To Learn A Sword

By Orestes Ramos



“You’ll have to do better than that to beat me!” a father instructs his only son. “How many times have I told you? If you set up your guard at such an angle you are practically inviting your foe to come in!”


The young boy looked at his father and teacher with mild frustration. “I’m sorry father…” he said in a resigned tone. “I promise to try harder”. “Do not apologize to me Lazarus,” came the reply in a soft, loving tone. “For these sessions, it is imperative that you consider me your enemy, not your father! Do not call me father, I am Magus, and all you need to know is that I have a quarrel with you!” In an instant the kind expression vanished from the face of the instructor. Where there was once a parent eyeing his son quizzically now stood a savage attacker who would not give up.


The young student had no idea what to do. He was barely twelve years old! What did his father want from him? How much could he expect? Lazarus could only lift the sword his trainer had given him through intense effort. This wasn’t fair by any means. Magus was at least a foot taller than him; this fact was magnified twofold especially since Lazarus was small in comparison to boys his own age. Yet Magus came at him with what seemed to be a thirst for blood. It was all Lazarus could do to avoid the swings that zoomed by his ear. Lazarus’ thoughts raced. He wouldn’t hold out much longer like this. The young boy looked around the battlefield surveying his options.


And there it was. The object of his salvation would be what in his mind was his greatest disadvantage; his lack of size. As Lazarus was busy ducking and rolling to safety, he noticed that his father left a very vulnerable area below his knee unprotected. He would delay no more, he saw his opportunity. Lazarus slid forward and dove for Magus’ knee.


“I’m sorry father,” Lazarus said as he anticipated the pained shriek his father would surely let out.


Magus smiled warmly, the rage finally subsiding from his face, and parried his son’s attack with ease. Lazarus looked up at him as he held himself up with his hands and knees. He had recovered from the attack but was helpless a moment too long. Magus kneed Lazarus in the face knocking him onto the ground and placed his foot on his son’s chest.


“Do not move my son,” Magus said as he looked down on his son, his sword aimed at the throat, “you will come to realize in the future that the sword is not the only weapon at a warrior’s disposal. There is the blade, the handle, the scabbard, the fist, and the foot. Everything is a weapon”.


Magus placed his weapon in the scabbard on his side and offered a hand. Lazarus looked at it questioningly before accepting it.


“You know, you remind me of someone I knew a long time ago,” Magus reflected aloud, “he was a great swordsman. Probably better than I. However, he fought with his heart, not necessarily his brain. He never second-guessed himself. If he saw an opening, he took it, just like you did just now. He was however, much stronger than you. He also was willing to receive a blow from the enemy if it meant he would give one in exchange. Are you willing to take that risk? You must fight with your strengths Lazarus… and expect the enemy to do the same”.


As he witnessed his father speak those words, Lazarus felt no malice or criticism in them. He knew his father was just trying to help, he did however have to fight the temptation to reply with a few choice words.


“Why are you a farmer dad?” Lazarus couldn’t resist it any longer. “Why don’t you go back to being on the militia? You’re really good; you could really help out Bellhelm! Attacus isn’t backing down, and we lose more of our townspeople everyday! Why won’t you fight dad?”


“We have spoken about this before Lazarus. I have something important to do now as well”.


“I hardly consider farming to be as important as winning a war,” Lazarus said without thinking.


Magus’ expression saddened. Lazarus had hurt him. The young boy looked at his father’s graying hair, the skin on his face was starting to wrinkle. The handsome man that had a glow around him was changing. His father was getting older, he didn’t need to be reminded of his inabilities by his twelve year old son.


“I’m sorry father,” Lazarus whispered softly.


“Do not apologize, it is said that during times of anger or stress, the things that need to be said are said. For the future, I would advise you to control that though. Do you need Douglas to look at your nose?”


Lazarus shook his head. Even if he had been in pain he would not want to disappoint his father and admit that a tiny blow was too much for him. And with that Magus left back home. Bellhelm was an extremely small town. Because of this, Lazarus knew that they would make it home long before he had come up with a good apology for his father. He knew tha-


“Incredible,” the sage said as he looked at the broken quill in his long fingers. The point had broken off and had interrupted his recounting of the events. “No matter how much I pay for these things, they can never outlast me. You would think that an old fogey such as I would have no troubles finding a writing instrument that would last till his dying breath. Nonetheless, I am inconvenienced…”


The old man pulled his long white beard away from his chest and opened up the drawer that had been obscured by his facial hair. From the insides of the desk he pulled another quill, dipped it into the ink bottle at the corner and pulled the point of the quill towards his mouth in a pensive action. “Now where was I?” he asked rhetorically as he closed the drawer making certain to not trap his beard. With his left hand he snaps his fingers and as if by magic a set of silver trimmed eyeglasses appear on the chronicler’s face. “Lazarus was feeling remorseful, etc. etc. etc.” the elder mumbled under his breath as he tried to recenter himself, “ah yes, of course”.


By the time they had made it home, Lazarus was praying to the great Kazames himself. Hopefully the presence of his mother would cheer his father’s mood. Perhaps he was as his father had described. Maybe Lazarus was too rambunctious for his own good. Yet now he had hurt his father by insinuating that his father was a coward.


“How did the session go today my love?” inquired the warm voice. Lazarus recognized it instantly, it was his mother. She was wearing her favorite apron. Lazarus remembers when he was younger it was a vibrant red, but now it had seen so much use it was more of a dull orange color. His mother’s dark locks hung softly on her shoulders; they bounced gracefully as she walked to greet them.


“What’s wrong dear?” she asked as she bent to look her son in the face.


Lazarus looked at her lovely hazel eyes. They always soothed him. “nothing mother,” he answered nonchalantly.


“Oh,” she said, clearly not convinced, “in that case, why don’t you wash up and get yourself some lunch?”


Lazarus nodded and walked out of the room. Magus looked at his wife and shook his head. “He’s going to be strong one day Aderes,” Magus said as he sat down at the table, “and I hate having to push him… But he has to do great things one day”.


“I know Magus,” Aderes said as she placed her hands on Magus’ shoulder, “I trust you. I just ask that you don’t push him so hard. He is just a boy”.


“A boy who will one day become a man,” he responded quickly, “we mustn’t baby him. Besides, he has a natural affinity for the sword”.


Magus interrupted himself as he noticed Lazarus enter the room. Chances are, Lazarus had overheard everything that was said. “Lazarus you might need to defend yourself one day, don’t you agree?” Magus asked.


Lazarus nodded. “I know dad. It’s not a big deal…”


A knock came at the door halting the family’s conversation. Aderes went to the door and motioned for her family to remain seated. She disliked them having their meals interrupted. At the door was Twith and Isannah, Lazarus’ greatest childhood friends.     


“Well now Twith! Haven’t you gotten big?” Aderes said as she passed her hand over Twith’s golden head. “And you Isannah! You just get prettier and prettier don’t you?”


“Mom… you saw them yesterday,” Lazarus moaned in embarrassment, “how big and pretty could they have possibly become since then?”


“Ease up on your sarcasm Lazarus,” Magus scolded.


“Sorry dad,” Lazarus exhaled deeply, “mom is it alright if I finish this up later?”


“Of course dear… but please do finish it, you know I hate throwing out food”.


“I know mother… I will, I promise”.


Lazarus rose up from the table and rushed to the door.




“Yes father?” Lazarus said as he rolled his eyes. The young boy hadn’t even turned to face his father.


“Don’t roll your eyes at me,” Magus said with a dry smile, “don’t forget to take your sword, these are dangerous times”.


“Yes father…”


Lazarus grabbed the sword he was using earlier and headed out. Isannah was looking just as pretty as ever Lazarus thought. His mother was just trying to embarrass him. Why else would she say Isannah had gotten prettier? Isannah is the perfect girl as far as Lazarus was concerned.


Laz?” Twith asked.




“Something on your mind?” came Twith’s second question.


“Nah, I’m just wondering things”.


“Such as?” Isannah asked finally breaking her silence.


“Wow, she speaks!” Lazarus joked.


“It’s a good question Laz, don’t avoid it, answer the girl”.


“My father is getting old… I see it in his eyes,” Lazarus answered. Twith didn’t understand. Although Lazarus was younger chronologically, Twith had always seen him as an older brother.


“Is this a maturity issue again?” Twith asked innocently.


“I doubt it,” Isannah opined. As usual, her view of things was right on. Lazarus looked at her through the corner of his eye.


 How could someone so beautiful be so annoying? “I hate it when you’re right Isannah,” Lazarus muttered.


“I know,” she said with a smile. “So what did you do this time?”


“I wanted to know why he is only a farmer…”


Laz, why do you always have to bring that up? You know that gets him in a mood,” Twith stated.


“I know”.


“He isn’t that old just yet,” Isannah said as she stopped to pick up a carrot from the ground. “He still looks like a man in his prime”.


“Come on Isannah, don’t talk like that. You know I hate it when you talk about my father like that!”


“Oh stop it you big baby,” Isannah retorted in an effort to hush Lazarus, “I am just pointing out the obvious”.


 “The only obvious thing is that you have a thing for Lazarus’ dad, and that’s kind of disgusting,” Twith added.


“Now that’s just ridiculous,” Isannah shouted in an uncontrolled outburst. She quickly realized what she did and hung her head low as if trying to hide her actions. “You know that’s just silly don’t you?!” Isannah interrogated in a low yet urgent tone.


“I don’t know…” Twith continued to instigate, “it’s always Lazarus’ father this, and Lazarus’ dad that. Jeez Isannah, he does have a wife, and a kid, and is way too old for you”.


Lazarus wasn’t in the most fitting of moods for this. “So what’s been going on around the town?” he asked hoping to stop the argument.


 Twith and Isannah stopped walking instantly and looked at each other with saddened expressions on their faces. Doubt had clearly entered into the conversation, but why? Were they hiding something from Lazarus?


“Guys? What’s going on?”


“Well Laz, it’s like this…” Twith began hesitantly, “we think Frederick has been visiting the graveyard”.


“Okay… so?” Lazarus replied. Frederick was the bratty son of Count Bradford, the leader of Bellhelm. He got everything he ever wanted, and took everything for granted. And with his good for nothing father in power, there wasn’t much anyone could do about it.


“We think he has been digging up the remains and robbing the graves,” Isannah explained cautiously, looking to not bother Lazarus, something that would be near impossible while on the subject of Frederick.


“He’s doing what?!” Lazarus exclaimed in both shock and disgust.


“Not so loud Laz!” Twith warned with urgency, “remember, that’s the Count’s son. We can’t just go around accusing him of things like that and not expect to get heat from it”.


“Why do you two think he has been doing that?”


“We caught him trying to sneak his freckled face out of the graveyard this morning,” Isannah began, “he thinks he is real sneaky, the brat. When we went to see what all the fuss was about, Old Man Potter’s grave was disturbed. We didn’t dig him up or anything, we didn’t want to considering the circumstances…”


“But we know he’s up to no good!” Twith added assuredly.


“Old Man Potter was a great man,” Lazarus said with a look of contempt on his face, “I’m going to find out why he did it. Even if I have to beat the snot out of him to do it”.


“That’s a great idea Lazarus,Isannah judged cynically, “threaten his health, that’ll get your point across real well, straight into a dungeon”.


 “Don’t you two want to know why he’s doing it?” the young boy looked patiently at his two friends. He was sure he would have their support.


“Of course we do,” Twith responded, “that’s why we told you. You’re the fighter and I’m your emotional support”. “There won’t be any need for fighting,” Isannah interjected, “you just have to make him think he is going to get caught and he’ll stop, that twerp has no backbone”.


“Have you seen him since then?” Lazarus asked as he formulated a plan quietly in his head. His eyes shined with the fierce determination that his friends knew well of.


“I heard he is near the Undying Desert, something about a royal picnic or something like that,” Twith recalled.


“There’s nothing royal about Frederick… nonetheless, I’m going to go check it out,” Lazarus announced.


“I’d go with you,” Isannah said, “but I’d probably only get in your way. And if I get in your way, then you’ll be in all sorts of trouble”.


“I have a feeling I am going to be in all sorts of trouble regardless,” Lazarus confessed with a strange, unsure tone in his voice. “Either way, I need to get ready. I expect there is going to be a lot of unexpected surprises if Frederick is involved. Usually, he never ceases to amaze me”.


“He never ceases to disgust me,” Isannah added. “That too,” Lazarus admitted coolly.


The three friends bade their farewells and Lazarus was alone. Twith and Isannah had left to continue their day as normal teenagers should. But Lazarus wasn’t prone to following the normal mold. This wouldn’t be his first adventure, and he hoped it wouldn’t be his last. As a matter of fact, Lazarus had fancied himself a connoisseur in the fine art of ruining Frederick’s ambitions. “I’m lucky father has been training me for such a long time,” Lazarus thought out loud, “I might actually have to subdue Frederick this time… Or maybe I should just continue on with my wishful thinking… The day the punk gets what he deserves, I just hope I am there to see it”.


“Perhaps you shouldn’t parade your desires so loudly through the middle of town,” a voice suggested from a hidden location.


“Perhaps you shouldn’t spy on me from such a clever hiding spot,” Lazarus jested.


“Very well, I shall just spy on you in plain sight then”.


A cloud of yellow smoke appeared before his eyes. Before him stood a short man that was barely in his adulthood. He had black hair down to his shoulders, and bright emerald eyes. He had an iron staff in his hands and a friendly smile on his face.


“You know, one day you’re going to have to teach me some of these tricks,” Lazarus said jokingly, “how are you Douglas?”


“Very well thank you, but not so well as you who openly and so boldly speak ill of the son of the most powerful man in town,” Douglas answered.


“Oh, so you think of becoming a sentinel and all of the sudden you’re an upstanding citizen?” Lazarus mocked.


“Thinking? Not quite” Douglas smiled proudly as he looked at his younger friend. “It would appear I made it in. David and I both, we’re going to start our journey to the capital tomorrow. We are probably going to see if we can head out earlier though, maybe as early as today. We’re going to fight the forces of the Abaddon alongside great heroes!”


Lazarus matched Douglas’ smile eagerly. He was proud for his friend. “That’s great news Douglas, it really is. The nation of the Abaddon should fear the Ammiel more now that the two fearless brothers are a part of that elite special forces unit. Who would of thought, two of our very own going on to become sentinels… I’m really happy for you Douglas”.


“You’ll be there eventually Lazarus,” Douglas assured with a slight bow of his head, “you deserve to be there. You haven’t even entered your teens and you can even give old Clarence a run for his money”.


“It has been a long time since Clarence was in his best shape,” Lazarus stated in a matter of fact way, “I would be somewhat disappointed if I couldn’t challenge Clarence”.


“Don’t be so quick to pass judgment on an old soldier,” Douglas recommended wisely, “it wouldn’t be good to cast doubt on a soldier such as Clarence just because he is older now. He still knows many things that you do not merely because of experience. In the end, that will beat out your stronger sword arm any day. Think on it”.


Douglas bowed politely and disappeared in a cloud of yellow smoke. Lazarus was alone again to his own thoughts. “Show off!” Lazarus yelled hoping Douglas would hear him wherever he was. That was definitely a great ability to have the young boy thought; at the very least it was extremely convenient. “Wizards get all the interesting abilities, it’s a shame,” Lazarus said in an almost envious tone.


Lazarus hurried home, mentally making a list of things to make sure to pick up as soon as he would get there. Once he did finally make it home it was a quick affair. He gathered up all the things he would need, including a sandwich that his mother had left him, a map, and a traveling skin of water. By the time he sneaked out of his house, it was already too late for him to notice that he was home alone to begin with.


On the way to the desert, Lazarus consumed his mother’s sandwich. It was made just the way he liked it, plain. It was a very sunny day, which would make the travel seem that much longer. The temperatures of the desert would surely be higher than normal because of the weather. It was a couple of hours of a walk before Lazarus had made it to the Undying Desert. He had been to the outskirts of the sandy dunes many times, but he had never actually traveled into the actual desert. He hoped that he would not have to test his courage by actually having to go into the desert. He had heard the stories… and they weren’t painting a pretty picture. The duggs were bad enough as it was, but there were supposedly colossal sand spiders in the deep corners of the desert.


Maybe it was just a way for the adults to control the children of the village, but Lazarus didn’t want to press his luck.


“This isn’t what we agreed on! You promised me much more than this!”


Lazarus recognized the voice as Frederick’s. He had come too close already, he would have to be much more observant in the future if he wished to be successful. The young boy hid himself behind a luscious palm tree and searched the landscape with his eyes. There was Frederick’s ginger head, shaking it disapprovingly like the arrogant, pampered child he was. In front of the noble was a dugg. Its thick brown hide reflected the light from the sun away, a method that the creatures had developed to help cope with the heat. The creature’s giant beetle-like mandible twitched violently like an unstable bear trap waiting to shut at any moment.


“Your feelings are not needed,” the vile humanoid said as it looked upon Frederick. It’s red insect eyes seemed to burn with hatred. Lazarus could not understand how a dugg, which were famously violent creatures, could tolerate Frederick’s presence. However, this was no ordinary dugg; it seemed to understand the concept of feelings and desires. This was worrisome in more ways than one. Duggs resemble a cross between a man and a beetle, but for all their savagery, they have one key advantage. They work as a hive, similar to bees in that they all share the same thought and serve their leader unquestioningly. Could that be the dugg leader? Lazarus considered fighting Frederick and the dugg right then and there, but it would be too sloppy. He would wait for his opportunity, his father had taught him that much.


“What will you do with that old man’s bones?” Frederick said as he pointed to a sack he was holding in his hands.


“Go to your lair, and stay,” the dugg answered cryptically as he snatched the bag from the young noble’s hands. With that, the dugg turned around and walked away from Frederick. Frederick felt highly disrespected at this apparently.


“How dare you speak to me that way!? Who do you think you are?! Who do you think I am?! I am Frederick Bradford! Son to the Count!”


And then it happened. The violent twitching the dugg had tried to control in his mandible intensified.. It twitched so loudly that it made an unmistakable noise. Lazarus would come to know it well… The click, click… click… noise would not be erased from his mind anytime soon.


“Never mind, I forgive you!” Frederick was quick to correct his error. The dugg realized this too it seemed as it continued his march without as much as a look back at Frederick.


“The audacity of some peasants, incredible,” Frederick said he began to walk away as well, ensuring to keep his views at a low volume to protect his wealthy neck.


Lazarus stayed to watch Frederick leave. He would not risk Frederick stopping in his tracks and turning around to see him being followed. He gave Frederick a head start, but he used this time to figure out his next move. There was much to plan out.


 “Are you kidding me?!” exclaimed Twith as he heard the retelling of Frederick’s actions by Lazarus. “That guy is completely insane! With a dugg?!”


“Quiet down Twith,” Lazarus replied as he looked around in paranoia. “Are you hoping that the entire town will hear this?”


“I’m sorry Laz, this is just too much for me. It’s almost like-“


“I trusted you with some information,” Lazarus interrupted, “it’s necessary for someone to know what my plans are. I can’t let Douglas or David know because they are way too busy as it is. They are probably halfway to the capital by now either way… And I can’t tell my father… he wouldn’t do anything about it anyway. But should something happen… someone needs to be able to tell the truth”.


“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Isannah asked finally breaking her silence.


“I don’t usually think out ideas when I see something wrong happening in front of me,” Lazarus confessed, “I know it’s stupid. But I refuse to let him carry on with all this. It’s just wrong”.


“What do you plan to do?” Isannah asked somberly. She was not one to get worked up over things. But this wasn’t Isannah standing in front of Lazarus and Twith right now. This was a normal, young girl that was very worried for her dear friend.


“Tonight, I wait,” Lazarus said as he stared sadly at the ground. Would duggs be carrying off his own bones for some sinister purpose? He hoped not. “I want you guys to stay home tonight. It is going to be an eventful evening”. Lazarus began to walk away before his friends could respond. “One more thing,” Lazarus added not daring to turn around, “should something happen to me… apologize to my parents please”.


 “Lazarus,” Isannah muttered but stopped herself just as quickly as she started. She brushed the tears from her eyes away and pushed the hair from out of her face, “take care of yourself”.


“I will,” Lazarus nodded and strode off.


“Do you think he’ll be okay Isannah?”


“I can only hope Twith, we can only hope”.


Lazarus found an excellent spot up high on the roof of the town hall. He decided that would be best since it was dead center in the middle of town, he would be able to see everything. Plus, the fact that it was a good twenty five feet off the ground meant that if it should get dangerous he would be out of harm’s way long enough to come up with a plan. All he had to do now was wait. But waiting wasn’t easy, especially with the state of things. After a couple of hours, everyone had gone to bed. Lazarus had been longing for sleep as well, but his duty was greater. More than anything, Lazarus wanted to foil Frederick’s plan, whatever it may be. But was Lazarus doing the right thing? He hadn’t told a single adult of the nefarious plot. The young boy didn’t want glory or anything of the sort. He did however want to finally expose Frederick for what he was; if he could do that, the Count would have no choice but to control his horrible son. All these thoughts swirled around Lazarus’ mind like a swarm of insects closing in on a meal. If he could get Frederick in trouble, would anything actually come of it? Would he just be able to squirm out of it as he had done so well in the past? Lazarus would have remained reeling from doubt forever had he not heard that horrible noise.


It was the sound of a person in agony. A pained moan from a deep voice accompanied with the sound of movement came from the outskirts of town.  Yet it didn’t come from one spot. Lazarus turned to view three strange creatures heading into town. He recognized one of them to be Old Man Potter immediately. But Old Man Potter did not have his usually warm expression on his gentle, senior face. Instead he was brandishing a wicked snarl. His saliva was thick. It created strands of silvery goo from tooth to tooth. His teeth themselves were blackened and jagged. His now grey skin appeared to be stretched so tightly it would soon burst. This was not the elderly man Lazarus had known.


“He still looks dead,” Lazarus said out loud hoping to bring himself back to reality. This must be a nightmare he thought as he looked at the dastardly creatures. Things like this don’t happen in real life… they just don’t.


Lazarus fell forward, bouncing off the side of the roof. He yelled and reached for the roof stopping his crash landing. Lazarus touched the back of his head; it was swollen and tender from a recent attack. The young boy looked up, and there stood his attacker. It was once a woman he assumed. She must have been dead for a long time for her face was missing as if it had melted away. The fiend looked at Lazarus and growled.


“Don’t blame me lady, I had nothing to do with you rising from the grave,” Lazarus yelled sarcastically as he grabbed the monster by her leg and pulled hard. The monster fell hard to the floor and shrieked in pain as its back bent in an unnatural angle. Lazarus looked down as he hoisted himself up and let himself fall to the cold hard rooftop of the town hall. He clutched at his chest in fear. This was unlike all of his father’s training sessions. These things really wanted him and everyone in Bellhelm dead. But this was his fault he decided. He should have told everyone he could. That might have been the way to save the town and finally show Frederick as the villain he is. But now he would die fighting…all for nothing.


“Regardless… it’s too late to back out of it now,” Lazarus said as he sat up, his head still throbbing in torment, “I can’t be afraid. I at least got one of them down”.


But as Lazarus looked over the edge of the building he realized he had done no such thing. The creature he had thrown off the rooftop was not out of commission yet. It had merely popped its spine back into place and began to dig its inhuman claws into the sides of the town hall in an effort to once again kill Lazarus.


“Okay, now is the time to panic,” Lazarus admitted as he looked around frantically for options. Luckily, because of all the commotion Lazarus had formed, most of the town was waking up in response. As Lazarus looked around more and more people were coming out of their homes to see what the racket was.


“Get back in your homes! NOW!” Lazarus screamed his warning as loudly as he possibly could. The people of Bellhelm did not need much encouragement to follow Lazarus’ advice. From all around the slamming and locking of doors could be heard. Hopefully, Lazarus thought, the attackers would get bored and eventually return to wherever it was that they came.


“Everyone just please stay inside,” Lazarus pleaded in a soft tone as he saw the creatures from underneath get within an arm’s reach.


“It’s not that easy Lazarus,” Douglas’ voice came from behind him. There stood the young sorcerer.


“What are you doing here?” Lazarus said curiously. “I figured you and David were gone already!”


“Actually, curiously enough the Count ordered all militia to camp around Attacus,” Douglas explained as he placed his left hand at the top of his iron staff, “David and I thought that was a tad bit suspicious. So we decided to stay a couple days and see that Bellhelm wouldn’t be left unprotected for long”.


“So the Count knew about it the entire time and went along with it?” Lazarus realized aloud.


“What are you talking about Lazarus?”


“It’s… it’s nothing,” lied Lazarus, “well what were you talking about earlier?”


“There are more of these zombies on the other side of town. It’s a full out attack,” Douglas explained, “It’s almost as if they knew there would be no army here. I left David fighting and came in search of any survivors or able bodied warriors. Luckily the creatures haven’t managed to break into any homes yet. Have you seen your father?”


“No, I haven’t”.


“We sure could use someone of his skill,” Douglas suggested firmly, “come with me and let’s go get him”.


“I don’t know Douglas… he isn’t a soldier anymore,” Lazarus stated shamefully.


“Nonsense, he is more soldier than you and I combined,” Douglas said as he reached out his hand, “hold onto me and we can be inside your home in a second’s time”.


Lazarus agreed reluctantly and held on tightly to Douglas’ hand. In a cloud of yellow smoke they both reappeared in the kitchen of Lazarus’ home. Lazarus’ parents were busy barricading the doors and fortifying their home against the intruders.


“Magus, would you be willing to help defend Bellhelm?” Douglas screamed as he tried desperately to be heard over the battle that was intensifying outside.


“What’s the situation?” Magus inquired as he ran towards the secret closet behind the kitchen cupboard in which he kept all his weapons and armor from his old soldier days.


“Zombies, at least a dozen of them, maybe more,” Douglas explained as Lazarus’ jaw dropped at the number.


“Very well, can you get me out of here?” Magus said as he reemerged from the secret closet holding his most powerful blade in his hand. It was Excelsior, a large two handed sword that had a golden handle that was wrapped in leather. At the base of the long, thick blade there was also a bit more of leather to help prevent blood from trickling down to the handle. The pommel was beautiful and elegant, yet it seemed very rugged. Ironically enough, the greatest of Magus’ treasures, Excelsior, was not found through the adventures of Magus as a warrior, but rather as a farmer. Lazarus recalled that a very long time ago, Magus had found the magnificent sword in a field he had been working in. Magus being the lover of weapons that he was he took it in and treated it with the respect he thought it deserved.


“Are you coming or not Lazarus?” Magus asked Lazarus.


“Yes, of course,” Lazarus stammered. He must have been daydreaming.


“Then stop whatever it is you’re thinking about, and get on with it, this is serious business,” Magus instructed.


“I know it is dad”.


“One more thing, if these really are zombies, you aren’t going to be able to damage them with that sword you have now,” Magus informed, “it has to be a magical weapon. Douglas can you do something about that?”


“Yes of course,” Douglas answered as he looked within the bowels of his robe, “I have potions for this same type of situation in case David would ever run into it. I always have plenty to spare”.


Douglas uncorked a small flask and poured the red liquid over Lazarus’ training sword. The liquid disappeared into the blade and gave off a quiet red glow.


“It worked, now don’t let them touch you,” Douglas advised as he grabbed Lazarus by the shoulder. “Magus if you would please grab onto my robe”.


“Of course,” he answered as he grabbed onto the wizard’s robe.


And again Lazarus saw a cloud of smoke, only this time he appeared in the anarchy that had overrun Bellhelm. The zombies had settled into their attack, and with no one to stop them were free to do as whatever they wished.


“Alright, now get them all! Don’t let a single one survive!” Magus screamed as Douglas ran to follow his instructions. Magus looked at his young son in sadness.


“My boy… this is a lot to place on you, and for that I am sorry,” Magus announced his sorrow. “But I know you can do it. You are not like other twelve year olds. I trained you to be a worthy opponent. I think that one day you will be much greater than I. Defend your village Lazarus, protect your family and friends… always”.


Magus smirked at Lazarus almost in an unsure gesture. “And don’t get yourself killed”.


“I’ll try not to dad,” Lazarus answered. “What kind of advice is that anyway?”


“I’ll see you at home, now go!” Magus said as he turned around and headed in a different direction than the one Douglas had gone to.


Instantly Lazarus had thought of his friends Isannah and Twith. He ran with all his might to Isannah’s home. Once he made it, he saw that he had gained the attention from two festering zombies that were attacking the windows of the home. “Get away from there you walking maggot hive!” Lazarus goaded.


The ploy had worked perfectly. The zombies completely forgot about Isannah’s home and were now completely attentive to Lazarus’ moves. But is that really such a good thing? Better him than her Lazarus decided and he took out his sword and prepared for the worst. The two foes came in fast and strong. Lazarus ducked to his left and threw himself onto his knees. He jabbed at the zombie and came up through the zombie’s head. The zombie fell over dead, or motionless at least.


The other zombie having seen the other’s demise was now even more infuriated. It threw itself towards Lazarus. Remembering his father’s teaching he kicked the zombie in the side of the knee, hoping to buy himself some time to readjust his position. The zombie howled in pain as his kneecap moved to a new position. Lazarus jumped up and brought the sword down in a powerful slice. The zombie’s body laid in two pieces on the ground.


“This is really easy, I don’t know what my father was thinking of,” Lazarus said proudly, “I hope they stay dead”. Lazarus watched over their remains for a couple more moments ensuring that they would not magically reanimate or fix themselves in any way. After his curiosity was satisfied he ran towards Twith’s home.


At Twith’s home there was only one zombie, but it was a big one. Its lumbering walk displayed a heavy weight underneath all of that decaying flesh. Lazarus was slightly jarred by the horrid image. Luckily however, the zombie had not noticed Lazarus. The young boy took the opportunity and ran towards the zombie as fast as his legs could take him. As he came to the monster he stabbed with all his might. His sword was thrust deep into the creature’s back. But the creature barely moved. Lazarus pulled and twisted the blade, causing the wound to worsen for the monster.


“What are you?” Lazarus said as panic rose in his being once more.


The abomination slapped Lazarus on the side of the arm in a destructive display of force. Lazarus who was taught to never drop a weapon held on tight to the sword and did not drop it even after the great distance the blow had propelled him. The hole where the blade had once been was nonexistent Lazarus noticed. This meant trouble.


Lazarus looked all around trying to improvise. The hulk of a creature came slowly towards him in an ominous pace that only heightened Lazarus’ dread. Using his superior speed, Lazarus leapt at the monster and stabbed at the shoulder. The monster’s shoulder opened where the blade had passed through signaling a wound. But Lazarus’ smile was quickly removed once the young boy saw the shoulder mend before his very eyes. The monster too looked at Lazarus almost with a smile. It backhanded Lazarus on the jaw. He fell back and rolled several times before coming to a complete halt.


Lazarus cried out in pain as he smacked into a caravan. It was the caravan that was being used for the new constructions in town. Being loaded with granite blocks that were to be used for building more homes in Bellhelm, it was quite heavy. In desperation Lazarus climbed under the caravan, hoping to get away from the monster. It appeared that the monster almost got a sick sense of pleasure from this perverse cat and mouse game. It followed Lazarus quietly under the caravan hoping soon to taste of the young warrior’s flesh.


Lazarus hurried out from under the caravan and attacked the large wheels on the sides. The wheels popped off and the caravan shook as it began to fall. Lazarus sprinted to the other side and attacked the other wheels. With a loud thud the entire caravan came crashing down on top of the monster. For the first time during their encounter, the giant zombie had let out a sound of pain. It pleased Lazarus to realize it was not invincible.


“It probably didn’t kill you, but it better at least be able to hold you there,” Lazarus said as he grabbed at his side and observed the toppled caravan.


“There is no way you’re getting out of there big guy,” Lazarus said with a smile as he watched the monster futilely attempt to push the heavy load off of him. He sat down and watched as he tried to catch his breath.


“There you are!” Douglas screamed as he ran towards the caravan, “we finished off every other zombie. How did you fare?”


Now you show up?!” said the flabbergasted young boy, “I got news for you Douglas, that potion of yours didn’t work. I stabbed this guy under the caravan twice and it didn’t do a thing to him. He healed himself as if nothing ever happened”.


Douglas leaned over and picked up the blade from Lazarus’ grasp. “Well of course not Lazarus. The magic has worn off”.


“It wears off?!” Lazarus answered incredulously, “could someone have told me that?!”


“How did you kill the creature?” Douglas asked hoping to change the subject.


“It’s not dead, it’s stuck under this heavy thing,” Lazarus answered as he pointed to the wrecked caravan, “but don’t change the subject. How come you didn’t tell me it would wear off?”


“Sometimes it just wears off Lazarus, I am a novice mage after all,” Douglas stated embarrassedly.


“Thank Kazames you’re alright,” Magus said as he approached from behind the caravan, “How hurt are you?”


“I’m okay dad, what are you going to do with this thing Douglas?” Lazarus questioned.


“We will take care of it Lazarus, you can go home now, you’ve done more than enough,” the magician suggested.


Magus nodded his approval as he tried to peek through the cracks of the wreckage.


“Oh, one more thing son,” Magus added as he stopped Lazarus from leaving. “I don’t want you to ever be shorthanded or under prepared again. I’m getting old. Perhaps I don’t deserve such a weapon. Here, I want you to take this”.


Magus handed the young boy Excelsior, scabbard and all.


“I couldn’t dad, really,” Lazarus said dumbfounded.


“You have to, it’s an old man’s wish,” Magus affirmed, “besides, a farmer like me can’t do much with it. I suppose it’s time for young warriors like Douglas and you to take care of old men like me now”.


 “Thank you dad, I will honor it as you have,” Lazarus swore with a smile as he accepted the gift.


“I know you will Lazarus”.


Lazarus bowed to his father, his teacher, and looked at Douglas. He also gave Douglas a bow before leaving. But he would not be going home so soon. If he knew Frederick, the young noble would be looking at all of this carnage and laughing. Lazarus would go to the Bradford home and find that sniveling rat even if it meant imprisonment. He did not have to look very far however, as Frederick was cackling gleefully right in front of the town hall no less.


“You’ve got some nerve to be laughing in the middle of town like that,” Lazarus growled menacingly at Frederick.


“Watch your tongue peasant farmer! I am a blue blood; I shouldn’t even speak to you!” Frederick threatened, yet remained cheerful.


“I know what you did Frederick,” Lazarus said in a cold, evil tone, “and I promise you this. I’m going to make sure you never do it again”.


Frederick’s lower lip began to quiver. He was obviously afraid. Lazarus had him right where he wanted him.


“N-nonsense!” Frederick hesitated fearfully, “you know nothing of the sort!”


Lazarus stepped up to Frederick and brandished Excelsior. “I have a real weapon now, and I am dying to use it. But when I finally get my hands on you, I don’t think I’ll want to deprive myself of ripping you apart with my own two hands”.


Lazarus put his hand on Frederick’s head and pulled out a handful of hair. Frederick shouted in pain and surprise.


“You touched me! How could you!” Frederick exclaimed in disgust.


“Listen to me,” Lazarus said as he snarled at Frederick, “I have a handful of your hair now. If I give this to the duggs, they will make you a zombie, just like Old Man Potter. You’ll lose all the fancy clothes and money your family has, and you’ll become just like the zombies you saw today. Do you understand?”


The color in Frederick’s face had suddenly changed from a slight pinkish hue to a sickly looking white.


“You’ll spend the rest of eternity walking around Tierrah looking for more flesh to eat. And they’ll do it too, don’t think they hold any loyalty to you. If I ever catch you doing anything like this again, anything that is even slightly unethical, you’re maggot food. Understand?” Lazarus shoved the red hair in his pocket and headed home. It might have been a lie, but it sure got the job done. At least, whilst Frederick believed it.




The End


©2005-2006 by Orestes Ramos.  I am an incurable glutton for punishment (as most aspiring writers are) that calls Miami, Florida his hometown. “To Learn a Sword” was my first short story, and I hope to write many more.