~ (Continued) Iunday, 15th of Prima, 11831 ~
His insistence that he was fine ended by noon and call for aid began soon after. What Pierre had taken as readjustment was just the beginning of a long process. What else could be expected from a body that had died? Though it was not the first time it had done so.
The studies of necrocræft were extensive and to become a suitor to the Lady of Death was to become intimately familiar with all she governed. At nineteen, he had been killed so he could experience death firsthand. Ophion had then brought him back to life. Pierre had slept for a week before waking. Perhaps that had been Mora’s mercy—to keep him from the pain that befell him.
He screamed. Every inch of his skin burned, and he could barely stay conscious. Ophion had already gone, though several of his assistants were trying to do their best. Pierre refused as much of the treatment as possible. It would be no help and might expose him.
Two young men held him down. Bedding and covers from the winter were pulled out again, the fire stoked. The door was shut to keep in the air and smoke. His screams turned to moans, but there was no dulling of pain.
One assistant rummaged through his bag and pulled out a scarificator. He exposed Pierre’s skin to cut into it.
The duc struggled against him and wrenched free his arm. “Out! Everyone out, this instant!”
“Your Grace, I can—”
The young man stayed though everyone else fled. He stood his ground, “Your Grace, if I bleed you—”
“My cane,” Pierre demanded instead. He sat and clutched his head as the room swam and darkened. He whimpered in pain. The boy looked around and saw a gentleman’s walking stick laying on the floor close by. He picked it up and handed it to the duc.
Pierre pressed a gem, the trigger to a spring lock, and pulled out a dagger from within. Without even looking up he drove it into the boy’s heart.
The spirits of death rushed the body. Pierre’s pain dissipated, and his sight returned. He spent a moment breathing deeply.
“Mora,” he finally called. “Mora, my dear.”
She appeared on his bed, sitting where she had last night. Her wings, which had been like smoke, were now as true as the rest of her. The flames roared behind her.
“Why?” he asked.
“You did not stay with me,” she said. “I offered you eternity, but you returned to this mortal existence.”
“I am sorry,” he replied. “It was a very tempting offer. I still, in some ways, wish to take it.” He looked up at her. “But I am not yours.” As close as he was to the Lady of Death, the name of suitor was used as a magical term and did not denote affection.
She raised a hand to touch his cheek, a corsage of larkspur on her wrist, and for a moment, every ache and pain was gone. His eyes closed and sighed.
With effort, he continued, “I passed your last test, Mora.” He opened his eyes and straightened. “I took my life and with my own control over the spirits I returned soul to body. It was your wish, not command, that I stay with you.”
Her nails dug into his face and the pain flowed over him stronger than before. He snatched her hand away. His blood, now indiscernible from black ink by sight, stained their hands.
She cried out in pain, but he did not let go. He held out a hand to her face to cup her cheek as she had done to him. Touching her pulse, stroking her throat, she gave a sigh and dropped her head onto his palm. He brushed a bloody thumb over her lips.
“You are a lady of death,” Pierre said through clenched teeth. “The Lady of Death in Triumphe. The spirits obey you, but as often as you are referred to as such in this realm, you are not in and of yourself Death. You gave me power over the spirits, first through you and now of my own accord.”
Her eyes widened, and her lips moved underneath his touch, but he snapped his fingers before she spoke. Mora collapsed. The pain throughout his body eased though the headache continued.
He forced himself from bed and over to where the young man lay. Pierre made certain the boy had some of his blood as well, then pulled free his dagger.
A soul drifted near the body unable to continue any further. The duc tied spirit to flesh in an elaborate knot, giving the boy a high chance of survival from future injury or infection; it was the least he could do after murdering him. The dagger wound began to heal, and after several moments, showed no mark. With another snap of his fingers the boy took in the first breath of his second life yet remained in a deep unaware sleep.
The scent of blood was heavy in the room, and his headache almost blinded him in response. Looking back to the bed, Mora had disappeared and Pluta sat observing. He smiled weakly to the cat.
“Do you think you will be able to clean this before we’re caught?” He gestured to the stained ground.
“Of course. Now sleep, Pierre.” He climbed into bed and threw off several of the covers. His familiar nudged his cheek with affection before jumping to the floor. He had killed her once too to make her his magical confidant. In return, she was given a lifespan far past usual, human speech and other magical oddities to deal with whatever her master was up to. Most importantly, she could consume evidence.
“Remind me to tell Uncle I apologize for being so rude to his students,” he said, lying down. “And for killing his second favorite.” He was asleep before she agreed.
His dreams were a tangle of greys and blacks with shimmers of gold and blue. A hand around his neck became a caress from throat to abdomen. Gentle nails sharpened to a blade’s point.