It seems that my attempts at fitting my stories relating to my necromancer into the HOES format are becoming more and more impossible with each coming month. Given that I'm rather enjoying writing this reminscings of days gone past for my plucky, insane git, I've decided to simply forego HOES-ing him and give him his own little thread from where I will (on and off as time and interest permits) continue his story. As such, I'm going to start by putting up both of my HOES entries (with the extra thousand words or so that didn't make it into the second entry LOL) here to become what will be the continuing tale of Eric von Vandersnoot. Peruse at your leisure!
It may be of some interest to you, the reader, to know that this story (while exceedingly far-fetched) is quite true. You may have also noted upon reading this that I, the esteemed teller of this witty narrative of madness, have an annoying tendency to interject into this tale my own thoughts and what not (in some cases, the interjections are those of the writer, whoever he or she may be) relating to this story as it is told. I assure you that the original manuscript remains complete. I honestly have no idea how it came to be written or what poor sod decided to put it to paper but be of clear mind that that which has been set down here should be taken as a warning. There are some mad bastards in this world who should never, EVER be messed with.
As a side note and while on the topic of interjected anecdotes, I feel I should explain with as much brevity as possible how I came across this. Whilst part of a Bretonnian Crusade in the Lands of Araby far to the south, I came across a mad Arab who, oddly enough, dealt in rare tomes. The gentleman was brought to my attention (by another soul like myself who enjoys a good read now and again) and given my curious nature, I decided to see if I could find said mad Arab. When I came across him, he had on his personage two rare tomes. The first being the above manuscript of which I shall tell you. The second was a curious thing. He claimed it was some sort of dark tome, a book of the dead (Necro-something or other). And, while my curiousity is voracious, I found myself rather put out by the binding of human flesh used to hold it together. Aye, curious I am, but stupid I'm not... No good can come of anything inked in blood on parchment held together with sinew and human fat. Besides, the thing smelled hideous...
Oh, and before I go, I must apologize beforehand. The writer of this tale had a terrible tendency to bounce from one moment to the next, often as if on some whim. Much like the protagonist (if one could ever call a necromancer that) of our story (who may have had a hand in writing it given the nature of how it is written), expectations of rationality should be left at the door.
To Hell and Back - A Necromancer's Tale
Sometimes Leaving is the Hardest Thing to Do
Silently, he made his way barefoot (something recommended in the stealth manual he’d read before this adventure began, though, given the positively freezing temperatures, he was beginning to think he‘d erred foolishly) through the pitch black empty streets of Altdorf. He was like the suffocating cloak of night itself, moving with a deftness that would have earned a nod from the most sure-footed member of clan Eshin, the assassins of the skaven race. Even the kagebushin in the far off lands of Nippon would be hard-pressed to match his sneakiness. He was a shadow.
Of course, if one were being honest, had it not been for the howling winds tearing down the alleyways like a screaming banshee, he, Eric von Vandersnoot (insane necromancer and master of the Dark Arts of Nagash), would have been spotted in a heartbeat. However, von Vandersnoot did not think of these things. His mind was set. He had a plan; one foot in front of the other and as quietly as he could manage hauling his pack of knick-knacks and staff.
the shadow,” he muttered to himself, blissfully ignorant of the clatter following in his wake as he slinked through the dark.
Whispered allegories spilled from cracked lips the color of a bruised eggplant; the mantras lost in the gale around him. Closer and closer, he edged towards the gates leading out of the city and into the waiting arms of freedom.
“I am the silent killer that takes all filthy, whoring Tileans to their death, scratching their loathsome scrotums in agony as the pox takes them, Sigmar damn their filthy, whoring ways
He continued to chant. Sure, it didn’t do much to get him across the threshold but it did make him feel like he wasn’t alone. At that thought, he gave his staff a side-ways glance. Thankfully, the inscribed cat entrails (contrary to popular belief, there is actually only one way to skin a cat…) were holding and the rock-jawed orc skull was still quiet. He’d have never made it this far if he hadn’t silenced the damnedable chittering thing beforehand. Oh for sure and certain it was a loverly conversation piece when one was all safe and sound behind locked and warded doors, showing it off to some stupid sod who’d dared to show up on his doorstep right before Eric sent him to his maker. But, out here in the open, where stealth and sneakiness were key, a mouthy staff was not high on his list of covert, sneaky things.
Freedom was in sight as von Vandersnoot sidled a few more furtive steps forward. It was so close he could almost taste it on the tip of his scabberous tongue.
“I am the sparrow’s fart, lost in the swirling vortex of a hurricane.”
Ok, so not all of his witty allegories were winners. Even he had to shake his head derisively at the last one. But, if one was being fair, the human mind isn’t meant to live five centuries. Once you get passed that middle-aged hump of twenty (twelve if you happen to be one of those unlucky sods born in the frozen hell that was Kislev), the mind starts to think a good, old-fashioned holiday is in order. Really… Who in their right mind (or wrong, depending on your stance on the matter) wouldn’t like to steal away into the blissful ignorance of dementia? Perhaps to spend some time all doe-eyed and drooling, waiting for some loving (or more likely, resentful) member of their family to wheel them around in a cart, showing them off to the neighbors like some carnival show freak?
“Just get to the gate…,” he breathed.
Such a simple thing to do for most. Just a quick walk up, show your papers and trounce away happy as a clam straight out of the city. However, given that he was a necromancer, his chosen profession ensured that the easy way out usually involved lots of screaming, burning torches and some overly officious zealot waving around a pitchfork while demanding his head on a plate.
Von Vandersnoot paused, the sound of a howling dog filling the night with its lonesome cry. “At least I hope it’s a bloody dog…”
The last thing he wanted (or needed for that matter) was to have to go toe to toe (well, toe to paw?) with a damned lycanthrope. He’d seen more than his fair share of the hairy bastards and honestly, no one likes being looked at like the next appetizer for a four course dinner (certainly not one of his cowardly stature, that was for sure). He stood in the middle of the thoroughfare; his mind waffled back and forth as he thought of the last time he’d faced one cursed to fumble about on the night of the full moon like some pox-mad dog. The poor thing had sure been surprised when Eric had uttered a word of power and burned half the fur off its arse. The werewolf had yelped loudly, flailing at said arse in a vain attempt to extinguish the green flames raging their way towards his colon. Vivid images of it dragging its buttocks across the muddy field skittered to the fore, eliciting a chuckle from the old necromancer.
So caught up in the moment he was that Eric forgot to watch where he was stepping. Countless hour’s worth of planning went out the window as his foot found its way straight into a cooling pile of horse dung, the brown mush squelching up between his toes.
The shouted exclamation was more a statement of fact than a curse. Of course the heated words that followed weren’t much in the way of quiet either.
“What thrice damned goblin-fondling, ox-rutting moron lets his hose defecate in the middle of the thrice damned ROAD?! WHO?!? Blessed Sigmar in heaven! Does no one clean these streets?!”
Harsh yellow lantern light poured the doorway of the guardhouse beside the gate as guards stumbled out to see what the cause for all the ruckus was.
Not content with simply running off, von Vandersnoot spent a few moments shaking his (albeit slightly warmer) foot. When that didn’t remove the offending offal, he began vigorously rubbing the smelly appendage back and forth across the cobble stones.
“Son of whore! It’s on my robes!” he shrieked to the uncaring heavens.
The sound of coarse calls were a not so gentle reminder that he’d been outted. With no other recourse, Eric slinked back towards his laboratory, shit-covered foot in tow.
He sighed, taking one long look back at the gates.
“Well, there’s always tomorrow….”
The sun crept over the horizon, bringing with it the promise of another day filled with what would most likely be failure (and rain, damn it all). Von Vandersnoot greeted the cloudy morning as he would any other: a quick run to the outhouse (which almost turned into a knife fight with a rat big enough to be the illegitimate hell-spawn of a damned skaven rat-man) to get himself sorted for the day followed by his daily imbibing of the noxious treacle that kept him alive (relatively speaking, of course) and kicking.
The previous night’s fiasco had left him dejected and not a little bit down-hearted (which, oddly enough was at odds with his jovial, yet quite insane, demeanor). Eric had spent the better part of the night scrubbing his rather odious foot with brush and soap and, sure enough, he’d managed to clean off the wretched fecal matter (only after a few florid curses that had inadvertently led to the death of several pigeons nesting in his roof…the dark arts do have their upside, you know!). He’d been lucky enough to stop before he hit bone. Previous encounters with dung had not been quite so fortuitous (and even led to a trip to the apothecary’s one winter’s night centuries ago. Though, one can’t blame him. I don’t know if you know this but should you ever be one of those poor, ill-fated souls to step into a pile of nurgling poo, just cut the damned foot off. Honestly… You’re most likely going to lose it anyways. Cut your losses and move… well, shuffle on).
However, it wasn’t long before his plucky nature kicked in. His staff (and only companion) greeted him with the muffled strains of what most likely was a string of terrible curses in orcish. Eric tutted the staff for its lack of manners.
“Gorsnag! If you continue on like this, I might just leave the catgut on! Now mind your tongue and shut up!”
This, of course, only enraged the skull more, provoking a string of quite brilliantly laid out (for an orc, mind you) diatribe ending in something that sounded vaguely close to ‘rip off your gnadgy bitz an’ feed ‘em ta yaz’. Shrugging, von Vandersnoot gave up and began working on his next course of action. He was still no closer to escaping this wretched city and word had reached him that certain parties (of the witch burning kind) had taken interest in the ‘local eccentric behind the tavern’. That was all he needed.
“Damn all witch-hunters to a fiery hell, Sigmar take their fanatical souls!”
Seeing that he wasn’t getting anywhere staying home, he took up his staff and decided to for a little walk. His meander took him close to the eastern gate. Here the neighborhood was a bit poorer (even by Empire standards, poor was an understatement) and the guards not quite so hidebound to their duties. As he reached the square, he was greeted by the sounds of wails and smoke. Turning to see what all the fuss was about, he noticed some fool had set his house on fire.
“Must have been a cold night”, he mused to himself, watching the flames sidle their way up the sides of the wooden building. Eric glanced to the staff. It was still struggling valiantly against the ensorcelled restraints but for now they kept his yap well and truly shut. There’s nothing in this world (short of cursing Sigmar, setting your testicles on fire or growing an extra appendage in the middle of a rousing sermon against the impure) that gets another person’s attention than a talking staff (especially an orcish one given the distasteful nature of the marauding greenskins and their proclivity to set things on fire ((minus their testes of course…do they even have testes? I’ve always wondered about that. Sure, they’ve got the sausage, but do they have the bread? Come to think of it, meat and potatoes would probably be a better euphemism. Err…where was I…)).
Drawing closer, von Vandersnoot found himself accosted by several of the more buxom (if not toothless) harridans amongst the crowd of looky-loos who spent their time between tearful cries and gesticulating wildly towards the house. Given his habit (that would be his attire…not his personal foibles. That in itself would be a scrolling epic worthy of several volumes), pale disposition and perpetual stoop, many mistook him for a priest of Morr. Granted, his profession did put him close to death, but it was in a manner totally opposite of those fusty old codgers who spent their time looking for ways to bilk old women out of their precious monies (and sometimes knickers…hey, being a priest of the whole god of death doesn’t lend itself to many romantic rendezvous with the opposite sex…well…the living ones at any rate).
Before the building, Eric could clearly see a group of men fruitlessly laboring to put the fire out with buckets of water. Amongst their number one fellow stood out. His bright orange hair and robes marked him out as a pyromancer. The leader of the gathered men seemed to be speaking with him. Von Vandersnoot could make out snatches of their conversation given the heated (aye, tis a poorly crafted pun but you’re the poor daft sod reading this, not I!) nature of it.
“Can’t you put it out, Tymon?” came the voice of man in charge, one Griegor Hautmann.
“I start fires you fool… I don’t stop them”, replied the wizard in a haughty tone.
“Sigmar preserve us… What use are you then?” the man snapped angrily.
“Apparently none at all. I don’t even know why they woke me up for this. They’re just some stupid peasants. Let them burn”, was the only response.
This elicited a rather angry snarl followed swiftly by clenched fists and curses. It would get him no-where of course. Wizards being what they were, the man knew not to get too uppity lest he find himself turned into a squealing candle of human fat.
While he watched, one of the more odiferous hags clutched at Eric’s robes, pleading with him to pray for those lost inside.
“Madam, unhand me lest I turn your innards into outards!”
That was enough to see her loosen her vice-like grip. As Eric extricated himself from what could have been a rather nasty situation (for the poor woman at the very least), a cry went up from many amongst the crowd, catching his attention.
“Look there! The child! She’s still in there!”
Von Vandersnoot’s gaze followed the pointing hands to the second-story window and the terrified-looking child behind the glass, her tiny fists pounding frantically in hopes of rescue. Even this did little to move the Bright wizard.
As her eyes met Eric’s, something deep inside him changed. Rising to his full height, his perpetual stoop left him. The cleverly magiced ruse of madness left his eyes to be replaced by the cold stare of one more ancient than even his bony frame would suggest. The staff, which up until now had fought viciously against its wards, grew still, almost as if in fear. It knew its master had come. Karric Grunvald, disciple of Dieter Helsnicht, Keeper of the Lore of Death, and Hand of Darkness looked on in disgust. If the wizard would do nothing, then he would. He would keep the vow made on that dark night centuries ago. He would save this child, if only to lighten the shameful burden of what he was, what he’d done.
The crowd parted before him like water before a ship’s prow. None could say why, but deep in the darkest recesses of their souls their hearts quailed. They knew that to stand in his way was to court Death itself. He approached those few who still strove in vain to put out the raging inferno. The bright wizard turned, feeling the winds of magic flair in response to Karric’s presence. Tinged with the bitter taste of the darker flows, the necromancer was a veritable beacon to those who could call upon those streams to bring them power. Karric paused for a moment, matching the fellow magic user’s stare. Tymon’s mouth fell agape, the realization of what Grunvald was screaming its way to his brain. The called cry of warning died on his lips as his eyes met Karric’s. In them, the bright wizard could see only death, ancient and powerful. Tymon stepped back, cowed by the aura that surrounded the necromancer.
No words passed between the necromancer and the wizard. There was no need. Karric knew that in doing this he would no longer be able to stay in the city. In showing himself to save the child, he’d signed his death warrant. It wouldn’t be long before word reached those who actively sought out his kind. This would be his last act before he was once again forced out into the world to skulk and hide. However, he would make this parting moment one that would never be forgotten.
Swirling his cloak, he strode towards the flaming building; the clacking sound of his staff following in his wake.
Griegor noted the change in Tymon’s demeanor as the other man walked into the burning house. He could smell the fear rolling off the bright wizard but he was at a loss as to why the arrogant bastard decided to show his cowardice now. Yeah, the man who’d walked up gave him the creeping willies but he didn’t seem ‘dangerous’. He watched with interest as the two stared at each other, the moments ticking by seemed to slow. Still, any man that could make a sorcerer with a reputation like Tymon’s back down had to be one bad man. As he disappeared through the door, Tymon turned to Greigor, a wild look of terror burning bright in his eyes.
“I m-m-must g-go…” he muttered, the stammered words spilling out in a rush. Griegor nodded, his confusion evident. Whatever had passed between the two men had shaken the wizard, so much so that he almost ran as he made his way from the small square. His bewilderment deepened when he noticed Tymon’s route wasn’t taking him back to the dormitories of College of Magic. No, instead it seemed to the old man as if the wizard was heading towards the old sanitarium where a coven of witch-hunters were rumored to be residing.
Griegor came to the conclusion that whatever it was, it must have been pretty damned bad. Honestly… What sorcerer in their right mind would go into the den of fanatics whose life’s work was the utter destruction of said sorcerers and magic users?
Shaking his head, Griegor faced the fire once more. Silently, he prayed to Sigmar that, whoever this man was, he managed to save the child…
Karric stopped before the blazing inferno spewing from what had once been the doorway of the burning house. The heat that radiated from the fire enveloped his bony frame, the thickness of it threatening to rob him of his breath. As he stood there, he eyed the crackling tongues of flame as they licked their way around the opening, casting sputtering shards of charred wood in their wake to litter the ground at his feet.
Still, it was not the fire that gave the ancient necromancer pause. No… He needed this brief moment to remember. Once, long before Karric had trod the paths of darkness, he, himself, had commanded the terrifying powers that came with fire. His mind wandered to centuries past, when there was no terrible weight on his heart. The flickering memories of his beloved struck a discordant cord as they came to the fore, rippling through the halls of his mind, kicking up the settled dust of blissful forgetfulness that brought him his only peace. Forcing them down, Karric struggled to remember the old teachings.
Fire, of all the elements, was the most dangerous. It was unpredictable; callous and uncaring as to who or what it touched with its fiery caress. That had been his first lesson all those years ago. His tutor had told him as they stood in the hall where the Bright wizards trained their craft that to tame fire was to tame the primal destructive force of nature.
“It is a beast of great strength, but also of guile and subtlety. How often is one burned by the forgotten coal that litters the bottom of a fireplace, believed cold and dead as the rest? Such is the cunning inherent in flame. One must be ever vigilant. Complacency is unacceptable. Remember that boy. Never forget that one never truly is master. You only borrow from the fire that what it will allow you to. Should you be fool enough to believe more than that, you will only find sorrow