She swirls the vial of blood .. the bone chips surfacing and then disappearing over and over. Her thoughts distant as the crackle of the dying fire cast dim light on room. She swirls again watch as though entranced, catching glimpses of the fire light as they momentarily shot through the edges of the glass bottle.
In her mind the scene changes, a flashback to a childhood, a dying fire, and a sister holding her hand asking for another treat before the fire died out completely and it was off to bed. "Just one more Dee" the younger looked up with innocent eyes. Dee looked down at her younger sister with a smile and handed the last sweet she had. "Ok Anessa Just the one and then we are off to bed" Anessa beamed as she took bites of the treat and with each one she shot a smile to Dee. "Your the bestest sister ever Dee" Dee looked down and smiled unaware that within hours she would never hold her sisters hand again.
Shadows dancing across the wall startles her back to the present, she eyes them as the fire makes her outline dance to her side on the ground and up onto the mid part of the wall. She puts away the vial, her shadow on the wall moving as she does, she catches a glimpse of another shadow on the wall -- "Your here" she states in a hushed voice to the shadow on the wall. She looks around the empty room and refocuses on the wall .. "I've almost worked out the spell." She reaches her hand out toward the shadow on the wall, the two growing closer as she reaches "hold my hand my sweet little sister" As her fingers finally touch the wall and shadow meets her soft touch, she curls up, rests her head against the cold stone wall and sobs herself to sleep.
She didn’t much believe in the gods … afterall they could not even bring her sister back. She remembered the local priests saying “There is nothing left to raise .. her body is ash .. she beyond bringing back.” Since that time she had learned that wasn’t true, it could have been possible, they were just not powerful enough and their gods ignored her pleas for help. Frowning at the thought, Her eyes wandered to the book propped up on a stand, closed at the moment, the strange symbols carved into its cover mocking her. She slammed her fist on the table, looking straight at the black book and screamed ”Im still working on it!” Her actions, of late had become more aggressive and her drive to finish the series of rituals was always nagging at her, poking at her, a constant reminder she had things to do.
She jumped up from her desk and stormed out into the night. She had walked for hours before coming upon a figure and his companion which halted her in her tracks. “Hello” the dark figure said as it waved forward what seemed to be a vampire under command. She looked and instinctively drew her weapon. Chuckling the figure motioned the vampire forward. Panicked a bit she recited the spell she had practiced over the last few weeks .. the ground writhed and her zombie rose. “Protect me” she commanded. The zombie moved in front of her. “A cute pet” the stranger said … “but things like this should not be done in the open young one. Follow me if you wish to learn how to harness this power.” She looked at the skull mask .. and then to the vampire .. she was easily out matched .. he could have killed her already, perhaps this person could show her more. “Very well” she said returning her zombie to the earth. The stranger turned and started walking into the woods, she followed keeping one hand on her dagger, she couldn’t win but she’d not go down without a fight. To her surprise the stranger was quite polite, though he gave her an obviously made up name, but perhaps anonymity was required now .. certainly she didn’t want people knowing about the book. He sent away the vampire and as they wallked he asked her about what she was doing. Why she would summon such things what were her goals? She recounted her sisters tale. “I want my sister back. In a living body. Not in these shells. And Ive nothing to do that with as her ashes are scattered.” He fixed his gaze upon her “mmm you speak of forcing a soul into another living body. Yes this can be done. My master can help. All you need to do is say a prayer.”
She about burst out laughing, oh the gods again she thought, yes the ones who never seem to be able to help but always wish for your time and dedication to the church causes. The ones who promise power and fall short when its needed most. She wasn’t sure they even existed. “A Prayer? And you will also aid me yes? Im not just relying on your god .. I get your help as well correct?” he Nodded saying something about being in his flock she wasn’t really listening only that he agreed to help her. He was obviously powerful - none she had seen could summon what he had. She struck a deal -- “I will become all you wish .. my sister back in a living body. This is the agreement … yes?” he nodded “All in time.” She knelt before the altar and recited what he told her. He began to cast a spell as it finished she felt something wash over her, it didn’t feel like a spell but it had to have been. “Welcome to the Church ….” She interrupted him before he could say the false name she had given him before .. “Onyx … you can call me Onyx.” He nodded “ Welcome to the church Onyx, Come then .. lets begin.”
“This is it.” She held up the vial of blood swirling it around. Glancing over the to shadow of herself on the wall. “the final spell” her hands wave around over the vial and a ray of negative energy burst forth from her hands, just as the books had described, she focused it on the crystal stopper in the flask. She looked again to the shadow, the vial pulsating with a eerie red light. “Mastery of death .. this is the knowledge it promises .. I should be able to understand more about how to communicate with your and even bring you back.” She swirled the potion and drank the contents. For a brief second she thought she saw the shadow on the wall wave its hands and motion as if crying out … then the pain hit. Stumbling backwards she slammed into the wall of the small cave, her whole body convulsing against the changes, she grasped her stomach and tried to stand. It was no use, she rolled over succumbing to the mind numbing pain, she could not think, and could barely see .. she heard a soft whisper .. “Anessa?” .. she looked up but all grew dark.
She awoke to a fire long since dead, from the looks of it she could have been out for at least a few days. The pain in her stomach was replaced by an incredible hunger, opening her pack she ate some rations and tried to recount what had happened, sipping water as she thought. After at time, She relit the fire and ensured the rock to the cave was still in place. It was .. not many could move it and she was only able to with summoned help. She collected the vial and threw it in the fire destroying any evidence of the ritual. She opened old scroll and re-read the incantation.. to her surprise she was able to decipher it now. An odd spell, advanced necromancy it seemed, from her very limited training from the books she surmised it was a way to open the negative plane for a short time. Perhaps enough time to communicate.
She focused on the bones she had found, closed her eyes and thought of Anessa, her hands moved almost without effort or knowledge of what was happening then the spell took form. A Moaning from the darkness …. “Anessa can you hear me?” A slow sliding shuffle echoed off the walls of the cave “who’s there” She drew her weapon and enflamed it, the extra light illuminated the entire cave now, a figure shambling toward her .. it was a zombie. “stay back!” she cried and raced to cast another spell but lost concentration as she watched the zombie stop and not move. She held a tight grip on the sword holding it in front of her. “Back” she said again, the zombie moved backwards. She used one hand to rub her eyes not believing what was happening, but still the zombie remained, “Just Go away.” The zombie crumbled to the ground motionless, decaying rapidly into the soil. Magic brought it forth so it must be it returns just as fast she guessed. But that was just the point .. she knew she was guessing and grasping at things, she was not trained to fully understand what she was doing but nothing would stop her from trying to reach her sister.
She picked up the old scroll again and studied it, she began to see the pattern - one she recognized. She quickly took a book from her pack .. one which had eluded her, spells she could never seem to cast and parts of the book seemed hidden or obscured somehow making the text hard to read. But now, its seemed more clear, the more she studied it the more she understood it .. This was not a one part Ritual .. it was a series of them .. all designed to master death as this book called it. She looked over the next ritual … so many more components to find .. she made a list of them and wrote it in a code she was taught in school. Packing everything away she held up a stone and called forth an Earth elemental “Move the stone.” The elemental pushed on the giant rock away. She walked into the night her mind bent on one thing .. complete the next ritual.
She sat in the chair – nervous, trying to keep from showing it, but he could tell. “You simply cannot be attempting these kinds of spells .. you can lose your mind if your not ready. Your sister has moved on … you need to let her go.” Her eyes locked on him with a rebellious glare. “I only want to speak to her, she hasn’t moved on, her spirit is always near – I can feel it.” He looked at her sternly “Your not willing to give this up?” She shook her head no in a youthful defiance “Then you leave me no choice, Ive already contacted your benefactor, you will be returning back to their care tomorrow. Go and pack your things.”
A chill ran down her spine, she stood up from the chair, bowed slightly, and left to room to go pack. Leaving the wizards home would mean no more progressing, She’d never be able to contact her sister let alone bring her back. She scribbled down two notes and slid them under doors on the way back to her room. “Ive got to leave .. meet me at 3 am, the usual place.”
3 am came quicker that she wanted but out of the shadows two other figures became visible. “Are we really going to do this?” One asked. “Yes .. Ill take the blame Im certain but Ill be gone by then. Just make the diversion severe enough it draws attention. “ she looked at the both “We will see each other soon Im sure .. I can always write I just wont use my name and what I learn I will pass on to you both.” Both nodded in agreement. “Let’s begin.”
The large oak tree in the front lit the whole front of the manner the fire dancing across the yard threatening the barns and hedges close to the manor itself. Alinar stepped in front and began casting spells to suppress the fire unaware that he was being robbed of books --- not those on the shelf … but the ones she saw when in his office which bore the same markings as what she sought.
The pseudo-dragon lay sleeping, the laced meat worked well and she was happy to have a friend who knew herbalism. She gingerly took the books she thought would help, Planar, Necromancy, Transmutation, Divination. Even books she couldn’t read but had the markings which matched. Stuffing them all into her pack she turned and left a small note on her former Masters Desk.
“I don’t blame you but you cannot understand. Borrowed some books .. They will be returned to you as soon as I can copy or understand them. No need to try to find me I will be gone and hidden before my so called benefactor arrives. Oh – He is just sleeping , your familiar, he will awake very well rested as will the rest of the horses in the stable, save for the one I took. He will return by morning. You taught us to adapt our spells to the situation, this is me adapting, I hope you understand.”
She quickly left the room and then the manor through the back door, her friends and the horse waiting in silence, she looked over their faces .. “Take care of each other” they all hugged. She jumped onto the horse and without a second look, disappeared into the night.
“You think she will be ok alone?” the boy looked at her briefly and then back to where Dee disappeared into the woods. “I don’t think she is ever alone.”
Alinar watched his student from a distance, Dee was an excellent student, driven, intelligent, focused, all the things a teacher could want. She excelled in enchantment and conjuration the most. It took some time before he had realized she as well as others were reading books copied or even “borrowed” from the shelves he forbade them from looking into. He suspected they were working together, someone to distract his familiar guardian, and someone to grab the book, it had happened before for with gifted students. It was sort of a game he and his best would play.
He stood in front of the shelf he lets his students “see” mostly these shelves where informative books, Very little danger, but they allowed the students a chance to choose and get to know most types of magic. He scanned the advanced shelves, many of the books had been tampered with, he chuckled to himself seeing most of the outer plane informative books had been removed and re-shelved. “Trying to bolster summons it seems” his smile fades as he comes across the third shelf .. fifth book from the left. While the book was accurate in what it explained and certainly no spells of note in its bindings … it was there to warn him of students who could potentially go awry. He made a short list in his head of the students capable of accessing these books. He would need to have a talk with each, a course correction before they got themselves into trouble.
She runs her hand over the book cover, dark black thick leather, old tarnished brass bindings she remembers when she first saw it…..
"What about speaking to those who have died." Dee's instructor looked over with compassion but steeled himself and gave a stern answer. "That kind of magic is dangerous and unpredictable. Without proper protections and preparations you don’t know who or what you may be contacting. Just focus on the lesson." Dee lowered her head, the young apprentice returning to the spell at hand. She waved her hand and a rainbow erupted from her fingers. "Good. Very Good." her instructor said as he walked past checking on everyone's progress. Dee was an excellent student, quick to study and intelligence that rivaled her mentor's. "I’ve finished the lesson can I go look at the books now?" the instructor looked to Dee and nodded ... "Only the first shelf and remember to study your languages."
Dee smiled and ran off to the back room. It was filled to books, magical trinkets, and a small Pseudodragon resting on a desk, ever watchful of those who entered. " Wunhumydr Myniichw" Dee said with a smile. The Pseudodragon looked at her briefly and then laid back down letting her know it was ok. She ran her fingers gently over the books on the first shelf there were many strange titles and language books. Her eyes scanned all the titles none of which jumped out at her, she grabbed the book 'Pronunciation of Draconic made simple' opened it and began running her fingers along the page. To the casual observer she was studying Draconic, but her eyes where scanning books on other shelves, shelves she wasn’t supposed to be reading. Finally she spots what she is looking for “Negative Material Plane and necromantic spells” third shelf – fifth from the left.
She smiled as she closed the book in hand returning it to the shelf. Pulling out a cheese cloth from her bag she unfolded a piece of raw venison, looked over at the familiar and tossed it to him. “E Drhuiedr poiwyhui poitydrunlii.” The Pseudodragon snapped it up and she left the room …..
She looked down, snapping out of the daydream, the book’s bindings are open. She takes a deep breath “Almost ready.”