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   Chapter 11

The Woodlands By EJBowman Characters: 33289

Updated: 2017-12-22 12:02

“Do you know what necromancy is…? Apprentice!”

Dacen’s head quickly snapped in the direction of Daefortis. The hybrid had been in a daze after many nights of restless sleep. He could never recall the dreams, but they all followed a similar pattern. Somebody, somewhere, was suffering and completely miserable. The dreams were almost like an out-of-body experience, except with no imagery, just the feelings of the unknown being. Dacen knew they could not be his emotions. He had been feeling quite cheerful recently now that he was an apprentice.

“Sorry,” he mumbled groggily while rubbing his eyes. “I didn’t sleep very well last night.”

“Again?” Daefortis sighed. “Remind me tonight to give you a vial of paxe morpha. The likelihood is that you’ve, somehow, telepathically latched onto the emotions of some creature near the Ivy Mountains. That’s what’s probably disturbing you, but the paxe morpha should help dull the link.”

Dacen cocked an eyebrow, intrigued.

“I can really link telepathically with a random creature?”

“Of course,” the Master lied. He knew very well that fauns could only link emotionally to beings they cared deeply for, but he would not tell Dacen that. Fauns were not meant to care for any beings of different species, so the hybrid had to sever emotional ties to any creature who was not a faun.

“Now I will ask again: do you know what necromancy is?”

“It’s communicating with spirits, isn’t it?”

“Partly, yes. However, it can be so much more. There were faun necromancers long ago, in the time when Daemonis walked the earth.” The old faun took a seat across from Dacen and opened his hand to reveal a winged insect—a moth. Much to Dacen’s surprise, the creature did not fly away upon being released onto the wooden table. He soon realised its wings were torn. “Necromancers were the epitome of great power. Yes, they could speak with the dead, but they could also revive the deceased and make themselves immortal. Daemonis was forced to destroy the necromancers when hubris consumed them. They thought themselves gods… and even thought they were more powerful than the Father.”

Dacen winced as the old faun smacked his fist on the table, killing the insect instantly.

“They were wrong, of course,” Daefortis continued with a chuckle. “And Daemonis swore that he would never grant fauns the power of necromancy again.”

The hybrid nodded even though he did not understand the relevance to anything he had been taught in the past few weeks. Only yesterday, he had his nose in a book about speeding up the growth of produce.

“You are not a faun,” the old faun murmured more to himself than to Dacen as he stared intently at the twitching, dead moth. He then quickly snapped out of his state and stood up. “I have no access to books on necromancy. Daemonis made sure those were destroyed as well, but I have a little task for you today: resurrect the moth. If you do, I shall reward you with something I know you want.”

It took the hybrid a moment to process everything Daefortis had said. Why on earth did the older man think a mongrel like him would be able to resurrect the dead? He did not think he was more powerful than a faun, let alone powerful enough to bring even something as trivial as a moth back to life. The deranged, greedy look in his master’s eyes suggested that the older faun was not having the same stream of thoughts. The younger man had no idea what he was thinking, but Daefortis must have seen something that he did not.

“And what would my reward be?” he asked in a nonchalant manner despite the fact he truly doubted that he would be able to bring the moth back to life.

“You will know when that thing is flying around the den,” the old faun replied while gesturing to the squished moth.

Dacen looked around the room once before sighing.

“I must be honest: even if I had access to a necromancer’s book, I doubt I have the ability to resurrect the dead. I mean, if you can’t do it, then what chance do I have? I’m an inexperienced cross-breed.”

A small smile spread across Daefortis’ face.

“I believe being a mutt will give you an advantage.”

With the snap of his bony fingers, the door across the room opened. Daefortis started clopping across the room before turning back once.

“I am merely testing your magical abilities. There is no shame in not being able to accomplish this task… just no reward. Take as long as you need. Hours, days, weeks… as long as you need. Perhaps the books in the library can aid you, but I doubt it. We may not have the ingredients required for such magic, but we can retrieve them once you know what you want. Farewell, Apprentice.”

With that, he was gone.

Dacen raised both eyebrows out of suspicion. Had there been any indication that he had the power to revive the dead? No. Was Daefortis just going on a hunch? Probably.

He slumped back in his chair. There was no rush to get started when he had all the time in the world. That, and he had no idea where to start.

No books, no teacher, no clue.

His mind quickly trailed away from the idea of necromancy, and instead, he pondered what his possible ‘reward’ could be for reviving the dead moth. The Master and Apprentice did not know much about each other, so how could Daefortis possibly know what he wanted? Dacen had no idea what he wanted himself. He thought he had wanted to be accepted by fauns, and he was quite happy to be an apprentice, but somewhere deep below the surface he knew that he was not as satisfied as he had hoped to be.

“You must fix the body before you can fix the spirit.”

The hybrid nearly fell out of his seat as he turned to look at whoever was talking. The feminine voice suggested that it was not Daefortis. In the doorway, stood Taonhi Chay, looking less than amused.

Why is she here? The Meeting of the Thirteen Masters ended weeks ago.

“Hello,” he murmured awkwardly.

Taonhi Chay nodded, but she was not there to make casual conversation and got straight to the point: “Heal the body first. A soul can’t return to a squished corpse, can it?”

At first Dacen had no idea what the female faun was talking about, then he looked back down at the dead moth and realised.

“Oh,” he exclaimed. “All right… I thought fauns didn’t know anything about necromancy?”

“I don’t,” Taonhi Chay agreed. “I just have common sense.”

Dacen was given no time to refute. The faun had already left. He sat and stared intently at the dead moth for a few minutes before finally standing up and going to the library to retrieve a book about healing. Fixing the body was a start, but he still had no idea where to go after that.

Although he maintained a lull expression, Daefortis was just as surprised to see the female faun as she entered his study. He had placed a charm on the crystal ball to ensure not just anybody could teleport into his domain as a safety measure. Then again, Taonhi Chay was not just anybody.

“Necromancy,” the female faun scoffed. “I heard you speak of it across thousands of miles. You know very well it is taboo to discuss faunkind’s necromantic history. We are still repenting for our ancestor’s mistakes.”

“I’m aware of that,” the old faun grumbled while intertwining his fingers on top of the table. “Our past is just as much his past. He has a right to know about the dark days of the fauns.”

Taonhi Chay nodded along despite the fact she appeared sceptical.

“And asking him to perform necromancy is part of your plan to teach him about our past?” she hissed. “Do you want to be struck down the Father?”

“I have done no wrong. I’m not the one attempting to practice necromancy,” he explained while wearing a malicious smile. “If Daemonis kills anyone for practicing necromancy, it shall be the abomination.”

“The Father is smart enough to know the mongrel is your puppet.”

Daefortis shrugged indifferently.

“Such criticism from a doe who, herself, is aiding the mongrel. Tell me, do you not think the Father will notice your participation as well? Why help him?”

She did not look dismayed.

“I am a teacher. I will always do what I can to aid an apprentice.”

“Lies!” he said with a gleeful hoot. “You are just like me: you want to know. You want to know if he has these powers.”

There was silence. Daefortis stroked his beard down to the tie of the braid.

“You may act pious, Master Taonhi Chay, but the Father can see into your devious, curious heart. That is, if you think he still watches.”

The doe gave a pompous chuckle and shook her head.

“Telling the hybrid the most basic thing: that fixing a body is the place to start, is hardly an impious act.”

“Whatever you say, whatever you say,” he trailed off.

“I doubt he even has necromantic abilities,” Daemonis continued after another few moments of silence. “I am just curious about the extent of his power and if it truly does surpass our own. If so, there will be no doubt that the Father has chosen a new race to be his disciples. The more we learn about my apprentice the more we learn about Daemonis’ grand plan for these mongrels.”

“It is very possible that he doesn’t have the power of necromancy,” Taonhi Chay agreed, still sounding sceptical. “But you and I both know he does. Death rests in the very core of his soul, waiting. It’s a matter of why he has necromantic abilities. There is no need to test his power. Power over life and death means he could destroy any of us fauns who challenge him.”

Yes, Daefortis thought. And I am the one who controls this powerful mongrel.

The female faun let out an exasperated sigh.

“You think you can control him, don’t you? The mongrel can’t even control himself! You saw him when he sucked the life out of that other faun. That being of darkness was not your apprentice. That was a darker force channelling itself through the mongrel, and you have no control over it. It is the necromancer, and it will destroy you. I only pray that no faun

tion. Within a few seconds, they were back in the grand hall. The crystal ball was just in the midst of transitioning from red back to yellow. Surely they had scared a few of the city folk by mysteriously vanishing, but that did not matter.

“And that, my apprentice, was your reward,” Daefortis whispered manically before releasing Dacen’s shoulder and walking towards the door. “Oh, and a simple bath will remove the liar’s dust.”

Dacen had had enough of this convoluted reward nonsense: “How was that my reward? You said it was something that you knew I wanted!”

The old man opened the door and turned back to look at his disgruntled apprentice. His smile still remained.

“Are you telling me that you didn’t want to meet your mother?”

And then he was gone.

The realisation hit the young man hard. Shock consumed him to the point where he was no longer capable of moving. He felt sick. No, he felt guilt.

I just met my mother. She’s alive. She gave birth to me and now she’s living on the street. My mother is homeless… I have a mother. Oh my, I just met my mother!

The old faun was unfazed when his enraged apprentice burst into the washroom and stormed straight up to the bath.

“You’re going to have to wait for me to finish,” he joked before forming a small ball of water and splashing it on his own head, instantly revealing his large horns again.

Dacen was not there to listen to jokes. He could feel himself on the verge of blacking out… on the verge of letting his darker half take control.

“You take me back to her right now!” he hissed. It was quite terrifying to hear his own voice be matched by a secondary voice, as if the other side of his mind was also vocalising itself.

“A second trip is not part of your reward.”

Daefortis, despite his own smugness, did regret his words once the tub water started to rapidly heat up. Although he liked to keep a calm composure, he could not help but scramble out of the tub as it got to boiling point. Within a matter of seconds, the tub was empty and a thick steam filled the whole room.

“Was that really necessary?” he asked in his usual, indifferent manner while trying to find his towel.

He did not get the chance to dry himself off as a hand firmly clasped his throat. Dacen emerged from the mist, although he was no longer his normal self. The veins leading to his pitch-black eyes were proof enough of that.

“You will take me to her,” the Apprentice hissed in many voices.

“Revive the dead vampiress and I shall,” Daefortis haggled, although he was struggling to talk due to the lack of air.

That grip only tightened as Dacen got angrier.

“No! No more of this reward nonsense. Take me to her right now!”

“Revive the dead vampiress and I will teach you the art of teleportation.”

The grip around his throat loosened slightly. Daefortis smiled—now they were bargaining. Using his apprentice’s mother as incentive would prove to be quite useful.

“Teaching you how to teleport will mean you won’t have to rely on me to see her,” he further explained. “All you need to do is bring that vampiress back to life.”

The cold eyes stared him down for a few more moments, trying to read his mind to see if he had ulterior motives. It came as quite a relief when the Apprentice finally took his hand away, but his cold expression still remained.

“I must rest. My magic has been drained for the day,” he stated bluntly.

The young man was gone before Daefortis could even reply.

He was beginning to realise Taonhi Chay was probably right based on this whole incident, however his apprentice’s desire to see his mother would prove to be a useful tool to keep Dacen inline. He would teach him to teleport, but it was not something that could be learned within a matter of days, and the old faun had to use that time well.

That woman cannot reveal the identity of his father, he realised. Although I doubt she can really comprehend who it is, I must still ensure that her memory of the night the mongrel was conceived is shrouded.

The last thing he needed was for the hybrid to lose his mind yet again over his parentage. The truth about his father could wait for another date far into the future. Daefortis got dressed and went to work on a concoction that would fog the woman’s memory.

* * *

The beggar was amazed, to say the least, when an old man strolled up to her and placed a loaf of bread in her open hands. First the kind man from yesterday had given her two copper coins and now this; she felt like Bakadeus was finally on her side!

“If only there were more people like you,” she said gleefully before ripping off part of the loaf and stuffing it in her mouth. She had not eaten for over a day now and had only used one of the copper coins to buy herself a small flask of wine—an addiction she continued to fuel every time she got her hands on a few coins.

The old man laughed and looked up at the sky as if his mind were on other things.

“Indeed,” he agreed insincerely. “Have a nice day, beggar.”

Only a few moments after he left did the woman began to feel the effects of the magical concoction cooked into the bread. She did not care, however, as she was starving.

By the time she had finished the loaf, the thought of how she got stuck with such a miserable life was all but gone. The fact remained that a monster had seduced her and she had abandoned their offspring in the wilderness, but exact details were lost. She did not notice the alteration of her memory, but if she had, then she would have been happy with the change. She had been trying to block out that horrid experience by drowning her thoughts in alcohol.

She had often questioned if dumping the half-breed child in the wilderness had been for the best. After just giving birth she had not been in a sane state, yet she figured she would have still done the same thing even if she had been of sound mind. For all she knew that creature would have grown up to be just as monstrous as its father, and letting it die in the wilderness was sparing many potential victims. Then again, there was always the chance that she could have raised a decent son. The problem was that the bastard child of a poverty-stricken mother would not have made it very far in life. He would never have had the chance to make a proper life for himself based on the circumstances… so was starving on the streets just as terrible of a fate as being left in the wild to die?

These questions no longer plagued the beggar’s mind. The memories were now a faint stain on her mind and of no importance any more. She had bread, and that was all that mattered.

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