2022 February Flash Fiction Challenge: Day 12
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For today’s prompt, write about magic.
Remember: As mentioned yesterday, these prompts are just starting points; you have the freedom to go wherever your flash of inspiration takes you.
(Note: If you happen to run into any issues posting, please just send me an e-mail at email@example.com with the subject line: Flash Fiction Challenge Commenting Issue.)
Here’s my attempt at making magic:
The Necromancer’s Apprentice
Tears usually taste like blood in his mouth. That is how Caekhar knows the woman is not weeping as she stands on the front step. Caekhar can see the curve of her shoulder from where he sits at the Crafting table, pieces of sinew and fur scattered across his workspace. Even with a dry face, she gives off the air of crying, a great sadness like a weight around her neck.
“Are you Dradan the Deathwhisperer?” the woman asks. “Reaper of the Seventh Realm?”
Her accent is strange, thick, something Caekhar has never heard before. Although he has not been off the Isle, not since Dradan took him from the gutter a few years back. The only thing he really remembers of the mainland is the smell of hot, fresh food when his stomach was so empty that he would suck on his fingers for the little relief it gave him.
“We do not get many visitors,” Dradan says after a silence. His voice is flat, polite. It makes Caekhar fiddle with the needle and sinew he is meant to be working with.
There is another silence, and then Dradan turns his face to Caekhar. “You are meant to be studying, not gawking.”
Caekhar casts his eyes back to the table and busies himself with his work. If he is just able to get his stitching right, he might be able to reanimate a mouse before the year is out.
Dradan moves out of the doorway and the woman comes inside. From the corner of his eye, Caekhar sees her brush the hood of her cloak off of her face. The door shuts. The back of Caekhar’s neck prickles as he feels the woman watching him.
“I did not know you had a child,” she says quietly.
“I like it that way,” Dradan says. “We can speak in the next room.”
As she passes Caekhar’s workstation, he notices with a jolt that she is carrying a small bundle in her arms. It has the smell of a quiet death, something rich and old, almost like hot sand. They move into Dradan’s private wing and close the door. Caekhar waits a few moments before scrambling off his stool and pressing his ear to the wood.
He can hear Dradan’s heavy footsteps for a moment, the screech of a chair against the floor. Then, voices, undistinguished. Caekhar closes his eyes; sometimes that helps him hear better. There is a back and forth—the woman gets louder, but he still cannot make out the words. After a few more long moments, he gives up and goes back to his work.
Just as he is admiring the crooked slant of his latest line of stitches, the door opens. His mouth becomes coppery, bitter. When he looks up, Dradan is striding across the room to the front door. This time, the woman is crying, but she is quiet about it. She does not wipe her face. Caekhar swallows against the urge to spit, knowing that blood does not actually coat his teeth.
“Sure you want to start your journey tonight?” Dradan asks. “You could stay in the boy’s rooms until daybreak.”
“There is nothing for me here,” she says.
Dradan bows his head as she passes by and then stays in the doorway a moment, watching after her. The fire flickers with the onslaught of damp, cool air. Caekhar shivers. Then Dradan shuts the door and returns to the kitchen as if nothing had happened.
Caekhar holds the stoic silence until the taste of sorrow fades. Then he says, “Why not resurrect the baby? Death was quiet, recent.”
Dradan pauses. He is quiet for a few moments before turning to Caekhar, his thick brows furrowed over his eyes. “How did you know?”
Caekhar shuffles his items on the table, curiosity squashed by embarrassment.
“Caekhar.” Dradan steps closer and puts his forearms on the Crafting table. He lowers his head to meet Caekhar’s eyes. “There are no wrong answers.”
Caekhar huffs. “Bundle was small, not bloody. She was not crying when she came, but she was when she left.”
“This is true,” Dradan says slowly. “Anything…else?”
Caekhar clips the leftover sinew with his golden shears, tying the end in a perfect knot. He does not want to talk about the way death tastes and smells, not when he knows that Dradan cannot sense things like he can.
Dradan reaches out and takes the strip of deer flesh out of Caekhar’s hands. He runs a thumbnail down the line of stitches, a smile hiding in the corner of his mouth.
“This is getting better,” he says, “if only marginally.”
Caekhar snatches it back. Dradan chuckles at Caekhar’s scowl before his smile fades. He rests his forearm across the table, palm up, and removes his leather bracer. Caekhar immediately reaches out and brushes his fingertips against the black and gold tattoo that starts at Dradan’s wrist and scours the skin up to his elbow. It gives off a sort of pleasant buzz in Caekhar’s hands.
“Do you know what this means?”
“It is your Seal,” Caekhar says. “It means that you are in service to King Eawlus and the Nine Noble Houses of the Seventh Realm.”
“Mm.” Dradan runs his free hand across his face. “It is a bit more than that; I am bound by their laws, Caekhar. Even if I wanted to resurrect that woman’s babe, I could not. They control the flow of magic through me.”
“Power, control. Not many like us left in any realm, you know. That is why they adorn us with titles like Deatherwhisperer and Reaper. Makes them feel important.”
Caekhar thinks. Says, “They control your magic when we are here, outside the realm?”
Dradan clears his throat, wiggles his fingers. “Well, no. But if she went back and told her family what happened, word would spread. Then it would be bad for both of us.”
“So, you’ve never resurrected a person before?” Caekhar asks.
“I did,” Dradan murmurs, eyes dark and expression soft as he looks in Caekhar’s face. “Just the once.”
There’s something here that Caekhar is missing. He peers into Dradan’s face suspiciously, waiting for the rest of a story he knows will not be shared.
After another moment, Dradan pulls away and replaces the bracer on his arm. “Now, young apprentice, it is time for your bath.”
Caekhar’s groan comes from the depths of his soul, making Dradan’s face split in a grin.
“Even Reapers need baths,” he says. “And then maybe we will read before bed. Come, Caekhar, it’s time to leave death behind in favor of dreams.”