I am no stranger to counting down the hours. If I could have wished for anything, it would be a clock.
Although I can’t tell the time of the day yet, I am already aware of Lord Horus’ daily routine.
To be more precise, rather than his routine,what I had figured out was when he visits this particular room.
He always visits the morgue well after dark. There have been no exceptions thus far.
If my calculations aren’t wrong, he visits the morgue once a day, at night without fail and takes me out to the woods to hunt.
The time spent hunting varies from day-to-day but we always return to the mansion before dawn and the Lord puts me together in the morgue. At first, he used to accompany me all the way to the morgue and would fix me up there. But as time went on, I don’t know if walking all the way had become a chore to him, he began to command me to walk back to the morgue by myself.
He does not visit here until it is time for us to go hunting.
I have very little knowledge regarding the undead. One of the things I do know is that the undead are weak to sunlight. I’m afraid that is the reason the Lord brings me along to hunt at night.
I don’t know what the Lord does during the day. He may be an excellent mage but he is still human.
Unlike me, he needs sleep. I suppose the Lord uses the time I am out of commission, to eat, sleep and answer the calls of nature.
As far as I know, there are only two people living in this huge mansion including the Lord.
The Lord is the only one I need to be wary of. Well, I need to be wary of them both but as long as I’m careful I should be able to evade their eyes.
I quietly tiptoe out the morgue and reach the stairs.
Only the rooms in the mansion are well-lit. The rest of it is practically dark since the only few existing windows are all boarded up with wooden planks. Even so, I could see very clearly as if it were illuminated.
The mansion has a lot of blind spots. So I should be fine as long as I stay careful.
I cheer myself up, clench my fists and focus my mind.
I realized after being reborn, just how chaotic my body had been before.
The beating of the heart. The sound of breathing. It is true that it felt very strange to possess a body without all that, but my eyesight, hearing and sense of smell were all much sharper than before.
If I focus my mind, I should be able to even pick up the sounds of someone else breathing.
And as old habits die hard, I take in a long breath and steel my resolve, taking the first step towards true freedom.
☠ ☠ ☠
I carefully proceed to explore the mansion that is enveloped in darkness.
The aim being the study or the library or just about any place where I can find documents related to my present condition.
Fortunately, I can read and write. As I was confined to the bed, reading was my only pleasure.
The only language I can read is ‘Lattice’, which is the official language of the country I was born. Since the Lord seems to use the same language, I shouldn’t run into any problems on that front.
In any case, I just want any kind of information I can lay my hands on.
For now, I decided to start searching far away from the supposed laboratory which the Lord always occupied.
Unlike the mansion I lived in before, this place had no unnecessary fancy decorations except for rooms being carpeted. It gave the impression of a cold, inhuman place.
I have to be careful to not let too much sound escape my feet.
I should be fine if I keep it down. As any sounds would be masked…by the other footsteps.
If I close my eyes and focus, I can make out regular, solid footsteps echoing through the mansion. There were more than one set of footsteps.
There are two people, including the Lord, who live in this mansion. If we were to talk about the undead, I’m sure there are a lot more than that.
There were several sentinels on guard throughout the whole mansion. Furthermore, they were all undead sentinels.
This place is Lord Horus’ palace so to speak. The dark palace inhabited by the King of the Undead.
The footsteps of the undead sentinels followed a regular pattern and since they weren’t really trying to muffle them, I can easily make them out even from afar. I hear footsteps coming from both in the front and behind me.
I can’t escape them. I retreat to the end of the passageway and crouch down.
There is no impatience in me. I am ready to break into a run anytime so I settle down and wait.
My fears were realized as what suddenly appeared out of the dark was a skeleton that was lightly steeped in darkness. The difference between an ordinary skeleton and an undead one, was that the latter’s vitals were covered by some light armor and it was armed with a sword. Also that it was still up and about despite not possessing a brain or a heart.
The armor and the helmet scrape against the bones and make a slight rattling sound. I could hear two of those skeletons walking abreast as if to block the passageway.
Seeing them walking around despite not possessing any of the vital organs was just too unnatural and abhorrent that had I encountered them when I was alive, I may have passed away from the shock.
They were referred to as ‘Skeletons’ in stories. Clad in armor and equipped with a sword and a shield, maybe they should be called ‘Skeleton Knights’.
I came across them a lot this past week as I accompanied the Lord on our way to the woods.
I was made to spar with it once. In direct contrast to its appearance, the skeleton knight was agile and had excellent sword skills. Although I had the upper hand in terms of strength and body weight, it wasn’t an opponent that I could win against as of now.
I may not feel any pain but any physical damage inflicted on my body will make my movements sluggish no matter what. I could maybe take on one of them but two at a time would just result in me being cut into pieces.
My fight isn’t over even if by some miracle I end up winning against them. This lair of the evil mage was heavily guarded against intruders.
An ever-present army of skeleton knights patrol the corridors. Giving them the slip is close to impossible. They do not tire nor do they need sleep, just the same as me.
But if my assumptions are correct, I should be fine. I had to roll the dice eventually anyway.
The skeleton knight comes to a halt and with its body still, it rapidly lowers its head and looks down at me.
I shrink into a ball and stay completely rooted to the spot. One second felt like a ten or a hundred.
The skeleton knight stared at me through its empty eye sockets for a while before turning away as if it had lost interest. It turned around to resume its patrol again.
I breathed a habitual sigh of relief and started to relax my stiffened body.
I had assumed that I would not be attacked.
It wasn’t that I was invisible to their eyes. Simply put, they had been ordered to not attack…a fellow undead like me.
The first time I came across them, the skeleton knights suddenly came at me with their swords drawn. And the Lord had to order them otherwise. Since then, they have been mindlessly obeying the order.
I do not know if the skeleton knights possess any intelligence like I do, but judging from their behaviour I doubt they have a will of their own. Also, considering that they wanted to attack me despite the fact that I was with the Lord at the time, I would say they are nothing more than puppets that move as the Lord commands.
Ironically, one of the advantages of being placed in the Lord’s mansion, is the fact that I am one of his undead.
Owing to that, I will not be attacked by his other undead subordinates. I only need to be wary of ones who definitely possess intelligence. That would be the Lord himself and one other being in the mansion. But, it would be the end of me to be discovered by the Lord especially.
If he were to ever find out that I was walking about freely, he would realize that his commands weren’t thorough.
In which case, he would either kill me or worse command me to revoke my freedom for sure. Taking my future into concern, that is something I certainly need to prevent from ever happening.
I had successfully cleared a hurdle. I slowly got up and checked if I could feel the Lord’s presence nearby.
After the confirmation, I reached out my hand to the door that was the closest to me.
☠ ☠ ☠
I carefully opened the doors and inspected the rooms one at a time.
As luck would have it, none of the doors had been locked. I was aware that the Lord personally locked his laboratory before we ventured out to the woods everyday but he doesn’t seem to care about the rest of it enough to have them locked.
Every door had a keyhole without a key in its rightful place. Turning the knob made the door easily swing open. Come to think of it, the cellar had a keyhole as well but I have never seen it locked.
I am afraid it is because of the undeniable fact that the Lord is the absolute ruler of this mansion.
No being in the mansion would ever defy Lord Horus Carmon. Regardless of whether it was an undead or a living person, every being that occupied this mansion were slaves to the Lord. So basically, there was no need to lock any door.
I am sure that a necromancer who breaks the taboo with his practices has his fair share of enemies. It was the duty of the skeleton knights to protect the mansion against any such intruders.
I am not sure of the actual number, but I would venture that there are dozens of skeleton knights patrolling just inside the mansion. They patrol in pairs which does feel like a bit of an overkill in terms of defense.
I do not possess any lock-picking skills. If any of the doors had happened to be locked, I would have had to think of ways to get around it. I was lucky.
It would seem that most of the rooms weren’t being used.
The undead have no use for a room. This mansion is simply too big for just two people. Although the mansion did not span two levels, it was quite expansive as far as I could tell looking at it from the outside.
Most of the rooms were covered in dust. They were all fully furnished for what it’s worth, but it didn’t feel like anyone had lived in it. I pulled on a drawer to verify my speculations, and as expected it was empty. The rooms were in terrible need of house-keeping as running a finger across the furniture left a thin layer of dust on it.
I suppress the emerging annoyance at the search being unproductive and press on.
I make my way across the cellar and away from the Lord’s laboratory. I do not think he would ever visit the far end of the mansion, but one can never be too careful.
Assuming that there is some sort of a study or a library, I suppose it is highly likely that it is located in close proximity to the Lord’s laboratory?
I come to a halt surprised by my own revelation. If I were him, I would keep the study close to my own room for easy access.
However, the closer I get to the laboratory, the higher the chances of me getting caught.
I noticed no sort of bed in the laboratory. The Lord may be an evil mage but I doubt even he would sleep on the floor. I’m sure he uses another for that purpose.
Running into him would mean the end of me. Any blunder on my part will result in death or loss of freedom. Throwing caution to the winds… should be my last option.
After walking for a few minutes, contrary to my fears, I came across a room with rows of bookshelves at the end of the passageway.
The room looked twice as big as the ones I came across so far. It had gigantic bookshelves and the smell of old books filled the air.
It was quiet and had no other occupants. The bookshelves were crammed with thick volumes of books and maybe they ran out of space, for there were also piles of books everywhere in the room.
I ran a finger across the bookshelf and unlike all the other rooms I inspected earlier, there was no dust accumulated here. I expect a servant cleans the room regularly, which means I can’t stay here for too long.
I have always liked books. I was in no shape to read anything right before I died, but books have been my only friends for as long as I have known.
A little excited, I take a look at the spines of the books. Upon doing so, I could not help but frown.
It took me aback that most of the books were all written in a language different from Lattice, which was the only one I knew.
I wonder if they are grimoires of some kind or written in some sort of code that only a necromancer can comprehend. I can’t even recognize the language.
That dampened my spirits a little but I pull myself together.
I never would have had the time to peruse all the books in this room anyway. Maybe it is for the better to not have too many options.
I glanced through the books once again. And, I came across a book that was written in Lattice.
It was an old book. It was titled ‘The History and Perils behind the Abominable Source of Immortality’.
Pulling out the book from the jam packed bookshelf was no easy feat. I manage to pull it out and try to flip it open.
The very first thing that entered my line of sight was the following sentence.
“ The undead are cursed beings. The souls interfered with by a necromancer will become eternal prisoners of torment, only to be liberated when smitten by the holy Gods”.
My face twisted into a smile at the unexpectedness of the sentence. I felt like I had just listened to a morbid joke of sorts.
If the undead were cursed and at this very moment, my soul is being tormented, then what would you call my bitter past life?
That pain, the hardship and endless torment on the body, can only be understood by those that have suffered through it.
Those days when the pain was so terrible that sleep would evade me. Less and less people came by to visit with every progressing day. The faces of the light magic healers that had lost all hope and the feeling of helplessness I felt towards my own impending death.
Those blessed could never understand the sufferings of the cursed.
What I cannot stand is to be deprived of free will, that said, being reborn as an undead leaves me no despair.
Before when I was alive, had I been told that transforming into an undead would liberate me from my never-ending agony, I would have agreed without the slightest hesitation.
Needless to say, I hold no resentment toward Lord Horus Carmon. Even if I came to be as a result of the practice of abominable arts.
This book does not seem like it will be of any use.
I shut it and cram it between two books and decide to look for ones that would be of more help.