The only answer Richard’s question got was a deluge of skeletons and zombies. He raised his burning sword in response, slowly pointing it forward. All sorts of howls and roars erupted from behind him, as the ferocious monsters that were his party led the army forward, pouncing towards the group of undead.
The fastest of the lot was Waterflower, bounding across the sludge like it was level ground as she flitted past Richard into the midst of the undead. Flowers bloomed in her path, looking quite like lotuses as the enemies were set aflame like torches of holy fire. The sheer effectiveness of Flowsand’s flames far surpassed anyone’s imagination, as even a thousand enemies melted away like butter without the ability to withstand a single blow.
The opponents were cleared up quickly, and the party came up to the centre of the swamp. As if on cue, the holy flames at the tip of Richard’s blade disappeared.
A lone island appeared in Richard’s sight, with an attention-grabbing two-storey building upon it. The place looked crude and dilapidated, apparently having already been around for quite a while.
A lanky man was stood by the door, looking at least thirty years old. The unkempt hair, dark circles, and pale skin would leave a deep impression on anyone, and his robes were so filthy that it was impossible to tell what they once looked like. His lips were dried out, looking an ashen green. If not for the slight rise and fall of his chest, he would seem no different from a zombie himself.
Richard stepped foot on the little island, his sword screeching against the ground. He narrowed his eyes at the man in front of the building, speaking dully, “You dare to try and control my contract beast. The guts! Is this considered robbing me?"
The man furrowed his brows, his eyes stuck on Flowsand. A hoarse and unpleasant voice sounded out, “What a terrifying cleric!”
It was only then that he scanned the rest of the party, his eyes narrowing at the sight of Waterflower. That mental counterattack had evidently etched a strong impression, or rather great pain, onto his mind.
At the end of it all, his gaze landed on Richard once more. “You’re a mage?” He couldn’t help but frown, asking that question with uncertainty. He’d felt great sword skills from Richard during the battle, but now he was feeling powerful mana from the boy.
“Mm, level 9,” Richard answered calmly.
Richard had tossed over a detection spell while the man was judging the rest, and strangely enough he seemed not to have noticed it as he didn’t shield himself with his mana. The results had left him slightly surprised— this was a level 12 necromancer with six rune slots and upto 90 points of capacity!
The necromancer gave Richard a close look, “Well then, esteemed sir, I would like to duel you based on magic tradition. Although I am of a higher rank, I’ve already lost all of my servants and have less than a quarter of my mana remaining. My request is not unfair.”
“Magic tradition?” Richard asked, an underlying meaning to his words, “Do other mages consider you one of their kind?” Outside of the abyss, hell, and planes that leaned towards evil, even places under control of dark gods had no favour for necromancers who played with souls and disturbed the peace of the dead.
The man’s expression changed, immediately growing malicious and twisted as he howled, “That’s true. Since everyone believes us to be evil and blood-thirsty, then so be it! I hid myself here because I don’t wish to kill with abandon, but you still come knocking at my door. Since you aren’t willing to acknowledge my right as a mage, then come at me together! I’LL TEAR YOU ALL APART!”
Richard took a close look at the necromancer, the dancing numbers in his vision gradually growing clear. It was true that the necromancer didn’t have much mana left, and basically all of his permanent familiars had been killed. A necromancer without undead was like a knight without a mount.
He quickly decided on his next tactics, “Although you aren’t acknowledged by the rest of the mages, I am still willing to duel you based on tradition.”
“My Lord! There’s no need for that, is there? Can’t we all just swarm and defeat him like when you dealt with Menta?” Olar asked from the side. He was the last person whose weapon was enchanted by Flowsand, and the holy flames on his arrows would be a huge threat to the necromancer.
Richard waved his hand to stop the bard, “No, this one is different. He’s a mage.”
A mage? While the necromancer was a mage indeed, Olar could not understand why they needed to treat mages and melee fighters differently.
On the other hand, the necromancer’s stiff face changed. He adjusted his robes, taking two steps forward to state solemnly, “I am Zendrall, a level 12 necromancer.”
Richard buried his sword into the mud without much thought, taking a step forward himself, “Richard. Level 9 mage, and runemaster.”
The word ‘runemaster’ sent a sliver of doubt flashing across Zendrall’s face. He’d evidently never heard of such a profession. However, they quickly moved on to the duel, facing each other with twenty metres of distance between them.
Although it was impossible to tell what spell Zendrall began casting because of the different language, a dark grey magic formation immediately appeared in front of the necromancer. A dense power of death pervaded the air, and power surged into the throbbing formation, as if some live creature wanted to break out. Richard’s senses told him that this would be a Summon Undead spell, and with Zendrall’s level a powerful undead creature would soon appear on the plane.
The formation pulsed with negative energy, sending out terror and darkness into the minds of those nearby. The creature already had such great spiritual power before even appearing, making it obvious that this was a powerful formation. The only downside was the duration of the cast.
Richard had no intent of casting a spell himself, instead retrieving the remnant page of the Book of Holding as he silently activated it with a shake of his hands. Five direwolves immediately appeared on the battlefield, howling as they pounced onto the necromancer together. Dozens of blue and green lights did their utmost to protect the necromancer’s body, but a crackling sound rang out very quickly. His defensive spell had been damaged, and although two of the wolves were sent flying he was pushed back as well. The summoning spell he was halfway through was naturally interrupted.
Richard patiently waited until Zendrall could hold on no longer, raising his hand and dispelling the spell to break the direwolves down into pure mana. The shield spell had been completely decimated under their attack, and the necromancer’s already shabby clothes were almost turned into mere strips of cloth. There were bruises and injuries all over his body, but his fatal points were still protected even though on the verge of breaking down. None of the injuries he’d sustained would kill him.
Zendrall struggled to sit up as Richard drew closer. He tidied up his tattered robes, “To be able to die in a fair duel is my honour. Do it!”
Richard gazed at Zendrall, “Are you that eager to die?”
“Of course not! I still have far too many hypotheses to test… But I am an evil necromancer, not tolerated by any humans. If someone finds out, I will be burnt at the stake,” Zendrall laughed bitterly.
Indeed. Even in Norland necromancers were few in number, considered the enemy of all living souls.