My body remained still and lifeless, resting on the surface of this ghost infested undercroft, feeling the cold stone underneath. Faint echoes could be heard in the distance, but I couldn’t make out the words, I could feel my body moving however, or being moved more like it. Faint wisps of energy were traveling within my body, traveling back and forth, doing their best from keeping me from dying, trying to restore the flow. Suddenly I felt a stab of pain in my chest, a minute transfer of energy, and the flow returned. Blood began reallocate itself, being sent back into my arteries by an invisible force, increasing the pressure, my senses returning.
I could hear the hollow wind blowing through the crypt, I could feel a set of hands holding me closely and I could hear Garfas whispering something to me.
“Please be alright, please be alright…”
My eyes shot open and I gasped for air. Garfas jumped as he held me. I scrambled about, trying to find where I was. Still in the crypt, with all the dead Flame Legion grunts, I could see a few in the distance approach. I glanced up as I realized that Garfas still held onto me. His amber yellow eyes wet with mine, he looked at me in disbelief.
“Garfas?” I moved away from his embrace as I continued to regain myself. “How…how long was I out?”
“You’re alive,” said Garfas in disbelief. “You took an arrow to the heart, you shouldn’t be alive… but you are.” I took a glance at all the corpses around us and at the next wave of enemies coming for us.
“I’ll explain later,” I said sternly. “I have an idea, but it’ll be dangerous and I need to to cover me.”
Garfas balled his hands into fists and forced himself back to a composed state. He regained his fire and nodded at me. “All ears, cub.”
“Get ready,” I said, stepping over behind him. “This might be a bit disturbing.”
I scanned the area and found a dagger on one of the corpses. I took it as I whispered my mantra to myself.
Blood is power, I thought. I took the blade and slid it across the back of my wrists, the flow of crimson began to coat my robes and drip to the floor. I could feel the raw energies escaping me, I took a hold of them and began to gather it into my being. Orbs of blood began to manifest and hover before me, then they would dissolve and return to me as energy. I used the fuel for my spell. I acknowledge that my idea was ludicrous. Using my own blood to restore my energy to make a small army of undead wasn’t too hard in theory, I had risen smaller animals before, and a charr wasn’t too different when it came to making them undead. The real issue came from how much it would take from me, how much focus it would take to sustain that many undead, and whether or not I could control them all effectively.
My energy exploded across the crypt, enveloping all of the fresh bodies and delivering my spell to them. Suddenly they all began to slowly writhe and twitch. The ones closest to me pushed themselves up and stumbled to their feet. The undead glanced at me and waited for orders while others took their time getting up. I noticed Garfas’ look of disgust at the walking corpses, how some had their eyes drooping out of their sockets or how some continued with no arms or legs.
“It’s alright,” I said. “So long as I don’t lose consciousness they won’t attack us.”
“This is still a bit scary, cub,” he said with a shiver.
“I don’t blame you,” I said with a chuckle. I then faced the squad coming towards us. “Minions, destroy the Flame Legion!”
They all started shambling towards the enemy, both groups collided with each other, the undead using either bites or the weapons they had attached to them and the Flame Legion used their blades and arrows. My minions walked without any coordination or direction, simply taking blows and ignoring them. I needed to apply some of the lessons taught by me from Mara and Garfas. I drew at the tethers connecting my strength to the undead, I began to channel a bit more energy into them and focus more of my mental focus. I then issued my commands.
“TEN-HUT!” All undead at my control stood at attention; some from the front row were taken out immediately but were used as meat-shields for the minions I focused on. “What is this?! You filthy lot are disorganized, take a blade and fight like a proper swordsman!” My minions took whatever blades were lying around, either daggers or swords, it didn’t matter so long as it resembled an instrument with a fairly long edge.
“STANCE WIDE!” I stood how Garfas had taught me, standing with my legs wide apart for split second movement. The minions mimicked me to the best to their bodies’ abilities.
“SIDEWAYS, MAKE YOURSELF A SMALLER TARGET. AND BODIES LOWER!” I entered my sparring stance when I would train with Garfas, I could notice him smiling from the corner of my eye. “NOW CHARGE!”
All my minions charged forward, again the front row going down to provide an opening for the back row. Charr dived in, expertly batting away blades or avoiding, striking in unison with my movements. I would attack and they would mimic, they were my puppets and I was their master. After the first strike I was down to about seven corpses. It all became irrelevant however once I saw the ceiling above crumble in various areas. A loud hissing and guttural voice came from above.
“Rain death on them boys!” said Fumus as he spotted enemies for his snipers. “Make sure my son and his bandmate make it out alive!”
A rain of bullets caused both Garfas and I to duck for cover, I was quickly drawn in by the white charr and he covered us both with his shield. The Flame Legion was flanked, attacked from both ends as the small assault squad of Ash Legion gunned them down. My minions were caught in the crossfire, their connections to me immediately cut as soon as they took a substantial amount of damage. Soon it was just Garfas and I, behind a shield. The sudden rest period made me realize how much strength it took to maintain so many minions. I was exhausted from everything. Running all around Ascalon, worrying about Garfas, all the fighting, it made my limbs feel so very heavy.
I could see a small pool of blood forming underneath me. I did my best to hold myself up but I could feel my strength waning and my body growing cold.
“Garfas,” I managed to force out. I immediately felt a large furry arm hold me up as my arms gave in.
“What’s wrong, cub?”
“I’m gonna collapse again,” I said.
“You need to take me to Mara,” I said. “She’s the only one who can heal me correctly.”
I was immediately hoisted off my feet and ended up being carried on Garfas’s back. I wrapped my arms around his neck but my grip was weak. My vision was fading in and out, I was blacking out for moments at a time as my channels of blood collapsed every so often, struggling to stay up.
“We need to take him to the citadel!” I heard Garfas say. “A mesmer in the gladium canton is the only one that can heal him correctly!”
“The gladium canton?” asked Fumus with disbelief. “Very well, I will trust my son’s judgement on this. Let us assist you, we can get you to the citadel in no time at all.”
I was uncertain as to what happened after that, my consciousness kept fading in and out. All I could tell was that there was something draped over my head, at some point I was placed onto a soft bed and I could see a set of amber eyes watching me in the darkness. After hours of trying to stay awake I finally sank into darkness, transitioning into a state of meditation, reflecting on everything that had happened. What it felt like to finally unleash my shroud.
I unleashed it because Garfas was in trouble, however there was a certain rush it gave me. To being able to charge into the heat of battle and know that I could drink up all the life force within the bodies of my enemies. There was a certain excitement to it all. Like the feeling a cub would get when receiving their first training sword, well most cubs at least. For me it was when I received my first magical focus. I wasn’t sure about all of this, but I think I wanted more of it. I wasn’t sure about what Garfas would think about me not having a heart, but I know that I still wanted him by my side. It was more than just wanting his friendship, it was about wanting him in general. Was that what he meant when he said I was dense? Granted it was something I should have acknowledged sooner, but like Fumus had said, I was denying myself what I wanted. Just in a chaotic middle ground of trying to remain subtle and at the same time getting enough to be partially satisfied.
Was I done with all of that? And if so, what did that mean for the future?