, we didn’t come here to face off against grave robbers or ghouls or whatever else calls for its dog in the dark. Let’s away. The graves will still be here tomorrow, and with any luck that’s all that will be here.”

            Myrrine made to reply, but both she and her friend were shocked into silence as a green ball of fire rose in the distance with a sound like the breath of titans.

            The priestess was the first to recover. Drawing from her robe a mace with a willow handle topped with an iron head in the shape of a pomegranate, Myrrine charged in the direction of the fireball’s fading glow with a new prayer on her lips.

            “Wait!” Saph called. “We’ve no need to join the corpses here!”

            Saph cursed as Myrrine and her prayers vanished over a low rise. Pulling a juggling knife from one of the many concealed pockets in her pied vest, Saph made all speed to catch up to her companion and the wine in her pack.

 

Elsewhere in the necropolis Uli cursed himself, the necropolis, and the thick brambles entangling his legs. Stepping lightly to flank the grave robbers, Uli had not stepped lightly enough. Tripping over a thorny vine, the young thief fell, rolled, and became hopelessly entangled. Fumbling for his blackened sword, he saw Volg outlined in torchlight, the two grave robbers advancing.

            Uli’s horror at failing his mentor was replaced with a new horror as the lid of the coffin within the open grave burst into the air in a thousand splintering pieces riding a column of green fire. Rising with the fire was a desiccated parody of the human form, tatters or funeral shroud and once-fine robes hanging from it’s skeletal frame, its mold-stained hair blowing in an ethereal wind. As it rose it leveled a crooked finger at Volk and the grave robbers.

Continued in Ill Met in the Necropolis: Part IV