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Disclaimer: This story contains scenes of violence, and shows the aftermath of said violence. If you are offended by any of this subject matter, then I recommend that you should search for entertainment elsewhere. The characters Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, Hercules, Iolaus, Autolycus, Darnelle, Glaphyra, Lyla, Kefor, and Derek strictly belong to MCA/Universal. Any subject matter that relates to the Battletech Universe aside from the names of characters and battle star groups not including the Eridanian Light Horse is strictly the property of Activision and the FASA Corporation. No copyright infringement is intended. All other characters in this story belong to me. All characters, settings, and situations in this story are fictitious, any similarity to persons, living or dead, settings, real or imaginary, and situations, true or false, is purely coincidental. Any usage of this narration is not permissible without written or e-mailed permission that has been granted to the party who wishes to use said documentation by the author of said documentation. Any questions, comments, or concerns are welcome. Please feel free to send them to me without fear or risk of retribution. I will view any and all correspondences with an open mind. Please include a return e-mail address to which I can send a reply. Please, enjoy the story.

Authors Note: This story contains references to the Battletech universe. If you are not familiar with this universe, then I will do my best to explain it to you. However, if you are familiar with the Battletech universe and you see any discrepancies, please e-mail them to me and I will do my best to correct the problem. For those of you who know not of Battletech, then this is a brief summary: It is the thirty-first century and battles are fought in giant robots called battlemechs. The people who pilot them are called mechwarriors. The galaxy is divided into two regions, the Inner Sphere, the explored space, and the Periphery, the unexplored space beyond the Inner Sphere. There are two major powers, the Federated Commonwealth (FC), and the Draconis Combine (DC). Our hero is a member of the FC military, a commander of the battle star group The Reapers.

Copyright 1998 by Jason Drever.

PART FOUR:  The Unknown One

That night, the nine who had stormed the Queen of the Spiders' lair and won were circled around a fire at the base of Nicole. Sedrik had offered to feed the group, sparing them of the foraging that they would have to do had he not. So they were gathered around a fire, eating a meal of delightful processed army food rations.

"So this," Gabrielle commented between mouthfuls, looking into the tinfoil pouch in her hand, "is macaroni and cheese?"

"Yes," Sedrik replied, smiling, "is it good?"

"Odd, and strong. Didn't expect cheese to be so...creamy."

Derek grimaced at his pouch. "Centaurs don't like-," he paused, looking on the package for a label, however, it was in modern roman text, not ancient Greek, and Derek was at a loss as to what it was called. "-this." he finished.

Sedrik smiled. "I thought you would love peppered steak."

"Well," Hercules commented, "I, for one, enjoyed dogs."

All in all, they enjoyed their food, and it was a relief to Gabrielle that she didn't have to cook. When ever they were on an adventure, the chore of preparing the food fell on her because Xena could burn water.

So after they had finished eating, they retired for the evening. Not wanting to be rude to his new friends, major Mike Sedrik decided to sleep on the ground, with them, instead of high in the metal 'mech.

He was up the ladder and inside, gathering a sleeping bag and blankets. If he was going to sleep on the ground, he'd do it in comfort.

That morning, after piling into the battlemech, they left on a north-easterly direction. That should put them on the necromancer's doorstep. While they traveled, Sedrik searched Nicole's database for any mention of a mythological necromancer who was holding a pendant for any who knew his name.

The search came up empty.

Sedrik pushed away from the console in frustration

"How are we supposed to get this pendant if we don't know his name?"

"Maybe he'll tell us his name." Gabrielle offered.

Sedrik leveled a look of deep condescension on her. "If he told people his name, then it wouldn't be a mystery."

She shrank away from his anger and immediately he regretted it. His look softened, but he turned away instead of apologizing.

They pondered the problem for the entire trip, and as the castle came in to view, they had yet to formulate an answer.

The castle was tiny, little more than a wall around a single building. Sedrik slowed the 'mech, and halted outside the wall. They couldn't jump into the courtyard, Nicole's feet would crush the entire area. So instead, they left the 'mech behind.

They approached the gate, wary of the silence, and knocked. Nothing. Again they knocked, and Darnelle turned away.

"This is never going to work. The prophecy said he'd give the pendant to any who call his name. We don't know his name!"

Then the metal gate creaked.

The group whirled to the gate, but there was nothing there. The gate hadn't opened, no-one was missing, or added. The gate was unchanged.

Suddenly the ground erupted around them, skeletal hands groping for ankles. The heroes backed away, and ran into the wall. The gate in the wall slowly creaked open, and soldiers began to pour forth.

They weren't live men, but corpses. Zombies.

Their flesh was a dark grey, the expressions hollow. The group of 'dead veteran men' halted outside and formed a single line around the heroes, cutting off their escape.

The group of nine drew weapons, ready to fight their way out. Xena stopped them. The zombies were unarmed, just standing there. The skeletal hand that had tried to grab them before had now latched onto the zombies' legs. Then, hand over hand, the skeletons pulled themselves out of the ground to stand by the zombies.

A single skeleton walked forward and extended a bony appendage. The heroes looked at one another, not knowing what it meant. The skeleton reached out and grasped the nearest heroes, Iolaus, and grabbed a hold of his hand. He jerked back, but the skeleton grabbed him again. Again, he jerked back, kicking at the skeleton, knocking it back in a shower of bones. It began to pull together as Gabrielle figured it out.

Why only one? Why grasp his hand? To lead.

Gabrielle stepped away from the wall and reached out her hand. The nearest undead creature, a zombie, gripped her hand in return. Gabrielle's stomach roiled at the sensation, like she had stuck her hand into cold goose innards.

The zombie turned on it's heel and lead her away. The other heroes followed, not wanting to leave her behind. The other undead creations pulled up behind them, shuffling along in a disorganized gait.

Soon they were ushered inside to a great room. There, Gabrielle was released and the zombies and skeletons backed away, lining against the wall.

In the center of the room stood a single chair. And in the chair was the Lord of the Dead.

Or at least it used to be.

The figure in the chair was nothing but bones. Cobwebs streamed from the bones to the floor and around the chair in a mockery of clothing. And on the corpse's head sat the Pendant of Wisdom.

"Looks like he doesn't need a name." Sedrik advanced on the chair. Slowly, he reached out and removed the pendant.

Every zombie and skeleton in the room just dropped, losing their animation. Then the castle walls vanished, melting away like mist.

They were left standing in a clearing with a chair and a corpse.

"It was all illusion," Xena said softly, "a spell broken when the connection with the pendant was lost."

Sedrik looked at the talisman in his palm in awe.

Pendant of Wisdom indeed.

To Be Continued...

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