“Walter Abrams, I am placing you under arrest for the illegal and immoral use of malefic magic which has led to the death of one individual, the zombification of at least four others, kidnapping, torture and extortion.”
He laughed. A scary sound, part bark, part howl, a sound of pure sinister glee. It went on for a quite a while. Granted, I was still being held by his zombie minions, without a gun or any other of my tools, but there was no reason to be disrespectful.
“Mr. Engram, may I call you Clifford? I think you are confused as to ‘whose on top’ at the moment. To be fair, my knowledge of your history indicates you don’t take well to authority figures.” He was looking at my amulet, touching the Phoenix stone with caressing motions.
“So you understand what I will need from you next, don’t you Clifford?” He reaches behind his back and brings out a ceremonial dagger. He gestures to one of his other robed figures, this one with a giant hart on his robes to take his place at the dais holding the amulet. I was starting to sweat uncomfortably as I suspected what the next step in this unfortunate ritual was going to be.
His pace toward me reminded me of a cat stalking a mouse. A sensual slink as his eyes lit up with madness. His zombies pulled my arms wide open and the two others ripped open my shirt. The clatter of the buttons bouncing everywhere echo around the chamber. No understanding of good fashion.
I strain myself trying to pull away from the undead duo. I am not weak. These guys were probably out of my weight class when they were alive, but dead, they are in a whole other league. Okay, plan B. “Walt, can I call you Walt? You know there is more to my amulet than being a lens for your god blob, right?”
He stopped. Good. Nothing like a lust for power to make a megalomaniac pause. “Do tell, Clifford.”
“It’s a Phoenix stone.”
“With an honest to Phoenix within. Using the Phoenix you would be able to channel the power of the God-blob into yourself and control it with the necklace.” Sincerity sells it. If he knew the right incantations he truly could bind the power of the god.
“Well, wouldn’t that be better than trying to raise some snotty nosed kid until he would be old enough to tap the power of the god himself. Right now, all the god can do in him is sleep until he reaches magical maturity. In the meantime, you’ll have to cater to him and listen to him tell you what to do. Walt, does that sound like a job for you?”
He gives me a curious look and then stops to ponder it for a moment. “As far as the raising, I would not have to be bothered. The woman, she is a governess, once properly conditioned… would have those responsibilities. The Guild would train him in the ways of magic. But what you say is true. I could harness the power of the god myself.”
Then he turns to me and gives me a look, you know the one. The ‘I want this but I can’t trust you look’. His next query seals the deal. “Why didn’t you do this yourself? You could have been a god and you choose to hunt for charlatans for a living, under the heel of petty bureaucrats, no less? I find it a little difficult to believe.”
Look convincing…”Yes, I could have done this myself, but I am already cursed. I am fated to be forsaken by all gods and when I die no god would have me. The necklace, a gift from an aunt is just a tool to find magical artifacts, nothing more. Look at me through the device, you will see my death-shroud around me.”
Doubt plagues him. He walks over to me and slashes my chest with his knife. Three cuts, lacerations which will require stitches and painful as hell, yet not fatal. He is going to complete his own ritual. Damn. I thought I had convinced him. He turns and walks back to the dais. Placing his eye to the stone, he Looks at me. He gasps. “Death walks with you.”
I make my move. “Phoenix, ego dimittam te. Convivium, invaluerit ut nostri pactum demandis.” The amulet glows for a moment as my blood touches it.
“No!” He threw the amulet to Brother Hart as it roars to fiery life. Brother Hart is instantly consumed by the red and blue flames, and Abrams fell back screaming. His robes burst into flames, the skin on his face catching fire in the light of the Phoenix. The Phoenix looks more like an angel on fire than a bird.
The other brothers turn and begin chanting and incantations. The words die on their lips as each bursts into flame. I walk over to the Phoenix, who dims its light as I approach. “As per our pact, I have feasted. Only one of your foes survived because he did not take arms against me. You have kept your agreement.”
“Will you stay?”
“Ours is not a compulsion, but a choice. You met the pact agreements and I have feasted. I am content. What of the god?”
“I’ll handle it.”
“Can you do one more thing for me?”
“For such a repast as this, I am still in your debt.”
“There are still zombies within the hallowed grounds of this cemetery. Can you draw their Fire to you, ending their unlife?”
“Of course. I await our next meal together, Ingram.”
“I told you, I don’t use that name any more.”
“It is the name I am bound to, it is the name I serve. You are Ing. You bring the peace of the grave. I serve. It is our fate.”
“I hate you.”
“As it should be. Farewell, Ingram.”