The Case of The Fleeing Necromancer (Part II)
Hollowfaust is divided, for lack of a better term, into upper and lower areas: The city surrounding the dormant volcano and the city beneath it. We call them The City and Underfaust. I maintained apartments in both, as is my right as a retainer. Hollowfaust is a city based on levels. The highest level is guildsman. A guildsman is essentially a Necromancer by another name. They have the most rights. After that there are retainers. These can be family, special servants or the Unfaling bodyguards like me. Then citizens, who have rights but cannot enter Underfaust without permission and visitors…who have the least rights.
On the morning in question, I had been at my city apartments. Jeremy maintains some as well, but he still gets exasperated at me for how I use mine.
“I will never understand,” he said as we moved quickly through the streets toward the gate that led to the Underfaust, “Why you stay up here so much. I stay here for work and so I am in the loop as far as the pulse of life that I need to investigate. But you seem to enjoy being up here more than under.”
There was, I admit, a truth to his observation. Even now as we passed through the familiar streets that I could navigate with eyes closed, I tried to observe them through the eyes of a visitor. In Hollowfaust it was a constant late autumn. Oh, not in the reality of the seasons, they passed here as well. But in the attitude and tenor of the people the spectre of the dying of things and the coming winter and the after of life lay heavy in constant realization. As such when others sang love songs we sang tragic love stories. When others sang epics we sang dirges and mournful remembrances. Jesters masks at festivals were morose or twisted or ghostly not clownish or foppish. There was an abandon to our people, who lived for today, not because they did not know what tomorrow would bring, but precisely because they did. It was an openness contained by our laws which prevented abandon from becoming chaos.
I walked on. “I think,” I said, “It is because I want to be in the middle of why I am here. We protect the Necromancers because they protect Hollowfaust. We protect the heart to preserve the body. It is wise to look to the health of that body and know it from time to time. To remember why we would give our lives.”
“Oh, Frederik,” he smiled, “always the romantic. I would think that someday you will find a nice woman to settle down with if she could only agree to turn a blind eye to your first and truest love… Hollowfaust.”
“And you call me the romantic,” I scoffed. We passed through the Plaza with the fountain of the Bloody Maidens. Long ago, before this city was Hollowfaust, before the reach of the Rain of Colorless Fire brought death to the ancient city, this plaza was magic. The maiden statues were enchanted and made sure even in the driest of times cold fresh water flowed. But when the 7 Pilgrims came here followed by refugees from the Suel empire, the death energy from the destruction had changed the maidens. No longer life giving statues of dangers worshiping Pelor, they were twisted followers of Nerull and the fountain flowed blood and not water. Thirty years ago, my parents say, when the sanity of Nerull was restored by the Heroes of the Key; the maidens became less twisted and simply took on a hooded dark aspect of night and death. But the blood still flowed. And it was here, in this plaza that our executions took place when justice demanded it.
We hurried through the third gate. We were known and did not need to show identification. As we moved through the Underfuast toward the meeting, I became fully aware of the unusual silence of my friend.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, “And don’t tell me it is because a necromancer is missing.”Jeremy focused on his feet as he always did when he was in serious thought while walking. “This case makes me fear for the integrity of the Sovereign Council… possibly the safety of all of Hollowfaust.”
I looked at him, but he kept walking and did not meet my eyes. I had never seen him so concerned. I would have pushed further but the private chambers of the head of the Animators guild was soon before us.
We were shown in by a servant and I nodded to her unfailing, who met us to discuss safety. He looked at us, “Have you met the Lady before?”
We nodded respectfully, knowing why he was asking. Danar, the Guildmaster of the Animators was crippled by arthritis, parts of her body twisted by the condition. He showed us where to stand so Danar could enter. “Please wait here.” He said as he went into the adjoining room.
In a few moments the door from the adjoining room opened. The unfailing entered and stood to the side, following him was something akin to a spider. The creature angled itself to get through the door as it compressed its sides and seamlessly passed through a space far too small for it. The effect was one of mild horror and disorientation as the compressed insectoid form enlarged and rose to a full height of nearly nine feet. Only now, as the apparatus stood fully revealed before us, did the mind understand what it was seeing.
Before us loomed the head of the Animators guild, Danar. She sat, subtly twisted in her hands and legs with a visually painful bend to her back: Brilliant Danar, Once stunningly beautiful Danar. Sitting in a chair of animated bone that moved spiderlike into the room, she arched over us. Eight powerful arms ending in ten fingered skeletal hands radiated from the chair and skittered nervously on the ground in a constant clacking motion as they came to a rest. The device seemed hard at times and spongy at times, it almost breathed as it stood before us like a living cradle holding its seemingly fragile occupant.
We bowed. Jeremy spoke first, “Lady Denar, master of the Animators.”
I joined and together we finished, “You have called and we have come.”
She motioned for us to sit. “Such polite boys. You raise them well in your guild, my dear Baryoi.”
From the shadows of the doorway the master of the Disciples of the Abyss emerged from the shadows as if they were reluctantly giving up one of their own. “I cannot take full credit, Lady Danar. These two essentially raised each other… Each compensates for the flaws of the other. It is what makes them such a formidable tool.”
We bowed to Baryoi, “Master.”
He entered the room fully. There he stood: The head of the secret police, the most insightful investigator Hollowfaust has ever had, the reluctant lich. Bayori had, many years ago, discovered evil and vile experiments by the Disciple of the Abyss and their former guild master in concert with a now forbidden guild. He was captured by the traitor and experimented upon. By the time the authorities heeded his warning and found him he had been forcibly turned into a lich. And in thinking on this it became obvious that there could indeed, if the worst case were true, be a similarity between Kylie Evernight’s situation and Bayori’s.
Clutching his staff in one hand he waved the other skeletal appendage, “You can dispense with the formalities. This is far too important to be delayed further by such things. Sit, as lady Danar has indicated.“
We sat and waited.
“Years ago,” began Danar, “I sat in on the masters test of a brilliant young Anatomist whose ideas were revolutionary in the realms of healing and herbalism. She had been on journeyman assignment in Greyhawk city at the request of a group who needed a necromancer, and it was not going well, but she used her time there to write a rather brilliant work on the herbalism of the Flan. She presented it and her Masters rank was approved and she was sent back to Greyhawk City…"Jeremy raised his hand to pause her as I took some notes. She stopped, obviously unaccustomed to being stopped. “Pardon me, Lady, but why was her master’s certification not approved unanimously? And who voted against it?”
Danar was obviously was taken aback for a moment. Bayori’s eyes, pinpricks of light, betrayed neither surprise nor admiration. “How did you know it was not unanimous? Master Baryoi has not given you the file yet.”
Jeremy nodded in thought. “You said it was brilliant, her work revolutionary. Yet you did not say her Masters rank was unanimously approved and she was sent back. It did not fit with the other superlatives used… In fact it indicates you strongly disagree with the dissent.”
“I do,” she continued, The work was of such unaccountable brilliance that it is a travesty that it was not approved by all the guild masters. It was a particular crime that it was rejected by her own guild.”
“Her own?” said Jeremy, “Master Asaru?
“As for what happened during her return to Greyhawk city… I believe Master Baryoi should continue the story at this point.”
Baryoi produced a series of papers from the folds of his cloak, “With thanks Lady. I feel I must move ahead to convey the full import of what has occurred. Master Danar, several years after the masters certification, was struck with a bout of arthritis much more severe than normal. She remembered the young master whose herbal remedies she had tried and found to be most helpful. Thinking to consult the young Anatomist, she went to her workshop only three days ago to find it ransacked and destroyed. We discovered she also held a laboratory in the city that was in a similar state. This was odd to us, in particular because the damage was at the least… four years old.”
Jeremy leaned forward. “Four years…” he whispered, “She’s been gone four years?”
Baryoi nodded. “And it gets even odder. This made me concerned enough to procure, in confidence, all records the anatomists had on her… which led to our discovery of what happened in Greyhawk City. “ He paused and continued with his voice filled with regret, “I promise you that had we known this… it would have been dealt with.” His skeletal hands clutched the papers in anger as if he was attempting to change the reality of their contents through force. “What you are about to hear is to be repeated to no one… even master Asaru is unaware that we know.”
That last line was exceedingly odd. They were keeping secrets from the head of her guild. But it seems, whatever was in the pages grasped tightly by Master Baryoi had been withheld from the others on the council when it should not have been.
“It seems that master Evernight was sent to Greyhawk city with an unfailing named Earnest Billock…”
Master Baryoi must have noticed the confusion on my face.
“The name is unfamiliar to me.”
For a moment the light that was eyes flared to life as if they widened. “That may indeed be important. We can come back to it… and we shall. This unfailing demanded pay for his services.” The outrage on my face was immediate and severe. “Calm yourself, Sir Wolfsmith… the worst is yet to come. He demanded such fees and Master Evernight did not know what to do so she paid them; to the point where she could not feed herself but a meager fare. The unfailing did nothing except take her money. Eventually the group that had requested a necromancer to consult finally sent their Paladin to consult her. He found her… starving and close to death… This man…Sean Westfield, a paladin of Alitur, took her to the Church of Pelor to recover… wh……”
I must apologize at this point, because I lost the pulse of master Baryoi’s narrative. My mind was adrift on a sea of rage. An unfailing had charged a necromancer for services. He had extorted her to the point of her own starvation and she would have died… essentially by this unfailing’s neglectful hand had it not been for the efforts of an outsider to save her. I became conscious that the effort to hold in my rage was accompanied by a shaking of my tightly clasped hands. I felt far angrier than I thought ever possible. The unfailing were the sworn guardians of the necromancers. Their origin lie in the love story of the first guild master of the anatomists and her lover: The story of Carthylla and Sarrant. Carthylla had discovered arcane healing. A necromancer and servant of Pelor, she sought to heal things and know the body. Defended to the death by the first and greatest of all unfailing, Sarrant. It was a ballad all unfailing knew… must know. We defend our charges to the death. Sarrant’s love for Carthylla is as our love for Hollowfaust. An unfailing had not only failed but betrayed all he was supposed to be, but nearly murdered his charge. I was awakened by Jeremy’s voice sternly calling my name…
I was aware now that in my rage I had become surrounded by the nether fire that unfailing could wield through our marrow blades. Unfailing were born to be mages but we turn our magic inward and develop our fighting skills. We become almost impossible to kill… blows that would sever the limbs of others do not effect us. All manner of damage is ignored and we may even exist past death to protect our charges.This magic also lets us sheath our weapons in black flame. This was the nimbus unconsciously surrounding me now. I composed myself and the aura faded. “Masters I apologize. That an unfailing would extort and harm a necromancer… my rage was…"
It was master Baryoi who held up his hand. “I understand. Trust me, Sir Wolfsmith… such rage has not been a stranger to my company since I read this file. Since then, she returned to find her laboratory ransacked and her work destroyed. We have evidence she reported it, and it was ignored except for a response that it was a plea for attention. She maintained apartment in the city and was safe there for some time. She was sent an invitation to a play and either she returned to the culprits destroying her city lab and was taken or decided to flee for safety to…” Baryoi struggled with the last thought, “For safety OUTSIDE our walls! A necromancer… unsafe within the city… within the Underfaust itself!!”
He regained control of himself and swallowed his rage with nonexistent lips. Master Danar continued the story, “This was four years ago… Can you follow a trail that cold, Master Moonrise?”
Jeremy had his hands steepled over his lips as he pondered he question. “I believe so, Lady. In fact, I hazard this case will never be cold as long a Master Evernight lives. So strong is the intent of someone very well placed in the anatomist guild to be rid of her… but not until after some event.”
“What do you mean?” Asked Danar.
“It could be nothing, I will have to see both her rooms to be sure. Can we visit them and begin our investigation?”
Baryoi nodded, “Anything you need is at your disposal.”
“I think,” Jeremy said, “an early lunch would be in order… so Frederik and I can discuss particulars.”