The Necromancer's Apprentice
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by Naomi Clark
Category: Dark Fantasy/Romance
Description: Zombies. Black magic. Romance. Nobody said necromancy was easy. All Evanthe wants is to hone her necromancy skills and gain the affections of her reclusive mentor, Morrow. And just when she thinks he might reciprocate her feelings, a face from his past threatens the life Evanthe is working so hard for. Now she's up against rogue necromancers, smarmy demonologists, and blood-thirsty zombies as she and Morrow fight to protect a secret that could kill them both. Evanthe's a talented necromancer, but that might not be enough to guarantee her a happy ending. Excerpt: The smell hit her at the church gate, rotten and stomach-churning. The little pizza she'd managed to eat rose up in her throat. Evanthe covered her mouth, stopping dead. She gripped the iron bars of the gate, peering into the shadows hanging over the church, and reached out with her magic. Cool tendrils of power crept into the dark, reaching for anything wrong, anything that shouldn't be there. A nasty voice in her head whispered zombie. That stink, like bad meat and rotten eggs, what else could it be? Fear trembled in her gut as Morrow's story drifted back to her. Zombies were dangerous, even for talented necromancers. She was certain Morrow wouldn't raise one and let it roam free like this. What the hell was going on? Her magic hit something vile and unclean, and she pulled it back, flexing her fingers round the gate bars. What did she do? She knew her limits, knew a zombie was beyond her, but if she was going to get to Morrow, she had to get past the zombie.
eBook Publisher: Eternal Press/Damnation Books LLC/Eternal Press, 2011 2011
eBookwise Release Date: November 2011
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [137 KB]
Reading time: 64-90 min.
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Evanthe shivered as the icy wind ripped through the graveyard, tossing dead leaves and grave dirt against her, while whipping her hair into her eyes. The half moon was hidden by storm clouds, casting the graveyard in near perfect darkness, so Evanthe was forced to grope her way blindly from one crumbling, mossy headstone to the next. Her torch battery had died almost as soon as she flicked it on, leaving her feeling lost and faintly ridiculous.
As she picked her way slowly through the maze of graves, she chanted Morrow's instructions over and over, partly to keep them fixed in her anxious mind, partly to shake off the intense sense of isolation crowding in on her.
"Past the dead oak and up the hill, over to the marble angel. Past the dead oak and up the hill, over to the marble angel..." she whispered and the wind caught her voice, smothering the words, but to her ears it sounded like she was screaming fit to wake the dead.
She slipped on a patch of mud, stumbled forwards and caught herself on the corner of a square headstone, scraping her palm. "Shit. Why the hell am I doing this?" She straightened up, wiping her hand on her jeans and adjusting the backpack on her shoulders before setting off again. Not like she could go back. Morrow would never let her forget it if she gave up, and pleasing Morrow was far more important to Evanthe than a scraped hand here or there.
Stupid, yeah, and weak. But Evanthe had nobody else, nobody in the world except him. Who knew where she'd be without him? Rotting somewhere, probably, like she'd been left to rot in one crappy foster home after another as a child, until he'd appeared. Like a white knight...
Well, no, she corrected herself, smiling at her own dumb romanticism. White knights generally didn't paint their nails black or listen to death metal, or drink absinthe and keep raven skulls littered around their bedroom. Morrow was the black knight, for sure.
He was also the sole reason she was stumbling through the graveyard at midnight, with a storm threatening overhead, and a backpack full of witchcraft on her shoulders. Past the dead oak and up the hill, over to the marble angel. His raspy, smoker's voice echoed in her head. "You'll do fine, Evanthe. I trust you."
And there was the dead oak at the foot of the hill, naked branches jutting up to the sky as if in prayer. Evanthe stopped a few feet away, struck strangely breathless by the sight. There was a sinister beauty to the tree that reminded her of Morrow himself. Behind the tree, the dark mound of the hill rose, like a guardian between one side of the graveyard and the next. On the other side of the hill, she knew, the tombs were older, uncared for and swamped in weeds and dead flowers. Graves that nobody visited, nobody tended. Perfect.
She walked past the oak, brushing her fingers over the dry bark as she went, and clambered up the hill. At the top she paused to catch her breath, brushing locks of pale hair from her eyes as the wind picked up again. The graveyard rolled out below her, an endless stretch of stone and grass, and she shivered, nerves jangling.
It wasn't really illegal, was it? A lot of Morrow's activities skirted the edge of the law, but Evanthe was sure he'd never do anything actually illegal. The Celatus Guild were pretty strict about members staying within the law. Secrecy and caution were paramount, always.
Well, it wasn't like she'd be desecrating the grave or anything. Just taking some dirt. Who could that harm? She took a deep breath to calm herself and set off down the hill, still replaying Morrow's directions in her head. Over to the marble angel, and directly behind that is the grave you want. It has to be that one, Evanthe.
The marble angel was easy enough to find. The white stone glowed in the darkness, a beacon for her to follow. She ran her hands over the graceful curve of the wings, marvelling at the artistry. It was a world removed from her own clumsy attempts at throwing pots, although Morrow always assured her she had talent. She grimaced. Assured her like he was a school teacher and she was a beloved but slow pupil.
Would it always be that way? Her striving to prove she was all grown up and him smiling indulgently, refusing to acknowledge it.
She bit her lip. Stupid thoughts. She moved past the angel to the grave behind, a simple, age-worn headstone, moss-encrusted and weather-ruined. Even if her crappy torch hadn't crapped out, she wouldn't have been able to read the engraving on the stone; time and the elements had seen to that. But this had to be the one.
Hell, if it wasn't, who'd ever know?
She slipped her backpack off, kneeling by the grave. She pulled a small metal dish from the bag, along with a pack of sage incense cones, a lighter, and an empty jar. The wind made it near impossible to light the cone, not to mention keeping it alight, but eventually she managed, placing the dish in a little hollow at the foot of the grave to shelter the cone. Sage was a purifier; the incense kept dark spirits from interfering and pacified the spirit of whoever's grave she was...well, not desecrating, exactly. Borrowing from...that sounded nicer.
She pulled a paintbrush from the bag next, flicking the bristles to make sure they hadn't been damaged, and started brushing dust and tiny fragments of stone from the headstone into the jar. Next, the grave dirt. She plunged her fingers into the soil, relishing the cool touch of the dry earth against her skin. Energy skittered through her, cold as ice and strangely calming. The presence of the dead, far down below her reach.
She'd always felt it. Foster parents had despaired, worrying over her morbid nature, her fascination with the dead mice their cats brought home, or the weird lure the local graveyards held for her. It wasn't natural, they said. It wasn't right. Then on her fifteenth birthday, Morrow appeared like a...black knight...to assure her it was natural. That she was fine. He'd taken her in, convinced her there was nothing wrong with her. The first person who'd made her feel valued, when all her life people had been determined to make her feel abnormal.
Five years on, her fascination with the dark side hadn't waned, he'd seen to that. He'd fed her literature and knowledge on necromancy and the occult, until Evanthe felt more kinship with the dead than the living. Well, almost. But he hadn't let her try much practical stuff until tonight, not unsupervised. The weight of his trust, his expectations, was a mantle on her shoulders. If tonight went well, it would prove to him she was capable of more--and maybe make him see her as more.
She churned up the earth, dropping a good handful into the jar along with the headstone dust, wondering how much was really enough. Morrow would always find uses for it, she reasoned. There were countless spells and cantrips that used graveyard dirt as a base.
She filled the jar. Job done. She sat back, exhaling loudly and shaking her head. Her nerves were all gone now she'd done it, the surge of adrenaline that carried her here was fading fast and leaving her feeling a bit silly, if anything. God, it was such a simple task, what could possibly have gone wrong?
A hand shot from the darkness to clamp down on her shoulder.
Evanthe screamed and jolted to her feet, all the adrenaline rushing back. Heart in her throat, she spun, ready to fight. Her attacker's hoarse, wicked laughter froze her. Relief and embarrassment flooded her. "You bastard." She thumped Morrow's arm. "What are you playing at?"
"I had no idea you were so twitchy, Evanthe," he remarked, flicking on a torch and shining it at her. "You weren't scared, were you?"
"I was...off-guard," she shot back, folding her arms and glaring at him.
In the torch-light, he looked ancient, sinister almost. The beam was lost in his dark hair, but highlighted his sharp cheekbones and mocking smile. "What are you doing out here? Were you spying on me?" The thought that he might not trust her cut at her, and she was relieved when he shook his head.
"I had a mission of my own." He lifted his own backpack as evidence. It was pungent with the smell of moss, sage, and death, and Evanthe reached for it curiously. He pulled it back. "Not here. At home."
"What is it?"