Originally published on Guild Wars Vault on 2007-12-28
It is the strange fate of man, that even in the greatest of evils the fear of the worst continues to haunt him.
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Necromancy is a very powerful form of magic that is often viewed with disdain by those who do not understand it.” Verata began. “A Necromancer has power over life and death. A Necromancer can draw forth power from his own blood or from the blood of another. He can consume the souls of his enemies and drink the knowledge of their lives. He can poison a person’s mind as easily as he can their body and raise his foe from the dead to command them as his minion. A Necromancer has much power, if he is willing to make sacrifices.”
“What kind of sacrifices?” Belzan queried.
Verata began to pace around the small room in the abbey in which the two of them conversed. “The first sacrifice, and often the easiest, is the stigma that comes with being a Necromancer. We are viewed as evil, thought of unscrupulous, and considered always to be up to no good. This is easily forgotten when a Necromancer learns he has more control over how others view him than he thinks. After all, it only takes one person to make an example for the rest.”
“I can live with the stigma. Actions speak louder than words after all.”
Verata smiled. “Indeed they do, Belzan. The second sacrifice is made by all Necromancers; even those who only dabble in the dark arts. This sacrifice comes from simply calling forth your powers. A Necromancer must sacrifice his life force in order to power his spells. You will quickly learn how taxing this can be. The human body only contains about a dozen pints of blood and you can easily go through that in a matter of minutes. This is why Necromancers utilize their foes to power their magic. We steal energy from our foe’s blood. We feed off of his life force as it leaves his body. This second sacrifice, in essence, is made by our foes, not ourselves. This is why many people who merely dabble in the dark arts rarely taste true power. Slaying or incapacitating one’s foe is one thing, but stealing his life force and using it against him is a line that many spellcasters are reluctant to cross.”
Belzan absorbed this information as he watched Verata wear a path in the carpeted floor of the lavish sitting room. In the back of his mind he quietly wondered if he knew what he was getting into. He understood the need to protect himself and others from his foes, but this seemed a bit excessive. If this was indeed his destiny, which he continuously questioned, then he would have to learn how to clearly define the word ‘foe.’
“The third sacrifice is a rite of passage for Necromancers. The ritualistic scarring of one’s body is a sacrifice to prove one’s faith to Grenth. The scar pattern is unique to each Necromancer and it is seen as the mark of a true Necromancer. Such a sacrifice does not go unrewarded. Grenth blesses those who scar themselves in his name. They may walk among the dead and unliving freely and are granted powers unattainable by mortals. Necromancers do the bidding of Grenth with the promise of greater powers and greater responsibilities.”
“Is the third sacrifice necessary for me since I was born scarred?”
“It is a ritual undertaken by all Necromancers. The great kings of old sent their sons to foreign lands to earn names for themselves, before allowing them to take the throne. Though they were born with royal blood, they had to prove their worth, just as you must do. As a Child of Grenth, your destiny lies in necromancy, Belzan. You will cross paths with your destiny one day, regardless of how you live your life. By embracing it now, you gain control of your destiny.”
“I see.” Belzan replied. He wasn’t looking forward to the scarring, but Verata’s words did make sense. The quickest way to gain control over his destiny would be to embrace it. “Where shall we begin?”
“First, let us get you properly equipped. While a Necromancer does not require an item to focus his energies, a totem or staff will help. Different materials channel different energies more effectively. Flaming Scepter Mages often use ash staves to channel fire magic and obsidian staves to channel earth magic. Necromancer generally use items made of bone. I understand you know a bit about how to fashion items out of bone. This will help you immensely as a weapon crafted and enchanted by the wielder is far more effective than something bought from a merchant. For now I will loan you this bone staff. It will be sufficient for your training until you can craft your own.”
Verata handed Belzan a staff made of a single piece of bone over five feet in length. It was very light and looked like it had seen quite a bit of use. One end of the staff had several small skulls lashed together with cloth. The held firmly to the staff and did not move as Belzan swung it around the room.
“Follow me.” Verata commanded. The two men left the abbey and walked to the entrance of the catacombs. “Your training will take place almost entirely here, with a few exceptions.” The two men descended the stairs into the depths below. Verata continued his lesson as they walked. “Now the first thing a Necromancer must learn is how to access his powers. Our emotions play a role in this, but they can be unreliable until you are able to control them. As I said before, much of a Necromancer’s power comes from his foe.” Verata slowed his descent, but this step went unnoticed by Belzan who paid more attention to his words. “But how does a Necromancer cast his magics when he has no foe?”
Belzan was caught off guard as Verata suddenly stopped in front of him. The Necromancer pulled a knife from his belt and plunged it into Belzan’s stomach. The momentum built up from descending the stairs carried the dagger all the way through to pierce his back.
“He bleeds.” Verata said plainly as he withdrew the knife from his startled apprentice. “Now, there are two ways to heal yourself with the dark arts. You can use your foe’s life force or your own.” Verata’s words began to slur together as the reached Belzan’s ears. All he could think about was the piercing pain in his stomach. He began to choke out a prayer to Dwayna when he suddenly found a dagger to his throat.
“Do not pray to your Goddess of Light! She may help you in times of need, but you must learn to rely on yourself! You are the Child of Grenth! Grenth is your savior! He will give you the power you need.”
Belzan reached slowly for the dagger at his throat. Verata eased his grip on the dagger as Belzan brought it down to his wrist. Making a clean cut on his wrist, Belzan quickly covered it with his other hand to slow the bleeding. At this point he was nearly losing consciousness. Verata could be heard distantly coaching him on. Belzan wanted nothing more than to sleep, but he knew that if he did he would never awaken. Fear rose inside of him and he clenched his wrist tightly. A sudden warmth coursed through his veins and at once Belzan felt awake and rejuvenated. His fear had activated his powers, just as Verata had said. The sharp pain in his stomach subsided and his vision became clear.
“Why did you do that?” Belzan questioned.
“Sink or swim, Belzan. You can’t learn to cheat death without first knowing what it feels like to die.”
Belzan stood before the altar where Verata, Munne and Morgan stood dressed
in long flowing robes of deep red satin. Behind him stood nearly two dozen Necromancers—all members of the order. After six months of intensive training at the hands of his brutal master, Belzan had decided it was time to undergo the ritualistic sacrifice. He had come to this decision with much reluctance. Verata had spoken to him after three months and deemed him ready to undertake the sacrifice, but Belzan stated he wasn’t ready.
“Belzan Furu, you seek the rite of passage to pledge yourself to Lord Grenth.”
It was the dualism in his mind that slowed his decision. Belzan had been raised under the tutelage of a priestess of Dwayna. He learned to live his life within the morals of the church. He placed himself before others and protected the weak.
“Before us stands one who seeks to pledge his life and death to you, Lord Grenth.”
His destiny spoke to the contrary, however. Belzan was destined to wield the dark arts. He was destined to do Grenth’s bidding.
“A humble servant in the dark arts, your Child seeks to give to you a great sacrifice.”
Still, he felt somewhat uncertain. In his mind he questioned his role as the Child of Grenth. He didn’t take to his destiny with the fervor that one would assume the Child of Grenth would do. The power he wielded was truly amazing. It was like nothing he had dreamed of, but to him, it felt foreign. It felt rehearsed, as if it was all a dream.
“And so with your blessing, we shall take of his flesh in your name.”
“Kneel before us, Belzan,” commanded Munne. Belzan complied. Morgan stepped forward and removed the robe that Belzan had been wearing, exposing his upper body. On his chest and back was a design of henna. The design extended across his shoulders and down his arms as well. Placing the robe next to the altar, Morgan returned to his place. Verata walked over to Munne and bowed ceremoniously. Munne returned the bow and presented him with an ash box.
“The honor is yours, Verata.”
Verata bowed, opened the box and removed from it an ivory dagger with a polished bone handle. He turned and took three steps toward Belzan. “Rise.” he commanded. Again, Belzan complied and looked his master in the eyes.
“This is going to hurt a great deal.” Verata said with a smile.
Belzan took a deep breath as Verata used the ivory knife to carve the henna design into his skin. Despite the excruciating pain, Belzan uttered no sound during the two hour ritual.