Rune Breaker: Chapter 24 – Bones of the Earth

This entry is part 12 of 15 in the series Lighter Days, Darker Nights (Rune Breaker, #2)

“Now I’m curious.” Immurai took his time approaching as Ru used he shapeshifting to repair the damage and restore his breathing. “I’ve seen you fight before and you were much better than this. Or have I truly improved this much?”

Lingering pain from a punctured lung and kidney threatened to overwhelm Ru’s senses, but he was used to fighting under much worse conditions. More than one past master ordered him to give healing himself the lowest priority because no matter how severe the wound, it couldn’t kill him. He answered Immurai with stone. Two slabs burst from the ground and slammed together with Immurai in the middle. The resultant noise was like a mill explosion and threw up just as much dust.

It didn’t have time to settle before a shock of force from between them broke the slabs apart, ejecting stones the size of a man’s head from the epicenter, which was shrouded in rock dust. There were screams of agony as some of those stones struck Solgrum’s guests and guards.

Ru immediately directed twin lightning bolts from his hands into that cloud. Someone, a gifted guest, or one of Solgrum’s mages, tried to damp his powers, but it had little effect against the shear volume of energy Ru was putting into the spells.

But they were for naught. Immurai the Masked emerged from the cloud. His once-fine robes were tattered and gray, and one of his arms bent at an odd angle. Though his skin was torn and even cracked in places, he didn’t bleed for there was no blood in him to spill.

And the lightning danced across his body, arcing along the joints, forming crackling eddies at the contours of his form, and finally grounding itself after traveling all the way to his feet. Electricity had to enter a creature and disrupt vital organs to kill and it found no purchase in Immurai the Masked.

“Yes.” said the demon, admiring his hand as he watched electricity arc over it. “I have improved greatly.”

Without preamble or warning, her lunched forward. Ru anticipated it and two fist sized balls of flame leapt from his cupped hands, arcing out in opposite directions a short distance in front of him before coming together with a sudden roar of air igniting. Blue-white flames blossomed out from where they came together, forming a massive spider’s web of flame in the air.

Immurai stopped short, masked face leering through the flaming web.

Ru? Taylin was back again. Something’s wrong.

It’s me. Ru informed her. I’m the source of the disturbance, fighting the demon who sent the bandit king you defeated.

At the wagons? She asked.

Ru continued to keep Immurai at bay, trying to formulate an effective attack spell while holding the psychic conversation. Of course not. The Murderyard.

That’s you? She started to pry further, but something more pressing came to mind. But no, Kaiel says there’s trouble at the wagons. We’re going there now. I need you there.

This is more important. He tersely informed her.

Taylin’s emotions rankled in the link and he felt her anger and frustration with him. Ru, the children are at the wagons and half the people who normally protect them are here right now. You have to go there now and help!

“I know that look.” Immurai said mockingly. “Receiving orders from the new master? In the middle of our friendly reunion? How rude. Allow me to focus your attention.”

The demon raised his arms and brought them together. “Forgotten soldiers scream with the rage of your demise. Take blood price from the ungrateful generations that followed after. Bones of the Earth: Rise.”

Ru felt the arrays of ere-a and nekras respond before any visible signs of what they were meant to do manifested. First came the mist; thin and low to the ground, it might have been mistaken as natural by the lay folk, but even those with no training could tell that it was a dingy, dark gray on closer inspection, and looking closer, they would see that it was seeping into the ground, not out of it.

In reality, the ‘mist’ was raw, concentrated nekras, dark anima that had been attracted to and pooled over the Murderyard during its years as a battlefield, witnessing hatred, pain and death. Serving as a training yard maintained it as young recruits suffered the hardships and stress that molded them into soldiers. Normally it was harmless—unless someone were to gather and use it for harmful purposes.

Something disturbed the ground off to Ru’s right. A human (or demihuman) spine surfaced from the dirt like an eel breaching the surface of a lake. It was too dark to be bone because it wasn’t; the bodies of the dead had long been taken for burial or cremation, so Immurai bound the dark anima to the rock itself, forging it into skeletons to better serve his ends.

Ribs followed the spine, and then came the limbs and skull. The nekras-mist drew close around the thing as it lifted itself from the clods of dirt, becoming the ghost of armor and a sword.

If the crowd was panicked before, their terror reached crescendo as dozens of the constructs rose from the earth around them, striking with ghostly weapons that cleaved flesh and splintered bone just as well as if they were made of steel and wood.

I’m dealing with something more important. Ru told Taylin. The flash of anger that followed that was so intense, it made even him wince.

Nothing is more important. Ru, don’t make me order you.

“No.” Ru barked, unaware that he was speaking out loud.

“Oh my. Even with this level of provocation, I still don’t have your undivided attention? The hand that holds the leash has a firm and crushing grip on other things, I see. No matter—I didn’t do this for your attention anyway.” Immurai chuckled, a dry, metallic sound.

“Go and tend to your master. I’m sure she’ll give you a scrap or two for being a good dog. I do wish it was pleasant to see you, Rune Breaker, but now I must go and greet my friend.” He waved around them at the growing chaos and especially the fleeing wealthy elite.” Solgrum did so well arranging this feast for him, even if he wasn’t aware.”

With that, he turned and strode away, disappearing into the press right in front of a trio of guards who won though just in time to lose him again.

“You wretched—“ Ru started.

I’m sorry Ru, but they need us. I order you to take us to the wagons. Taylin said, anger boiling in the link.

The link twisted, ready to punish him if he refused. Ru snarled wordlessly and redirected his fire shield into a burning whip that he bought down across the back of the nearest stone skeleton. The conjured fire enveloped it, sapping the nekras animating it just as it raised its sword to finish off a man on the ground. Without motive force, it toppled over on top of its victim, catching his vest alight.

Ru paid no attention. “Burn your eyes, girl.” he grumbled before teleporting to her.

Series Navigation<< Rune Breaker: Chapter 23 – Old SoldierRune Breaker: Chapter 25 – Matasume the Wind >>

About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter. You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore
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