Dagmara

Writing Prompt: You are a necromancer. The corpses you resurrect have tiers of power. Newer bodies being weaker and zombie like, whilst older, ancient bones are sought after for leadership positions in your ever growing undead army… and you’ve just found the tomb you’ve been looking for!

Dagmara had a gift. A gift he’d worn under many different guises. He was a Necromancer. A name he’d worn before, or would come to wear. The trouble with death, or there lack of, is that time becomes an irrelevant obstacle. What was can be again, and what is will only last so long… so long as he wills it so. Dagmara never called himself God, he didn’t have to.

“I tire of these games, Willis. The dead that have risen they’re… restless.” Dagmara passed a hand uncaring through the air, “Tell me you have something, something worthy of my time.” this last word was spoken with a distasteful sort of laughter. Time, it’s ever ticking, Willis.

“I have reports of one, Sire. Buried deep within the earth, half a millennia old… so they say.”

Dagmara hissed his approval, a forked tongue lathering blackened lips.

Willis swallowed, composing himself, “It was a monastery, Sire, that covered the grave. Though the monastery has fallen, ruined by war. I fear it may be too difficult, Sire, for you to retrieve alone.”

“Willis,” Dagmara rose like a shadow over the young man, “We need not go alone. Seven. That should serve our purpose. Excavation. You may choose them at your leisure. We leave tonight.”

“Yes, Sire.” Willis bore his eyes into the ground, avoiding the soulless gaze of his master’s eyes. And just as quick as the shadow of Dagmara had risen, it dispersed, leaving Willis alone. Gods have mercy on us.

The Seven would be taken from the Pits, from cells hidden below Dagmara’s place of work. A botanical garden, a fine cover for an ever massing graveyard. Bodies would need to be grown before being harvested. Long years had taught Dagmara that a corpse’s age had baring on its strength, its abilities. To raise a man seconds after falling would serve only to create a mindless feeder, a creature obsessed with the taste of the living.

They’ve not been allowed to process their death, they cling to life, they seek it out like a fix. Junkies, of the afterlife. To them the taste of flesh evokes a high, a feeling of living… so we must plant them, grow them before harvesting, let their ties to life loosen, and their strength in death gain.

There was an obvious benefit to mindless feeders, in that they had no thought to overthrow their master, no will of their own, not even a vague sense of sentience. They served a purpose, but for the purpose of war a General cannot hope to rely on his wits alone. But real power, that came with age.

Willis gathered up a lantern, passing first through the fresh garden mounds ripe with their seed. No one suspects bodies to be growing in a garden. Not even when the holes you’re digging are six foot wide and just as many deep. He gave a shiver as the light of his lantern cast itself over open graves that had yet to be sewn. 

A path ran from the Yard to the Houses. Green Houses. A means for keeping up appearances. Willis was the keeper of these treats, green fingered, in life as well as death. He cared deeply for the plants he grew, more so than he did for the bodies. Plants have a beauty, they bloom, trees blossom. Bodies rot, decay, they’re not meant to be grown.

Hidden behind the flowering tomatoes, with vines running up into the ceiling of the greenhouse, holding heavy red fruits ready to burst, there lay a hatch. Here we go, Willis. It’s just Seven… just Seven then out. And with that Willis closed his eyes, drew open the hatch, and disappeared below.

The basement, the Pits, the cells, whatever you would call this place, it was dark and it was damp. A steady dripping fed off the ceiling, moss clung to the walls, the stench of rot plagued the stagnant air. There were no lights, deep down below, only the rattling of chains and the glare of Willis’ lantern.

Round and ever round the stairs spiraled down, far underground, passing doors laden with locks. Dagmara had secrets of his own down here, secrets one such as Willis cared none to find out. It was at the very bottom of the stairs that the Pits awaited, where upon the confinements of the closed stone staircase was suddenly thrown open to a room of immeasurable size in the dark. Wordless groans rang with the rattling of chains, a faint and cat-like shine was thrown back in the wake of the lantern from distressed and hungry yellowed eyes. It’s just seven. Willis told himself again. Just Seven then out.

He sent his light over cages thin and wide, inside each was one, or eight, or twenty, mindless corpses, wandering aimlessly about their barred enclosures. Each cage bore a clipboard with some basic information writ upon it; date of death, number of residents, last time they were fed. Willis needed a youngling horde, numbering exactly seven – when Dagmara asks, I deliver… never too much, nor too little, too many, nor too few – and having been fed as recently as was possible. The first two criteria were easily met, the third… let’s say Dagmara didn’t believe in feeding the dead, no matter how hard they cried, and Willis had the marks to prove it.

Last Wednesday, Seven killed… road traffic accident, not yet fed. It would have to do.

Willis fought with the reel of keys he carried (every janitors rightful companion) until he found the one meant for this cell. Then with a turn and a click the cell door fell free, and the chains crept from out the dark and into his light. Willis stood aside, praying the feeders would let him be, counting each one as they passed, trying as he could not to meet their yellowed eyes staring wonderingly upon him, upon life.

One, two, three… the chains sung as the parade marched on, ankles bound to one another’s, wrists tied down by rope… four, five… he met the unnerving glare of the sixth – six – creature, it tilted its head and snapped at Willis’ face before carrying on for the stairs… and seven. He breathed a sigh of relief, a stupid thing to have done before the dead. Breath breeds life. Snap. The seventh creature turned and buried teeth into Willis’ shoulder. Don’t scream, you can’t ever scream. All around the sounds of chains grew louder, the groaning from the other cages rising to a chant. Willis found himself counting again as the creature’s circled around him. You can’t betray fear, they’ll feed on that as quick as life. Find the sheep among the wolves, the weakest of the pack.

He let out a whimper.

The circle drew in.

“Willis? I assume you’ve procured my Seven?” the voice was like a snake in the dark, like death carried on clouds of poisoned gas. The feeders straightened, twitching, the voice a foul music to their ears. They turned and continued for the stairs…

Willis did not sound his relief this time, instead he waited several long, unending moments before following the feeders up. All the while wondering; Gods, why won’t he let me die?

Dagmara, Willis and their Seven young accomplices, all bound by chains, travelled the night through. Willis had arranged their passage, a passage that would evade the more unnecessary of delays. Across almost half the World they’d stride in less twenty four whole hours, not once seeing the light or land outside. To be blind, to be concealed, that was necessary.

**

In War Torn Romania;

“You’re certain this is it?” Dagmara, dressed in barely a shirt and trousers despite the harsh winter lands, paced the rubble impatiently as the feeders cleared debris, “Tell me true, Willis. I will not wait on failure.”

“It will be there.” Willis gulped, “That, Sire, I promise.”

Dagmara leered over Willis, his cold and deathly eyes sinking into Willis’ own, “You wouldn’t lie to me, would you Willis?”

“Never, Sire. Never in life.”

Dagmara chuckled, “You amuse me, perhaps this is why I choose to keep you.”

Choose to keep me? Willis’ face dragged into his very soul. I wish you’d choose to let me go.

The feeders worked endlessly at clearing the fallen ruins of the Romanian monastery, their feeble, skin-torn hands ripping apart before their labour. But they would not stop, not under watch of their master. Feeders are useful, in numbers little enough to keep watch over, take you’re eye off just the one…

Dagmara began to count… a feeder had vanished. Seven had become six.

“One of the creatures, they’ve found it, Willis. Now find them!” Dagmara drew himself up to full height, wrapping the shadows around him, seeming to fly through the air as the visage of a spirit.

“It’s over here.” Willis called out, waving to Dagmara. The monastery’s deep, dark secret. A secret even Dagmara himself envied.

“Then let us find it before the creature. Gods forbid my prize becomes a feast.” the feeders groaned from around the pair, snapping together their jaws, “Should that happen, Willis…” Dagmara simply smiled, and then faded down below.

A crypt, just as you might expect. Riddled with age, festering with insectile things, both thick and thin, holding the lingering scent of ages long since past. Ritual markings and occult runes covered the dull stone linings of the crypt, and for every short metre of walkway the head of a sarcophagus sat poking out from an open hole in the wall. Candles lay burnt to stumps, holding place in rusted chandeliers, and chests of heavy stone lurked in far corners begging to be opened – but it’s not a treasure of gold that we seek.

“Beyond that gate…” Willis pointed for the iron bars of a door dwelling deep in shadow. The guttural moans of the feeder they’d chased echoed from within. Dagmara needed only look at Willis for him to know. “As you wish, Sire.”

Willis pushed open the iron gate with a squeal and at once the groaning silenced. Yellowed eyes burning bright stared back in the gloom. It happened in the mere flashing of a second. The feeder threw itself back through the gate, mounting itself upon Willis, upon mounting life, digging skeletal fingers into lively, writhing flesh. Willis didn’t scream, nor did he so much as whimper as the flat teeth of the feeder ground through his stomach. He simply cried silent tears, and to Dagmara whispered; thank you.

Dagmara had discarded of this servant in favour of what was to come. He pressed on through the gates, floated down the shadowed hall and found… a single coffin, sat alone in a room dressed by torches, their flames holding true to the walls, a burning light that never died.

Quite poetic, really.

There were gargoyles carved into the corners of the ceiling, watching the eternal rest of their master. Stone statues, guards, lined the far wall, each baring a very real and very rusted blade of curving silver. And atop the coffin, etched into wood (impervious to rot?) were the words;

Here lies the Impaler, as mighty in death as ever in life.

Dagmara smiled, his blackened lips graced by his snake-like tongue. Without so much as lifting a finger he raised the coffin’s lid and set his loving eyes upon the babe. The Impaler. More so dust and bone than life that was. He’s perfect, oh Willis your death is well deserved. In his hands the corpse held spear of solid silver, only unlike the curved swords of his guards the corpse’s blade was untouched by age.

Gripping the hollowed skull of the deceased, chanting words of a time long before Latin, Dagmara began in ritual the awakening. Around the body dust rose in clouds, bones sealed together, a gentle fire rippled through flesh that crawled out of the dirt. Then slowly eyes returned to the deceased, liquid pools that swam up through dark sockets forming soft balls of solid white.

“Awaken,” Dagmara cried, lifting up the now firm neck of his assailant, “oh Great Impaler, Vlad that was and is again. Awaken! Dracula. Come hither into Hell’s own fire. Tonight we bathe in blood.”

Copyright © K R Perry 2019


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