Chapter 2: He Who Raises the Buried

A gaunt man with the pallid skin of a corpse emerged from the thick fog like a specter. He stepped over the fallen iron gate that once stood sentinel to the Sisterhood’s sacred grounds. Studying his new surroundings, his eyebrow bent in curiosity above penetrating blue eyes.

The grounds were unkempt: the grass was overgrown; weeds and thistles clawed their way between flagstone tiles; pools of mud and water dotted the landscape; petals from shriveled bundles of flowers crumbled to the earth in tiny, brittle pieces; roots and vines twisted round the wrought-iron fence surrounding the area.

It was not the neglect the man found curious, however.

Disturbed patches of freshly churned earth and shadowed pits littered the grounds in dozens and dozens of places, each spot resting next to a carved slab of granite. The stench of rotted death—a smell the man was intimately accustomed to—hung heavy in the moist air.

His voice a smooth bass, the man said, “Too many empty graves . . .”

A raven roosting on a nearby headstone cawed, a piece of rancid flesh dropping from its beak. The man stared after the bird as it took flight. It soared over vacated grave after vacated grave until eventually rising above and flying beyond the hill that dominated the center of the grounds. Atop the hill, an ancient oak devoid of color and life lorded over the graveyard, a menacing visage of hundreds of spidery limbs twisting in all directions. Skewered upon many of those branches were long, ashen shapes dripping with crimson. 

A gout of orange shot forth from the tree towards the man. It flew past his head, close enough to sway his long, white hair. The flaming arrow disappeared into the fog and struck something hollow with a dull thunk. The man raised both eyebrows at the tree, though the rest of his face remained impassive.

An athletic woman wearing crimson leathers and adorned in a bone helmet the shape of a raven’s skull strode onto a thick bough. A bow with a knocked arrow hung at her side. The woman peered down at the man, her sunken eyes dead, soulless. A din of a hundred hungering voices rose over the burial grounds. Dark, misshapen shapes crested the hill and lumbered past the tree.

The wight—the fallen rogue the man had come seeking—spoke, her voice cold and resonant. “Join my army of the dead.”

The hoard of grotesque monsters shambled down the hill towards the man.

The Priest of Rathma observed the undead tide with amusement. He breathed deeply, inhaling an ample amount of Essence—an invisible mist of necrotic energy formed from centuries of decayed corpses. Raising a hand, he willed intention into the Essence, and the hand ignited in haunting blue-white flames. He then thrust the flame-encrusted hand into the dense fog behind him. Like fire burning away parchment, the flames consumed the fog and revealed its hidden contents: a motionless undead army of bone and steel.

The man gazed at the fallen rogue, smirking. “You first.”

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