The wind and the clacking of bones set Xoran’s teeth on edge. Truthfully, it was the bones that really irritated him. He was mostly indifferent to the wind. Before him, lay a vast army of the undead. Reanimated skeletons of Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes, Halflings, and many other peoples. As well as beasts and monsters. Many Zombies shuffled about as well. With every fiber of his being, he wished to scream a holy swear and wade into battle.
Xoran continued to stare out at this travesty.
Clenching his fists in fury, he still said nothing.
“What the F—, Sir!”
Xoran turned to see Sister-Corporal Buntius holding a scroll out to him.
He had no animus towards Buntius, she was a fine warrior in the never-ending battle against the undead. He just had not gotten used to his promotion. Every time somebody asked for the Da-Captain he looked over his shoulder. Xoran even tried to refuse his elevation, saying that he didn’t deserve it. Exasperated by his modesty, the Gran-Marshal told him it was the Dawn Goddess’s will, and if he thought he could argue that, he had another thing coming.
“What is it Sister-Corporal?”
“A delegation of the F—ing undead approaches, sir!” she said disliking this situation as much as he did.
“Dawn cleanse us,” he said.
“Indeed sir! The parley area is set up. As per your instructions, sir!” declared Buntius.
A table had been set up with maps and other documents. No refreshments were provided, given undead appetites. This was strictly a business parley, and as such, small talk was to be discouraged.
As an added incentive to brevity, fifty of the most doughty Sister and Brother warriors were arrayed in a manner that said, ‘F— around and find out.’
A swarm of bats approached from due south and assembled into the Vampire Lord Pfantus. He threw out his hands in a ‘ta-dah’ gesture and took a bow. No applause followed. It was a tough crowd.
“Greetings! I am Vampire Lord Pfantus, emissary of Society of the Night, I bring you a gift! As a token of this historical moment,” he said producing a reliquary from beneath his cloak. (He handled it with gloves because it was capital H Holy.)
“This is shinbone of St. Conivformoss, a worthy of your order. Consider its return as a sign of cooperation with all that dwell on this plane of existence.”
“Just put it on the table,” said Sister-Corporal Buntius.
“Okay then,” said Lord Pfantus as he gingerly deposited it.
A Nephew-Squire removed the reliquary with a pair of blessed tongs with an overabundance of caution.
“I am Da-Captain Xoran, servant of the Dawn Goddess. Let’s get this over with.”
“Would it kill you to say thank you?” asked the Vampire Lord.
“IT WOULD TAKE MORE THAN THE LIKES OF YOU TO KILL THE DA-CAPTAIN!” shouted Sister-Corporal Buntius, “HE HAS BEEN CHOSEN BY THE DAWN GODDESS HERSELF TO LEAD US TO VICTORY!”
“Thank you Sister-Corporal Buntius, I’ll handle it from here,” said Xoran.
“As you say, sir!”
“Let’s get to work creature of the night.”
Still, no thank you. Oh well. The Vampire Lord nodded. He had not asked for this task. In fact, he had refused when Exhaultia had told him. The rest of the Society of the Night agreed with him, given the rep of Dawn Goddess’s followers. Darvinia had said that in addition to the undead thing, he wasn’t a Society of the Night member. Then the phrase ‘too clever for his own good’ was flung about. Determined to prove that he was just clever enough, Pfantus demanded to be the emissary. Reluctantly, everyone agreed.
Down to business. They discussed strategy, troop placements, and the use of fire as a weapon. The undead, as a rule, do not care for fire. Too many of them are flammable. Pfantus, who normally adored the back and forth of negotiations, was increasingly uncomfortable around all these holy warriors. While it would never occur to him, this was the way the living felt about being around Vampires. Undeath is funny that way.
“Is there anything else required?” asked Xoran.
“May I ask you a question?”
“Only if it is required.”
Vampires do not breathe but they do love to sigh. This Da-Captain was a very direct man. Most of his battle plans involved running straight at the enemy and hitting it until it was dead. Pfantus had to gently suggest a bit of subtlety into the plan.
“Why do you hate the Undead so?”
Xoran grinned. It was the grin of someone with absolute certainty.
“Because you and all your ilk are an affront to life itself. You walk upon the land with the illusion of living, but you bring only ruin and woe. Had I not been ordered to fight alongside you by the Gran-Marshal herself, I would slay you where you stand.”
“Okay then. Right. I can see why you might think that-” began Pfantus.
“I do not think it. I know it to the core of my very being!”
“However, let me ask you this. Is that impressive-looking spiked mace of yours evil?”
“That is a foolish question. It is an instrument of our holy purpose,” replied Xoran with certainty.
“But it is not alive,” countered Pfantus.
“Unlike you, it never was alive, nor does it pretend to be so.”
“Fair point,” admitted the Vampire Lord, “But if you think about it, skeletons and zombies are weapons to be used against the Abominations. Which I think we can both agree are really the worst.”
Xoran said nothing but wheels were turning. After a few awkward minutes of silence, he smiled and said, “I understand what you mean.”
“Excellent!” said Pfantus who was feeling very pleased with himself.
“The undead are a weapon that can be used without any concern for their safety. Ultimate expendability!”
“Well in some cases-”
“In any and all situations!” declared the Da-Captain with joy.
“I was really only referring to the unintelligent undead, skeletons, and zombies. Vampires and Liches are very different cases-”
“Truly, the Dawn Goddess herself has worked through your imperfect vessel to deliver this holy message!”
“Imperfect?” sputtered Pfantus.
Any hope of squelching this reasoning evaporated as the idea spread throughout the holy warriors of the Dawn Goddess. A tumult of joyous noise went up. It was nauseating.
“You may return to your mistress and tell them the warriors of the Dawn Goddess are ready for battle. May she grant you and your unnatural brethren an honorable end!” pronounced Xoran.
“But that’s not-”
“Dawn approaches. Be swift, lest this wondrous message be lost!”
Vampire Lord Pfantus transformed once more into a swarm of bats and flew back to the Pernicious Donjon. He had to admit that Darvinia was right, he was too clever for his own good. On the other hand, no reason to share all the minutia of the parley. After all, the plans were in place. What could possibly go wrong?