Intro: Thank you to everyone who R/R this story in the past! I'm hoping to rewrite a few of my pieces here and certainly write more. For starters, I decided to add a bit of meat to this chapter, hopefully making it a more satisfying read. New chapter to come as soon as I can find my notes on the other computer.
Hands grabbed at me in the night. Dead hands pulling, ripping, clutching at my clothes, my skin, my hair. I spasmed beneath them, hoping to tear them away but instead only tearing rotting flesh. Screams in the night echoed around me like a shield of terror. Fire, reaching up into the sky in a plume of death, choked me.
I awoke, screaming in the night, bolting up to make sure I was still alone. There was nothing new within my triangle of protection, the one that clung on for dear life, its glow as faint as the glow of fire in the forest. As the moon shone down upon the island, I realized that I could see shadows moving steadily along the shoreline. The rush of the waterfall was interrupted by the sound of boulders being tossed into the rapids.
I only had a few hours.
Then they would come, repulsive flesh stumbling aimlessly over the awkward bridge. A few would die, but in the end, I would be trapped. One insignificant death on a small island in the middle of the Old Kingdom. No one would ever know I had died, no one would ever weep over my open tomb. My body, defiled, a host for another of His servants. If I was lucky, the Death would carry me swiftly past the ninth gate.
But he had the bells of a necromancer.
I remembered the pipes, and carefully took the last one out of its case. It felt awkward and unwilling, so I returned it to the pouch and took the next one. The metal was freezing in my hand, struggling to abandon its shape and flow over my skin like liquid, drowning me in darkness. If I had the strength, I could be past the seventh gate before He found my icy body.
At least then my soul would be free of bondage.
But I was a child, afraid and alone, and I was not strong enough. I replaced the pipe and tucked the pouch away. At this point, I would rather trust in hope than my own strength, my will to die.
I stayed up for a while, legs curled into my frail body. I was weak. Barely able to fend for myself, I couldn't save my family. At this point, I couldn't save myself. I tried to drown out the sound of the Dead construction, listening only to the peaceful melody of the river, staring up to the expanse of the night sky. I wondered whether anyone would ever know we were gone, my village. Would travelers visit next summer to find empty land, decrepit houses? Would they figure out what had happened? Or would life go on as always, people and places forgotten in the bustle of humanity…
It was this thought that remained in my head as I fell asleep. The night proved to be a long one, my diamond of protection flickering with every interruption in the water flow. Time passed though, slowly but surely and just as the sun rose over my new world, the dead completed their bridge. They walked forward, unseeing, lead only by my human stench. Some of them were already starting to burn. I grabbed my things, slipping the rope around my waist and around the pipecase and the book. I made sure to tuck my dagger within reach.
I stared out across the river, wondering where I should go, what I should do. I could try and swim across to the other side, away from the Dead. I could try. That or I could choose to perish, to fling myself over the treacherous waterfall and embrace death. But then again, hadn't I tried that last night? I couldn't give up yet. I stood there, feeling small and very afraid, trying to forge a plan.
And then he came. Tall and proud, he strode across the bridge, knocking a few wailing dead into the river. My eyes widened as I realized that it was far, far too late for a plan.
Though the island was quite small, I used the space to get myself as far away as I could. It didn't feel like long before I ran out of room to run. There was no longer time to swim across the river. Taking the dagger and the cold pipe from my waist, I prepared to defend myself.
"I wouldn't blow into that if I were you," the necromancer warned. 'Unless you want to hand yourself over to me, and based on your latest actions, I very much doubt that's the case."
"Why? Why shouldn't I!?" I demanded. "I'm far strong enough to send myself farther than you can reach."
"You severely underestimate my powers, little sparrow. If you send yourself into death, I will make it my top priority to find you and bring you back. Then a Dead Hand is the only thing left in your future." He grinned. "I would much prefer to have you living."
I stared at him, not daring to bet my life on a possibility. I put the pipe away.
"Very good. Now, I think after a most uncomfortable night here, you deserve a bit of sleep."
The last thing I heard was a sweet ringing sound, and the scent of lilies.