I’ve begun revising the rough draft for my novel (the completed one, I’m still at least a hundred pages from completing the new one), and thought I might share a little bit of it now (especially since I’ve had a few people asking me about it). The premise of the novel is simple: four friends go out to the woods for a bachelor party and they never come back . . . Well, that’s the simple answer I’ve been giving people when they ask me about the rough draft. It’s a little more complicated. They set up camp in the woods, go to sleep, and wake up in another world. The first to wake up, Jack, wanders off to explore, while his friends are taken on by a wizard as his apprentices. Well, that gets complicated too, for they’re also attacked by a roving band of mercenaries, with one of them being shot through with an arrow and left to die in the woods. So: two of them, Alec and Greg, survive the attack and go on to become apprentices—of a sort—to the wizard, Gary (the one shot through with the arrow, and whose bachelor party it was) is left for dead in the woods, and clueless Jack is wandering around the woods. That’s the gist of my novel—obviously, there’s a lot more to it. I hope that makes some sense. Maybe.
What I’m posting is to sate curiosity, nothing more. It’s still in the rough draft stage—I’ve gone through and corrected spelling, but other than that, much of it will be getting rewritten. Heavily rewritten. The section I’m posting to the blog centers around Alec and Greg. They’ve lived with the Septimus, the wizard, for some time now, and have begun to chafe at the limited exposure he has given them to magic. They long to try out more esoteric spells and have gone out on their own to try something a bit different . . . .
They rode for a couple of hours, through the forest and then on to a wide meadow. Greg stopped here, consulted a map—which Alec tried to peek at, but Greg kept riding his horse away so that Alec couldn’t see—and then they veered south. The rain stopped and sky purpled above them, the clouds the color of fresh bruises, as the sun set. Ahead of them, Alec could see a stone wall a few feet high, crumbling in places. Stones dotted the ground, and there were a number of small stone buildings—abandoned hovels, he guessed. A few trees loitered awkwardly, out of place amongst the stones and buildings. Ruins, possibly? Have we come in search of treasure? He fidgeted on his horse, anxious to see what kind of treasure hunt Greg had brought them on. He imagined all the possibilities—magical weapons, invisibility boots, piles of gold like the kind Scrooge McDuck would swim in. The stones took shape as they grew closer, and his excitement fled d he wanted to join it as he realized where Greg had brought them—a graveyard. They had come in the rain, as night fell, to a graveyard.
He stopped his horse. A graveyard—that’s what Greg’s brought me to see. Well, maybe there are ruins underneath, Alec thought, returning to his fantasies of untold wealth and fame—so far, being a displaced descendent of royalty returned home had yielded him nothing but bruises, bad food and mental anguish. Perhaps, he thought, my life is taking a turn for the better. Greg’s been consulting a lot of maps lately, maybe he stumbled upon treasure in the catacombs here, and some classic D&D style dungeon-crawling. Gold and goblins, sounds like a nice way to spend the evening. He pined for the nights when the Mountain Dew flowed, and they couldn’t microwave enough chicken nuggets and taquitos while trouncing trolls and rummaging through the remains of previous adventurers in search of money and magical items. Wouldn’t he have told me to bring more though? I’m not equipped for any kind of adventures. . . Real life in a fantasy world lacked the luster and glamour of role-playing. He dreamt of this happening, and now it seemed so ordinary and mundane.
“I’m not going in there.” he called out decisively. Greg had dismounted his horse and was tying it up to the neck of a statue at the graveyard gates. A breeze blew and whipped up Greg’s cloak as he turned to face Alec. Damn, that’s dramatic, Alec thought. I wonder if he’s doing that intentionally. He loved using his magic for to create an aura of power around him, and would whip up small gusts to rustle his cloak as he descended the stairs for breakfast or brighten the sunlight behind him so that he appeared to have a halo.
“What are you afraid of—there’s nothing here but dead bodies, dust and bones. C’mon, I’ve got somethin’ to show you.”
Something in the tone of his voice raised Alec’s hackles. His instincts want him to turn back, apprehensive of what was to come, but his curiosity and faithfulness to his friend compelled him across the meadow and through the crumbling gates of the graveyard.
The clouds unraveled enough that the last bits of days flaked through, spotlighting sections of the graveyard. Corpse Fingers, pale blue club-shaped mushrooms that rose from the ground like fingers, glowed with an eerie luminescence. A light wind blew, whipping up the smell of salt and rain and the loamy ground. They picked their way through the graveyard, Greg scanning the ground, but heading towards the western end where crypts buttressed each other like a row of brownstone tenements. Alec followed after tentatively, his anxiety rising so that he tittered with his maniacal laugh.
Greg glanced back. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh, nothing. We’re just wandering through a desolate graveyard in the middle of nowhere at sunset. What are you looking for?”
“Fresh graves,” Greg replied. “But I want to check out the tombs first.”
Alec stopped in a patch of sunlight. “Wait. What?” he glared at Greg’s back.
As if he felt Alec’s glare tugging at his ponytail, Greg turned around. “We’re looking for graves. Fresh bodies. What did you think we were doing here, picking tulips?”
The weight of Greg’s words struck Alec as he realized what he said. He stepped back from Greg. “Bodies? What are we doing with a body, hunh, Dr. Frankenstein? And look around you, this is an old graveyard. This freshest body you’ll find here has got to be half the age of Septimus.”
Greg sighed. “I’ve examined some maps, and this is one of the original necropolises. There are bound to be a few semi-fresh bodies here.”
“Necropolis? I hate to tell you, but this area isn’t a bustling suburb. I don’t think that people are lining up to get buried here. Look at the state of the place?” Alec waved his arm to emphasize his point: the walls surrounding the graveyard were overgrown, as was the graveyard itself. The forest slowly took back the land.
“Dude, didn’t you keep up with your history? Corpse-drivers. The dead-bound. They drive the dead to their family graveyards, these necropolises. It’s an old tradition, and most people abandoned it during the Necromantic plague. When necromancy was at its peak, they were often getting assaulted—like getting carjacked, but instead corpse-jacked. There was even that infamous scene where it turned out a couple of necromancers had brought back a dead nobleman to life and were using him as a puppet to rule his lands. Fucked-up shit. People mostly burn their dead now, to prevent their loved ones from being used. Not that there are any necromancers anymore.”
“Wait, are you saying that I’m about to participate in highway robbery, and you plan on stealing a corpse?”
“Not exactly. We’re not holding anyone up. There’s nobody alive around here for miles. Just c’mon.”
Alec refused to move. “No. I want to know what we’re—you’re—doing here. Why do you want a body?”
Greg gritted his teeth and glared at Alec as he reached into his satchel and withdrew a thin manuscript bound in tan leather. He held up the manuscript. “This is why we’re here. If we want to be true wizards . . . If we want to rule this land, we need to know as much magic as possible, and we cannot be held back. This is a manuscript in the Old Emerath dialect, and it has a few of the forbidden spells—necromancy. I brought us out here to try and cast one, but it requires a body. Now, I need your help, and you can either help me or hold us back. You decide.”
“Where did you find this book?” Alec couldn’t hide his horror . . . and awe. The book contained forbidden magic, magic outlawed not just by law but by magicians as well. No wizard would ever practice necromancy, and few ever studied it. That Greg had read it and obviously planned to do something with it excited and terrified Alec. If they were caught, the punishment would be awful, but the power of the magic and its infamy—and that the greatest of D&D campaigns featured the vampiric necromancer, Count Strahd—drew him to it like a moth to a flame. Secretly, he had perused the shelves of the Septimus’s library for just such a book, but found nothing.
“It was stuffed inside another book. A cookbook.”
Alec laughed. “A cookbook?”
“Yeah. I was looking for a cookbook because I was so sick of eating Gareth’s shitty cooking. It’s disgusting. Obviously, no one has tried to cook anything for years, for this was tucked inside. I wasn’t sure what it was at first, but I recognized the dialect, and after reading through it I found out it was a spellbook—like the ones Septimus keeps under protection. But he missed this one, and now it’s ours.”
The squeamishness and horror he felt about finding a fresh corpse evaporated as he gazed upon the book in Greg’s hands and thought of the power they could gain—he could become an even greater wizard-warrior, mastering magic known to only a few. Perhaps there might be a spell there to help him master his condition. “Alright,” he walked up to Greg. “I’ll help, but don’t expect me to touch the body in any way. What’s the spell we’re casting?”
Greg had the pages marked with seagull feathers he found on the beach while studying the book. He showed it to Alec, who looked over the passages, the notations in various hands and dialects, and the diagrams. The ink had faded in spots, stains threatened to obliterate words, but even if the text had been in the cleanest handwriting, or typed, he had no idea what it said. He struggled—no, he resisted—his language lessons, for those he took with Umbriel, and would’ve preferred cooking lessons from Gareth. Now, he regretted those wasted afternoons, as he sheepishly asked, “So what is this spell?”
Damn, fool. . .” Greg shook his head. “From what I understand, it says ‘A Spell for Bringing Back the Dead.’”
“So we’re going to bring back some random guy from the dead? What about his family, and what are we going to do, bring him back with us—‘hey Septimus, look what we found in the woods. Can we keep him?’”
Greg stopped in his tracks, an incredulous look on his face. “We’ve got the ability to resurrect the dead here,” He waved the book inches from Alec’s nose, “and you’re worried about what to do with the guy after we’ve brought him back to life. From the dead. Dude, it’s not like we’re going to wake some guy up, we’re giving him life. Do you understand? Back. From. The. Dead.”
Alec stood speechless, mortified. Chastened by Greg’s rant. What greater inconvenience is there than death? So what if the man had to travel hundreds of miles to get home, at least he could make that journey—if not for their intervention, he’d be here fruiting and rotting. “In a way, we’re like Jesus resurrecting Lazenby.”
“Lazarus. Lazenby played Bond.”
“Yeah, Lazarus. Lazenby was an underrated Bond.”
They began walking again, the Corpse Fingers ushering them through the graveyard, their luminescent glow providing enough light to make up for the cloudy sky—the sun hid behind the clouds, and no stars or the moon broke through the shroud overhead. Tombs littered the sprawling graveyard, but a row of them lined the western wall. They began with these, starting at the very first and moving their way down. The first few they found locked, and went through great efforts to break into them, but each one only provided them with dust and rags, bones and sore shoulders from forcing the wooden doors open. In the third one, they found bats hibernating, and the floor carpeted with guano. Alec swung around and nearly retched from the sight, covering his mouth with his hand and hunching over.
“Do you think it’s okay, our bringing this guy back to life,” he said, as he recovered from the sight and stench of the layers of guano. “Is right for us to play God like this? What right do we have to bring him back from the dead?”
Greg had moved on to the next tomb. “We’ve got a spell, and what’s the big deal, this is just going to be some average person—it’s not like we’re bringing back Balaethe.”
“Balaethe?” Alec asked, annoyed at yet another reference he didn’t understand.
“Dude, do you ever pay attention during history lessons . . . Hey—” The door opened on greased hinges. “It’s open.”