I’m pretty happy with this one…at the moment. Now I just need to start writing the story again.
I’m pretty happy with this one…at the moment. Now I just need to start writing the story again.
Graghor’s sword was alight with flames as he approached, he went to hit me and I dodged out of the way and smacked my sword on his backside. His body lit with the flames absorbing most of my blow. Graghor’s large stature had filled out considerably with all the training, he packed a mean punch, but was slowed immensely by sheer weight. He went to swing low at my legs and I flipped backwards dodging him yet again. He charged at me outright then, and I easily stepped to the side and got him right behind the knees. He tumbled to the ground cursing loudly. Cecil stepped between us “That’s enough, you need to get cleaned up before you meet with the king,” he was eyeing me and I knew I was thoroughly caked in dirt.
I looked down at my clothes “My robe will cover most of it I think.”
Cecil gave me a look that barred any argument and motioned for me to follow.
I watched as Sare stepped up and offered Graghor a hand, “You’ve got to stop charging her. It just leaves you wide open.” Graghor only grunted in response.
I gave Graghor a big grin as I put my practice sword back and then went to follow Cecil into the castle. “Do you think the King was impressed with what we can do?”
“That’s what we’re going to find out, Greilya.”
“I know, but what do you think he’ll say?”
“If it were King Aernoys I could probably tell you what he would say, but the sons actions are not like the father. I’m sure he sees the worth of a sect of warriors with powers. You all did very well in your demonstration, but none of you have actually fought in a war. Also putting a teenager at the head of such a group, no matter her abilities, hardly seems wise.” Cecil sighed “It’s a gamble Greilya.”
“We fought in the broken steed war and the war at the twin oaks.”
“Raising the dead from the sidelines of a war is much different than fighting with swords in the middle of it.” He stopped at the bath house door, “I’m on your side Greilya, just don’t get your hopes up too high on this one.”
“Right, thanks.” I left Cecil outside and stepped into the bath house full of fawning women. I got clean and, refusing the women’s requests of dresses and hairstyles, I dawned my black robes and followed Cecil in silence to King Aernove’s throne room.
As I always did when I entered this room I was awed by the sheer size of it. I suppose that was the point, to make everyone who enters feel small and insignificant. King Aernove sat upon the throne his father had earned him. He was staring at me like I was a meal, something I still hadn’t gotten use to, the way men looked at me now that I was older. He did share in his father’s dark hair, though little else. He was half the size of King Aernoys and adorned himself with fine silks and a ridiculous amount of jewels. “Greilya, come forward, come forward. Ah Cecil, good, I have news to tell you as well.” he sounded excited to see me and shooed away the many servants showing him various clothes.
I remained expressionless as I stepped forward and took a knee “My lord.”
“Yes, yes fine and good, you may stand.”
I stood back up eyeing him leerly. Recently I had begun to think of all people outside of the brotherhood as little rabbits. Since the death of his father one month ago, I thought of this excitable idiot as being the rabbit king of the scared and scurrying masses. It made it easier to understand their actions.
The King eyed me with a pleased expression on his face “You are here about these ‘nightmares’ you want to lead into battle on my behalf?”
“Yes my lord.”
“My advisors tell me I should be wary of allowing someone so young to lead their own cohort. However, these are the same advisors who think I am not fit to make my own decisions for my kingdom. Even though I’m damn near twenty.” He eyed several men to his side as if daring them to speak. “You trained these men in this new method of destruction and they seem to respect you well enough to listen to you, so I disagree with my advisors on this point.”
“Thank you , my lord.”
“No thanks needed, you are a very powerful soldier Greilya. If there were to be another war I am sure your cohort would be an unstoppable force.” he stopped after that, giving time for his words to sink in. I turned my head to Cecil who looked as confused as I felt and then the King continued “Conquest was my father’s dream. If he were still alive, I doubt he would have stopped until we ruled the whole world. However, I have more lands than I’ve seen with my own eyes and more men and wealth at my disposable then I could use in two lifetimes. What is the point of all this power if all I’m going to do is collect more of what I don’t need.”
The King’s advisors did not mirror Cecil and I’s confusion, they simply looked dismayed and kept their mouths shut as the King proceeded “Conquest will resume in time, of course, but not until I have the means to enjoy what I earn. I refuse to fall prey to the same fate as my father, he was ruler to half the known world! And how did that help him when the years caught up with him and sickness consumed him?”
It seemed to be a genuine question, but I was at an utter loss for words “My lord?”
“Eternal life. This is what I seek, this is what my necromancers will be focusing on from now on.” with those words he let his gaze fall on Cecil.
Cecil stepped forward and took a knee “My Lord, if I may, no one has attained eternal life, no necromancer knows how to grant you this.”
King Aernove’s face took on a much sterner appearance with Cecil’s words “They don’t know how YET. But you raise people from the grave, you bring spirits back to do your bidding. If anyone can find the answers to eternal life, it will be your brotherhood. And you will find it, because it is what your King demands.” The King let his eyes fall back on me “Not to fear, Greilya, I will still have use of your new cohort. I imagine we will need many more corpses for the work your brothers will be undertaking and there is already much unrest in my lands over this point. Your men should be perfect for keeping the fear alive in my towns and keeping anyone from attempting a revolt. While at the same time gathering anything else that your brotherhood may need in completing this task I’ve set upon them.”
Cecil tried to continue, “It is simply impossible…”
King Aernove stood suddenly. “Silence! You sound like my idiotic advisors! Driveling on about what can’t be done! I am King! Son of the Great King of the Dead! I can do anything I please!” The King took a deep breath and seemed to compose himself as he took his seat clenching the arms of his throne with white knuckles “You simply lack motivation.” he said with an icy voice “You will find me the answers to eternal life, as you’re told to, or your whole brotherhood will die with me.” he stared at us with what I’m sure was his most intimidating look, I simply saw a scared little rabbit.
Cecil had been looking on slack jawed, but quickly regained his composure “I will spread the word to my brothers and we will begin work at once to try to gain the power for what you seek.”
“Don’t try, Cecil, do it. Now go, I still have words for Greilya.”
“Yes, my lord.”
Cecil eyed me on his way out and once the large door closed the King spoke in a much calmer tone “My father told me that Cecil was the man to go through when breaching things with my necromancers, but sometimes I wonder…”
He resumed eyeing me like a meal and I had a real urge to slit his throat and watch him bleed out on the steps to his throne. The thought of Cecil was all that stopped me, “There are none among my brothers who holds more of our respect, your father was wise in his council.”
The King nodded “Yes, he was very wise.” He stared off, clearly pondering something, while he twirled one of the many rings on his hand “Neither here nor there, I already have an assignment for your Nightmares. I am getting disturbing reports from the town of Terrgar, perhaps with my father’s death they think it is a good time to fight back for their independence. Nothing has happened, yet, but the unrest is palpable. I need you to lead your men and put an end to any ideas of revolt.”
“You’d have my men slaughter some villagers?”
“Just enough to get the point across, is that a problem?”
“My men will be happy to have something to do my lord. I was just making sure there was no misunderstanding.”
The King gave me a huge smile at that “That’s what I like to hear. Commander Edmund is in charge of my men stationed there, take this letter to him.” One of the red robed advisors approached me with a rolled scroll in hand “He will assist you in any way you require.”
I took the scroll and stored it away in my robes “Yes, my Lord”
“You may go, you leave at first light.”
I bowed and made my leave, Cecil was of course awaiting me outside the chamber. He looked weary and older than I had ever seen him. My mind wandered to one day many years ago when Cecil and I had been practicing with the green flames. He had just spoken to the King and did not seem pleased about the conversation. After he had lit another dummy on fire with his hand I asked him “Why don’t you just do that to the King?”
He looked at me as if he had expected the question “Are you asking me why I took the oath, or why I keep it?”
“Both, I suppose.”
“When we were first offered the oath none of us knew each other, nor were we as powerful as we are today. We never could have taken on the King’s armies. It was a way to stay alive. And I keep the oath because this life is much better than the one we lived before. We thrive here, Greilya, whereas alone we are just exiled and hated.”
I stepped in front of my mentor and waited for his eyes to focus on mine, I wanted to ask him how this could possibly be better than being on our own, but looking into his eyes I couldn’t bring myself to ask him. So instead I simply said “Long live the King.”
He gave a small smile at that “Long live the King.” he repeated with a defeated tone. We made our way back to the brotherhood, where Cecil told them of the Mad Rabbit King’s demands.
* * *
The following morning, my men were preparing their horses for the two day journey to Terrgar. We had taken a page out of Iravit’s handbook adorning our black leathers with bones and red paint, a few us even had disturbing masks. There were ten of us in total Sare, Bael, and Graghor among them. I had called us the Nightmares after Cecil had said we would ‘terrorize the dreams of our enemies’.
Sare had taught us all the use of swords, but I had trained all of them to manipulate the green flames. It could be used as a shield as well as a weapon, something none of my predecessors had discovered. They listened to me on how to utilize the green flames, and over time they started listening to me regarding everything else as well. So when I suggested that we approach the King with our specialized cohort the Nightmares, no one even questioned me. I was only seventeen, but if that bothered any of them they never said as much.
Inesa had come out into the yard to see us off. The looks men made at me on occasion were disconcerting, but the looks all men gave Inesa made my blood boil. Every man’s head in the yard seemed to turn as she approached, whistles could be heard from some of the rabbit soldiers. She simply smiled in the direction of the sound, seemingly unphased. My men did not take part in whistling, but I noted many of them stealing glances at her as well. She approached me as I was saddling my horse “You’re off to Terrgar?”
I nodded “King’s orders. There’s some villagers he wants us to quiet, hardly anything dangerous.”
“By quiet you mean kill?”
I looked at her then, she really had grown into a dazzling woman, her black robes only seemed to make her glow brighter by contrast. I knew where this conversation was headed “Only if it comes to that.”
“You could terrify them with a demonstration of your power alone. You don’t need to kill anyone.”
I sighed “What does it matter Inesa? Everybody ends up in the ground eventually.”
Bael chimed in at that “Hey now, not everyone. Didn’t you hear Greilya? King says he’s gonna stay upright till the end of time.” everyone chuckled at that.
Inesa ignored him “It matters because they are people.” she touched my shoulder until I looked back at her “With families and other people who care about them. They’re mad at the King, that doesn’t mean they should be slaughtered for it.”
As always, we disagreed. I sighed and kept on working.
“Please, Greilya.” her eyes looked at me imploringly.
“I’ll try not to kill them.”
Several of the men chuckled again as she gave me a hug “That’ll have to do.”
I looked down at her as she had her arms around me “Aren’t you going to tell me to be careful or something?”
She stood back from me and gave me a quizzical look “Careful? I don’t need to worry after you Greilya, it’s the rest of the world I fear for.”
“Aw thanks, can I get back to saddling my horse now?”
“Yes of course, I’ll see you when you get back.”
She headed back to the castle and Bael leaned over to me “Are we really not going to be killing anyone?”
I gave him a smirk “Don’t worry Bael, If I know angry villagers, you’ll have your fill of blood before the week’s out.”
* * *
It was a particularly humid morning when we arrived at the gate of Terrgar and were greeted by several armed soldiers. “You the Nightmares the King spoke of?”
I held out the scroll with the King’s seal “We are, I need to speak with Commander Edmund.”
The soldier inspected the seal and then eyed all of my companions “Well you folks certainly look the part.” He signaled for the gate to be opened “Follow me.” We did as he instructed through the packed streets bordered on either side by wood houses and market stalls. The townspeople eyed us as we passed with obvious contempt, and I eyed all of them in the same manner. The whole town looked like it was covered in a layer of grime, possibly because the streets were dirt, instead of cobbles like in Acrosia.
The soldier led us to a stable for our horses, most of my men stayed to see to them while Sare, Bael, and I followed the soldier to the commander’s office.
Commander Edmund looked to be well into his forties and wore a large mustache along with the standard uniform. The large symbol on his white cape marked his station. The soldier who led us saluted him as we entered. I simply dropped the scroll on his desk. Unlike his soldiers the commander did not seem taken aback by our appearance. The soldier introduced me ” Sir, this is Greilya of the Nightmares sent by King Aernove.”
“Yes Namus, thank you, you can go.” The soldier departed and Commander Edmund unraveled the parchment. After reading it he finally addressed us “I don’t know how warranted all this is. Nothing big has happened here, It’s really just some town criers riling people up a bit, we’ve been able to disperse them easily enough so far.”
The office was extremely small and we were nearly right up against the front of the commander’s desk. Accommodations weren’t always ideal when you used the buildings that were available after conquering a place like they clearly had in Terrgar. I leaned against the back wall as I spoke “Crier’s often have more power than they initially appear to. I think the King just wants us to ensure nothing big does happen.”
The Commander seemed hesitant “Right, well you’re welcome to see for yourselves and do as you see fit. You’ll have my men’s full cooperation.”
“Great, do you have a soldier who can escort us around, maybe point out some of the troublemakers?”
“Of course I’ll send some soldiers to the stables for you.”
“Alright we’ll meet them down there.” I opened the office door about to leave when I caught Sare giving me a very pointed look. I turned slightly “Thank you, Commander.”
The Commander nodded “Of course.”
Outside the stables we met back up with the rest of the men and I explained the situation. “Right now we’re just gathering information” I told them. Everyone nodded their understanding and we followed our escorts back out into the market.
It turned out that the escorts were entirely unnecessary, as we found a crier out on a crate spewing his hatred for necromancers that very morning. There was already a large group of villagers around him clinging and agreeing with every word he spat. The two soldiers eyed the situation on the street and turned back to me “You might want to get back and let us break this up, god knows what they will do if you folks get in the middle of that.”
I looked at the old man ranting on and on, a rabid bunny “No.” I said.
The soldier’s face skewed up in confusion “No?”
I tore my eyes away to look at him for only a moment “No, do nothing. I think we’ll stay and listen.” I held up four fingers and pointed them to the left, four of the nightmares immediately headed in that direction to get on the other side of the small mob.
I signaled for the rest of my men to stay put as I approached the crier. The old man saw me and took the bait, as I knew he would. “And there they are, yet again, to steal away our dead! To use them in their foul craft, their ungodly arts! Our dead will never rest as long as these devils are allowed to be at large! The King is mad to keep them in his company! We must cleanse our lands of these demons! We must burn them to purify our realm of their wickedness! We have to think of our children, do we want them growing up in a land where this evil is tolerated!”
In a moment of inspiration I grabbed my own cart from one of the stalls and set up right across from the crier. I stepped up and he hesitated as the crowd’s eyes were on me “People of Terrgar, this is just a simple misunderstanding! You are the King’s people, and as such you are allowed to live with little direction or manipulation, so long as you pay your taxes and supply us with some of your men and some of your dead. All of you seem to think this is as bad as it gets. I assure you, that is just a simple misunderstanding.” I gave the crier a large smile as I raised up my arms feeling the cold deep within myself.
“If you listen to this shriveled old man though, you will no longer be in the King’s favor.” Screams could be heard in the distance as I continued “and if you’re not in the King’s favor that means all the witches and demons you so fear can do whatever they want with you. It means people like me can do whatever we want with you.”
The screams were definitely closer now and everyone in the crowd was murmuring to each other, looking terrified. “He is right about one thing though, you should think of your children. Though you don’t have to concern yourself with your living children, concern yourself with your dead children. All the ones the King has made us leave untouched in their graves.” As I spoke it became clear what all the screaming had been about as thirty little undead children turned the corner onto the street and started heading for the mob “Think about what I could make your children do to you.”
The crowd was in true hysterics now, some clearly recognized some of the children and simply dropped to their knees bawling. The old man started to run, but I leapt off my box and pushed him against the far building, successfully pinning him. Between the undead and the Nightmares the people couldn’t get very far. People eventually just froze in place, petrified.
I had the old man by the throat, he was squirming and clawing at me trying everything in his power to get away. How did something so pathetic think to fight us? I thought of Inesa, and I wondered how she could feel anything for these people, these rabbits. I turned to the crowd of horrified faces “You call us evil? Monsters?! It’s funny, because that’s what my kind say about all of you.”
The crowd was silent except for the sounds of crying. One of the villagers stepped up to the front of the crowd and spat on me “You’re kind shouldn’t even exist!”
“Maybe so.” I threw the old man into the crowd and he landed hard on his backside. In one quick motion my sword was out of my sheath and plunging into the man’s gut. Many of the villagers screamed in anger then and swarmed me, I immediatley a lit with flames and all of them grabbing me tore away in pain as the fires scorched their flesh. I could see the nightmares on the border of the crowd awaiting my orders, I gave a signal for them to stand their ground. The flames were growing ever higher around me like someone had added a log to the fire “Or maybe we should just stop allowing your kind to exist.”
The explosion was nothing as massive as the first time it had happened to me, this was a controlled burst, though to the villagers burning all around me I’m sure it was nothing short of catastrophic. I signaled to the nightmares and they proceeded cutting down any villagers on the outliers trying to escape. I found the old man still on the ground, screaming while the flames curled around his body. I knelt down to watch him burn.
My men stepped up to me after everyone had fallen and the street was eerily quiet. I was still kneeling by what remained of the old man. Graghor looked down in disgust and spat on his smoldering ashes.
Bael was wearing a huge smile “I think I’m gonna like this job.”
Sare was eyeing the ashes next to me, his sword was still in his hand dripping with blood. His face wore an expression I couldn’t quite read. “What is it Sare?”
“They were against the King, but was that necessary, the bit with the children?”
I realized I may have overstepped some line, Inesa said I had a habit of doing this. “Necessary, no, probably not, they just…upset me.”
Sare looked at me with a knowing expression and wrapped one of his arms around me as I stood up “Well, at least we’re living up to our name.”
We walked back to our escorts who looked mortified. Sare addressed them with his arm still around my shoulder “Well I guess that takes care of that. We’ll be heading back to the castle now, you two have yourselves a swell day.”
Cecil had stuck me with the Speakers, which as far as I could tell were the crazy women of this brotherhood. After my first lesson in the courtyard with Cecil I started other lessons as well. I was suppose to have a lesson with Iravit on how to raise spirits in a few hours, I was lying in my bunk while I waited. I was bunking with girls seven years my senior, a few of them were sitting cross legged in a circle on the floor chanting something I couldn’t make out in unison. I continued to listen to them and steal glances at them every so often, but nothing seemed to be happening so I couldn’t figure out what they were trying to do. Eventually one of them stopped and let out a heavy sigh. She looked back at me with sharp eyes “You’re stealing all the focus out of the room. Isn’t there something you could be doing?”
I sat up on my bed “Something I could be doing?”
“Yea like somewhere else?”
“Oh…sure.” I stood up and left the room, truth was I had no idea what else there was to do around the castle. Cecil just told me to stay in control of my emotions, sleep on my bunk, and practice only during lessons. It hadn’t even occurred to me to do anything else. I still felt much like one of my dead things, like someone else was pulling all my strings.
I started wandering the halls of the Speakers, the halls themselves looked the same as they did through the rest of the castle, but through every doorway were clusters of heavily ornamented people chanting or staring off into nothingness with rooms completely covered with creepy decor. Passing each door I was accosted by strong smells, some so pungent I almost gagged. I reached the end of one hall and was met with a spiral staircase. As I started climbing I could hear what sounded like another girl chanting, but as I got closer I could tell it was someone crying and mumbling to themselves.
Upon reaching the top of the stairs I found the source of the noise was a girl, crying into her knees with her long blonde hair covering her face on either side. I stood there for quite a while debating if I should just keep walking or not, before I could decide she looked up at me. “Oh,” She started wiping her tears away with the hem of her robes. Her blue eyes were still brimming with tears and I could see she was a teenager “are you lost?”
“Uh, not really.” I looked her over a bit from where I stood trying to find an injury “What’s wrong with you?”
“Oh I’ve just had a bad day, I’ve only raised spirits until today. I was in one of my classes and I had to raise a ghoul for the first time and it was…it was” fresh tears started falling down her cheeks again “It was just terrible.”
I nodded and took a seat next to her on the step “Did it kill someone?”
“What?! No of course not, it barely moved at all. It was just so… disturbing, the way it twitched and moaned in such an unnatural way.”
She kept crying, and I just stared at her, I felt dumb. “So, why are you crying?”
“Because it was terrible and disgusting, and that was probably someone’s brother or father. I know it seems foolish, most people wouldn’t understand. Why do you think I’m crying out here?” She motioned around us with her arm and then stopped and seemed to be studying me “Are you really as heartless as they say?”
“No! Wait, what do they say?”
“They say you were roaming the country side with an army of undead killing anyone you saw.”
“Oh, well, then, yes.” I looked down and figured she would leave then. When she didn’t leave I looked back up to find her still staring at me.
“Why did you do that?”
“I don’t know, I was just…upset.”
She tilted her head to the side and held out her hand, I stared at it and she sighed and grabbed my hand and began shaking it “I’m Inesa.”
I was thoroughly confused why I was getting an introduction instead of the same cold shoulder most other people here had greeted me with, but a lot of what Inesa had said didn’t make sense to me “I’m Greilya”
“Yes I’ve heard. There aren’t too many seven year olds around here.”
“Sorry, there aren’t too many of those around either. What are you doing up here anyways?”
“I was told I was sucking the focus out of the room, so I’m just walking.”
“Sucking the focus out of the room pfft, that’ll be Basil, she’s kind of a bitch. Don’t let her get to you.”
“Right, of course not.” we sat there in silence for a while, she seemed to be pondering something then suddenly she stood up and lifted me to my feet “Come with me.” I followed her down the hall and then down several flights of stairs. Her demeanor had changed considerably, she was almost skipping down the last few steps. When we reached the bottom we were standing just outside one of the kitchens. She put a finger to her lips and peeked around the corner, then she waved at me to continue. “You stay here and keep watch.” She whispered. Then she sprinted forward, crouching low to the ground and started grabbing foods off the counter. I did as I was told and kept watch at the foot of the stairs. She started heading back to me right as one of the servants entered across the hall from us. I could hear her yelling after us as we ran back up the stairs, I followed Inesa until we were in one of the bunk rooms, presumably hers. It was clear no one had followed us and she sunk against the wall and started emptying her pockets.
“Don’t worry I didn’t take much, It’s just the older folks eat first so usually all the fruit is gone by the time we get down there.” She had grabbed several handfuls worth of small berries, some I recognized as strawberries. Once they were all out in front of her she divided them in half and slid one pile towards me “You’re cut of the bounty madam.”
I looked at her quizzically I couldn’t understand why she felt the need to suddenly steal fruits. She noticed my expression “It’s something I use to do with my sister. When one of us had a bad day we would go sneak some fruits out of our garden before mother could pick them, and we’d go hide and eat them together.” she said thoughtfully.
“You miss your sister?” it was more a statement then a question, but she nodded as she looked at the fruit. “I miss my brother.” I said.
“Yea? Maybe we’re not so different after all.”
“Yea, maybe.” I picked up one of the strawberries and took a bite “It’s good.” she turned then and gave me such a smile that it was like she was actually glowing, she put sunsets to shame. No, Inesa was not like me, and I loved her almost immediately for it.
After we finished the fruits Inesa insisted on braiding my hair, I detested this, but she seemed to enjoy it. “Do you have any classes today?”
“Yea, I’m suppose to see Iravit at noon.”
Inesa looked outside “We better get you down there then, Iravit hates it when people are late.”
Inesa led me down to the main chamber of the Speakers, when she saw Iravit was already there she made a hasty exit. Path ways branched in every direction from this room, though all of the entrances were covered with dark curtains so it felt very isolated. On the far wall a huge stone grotesque was peering down at us from where it was perched on a large pillar. Iravit sat right below the pillar on her knees and she motioned for me to sit across from her.
“I see you’ve met Inesa.” I nodded and took a seat. Iravit was by far the most terrifying necromancer I had met thus far. Her dark hair was done in dreads with bones and feathers strewn throughout. Her eyes were so pale they looked almost white, and she wore leather hides also decorated with bones with the uniform black robes thrown back behind her shoulders. She watched me carefully for a moment “I suppose it’s good you made a friend, though to be honest, not the one I thought you would make.”
“Yes, that would be why it surprised me.” When I could think of nothing to say she continued “Have you ever risen a spirit before?”
She nodded as though she expected this “Spirits are fickle things, they still have their minds, which means you can’t just control them like a corpse. You have to convince them to work for you, or trap them into doing so. They can be quite useful for gaining information, as they can go anywhere quickly and unseen.”
“How do you summon something you can’t see?”
“Well to start, you have to teach yourself to see. For now just be quiet and watch.” Iravit set her hand out in front of her palm down and lifted it up in one quick motion. A wave of blue translucent color splashed from her fingers and a spirit raised halfway from the ground between us.
It’s voice sounded far away as it addressed her “Madame.” He bowed his head to Iravit and she gave him a slight nod.
“This is Sir Elias, he has been in my service for a long time. Sir Elias this is Greilya.” Sir Elias appeared to have been a knight, he was still adorned with full plate mail, granted it was slightly translucent. He turned to examine me and I gave him a little wave, he bowed to me in response. “It is a simple thing to call Sir Elias here as I have summoned him before, the first spirit you summon will be more challenging. You must put yourself into a meditative state which will help you see more of your surroundings, to see the unseen. You must step away from your own body to see those who have no bodies.” She waved one of her hands through Sir Elias and he vanished as quickly as he had appeared.
“I still don’t understand, how do I step out of my body?”
“Some witches use herbs with strange properties, some find pain helpful. Though most of our sisters find chanting the best to induce this state.”
My mind flashed back to the girls in my bunk room “I see, how do you do it?”
“I find silence to be the best method, if you clear your mind eventually everything becomes quite clear.”
“Ok, I’ll try that then.”
She gave me a slight smirk “Very well, close your eyes and focus on nothing but your breathing.” she hesitated a moment before continuing “when I was your age I use to pretend there was a string with a feather attached to my lips, when I would breath in the feather would go into my mouth and down into my lungs, and when I breathed out it would flutter away from me.” I opened one of my eyes to look at her when she said that. I was told no one got their abilities as young as I had. “Keep them closed Greilya, focus.”
I did as she asked and we sat for what felt like hours. For a while I worried that she was going to tell me to stop because this wasn’t working and we had to try something else. I didn’t want to open my eyes to check, however, for fear of being reprimanded. So I just tried to ignore the feeling and focus on the little string with the feather moving in and then out.
When I finally did open my eyes I saw Sir Elias in front of me, this time he waved at me. He was standing next to a translucent Iravit and there was another Iravit sitting in front of me as she had been though somehow farther away. When I looked up I could see a river of translucent blue that moved and flowed through the roof and the walls. When I looked back I could see my body sitting with my eyes closed. Iravit moved toward me, she left a trail of her movements as she approached. She moved her hand up into the river and motioned for me to do the same. As I did I felt a cold in my hand, Iravit pulled a spirit from the river and I mimicked her movement. My hand came down but before I had pulled a spirit down a hand plunged out of the river and grabbed my wrist, a face pulled through the river. It was my father’s face and in the silence I could hear him speak, he wasn’t yelling, but his voice consumed me and filled my head until it felt like it would explode “Greilya”.
I woke from my trance screaming already alight with green flames. Iravit rushed forward with her face only inches from mine, just far enough as to not get burned “You’re safe Greilya, the ghosts cannot leave that place unless we allow it. You are safe child.” She kept repeating that and I could feel the flames recede into me. I felt calm and hollow once again. Iravit leaned back but stayed locked onto my eyes “Looks like someone wanted to talk to you, who was it?”
“You didn’t want to talk to him?”
“No, I know what he will ask. I wake up with it on my tongue every morning.” I stood up, looking anywhere but at Iravit “May I go back to my room now?”
“Yes of course child.”
* * *
I didn’t sleep that night, I just laid on my back all night staring straight ahead. When I didn’t go down to breakfast Cecil came to find me on my bunk. “Greilya?”
I turned to look at him “I won’t summon spirits.”
“Yes I heard you had a rough day yesterday. Most necromancers choose either corpses or spirits to focus on. It would be good if you knew how to do both however.”
I sat up and said it again “I won’t summon spirits.”
He took a seat on the empty bunk next to mine “Due to the circumstances, perhaps that would be best for now. Though, do not think I do this because you demand it. You serve the King now, there is little you can demand in your position.”
I nodded, accepting that at least he wasn’t going to make me go back to that place with the river.
“We’re moving you into more permanent housing with the other new initiates today, so get dressed and gather your things. I’ll meet you in the dining hall.” with that he left before I could ask any questions. Like, won’t they kill me? Though if there was anything I had learned since arriving, it was to listen to Cecil. Everyone else certainly seemed to.
After getting dressed I donned my oversized robes, there wasn’t really anything else to take so I headed down the stairs and caught up with Cecil right outside the dining room. Cecil looked down at me with a bit of surprise “Right, I suppose you don’t have much, do you? I’ll find you some more clothes this evening.” He proceeded forward and we passed the long tables that were being cleared by servants. I spotted the servant who had almost caught Inesa and I the day before and I quickly turned my head to look the other way “Now I know what you’re thinking, but everyone knows you have taken the oath now. So to harm you would incur the wrath of the King. That’s not to say that they have to be nice to you, but if I keep you locked up with the Speakers forever you’ll never learn to work with them.”
“Can’t I just work with you and Sare?”
He grinned back at me “And Germ too?”
“Hm, I’m afraid that would not be possible.” He stopped at the next set of doors and kneeled down to my level “These are your brothers Greilya, like it or not these will be the people who have your back for many battles to come and you theirs. You have to learn to work with them. And under no circumstances are you to harm any of them.” he lifted his eyebrows at me clearly waiting for me to agree with him.
I gave the slightest of nods and we proceeded down several more corridors until we reached a large open room containing several small tables and walls lined with books. There were several necromancers here reading and talking in small clusters and they all turned their attention to me as we entered. I had seen most of them before at meals and around the castle, but I’d never spoken so much as a word to any of them. “This is the common room, feel free to borrow any books you find here.” Cecil continued forward, paying no mind to the men staring at me, and led me to my new room.
There were at least 12 bunks in the room and many of the young men and women were clearly getting ready for a day of training. “Initiates!” all eyes were immediately on Cecil “This is our newest Initiate Greilya. She will begin training with you today, I expect her to be treated with the same respect shown to all our sisters.” Grumbling could be heard throughout the room, but for the most part the initiates went back to what they were doing. Cecil pointed to one of the beds, “This will be you’re bunk Greilya, training begins in ten minutes in the mortuary.”
Cecil watched as I took a seat on the bed, having nothing to put away, I put my hands on my lap. “Right, I’ll leave you to it then.” He mumbled and with one more look around the room he took his leave. As I sat there the room grew steadily quiet. I took a deep breath, reminding myself to stay calm no matter what happened.
Two boys probably around sixteen stepped in front of me. One of them had a mess of red hair and looked to be completely covered in freckles, the other was considerably tall and well built with very short cropped hair. They were both inspecting me, seemingly unimpressed the red head spoke up first “So you’re the one who killed all those people?”
“Yes.” I said trying to keep the tremble out of my voice.
“A little pipsqueak like you? You don’t seem like much. Does she Graghor?”
The tall one leaned in close and lifted one of my tiny arms and then let it drop back down to my lap “She’s like a tiny mouse.” he seemed very disappointed. “I could crush her in one hand.”
I remembered what Cecil said about me having to work with these people. I turned my head to face Graghor a mere inch from my face “You wouldn’t be the first to try.” I could feel the flames in me and for the briefest of moments I knew my eyes had glown bright green. Graghor stood up with that and looked at his companion.
“You’ve mastered the flames?”
I wouldn’t exactly have said I had them mastered, but I wasn’t about to tell those two that “Yes.”
They both looked much more satisfied with that “That’s quite a feat.” the red head chirped, “Sorry for the rough greeting, we really have been excited to meet you.” He held out his hand “I’m Bael, and this tall beast is Graghor. We were really impressed to hear what you did, and without any training or nothin! I mean it’s a shame about our brothers and all, but truth be told we’d never met em. And those villagers, pfft they’ve been killing our people for what? Fucking decades, figure it’s about time one of us knocked out a few of their numbers.”
I was at a loss for words, the idea that people would have admired my deeds had never crossed my mind. I expected to find a room full of people who hated me. The other initiates started filing out of the room. One of them gave me a dirty look while he passed. Bael took note “Keep your eyes to yourself Otto, before someone takes them from you.” Otto quickly looked the other way. “Right I guess it’s time for training, you can come with us.”
“Alright.” I made my way down to the mortuary with Graghor behind me and Bael in front of me. The mortuary had rows of tables each containing its own inanimate corpse. Toward the front of the room there was a massive oak desk. One necromancer was standing over it looking at some notes and Cecil was there sitting towards the end of the desk watching people file in. His face seemed to sink when he saw who I was with. The three of us took a table at the back. Bael leaned over the table poking at the dead body “So how’d you do it?” he whispered.
“How’d I do what?” I whispered back.
He looked at me, his eyes seemed brighter “The villagers, how’d you kill them?”
“Oh, with the undead mostly, I had quite a few of them with me at all times.” I said this very matter of factly. This seemed to delight him and Graghor both.
Just then the necromancer at the front of the room began speaking in a loud voice that silenced everyone else. “Alright initiates, we have a new member here today so I will go through this again. One person in the group needs to raise the corpse at your table, then each member take turns trying to gain control of the undead. This will strengthen your ability to control them. Try to remain in control for as long as you can, once you lose control it will be the next persons turn to raise the corpse. Any questions?” he paused a moment and looked intently at me “No? Then you may begin.” The instructor resumed looking at his notes and everyone got to work.
“Shall I start us off?” Bael offered. The room quickly filled with the moans of the undead as everyone began animating their corpse. Graghor was trying to take control of our corpse when I felt a sharp pain on the back of my head. I instinctively reached my hand towards the pain and brought back a hand covered in blood. I found the small rock that had been thrown lying on the ground. When Bael and Graghor saw the blood they were both on their feet “Who the fuck threw it?!” Bael demanded.
It hadn’t hurt too terribly much, but my head was reeling with what to do. I finally decided to take the same tact I had with Graghor. Bael was still yelling on while I stood up slowly and turned to look at a sea of glaring faces. I felt that coldness well up inside me and I wrenched all of the undead from their animators all at once. Everyone’s faces changed from angry to horrified as in unison all of the dead got up off their tables and started shuffling towards me. There was about ten of them and I had them all circle around our table facing out towards the rest of the class.
Once the last one was in place I sat back down at the table facing a slack jawed Bael and Graghor. “They can try to take control of them from me now.”
Bael was the first to crack a smile. “Now you have got to teach me that!” They both took their seats with me, all grins.
Eventually I could hear Cecil’s voice close by “Greilya, release them. Now.”
I sighed, but I did as he asked, and allowed Cecil to gain control. He marched the undead back to their tables and looked down at me, seeing the blood on my hand he turned back to face the class. “Greilya has sworn the same oath as all of us. Her transgressions against us were forgiven by the King himself because at the time she didn’t know any better. If someone was to be found harming her now that she has taken the oath, the King would have your head on a pike before the end of the day. You would all do well to remember that.” Cecil flashed a look at the instructor who then dismissed the class. Cecil glanced back down at me “I guess that’s one way about it.” he muttered.
Cecil took me, and at my request Bael and Graghor, out to the yard to practice with the green fire. My new friends couldn’t summon fire yet, but they were more than happy to learn from Sare how to use a sword. As night fell we made our way back to our room. The other initiates seemed content to ignore us as we got to our bunks. I had gained a dull ache in my head and fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.
That night I tossed and turned dreaming of the blue river above me. I jolted awake in the darkness, fumbling over the bed with my hands “Where’s Espero?” I asked the emptiness, and then I remembered.
Sendia is a town I created where I could allow my imagination to run wild. This is a chapter I wrote taking place in that world.
I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I start to feel cold and something is tickling the bottom of my foot. I open my eyes and see I’m in a tub outside filled with ice water and tiny frogs. I pick up the frog tickling my foot and bring it close to my face, “Frogs don’t like ice water” I say. Feeling dazed I step out of the claw footed tub into a backyard, the frog drops from my hand and 6 cats pounce on it. The child in me cries for it, but the other part barely takes notice.
I look around realizing that this is the layout of my backyard growing up, but with certain differences. I don’t remember parts of the ground being solid black granite nor do I remember there being a massive three trunked tree with leaves that have red X’s printed on them. The biggest difference, however, is the house. Striped black and white with no visible windows, it is definitely not the house from my childhood. I find the backdoor open and wander into a long hallway where I’m greeted by the smell of cedar, each step seems to bring a new smell, now it’s a cheap motel room, now it’s cotton candy. The child in me is awe struck; the other part just keeps saying “fuck” over and over again. I remember this place now, this is the home from my dreams, this is the house I made in the town of Sendia.
* * *
I should probably think about this more, figure out how I ended up in my dream town while awake, but I’m a bit scared it could all fade away at any moment and I’ll have missed this opportunity to explore the place I created in such vivid detail. Walking out the front door I can see a dome shaped house across the street. A woman in a top hat and trench coat is crouching outside of it talking to a plant, as I approach I can see it’s marijuana. She looks up at me, slowly, recognition fills her eyes “Gwen, it’s been too long, and you look far too sober. Would you like to come in? I just finished making a ginger bread house of only the finest ingredients.” she lifts her hand slightly that is still holding the leaves of her plant plainly expecting a compliment on her fine ingredients. This is Shock Palina, or Ina, as I so nick-named her. One of the many people I dreamed up to populate this town, she experiences all of life from the various perspectives of many different drugs.
“Maybe later Ina, I was kind of hoping to get a look around town, I’ve forgotten a lot about this place.”
“Another time then” she reaches a hand towards me and starts to pet a wolf at my side; I didn’t even notice it was there. She recoils as the wolf snaps at her and smiles up at me. “Maybe later tonight, you look like you could use a break.”
I look from the wolf back to Ina and give a slight nod as I keep walking.
I take to the road with the wolf in step toward the Glimpsy Glance, the only restraunt in town. I try to inspect my new companion as we walk. I don’t know that she is a companion for certain, it seems like the wolf might be a part of me, somehow I feel I’ve fragmented out in this place, and the wolf is just one of the pieces. I can’t control her, but it seems like I know what she knows and vice versa.
Along our path I stop to look at an odd and massive plant. After looking at it for a while I realize it is the roots of a tree, one can only assume the tree itself is underground. I remember when I was a kid reading Alice in Wonderland I was confused as to why she wasn’t flipping her shit. I guess we all have a wonderland in our heads, and if you’re crazy enough to go down a rabbit hole to find it, then you’re crazy enough to handle it.
The tinting on the window of the Glimpsy Glance changes into an intricate pattern of 8’s as I look through it, Jim is sitting out front ringing his bell and nods to me as I walk to the door. Walking in the front I notice the building seems to form a little slower than my ability to view it, it seems to appear as I begin to remember it rather than as I see it. Silhouettes are dancing along the border on the walls to the tune of neighborhood #3 by arcade fire and the ropes of light in the glass bar are swirling and changing color in time. The wolf pads over to a table and I follow suite where I’m greeted by the waitress with coffee already in hand. Her name is Mocha and she is attractive in an odd sort of way. For, biological reasoning be damned, people are only attracted to Mocha’s nose, which she always keeps covered with various accessories. Today she is wearing a green scarf over her face with a matching knee high skirt, and since it doesn’t bother anyone, no shirt at all. Her voice is scratchy from all the smoking “You look too thin, you’re not trying to fly like that Tiffa girl are you? Cause your legs are just too pretty to be going and cutting off. I’ll see if Wafe can put some mozzarella sticks on for ya and I think he’s got some zebra steaks cooking that the wolf would like.”
She walks off toward the kitchen where I can hear loud clanging and bits of muffled yelling followed by a loud crash and then Mocha storming out with a hot plate of food. “Wafe says he missed you… in so many words. I’m sure he would come out to say hi if he didn’t have so much work to do. We had a visit from some of those gypsy’s again today, ran off with half a dozen salt shakers, so he’s busy trying to make some tasty poison or other. This, however,” She sets down the plate piled high with mozzarella sticks “is poison free”. I take a bite of food to appease her and seeming satisfied she wanders off to refill coffees. Instead of mozzarella sticks it turns out this is a plate a varying fried cheeses. As I’m slowly picking through my plate trying to find another cream cheese filled stick I notice someone watching me from a few tables over. Someone I don’t remember ever being here.
“Sorry I didn’t mean to stare at you like that…. it’s just you seem different than the others here. Not quite as… strange. I was wondering if you might know where we are?” The wolf looks up from her steak and tilts her head slightly at the stranger.
“This is Sendia.” I pause to look at the stranger for a moment and try to digest the implications of him being here in the town I created. “What’s your name?”
“What is ‘Sendia’?”
“It’s the name of the town we are in. I don’t know exactly where the town is, I just know what it’s called. So, what’s your name?”
“Jacob, what’s yours?”
“Gwen.” I move over and take a seat across from him. I stare at him for a bit longer until he obviously begins to feel uncomfortable. Maybe I thought this guy into existence too, someone I’m just not remembering. “What’s the last thing you remember before you came here?”
“Oh, well, I came home from work, same as most days, and went straight to the shower. Then after that I sat down in front of the tv to watch the news and wait for my wife to come home. I’m guessing I must have fell asleep in the recliner…” he looks up at the wallpaper border which has silhouettes actually dancing on it “strangest dream I’ve ever had.”
“Let me guess, most of your dreams are about falling or your wife cheating on you?”
He looks at me with some surprise “well, yea, mostly.”
The button down shirt and khaki pants the slight beer gut and bald spot in his hair, this guy is a prop for an office, like a stapler or a desk chair. He’s boring as hell, which means he’s real, or at least not something I dreamt up. So if I made this town up in my dreams and it’s all in my head…how did someone else get here? I crunch on another fried cheese stick and mull this over for a moment. It’s the same problem as in the real world how do you prove someone else is real and not just a figment of everyone else’s imagination? I suppose first things first “Let me see your menu.”
Jacob slides it over to me “go ahead, I couldn’t eat anything right now anyways.”
I look at the menu and read the first few lines aloud “Today’s Specials include: Red spotted mushrooms and pickles fried in penguin fat or Peacock pot pie with a side of mangos glazed with honey.” I close the menu and set it back down on the table.
Jacob makes a face “Definitely glad I passed on the food.”
I look around the restaurant a bit trying to let my mind wander. After some time passes I pick the menu back up and read the same few lines again.
“Didn’t you just read that?” Jacob asks.
“yea….you can’t read in dreams. Books are either filled with unintelligible symbols or the writing changes each time you look back at it.” I set the menu back on the table “take a look”.
Jacob picks up the menu and looks it over “I can read it just fine”.
“Yea, me too. I don’t know about you yet, but this place seems to be real.”
“Oh come on, that can’t be a full proof test. I mean obviously this place isn’t real… hang on what do you mean you don’t know about me?”
“It’s as full proof a test as we can get. It was too many words in too short a time frame for me to memorize and you confirmed I read the same thing twice. As for you, I’m just not convinced you’re real, is all.”
Jacob looks genuinely offended at that “I’m real.”
“And how do you know that?”
Jacob taps his thumb on the table while he thinks it over “Because I have thoughts and feelings and I know I exist.”
“Great, now, how do I know what you’re saying is true?”
Jacob drums some more and finally nods his head “you don’t, ok I see your point. I am real though.”
“I’m sure you are.” Though really Jacob being a real person makes the least sense. I could have had a mental break and taken up residence in my own head. I mean who’s to say what catatonic schizophrenics think about. I look over Jacob’s shoulder a few places down a couple of patrons have just started a small fire at their table. Looks to be the cook’s teenage twins Scorch and Cinder. I can remember them, they were here when I was dreaming of this place. Mocha looks up from some papers and catches sight of the fire “If I’ve told you two once I’ve told you a thousand times! Do not start fires inside!” She picks up one of the many fire extinguishers from behind the counter to put out the flames while the twins playfully try to talk her out of it.
“Aw come on Mocha, it’s just a tiny fire.” Cinder says, putting a hand up to hide the flames from her.
Scorch doesn’t even look up, just feeds the fire some more bits of napkins “yea, it hasn’t even got started yet.”
Mocha ignores them both and sprays the whole table down with the extinguisher. Both twins jump back in time to avoid getting sprayed only to each get grabbed by the ear and dragged with much protesting into the kitchen. Mocha talks over them “I don’t want to hear it. You two have way too much time on your hands and I’ve got plenty of work to keep you occupied.” She’s not their mother, but she might as well be. Wafe the cook, is also a chemist who uses the kitchen at the Glimpsy Glance for his experiments as well as preparing food. I remember Mocha telling me that when she found them as babies in the kitchen, Wafe was working next to them ignoring their cries and she asked him if he planned to take care of them. To which he promptly replied “It takes a village to raise a child”. Thus most of the town took part in raising the twins, except for Wafe that is. I remember waking up and wondering how Wafe had ended up with two babies in the first place, since there was never any woman to speak of.
Jacob turns back to me after the spectacle “Bunch of crazies in here.” he mutters “So then, real or not, how do we get out of here?”
“Well, you can do what you like, but I have no intention of leaving.”