“Okay, remember, we don’t have to beat him. Our goal is the portal. If we can get to that, we go through it. No need to take out the necromancer if we don’t have to.” John looked at the others to make sure they understood. Jason nodded.
“What if he comes through the portal after us?” Kevin asked.
“He might not. And if he does, at least we don’t have to fight him in his home.”
Jason spoke next. “What about our ‘rolls’? Why can’t we always say high numbers?”
“I might have an idea about that,” Matt said. “I think there is a set total of numbers that can be used in an encounter. Like with the fireball. There must have been a total of forty-five. Both John and Kevin said twenty, so that left just five for Jason. At least, that’s the idea.”
“So we have to be careful about how high we go? Leave some for everyone else?”
“That’s my best guess, Kevin.”
The three boys looked at each other for a long moment. “Okay,” John said finally, “We all have to think about our charts, try to use only what you think you need to in order to succeed. Matt, any idea how quickly the numbers come back?”
“No clue. I’m not even sure they do, and I’m just trying to explain what is happening. I don’t know that I’m right.”
“Well, at least it’s something.”
Jason was getting antsy. “The sun’s up. We’re as ready as we can be. Let’s get going. We’ve already been here too long.”
John and Kevin nodded their agreement. They all checked their equipment one last time. Kevin had his spells memorized. Jason was back in his armor. John had his cloak on. There was nothing else to do.
They stepped out of the room and made their way down the hall. John walked a bit ahead of them, his hood drawn up, effectively invisible. Jason brought up the rear, in case there was an attack from behind. They hoped that a necromancer’s castle would be quiet during the day, but they still expected an attack from around every corner.
Luck was with them, however, as they made it all the way back to the necromancer’s throne room without running into any monsters. The room itself was also empty. Just a few torches lit it up, leaving many pools of shadow all around.
“Matt? Where is he?” Kevin tried to whisper, but it still sounded too loud in the silence that surrounded them.
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe he isn’t here?” Jason’s voice was hopeful.
From up ahead, they heard John call back. “Come on guys. The portal should be back here. We seem to be alone.”
Kevin and Jason began running for the throne, eager to be free from this place at last. As they got within twenty feet of the throne, though, a voice stopped them cold.
“You have returned.” It sounded eerily like Matt’s. “Shall we resume our engagement from yesterday?” The necromancer stepped out from a shadow just behind the throne. Dressed all in black, he looked a bit like Dracula from the Saturday monster movie. Next to him were two skeleton guards, each carrying a sword.
The guards began advancing on them. Jason raised his sword, but Kevin stopped him. “Get the necromancer. I’ve got these two.”
Jason nodded and started moving forward. As he got near the skeletons, he heard Kevin mutter a few words behind him. Several glowing beams of energy streaked past him, striking the skeletons. Each of them was hit by three beams, and a seventh struck the necromancer. While he appeared to shrug off the attack, the skeletons both crumpled to the floor.
Jason swung his sword as he reached the necromancer. He was ready for Matt’s prompt.
“Roll to hit.”
“I roll a ten!” The blade bit into the black-robed wizard and caused him to yell out in pain.
Seemingly from nowhere, John’s voice rang out. “I roll a 14!” The necromancer cried out again. As he stumbled forward, John kept hold of his dagger sliding out of the enemy’s back.
The necromancer spun away from his attackers. The sound of wings drew their attention. The bone dragon was there, glaring at them with its empty eye sockets.
“Run!” yelled Kevin. He had already started to move, but the other two were caught by the dragon’s breath attack. Frosty air came at them.
“Go first, Jason,” John said.
“I don’t remember my save against breath weapons.”
“I roll a… nine!” Jason dodged to the side, avoiding the full force of the damaging cold.
John was silent for a few more beats, running through numbers, finally yelling out, “Eleven!” The cold hit him directly, knocking him to the ground.
Jason ran to him to help him up. He was unconscious. Breathing, but cold and blue.
“Grab him and let’s go!”
Jason picked up his friend and began hurrying toward Kevin behind the throne. Kevin had pulled aside a curtain to reveal a glowing doorway.
“Take him through. I’m right behind you.”
Jason hesitated, but only for a moment, and then stepped through the portal. Kevin turned back to the dragon and raised his staff. A short command sent a small burst of flame streaking toward the monster. Kevin dove through the portal before the fireball exploded.
On the other side, Jason had put John down, if that word had meaning any longer. Mists swirled all around them. The vague shadows that might be people or monsters moved in nearly every direction. Thankfully, there didn’t appear to be many of them, and none were nearby.
“I gave him a healing potion, but it doesn’t seem to be having any effect.”
“Is he still alive?”
“Yes. Just not awake. And very cold.”
“Matt? Any help here?” Kevin waited for a response, but none came. “Matt? Are you there?” Still nothing.
Kevin looked back at Jason. “We should move a bit away from the portal in case we’re followed. We can try to warm up John while we wait for Matt to show up.”
“What if Matt’s stuck in that world?”
Kevin chewed his lip, not wanting to think about that possibility. “I don’t think he is. This plane is connected to that one. Let’s try to get John up before we worry about this too much.”
“Okay. I hope Matt shows up soon.”
* * *
As soon as he stepped inside his house, Matt tried to go straight to his bedroom. But his mom called to him from the living room where she was knitting.
“Matt? Is that you?”
“Did you have fun with your friends?”
“Yeah. It was a good session. Kinda tired though. And I have school tomorrow.”
“Well, get some sleep. You can tell me all about it tomorrow. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight, mom.” Relieved to have avoided a long conversation, Matt went to his bedroom and closed the door behind him.
The end. For now.