Sunday, June 17, 2007

I Shall Draw Power From the Bones of the Dead


From the Journal of Stephen Absalom

When I was younger I had a single prophetic moment. Touring a museum with my friends, marveling at the remains of the great beasts of the past, I spoke without thinking.

“One day, I will draw power from the bones of the dead.”

I was a little stunned, I'd meant to comment on the majesty and power of the beasts, but had instead said that. I shrugged it off, but never fully forgot it.

Growing up, Stephen was vaguely aware that his father, Jacob, was an exceptionally cruel and uncompromising man. Despite this, Jacob had always been a kind and good father to Stephen and so Stephen didn't mind too much. Jacob was a magician, specifically a demonologist: gaining power by binding demons and bending their souls and wills to his. Cruel people are the only ones who make it very far in that line of work.

Given his reputation and methods, Jacob made many enemies. Stephen watched assassin after assassin assault his father and be utterly destroyed. He, like many children, thought his father was the most powerful man in the world. Unlike many children, there were likely times when he was right. When Stephen was seventeen, however, his father proved to be vulnerable after all.

A group of assassins, both magical and mundane, assaulted Jacob in his home. A combination of luck and preparedness allowed them to succeed where others had failed.

Jacob gave Stephen instructions to run. And run fast. In the meantime he sacrificed himself to destroy most of the attackers.

Unfortunately, two of the assailants had followed Stephen out of the house and were therefore not destroyed by the explosive death-throes of the magician.

Stephen did as his father told him. He ran. He ran as fast as he could for as long as he could. Seeing the two men close behind him only further motivated him.

He ended up in a graveyard. Headstones, ancient and faded, littered the ground, blocking his path, causing him to stumble. Eventually, he fell fully flat.

The two men closed in on him. Both were of average height, though one was noticeably buffer than the other. The leaner man pulled out a switchblade, the blade emerging with a thwick as he advanced on Stephen. He smirked a little as he stared down at the boy.

“It's nothing personal, kid. You just had the wrong daddy.”

Staring death in the face Stephen remembered his words from many years ago. He reached out with his mind, feeling the bones below him.

Come to me, he thought. Lend me your strength for a while.

Tiny black tendrils emerged from the grave beneath Stephen, gently caressing his face and body. They crept up and snaked into his eyes turning them a pitch black color.

Meanwhile the thugs were not reacting well to this. They both took a step back as this transformation suddenly affected their supposedly helpless quarry.

“What's he doing Joe?” asked the bigger one, visibly nervous.

“I don't know!” the smaller man responded. “But I think I'm gonna kill him before he pulls off some trick he learned from daddy.”

The lean man, Joe, lunged. Stephen raised his arm, tendrils of blackness snaked outward, intertwining and forming a point. Joe impaled himself on this structure as tendrils issued from Stephen's other hand and plucked the knife from his assailant's hand and brought it to his own.

The spearlike growth retracted into the darkness now swirling around Stephen. The boy rose and stepped over to Joe and looked down at him. He raised his hand to point at the remaining attacker, who was just beginning to run away. Inky tendrils emerged sinuously from around Stephen's arm and ensnared the bulky man, snaking around his neck and slowly squeezing the life out of him.

Stephen spoke to the rapidly dying Joe. “It's nothing personal. You just tried to kill the wrong kid.” And he reached down and slit the assassin's throat with his own blade.

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