Originally appeared in The Secrets of Magic
The Ilyssa witch had broken the wing of the imp in his beard, and he cursed Virot as he grappled with it. “Kill him!” he roared to the human zombies, and they dully shambled forward.
Virot stepped behind the ogre and placed his bleeding hand on the back of its skull. He growled out another series of syllables, and the ogre turned its sightless eyes upward as its mouth opened in a silent scream of agony.
The spell took effect, and the ogre’s body deflated like a punctured skin of water. As its muscles wasted and shrank, Virot’s swelled and expanded. In moments, the ogre was a spindly sack of bones held together by tough red flesh. Virot had grown accordingly taller, wider, and heavier as the ogre’s might coursed through his body. He cast his cloak back, his muscles rippling with stolen strength. He stomped down with his right foot, squashing both of the goblin’s heads into the hardwood floor. The wolf snapped as he pulled his foot free.
“Let’s put the Ilyssa zombies to the test.” Virot tucked his sword back into its sheath. “Are they truly undead or just reanimated corpses?”
He waited until all three zombies were closer and then smiled his most charming smile at the bearded witch. Then, in a blur of motion, he plowed through them all like a barbed arrow through clay. One moment he was crouched and facing the zombies, and the next he was on the far side of the room covered with necrotic gore. A trail of rotting flesh, broken limbs, and other sundered flesh lay strewn in his wake.
Before the ogre’s borrowed bulk faded, Virot struck again. He streaked across the room behind the three witches with his saber at calf level. The bearded Ilyssa and his cronies screamed as the muscles and tendons in their lower legs split beneath the blade. They fell painfully to the floor, crippled and immobile.
Virot’s body started to shrink back to his normal size. The ogre itself remained emaciated, however, its fabled strength gone forever. Virot prodded one of the severed, decomposing arms with his boot.
“Just as I thought. If this were a true zombie instead of a cheap Ilyssa knockoff, these pieces would still be after me.” He sauntered back toward the ogre, casually clicking another command to his imps. The vicious little creatures were crippled and bloody, but they had enjoyed their messy work. The one-eyed man was now a no-eyed man, and both the bearded Ilyssa and the harlequin had been savagely mauled about the neck and face.
“You’re dead, Maglan,” the Ilyssa husked. “I am the second-born son of the Ilyssa. My family will—”
“Almost done,” Virot called pleasantly. He stood behind the ogre once more, raised his saber, and plunged the length of it down into the top of the wasted brute’s head. The ogre barely twitched as it died.
“This is something new that I’ve been eager to try,” he said. He spoke in the harsh language of his family spellcraft once more, and he absorbed the ogre’s death as he had its mass. A whirling halo of smoke and sparks formed around his head, and he held his bleeding hand out toward the imps.
“Return,” he said. The winged monsters scrabbled and flew across the room in unison, disappearing headfirst into the slash on Virot’s palm.
“Mercy,” wailed the now-blind witch. “Forgive me, Maglan. I am your servant. Mercy.”
“Oh, please,” Virot said. “Have some pride.” With one hand on his sword and the other extended, he went from witch to witch, touching each on the forehead and inscribing in blood the same complicated character. When the Ilyssa resisted, Virot stabbed him lightly in the ribs.
“If it were up to me,” Virot said, “I would keep you three around. It seems so wasteful to cast conquered enemies aside when they could be put to work instead. But mother was quite clear on this issue.”
Virot smiled. “Not tonight.” He paused, bringing the precise words out of his memory. “Hear me, marked ones. On behalf of the Maglan, and especially myself, I offer your most valuable treasure to the Wealthy One. Your lives are forfeit to Kuberr.”
The bearded witch coughed and spat his final defiance at Virot. The masked witch struggled to produce another whistle through his torn lips and shattered mask. The blind witch simply groveled. Virot waited until their efforts were spent, then spoke clearly in the silence as they gathered their breath.
“In his name, I bid you—Suffer.”
All three of the crippled witches suddenly stiffened, convulsing in pain and choking on agony.
The skin on their bones hardened and cracked, growing blacker and blacker as their blood became a desiccating poison and their veins spread it throughout their bodies.
Three separate rattles groaned out of three separate throats. The Ilyssa and his co-conspirators slumped heavily to the floor and shuddered, never to rise again.
Virot Maglan surveyed the carnage in the silent room. He smiled, his dark eyes fairly twinkling in the gloom.
“Goodnight, gentlemen. It’s been a pleasure, in the truest sense of the word.”
The Maglan family manor dominated the west end of the city. It was a huge building, three stories high surrounded by a full acre of swampy ground. The manor was enclosed inside spiked gates and stone walls and was warded with the most fearsome spells imaginable. Virot strolled through the secret entrance he had created in the northwest corner of the wall without announcing himself and without fear. As a member of the family, the manor’s magical defenses were his to command.
As the third son of the house, he had also been raised to be more terrible than anything he might encounter inside or outside of the manor walls. He heard the heavy tread of the guard beasts in the distance and saw the indistinct shapes of life-sucking shades flitting through the trees. He paid them no more mind than he did the carnivorous grass beneath his feet. All of the resident monsters recognized him by sight, smell, or aura, and all found somewhere else to lurk or else cowered fearfully as he passed.
He found two of his older siblings, Valdim and Vinyata, waiting for him on the front steps. They were complimentary twins, mirror images of each other. Valdim had been born first, with one blue eye, one green eye, and half a head of sharp white hair. Vinyata was the same, but her eyes were switched and her half-tresses sprouted from the opposite side of her scalp. Mother was especially proud of the twins, for she had performed many painful and complicated rituals while they gestated to grant them their special gifts. Neither was as powerful a witch as Virot, but together they were capable of unparalleled feats of clairvoyance.
“Hello, little brother,” Vinyata called. She was the more outgoing of the two.
“Vinya,” Virot said. “Val.” He gestured to the skein of silver thread that his brother held looped around his hands and his sister was rolling into a ball. “Are you working or playing?”
“We are waiting,” Vinya said. She turned to face Virot and winked her green eye. In unison, she and her twin said, “We know what you did.”
To be continued...
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