#writing #fiction #wp
“Bartholomew!” I screamed from my lab.
A pale-faced, skinny boy emerged from one of the many pantries in which I kept the supplies for my research. “S- sorry, sir. H- how can I be of assistance?” He stammered as he rushed to my side.
“You can start by quitting the jabber, and getting me the Monksbane I asked for ten minutes ago!” I snapped.
“At once, sir!” He said, as he ran into one of the pantries.
“Honestly, it’s as though the boy isn’t all there lately.” I said, looking down at the corpse I was working on, “I think it’s possible he may be overly distracted by other things. Doesn’t he understand that he must commit himself to the pursuit of knowledge of he is to ever become a wizard?”
“I think you’re too hard on the boy.” The corpse rebutted, “You should try taking to him about more personal things, you may find a friend in him.”
“Diego, you’re an animated corpse with no memory of being human. So much so that you routinely put yourself in situations, such as the one earlier today, where you end up in pieces. I know you don’t feel pain, but I doubt you understand the intricacies of human friendship.” I stated as i began sewing its arm back on.
“The boy has taught me a great many things about friendship.” It replied before adding, “Sometimes he treats me like I’m really alive!”
“He’s a silly boy.” I muttered shaking my head as I pulled the last stitch tight and tied it off. “There you go! Good as new. If you get the Monksbane from the boy and chew on that it should speed along the regeneration of the tissue.”
“Thank you!” Diego replied as it tested the functionality. “I think it works better than before!”
“It should! The wizard that put you together initially was a hack at his craft. He really shouldn’t have been working with magic, but then again, that’s probably why he blew himself up last year.
“Don’t overwork the arm until the regeneration is complete. It shouldn’t take more than a few days.” I said as Bartholomew emerged from the closet carrying a jar. “Perfect timing, Bartholomew, give Diego eight knuckles worth. It should be more than enough, and after you’ve put the jar back, you can clean up the workshop before you go to your quarters. If you need me, I’ll be in my library.”
Diego said something but I was already on my way through the door, and quite honestly I’d had enough of the talking undead. I shook my head and pinched the bridge of my nose as I closed the door behind me.
Honestly, who animates a corpse and lets it speak?
I lit the lantern just inside the door to illuminate the twenty-foot, floor-to-ceiling, bookshelves that looked the entire room. I had spent most of my life collecting books, but I had never imagined that I would ever have such a large library until my predecessor meet his demise and I had assumed his position.
I pulled my personal work from a secret compartment in the wall before assuming my station at the dark-wood desk that day in the center on the room. I lit the candle and resumed my studies.
An hour passed before Bartholomew entered the room, quietly waiting for me to acknowledge him.
“What do you need, boy?” I asked after a few minutes.
“The workshop is clean and Diego had returned to his duties in the yard. I was wondering if you would permit me access to the library for study?” He finished.
“In the year that I have had this post, you have never asked me to access the library. Why the sudden change?” I asked, taken aback by the request.
“I’m sorry I asked, sir.” He blurted quickly before trying to leave the room. I wanted a hand slamming the door, barring his passage.
“Wait. What did you want to study?” I inquired, leaning forward.
“Nothing, sir. I shouldn’t have asked. It was not my place.” He responded.
“You’ve interrupted my work with your request, and unwittingly stoked my curiosity. Out with it.” I demanded.
“I want to learn to conjure flowers, sir. That’s all. It’s a silly reason to request access to the library.”
“There it is!” I rejoiced, “you’ve become enamored with someone! Who is it? Have I met the lucky individual?”
“It’s the stable boy, sir. He loves lavender and I thought he may be impressed if I could conjure them for him.” He replied, looking to the floor.
“Don’t be ashamed, boy. It’s one of the core tenants of being a successful wizard, never be ashamed for your pursuits! Had the lad shown an interest in you yet?”
“To be honest, sir. I’m not sure. He is always coming to me with seemingly trivial reasons to-”
“I don’t need the whole story, boy. I’ll help you with your endeavors and grant you access to the library.” I said, cutting him off.
He straightened up and looked positively radiant. “Thank you, sir!”
“There is a book on the bottom shelf over there titled Conjuring for Beginners.” I said pointing to one of the shelves on the Western wall. “It should have everything you need to know in it. I warn you though, heed its lessons carefully. If you don’t, you could accidentally damage yourself or others. Conjuration can be tricky at times.”
“Of course, sir!” He replied rushing over, grabbing the book, and seating himself at one of the smaller desks intended for students.
“Now be quiet so I can focus. I’m working on some integral formulas!” I snapped.
He nodded in response and opened the book to the first page as I returned to what I had been working on previously.
I smiled to myself as I glanced over occasionally to check his progress.
The night came to a close for me and I excused myself from the room silently, not wanting to interrupt his work. I returned to my room and went to sleep.
The next few days there was little that had to be done, so Bartholomew and I spent our time in the library researching our respective goals. The boy was a quick study, eating up the contents of chapter after chapter of the book while successfully producing the conjurations each taught him. I was impressed at the speed of his progress. At the end of the third day he successfully managed to conjure flowers, but was unable to produce lavender until he figured out the component ratio he needed the following day.
“I’ve done it!” He exclaimed.
“Congratulations, boy. You’re officially a wizard.” I replied, patting him on the back. “Go give your flowers to the stable boy and I’ll see you in the morning.”
Over the next several weeks Bartholomew and I would study, with limited interruption by the noble of the province, at great length when he was not pursuing his love interests. He memorized the principles of Conjuring, Enchantment, Necromancy, Evocation, and even my personal downfall, Transmutation. He quickly became indispensable to me in my own work.
About a month into our work he approached me with the book Immortality for the Morally Ambiguous. “Your work is on overcoming death, right? Have you read this yet?”
“I have not read that book due to its reputation. Every wizard that has read, and later pursued, the formulas contained in its pages has committed great evil acts upon attempting the culmination of its work.” I replied.
“Then why not fix it? You have told me at great length since the beginning of my studies that magic can, and will, accomplish anything. That is the entire premise of your work!” He replied setting the book down.
“Alright, you’re right. I shouldn’t discount the work of another wizard based on the failings of every other wizard that has come across this tome.” I replied, taking the book from his hand. “Grab a quill and parchment, let’s see if we can find the flaws, which there are, I assure you. No wizard writes a powerful tome such as this without purposely messing with it to prevent others from succeeding in his or her work.”
Bartholomew and I spent three days translating the book from the cryptic language invented by the author before we began analyzing the text for errors. My prodigy quickly picked up on several errors within its cover, grabbing other volumes from the shelves to cross-reference his deduction.
With his help over the next six months, in which his relationship with the stable boy bloomed, we had sussed out every possible error in the work in which we were able.
“I think that’s it!” Bartholomew exclaimed, setting the scroll down that was now covered with complex algorithms and glyphs. “I believe with this scroll, you can truly become immortal. You’ll never need to eat, drink, or sleep again. It’s a miracle of magical study!”
“You, my clever prodigy, are the true miracle of magical study. I’ve never seen anyone take to the magical arts as you have. I daresay you are many more times the wizard I could ever hope to be, and yet, you are still so young!” I replied. “Shall we begin the experiment?”
“I’ll call Diego in here.” Bartholomew said as he rushed from his seat through the door.
I waited a few minutes, scrutinizing the scroll once more, until he returned with the animated corpse in tow.
“How may I be of service, sir?” Diego said.
“I need to conduct an experiment. I assumed you wouldn’t mind being my subject, considering that you aren’t actually alive.” I responded.
“What sort of experiment? Will it prevent me from performing my duties?” Diego asked.
“Ever the inquisitor! No, not even slightly! My experiment is meant to return you to the living! Bring your soul back to your body, as well as your mind.” I replied.
“If the mind and soul that once resided in this body do return, what will happen to me?” it asked.
“The Necromantic spell used to animate you will be undone and the original owner of the body will return, of course.” I replied.
“If that happens, will it not prevent me from performing my duties?” Diego pressed.
“I do not intend to make the spell permanent, Diego. I merely aim to test the validity of our calculations.” I chuckled, “You will return to just as you are now when the experiment is over, I can promise you that.”
With no further questions or comments from the servant, Bartholomew led him out into the workshop as I followed, still looking over the scroll.
Once the preparations were complete, I modified the ritual so that it would only last for three minutes before rendering the body back to its original state, and we began. It took five days of near constant chanting and magical energies to finish the ritual, and it nearly killed us both, but when it was done the body that once was named Diego opened its eyes as the flesh began rejuvenating back to its original state.
“What is happening?” The garbled voice screamed from the still rejuvenating throat. “Where am I? Who am I?”
Bartholomew and I took notes at length throughout the entire process before the spellwork collapsed on itself and the occupant of the body left once more. Diego opened his eyes and when he moved to sit up found that he was in a normal body.
“I’m alive!” He shouted as he jumped up and down.
“Curious.” I said approaching Diego and checking for a pulse. “Bartholomew, make a note! The spell, even in its current form is capable of rejuvenating the body to the point that it is technically alive.”
“I- I can feel!” Diego bellowed touching every surface he could get his hands on.
“Yes, yes, that’s all fine and good, now carry on with your duties, Diego. Bartholomew and I must rest. We have much more work to do!” I said, dismissing the servant who could be heard rejoicing all the way outside.
“That was certainly an unexpected side effect.” Bartholomew observed. “I had a thought while we were watching the subject. I believe that the reason that every previous person to undergo the change has ultimately gone mad is due to the lack of sleep. The human mind is not capable of never-resting. I read about the effects of long-term sleep deprivation in one of the books a while back. I believe this is the cause of the insanity.”
“That seems an overly simple fix, don’t you think?” I asked.
“You said that the original author of the tome would have put a failsafe in place to make anyone that used his work unsuccessful. What bigger temptation for a wizard than never losing the time for sleep again? Any wizard would want to leave it as part of the ritual.” He said.
“Perhaps you’re right. Let’s remove it and we can test it once more, but on a different subject. As successful as it was on Diego, I believe that I would be willing to submit to the process myself now.” I said.
“Are you sure about that? I think you’re not thinking straight. Let’s get some rest and we can discuss it further while we recover.” Bartholomew said, handing me the scroll.
Ultimately, we conducted the experiment on me. As you can undoubtedly tell, from my presence here, but there was an unforseen circumstance that arose on the last day of the ritual. Bartholomew perished during the process, and the ritual consumed him, making the change permanent in me, and forever stripping me, and Ralph (The stable boy), of his company.
It has been nearly nine-hundred years now, and despite my never-ending search for a clever enough prodigy to release Bartholomew from the ritual that made me, it has been in vain. There has never been another like him, as Ralph would have surely told you. I asked him on a number of occasions to allow me to conduct the ritual on him so that when I did finally free Bartholomew he would be waiting, but he chose to live his life in solitude instead.