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"In sar," says the scribe, and another ant spasms and dies.
Melfina studies all the sensations the spell invokes. The drain of the mana loss, the hint of vaporized reagents, and... something else. Something new. Something that didn't happen with magery spells, and she was determined to understand what that was.
She picks out another ant, and it steps its last step.
And there it was again. That additional sensation. It wasn't just tied to pain spikes either. She first felt it when she tried out wither, and accidentally killed all the nearby plants. It wasn't the cold from the spell. And it wasn't unpleasant. It was just different.
Wither was impressive, but it was too mana intensive, so it wouldn't be useful for her study. Pain spike used the least amount of mana, so pain spike it was.
Spike after spike is cast, teasing Melfina with its puzzle. Each time making her more anxious that she wouldn't ever figure it out. It was getting weaker.
Crawling on the hem of her dress was her next target. It's too bad they can't survive the initial impact. It's supposed to wear off after a while. It never hurts to have more confirmation that this book does what it says it's supposed to do. But I have something more important to figure out first.
She gives it another try. Or at least attempts to, but nothing happens. Not even the crackle of a fizzling spell. The crackle, was another common characteristic among both magery and necromancy spells.
She jots down a note, then makes a quick check of her pouch.
A moment later and she hears the patter of her horde minon's stubby little legs. The little blue guy bursts through the bushes with that stupid grin on its face. She couldn't help but smile.
"Good boy," she says as she gives it a pat on the head. "Find anything for me?"
The horde minion produces small piles of mandrake root, spider's silk, and other reagents. "Good boy!" she exclaims. The pleased look on his face melts away some of the disappointment inside her.
She brought him along to carry extra reagents, then it hit her that he could gather some free supplies for her if she just let him roam free and do his thing. It wouldn't be a lot, but it was free. And letting him indulge in what seemed to be a natural instinct to snatch and horde things seemed to make him happy.
"Grave dust please." A small pouch of the reagent falls into her hand. "How could anyone ever be afraid of you? Silly Luna and their misguided teachings."
As she rubs his head another thought comes to mind. "Why don't I try summoning one of your friends?"
She flips through the book of necromancy.
Let's just go down the list.
Shadow wisp. She'd never seen a wisp in the wild before, but she'd read of them. They looked like floating balls of living blue light, usually found in forests or jungles. They were said to be harmless, curious creatures, but some travelers warn of their fickle nature, and would tell stories about lost travelers looking for their way home, only to be lead to their deaths for trespassing into the wisp's domain. But that's just dumb. Why would you follow a creature that lives in the woods if you're trying to find your way out?
It was true that they could cast spells however. If they were left alone, they were peaceful and harmless. Heigel of Moonglow wrote that they were even extremely intelligent creatures. But if they were provoked, they were fearsome opponents.
Shadow wisps were a less common variety, simply named due to their dark, almost black, hue. Despite the ominous sounding name, they were actually more timid and less violent than their brighter cousins.
I wonder if that's an accurate metaphor for all of necromancy. The more I look into it, the stupider I feel for believing all the lies.
It was especially impressive that necromancers had found a way to summon and control them, since none of the great tamers, past or present, had ever found success.
After studying the spell, the scribe turns to her horde minion and says, "Ready Reagent? We'll see if that 'One familiar at a time' restriction is true. If it is, don't worry about being replaced. I could never give you up."
She gives him one last pat on the head and casts the spell.
Kal xen bal.
A small cloud of smoke appears, and a dark light shines through.
Reagent immediately lunges, but the wisp moves out reach just in time.
"Stop!" yells Melfina afraid of any counter attack against her little friend.
Reagent ignores her. The sparkling new wisp was too tempting.
It quickly becomes apparent that the wisp is toying with him, as it constantly hovers just within reach, only to pull away before getting caught. Reagent loses interest, and the scribe calms down.
The wisp moves in to inspect its summoner. It circles her twice, then begins bobbing up and down. After a few moments, it drifts away.
"Hey! Stay!" It does. For a moment. Then drifts away again.
Melfina thumbs the book of necromancy, It's supposed to give me mana.
She looks at the wisp. "Mana." She waits. "Give me mana." Nothing happens.
Do I need to use it all up first?
She goes back to the wither spell, and utters the words, kal vas an flam. This time it works with ease, and a blast of cold emanates from where she stands.
She realizes her mistake by casting that area effect spell, when Regent moves in the corner of her eye. She quickly looks him over to see any signs of harm, then sighs with relief when she doesn't see any. "I'm so sorry! But you're a tough little guy aren't you," she says with a quick rub of his head. Something I might want to test again later, just to make sure. she thinks as she writes it down.
As she jots down the reminder, the wisp makes a twinkling sound and shimmers, and a shiver runs up her spine.
"Oh," says the scribe as mana flows into her. "I can definitely make use of you."
It shimmers again and Melfina laughs. "I've reached my limit. But thank you." The wisp bobs in response.
"I'd say that was a success, wouldn't you, Reagent?"
"Now what about the rest of you guys," she says to herself as she looks over the other spells. "Dark wolf, death adder, vampire bat..." she shakes her head. Maybe they're not as bad as they sound? She thinks doubtfully. You'd never see a mage summon something... Well, I suppose mages do have a deamon summoning spell. That has to be worse than any of these.
She shrugs, studies the dark wolf summoning, and goes through the motions. It fizzles. She tries again, and again it fizzles.
I can cast eighth circle spells! I can do this!
Her next attempt fails. And the one after that. Again and again she fails. Maybe I don't want a wolf familiar! The scribe moves on to the death adder with similar results. Vampire bat the same.
I'm going to get one of you!
Wolf, adder, bat. She alternates between the three, determined to summon one of them before day's end.
Wolf, adder, bat, wolf, adder-
The howl of the horde minion interrupts her flow, just as the wisp gifts her with mana. The distraction brings the setting sun to her attention. Once more each, and I should get going.
She takes a careful look and tries her hardest to will a bat to her side. It's not enough.
Dark wolf, dark wolf, dark wolf... your master summons you!
She moves her hands, speaks the words, and-
The cloud dissipates, and there it is. The dark wolf. Half again as large as the largest dire wolf. It stands well above her waist. Proud, strong, and deadly. And its teeth are bared.
Reagent rushes forward and the wolf does the same. This wasn't the playful lunge of the horde minion trying to catch the wisp. Reagent was defending his master.
He had no chance.
The dark wolf leaps and pins the horde minion to the ground, its jaws rush forward eagerly awaiting the killing blow.
Melfina's heart races wildly and her hands move without thought. Just as the wolf's jaws begin to close, the dark wolf vanishes.
"I'm so sorry!" Melfina cries, and she rushes forward and locks Reagent in a hug so tight it seems as if she never means to let go. Reagent stands still for a second, then to her surprise, hugs her back.
It looks up at her as if she was the only thing in the world, as if moments before its own life wasn't about to be extinguished, and grins.
* * *
... As for familiars, I'll stick with Reagent and the wisp. I'm not ready to handle the rest. I shouldn't even write this down, but when I unsummoned the dark wolf, I thought I heard the words, "I will return."
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