on the door of a seemingly normal house. It was a bungalow, nestled in a street
of bungalows and was just a normal house. There was a quiet little garden out
front with some flowerbeds and some little porcelain gnomes, the floral
curtains were drawn and the house had a brass number thirteen screwed in
between the two door-height, frosted windows.
Despite all this, Derek thought it felt a little off. He couldn’t see anything disturbing or out of the ordinary but he just felt strange while standing in this nice little garden in front of this nice looking house. As if to confirm his uncertainty, the door opened smoothly and there stood a tall woman, wearing a long, flowing black dress which started just underneath her arms. Her skin was very pale, almost pure white and her hair was a deep red, almost the colour of blood. She was wearing a pair of long gloves which were a deep, dark red colour and stopped halfway up her bicep. The woman looked to be in her mid-twenties and was beautiful. Derek only just managed to stop his jaw from falling off when he looked at her face, which looked like it was carved by the finest crafter in the world and looked so delicate that the slightest breeze would cause her to fracture.
“Oh, Janice!” The woman said with a smile as she looked down at the younger girl. Her voice was like soft, perfect music to Derek's ears. “It’s been such a long time, please do come in! And who’s the handsome young devil you have with you?” She raised a hand to her mouth in a pretend gasp. “Has the hardy, rough-and-tumble Janice finally found a soft spot in her heart?”
“Shut up.” Jane responded simply in a voice which made it sound like she was one word away from shattering the perfect face of this woman. She walked into the house and turned left, leaving Derek in the doorway with this angel.
“Oh, where are my manners! Allison Shadow, at your service.” She smiled and put a hand forward. Derek almost subconsciously raised a hand to shake hers before something landed on his shoulder. He jumped and spun around, expecting a vampire or the thing from the jeep but it was just a man who'd put his hand on his shoulder. Derek gave a relieved sigh and smoothed his hair back.
“I wouldn’t shake her hand if I were you.” The man said with a smile. “Even with that glove, your arm is likely to shrivel up and fall off.”
Allison raised her hand to her mouth again, like something from a sitcom. “My dear, I would never think of handicapping a guest!”
“Then how do you explain that Jehovah’s Witness yesterday?” The man raised an eyebrow.
“Adam, you know how those people are!” She replied. “They won’t give up! What was I supposed to-“
“Will you two stop with the small talk!?” Jane suddenly snapped from behind Allison. “I don’t know if you’ve heard but Karl Glacier’s apparently up and about, same with Jester and Clarrigan Garker. We need to get this Cockroach at least a little bit of practice before he’s killed!”
Adam and Allison looked at each other, the joking instantly gone from their faces.
“Come inside.” Adam said and, with his hand still on Derek’s shoulder, walked inside with Allison.
positive it was Garker?” Allison asked. They were sitting in the lounge, which
was, like the outside of the house, decorated very normally. The entire house
looked like it belonged to a normal couple, actually. Nothing suspicious or
Necromantic about it.
“If you happen to know of any other people who have their faces stitched closed, now would be a good time to speak up.” Janice replied. “He attacked Rust and I twice, both times we barely got away with our lives. The only reason we escaped the second time was because Cockroach managed to get a fluke with his Necromancy.”
“Jane, my dear! That was not a fluke!” Allison said curtly. “As you know, Necromancers are more powerful when they are around death. Clarrigan Garker is a dead creature, and thus practically radiates a Necromantic energy. Your young protégé here simply tapped into that energy and used it. It was not a fluke, however I’m sure it was very unrefined and, dare I say, primitive.”
“What’s your name, son?” Adam asked, turning to Derek.
“Just call him Cockroach.” Janice cut him off and glared at him. “You don’t need to know his real name.”
Adam smiled and let out a small chuckle. “Very well, Ms Thorne.” He turned to Derek again. “Well, Cockroach, your girlfriend has a point. You can’t-“
“I’m not his girlfriend.” Janice interrupted again through a clenched jaw.
“Ms Thorne, we would appreciate if you didn’t interrupt us in our home.” Allison said, shooting a deathly glare at Jane who muttered something and fell silent.
“As I was saying…” Adam Shadow continued. “If you’re part of this world now, you can’t let your name be known. You never know when a Seer could get hold of your name and use it to track you down. If you make a big enough name for yourself, you’ll get people coming after you and from what I’ve been hearing, you’ve already had that happen once.” He smiled. “Vampires truly are miserable creatures, aren’t they? Neither alive nor dead, they serve no purpose other than to be plain brutes.”
“But enough small talk.” Allison said. “Young man, Rust told us why you’re here. As uncouth as that man is, he is an old friend of my dear husband and as such, we see this as a favour to him. Tell us, what do you know of Necromancy?”
Derek cleared his throat, feeling a little out of place. He always felt that way in someone else’s home. He wasn’t sure if he should sit down, he typically let himself go hungry or thirsty because he didn’t want to take their food, he pretty much felt like a prisoner.
“Uh… I know Necromancers get their power from the dead.” He said.
“It’s okay to refer to yourself as one of us.” Allison smiled. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
“Okay… I know that Nec- we are stronger the closer we are to death. Like if I were in the middle of a city, I’d be weak but in the middle of a graveyard or a morgue, I’d be a lot stronger.”
Both the Necromancers nodded. “That’s right.” Adam confirmed. “That’s why we made this house a private funeral parlour. People bring their dead to us and we become more powerful.”
“And before you say anything, we do prepare the bodies for their funerals.” Allison says quickly. “We simply take extra care. So many parlours these days just dress the body up for display and send it on its way.” She tutted and shook her head. “So disgraceful. These people are giving us our power, we make certain to make sure they are in the best condition possible for their final resting place.”
“If you ask Rust or young Ms Thorne here, they’ll say Necromancers are power hungry tyrants who want nothing but to be more powerful than Karl Glacier himself.” Adam said. “My wife and I are proof that is no so. Young man, with our help, you can be a powerful Necromancer and not be urged to slaughter thousands to sate your appetite. Now…” He turned to Jane. “Ms Thorne, if you could possibly step outside and keep watch? If Clarrigan Garker decides it’s worth the risk to finish the two of you off, we would like to know before he saps your neck.”
Adam smiled as Janice glared for a second before standing and walking out. Allison cleared her throat gently and shifted in her seat slightly.
“Now… Cockroach…” Her nose wrinkled slightly upon saying the word. “… Perhaps you could demonstrate your ability for us?”
“I… I'm not sure I can…” Derek replied hesitantly.
“Come now, it’s just us three here.” She smiled. “You don’t have to be scared.”
“It’s not that I’m scared,” Derek replied and smoothed his hair back. “I don’t know if I can. In the car, before that… thing attacked, I couldn’t do anything and I tried as hard as I could.”
“That was there.” Adam said. “Remember, you’re more powerful here. Didn’t you feel it when you got here? As of right now, we have three lovely corpses downstairs. One of them is ready for her grave, the hearse will pick her up tomorrow.”
“So, what… I can do magic here?” He asked. Then he realised why he’d felt strange in this house. It wasn’t Adam or Allison Shadow, it wasn’t that the house was so normal. It was that he felt something else in him. Ever since he’d had the nightmare about Janice killing him, he’d felt like there was something in his gut which he’d just put down to indigestion. Now, though, in this house, it was stronger. Like a small, cold fire burning inside him.
“That’s right.” Adam confirmed. “You can feel it, can’t you? The power inside you. All you need to do is tap it, just tap it. We wouldn’t want you tearing a hole from the side of our house.” He and Allison laughed at that. Derek gave a small smile as well, although he couldn’t really see the funny side.
“So come on, sweetie.” Allison smiled encouragingly. “Show us what you can do.”
Derek let out a deep breath and looked around before focusing on the shadow of the end table beside Adam’s chair, the shadow cast by the lamp behind it. He slowed his breathing and got his heartbeat stable before he began to focus on the shadow. He focused on the darker part of the carpet, in the stretched shape of the end table. Focused on the edges of the shadow, the filling of it… The edges of the darkness began to quiver. Derek focused harder and the quivering stopped. As soon as it did stop, however, the shadow began to rise.
It darkened until it was an almost solid black and rose out of the ground, almost like a second table. Both Allison and Adam looked at it with a twinkle in their eyes. Suddenly, Adam slammed something against the ground, causing a loud bang and the shadow suddenly shot upwards, forming into a long spike and slicing right through the ceiling and upper floor of the house. The shadow disappeared a second later and Derek blinked.
“Very good.” Adam smiled. “Most fledgling Necromancers I’ve heard of were only able to move the shadow across the ground at first. Apparently, it takes years of training to make a shadow solid.”
“But you weren’t born in the sixteen hundreds, were you?” Allison asked. “I’m sure you’ve seen movies and read books with shadows or light becoming solid. You know what it looks like, so you’ve already gotten the first few lessons in the bag. Now, can you make shadows into different shapes?”
“This might sound pointless,” Adam says. “But if you’re in a fight in an alleyway, a big block of shadow isn’t going to help you, is it? However, if you were to take a page out of your girlfriend’s bo-“
“Oh, we’re not a, uh… a couple.” Derek interrupted. “She’s mentioned several times that she’s not the least bit interested in me…”
“Oh, don’t be so quick to judge!” Allison said with a small smile. “You’re a handsome young lad, she’ll come around. All you need is to be strong and assertive! Young girls can’t resist a man who’s in charge.” She smiled.
“But she’s over eighty years old.” Derek replied.
“Well, enough of your love life.” Adam cleared his throat. “If you’re interested in Ms Thorne, then talk about it another time. As I was saying, a big block of shadow is useless in a battle. You could take a page out of Ms Thorne’s book and turn the shadows into a weapon. Or you could simply impale your enemy like you did our ceiling. Now, I know that the thought of pushing something through a person might see daunting but it’s all about a state of mind.” Adam smiled.
“All you need to do is will the shadow to take a shape and it will.” Allison continued. “No more energy will be used than needs to be. If you wish to form a weapon, the shadows will rise up as a blade. If you wish to conjure a chair in which to sit, you can simply fall back and fall into a soft seat.
“And you can decide how lethal these items are. If you want your sword to be safe, simply will it and it will pass through anything without harming it. If you want it to be lethal, however, the blade will slice through the strongest steel without a single hint of resistance.”
“So, all I need is to focus and practice with a weapon?” Derek asked.
“Just practice with your Necromancy.” Adam replied. “Soon enough, you’ll barely have to focus to command the shadows to your will. Of course, when it comes to the weapons at your disposal, don’t rely on just summoning a sword to your hand.”
“Use all the tools at your disposal.” Allison said. “You can use the shadows to delay pursuers, to confuse and entrap enemies, intimidate people who don’t cooperate. The command of shadows is a powerful power to have, indeed. And you’re still young as well. When you reach even Janice's age, you could be powerful enough to combat Karl Glacier.” She smiled.
“Right…” Derek nodded. “So, just practice making different shapes with shadows?”
“That’s right. And don’t be afraid to experiment.” Adam said. “Necromancers who’ve controlled the power of the shadows in the past have all discovered new aspects of their powers. Harry Corpse was the first Necromancer to create a shadow clone which was an invaluable asset to him as a distraction. Claire Ransom discovered how to use the shadows to essentially fly for a time. For all we know, you could be the one to revolutionise the shadows for future generations.”
“But enough of this for now.” Allison looked to her husband. “Could you bring in Janice, honey? I think a spot of dinner is in order.” Adam nodded and stood up. He walked towards the wall behind his chair and instead of walking into the wall, he walked through it. More specifically, he walked through the shadow of their bookshelf cast by the main light in the room.
“Oh, he does like to show off.” Allison smiled before standing and walking over to the couch, sitting beside Derek. “What do you think of our lovely little world so far? Are you enjoying the adventure?”
“Well… To be honest, it’s kind of too early to tell…” Derek replied nervously.
“Nonsense! You’ve been attacked by vampires, an assassin, you’ve controlled shadows… You must have some thoughts so far.” She smiled that breathtaking smile, her lips painted as red as her hair.
“Well, I… I suppose it’s a bit overwhelming…” He replied. “I-I’m not sure what to think.”
“Well, that’s quite alright. What did you think of my husband?”
“Well, he was, uh…” He struggled to find the right words without running the risk of insulting Allison. “Knowledgeable.”
“He is, isn’t he? But he is a rather boring man.” She sighed. “I’ve always craved a life of adventure. I was the girl who always hoped a knight in shining armour would ride into my little town and sweep me off my feet!” She batted her eyelashes and laughed. Her laugh sounded like the woodland creatures would come and listen to her forever, like something from a fairy tale. “But maybe the armour doesn’t have to be shining… Right now, I think I’d rather have a dark saviour.” She smiled widely, a twinkle in her eye. “Isn’t that the cliché these days? The dark hero is so misunderstood yet the pretty girl warms his heart?” She shifted on the sofa closer to Derek, who was starting to feel uncomfortable.
“Uh… I think so? I’m not sure, to be honest…”
“I just think it’s such a thrilling idea!” She sighs almost sadly. “This dark knight has been so rejected his whole life, he’s been shunned and cursed by everyone he helps. And then a young, understanding woman comes along and sees him for who he really is.” She looked at Derek again. “Do you think you’re a dark knight?” She asked with a smile.
“I-I really don’t think so…” He replied and shifted away from her slightly, only to have her follow him.
“I think you could be. A Necromancer in a world where death magic is hated and feared… If you had the Shadow Ruby, you could be unstoppable. You could have anything you want.” Her look changed slightly and Derek couldn’t help but wince. “You could have me.”
Allison began to slowly lean towards Derek.
“You could have me all to yourself… My husband couldn’t stand against the Shadow Ruby. He would be at your mercy…” She licked her lips slightly. “I could be your dark queen… I could stand by your side while you plunge the world into your own eternal darkness…”
“I’m really not interested in any of that…” Derek replied, trying to lean away from Allison but not able to go far.
“Oh, I think you are. You could be such a terrible and powerful ruler. All you need to do is kiss me…” Allison stared straight into Derek’s eyes, her own dark green eyes entrancing and almost hypnotic.
something landed on Allison’s shoulder and she was violently yanked backwards.
The object turned out to be a blunt wooden hook, just curved enough to be flat
against Allison’s shoulder. As soon as it made contact with her skin, the wood
rotten and crumbled into nothingness in the blink of an eye. Allison yelped
when she was pulled back and laughed like a schoolgirl.
“Don’t touch the cockroach!” Jane snarled from the other side of the couch.
“And the young man thought you didn’t care for him!” Allison giggled and pushed herself up. She winked to Derek, causing him to blush slightly and stood up. “Feel free to help yourself to whatever’s in the kitchen.” She giggled. “I’m sure you’ll find something else to your liking!” She then turned and practically glided out of the room.
“What was that about?” Derek asked curiously.
“Allison’s a particularly nasty kind of Necromancer.” Jane muttered. “Anything she touches dies in seconds.”
“And why did you stop her from touching me?”
“Because I-” She cut herself off and her jaw clenched and she made a nose in her throat. “I’d rather you were alive.” She growled.
Derek opened his mouth to say something but was cut off before he could start.
“Just drop it!” She snapped. “Let’s get going. You know how to use corpses to your advantage, whoopdedoo. We’ve got to get to Lore’s house before Garker.” Derek nodded and they both stood up and left the Shadow household. Nobody came to see them off and in honesty, Derek didn’t like the idea of seeing Allison again. He still felt uncomfortable.
Janice managed to get a taxi to Barry Lore’s apartment building. When the
driver asked for his payment, Janice responded with an elbow to the nose,
easily knocking the driver unconscious.
“I could’ve paid him.” Derek said as they walked up to the building’s main door.
“My way was easier.” She replied.
“You don’t think he’d going to call the police?”
“We’re just two kids, he’s not going to bother with them.”
“I’m a kid. You’re far from a kid.”
Derek got a glare for that. “I doubt he knows the difference.” She said and walked into the building. They took the lift to the fourth floor and Janice knocked on number forty. A few seconds passed before the door opened and a tall, widely built man practically filled the door. He wore a grey shirt and a pair of shorts and sandals on his feet. If Derek had to use one word to describe Barry Lore, it would have to be ‘boulder’.
“Janice!” Lore grinned as he looked down at both of them He had a Glasgow accent and his voice was as deep as it was loud. “What a surprise! I thought Rust was coming with you?”
“He’s with Cutthroat.” Jane replied flatly. “We ran into Garker. Quickly, we need to find the Shadow Ruby before the wannabe spider decides to come back.”
Lore nodded and turned, practically waddling back before sitting on a very wide armchair which Derek noticed too late was actually a couch.
“I did some more research while you were on your way.” Lore said, clearing his throat. “The Shadow Ruby was last seen on July the seventeenth outside Lockerbie in fifteen forty-three. That was the day that Karl Glacier disappeared. The group that intercepted him are all dead now and they didn’t leave any hints of where the Ruby could’ve gone. The most reliable source says that Glacier hid it underground, so far underground that it would be shattered by the weight of the rock above it.”
“So our best lead is that we don’t have to worry about the Ruby?” Jane asked. There was the slightest hint of hope in her voice. Lore raised a sausage of a finger, though.
“I said it was the most reliable source.” He said. “I didn’t say it was the only one. There are more theories than I care to recall but there are a few which are more realistic than others. The truth is that it’s impossible to know where the Ruby could be. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the Ruby was even lost to begin with.”
Janice frowned. “What do you mean? If Glacier had the Ruby, he’d already be cutting through the world like a warm knife through butter.”
“Not necessarily.” Lore leaned back, the sofa creaking and groaning underneath his weight. “The last time he tried to take over the world, it resulted in him being stopped by four sorcerers. Say what you will about Karl Glacier, the man was no fool. In fact, he was possibly one of the cleverest Sorcerers there was. He just made one mistake and that was starting too soon.”
“What do you mean?” Jane said. “Magic was at its strongest back then, a lot stronger than it is now.”
“But it’s not just magic he has to worry about these days, is it? Several countries have nuclear weapons ready to launch at the push of a button. Technology is advancing so fast that every year sees a more devastating weapon than the last. Magic can do a lot of things but I don’t think it can stop a nuclear warhead and I don’t think Glacier’s stupid enough to take that risk.
“So what I think he’s doing is waiting. He’s got the assassin. He’s got the interrogator. And now, apparently, he’s got the Jester. So, tell me, why would he hire these three and not strike? What were assassins used for? Where did Jesters fit in most? And why would he need an interrogator?”
Janice leaned against the wall, thinking for a moment before it clicked.
“He’s going to try and disable all of the planet’s defences.” She said, sounding surprised. “He’s going to assassinate all the leaders, get the nuclear launch codes and infiltrate secret parties and meetings.” Lore nodded in confirmation.
“Karl Glacier is going to try and take over the world before destroying it.” He said and for the first time, his gaze travelled to Derek. “I hope you’re as powerful as any other Necromancer, kid. You’ll need all the strength you can muster.”