Hadrian the Bandit

It took only one day to recover from his injury, but several months to muster enough courage to step out of his room. His robes have ridiculously long sleeves that cover his hands, and a winding sash that coils thrice around the torso. Hadrian prefers loose pants for his legs to move freely. His current robes impart a flavor that is too effeminate and rich for his taste. He grew up in the streets fighting.

Perhaps waking up to a tiny and empty cellar every day is boring, but Hadrian has a criminal reputation and no other choice. His old buddies were less than magnanimous, and they shunned him to protect their own hides. That’s how bandits are: selfish, stupid, or both. Pray you never meet an intelligent bandit. They’re terrifying because you don’t realize they’ve got a snake grip on the town. One or two mistakes are forgivable, albeit punished harshly. Any more mistakes…

About that intelligent bandit, he is the baron’s son of a local fief. They call him Morgan. His type of intelligence isn’t the genius kind. It’s the fact that he has a lot of friends, and they praise him about his smarts. Thus that makes him intelligent. The funny thing is that Morgan has no qualms about vile and heinous mutilation, except when it comes to human trafficking. Despite how profitable it is to siphon out desperate guys for cheap labor, and to refer girls to the “pantry,” Morgan absolutely hates trafficking. His village was historically victimized by sellouts.

The day they plundered an insignificant hamlet, Hadrian suggested having his way with a woman, because most of the men were dead.

Morgan striked without warning. Thus Hadrian’s arm became a generous fountain. While Hadrian laid there, alone, his arm spout watered the clovers.

A local healer stopped by to administer to him. He clamped Hadrian’s shoulder and brought him into a nearby villa.

The villa was quiet. As Hadrian drifted in and out of consciousness, he felt like he was participating in a heist. The cellar room had no wine, which was an abberration. Rich people like their wine more than their neighbors. Later, Hadrian would discover there is alcohol, because according to the healer, cockroaches make good beverages. A few cobwebs brighten up the place. They’re the lightest things in the room. So Hadrian lives in the cellar, moping about his missing arm. Moping is a bit of an understatement, but it’s hard for a strong person to admit weakness.

At first the villagers didn’t want the cripple to stay, especially because Hadrian used to be Morgan’s lackey.

The local healer turned out to be not-so-local. In the morning, he stands with a very poised posture, but by afternoon, he hobbles around on a white wooden cane. He moves so slowly that Hadrian mistook him for an ancient fixture of the town. The healer only wears two outfits. The first is a casual brown robe that is indistinguishable from sewage.

“You can recover at my rental,” the healer said. “I’ll be staying here until next season.”

“Ah,” Hadrian answered indecisively.

When Hadrian thinks he’s done moping, he ventures out to the pub. Like most small towns, the people have draconic memories. Out of pity and respect for the healer’s wishes, they leave Hadrian alone instead of oiling the pitchforks and hastening a noose. And leave him alone they do.



The barkeep gives Hadrian a cheap tonic without as much of a glance or greeting. Bare minimum of words. Hadrian swallows the drink, searing his throat with sadness concentrate. He returns to the cellar.

Each time Hadrian tries to fulfill his social needs, the days between outings stretch longer. A sleeve hangs loosely.

One day, the healer asks, “Are you getting acclimated? The scar looks a lot better.”

Before Hadrian closes the door, he mumbles, “Mage, I can’t take it anymore. Why am I even alive?”

“Well, you can go for a shave and a haircut. That will help your esteem.”

Hadrian briefly imagines his past self, when his blonde hair was shaped with two deliberate tufts, and his beard was gardened like a hedge. He misses those times. “Don’t deflect again! Why did you bother saving me?”

The healer shrinks, as if appearing far away, and his usual warmth disappears. “That kind of thing doesn’t need an explanation.”

Of course it’s self explanatory. A healer heals because it’s their job. They’re not supposed to be concerned with the philosophy behind it. This out-of-town doctor is slightly different, though. It’s hard to put a finger on it, but something about his demeanor is off.

Hadrian might be mad from grief. He doesn’t have anyone else to talk to. “I’m tired of being left in the dark. Is it fair to save people who don’t want to be saved? I’ve accepted my fate and yet here I still am.”

The healer, who’s name is Metus, waves a hand dismissively. “Back when I first met you, you shrieked about how you wanted forgiveness. It seems you wanted to live more than anything.”

Since nobody talks back to a mage directly by name, unless they possess no self-preservation instinct, Hadrian says, “I don’t want to sound unappreciative, but I would like the Mage to enlighten me. What benefit is there in taking care of me? I don’t have wages to pay you, and the villagers wish me dead.”

“Give me a week and I’ll be able to show you. There are some kinks I need to work out first.” Metus takes a few folds of Hadrian’s empty sleeve, then lifts it up and down and fluffs it from the inside, shattering the illusion of an arm. Hadrian cringes a little.

That’s the answer. To be a test subject. It’s not the worst thing in the world, although being a guinea pig is a hard pill for Hadrian to swallow. What’s it gonna be? A complete regrowth of the limb? Getting excited over such fantasies again? A decently carved prosthetic is about the best Hadrian can hope for. If the mage is doing this for free, maybe it’ll be fresh with bark and sap dripping.

One of these days, Hadrian leaves the cellar to get sunlight. He can feel his own beard existing, and it’s not existing pretty. His paleness is striking compared to the productive villagers.

A shopkeeper unloads cargo from a wagon.

When he walks up to the shopkeeper, Hadrian says, “Hello my friend, is there anything new going on?”

“Nothing much,” the shopkeeper replies.

Can I lend a hand? It’s still hard to get used to. Before, people who were working alone would normally respond with appreciation. Not being expected to work is slowly killing him inside.

Hadrian takes a walk around the perimeter of the village, choosing not to engage with anyone else. The lopsided weight of his body bothers him, and no amount of shaking or crying can overcome the years he had spent owning two arms. It simply doesn’t feel right.

The air finally becomes chilly, a cue to return to the cellar. Hadrian looks forward to jumping back into the cot. He enters the quiet villa–

“Hey.” Metus put a hand on Hadrian’s shoulder.

“What! What is it?”

“Come with me.”

Like a magnet, Hadrian follows him into the empty cellar.

Metus throws a cloth bag onto the table and it splays out. A rancid smell bursts forth.

“What in titanfall!”

“How badly do you want your arm back?” Metus asks.

At a loss for words, Hadrian eyes the package. What could be inside of it to smell so horribly? Strange fears munch through his head. “I’d absolutely love to have my arm again.”

Metus reaches for the bag and unwraps the covering. A severely decayed arm, with the flesh drooping off the bones. “This is yours.”

Hadrian swelters and gapes. “Is that really my arm? How did you find it?”

Upon seeing Hadrian’s very unhappy expression, Metus elaborates, “After Morgan cut it off, I went up and bought it. Your leftover bits are not worth very much.”

“Do you work for Morgan?”

Metus chuckles. “My personal finances are none of your business.”

“If you had my arm this whole time, why didn’t you reattach it sooner? I suffered all these months for no reason!”

“It’s well proven that severed body parts which are immediately attached will probably heal. Anyway, I wanted to know if an arm ravaged by time is still viable, so I kept it in the bog for you.”

Hadrian musters an expression that could pass for a smile. “I’m okay now. I don’t need to be a bother to you, not for something so complex. A wooden peg is fine and good.”

“Really? I was hoping you’d participate in a trial. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to move it.”

Wanting to scream, yet not wanting to look inappropriate, Hadrian glances at the dead flesh stinking up the place, and then at his legs. His legs still work! He’ll run far, far away, and warn people about this unqualified madman. Crippled or complete, there’s gotta be plenty of people who want Morgan dead. Hadrian just needs to find dissenters, and they can start up a bloody business. Whatever the hell Morgan is up to, Hadrian will plan out his revenge. With a poorly planned escape in mind, he backs out of the cellar.

“Heading out already? I wasn’t done discussing your treatment options.”

“I don’t want to hear about your options!” Hadrian dashes up the stairs and into winding passages.

Who is the chief doctor anyway? The numbskulls running this town can’t even tease out ducks from geese!

The orderlies in the hallway stop and stare at Hadrian, as if he’s the crazy one for being so loud.

Hadrian has to be loud. He has to raise alarm. He’s not wrong for being loud, is he? “Help! Help!”

Since when did the villa have active employees?

The orderlies continue their way through the halls. None of them ask, What’s wrong? What’s the fuss? They don’t shush him.

“Hello? Are you listening?” Hadrian walks up to a man with blue robes. Hadrian waves his left hand in front of his face.

The man grabs it.

Hadrian punches at the man, but his trusty fist never shows up. He twists his hips and prepares to teeter like a fool.

The blue-robed man stands his ground and stares Hadrian down. Something about his face looks familiar. He was probably one of the many victims of Hadrian and Morgan’s joyrides. His cheeks loosen and crumble apart, cascading into layers and emptying from the eyesockets.

Hadrian tackles foward, and the man’s body collapses into air and bones. Hadrian wobbles forward and lands on his knees with a loud thudding ouch. Panic overwhelms him, and he feels light in the stomach. Am I’m dead too? If a peeling and thundering heart is a reliable indicator, it tells Hadrian he is not.

Hadrian springs up and rams into each person in that hallway, one by one. Their limbs swing with a doll-like stiffness, betraying a state of undeath.

Is the whole damned village turned like this? Even the barkeep at the pub who looks normal? Shouldn’t it be easy to tell the living from the dead?

A tapping noise comes through the ceiling–no wait–the floor. Calm strokes… hard strikes of a cane… tap tap tap… “Bring the patient in.”

The fallen orderlies rise, their ribs clacking like sawmill windchimes.

Hadrian blazes down the hallway.

More orderlies emerge from the intersection. Blue and tattered uniforms lash out at Hadrian, grabbing his ears and scarf and whiskers. They pile onto him, forcing him under. The roughness of bones scrape him, and he goes down in solid white flames of calcitrate.

They drag him back to the cellar, to a table which wasn’t there yesterday, and strap him in.

Nearby, a slender skeleton wears a long wig. Why it has a wig, no one knows. It comes up to the table to throw a sheet on top of Hadrian.

Metus turns on a few lanterns. They blink in and out like the farts of giant fireflies. The thoraxes warm up to a consistent emmittance. It dawns on Hadrian that they’re shaped like hollowed bug dildos.

“Let me describe the operation. We will reattach your arm to the base of your shoulder. The artificial nerves connect to your mana pool, but it’ll take some training to reestablish the motors. The chances of success hinges on properly following aftercare and rehabilitation instructions. Have any questions?”

“I don’t want this,” Hadrian sputters. “I hate this. I don’t want this. I hate my life, and I hate you.”


A skeletal assistant approaches Hadrian holding a flower of needles. Hadrian, having never seen a potted cactus before, squirms at the booger from hell. A barb extends from the booger and hits the acupuncture point on his forehead. He flops involuntarily.

The last thing Hadrian remembers is that Metus changes to a different outfit of utilitarian style. Sleeves and pants are bound tightly to the wrists, sealing off airflow. An overly heavy cloak puffs out like a vulture amongst doves, and the underbelly of a once-white apron lines up. Metus wears a face mask too. How thoughtful of him to keep his spittle to himself.

All things considered, they say necromancers are depraved, but the storytellers forget to mention the smart ones.

As one of the only people alive in the villa, the lack of conversation suffocates Hadrian more than a stillborn stuck in the womb. Several inanimate skeletons lay in rows on the floor between the desk and the shelf. Hadrian lays on a mat between them. Originally the mat was painted with the words “Get well soon” but has since faded into a sod that belongs in the dumpster.

Metus looks at his scroll, sitting in a chair with nice cushions. No matter how nice or expensive an outfit he wears, he still looks like a vulture. A moth flies lazily around the shelves of books. The former owners kept books as flammable bricks, and Metus is the first to read them.

He hovers over a magnifying glass. Suddenly, he says, “You’re awake,” without moving his head. This damn guy seems to know when Hadrian sheds an eyelash.

Hadrian still wears the green jacket with an overly long sleeve. He rubs at a layer of fabric, twiddling his thumbs. He still can’t feel or move his right arm. All its muscles have been removed. Scratchy wires clamp on his shoulder stump, and they throb slightly. Would it be considered a prosthetic if it’s made from his own bones? The skeletal appearance isn’t helping in the charisma department. Too disgusting to show in public.

Metus stands up and rolls up a scroll. “I’m heading out. Do you want anything from the market?”

Hadrian responds with a snarlish squint.

“Suit yourself, then.”

Hadrian suppresses a futile laugh. Why would anyone visit this forsaken town? Who would come to a pillaged field where a necromancer has moved in?

Eventually Metus does return with groceries, mostly gritty leeks and onions. He slumps into a chair and leans like a crooked branch. Metus takes out a couple of buns and tosses one to Hadrian.

Hadrian catches the surprise in his lap. A four-leaf design was scored into the crust, and he can almost see steam rising from it. He bites into the warmth, the soft and yeasty afterwaft. It’s been a while since he ate anything that resembled civilization.

“Hold it using your right hand,” Metus says.

“I can’t, it’s too painful and numb.” His flag sleeve remains pooled around the floor. Hadrian continues protesting. He absolutely detests this doctor who could’ve restored his arm but chose not to. Hadrian will not follow the necromancer’s ploy.

“If you don’t try, it’ll never get better. Luckily, the human body can adapt to anything. I’ll continue to checkup on the attachment point every day and monitor your nerve regrowth, but the rest is up to you.”

Metus wobbles his way to the porch and tends to some herbs drying outside. The sun burns like an unwanted visitor, not always reliable, but when it does bother to come along, it shines with gusto. The market is starting to recover. It’s about time Hadrian recovers, too.

Metus waves down a delivery skeleton.