“The mortals do not live long enough to appreciate the true extent of their actions, and so only the Immortals recognise the true extent of their folly.”
– Nima Vortis, Reaper of Souls –
Tore from slumber, the child jolted upright in an instant. Her few years of life had never presented her with such a piercing, terror-stricken cry quite like the one that emanated from outside. Moments later, it stopped, leaving just the faint song of the wind and the restlessness of the shutters clipping back and forth at the wind’s behest. Her heart pounded from shock. So frightened she was that she could not begin to deliberate whether it was the last echoes of a scathing nightmare, or whether it was real. After sitting up tentatively for a few short moments, her hastened breaths outpaced only by her still-faster heart, the brave girl began to subdue her fear.
A distant bell began to toll. It was the city’s alarm. The growing town of Lirsk that she called home was under attack. Her innocent naivety ushered her gaze to the window as much as the insidious fear did. With the candle upon her chest of dolls waning on in its dying hours unhindered, she cast aside the sheets and lightly dropped from the bed.
She padded across the room, clambered up a chair, and unbarred the shutters. With only the slightest invitation, the wind beat the shutters open wide. Icy winds bellowed in blowing out the candle in a heart’s beat and ushered in the night’s chill bringing with it more distant calls of panic. She could see little for the dark save but flickering fires floating down the streets like a cluster of frantic wisps in the darkest hours of that morning.
These were, of course, the torches of guards, and their fires were converging on the graveyard.
The biggest terror came not from without, but from behind her. Her father burst into her bedroom door wearing but his brais and a shirt. “Get away from there!” he roared at her, as he stormed across the room to bar the shutters.
“What’s happening, Daddy?” the eight-year-old asked.
“Nothing, child,” he said, taking her hand so tightly it hurt and then dragging her out of her room in contrary to his reassurances. At the top of the stairs, he scooped her up and cantered downwards before setting her on her own two feet again. From near the front door, he took his scabbard and belt and began tying it around his waist. He marched to an open window and peered out. He saw armed guards racing past.
“Ullen!” he called. “What’s happening?”
“It’s those fucking necromancers!” another guard yelled back in disbelief. “The dead are alive! Marching through the graveyard! We could do with your help!”
Thesler said nothing and simply slammed the shutters closed. As a member of the guard himself, he had a responsibility to more than just his daughter – his daughter who had just heard what she considered good news…
“Is my mummy okay now?” Auralyl asked, not yet daring a hope.
“Stay there!” he yelled, storming from window to window, shutting them and barring them. First the lounge, then the kitchen, with such loud careless slams. He cared not though. Loud noises could not hurt her, unlike the horrors outside could. He checked the back door was still locked and then he came back to his daughter.
She was not there.
“Auralyl!” he yelled. “Stay by me!” He dashed back upstairs furiously to retrieve her, but a quick search from room to room did nothing to reveal her presence. He raced downstairs again, becoming most fearful when beside the front door he saw his cloak and his late wife's cloak. A third hanger that now held nothing quickly brought him to the realisation that his young sweetheart was no longer in the house.
A line of fearful guards stood outside the open gates of the graveyard. Countless dead roamed within.
“I stabbed her in the heart!” one yelled. “It just kept walking towards me!”
“You missed,” another told him, although the critic was clearly in denial. The stark realisation was, the blade hadn’t missed. This was clear, as the decaying woman within the graveyard blundered past the gates stealing all words they were sharing. In her bosom, the blade remained embedded in her chest. Behind her, countless others roamed around aimlessly.
“Has anyone been hit by one?” one asked.
“You think we’ll go like them if we have?” asked another.
“No, you silly bastard! Just need to know if they’re attacking, or if they’re just… lost.”
“If they’re dead and walk beyond their graves,” came the quiet Ericurst on the flank, his spear trembling. “…Then they are lost.” His eyes widened for what he saw next. “By the skies! Look!” He pointed, and there, wondering amidst the roaming dead, they saw her. A little blonde girl, donned in a hooded, white cloak, treading through the graveyard amidst the risen.
A guard misunderstood. “Not the time to get sentimental over early graves, Ericurst.”
“She’s not dead!” he blasted back at him. “We need to get her! Come on!”
He alone opened the gates and raced into the graveyard, but the crowds of mindless brought a chill to his heart. Still, he dared onwards. He dropped his spear then, and drew his sword, but still struck out at none, and even stepped back as others lurched towards him. He’d raise his sword but then they would simply pass by. He looked to the girl, but for the dark and the terrifying masses of roaming carcasses, he could not see her.
“Ericurst!” they yelled. “Get back here, now!”
Auralyl’s pace had quickened. She had slipped into the graveyard through some bent bars but was no more horror-stricken than anyone else, that night. But the child’s hope far outweighed her fears. She looked up from one looming risen to the next, in search of her mother who had both died and been buried that very same day. And then, so soon in her search it had to be the machinations of fate, she saw the blue dress her mother had been buried in, now dirtied and soiled by earth.
“Mummy!” she screamed in shock, for her mother it was, and only then did the child begin crying in a hysteric relief. But as she raced to her mum, arms open, and only able to expect such equal reciprocation, the deceased parent merely barged into her. She knocked her precious Auralyl over and stepped so fiendishly onto her arm in her passing, that the child thought it would break.
Auralyl would not be deterred though. “Mummy!” she yelled again, just in case her mother had not seen her whilst charging her to the ground. Just in case she had not heard, whilst being called at from so close. Auralyl raced anew at her mother, pulling on her dress for attention, begging for their reunion. Another mindless vestige of what was once human came barrelling into her from the side sending her back to the dirt. She cut her arm on a chipped gravestone.
She cried then for pain, for fear, and for loss. Her mother was truly gone. They all were. There was not a living being in sight. All were dead and terrible to behold. Her hope waned and was replaced by yet many more layers of much more fear. She choked on her own wailing and stared about. But every direction granted her only more lifeless, long legs, and uncaring, heartless, unfeeling faces.
She rotated, hands at her side, her blood seeping onto her soft, white cloak. Her tears streamed while remained lost in that shifting dance of the dead, trying to grasp any sight of sanctuary. But there was none.
There came a shout from above. It was not the distant voices of the panicking guards, nor the screams of the townsfolk that rung around even further away. Amidst the ringing bells of alarm, the voice she heard was a soft one, from above, and was that of a child not three years older than her. She looked up, and there, upon a mausoleum across from her, was a young tatty-haired street urchin. He lay flat on his belly staring down at her. He reached down from the great mausoleum doors waiting for her to clasp his hand.
“Come on, girl,” he called again. “Don’t be afraid on your own…” he advised from experience. “Take my hand. Get up here!”
Auralyl stared around but all else was a nightmare. How she had managed to so bravely march through them she would never know. She saw once more that blue dress amidst the tattered rags of almost-skeletal beings trudging about and unbearably silent. It was a silence that only served to better hear the extent of the panicking guards, though. She knew in that moment that the thing that had barged her down was no longer her mother, and never would be again.
There was another call from the young boy and she looked back to him as he looked her dead in the eyes, and bade her once more. The girl’s scrunched up in a new level of fear. The lad had offered her hope, and with hope came the possibility of failure. She raced forward, braving the risen with dashes and side-steps and once, even crawling between the legs of a particularly dense cluster of them. Rising up on the other side of this, she raced to the mausoleum doors – now so near – and reached up high on her tiptoes. She was just beyond the extended hand of salvation. She jumped, then. Their fingertips brushed one another’s, and it was good to feel life again, but it was not enough.
Several jumps later and she was none the safer. She turned to see a particular risen marching towards her, who had horrendously gaunt feature and limbs, with his lower jaw missing. She stepped back against the mausoleum door. Her cries ceased. Her tears that froze her cheeks that cold night had been stalled and her outstretched hands were as if glued to the cold, stone mausoleum doors behind her. Her quivering wide-opened mouth did not even offer a cloud of warm air. Her entire state of mind had frozen, and the risen man lumbered ever closer. Auralyl slowly descended, her eyes locked onto the looming danger until she was perched on the ground against the mausoleum door gazing up at the ever-taller monstrosity.
The boy came crashing down on its head, landing hard even on the soft ground. Both boy and it crumpled to the ground. The risen merely wriggled about as if it knew only how to walk, and could not function prone. The scruffy urchin was up within seconds, kicking it in the head again and again and again, but even long after its rotted brittle skull had been crushed, still the abomination wriggled.
The lad gave up, and raced to Auralyl, and descended beside her. He held her hand and threw his other arm around her pulling her close and gently rocked back and forth.
“Just close your eyes!” he said. “I’ll look after you. I promise.” And true to his word, there he remained, enveloping her, and freezing himself, doing all he could to shield her from the icy cold.
There they remained throughout that night. There they were found come dawn by a frantic Ericurst. He’d feared the worst initially so still they both were. Auralyl’s head was buried, wrapped in the protective arms of the urchin and her robes. The boy was quite awake, quivering immensely, but his eyes no less weary, but ultimately, remaining vigilant.
Ericurst’s imposing figure deflated in relief. He looked over his shoulder and called out so loudly that many would hear it. “Thesler! Over here! She’s over here!”
It had been a chilling, restless night.
The Arcane Enclave stood proudly at the heart of Lirsk. Within, the magic-wielding arcanists taught their students the three known realms of arcany. These realms were drakomancy, daemomancy, and necromancy. A magicer – that is to say, a tutor – of the necromancy arts, had gathered his class late one night. And there, in those twilight hours, they began their sanctioned experiments. The problem he posed before them had been simple. Seeing as a necromancer could truly only wield a small number of corpses to their whim at a time, could this be delegated instead to an inanimate object which would be imbued with their weaves of magic. An orb had been chosen, that would command as many as ten corpses at once. And so, the exhuming of ten deceased necromancers in the graveyard had been approved by the Arcane Enclave. When Magicer Llancil Tarlas and his class conducted his experiment inside the school, the ten rose. But with them, countless others also clawed their way out of their own graves and began staggering about aimlessly, terrifying the entire town. All that was dead was risen. Rats and all.
That night would forever scar Lirsk’s name. It would put them at odds with their druidict cousins who had lived in Avaria for centuries before the Kethic people arrived with their arcane ways. It would see necromancy despised by all, and its use a crime against humanity. Its utter mention reminded of violation of the dead and inspire anger as much as fear. It had become known as the Restless Night.
As guards fell upon their fallen loved ones. The thrust of a sword into the eye socket of a walking corpse was never enough, though, and it was ultimately the necromancers who had halted them. And yet, despite ending the crisis, for their crimes, it was the necromancers that would pay the ultimate price. Even those who had no hand in it were escorted by the Enclave Guards, with the circlets of felons about their crowns. These circlets caused a great deal of suffering to the arcanists and ensured they were not able to weave their arts whilst in custody. Many of these were condemned to death. But then confusion ensued. Some involved were freed, and so they fled. Some who had no part in it were put to the torch, and there was no way of determining which of the charred carcasses belonged to who. There was no register of who had been condemned and who hadn’t, save that the magicer of necromancy, Llancil Tarlas, and his pregnant wife, were torched before their lord.
Ultimately, the furious lord of Lirsk, Radalyn Alarxi, exiled all necromancers, and placed his daughter, Elryn Alarxi, at the highest echelon of the Enclave – leading the Arcane Council. She would ensure such an event would not transpire on his watch again. Also, during this event – the archdruid, a title given to one man who had seen the druids to victory over the vast arrays of Ullumnic raiders – saw himself for the puppet he was. He was there only to prop up favour for the Kethic lord amongst the druids and he thus forsook his empty title.
Many things changed that night.