Preservation

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: The Horror House

A story about a student of necromancy exploring magic forbidden by even her fellow necromancers. A short story I rushed together for the horror house Villain POV contest. I'm not certain of its quality, but I at least had fun with it.

The problem with raising a corpse, Augury mused, was that the rot always set in too quickly. Decay, the one true rival to necromancy. It challenged each of her professors, fellow students, and alumni of her academy. All of her society, that relied so heavily on the indentured undead, had fought for centuries on the side of flesh in its war against time.

It would fight Augury no more.

The solution was simple. Painfully, frustratingly, simple. So basic, in fact, it had already been solved a long time ago. An answer unheeded, disliked, and refused.

The body on the surgery table would be the first of many. If she was not expelled. Or worse. But she needed to prove, and to know firsthand, the theory of perfect preservation.

“You…”, She whispered sweetly to the body. “Are going to make many people very angry. But the aftermath will be brief. It will be healthy.”

The body did not respond. Augury made sure it was too sedated for that.

She wondered what Dr. Halrey would say, if he knew she referred to a living human being as simply a body. No doubt an unwanted lecture.

“He’s always so concerned with the semantics, you know. You’d think he’d appreciate objectivity in his student’s papers, but the number of times he has deducted points from me for such arbitrary distinctions… it's no wonder nobody’s making any progress, with him at the helm of ethics.”

But thoughts of his incompetence fell away as she gripped her scalpal, its elegant form cold and perfect in her grasp. She scanned the bare skin of the body, tracing the angle of the spine as it ran up from the tailbone to just below the back of its neck. After a quick calculation, she flourished the closest thing she had to an accomplice and danced together for the first incision.

She had never performed on a living body. Not for true raising, anyway. A few bone mendings, a transplant here and there working under Dr. Coric in the medical wing. Of course, no one had ever raised a body with its blood still pumping. Even Coric, her favorite mentor, didn’t have the courage.

“Despite her genius, she is just as complacent as Halrey. But if we take the first step, I think she will follow us eagerly. She has the heart for it.”

The blood flowed slowly as she swept across the skin in an arc of symmetry, lightly translating her equations into beautiful lacerations. To preserve a body, for it to persevere against decay for as long as possible, a well trained necromancer can infuse a cadaver within minutes of its delivery.

For this body, for it to survive through to the end of the procedure, even a single minute could be too late. So she didn’t doubt a single motion, nor second guess a single step of this intricate competition between her and the body, for a single moment of hesitation could let the body win and die.

Her performance ended as she fully engraved the spell into flesh. Bleeding lines parallel to the nerves beneath them, patterned into web-like fractals spiraling down from the neck and shoulders. Before she lost herself in the endless maze of veins she altered, she drew her partner across her thumb and let a drop of her own blood spill into one of the body’s many open veins, the catalyst of the binding between them.

In reaction, the spell flared to unlife, the familiar chill of necrotic energy erupting with crackling force. The freezing fire ate at Augury’s skin, but it didn’t matter; she welcomed it. Within moments, the fire faded, and the spell stabilized in undulating green light.

The body was still. The veins alive and flowing, but despite the skin still split and open, the blood did not spill.

“That was my greatest worry for failure. It’s good that the spell is still holding it in, despite my modifications to the formula… and gravity, of course.”

She glanced over it again, double checking every artery, every inch of skin, for any sign of atrophy. She refused to revel in her achievement until she knew for certain it could stand without unraveling. Seeing no signs of delayed decay or any erroneous behavior, she stepped back from the body and demanded proof.

“Rise.”

The sound of its tendons was deafening. The slosh of blood smearing against the table as it lifted itself up and stood. As it met her eyes, a smile invaded Augury’s face.

“Alive without life, risen before fallen. I see in you the answer they were too scared to name.”

She tested its strength, precision, and reflexes with preliminary tests. Lift a box. Run to the shelf. Everything appeared perfect and beyond expectations. But something about it felt off, something felt-

The eyes.

“Look at me.”

It did as commanded. But its pupils shook. There was… confusion in those eyes. Fear.

“You… you’re still aware, aren’t you? Your mind survived the raising?”

No response, as it was not commanded to. But it didn’t need to. Augury’s mind spun with the potential of this revelation. The implications.

“If raising the living keeps their bodies and their minds, a simple modification to the spell could change it from a binding to autonomous immortality. True lichdom without the endless supply of death… or any of the unsavory side effects.”

This would shift her entire society, shift the balance of power between necromancers and the civil government. But if she wanted to be at the forefront of this frontier, to not have her work stolen from out under her… she would need some assurances.

She turned back to the body. She noticed a trail of red footprints on the floor.

“Lie back down, and I’ll stitch you up. And after that, let’s take a visit to the park bench I found you on.” Augury picked up her suture and lost herself in future calculations. “I could use a few more bodies.”

 


Submitted: June 18, 2022

© Copyright 2022 G.P.Sharp. All rights reserved.

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Jay Rosmarin

Nice work. Well thought out. Very good read!

Tue, July 12th, 2022 9:03pm

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