Reaping and Sowing

I am returning to the world of my first novel, Chosen, which you can read on this site. If you haven’t, I heartily encourage you to do so. I’ll wait. Finished? Excellent! This is a story of our hero, Sir Garfan, set before the events of Chosen. That’s it, start reading.

When the wicked speak, their words will be harvested to be naught but naught”

-From the Prophecy of the unending scroll

Giant’s Skull Keep was made from a giant’s skull. ‘Little on the nose,’ thought Sir Garfan as he strode to the entrance.

The front door, an enormous tooth, carved with a skeletal theme stood ajar. That tracked. No guards. That did not track. He looked up to see if there was a cauldron of boiling hot oil about to be poured over him or a squad of archers. Nope, no upper defenses, at least none he could detect.

Approaching the tooth door, it was about twice as tall as he was, Sir Garfan knocked. Four raps, a pause, then twice more. If he did it any other way, his geas would cause him all sorts of problems and he didn’t need more.

No footsteps of troops could be heard nor flickers of eldritch seen. It felt like a trap. If it looked too easy it had to be a trap. Right? Better to get things started he thought as he drew his enchanted blade, Alacritas, and continued into the necromancer’s fortress.

Frankly, the place was a mess. Most necromancers were very keen on crypt-chic. Skull motifs, artfully placed cobwebs, eerie lighting, and so on. Giant’s Skull Keep looked as if the household staff was on strike. There were piles of bones everywhere. It was more sad than scary.

After an exhaustive search, Sir Garfan found himself on the roof of the keep. There was the necromancer he was here to dispatch. He recognized her by her distinctive face tattoo of a demon skull over her face.

Grumilida Grave-Mistress, hey there. I’m here to avenge the good folk of Near Dale,” said Sir Garfan in his best let’s get down to business tone.

Grumilida, who was kneeling in dirt looked up with an expression of resigned annoyance and asked, “Oh, so they got you, did they?”

Yeah, they…” he trailed off. The top of Giant’s Skull Keep looked as though someone had dumped a large pile of dirt on top and then haphazardly spread it around.

What’s going on?” he asked.

With a sigh, Grumilida brushed her hands and answered, “If you must know, I’m trying my hand at gardening.”

Excuse me?”

GARD-EN-ING!” she said slowly and much more loudly.

I heard you!”

Okay then.”

They both looked at each other as an awkward moment lingered.

Are you gardening the dead?” he asked.

No! That’s not how gardening works!” she snapped back.

But the dead go in the ground.”

That’s called burying! No one ever said, ‘My uncle Tibum just died, we’re gardening him this Sunday afternoon, can you make it?’”

I thought it might be a necromancer thing.”

Well, it isn’t.”

Pointing with the tip of Alacritas, he gestured to the uneven plot of soil.

Then what are you trying to do?”

I’m gardening!” she yelled.

Grumilida Grave-Mistress, queen of zombies, ravager of the Crypt of Aaah-Vantak, leader of the Legion of Mortus, and seducer of the Nameless Lich has become a gardener?”

I was till you barged in.”

This feels like a trap.”

Yes! You found me out! I lured you up here in your magic armor with your legendary sword to confront you in my dirtiest gardening togs and no undead to defend me. Diabolical!”

Sir Garfan looked more carefully. Grumilida was not garbed in her signature white and silver gown, nor wearing her crown made from the antlers of a demon stag, or wielding the infamous staff of blood steel that had made her the terror of the living. Rather she was dressed in a hodgepodge of tan, brown and grey clothing, all stained. The only thing she wielded was a rusty hand trowel.

You abandoned your desire to be the Empress of Death to be a simple gardener?”

She stared at him with a ‘finally he gets it’ expression on her smudged face.

Can I ask why?”

Will you leave if I say no?”

Probably not.”

Fine, I’ll tell you. Have a seat,” Grumilida relented and pointed to a large wooden bucket. Sir Garfan turned it up upside down and sat.

I was being served some excellent wine by the skeleton of my great-great grandfather when it hit me. Someday, I’ll be serving wine to some descendants of mine. It just seemed so pointless.”

Are you married? I didn’t know.”

She gestured pointed at herself and said, “I have options! Believe you me! Lots of people want a piece of this!”

Fine, fine!”

Whatever! As I was saying, it all felt so pointless. So I raised an army at the site of the Battle of Dusk-Axe.”

Where the Dwarves and Elves fought.”

Exactly. I raised the dead on both sides and made them fight. But it didn’t cheer me up.”

Because it was pointless?”

NO! But yes, it didn’t help.”

Garfan thought the whole meddling with the finality of the grave was at best an affront to the natural order of the cosmos and at worst, rude. Knowing that a necromancer likely didn’t share that outlook, he just nodded.

So I went to speak with the Oracle at Pan-Fan-Land.”

Pan-Fan-Lan,” Sir Garfan corrected.

I always heard Pan-Fan-Land.”

“Actually, it’s an interesting tale, in the distant past-”

Does it really matter? You know what I’m talking about, right?”

He tugged his left ear twice and breathed through his nose. It would be okay.

I guess so.”

As I was saying, I went to consult the Oracle. She told me this, ‘Try something new.’”

The knight looked at this erstwhile gardener and eventually said, “That’s it?”

Yes. Simple in its profundity.”

You traveled across the face of the Land, fighting monsters and enemies and the ravages of the seasons for ‘Try something new’?”

It was the way she said it,” sniffed Grumilida, “You had to be there.”

So you took that super vague advice to mean you should be a gardener?”

Yes! It’s the opposite of raising the dead! Raising food for people to eat!”

I think it might be healing people instead of just reanimating corpses of their dead relatives,” offered Sir Garfan.

Well it isn’t, it’s gardening!”

Did you try healing?”

It’s so easy to criticize.”

I’m going to guess that people don’t want to be healed by a necromancer?”

It doesn’t matter because I am a gardener now and completely redeemed.”

What about all the terrible stuff you did before this?”

I’ll give my crops away to the poor and stupid. Well, not free. Seeds cost money, and my time is worth something. Maybe a nominal fee. Market value.”

You don’t sound redeemed.”

Oh I’m redeemed alright. Look at all this dirt!”

How long ago did to see the Oracle?” he inquired.

I guess about a year ago.”

Here’s the thing, you sent the undead to attack Near Dale two weeks ago,” Sir Garfan pointed out.

That could’ve been any necromancer.”

Except for that full-face tattoo you got there. Kinda a giveaway.”

I was having a bad day. You think it’s easy to get turnips to grow? It is not!”

Do you want to make this easy or hard?” he asked as he pointed Alacritas at her.

Let’s make it hard,” stated Grumilida, her eyes glowing an unnatural shade of green.

She spoke some ancient words and the floor began to shudder.

That’s right,” she crowed, this keep is a dead giant’s skull so prepare for some painful mastication!”

As the giant’s jaws opened wide. Well, since it was sitting on hard rock, actually the skull tipped backward. Sir Garfan rammed the point of his sword into the skull and hung on as the garden and Grumilida slid off it. Her angry and profanity-filled cries rang out, followed by a thump. Then silence.

Climbing through the off-kilter keep was a challenge but not impossible. When then exited and saw a large pile of soil with the head of Grumilida sticking out of it. With a flick of his wrist, he took her head, then stabbed her two more times. No one was truly defeated until stuck thrice. Plus she was a powerful necromancer so better safe than sorry.

He kicked something with his armored boot. A shriveled lump with purplish, green splotches, and a raggedy bit on the top. Leaning in he saw that it was the saddest looking turnip he had ever seen.

That is not the root vegetable of the redeemed.”

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