CHAPTER 9: Death be with You
A few miles away from their barn, William sat on the ground, laying a sleeping rabbit down. He’d administered a concoction his father made to force it to sleep. Pinning its limbs with stones, he poked its chest with his two fingers, searching for its beating heart. When he had found it, he took out his blessed dagger and placed it atop where he felt its heart. He bowed and recited a few lines in an archaic language his father had taught him. Right before he spoke the last words, he plunged the tip of his blade into the rabbit’s skin, piercing its healthy heart, ending its quiet beat.
“From soul-cry to animal sacrifice, you’ve come a long way,” announced a deep, dark familiar voice.
William’s body completely froze. He had not thought it would work so fast--or even work at all. He opened his mouth, but no sound came out, only air.
Death approached the rabbit and laid a hand on its head; his iron key dangled on his wrist. “I detest animal sacrifice—or any sacrifice for that matter—only to summon me. Living things deserve to live until it is truly their time.” A breath of light escaped from the animal’s form and was devoured by the key.
One of the first rules his father told him about necromancy was that a true follower of Death would never deliver the act to a living being for the gain of soul and corpse. A Death follower must obey the rules of nature and fate. One should never interfere in their affairs. ‘True death is honored, never bestowed,’ in his father’s words.
William had sensed Death noticed him staring, so he lowered his head. “Forgive me sir. I apologize if it was not the best of methods.”
“Not the best. But it is the fastest way. Unless you happen by the underworld.”
“Did you…take its soul? Do rabbits even have souls?” asked William.
“Have you never seen a soul claimed before?”
He shook his head.
“Have you ever encountered the boatman?”
“The boatman,” he repeated. “He has long hair, no eyes, frail body, riding a boat?”
“No sir. I haven’t seen anyone like that.”
The hood on his head waved as he regarded him closely. “Have you ever seen someone die?”
“Odd. A necromancer blinded from the boatman,” breathed out Death.
William felt like he was losing interest in him. He had to do something. He had to convince him to take him. “I was never a real necromancer, sir. My father had left me when I was young and he never taught me much about necromancy.”
“But you can read. And you have summoned me.”
“Yes sir. He left books…books for me to read and practice on. I can only do so much. My friend, a son of an Earl, taught me how to read and write,” he lied, all he had learned was from his father. Radulf didn’t want a stupid, illiterate son; he wanted someone who could run his household, do business and trade at the markets, read the mails and notes he received from his home while he was away. And a stupid son could never do that.
“If your father left you, who are you with now?”
“My uncle,” he replied. “But he barely comes home. When he does, it would be for a night only and he’d be off again.”
“And this uncle doesn’t tutor you in the arts of the dead?”
“He does not believe in any of it,” he answered. “He’s the brother of my mother, a mortal.”
Death placed his hands across his body and inside his sleeves. “Then what is it that you want from me? Why have you summoned me?”
Immediately William dropped to his knees and kissed the floor with his forehead. “I am William Howe, an abandoned son, an unlearned necromancer, a boy who has no future. Please De-Malach, take me as you would a servant. Claim my life as yours and I will do anything you ask. I will obey any of your whims. I rest my soul and body in your most capable hands.”
A long silence arrived as William waited for Death’s answer. But he never lifted an eye or his head or even moved any part of his body. “Do you know how to get to Norwich?” he asked.
“Yes sir,” he answered, never looking up.
“Gather your things and go there soon as you are able and fully rested.”
“What am I to do there?” He finally looked up, but only by an inch.
“There have been sightings of damonens around the area. I want you to investigate the place, but do not fight if you see any,” he instructed. “I would go myself, but I want to know what to expect before I do.”
“Is there something different about the damonens there? Don’t they just eat like the rest?”
“You and I both know that isn’t the complete story,” he said with a heavy tone.
He thought back at his first encounter with the damonens and the second one. There had been differences in both their actions. They weren’t simply hungry beasts.
“Be there, if you want to be my servant.” Death took three steps before sinking into a shadow and disappearing completely.
Alone again, William felt a mix of excitement, dread, fear and worry.