by Chris Herron
Grah rose his shield, deflecting the Cultist’s sword. The impact of steel on wood rattled his very bones. The black-toothed tribal grinned wickedly with a face covered in intricate runes. Grah lashed out with the rusted saber in his sword hand, snaking it around in an upward stab. It pierced the cultist’s jaw and spitted through the top of his helmet with a meaty thunk.
Grah jerked his blade, but it was stuck firm in the poor bastard’s brain holster. As he fought to free his weapon, a second cultist came in from behind with a spear. Grah looked down, surprised to see the wooden shaft poking out from between his ribs. This would have been a serious issue if he had any flesh or organs still clinging to said ribs. Still, it pissed him off.
He never understood why enemies thought stabbing a reanimated skeleton in the chest would work. But, they always tried regardless. And he had met more than his share of evil-doers, monsters, and deranged eldritch beings since the necromancer had summoned him. As Grah couldn’t die, the party of adventurers relied on him to keep them safe. A ‘meat shield’ as they say in the business. The irony of this was not lost on him.
Grah bashed the rim of his wooden shield into the torso of the second cultist, crumpling him to the ground with a shattered diaphragm. Grah twisted the spear from his ribs, and thrust it through the man’s chest, pinning him to the ground.“Graaaaaah!”
Ok, so it wasn’t the snappiest of one-liners, but since it was the only sound he could make without an esophagus, it would have to do.
Grah looked around to see how his party had fared. The enemies all lay dead. So did his party. “Grah!” he swore.
Cormack, the party’s musclebound leader, was crushed in the jaws of a mighty, scaled beast that the cultists had been summoning. The beast had apparently died choking on Cormack’s lumpy barbarian torso. He had been the only man Grah had ever known to wear a leather thong and a matching top. Something about his nipples being sensitive to sunburn.
Nadira, the elven thief, had been stabbed in the back with no less than three spears, unused healing potions still clutched tightly in either hand. Her bandoleers, which would normally have held dozens of knives, were filled instead with bandages, disinfectants and other medical supplies.
And that left the necromancer, Melvin. A squat little man with secondhand robes far too large for him. From the look of it, he had tripped and impaled himself on his own dagger. Oh, Melvin.
Grah attempted to sigh. It wasn’t that he was bad at his job. In fact, he was proud to say that even when he had been alive, there were few foes he couldn’t best. Losing the ability to die simply made his skill all the more formidable. But this group of adventurers was. . . well, let’s just say Grah had more brains than all the others combined, and his skull was literally full of cobwebs. It takes a special type of group to recruit a thief for the job of Healer.
To add to the issue, Cormack refused to use weapons. He insisted that his fists were ‘The Hands of Justice!’ And when Melvin had conjured Grah, he rose to the summons more out of boredom than any mystical compulsion. Grah had a suspicion the necromancer was actually a drunk who had won his ‘Tome of the Dead’ in a card game.
Grah tossed his shield aside and slumped to the ground, using the dead necromancer as a chair. What the heck was he supposed to do now? Wait for another party? Lay down and go back to being dead? He was, technically, still tethered to the necromancer and couldn’t wander off without someone else to bind him.
That’s when he noticed the necromancer’s magic tome sitting at his feet. He reached down and flipped it open. As he thumbed the pages with a bony finger, he could feel the magic emanating from the text. An idea formed. He found the passage he was looking for and stood. He struck a dramatic pose, held his free hand out before him, and recited the incantation, “GRAAAAAH!”
There was a flash of light, a rumble of distant thunder, and the party members slowly started to stir. Grah was surprised he had nailed the complex pronunciations of the enchantment on the first try. The undead adventurers turned to face their new master, and in unison, asked the question, “Graah. . ?”