Calavera Mordane, the Skeleton King, sat upon his throne deep within the Bone Castle wondering what in hell happened to him. It had been a full day since he emerged from his subterranean tomb in bewilderment. The last thing he remembered was being skewered in the chest by a young man wielding a flaming sword while another young man recited an incantation damning him to eternal sleep. His conquest for world domination using the undead had been cut short by mere children. His last thought before diving into the deep black of slumber was how much he regretted being killed by snot nosed teenagers, the so called Chosen Ones.
Why were the Chosen Ones always teenagers? Whose bright idea was it to leave the fate of the world in the hands of babies with hormonal issues and acne? Maybe the world deserved to be destroyed.
His thoughts had trailed off again. It was hard to stay focused as his mind grappled with the state of sudden consciousness. How long had he been asleep? It was difficult to discern the passage of time from his throne. The paneless window across the stark room showed him the desolate valley beyond the castle walls. The Valley of Bones was the name given to it on account of it being filled with the bones of his enemies. Because of this, there was no obvious way to determine how long he’d been away.
One thing he knew for sure was it had to take a mighty powerful mage to have raised him from sleep. The kids barely had enough power to defeat him, which surprised him. Whoever raised him must have some major mojo. He wished he knew who it was so that he could send them a thank you card.
A deep breath caused his chest to ache. The stab wound had miraculously healed, but was still sore. He rubbed the scar and sighed. It would probably be a chronic pain, a constant reminder of his defeat. It was clear what had to happen next- revenge. If those kids were still alive, they were going to pay dearly for scarring his beautiful chest. He didn’t work out every day for it to be so disrespected.
When Calavera awoke, his undead minions rose from their graves and wandered aimlessly without purpose. But now their mission was clear: find the boys who killed their master, the Graveyard Fighters.
Fox Warren stood up and wiped the sweat from his brow. The sun beat down on him as he stood in the middle of the field. He had been picking carrots in the community farm all morning. Now the midday sun hung high above him, signaling it was time for lunch. He took his shirt off to reveal his well toned stomach and sculpted pecs. The sweat caught the sunlight perfectly, giving him a god-like sheen, a golden brown god.
“You sure are pretty,” said Old Man Jenkins from the house. He took off his wire glasses and wiped them on his shirt. “You could have been a model instead of working on this dirty farm, you know.” He replaced his glasses and smiled. “Not that I don’t appreciate the work you’ve done.”
Fox chuckled as he wiped his face with his now dirty shirt. “Oh, you big flirt, Jenkins. You always say the nicest things.”
“I have to, otherwise you might stop working here.” Jenkins replied. He beckoned to Fox and winked. “Come on in, lunch is ready. I made my famous potato and cheese soup.”
“Be right there!” Fox loved that soup. As much as he would prefer to finish collecting the carrots in their entirety, one did not pass up Jenkins’ soup if they knew what was good for them.
He bent over to pick up the carrot basket when he heard the voice of someone he hadn’t seen in seven years.
“So, you’re a farmer now? Really?”
Goosebumps ran up Fox’s arms as he registered who the voice belonged to. It can’t be, he thought. He’s dead. It can’t be him. He slowly stood up and turned around to come face to face with the specter. Before him stood a man who couldn’t possibly be standing there. He had light brown skin, a cloud of curly black hair, tan eyes, and a beauty mark just to the left of his mischievous smirk. He looked older than the last time Fox saw him, but it was definitely him. The green cloak he wore was the same one he had seven years ago.
“Creston…” Fox said. Were his eyes playing a trick on him? He had to make sure. He created a ball of lightning and threw it at the apparition.
Creston dove to his left as the ball whizzed by him and hit a nearby tree. He sat up and watched the flames flicker upon the singed bark. “What the fuck, man?”
Fox’s heart skipped a beat as he realized the man wasn’t an apparition. It was really Creston in the flesh. His spirits soared, but then quickly sank as he came to terms with the fact his best friend in the world had not died like he assumed. He was very much alive.
“I’ll tell you what the fuck! You disappear in the dead of night without so much as a goodbye, and you don’t write to tell me you’re not dead in a ditch being sodomized by trolls for seven years!”
“Seven years is a long time to be sodomized by trolls, even as a corpse,” Creston joked. Fox didn’t laugh. Another lightning ball appeared in the farmer’s hands, which caused Creston to raise his. “Whoa! Calm down, okay, buddy? I’m here now, in one piece.”
“Not for long.” Fox prepared to throw the ball, but he paused. His heart was truly happy to see his friend again. The wish he made every night before he went to sleep had finally come true. Shocking Creston to death would be a poor way to repay that wish. He allowed the energy to dissipate and lowered his hands. “So, it’s really you?”
The two of them stared at each other and grinned. Creston looked Fox up and down. He was impressed by how much his friend had changed. Fox was once a scrawny waif of a boy, but now, he was stacked. His eyes took in the sight and marveled.
“What have they been feeding you?” Creston asked.
“Oh, you know, just organic fruits and vegetables. I cut back on the carbs, and I get plenty of exercise working in the garden.” Fox hid his chest with the shirt and tried to ignore the way Creston was staring at him.
“You’re so basic.”
Fox immediately rolled his eyes. “You’re still trying to make ‘basic’ happen?”
Creston ignored the slight against his totally cool lingo. “You’re an adventurer turned farmer. It’s a bit backward, but it’s still basic as hell.”
“I prefer the term ‘agricultural engineer’,” Fox said, folding his arms.
Creston snorted. “Bitch, please. You’re a farmer.”
Fox frowned. Creston smirked and arched a brow. The two stood still, staring each other down until they both broke down and laughed. Creston jumped over the log fence and hugged his best friend tightly.
Fox wanted the hug to last forever. For seven years he had dreamt of this moment, and now that it was finally here, he didn’t want to let go for fear of waking up. They stayed in each other’s embrace for a good while before Creston pulled himself away.
“I’m so glad you haven’t been sodomized by trolls,” Fox said.
“Who says I wasn’t?” Creston winked.
“Don’t judge me!”
Fox took Creston’s hand and attempted to lead him inside the house. “You look like you could use some food. Come inside and have some soup. Jenkins’ soup is the best in the village.”
His friend’s expression turned serious. “I’m afraid there isn’t much time for lunch.”
It was Fox’s turn to snort. “There’s always time for lunch. I’ve never known you to turn down a free meal.” But a lot can change in seven years, he thought.
“The Skeleton King has returned.” Creston scanned Fox’s face for any recognition of the danger they were now in, but there was none. “Yesterday, the dead started busting free from their graves. At first, they seemed unorganized, but soon they started amassing in large numbers, attacking nearby villages.”
Fox shook his head in disbelief. “No. No, that can’t be. We killed him, or rather put him to sleep for eternity.” This had to be another one of Creston’s bad jokes. If it was, it wasn’t very funny. He’d rather pull his finger than entertain the idea of his worst enemy coming back to life. “Who would bring that maniac back? The sleeping spell I used was very powerful. If someone woke him up, that would mean…”
“There’s an even more powerful mage out there.” Creston took a deep breath and looked Fox dead in the eyes. “They could be working together.”
Fox could tell by staring into his eyes that Creston wasn’t kidding. “What do you think they want?”
“What do you think they want? To get revenge on the ones who defeated him.” Creston looked back for a moment before returning his attention to Fox. “The undead already attacked my village, Halsburg. I was able to kill them easily. They’re not too strong yet. If they went to Halsburg looking for me…”
“It’s only a matter of time before they come here.” The goosebumps returned and traveled down Fox’s arms. The idea of the undead tearing up his peaceful village chilled him to his core. He couldn’t stand by and let his people, his family get hurt because of him. He wouldn’t let it happen. In fact, ‘basic’ had a better chance of happening.
“Okay.” Fox turned to the house and sighed knowing he wasn’t going to be able to eat Jenkins’ soup. “Let me pick up my gear at my house and then we’ll see about the Skeleton King.”
Suddenly, the sound of screams filled the air. Something was happening at the front of the village. The two men knew they had just run out of prep time. It was time to suit up.
“Are you ready?” Creston asked.
“No,” Fox admitted. “But let’s do the damned thing.”
“The Graveyard Fighters are back, baby!” Creston hopped over the log fence and ran toward the noise. He stopped to look back and said, “Put a shirt on, will ya? I can’t take you seriously when you look like that.”
Fox frowned playfully as he reluctantly put his shirt on. He followed his friend into his first battle in eight years.