"So, Hedge is back." Sarper brought through a tray of coffee and biscuits. laying them on the small table before sitting in the large leather armchair. Rust, Derek and Janice were all sat on the couch with Rust in the middle. "I hoped I'd be dead before he came back. And you know what this means, right?"
"Someone hired him." Janice replied with a nod. "And whoever it is is either desperate for information or has a lot of money to blow."
"This suddenly feels like it's more than just us..." Rust leaned forward, his elbows on his knees and rested his head on his clasped hands. He seemed to be deep in thought. "Have you heard anything over the last few months, Jeremy? Anything strange or unnatural?"
"Nothing besides the usual." The old man replied with a shrug. "I'm afraid I can't help you right now."
"But you'll let us know if you hear anything?"
"Of course. Now, who's your newest partner? He seems a bit young, don't you think?"
"The little rat couldn't keep his nose out of-" Jane was cut off by a glare from Rust.
"He ran into us yesterday and a group of vampires took him. That's where we found Hedge. He knows too much now and he didn't die from the vampire's claw marks."
"He got scratched?" Jeremy blinked. "He should be a pile of sludge by now. But that would mean..." He trailed off and his eyes twinkled as he looked at Derek. "Well, this is interesting. It's been a while since I've had an opportunity to find a new magical talent." He turned to Rust. "And you're sude it was vampires that had him?"
"Either that or something else with claws sharp enough to pierce bone." Rust replied. "We'll come back in a week and see if you know what he is and to see if you've heard anything of Hedge or his employer." Rust and Jane then stood up and Rust turned to Derek. "If you're still useless in a week, you'll be in Australia before the month's out."
"What!?" Derek yelped. "Australia? I can't go to Australia, I-"
"It's either there for we cut that ugly head off your shoulders!" Janice snarled and Derek cringed slightly. Rust looked to Jeremy.
"Can you sort him within a week?" He asked. Jeremy simply smiled back and Rust nodded before turning and following Jane out the door. Derek looked at the doorway for a second before looking at Jeremy, who was still smiling.
"So... What am I supposed to do?" He asked. "Do I just click my fingers or say a magic word or...?"
Jeremy laughed. "No, this isn't Harry Potter or whatever it is you young people watch these days. One thing to understand about magic is that it feeds off your own body. The stronger you are, the stronger your magic. But you can't just be able to summon fire then lay waste to a whole city. The more powerful you make your magic, the more it drains you. I'm sure you've seen Janice in action a few times, yes? Do you notice how she never draws anything larger than her forearm from her surroundings? If she were to summon, say... a spear or a machine gun, it would drain her and she would be useless. It may even kill her." Derek nodded slowly, taking it all in.
"So, say I was able to fly. I'd be more effecting just using it in short bursts to get out of trouble rather than using it to fly everywhere?"
"Precisely! And no two sorcerers are ever the same. Every sorcerer has a magic unique to them. There may be similarities between two but they'll never be exactly the same. As for you, well... I think some rest is in order."
"Wait, a rest? Why is that?" Derek frowned slightly.
"Well, it's simple, really. When a sorcerer is first told about magic, it triggers something. We don't know why it happens but the sorcerer has a dream that night. In that dream, they see themselves using their magic. It's not an exact depiciton of their magic, mind you. It's just a glimpse. And from there, we can work on finding out exactly what your skill is. For now, just head upstairs and head for the guest bedroom. Turn left from the staircase and it's the second door on the right." Jeremy stood and took the tray back to the kitchen. Derek only now realised that the cups of 'coffee' were, in fact, empty and the biscuits were made of cardboard. His eyes flicked momentarily to the window behind Jeremy's chair but there was nothing but a bush outside, with a view of the city beyond that. He stood up and rolled his right sleeve up, looking at the metal circles in his arm once more before rolling it back down and following Jeremy's directions upstairs.
The house was a very ordinary house for an elderly man. The wallpaper was striped with two shades of blue, there were old pictures of a young Jeremy and puppies and the shelves were filled with china plates, fragile ornaments and all manner of knick knacks. The guest bedroom was no different, with a cream coloured carpet and a floral design on the covers. It was a fairly unspectacular room, with a dark oak dresser under the window to the left of the room and the bed facing that against the right wall. Derek sat on the bed and pulled his boots off before lying down. The bed was very soft, as it it was a brand new matress, quilt and pillow. There were small end tables on both sides of the bed. One had a lamp on it and the other had an alarm clock. Before Derek could set the alarm, his eyes closed and he drifted off, fatigue suddenly running into him like a freight train.
As soon as his eyes closed, he felt something around his throat and his eyes snapped open. They opened to a face conrorted with anger and hatred but one he recognised nonetheless: Janice. She had a hand around his throat and tossed him out of the bed with ease, crashing him hard against the far wall and causing him to yell in pain as he felt something snap behind him. A second later, Jane's hand was around his throat again and she had a wooden knife in hand, which she buried up to the hilt into Derek's right shoulder. He yelled again and kicked out, catching Janice in the stomach. She stumbled back in surprise before lashing out with her own kick into Derek's side, who was trying to drag himself away and again crashed into the wall. There was a bang as the bedroom door was flung open and Jeremy was standing in the doorway.
"What do you think you are-!?" He thundered but was cut short, his eyes widening and choking on something. Janice's fingers were curled into a half fist and she snapped her arm straight, pushing what appeared to be a spike out of Jeremy's neck and into the wall behind him. Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth and he fell forward, dead before he hit the ground. Jane then turned back to Derek and moved to the side of a fist he threw her way, moving almost lazily as she brought a knee to his gut, lifting him several inches off the ground and blasting all the wind from him. He doubled over and coughed a few times before he felt a boot pressed against his back and a smooth, shining blade against his throat."Welcome to our world, Cockroach!" Janice hissed in his ear before yanking the blade. The last thing Derek felt was the blade breaking the skin and going halfway through his neck before he blacked out.
Derek snapped upright in the bed, taking deep breaths as he lashed out with his fist as one hand went to his throat. After a few seconds, he stopped and felt his throat: it was intact. Not even a scratch. He looked around the room and saw no dead body at the door, the far wall was intact and there was no sign of any commotion. A second later, the memories of the dream - nightmare - were all but gone and Derek was still breathing heavily and with a little difficulty. He looked at the bedside table and saw he'd been asleep for seven hours. He also saw a glass of water there and quickly downed it in four gulps before pressing the cold glass against his forehead to cool it down. His breath returned to normal and he let out a sigh, silently cursing himself for having a terrible memory. As if on cue, a knock came at the door and Jeremy Sarper walked in. He smiled when he saw Derekw as awake.
"You look like you've seen a ghost." He said. "How did the dream go?"
"Well... it wasn't so much a dream as it was a nightmare." Derek replied and Jeremy frowned slightly.
"A nightmare? Well, that is peculiar. What happened in it?"
"I... can't remember."
"Not to worry." Jeremy smiled again before reaching into the drawer of the table and taking out a dreamcatcher. "Most people think these are just ornaments but I can assure you, their purposes are true. Well, partially true. Your dream's now caught in this and only a Seer, such as myself, can see it. There's only ever one Seer like me every generation, so you're rather lucky that Rust and I are good friends." The old man chuckled. "Now, let's see what we have here..." Jeremy pulled a folding chair from under the bed and sat on it before taking the dreamcatcher in both hands and closing his eyes, his expression changing to one of pure and unbreakable concentration.
A full minute passed, in which Derek half expected Jeremy to leap out of the chair and scream like something possessed. However, Jeremy simply opened his eyes and put the woven item on the bedside table carefully, his face troubled.
"I'll be right back..." Jeremy mumbled and stood up, shuffling out of the bedroom and fishing his phone from his pocket. Derek just sat up in the bed and smoothed his bedraggled hair back, running his fingers through it and tugging the knots out, as he did every morning. When his greasy hair was as untangled as it was going to be, he swung his legs over the edge of the bed and pulled the boots back onto his feet before standing and walking to the door. He opened the door, but then stopped when he heard Jeremy speaking in hushed tones.
"... killed me and him." The old man was muttering into his phone. There was a pause. "Yes, I'm sure of it. Are you sure he's trustworthy? I'm not sure he's as innocent as he's letting on." Another pause. "Who are his parents? And is Glacier back? ... No, that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying... Look, just ask around. Do you really want them to hear about this? ... Okay. I'll stay in touch." Sarper hung up the phone and Derek quickly and quietly moved back to the bed, sitting on the edge of it. Jeremy stepped in a few seconds later.
"So, what sort of magic can I do?" He asked curiously.
"Well..." The older man scratched his chin, as if in thought. "You were being attacked by an ally, so it could be that you've just predicted Janice turning on you and Rust. However, I also noticed that you kicked back, meaning that you could have something related to combat..." Derek scratched the back of his head and frowned.
"What else is it?" He asked, slightly worried. Had it just been pure luck he'd survived the vampire attack? Was he just a normal kid who'd had a boring, normal nightmare about something very, very scary?
"Well..." Jeremy took a breath and sighed. "There was some... Death. Death was the main focus of the dream." His face looked troubled again and he looked at Derek. "I think you might be a Necromancer."
"What's so bad about being a Necromancer?" Derek asked. Jeremy looked at him with a sudden look of hate.
"What do you think is wrong with them!?" He snapped. "They work in death magic. Death. They take their power from the corpses of innocent people!"
"But didn't you say there were different kinds of magic?" Derek asked. "What if I don't need dead people to-"
"It's Necromancy!" The old man barked. "Every aspect of Necromancy revolves around death!" He put his head in his hands and groaned. "I'm too old for this..."
"But... It'll be okay, won't it? As long as I don't use corpses of innocent people or kill anyone for power, I won't be a villain, will I?"
"Kid... Everyone is the same when they die." Jeremy said flatly. "As soon as their spirit leaves their body, that's it. Innocent, evil, annoying, friendly... They all become corpses and what a Necromancer does is take the last dregs of a person's spirit from their body and turn it into power for their own gain. Still..." He sighed. "I can't believe I'm saying this... Maybe a Necromancer on our side isn't such a bad idea."
"Why's that?" Derek asked. He was curious now and he decided to think about the corpses thing later.
"Because Necromancers are powerful sorcerers. Because their power comes from the dead, they have so much of it. As of right now, there are more dead than living on this planet and because of that, Necromancers have a near unlimited source of energy. Most Necromancers turn evil. They become hungrier for power and believe that adding more death to the world will heighten their powers. And before you ask, no, it doesn't work. The power a Necromancer expels takes up more power than he adds back to their pool, so to speak. Thus, they essentially make themselves weaker. However, there was one Necromancer..." Jeremy leaned back in the folding chair and crossed his arms.
"His name was Karl Glacier. He found out a way to trap Necromantic power into a gem. A ruby, to be precise. It became known as the Shadow Ruby and is said to contain the spirits of over a billion people. If a Necromancer got their hands on it, they'd be the most powerful person on this planet.
"Glacier was unstoppable. He killed everyone without discrimination, allies, foes and innocents alike. It looked like he'd kill everyone." Jeremy paused for a moment and looked at Derek. "And then he vanished. He cut a blood path through Europe and when he reached Scotland, he just disappeared. The Shadow Ruby went with him and nobody knows where he or the crystal went. Some say God sent him to Hell, others say he just went into hiding. A few even say that a small group of sorcerers killed him, stood against his power and conquered it."
"So this sorcerer, Karl Glacier... What do you think?" Derek asked, engrossed in the story.
"To be honest... I don't know." Jeremy sighed. "I did believe that he was gone for good, dead and the Ruby lost... But now I'm not so sure."
"Why is that?"
"Rust and Jane, they've been fighting even more vampires than normal recently. Usually, they're just small attacks which are few and far between but now they're springing up like whack-a-moles, and with Hedge involved..." Jeremy sighed again and leaned forward. "I've got a feeling something big is coming. And I don't like how it's shaping up."
"What can you tell me about vampires?" Derek asked. Jeremy looked up over his glasses. They were in the living room now, sitting in relevant silence aside from the ticking of the clock before Derek spoke up. He'd still been thinking about what Jeremy had said earlier, especially with how Necromancers got their power.
"Well, what do you want to know?" The old man asked.
"I don't know... What exactly are they? Where did they come from? How do you kill one?"
"Well... I suppose it couldn't hurt to tell you. Save Rust some trouble." Jeremy folded the newspaper he was readng and leaned forward. "Vampires are monsters. As you can guess, they feed on human blood and are extremely dangerous. Vampires are created when one vampire injects a human with its venom, usually via the teeth or the talons." As soon as Jeremy said that, Derek's eyes darted down to his arms and he heard Jeremy laugh. "Don't worry, son, you're safe. Doctor Cutthroat made sure of that. Anyway, the venom will spread like wildfire through the victim's blood and as soon as it reaches the heart, the victim dies. Then their body undergoes the transformation. The entire bone structure is changed, the organs are rearranged and for an hour, the corpse undergoes what would have been agonising pain. By the end of it, the vampire appears to be human, however it takes effort to stand straight. A fledgeling vampire will likely crawl on all fours for the first few days of its existence. Even trained vampires, like the ones that attacked you, revert to their primal forms when they need to." Jeremy took off his glasses and breathed on them, using his cardigan to wipe them clean before slipping them on again.
"Where vampires came from, nobody can say. There are some rumours that the Devil sent six up as his servants to wreak havoc on the world and they multiplied. Others say that Karl Glacier himself made the first vampire by sending a spirit back into its original, dead body but that one's already been proven as a myth. As for killing them, a simple beheading is all it takes. They turn to dust, for some reason and nobody knows why, however it does mean that nobody has to worry abot a cleanup." Derek listened to everything in silence, leaning forward with his elbows on his knes.
"And why don't you like Necromancers?"
"Nobody likes Necromancers. They can't be trusted and cause nothing but trouble. I can only hope you prove to be an exception." Derek nodded and leaned back again. "Now to pinpoint just what you can do." Jeremy said with a sigh. "As you know, each area of magic has different skills. You might be able to raise the dead, kill someone with a touch, teleport through shadows, mind control... Necromancy essentially ecompasses all the 'evil' magic, so to speak. So, let's start with the basics." Jeremy leaned over and picked up the flowerpot beside his chair before setting it down on the table.
"Try touching that flower." Derek hesitated before reaching forward. He was a little scared of what would happen if he touched it. He'd read books and seen movies, this was to see if the flower would wilt and die. If it did, it meant that Derek couldn't touch anything ever again. No books, no clothing, no people... Taking a deep breath, he touched the stalk of the flower.Nothing happened. "That rules out the worst one," Jeremy nodded as Derek let out a sigh. "Now, try touching this." He opened the small cupboard in his table and pulled out a box. Inside the box was what looked like a dead bird and Derek cringed slightly. "Don't worry, it's not diseased." The young boy again leaned forward the poked the bird. For a split second, he expected it to jump up and start pecking his hand. Instead, the corpse just laid there, dead as a doornail.
"Hmm..." Jeremy tapped his chin and leaned back. "This might take a while."