Speak to the Dead

Kerel waved her hand over the dead man’s face and gripped her holy symbol tight and focused her thoughts on a simple prayer. Her prayer to Asherah had no words but instead was more of a feeling, a feeling of certainty and faith that was always deep inside of her. She closed her eyes without realizing and when she opened them, the dead man’s jaw cracked and shifted and something resembling life entered the man’s eyes and he almost seemed to glare at Kerel. It coughed hard and dust and other things came up as their throat cleared. She blinked and then backed off a bit and tried to offer a smile.

“Sorry for you waking you, sir,” she said. “We just have a few questions.”

The corpse looked around, its eyeballs hesitating slightly in their sockets as if to ask who ‘we’ was.

“Oh,” she said. “They’re in the other room. They think this is creepy.” Sabin was a fighter and he was really only comfortable with what he could control at the point of his sword. Kobal was enigmatic and he claimed that he would merely distract from the experience. Carissa had disappeared as soon as they had arrived in the village. Kerel hoped she was behaving herself.

The corpse stared at her blankly as if it was already completely bored. Kerel took a deep breath so that she did not rush things.

“They’re not wrong,” Kerel said. “I never really liked this ability. Father Harun always insisted that it was very useful. It is but it never gets more comfortable.”

The corpse continued to stare blankly.

“Anyway,” she said. “Let’s begin. Who or what killed you?”

She studied the corpse’s face. The young boy was largely untouched by wounds and that is why the four of them had been summoned to this village to assist. The corpse seemed to think about that for a moment. Kerel knew from experience that the dead found it difficult to access their memories of life. It probably had to do with the barrier between life and death. She had to remember that this was not the young man who had died, this was an avatar used to briefly connect with his soul in the afterlife. This was not necromancy, it was just necromancy-adjacent.

“It was the Witch of the Woods,” the corpse said. “A magic spell stopped my heart.”

Kerel frowned. That did not sound good at all. Her parents had always been distrustful of magic-users so her experience until recently had been minimal. Witches were often more unpredictable than wizards. Witches were often wild and lawless. At least, that is what mother always used to say.

“Who is the Witch of the Woods?” Kerel asked.

The corpse hesitated less this time. Its momentum was starting to pick up. “She is known,” he said. “The Witch of the Woods has been there since as long as we can remember.”

“Hmm,” Kerel said. She wondered if that meant that the Witch was an elf or something else long-lived. Hopefully, the Witch of the Woods was not immortal. “Why did she kill you?”

“She has my sister, Laessica,” the corpse said. “I was trying to rescue her.”

Kerel gasped. “She has your sister?!” She yelled and then immediately cursed. She only had five questions and she had just blown one.

“Yes,” the corpse said without hesitation. Kerel could not be sure but it seemed to have an almost mocking tone. It was probably her imagination. She took a deep breath.

“Where is the Witch of the Woods?” Kerel asked.

“In a dark cave beneath the Blackened Woods in the forest north of the village,” the corpse said.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Kerel asked.

The corpse was silent, its eyes starting to cloud over. Kerel sighed.

“Five questions asked, five questions answered. I send you back to your rest and thank you for your time,” Kerel said. She let go of her holy symbol and the corpse was no longer animated. She took a beat and then walked back outside into the open air of the village. She immediately felt many eyes upon her. Eyes filled with hope and curiosity. Many of them were citizens of the village, trying not to appear like they were watching. Thankfully, she had managed their expectations by letting them know she could not resurrect the boy. It was still early days on her path.

“So,” Sabin said, sheathing his sword. “Did you get the information?”

“I really wish you would accompany me on these sessions,” Kerel said. “It was lonely in there.”

Sabin shuddered. “No thank you,” he said. “Such things are beyond me.”

Kobal stood from where he had been sitting on the porch. “It is easier for you to focus when you are alone,” he said. “Many feet disturb the puddle and the reflection is no longer clear.”

There was a beat. “What?” She asked, her face scrunched in confusion.

“Never mind that,” Sabin said. “What did you find out?”

“Well,” she said. “He was killed by the magic of a Witch of the Woods. She kidnapped his sister so she’s still out there. She might be immortal?”

“That’s just great,” Sabin said. “We’ll let her taste my blade and test that rumor.”

“First we need a little more information,” Kerel said. “We need to ask about the Blackened Wood.”

“I know where it is,” Carissa said from up on the roof of the cottage. “Follow me.”

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