Challenge #01877-E053: Working With the Dead

in fiction •  last year  (edited)


Sometimes the person you admire or love has a passion or hobby that they would really love to get stuff for. -- Anon Guest

Hobbyists are easy to buy for. Well. Most of them are. Gardeners will love you for getting a big bag of manure. Leatherworkers - the less said about the gross stuff that Leatherworkers would thank you for, the better. Especially if they do their own tanning. Arts and crafts people will be grateful for infinite art supplies.

But if you happen to be a member of the Clean Beach Patrol, and know a Necromancer? That's when you enter a state of friendship symbiosis. Bodies float, and floatsam of all sorts winds up on the beach. Things that would disturb a casual passer-by because most of them don't know how aquatic decomposition goes. My friend gets called out for any intelligent lifeforms that wash up dead on Golden Beach, just to be certain about the cause of death, next of kin, and whether or not they intended to wind up dead.

You know. The routine stuff.

It's the non-intelligent life forms that my friend Ravensong is interested in. The hard parts, of course. The more permanent fixtures as she is wont to say. So she gets a bi-monthly collection of octopus beaks, blob-monster bones, and random skeletal structures that emerged from the gross, goopy, and gooey things that my shovel has collected in the bucket.

And once a year? The interesting ones. Carefully collected by yours truly and my pals at work who know Ravensong or know about Ravensong. The weird stuff that must have come down the trade rivers and then were swept by the currents onto the golden shores of our home city. It may sound weird to you, but yes, benevolent Necromancers exist. They make sure the dead are at peace, slaughter bacterial infections, massacre virii, necrotize cancers, and have... interesting pets.

The 'interesting times' variant of 'interesting' of course.

Necromancers call them Thralls. And in battle situations, it's not always the best thing to have a dead bear or dire wolf as a collection of bones in your bag of holding. Sometimes, it's way more fun to pick-and-mix something unbelievably c'thuloid out of that bag and possibly your arse. Or so Ravensong tells me. I've never seen her in a fight.

I have, however, seen her announce herself to some alleged badass in a hostage situation and seen said badass: surrender unconditionally, heal the hostages they'd hurt, split up what coin they had to said hostages, and their food supplies, and then beg forgiveness from Ravensong on their knees.

She was unapologetically smug about the entire thing.

This was her first birthday grab-baggie of the strange, the unusual, and the intimidatingly-dentitioned since that terrifying day. I was understandably nervous as I approached her brightly-coloured house with its pristine and bountiful gardens. Ravensong has a permanent curse against all garden pests, and a solid black line of their corpses around her property.

Of course her new doorbell chimes out a few bars of Skeleton Dance. Of course it does. Because Ravensong is a total nerd about her chosen vocation. I began to relax a little.

She was wearing her summer gear when she answered the door. Wafty gossamer stuff in every colour of the rainbow and the earrings that jingled whenever she moved. Her hair was up from the style she preferred for work and she actually looked... super girlie.

The big bag rattled as I lifted it. "Happy birthday from the beach crew."

She jumped up and down, clapping. "Yaaaayyyy! This is the best part of my day. Are there spines in there?"

"I knew you were low on vertebrae, so I kept an eye out and strung them up in order for you. Everything in here has been bugged, boiled, and bleached, in that order[1]. Just how you like 'em."

A gleeful squeal. An enthusiastic hug erased any lingering fears. And a very definite kiss on the cheek that made the blood rush to my head. She always made me dizzy in all the best ways. "Wanna help me with the varnishing? I got carrot cake for afterwards."

"Always," I said. She didn't need magic to have me in her thrall.

[1]: Corpse cleaning trivia for the morbidly-minded. The things you can use for the cleaning of bones are: flesh-eating insects, slow boiling, and bleach. After bleaching, bones are then washed in dish soap to remove any remaining disease vectors. Skeletal curators usually don't use three methods for the same thing, so just assume that Ravensong takes her bone hygiene very, very seriously. [I'm a writer. I research stuff for fun.]

[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / kozzi]

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