Greilya: Prologue

A story of Necromancers who gain their abilities naturally and hone them with study and practice.

Prologue

Those who work with the dead have never been looked very highly upon, especially those who animate the dead and turn them into puppets. So for most of history necromancers, like myself, stayed fairly isolated from everyone including one another. We found homes on the outskirts of town, as far from curious eyes as we could get while still having access to a cemetery. We were blamed for everything from chicken pox to bad weather and hung for even less. It was a life of isolation until twenty years ago when the late king Aernoys decreed that every person suspected of necromancy be rooted up and brought to his fortress, where he made an unusual offer. He told the necromancers from across his realm that they were dying, that if things stayed the same one by one we would be burned at the stake by our own neighbors.  He said he could kill us all right then and there if that’s what we really wanted or we could better our situation by working for him. No one turned him down, not that it was much of a choice.

The following years proved fruitful for us. Working together we were able to learn from each other and progress way past the limitations of the past. Instead of simply raising the dead for a few days we were able to raise scores of the dead for weeks. We learned to manipulate dead flesh into new creatures and bring them to life to do our bidding. We also began to master the green fire we could summon from within.

King Aernoys had us fill out his army with the living dead and as his enemies fell we brought them back to gut their brothers in arms. Word spread quickly of the army filled with monsters that could not be stopped and the fear this invoked served the Kings endeavors well. It wasn’t long before he became known as “King of the dead”, a title he wore proudly as it gained him new lands and wealth beyond imagining.

For a time any new necromancers found with the gift of animating were brought to the Kings feet and offered the same choice we all received. Though as time went on most came of their own accord rather than try to fend for themselves against the people of their town. For though King Aernoys loved us, his people grew to hate us even more. They did not cherish the idea of having their dead bodies and those of their loved ones used for the King’s wars. There had always been witch hunts, but at this point they were killing whole families if one of them looked like they were ‘touched by the dark arts’.  The King did nothing to sway the people to his favor, as long as his people were not revolting he cared little for their complaints. And what people would revolt against a king with an immortal army under his thumb?

The king had other tasks for us, one of which was investigating any unnatural occurrences reported. He claimed it was to keep his citizens safe, but in truth, he just wanted to see if we could find anything worth taming to add to his arsenal. At first my brothers and I relished seeking out the unnatural beasts and demons that must be out there terrorizing the realm and chain it to our will, but much to our dismay every report we investigated turned up nothing of note. Reports of missing livestock were the result of wolves or thieves, missing children were the result of accidental deaths and the cursed were usually just crazy. Eventually the whole endeavor became more of a joke and we stopped responding with any urgency. Sixteen years into the pact of the necromancers, however, we started getting reports that we took a little more seriously. It took many months before we really took heed of them and it was only because it was the same report coming from numerous different towns. The reports claimed a group of undead had risen on its own and was traveling across the countryside killing anything that got too close.

Many of us, myself included, went to investigate. Twelve of us had been riding for  three days before we came upon them.

While we stopped to scout the surrounding area one of my brothers, Germ, rifled through a small stack of papers from his pack and compared them with the map I held out for us to reference “The last report has them heading south from Terrgar.” His finger trailed down from the map to land on our location, “With them on foot for three days we should be getting close.”

“Unless they changed course in that time”. I rolled up the map and placed it back in my robe. I could see the others had turned up nothing and were heading back to us.

“Yes, well, how does someone predict creatures with no motives?” Germ said with a look of bewilderment.

I heard a grunt from Sare as he approached with the others “You really think they rose up on their own?” He lowered his dark cowl revealing the long braid he wore beneath so he could douse his face with water.

Germ shrugged and held out it his hands displaying the various reports “It would seem so.”

“Psh, when have farmers and peasants ever been able to see what was right in front of them? They’ve had us chasing ghosts and monsters over this realm for over a decade and none of it is ever what they claim.” Sare turned to me “What do you think Cecil?”

I mounted my horse and looked back to him, of all my brothers I felt closest to Sare. He was fifteen years my junior, but he had been there with me at the pact with the King where I had unwittingly taken him under my wing.”The reports are too numerous and too similar to be completely made up, but the dead don’t raise themselves. We know that better than anyone.”

Germ looked genuinely surprised “You think a necromancer is doing this? Wandering aimlessly across the country just killing whoever they find?”

Sare gave him a smirk “Are you saying you’ve never been tempted?” They all found their way to their horses and we continued talking as we rode towards Terrgar. Germ looked gravely forward riding between Sare and myself. He was the youngest of our group, one of the necromancers who came to the King of his own accord. “So, a rogue necromancer then.” Sare said a bit more solemnly.

“That would be my guess”

Germ exclaimed “But why?!”

“Had to happen sometime, some people would rather die than bend the knee.” Sare had met my eyes then, he knew as well as I that we would have to be the ones to kill the rogue necromancer. The idea that someday there would be necromancers who would rebel against the king was not a new idea but also not one my brothers and I relished in.

“But what would be the point? I mean if we are dealing with a necromancer he is obviously fairly powerful, he’s not newly discovering his powers. This means he would have to know that the king would send us.” Germ lowered his voice then as he continued “I mean he would have to know that we know how to put the dead to rest. Why kill some meaningless farmers just to have us come and stop him?”

“That’s what we’re on our way to find out.” I pointed to our left where I could make out several paths made through the grass. Easy to miss if you didn’t know what you were looking for. Our group got quiet as we followed the paths forward searching the horizon for any movement. We didn’t have to travel too far before we started to see figures trudging along near a farmstead. It was the slow and jolting walk that the dead have when given no direction. My brothers all fanned out as we galloped forward. As we approached I could make out at least forty undead loosely grouped together in a field but the closer we got the more they seemed to group together. As they began to head right for us I recognized that their movements were too well coordinated to be wholly their own and I shouted to the group “It’s a necromancer find him and gain control!” Five of my brothers broke off to search the tree lines and the farm for the rogue necromancer while the rest of us tried to wrestle control of the undead. The latter proved more difficult than any of us had ever experienced. I was one of the more senior necromancers and even I could only gain control of one or two of them at a time only to lose my grasp on them a moment later. Eventually seeing the undead progress ever forward I realized my brothers were not having any better time of gaining control. At the time I believed we had stumbled into a trap. That this was not one rogue necromancer, but a group of them set on killing us somehow for joining the king.

Sare screamed “Bring them down!” I could already see the green fire light his eyes. I did the same bringing forth the green fire within me funneling it to my hand until it erupted towards the group of undead. The only thing that could bring them to rest. They began to crumple to the ground as we encircled them igniting all of them we could find. I reached the back of the pack, before my brothers, where I found two undead children holding hands. A girl with long dark hair matted down with blood and eyes and cheeks sunk in to where you could easily make out her skull. The boy a bit shorter had had his guts ripped out. The oddity of it made me pause but only for a moment as I realized it was probably just a twisted trick of the enemy to stay my hand. As the flames hit the children I heard an unearthly scream from the little girl, a scream that no dead thing could make. She was alight with green hell fire as she bent over the undead boy who was burning into ash at her feet. As her screams died she looked up at me her eyes very much alive began to turn green. As the fire around her grew larger and brighter I called to my brothers to retreat, most of us got away in time before the fire exploded around her killing the last of the undead and a few of my brothers with them. The implications of this little girl, who could be no older than 8 or 9, were just barely beginning to hit me as I moved back to her with as much speed as I could muster. Sare had got to her first. She was still alight with flames and screaming all anew though the flames didn’t seem to be hurting her. Sare stood over her with a knife and I yelled “Don’t kill her!” Sare hesitated and with a look at me he then knocked her over the back of the head with the butt of the knife instead.