Chapter Sixty-Six: A Lesson in Necromancy, and Other Magics
Written in collaboration with Silver Midnight
The next morning, Shoel only packed enough things for two nights in Arliingran, expecting-- hoping-- that Drakonus wouldn't try to keep her any longer than that. She did, however, carefully fold up her most formal attire into the satchel, in case he had anything like a ceremony or fancy dinner planned. Charter, I hope not, she sighed, but it never hurt to be prepared. With satchel, sword, bandolier, a warm egg in a warmer pouch tucked into her tunic, and, as promised, the velvet blue and silver cloak, she made her way to the newly-re-christened Myokan's rooms, knocking lightly on his door. She felt a little silly in the length of material, but at least it fit perfectly, and went with her tabbard.
"Come in," she heard, and she opened the door cautiously, wary of resident xenodragons. As she stepped inside, she saw Hemlock, apparently ready, but busy putting books back on one of the bookshelves.
"Were you looking for something?" she asked curiously.
"No," he grumbled in response, replacing a book on ancient spells. "Kzats knocked it over earlier, that's why he's not in here right now. I banished him."
For a moment, the mental picture of Hemlock-- Myokan-- literally banishing the xenodragon made her blink, but then she realized he must have just sent him from the rooms. Shaking her head, she came in to help, picking up a stack of a few books. "Alphabetical by author or title? Or does it matter?"
"Doesn't matter as long as they're off the floor, I can always find them later."
"All right." She started just fitting books into the shelves in whatever order they came to her hand. "I have a feeling Kzats knows you're disappearing again, then."
"He would, it tends to be hard to hide things from dragons," Myokan said grumpily, putting a few more books back onto the shelves at once. "If you want to borrow any of these sometime, you can."
Glancing at a title or two as she shelved, Shoel nodded. "I might... they look interesting. Thank you." A couple more books each, and they'd finished. He'd been halfway done when she'd come in, anyway. Dusting off her hands, she smiled at him. "Ready to go? Or did this minor disaster interrupt something?"
"No, I was mostly done when he did it," he grumbled, getting up from his crouching position on the floor where he'd knelt to deposit the last few books. "Probably why he did it, in fact. Knew I was leaving soon." He'd dressed a little better that day, she noticed: a white and green tunic with laces at the neck, dark green breeches, black calf-high boots and oddly enough, the dark green and silver velvet cloak that had been with his armor. His hair mostly hid his new Charter mark, but she could still see it. "So are you ready?"
"Yes." She headed back towards the door, smiling at him. "You look particularly nice, this morning."
Hemlock just shrugged, folding his arms. "It will probably just get ruined on the trip."
"It's not like it takes all that long to get there, and I don't recall Arliingran being particularly dirty," she pointed out, opening the door, not sure whether she should give up on hoping he'd cheer up or not. Kzats had certainly not set the day off to a good start, at least.
"Ladies first," he mumbled, falling back into the old regime since Kzats wasn't lurking outside the door again. Shoel sighed a bit and slipped out, waiting for him outside.
"So are we still sharing Steady?" she asked.
"Well, I don't have a horse presently so I suppose we'll have to. I have to bring the chestnut mare back, anyway," he said as he came out, closing the door behind him.
"You don't mind, do you?" she asked tentatively.
"No, why would I?"
A little relieved, she shrugged and smiled, starting down the hall. "Just making sure."
Hemlock shifted back to his dragon form as they walked, trotting next to her. "I don't think there would be enough room for two human forms, though. Unless we're not bringing supplies this time."
"Not much, no," she said, a little amused. "I've got the rest of my coin, and something for lunch, but really, it doesn't take more than a half the day to get down there, especially if I don't freeze up on the bridge, or you don't pretend to throw me off again."
"It's only about an hour's ride, actually."
"Really? It felt like an awful lot longer, last time... well, good, then, we really won't need much."
"I'd only throw you off the bridge to go for a swim, anyway," he teased, nipping at her heels, making her skip to the side with a chuckle.
"And if I ever made it back up, I'd murder you," she drawled, only half-teasing in return. But she still gave his ears a scratch.
"You would have to catch me first."
"Mmm, that's true," she admitted. "You're faster than I am. I'd be hard-pressed to keep up with a flying dragon."
He gave her a draconic smile, rubbing his head against her leg. "I don't want to hurt you."
Smiling, too, and stroking his neck, she said, "I know...." She could just barely make out the Charter mark, even in this body, just in front of his first head-spike. It made her smile a little more, and her fingers itched to touch it, since it was so close; it had been so long since she'd had another Charter mage around.
"If you want to touch it, you can," Myokan said with a small smirk, apparently a mind-reader on top of his other skills-- but then, she'd never claimed to be a good actress. "I'm not going to bite you."
"I know you're not, it just feels so silly," she admitted. "I went and gave you a mark, and now I'm going to obsess over it for a while until I'm used to it again. I hope you don't mind too much."
"Well, at least it's on me. So I suppose I don't mind as long as you don't try to cut it off or anything."
Shoel had to laugh, at that. "No, I wouldn't do that. The Charter would probably abandon me, if I tried."
"So does this mean I have life insurance now?" he asked, giving her a grin.
After a blink and a second to place the term "life insurance", she chuckled and paused to bend down and kiss him, right on the mark; it was a similar feeling to touching it with her fingers, though slightly more... personal, she supposed. "You had life insurance ages ago, silly."
Myokan blinked and shivered a little, she guessed from the sensation the Charter gave him, but then resettled his wings where they'd come partially unfurled and gave a small snort. "Oh, did I? How so?"
"All the little instances when you could have done something really nasty, but you didn't. Like giving me that tea after we had that spat by Galarin's tomb, or telling me you agreed about Skelemis needing to stay bound. It all added up, I suppose... but when we met Izrask, it was the thought of killing you that kept me from pulling Astarael. Somewhere between Phoenix Rose and the desert, it just became... unacceptable."
"Oh," the dragon said softly, leaning against her rather like the dog he was the size of; she hugged him gently to her thigh, smiling, before starting up walking again. "Heh... good to know not everyone goes on first impressions."
"That's one thing I'm proud to say I don't do... I may jump to conclusions all the time, but I'm at least quick to revise them when it's obvious how wrong I am." She sighed a bit.
"Well, you weren't entirely wrong," Hemlock-- Myokan-- Myokan! It's bad enough having to use the same name on two different forms, without having two names to use for him, too, Charter-take-it,-- Myokan mused, smirking. "I shouldn't have provoked a fight, it's just that I'd never seen anyone actually expect a bell to work against a spirit. I was somewhat curious, I suppose."
"Anyone would be, I expect," she chuckled. "I've had plenty of people ask me questions about the bells."
He looked so expectant, that she had to assume she'd missed something. She thought over what he'd said a moment, then asked, "Do you use bells for something else here?"
"It's myth and lore, it seems. I tried it out before with little to no results," he explained, rubbing his head against her thigh; she stroked his neck again, absently, as she listened. "It's a belief that bells can purge an area of fell things. Say, demons or the undead, which is why there are so commonly bells in churches. Regular bells don't seem to work, though."
"Really! I wonder if that's why the first necromancer-- or Abhorsen-- or whichever, I wonder if that's why they chose bells, to begin with."
"It's possible," Myokan agreed with a slight nod of his head. "Myth and lore seem to have quite an effect on what becomes of magical artifacts, even if the original stories are not true. Though I'd noted your bells were made of silver and wood, I thought you were a civilian dabbling in the art, or at the most a very inexperienced necromancer."
"Surprised you," she grinned a bit, scratching his ears again.
"That's certain, I thought I was going to die," he admitted with a sigh. "Hmm...."
"You thought you were going to die," she laughed. "H-- Myokan, I didn't know what I was going to do if those officers hadn't shown up."
"I would have found a way to make sure you didn't die, but I hadn't thought that far yet. The bone spear was actually a rather desperate act; everything else I tried, you countered easily."
"Well, it worked, desperate or not. Sometimes the most straight-forward way is what works best, I suppose: a physical weapon."
He butted his head up her leg, rumbling in his chest, and she resumed petting-- she didn't know if that's what he wanted, but she certainly didn't mind keeping it up. "It's not really a very good weapon, only for throwing. Too much strain and they tend to break."
"I'll remember that if you ever decide to spar with one," she said dryly.
"They're meant to do damage, not to spar with," Myokan retorted, leaning into her hand. "Hm, since you're going to be teaching me Charter magic at least, perhaps I should teach you about native necromancy as well as sword-fighting."
"I wouldn't protest," she admitted, "if just to know how it works, in case it's used against me." The idea of actually using it, she wasn't at all comfortable with, but she definitely wanted to know what Hemlock-- Myokan-- could do, and what else she might ever go up against.
So, while they crossed the dragonry and headed into the stables, he told her a bit about Fantasan necromancers: the three main types, his type or Shapers, Dameon's type or Vampiric, and the typical or Overlord type, of which Shoel expected she was; the rarity of the three types, with Overlord most common, then Vampiric, then Shaper-- with the occasional Blood necromancer, which was just a blood mage who used his power for necromancy as much as anything else. That was a little chilling to imagine, given it reminded her of the uses of blood in magic on her own world.... Then, less chilling, he described the differences between how an Overlord and a Shaper, like himself, usually worked.
"Well... hm, how to explain this," he mumbled, pausing to think as they walked on. "In a way, it's a bit like how a musician works. You have the artistic type which can visualize something or 'play by ear' while you have the mathematician who works it out through patterns. To the artistic type, the simple melodies are more noticable, while the mathematician can formulate the whole thing through patterns. Well, I'm not sure that's correct...." She shrugged; it made sense, to her. "Basically, you have those who can visualize and memorize, but it takes them some time to get it right-- the Shapers-- while you have those who can run through complex spells and break other spells more readily through use of equations and patterns-- the Overlords."
"That makes sense... so that's why you have to wave your arms around and chant and focus so hard to raise a skeleton, yes?" she smiled, half-teasing him.
"Yes," he conceded, nodding in agreement. "I have to recall all that from memory. The gestures don't really mean anything, they're just to help me remember what I'm supposed to be thinking. Same with the chanting."
"All right." It was interesting comparing him to an artist; oddly fitting, actually. "So an Overlord wouldn't take so long?"
"No. They might speak aloud, but it's unlikely; there's a tendency in the breed to be able to file away spells into the mind for later usage, to recall as needed. It's not so much a matter of remembering except what they have stored, but rather going through the patterns. The Overlords' hand gestures, however, generally actually hold power."
"So if I run into one, I can cut off his arms, and be done with it?" she suggested hopefully, ducking into the shadow of the stable and making her way to Steady, who had his head up-- head and shoulder above all the horses-- to look for her approach. She'd visited him the previous day, sometime in the midst of her study and casting, to make sure he'd been fed and groomed a little, just for his own pampering's sake. Now, though, he looked quite ready to get out of the boring stall.
"It wouldn't quite work," Myo grumbled dryly, keeping pace just behind her. "They could still control their minions, but it would take more energy and focus. Usually they use hand and finger gestures to tell their creatures what to do. The main hand controls the actual functions while the weaker hand keeps track of what minion it is with a different finger combination to each. A trained necromancer does this by second nature and leaves his mind mostly free to work other spells on his opponent."
"Like-- puppeteers," Shoel blinked, remembering the chords she'd seen coming off of Galarin. Steady, who she'd reached, distracted her from the memory with a nudge to her chest, which she returned with scratching around his ears and a kiss to his silky forelock before pouring him a small ration of grain-- not enough to founder him for a bit of light travel, but he needed some breakfast.
"Exactly," the dragon said, seemingly proud. "The binding magic, if one ever feels it, actually feels like ropes being wrapped around your limbs. Not at all pleasant."
"Galarin had ropes like that, I had to cut-- hey, wait a minute, how would you know?" she asked, surprised, looking down at him.
"Galarin wasn't exactly a puppet, it just made sure that the spells used to change his personality and temperament could not be broken so easily," Myo explained, then drew his lips back in a snarl for a moment. "My brother tried it on me." Ah. No wonder he'd snarled. "You see, the magic actually works on the living if they are tired, inexperienced, unaware, or poisoned. Which leads us to the next topic: necroptic poisons."
Necroptic poisons, as it turned out, were creepy things: they had the power to eat into tissue or even stone, prevent natural healing, or turn a person into a mindless automaton, like a lesser Dead or, as Myokan called them, a thrall. There weren't even many things one could look for to spot someone using such things, except maybe darts that could be used for injecting the poisons themselves-- thankfully, there was a lag time before poisons took effect, and there were antidotes. Antidotes that, even more thankfully, Myokan knew how to concoct.
"But it's taken me a while to dig out the formulas for them," he warned. "I still haven't found the one for a local necroptic potion."
"By the time I'm interested in anything but a long stay in a library, I'm sure you'll know, and I can pester you for a few mixtures." She flashed him a smile and closed the last buckle on Steady's bridle, taking his reins and leading him out of the stall. "Look out, --Myokan," she warned cheerfully, only hesitating a little on the new name, "wouldn't want you to get stepped on."
The little dragon scuttled out of the way to crouch just in front of the stall door of a large grey horse who snorted and stamped his feet. "It will take some time," he said wearily, ignoring the angry behemoth behind the stall door. "They're fairly involved, as are the poisons themselves."
"Like I said, I'm not interested in anything but a library for a good, long while," she promised. "Even if I don't end up bonding-- and I'd certainly not go out with a hatchling, if I could help it!-- I wouldn't want to go anywhere without knowing more about the world, in general." She led Steady out from between the rows of stalls and horses, and paused at the doorway out of the stables, peering around outside, just in case Kzats had decided to pull another stunt.
"He's not here," Myokan reassured her, slinking between Steady's legs and to her side. "He's out... scaling walls somewhere." She breathed a sigh of relief and went the rest of the way outside, gathered up her cloak, and clambored rather gracelessly into the saddle.
"Out of practice already?" he chuckled, springing onto the avicorn's back behind her and cuddling up against the small of Shoel's own back. "Guess you're right about Abhorsens not needing grace, though." She blushed a bit and promptly dropped the cloak over him, partly for the comment.
"I've just never tried with one of these massive, heavy, velvet things, before," she told him archly, though she was well aware that she didn't have much of grace about her.
The black dragon pushed the tip of his muzzle out, nudging Shoel's arm. "It's okay, I like you anyway." She sighed a bit and leaned back against the cantle-- and him-- to slip an arm around the cloak-draped little dragon.
Myo purred softly, curling his neck around her to lay his head in her lap. "So, are we going?"
She stroked his muzzle and forehead, fingers trailing lightly over his Charter mark and making it glow against the black of his skin, and said, "Yes."
At the suggestion of movement, Steady shook his mane and started moving, breaking out into a brisk walk for the tunnel out without needing the reins to direct him there.
"Was there anything else you wanted to know about native necromancy?" Myokan asked, without moving his head from her lap.
"Anything else that I might need to know, I suppose," she blinked. "How common it is-- though I'm guessing not very-- what other magics it might be connected to, how many-- what's the word, thralls? How many a necromancer can even have...."
"An Overlord necromancer can have as many as there are finger combinations on one hand," he quietly. "I'm not sure how many that is. It's very taxing on the necromancer, though, to keep that many under control. The stronger ones may break free, while the weaker may die."
"I'd almost think it would be better, to escape into Death, from something like that. Galarin was certainly relieved to be free, poor man. Dragon. Whatever you call his people."
"Yhanvi," Myokan answered, then continued, "Some don't care, others do."
"Mmm...." She shook her head a bit, eyes on the snowy path cross the crater and fingers still moving idly along the black dragon's forhead, neck, and ears. "So what about other magics? What else could a necromancer from Pre'Mian throw at me?"
"Any of a number of low-focus battle spells. Like fireballs, lightning bolts, and the like. Or the curses like I used to confuddle Skelemis, earth-based magic."
That lead to a further description of elemental magic and how it connected to necromancy. Necromancy, in Fantasa, stemmed from the elements Shadow, Spirit, and Earth. Earth was effective magic, for mending or changing the environment; Spirit had to do with spirits only in binding and controlling, being more of a "holy magic"; and Shadow, like Spirit, also affected spirits and summoning, and was able to bypass the physical to get at the ethereal-- only, unlike the binding and life-giving Spirit magic, Shadow loosened and absorbed.
"There are eleven elemental classes," Myo continued, lifting his head to look up at her. "Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, Sol, Luna, Shadow, Spirit, Lightning, Time, and Ice."
"Charter... that's a lot." Well, that was a silly thing to say. "What elements can you use? Necromancy's three, anything else?"
"A different form of all of them, though I've never been very good at it," he answered, sounding a little embarrassed. She chuckled and ran her fingers over one of his ears fondly.
"You can't be good at everything," she pointed out.
"Not many Draclin are good at that type, even if they have it at all. I've only ever met two dracomancers. One was a halfbreed Draclin'geyar, the other a halfbreed Zanai."
"Well, then don't feel bad about not being able to. Besides, you'll be a-- a dracomancer? You'll be one of those soon enough, once I make you up a book or Charter marks and you can start studying."
"It's not the same," he said, shaking his head. "Dracomancy is different than any other form of magic. The Charter certainly isn't made of the stuff."
"Oh... sorry, I just guessed it meant 'dragon-mage'. So what is it?"
Dracomancy, he explained with a little-- in her mind-- unwarrented exasperation, was different from elemental magics in that it included and eclipsed them. One could specialize in an area, or master all of it, depending on how much time and ability one had. Only dragons with elderspirit, or Great Spirit, blood had even the potential for dracomancy.
"The first elderspirit, Yuraodru, is the queen of dragons, but she's also one of the Great Spirits," Myokan explained. "Some of her children are both, like this planet's Great Spirit, but many are simply elderspirits-- that is, the great dragons. Not even all of them are dracomancers, it seems on the random side. Darreon's mother is a wind and water elderspirit, Arro's I never heard what she is."
Which then led to a discussion of the elderspirit part-bloods, largely Archemage Darreon, who would be teaching the post-bonding classes, and his daughter Laiquasse who, though her bloodline and coloration, was apparently a candidate to be a dragon queen. Since Myokan didn't know exactly what that meant, and Shoel certainly had no idea, she changed the subject back to Darreon. "I don't know that a dragon-queen, younger than me or not, would be any less intimidating than the most powerful Archmage in the realm."
"You'd feel less intimidated if you had met them."
"Maybe. I'm not exactly a people-person, anyway, but knowing they don't bite would probably help."
"Darreon only bites if you make an idiot of yourself, and Laiquasse's extremely shy."
Since Shoel regularly made an idiot of herself, that wasn't all that reassuring. "I'll probably just hide in the back of the room, anyway, so I don't suppose it matters."
"We'll see how long that lasts before he reams you for trying to hide."
"Charter, would he?" she groaned.
"I'd probably hide in the back of the class, whether I knew and liked him or not," she sighed. "Oh well...."
"Just don't get smart with him and he won't hit you over the head with his staff," Myokan suggested, his golden eyes glittering with amusement.
"Hit me... would he really do that?" She blinked down at him.
"He's done it before."
"So you know," Myokan said, smirking a little, "he doesn't teach necromancy. If you want to learn any native techniques at all, you'll have to come to me."
"As if I'd go to anyone else," she retorted lightly, tickling behind one ear. "Though the thought of actually using any of it makes me uncomfortable."
"Mrrr," he grumbled just as lightly, and she fell back to just petting him again. "I don't even know what type you'd be, you could very well be in a class of your own and I couldn't teach you anything."
"How would you tell?"
"I don't really know," he grumbled, more darkly, that time, and laid his ears back. She stilled her hand, wary of annoying him when they seemed to be getting along so well. "I've never tried it before, never had reason to."
"Well, we'll see what happens...."
That was when the sun hit her fully in the face for the first time since they'd left the crater, and she found herself blinking out across the canyon she remembered from almost two months ago.
Shoel's abilities and homeworld are copyrighted to Garth Nix.
Quote borrowed from Garth Nix's book, Lirael, from The Book of the Dead.