"Your choice is simple. Become my thrall or die." The necromancer's voice filled the town square with a sepulchre chill. His undead minions stared silently. The gathered villagers were mute, too stunned to react. Flames crackled in the festival bonfire, sinister and frightening in the stranger's presence.
Hulking monstrosities stepped into the square, blocking all exits. Pieced together from various predators, no two were alike. Lion heads snarled from bear bodies. Raptor beaks replaced claws on over-sized paws. Stingers and spikes and plated armor, all reeked of death.
A baby wailed, and the crowd's shock was broken.
Voices rose in panic and disbelief. Families pressed together, and everyone drew away from the monsters. Bright streamers and cheery decorations contrasted with the sharp tang of fear suddenly filling the square.
The necromancer smirked, resting a hand on his hound's head. The skinless beast glistened, hollow eye sockets scanning the crowd. The death mage was elegantly dressed and handsome, increasing his dread aura. "Now that I have your full attention, I shall repeat. Become my thrall or die."
Wringing his hands together, the village headman stepped forward. "Great lord, we do not understand."
A heavy sigh escaped the necromancer, and he rolled ebon eyes. "Surely you're not a simpleton. I require living servants to carry out various tasks. Any who give themselves voluntarily will be well treated. Any who refuse will be torn apart and used as raw materials."
Voices rose again, punctuated with several screams. The crowd stared at the undead beasts, pulses raised and skins crawling. "Lady save us," many cried, touch small charms around their necks.
The necromancer laughed heartily, tossing his head back. Villagers fell silent, their blood running cold. "Your Lady can do nothing to stop me," he said, crossing his arms over a slim chest.
"How can you be so certain, Cecil?" asked a sweet and high-pitched voice. The crowd murmured and parted, revealing the speaker.
Petite and lovely, their Lady was a demi-goddess of light and love. Fear was replaced by hope as her tiny steps carried her toward Cecil the necromancer. Her beatific expression bolstered the hearts of everyone present.
Abominations moved closer, looming over the villagers. Cecil smirked, stroking his hound. "Because I have a secret."
She stopped before him, unfazed by the stench of death surrounding him. "Cecil, you have nothing that I don't already know about." Her voice was sweet and soft, like a spring breeze.
Cecil cupped her cheek, smirking. "I have the Apotheosis Blade." As the words sank in, the necromancer plunged a black blade into the Lady's heart.
Her shriek filled the square, painful and loud. The air trembled with her agony, windows rattling in their frames. On and on her wail went, splitting the night itself.
No blood came from the wound. Cecil stared into her wide eyes, a wicked grin on his face. Everyone watched in awe, not quite believing what they were seeing.
The Lady began glowing, pale blue light surrounding her fragile body. Cecil closed his eyes and drew a deep breath. The nimbus shifted and grew, making its way over the necromancer. Soon, they were both surrounded.
Her scream continued, an unwavering note. The crowd began to stir, some raising cries as well. Cecil groaned, his hand trembling on the Lady's cheek.
The glow and the scream ended abruptly. Her petite body slumped to the ground, and Cecil wavered momentarily. He held the black dagger in a grip of iron, keeping his eyes closed.
Villagers grew restless as the moment drew out. The Lady was unmoving, and the necromancer was still there. Had they been saved? Had she really been slain? What was going on?
Cecil the necromancer opened his eyes slowly. They were now liquid pools of pure black. "I've changed my mind. There is no choice now." His abominations fell upon the people.