The Amulet of Al’Annakhar

A thick fog blanketed the graveyard obscuring skeletal trees and gravestones. Though one mausoleum stood out different from the rest. Larger and somehow free of the moss and wear, it stood an imposing square of ebon stone. Surrounding it were four obelisks glowing from lines of runes on their surfaces. These same runes were on the massive stone doors sealing the mausoleum. Before these doors was a cat girl wearing a groove in the dirt with her agitated pacing. Her black tail thrashed around behind her and humidity made her robes cling to her skin. She wore a simple leather satchel and clutched a withered wooden staff close to her.

Rin Fairbanks the Nekota Mage

As she paced her eyes darted between the doors and the fog looking for something or someone. Then her ears perked up as a masculine figure emerged from the fog. At first she brandished her staff but lowered it when the figure closed the distance. The masculine figure ran up to her and rested his hands on his knees panting. His breath misted as he began to speak. “Sorry…Rin…I got here as fast as I could.” He bowed in apology and looked up meeting Rin’s eyes.

Harold Fairbanks the Human Warrior

At first her gaze was stern with her removing one of her hands from her staff and placing it on her hip. Her gaze was frigid locked on his but recognizing his sincerity she warmed and she pulled him up with a sigh. “So Harold how did it go?” Harold held up one finger signaling Rin to wait as an origami bird flew out of his armor.

The Messenger

The origami bird circled the duo making sure their eyes were on it before a man’s voice began to emit from it. “Rin and Harold Fairbanks I accept your offer. The amulet of Al’Annakhar will suffice for this month’s payment. The children are looking forward to a warm breakfast. See to it you don’t fail to deliver.” As he finished speaking the bird burned up into a ball of flame. Inside the flame the Fairbanks Orphanage was visible. The flame vanished leaving Harold and Rin alone again in the fog.

Fairbanks Orphanage

The two stood stunned taking in the threat before Harold spoke up. “So we have until morning? Let’s get to it then.” Rin nodded and approached the doors. As she approached the runes glowed brighter. She pulled a weathered leather bound tome out of her bag and began poring over it. She began to write a translation on a blank piece of parchment. When she finished she read it out loud.

“Four surround, four around,

by four is your answer found.

What imperial blood concealed,

will by same blood reveal.”

After Rin finished Harold looked at her confused. “So any idea what that all means?” Rin read her translation over pondering it.

Then understanding dawned on her. “It’s simple, but we’re also screwed.”

Harold looked at her worried. “Whoa whoa whoa what do you mean? Break it down for me.”

Rin didn’t think it would help but she agreed. “Okay first part’s easy. Four pillars around the mausoleum so that’s the four. Second part is what gets us. We need imperial blood. Give the pillars imperial blood and we’re in.”

After she finished Harold took in what she said and then held his head in his hands.“You don’t happen to have the blood of a thousand year dead evil empire around do you?” Rin shook her head. “So what now? Could one of your spells help?”

Again Rin shook her head. “Magic doesn’t work that way.” As she spoke she walked over to one of the pillars and held her hand over the runes. As she held her hand close magic sparked from the pillar slicing a small cut in her fingertip. A trickle of her blood floated from the cut dying the runes on the pillar red. Rin cried out in pain and surprise. As Rin sucked on her finger,

Harold ran up to check on her. “Rin are you okay? What was that?” Tearing a strip of cloth from his cloak he wrapped it around her finger. “Who would have guessed that the Lux Imperium were Nekota?”

Rin who was still trying to process what was happening spoke up. “It is weird. None of the chronicles say anything about that. Guess there’s nothing to worry about getting past the pillars then?”

Harold gave Rin a troubled glance. “Well there is one thing.”

A moment later Rin stifled a sniffle looking at the three new wraps on her fingers. Harold pat her shoulder in comfort as the massive stone doors creaked open. Once the door was open they saw a stone staircase descend into the earth. As Harold and Rin descended the door closed behind them with a crash making the two of them jump. For a moment it was dark, but then the moss covering the walls began to give off a sickly green glow.

Rin held close to Harold as they walked. Holding her staff with one arm she held on to his arm with the other. “Hey Rin it’s not going to be easy to fight if you keep clinging to me like that.”

Rin let go of Harold but she still walked close to him speaking up. “I can’t help it. I don’t like dark places.”

Harold gave her an understanding smile and said. “I know it’s dark and creepy but remember we’re adventurers.

“Who’s going to soar on the wings of eagles?”

Rin thought for a moment and said. “We are!”

“Who’s going to sail through the storms of Kan’Dar?”

“We are!”

“Who’s going to strike it rich?”

“We are!”

“And then the Fairbanks kids will all be fat.” “And then we’ll all be fat.”

“Now recite the adventurer’s vow!”

Rin puffed out her chest and said. “Beds to be made, and kids to be fed. We’ll win our fortune or we’ll be dead!”

“Or we’ll be dead!”

Now both Harold and Rin walked with a fresh spring in their step. Although Harold didn’t see it Rin smiled at him and thought. “He does always know what to say doesn’t he?” Their newfound pep didn’t last as a creaking sound echoed in the distance. Harold and Rin softened their steps. The narrow passage opened to a round chamber illuminated by moonlight from above. Again the creaking. Now Harold and Rin stopped flat against the wall holding their breaths.

Entering the chamber from the narrow passage on the other side was a skeleton. It lurched forwards weighed down by it’s large stone sword. The skeleton dragged its sword as it walked and its jaw creaked open when it spotted Harold and Rin. No sound came out of its mouth but its hollow eye sockets seemed to narrow in anger. Harold stepped forward with his sword drawn and shield raised. Rin followed behind with her staff readied. Slow as the skeleton moved it still reached them. It raised up its sword and Harold braced his shield for the impact. The skeleton slammed the sword against Harold’s shield. The force returning from the block caused it to fall backwards on its bony rear and its sword arm to fall off.

Lone Skeleton

The skeleton fumbled around on the ground trying to pick itself up by pushing off the ground with its sword. It managed to lift itself on to its knees before the sword slipped and it fell forwards. This caused its other arm to fall off. Harold and Rin stared with pity at the skeleton. They looked at each other and Rin nodded. Harold took the cue and stepped forward. The skeleton chattered its jaw at the pair, but could do nothing as Harold drove his sword through its back.

Harold withdrew his sword and Rin approached the motionless pile of bones. She gave the skeleton a tap with her foot and said. “You know I’m not that scared anymore.”

Harold sighed and said. “I guess easy is safer but this is going to be a lame story back home.” Wall sconces all around them lit up revealing rows of stone coffins. The lids to all the coffins flew off creating a terrible racket. Harold and Rin stood weapons readied as waves of skeletons poured from coffins. Thousands of skeletons collapsed around the pair creating piles of bones and weapons.

The skeletons stopped pouring from the walls and lay motionless on the ground. Harold and Rin were confused but stayed readied back to back. Something seemed different compared to the encounter with the solitary skeleton. Their alertness was rewarded when the bones surrounding the duo began to reform. As skeletons reformed they grabbed weapons from the piles and stood at attention. Once they had reformed the skeletons thumped their fists and weapons. As they thumped the final skeleton reformed and equipped armor and a helmet. Then it raised up its sword and pointed it at Harold and Rin. It roared in a strange tongue and the legions charged.

Skeleton Horde

Harold blocked and parried and slashed again and again. Rin shot fireballs from her staff taking out one skeleton after another. But no matter how many they took out more stepped forwards to take their places. Harold and Rin could see that if nothing changed they would run out of energy and that would be the end. Harold spoke up and said. “Hey Rin can you cast bubble ward and buy us a second?” Rin who had finished blasting a skeleton wielding an ax nodded. She waved her staff and a translucent dome formed surrounding the two of them. Rin pressed her back against Harold’s with her staff glowing as she maintained the spell.

“So Harold what’s the plan?”

“Depends are we going forward or giving up?”

Rin thought for a second and said. “Forwards we can’t afford to give up.”

“Alright then on three blast a gap in the skeletons and we’ll rush through.”

“Got it.”

Both of them counted down. “1…2…3!”

Rin fires. The two rush through. Footsteps echo as they run. Weapons clang against bones. Harold and Rin run, the horde hot at their heels. A wall. Now what. Now what. “Hey Harold now what?!” Before Harold could respond the armored skeleton forced its way to the front of the group. Behind it the others again began the thumping.

The armored skeleton pointed its sword at Harold and roared. “Hey Rin what do you think that one wants? They going to charge us again?” Rin shook her head and said. “He’s challenging you to a duel and you should agree.” Harold looked confused but before he could protest Rin whispered in his hear. He nodded and stepped forwards.

The skeleton ran at Harold and the two clashed swords. This skeleton was different than the others. It fought with technique and practiced skill while the others relied on strength. It varied its strikes forcing Harold onto the defensive. He felt his muscles strain as the skeleton slammed its sword into his shield again and again. Harold stepped his foot back and dug in his heels. He braced and after one more impact Harold pushed off his back foot forcing the skeleton off balance. Now Harold swung, with the skeleton catching the blade with its own. Now both more aware of the abilities of the other they pulled away. Locking eyes each stood coiled like panthers ready to pounce. Harold sensed the growing magic behind him. Both him and the skeleton rushed forwards. Right before their swords met Harold threw himself sideways into a roll. The skeleton was pulled down by the weight of its missed strike. It recovered and turned towards Harold. Thus it didn’t see the beam of light which disintegrated it and all the rest of the skeletons in the corridor.

Holy Spell

Rin lowered her staff and felt the energy leave her body. As she went to collapse Harold caught her and embraced her supporting her. “Whoa take it easy.” Harold guided her to the ground with her back against the wall. “Well that worked. What was that?” Rin took a swig from her canteen and said. “That was holy fire. Takes out a ton of undead.” “Well that should make things easier from now on.” Rin shook her head. “That’s not a normal spell.” “What do you mean?”

“Well it’s more like a god’s blessing. No mana cost but only works once a day.”

“Well that’s a shame but at least we’re safe now, and you have to admit it was pretty cool.”

A masculine voice spoke up and said. “Answer me my questions three.”

Harold and Rin jumped up in surprise and turned around. They saw the wall they had been leaning on was a heavy wooden door with a wizened face. The duo drew their weapons and leveled them at the face. The face blinked its eyes and then said. “Ahem please calm yourselves. I mean you no harm, nor am I capable of it. I am an ordinary talking door. You may call me Jani”.

Jani the Door

Harold and Rin looked at each other in confusion. Harold nodded and said. “Right it’s a talking door.”

Rin covered her face with her hand and shook her head. “Harold doors don’t talk.”

The door laughed and said. “Indeed what a shame. Back in my day most everything talked. But few around listen anymore. They must have fallen asleep. Even I was beginning to drift off with only those bony fools around to talk with.”

Harold looked at Jani which was enjoying moving his mouth around and blinking his eyes and said. “We’d love to talk with you, but we are in a hurry. We need the amulet of Al’Annakhar to save our family.”

Jani grimaced and said. “That wretched thing. If you must know, the chamber where that…thing is being held is right behind me.” Harold and Rin felt their hearts lift at being so close to their goal.

Rin winked and said. “So you don’t seem to be a fan of the amulet. How about you let us pass and we’ll take it away from here?”

Jani moved his eyes side to side in what seemed to be a gesture of denial. “I am afraid it doesn’t work like that. You see the one who guards the amulet is a crafty being of ancient and evil wisdom. You must prove that you can match wits with him before I can allow you thorough.”

Harold and Rin huddled together whispering. After a brief discussion Harold spoke up and said. “And what if we refuse and blast our way through?”

Jani repeated his gesture of denial and snorted. “You are free to try but it won’t work. You’d collapse the mausoleum on your heads before you even made a crack in me.”

The duo sighed and entered another huddle. After more whispering the two nodded at each other and said in unison. “We’ll do it. How do we prove it?”

Jani grunted in affirmation and said. “Wonderful wonderful. It is simple as I said before. Answer my three questions and I will let you through. First question. I show everything except myself, what am I?”

Harold and Rin paced thinking for a bit and then Harold had a flash of inspiration. “That’s an easy one. A mirror. The only thing you can’t see in a mirror is the mirror itself.”

“Second question. I walk always with the light but vanish in the night. What am I?”

Harold and Rin again began to pace but Rin ended up tripping. As she fell she noticed in the light of the torches something moving. Falling into the darkness she came to a realization and said after getting up. “I’ve got it. It’s a shadow. It’s always with you when you are in light but it goes away when it gets dark.”

“Another good answer. Well here’s your final question. I make a boy a man, and turn mountains to sand. What am I?”

Harold and Rin pondered the answer to the riddle and thought about their deadline. Then they came to a realization.

“We’ve got it. It’s time. Time causes a boy to grow up and crumbles the mountains into the sand.”

Jani laughed and said. “Well well well you’ve got it. Excellent performance! Proceed and take that wretched amulet from this place.” Harold and Rin exchanged high fives and thanked Jani. Then Rin smiled and said. “Thank you for letting us through. We promise we’ll be back to talk to you as soon as we can.” Jani laughed and faded away revealing a narrow passage descending into the dark.

The duo descended making their way into the dark. As the left Jani reformed himself closing off the passage again. Jani thought about the pair of adventurers and sighed. “Those two were a fascinating pair. It’s a shame I’ll never see them again. Either that wretch will kill them or they’ll take the amulet. And that amulet is the only thing holding this place together. What a shame, but still it’s good to meet good people at the end. Especially that Lux princess. She’ll have a great destiny one day.”

Harold and Rin made their way through the dark passage feeling their way along the wall. A short time later they saw a stone coffin on a plinth surrounded by torches. It was the only thing illuminated in a dark room of unclear size. Harold and Rin looked at each other nervously. “Hey Rin. You agree that looks like a trap right?”

Rin saw the coffin isolated from everything else and nodded. “Yeah but what else can we do?”

“How about you summon a light and we check the rest of the room?”

Rin thought that was a good idea but before she could cast it the lid of the coffin exploded upwards. A green mist emanated from inside the coffin and a glowing lich levitated upwards. On its head was a stone crown gilded with silver and jewels. On its body were the tattered remnants of what must have been a robe of fine cloth. Around its neck was an ornate golden amulet shaped like a skull with diamonds in its eyes. Where legs would be was an ethereal tail. In its hand was a jeweled staff resembling winding serpents.


The lich cracked its neck back and forth and moved its jaw around to loosen it up. Then it spoke in a booming voice and said. “Who dares disturb my slumber? Who seeks to steal that which is rightfully mine? Skulk not in the shadows. Present yourselves and you may find me merciful.” Harold and Rin looked at each other and nodded. There was no telling what was in the dark around the rest of the room, and the amulet was so close. So they stepped forwards from the dark passage into the light.

The lich looked Harold over taking note of his armor, shield, and sword. “Ah wonderful a mighty warrior. Here to defend or to destroy?” Then he looked Rin over. He saw her staff and robe and his eye holes seemed to take on a gentle expression out of respect for a fellow mage. His expression turned to one of rage when he noticed her ears and tail. “How dare you enter here princess of the Lux? Haven’t your kind taken enough from me? You deprived me of everything. My home, my family, and even my name was taken from me. And when I fought to hold on to my amulet your kind sealed me away in here to rot forever.” As the lich continued its tirade it flew around the chamber drifting in and out of the shadows.

Finally it stood still and brandished its staff at the pair. “Mighty warrior turn and flee now and you will be spared. As for you princess of the Lux. Your death will be slow and painful.” Harold and Rin exchanged determined glances and nodded. Then they raised up their weapons and charged the lich.

Before Harold closed the distance the lich ricocheted an energy bolt around the room. Rin closed her eyes and attuned her sensitive ears to the disturbance it made in the wind. The moment it was about to strike her from behind she summoned a magical shield blocking it. Now Harold was on the lich forcing it to summon a magical shield of its own. Harold’s sword slammed against the shield again and again driving the lich into the darkness.

Harold swung again but felt his sword strike nothing but air. The lich had vanished. Suddenly a fire bolt struck Harold in the back forcing him forwards and making him cry out in pain. Harold regained his footing and turned to face the lich when it vanished again. The lich prepared to repeat its earlier attack when a bolt of ice struck it driving it into the shadows. “Harold back to back!”

Harold Fighting

Harold ran over to where Rin was and they stood back to back. Darkness surrounded them on all sides and they heard laughter bouncing around them. Again and again the lich attacked from the dark and vanished again. Harold and Rin blocked attack after attack feeling their guards begin to slip. Seeing the way the lich fought Rin formulated a plan. After a brief back and forth with Harold the two separated.

Rin summoned glowing will o’ wisps all over the room banishing the darkness. Now with the lich visible Harold charged it. Again the lich was forced to the defensive. Every time it tried to vanish Rin shot magic at it. Every time it tried to remain still Harold was on it swinging his sword. The fight continued with the lich wearing down under the constant pressure.

Rin Fighting

The lich growing frustrated decided to change its tactics again. Dodging Harold’s strikes and Rin’s magic it summoned an energy blast tossing Harold and Rin through the air. It cried out in anger. “Enough! I will not lose to you blasted fools. Cursed descendant of my enemies. You will take nothing from me ever again.” The lich began gathering magical power, making the walls and ceiling shake.

Making their way to their feet the pair realized the lich was trying to bring down the mausoleum on top of them. Thinking quickly, Rin whispered to Harold and he nodded. Then she blasted Harold tossing him through the air over the lich into the darkness. The lich still gathering power laughed and said. “Close to death you turn on each other. Some things never change. Farewell.” It finished gathering power and was about to cast when Harold’s sword ran it through from behind. Unbeknownst to the lich Rin’s blast had not random. She had placed Harold exactly where she needed him. The magic the lich was casting dissipated as it cried out in surprise. “How can I lose? To the Lux again. How? How? How? Curse you Lux Princess. Curse you warrior boy. Why must I lose everything again?” As it finished it crumbled to dust leaving the amulet behind.

The Amulet

Rin scooped up the amulet and put it in her bag. The next thing they knew the mausoleum vanished and they stood in an empty plot of grass. Harold and Rin were confused but felt exhaustion hit them and they fell to the ground sitting back to back. Catching their breaths, Rin spoke up and said. “We did it. We got the amulet.”

Harold smiled and said. “Hell yeah we did. This will make an awesome story for the kids at home.”

Harold stood up and helped Rin to her feet. She pulled the amulet out of her bag to examine it. Suddenly a crow flew out of the mist and snatched it from her hand. Rin cried out on surprise and prepared to chase the crow down when a masculine voice came out of the mist. “Excellent work as usual children. Your payment has been received. Your family is safe. For now…”

After that the voice trailed off and wicked laughter rang out all around the duo in the mist. Finally the laughter finished and the graveyard fell silent. Harold and Rin exchanged tired smiles at a job well done. The pair grimaced and made their way through the mist back towards town and to their next adventures. As they left the graveyard they were aware of two things. There were more adventures yet to come and that their troubles had only begun. So they walked full of resolve into the future.


AUTHORS NOTE: I hope you enjoy my first completed short story The Amulet of Al’Annakhar. All illustrations were generated by NovelAI. I appreciate any comments or critiques. I’ll see you in the next one.


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