“A’right, mate, let’s have them pockets inside out now. Jus' give me your valuables and you can go back to bawlin' over your dead mum like nothin' happened.”
I felt a hard cylinder of metal press against the back of my neck. Who the hell mugs people in a cemetery, I wondered. Well, not this guy, for one. A sly smile came over my lips.
I made a slight, almost imperceptible summoning motion with my right hand. The hard packed dirt in front of me cracked apart, and the gravestone I’d been standing over tilted slightly.
A massive arm shot out of the grave, followed immediately by a second, and then a large meaty head with a scar running one way and a tattoo of a scar running the other. I flicked my fingers upwards, and the beast rose from its grave, a nearly two metre tall monstrosity of dirt and sinew. The beast groaned and flexed. I felt a tingle of excitement in my bones.
But something was wrong. The metal cylinder still pressed against my neck. The mugger hadn’t run off screaming into the night. If anything, his gun was making an even longer-lasting imprint on my skin, and he had leaned in close enough that I could smell everything he’d eaten that day. Quite a lot of beef, probably past its sell-by date.
“I’ll not back down from a challenge, mate,” he whispered hoarsely. The pressure against my neck was removed, and a distinctly not-gun-shaped tube landed in the grass next to me.
Then my left hand tightened into a fist and punched me right in the jaw.
I staggered back and finally got a proper look at my erstwhile mugger, who had quickly sidestepped me. He was a bent old man, clothed in a thousand-year-old greatcoat and with a scraggly white beard that had bits of food and specs of blood in it. His beady old grey eyes were screwed up in concentration, and his whole face was turning red. I could see a vein bulging on his right temple.
My left arm came in for a second hit, barely missing my jaw as I jerked my head back just in time. I waggled my right hand frantically, jerkily pointing at the bastard who I was now about seventy percent sure was a hemomancer. Bunch of bloody bastards – pardon the pun.
My old pal Bobby lurched towards the hemomancer, his massive footfalls practically shaking the earth beneath us. I felt the control of my left arm come back to me as my nemesis turned his attention to Bobby. Joke’s on him, dead men don’t have any hemo to mance! I grinned, rubbed my smarting jaw, and gave the command to tear the hemomancer in half.
But the hemomancer hopped back just as Bobby’s massive fists came down on his now-vacated spot. The mancer’s scraggly beard rustled in the wind, and small red strings seemed to drift out of it into the air above, swirling around each other menacingly. My lip smarted.
Suddenly a stream of red shot out of my face. The blood from my lip joined the hemomancer’s swirling, thickening ball of blood in the air, and then suddenly whole thing straightened out and formed what looked very much like a scimitar.
What was left of my blood ran cold. The scimitar reorientated. Bobby’s dead eyes looked at it, unblinking. The scimitar sliced him in half. And then into quarters.
The hemomancer stepped forward through the rain of blood and decomposed meat, grinning in toothless victory. “Now, how ‘bout those valuables?”
My mind raced. In those few seconds it took for the hemomancer to walk towards me, I must have done enough thinking to fill three volumes of philosophical dialogues. I remembered everything I’d ever learnt about necromancy, from the first time I’d reanimated a dead bird to the messy divorce with my dead wife, desperately searching for something I could do to best my opponent. Then it hit me.
I flashed my hands around like a deranged sign language interpreter. The hemomancer just laughed. My heart sunk. I got ready to part with my cellphone with the cracked screen and the three dollars fifty in my wallet. But then the hemomancer stopped laughing. His face went about three shades of green and he doubled over, clutching his stomach.
With a sickening sound somewhere between a squelch and a rip, a chunk of dead cow burst out of his side and slithered onto the grass. The hemomancer gasped and squealed, and then was silent.
I’m really glad he wasn’t a vegetarian.