The morning was silent, the air crisp and swaying through the town with little regard. The morning overall was peaceful, the soft rumbling of car engines sounding almost like that of a beehive, constantly moving and working, only resting when they found their destination. Everything seemed in the correct place, that was until, a scream ripped through the blanket of tranquility. Bloodcurdling and full of terror and urgency, it shook the normal routine of the townspeople. A woman, her body frozen in terror, stared down at the mangled and lifeless body of a man. She stumbled back, promptly losing her footing and landing on her rear end.
A crowd began to form, hushed and horrified whispers making their way into people’s ears. The man had been left by the town’s jogging path leading out of the woods nearby, a strange mark on the side of his face. It wasn’t anything they had seen before, twisting lines and patterns etched into flesh. The police department had been notified, already dispatching a few officers to check it out. They arrived about 10 minutes later, stepping out of the aged police cruiser and walking over, the crowd parting like waves to unmask the horror behind them.
[i “Alright, alright. Everyone calm down.”] One of the older officers, a gruff looking man with slicked back salt and pepper hair waved his hands towards the crowd, trying to disperse them. [i “Everyone go back home, we got this handled.”] He offered in a reassuring tone, though the expression on people’s faces showed they weren’t too convinced.
A woman stood on the outskirts of the ocean of people, a dark hoodie pulled over her head to conceal her face. Wisps of jet black hair escaped through the sides, dancing in the wind that brushed along her face. She was seemingly fixated on the body, trying her best to get closer to get a better look. The younger officer was shooing people away, seeming frustrated and frankly quite disgusted with the whole ordeal.
[i “Everyone needs to step back please! We can’t have anything tampered with, have some respect!”] She barked out, her long blonde hair tied back in a sleek bun. She scoffed beneath her breath, watching as some of the crowd thinned out. She caught sight of the dark dressed figure inching their way closer until they were at the front of the crowd, a phone clutched tightly in their hand. Reporter? No usually they wear some sort of jacket, and it was much too quick for the news to hear about this already. The officer’s thoughts were wandering until the subtle blink of a camera flash went off, startling her.
[i “No pictures! Have some damn respect!] She barked out, stepping closer to put herself in between the body and civilians. After a few more minutes of shooing and yelling, the crowd left; all for the woman from before. They seemed fixated on the body, or more so the mark the body had on display.
[i “Marks like that aren’t from natural causes. Neither is the state that body is in.”] They spoke finally, both officers looking up with little regard. The male seemed a tad uncomfortable when he got a look under the woman’s hood, clearing his throat awkwardly.
[i “We really don’t have to make this a big spectacle… It could honestly just be some sicko.”] He offered meekly, adjusting the collar on his uniform shirt. The woman pulled her hood down, a black and ornate mask situated comfortably over her eyes and leaving her mouth exposed. He seemed on edge with her even being around, let alone speaking.
[i “You’re as aware as I am that this isn’t some run of the mill killing.”] The woman stepped forward, crouching down next to the body to get a closer look. The female officer moved to stop her, only to have her shoulder grabbed by her superior, his head shaking as a way of telling her not to interfere.
Something was definitely off with the masked woman, though she seemed suspicious of the body, almost as if it was faking or hiding information. Only time could tell, they inspected the photo they had taken on their phone, making sure the image was clear. They didn't recognize the symbol, though it looked unnatural. Their head turned to look at the police, a small smile tugging at the corner of their lips.
[i “You two wouldn’t happen to know anything about magic, would you?]
[size12 Living in solitude was not his idea but it was forced upon him anyway. At least he can keep his collections safe and protect his herd garden easily. A simple but powerful barrier around his little house in the woods helps keep those with ill intentions out.]
[size12 It’s been a long while since he’s had any visitors. It’s not like he had many to begin with. He is hated by the world after all and is only sought after as a last resort. The only time he ventures out of his house is to restock on food and toiletries. He may be immortal but he still has to take care of himself. Today was one of those days he had to go out. It’s days he dreads because he knows someone will give him hell. With a heavy sigh, he grabs his cloak. He usually doesn’t wear the cloak around the house unless someone is there. His face tended to scare people, especially his eyes. Once it was situated in place and the hood up, he heaved another sigh and headed out the door.]
[size12 The city he lived near was busy. Full of people and full of life. The buzz of it was energizing. Well, it would be if he was anyone else or anything else. Even a blood mage doesn’t get this much hate or stares. With haste in his steps and a hunched over figure, he had one goal in mind. The one shop with the one person that didn’t detest him. His shop was true neutral ground and he kicked anyone out that dared to so much as give a sideways glance at his favorite customer. Once he got there, which appeared to be more of a run down shop you find in a fantasy town, he breathed a sigh of relief.] [+red “Roark. Good to see you again. What you needing this time?”]
[b “Just a few things this time. You got my hair products in yet?”]
[+red “You bet. Enough to last you at least three months. Got some other goodies for you to look at.”]
[size12 Roark gave a small smile. He moved around to where the shopkeeper usually kept the things for him. Roark then twitched as the man started yelling at someone to get the fuck out. He got the feeling someone made a face at him. Having someone defend him like that brought a weak smile to his face.]
[size12 The items were mostly the usual food and personal care items. However, in one basket he found something rare. He picked up a golden colored tangle of roots and his eyes went wide.] [b “Yasmite root. I thought this stuff couldn’t be cultivated anymore because of soil quality. How?”]
[+red “Apparently there’s still some wild sources of it left in a few areas. The earth mages are working to cultivate it again in the areas where it’s growing the strongest.”]
[b “Damn. This stuff has all kinds of uses. To see it again is great. I hope it comes back like it used to be or close to it.”] [sie12 He spotted something else in the basket and pulled it up. It was a pouch full of round objects. He opened it and pulled one out.] [b “Of all things to find me, it’s these. These things are a nightmare.”]
[+red “Better you than anyone else. At least you can deal with them and make use of them.”]
[b “That is true. I just end up looking like a pin cushion in the end. And bitten all to hell.”]
[+red “That’s what happens when working with the spiny tiger fanged salamander.”]
[b “Thanks for the supplies though. How much do I owe you this time?”] [size12 Money was exchanged and everything was packed into a magic pouch that has vast storage. Roark thanked the shopkeeper again and headed out, once again with haste.]
[size12 On his way home, he heard the typical words of hate and had things thrown at him. Nothing new. It saddened him but he was used to it by now. Once he reached the forest edge, the edge of the barrier, he could breathe easy. He got home, got things put away and slipped his cloak off. Then he curled up on the sofa and turned the tv on, hoping it would distract him from his thoughts, even for a little bit.]
The masked woman, Maytag, sat in her home’s office, multiple books strewn across the top of her oak desk. Some had worn covers, and others with questionable crimson stains across the weathered pages. Her mask sat idly on the edge of the desk, the gold markings seeming to glow in the dim lighting. She couldn’t find this mark anywhere. Old scriptures, the internet, it all seemed quite fruitless. The TV blared in the background, some noise to help quell her thoughts.
After a few long moments, Maytag stood, her stomach growling at the lack of food she had consumed in the past few hours or so. She shuffled out of her office, making her way to the fairly decent looking kitchen and digging through her fridge. She flicked on the small TV that sat on the counter, listening to the news drone on about the murder from earlier this morning. Something was still eating away at her, what did that symbol mean? She had considered herself profound in the supernatural, but this seemed almost out of her league.
She had thrown herself together a simple sandwich, nudging the refrigerator door shut with her foot. She sat at the small barstool she had paired with her kitchen island, watching the news report with little interest. [i “Some sicko, my ass.”] She grumbled. Regular humans always had a way of explaining away the things they didn’t understand. It truly left no room for growth or understanding.
She took a bite of her food, chewing carefully before standing and switching off the TV, making her way back to her office and plopping down in the worn leather chair. Maybe there was one other option she could try. She had heard rumors of a necromancer, though they were hard to find these days. Necromancy was always frowned upon, people believing the dead should, well, stay dead. She clamped her sandwich between her teeth and she rifled through some loose pages on her desk, pulling one out that she had found some time ago. Her eyes scanned over the messy ink scrawling that served as words, her brow knitting together in concentration.
[i “Roark?”] The name felt unfamiliar to her tongue, but she shrugged her shoulders. She didn’t have any other ideas, so maybe the darker side of magic would serve her curiosity well. She nodded to herself before reopening her computer, typing in whatever keywords she could. Blogs, strange sites, possible scams illuminated her laptop’s screen before one with at least a location caught her attention. A city, maybe 45 minutes to an hour from the town she was situated in. She clamped the computer shut, finished off her food, and placed her mask back on her face. She stood from her chair and headed for the front door, deciding to pay the coroner’s office a visit before going further with her plan of getting some more hired help.
[size12 Roark had dozed off. Sleep wasn’t something he got often. The dead tended to talk to him when his mind was free from the waking world's distractions and noise. Sometimes it was just nonsense. Other times they had something to say. However, this time was eerie. It made Roark wake up with such a start, he jumped clean off the sofa and onto the floor with a fantastic whump.]
[b “Son of bitch. If my pain tolerance was normal, that would have hurt.”] [size12 He grumbled and he got himself up off the floor. He dusted his backside off and fixed his hair which had gotten all up in his face like a brides veil. He then zoned out, thinking about what the eerie voice had said to him.] [b “I hope that’s not some sort of prophecy or something. ‘Mark of a bloodless death. Fate intertwined with another.’ Eerie.”] [size12 He shivered from a chill running down his spine, doing that weird derp movement that happens with it.]
[size12 Roark shook off the thought after the shiver passed and decided to do a bit of work. His house was built by no one but himself. He did get help, though not the typical help one would expect. Since no one was willing to help him, he made his own help by simply raising the dead and got a few minions to help him out. Of course, they didn’t return to dust without a proper thanks. The house is quite large, having three rooms and two bathrooms in the actual house part and a massive underground part that’s bigger than it appears to be. There is only one way to the underground part of the house and it’s very well hidden, requiring special magical skills ust to see its location let alone be able to activate the runes to open the ‘portal’.]
[size12 Right now, Roark wanted to work outside in the garden. He had quite a large garden filled with all kinds of herbs, medicinal, magical and spice. From common herbs to rare and even extinct species he managed to save seeds of, the garden is a valuable piece of his craft. He always makes sure to save any seeds, specially from the rare and extinct species, so he can cultivate them again.]
[size12 The garden is cared for meticulously. Not a weed nor withered leaf is in sight. The soil is properly watered and healthy compost added when needed. No pests are ever seen thanks to many of the plants natural ability to deter pests. Roak breathed in the aroma of his garden and a smile formed on his face. A true smile is something that rarely appears on his solemn face anymore. Despite the eerie color of his black and blue eyes, sadness is still like a deep ocean in them. Years, no, centuries of hate has built him into the man he is now. And yet, he has not a single malicious cell in his body towards a single soul on the planet.]
[size12 As he worked in the garden, going over each plant and checking the soil, a rustle in the brush near the woods edge caught his attention. While people hate him, the animals don’t. Animals can look past magic and appearances and know a good soul from a bad one. Animals have always loved Roark. His soul was never darkened by his choice in magic or even his past. When he looked up from his work, he was greeted by a young deer.] [b “Oh. Hello, there. Come for a visit?”] [size12 The deer slowly approached and nuzzled his arm.] [b “You are just a cute little thing.”] [size12 He said softly as he scratched the neck of the deer. It made a sound as it leaned into the scritch. It suddenly perked up and darted off.] [b “Hmm. Wonder what spooked her.”] [size12 Roark shrugged and continued to work on his garden as he began to hum a song from his childhood, a song that’s centuries old.]
Maytag hummed as she threw open the police station glass doors, striding inside with a bit of a pep in her step. She walked up to the desk, leaning her elbows on it and smiling widely. [i “Hey there kiddo, I need to talk to the man in charge of your little operation.”] The rookie behind the desk seemed surprised, and a bit uncomfortable.
He stammered a weak response, indicating he was confused, before the older policeman from earlier stepped out, his eyes narrowing when he saw Maytag. He ushered her into his office quickly, closing the door behind them and crossing his arms over his chest.
[i “What do you want? To make this poor man’s death a spectacle?”] He growled, sitting on the edge of his desk while Maytag merely smiled.
[i “Of course not. But this isn’t some backwoods weirdo who decided to get into runology. That symbol means something, I’m sure of it. But I have no clue where to start. I believe we need some outside help. There’s word of a necromancer who could possibly be of assistance.”] She smiled and tapped her chin with her index finger as she spoke.
[i “No way in hell! I’m not having a necromancer poke around here!”] He threw his arms out, almost in an ‘X’ formation before him. [i “We’ll cover it up like we do with everything else!”] He said with almost a snarl, walking to the door and opening it. [i “You keep that magic outta my town, you understand me, May?”]
She couldn’t help but roll her eyes, stepping out of his office and jumping a bit when the door was slammed behind her. She let out a soft breath and smiled. Seems like this would be an adventure of her own. She pulled her phone out of her pocket and looked up the city the Necromancer was last seen in, pursing her lips in thought and heading out of the station to the train station on the south side of the town. Hopefully she could catch the train in time. There was a bit of excitement in her step as she moved, a real necromancer. They were hard to come by these days, and meeting one that would be willing to speak was a rare occasion. She moved swiftly, not wanting to waste any time.
[size12 Roark was happy minding the garden when suddenly his face began to twist up, his nose starting to itch. Then after a few seconds of huffing, he sneezed. The sneeze was enough to make a squirrel squeaked, spazzed out and fell out of a nearby tree that was close to the house. The small animals spazzed as it scurried off into the woods. Roark chuckled watching the animal.] [b “My bad. Someone must have been talking about me.”]
[size12 The thought of someone talking about him stopped him in his tracks, however. His face went cool and blank. He shook off the thought and decided to head back inside. He’s had enough with the eerie thoughts. Which is odd coming from someone that can raise an army of the dead if he wanted to. Of course, he never got used to the idea of it. He tried to limit how much he used his power and for good reason. Not only is it morally questionable but if he wasn’t in the best of control, things could easily go south.]
[size12 The gloves Roark wears goes up to his shoulders so it looks like sleeves. The fabric is designed to repel dirt and grime so he didn’t have to take them off as often. Because of the way his body has changed when he gained the chaotic power, things work a little differently. He doesn’t sweat anymore as his core temp is closer to that of a corpse than it is a living body and yet his heart still beats and blood still flows. People in the past have said it was creepy though they understood it was something he couldn’t help. He can raise his temp a bit by soaking in really hot water but he’s not exactly fond of showing off his body to anyone.]
[size12 He heaved a sigh as he dusted the dirt off the fabric and leather of his gloves and outfit. The skin on his back was starting to feel tight again. Even after all these centuries, he still has problems with his back.] [b “Just a reminder of the hell I somehow survived. Gonna have to make some more balm.”] [size12 He grumbled as he bent backwards trying to loosen the skin on his back like someone would do to a freshly dried hide.]
[size12 He found where the runes were to open the portal to head underground and in the blink of an eye, he was gone. Underground was a vast space filled with relics, books, scrolls, stored herbs and everything else one could think of. It was a mage’s ultimate dream place. In one room was a work space where Roark made things like potions, medicine and other similar things. He got to work pulling various things from the wall of herbs in the room and started boiling, crushing, mashing, grinding and mixing things into a balm for his back. It was a pain to have to make it every time but it didn’t keep for very long and he only needed it every so often as his skin became an annoyance.]
[size12 He started humming again, this time a different song. But in the back of his head, he felt he might be getting a visitor soon and his world was about to get flipped around.]
The train ride had worn Maytag out pretty well, as strange as it might sound. Passing glances and hushed whispers of the face beneath the ornate mask were always mentally exhausting to listen to but she had grown accustomed to it overall. She stretched her arms above her head, a satisfying crack echoing through her joints. She couldn’t help but groan, adjusting the long jacket she wore and stepping onto the train station platform.
Her eyes fell upon the faded ink of the map that sat in a scratched plexiglass casing, walking over and leaning forward a bit to get a better look. Her lips pursed in a bit of annoyance, her pointer finger pressing against the glass over the small star that served as a starting point. The city was about 2 miles north of here, not hard; just very bothersome. This guy had better be worth her time for all this traveling.
She began making her way to her destination, not wanting to spend money on some taxi to take her two miles. She enjoyed walking anyhow, pulling the hood up on her jacket and shoving her hands into the pockets of it. It was a good 20, almost 30 minutes before she arrived, exhaling and not really sure where to start. Someone should have heard something. Assuming if this city was like everywhere else, they would be avoiding the necromancer like well, the plague.
She took some time to ask around, her head kept lowered to try to keep her mask from view, as fruitless as it was in conversations. She could never understand why people were so intent to look each other in the eyes these days. She only received annoyed stares or bewildered expressions as to why she was hunting down Roark. Some brushing her off or cursing her out. She had all but given up until she spotted a shop that seemed out of place. Nestled between two buildings it seemed frozen in time oddly enough. She made her way over, pushing open the door and stepping inside.
[size12 Roark took careful time to make the balm. Once it was ready, he stripped what could only be called a vest with an odd collar off and pulled his long silver and blue hair to the side, exposing his back. His back was worse than a roadmap. Raised lines and deep canyons, both smooth and jagged, criss-crossed his back in so many directions, it was impossible to tell where one scar started and another ended. There were even burn scars from branding irons and metal rods mixed in there. This was from years of being tortured by a very cruel king.]
[size12 Using a levitation spell, Roark hovered a massage roller around. It rolled repeatedly in the fresh balm before moving to his back, massaging the balm into the rough, scarred skin. The process took a while but it was well worth it. It helped keep the skin soft and kept it from getting tight. Badly scarred skin tended to do that if not properly cared for.]
[size12 Meanwhile, the shopkeeper that Roark visited earlier that day was simply doing inventory checks and writing up orders for the next day’s restock. Usually people came mostly in the morning to pick up and place orders so it was quiet now. Of course, there was always an order for Roark. It was a standing order, in fact. The shopkeeper heaved a sigh, feeling sorry for the old soul.]
[size12 When the door opened, a bell always rang. Usually, when it was busy, the door was kept open but when it was quiet, it was kept closed. The bell rang, catching the shopkeepers attention. The person that walked in was definitely new to the area. His eyes narrowed as an uncomfortable thought entered his mind. He chased it off and moved to the counter.] [+red “Welcome, newcomer. What is it that you seek? We have all kinds of things here and if we don’t have it, we can find it. Including information.”]
[size12 Back at Roark’s house, a shiver ran down his spine. Was it a chill from the coolness of the underground? No. It was that ominous feeling again. That feeling of something, or rather someone, closing in on him. He shook it off. The balm was used up and fully applied to his back. He had to wait a while for it all to be absorbed into his skin or else things would be greasy under the leather of his vest. He used a ribbon to tie his hair back, though it was sloppy and left loose bits round his face. He heaved a sigh. He grabbed his vest and got up, moving towards the runes to head back up to the house. He went back up and then just leaned his forehead against the wall, his back towards the window.]
[font "Times New Roman" The soft chime of the door’s bell caused Maytag’s head to tilt up, she smiled to herself before allowing herself to get a good look around at the many shelves and curiosities that surrounded her. If she wasn’t so busy, she’d kill to have the time to fully explore this little gem, but there was work to be done. She cleared her throat for a moment, adjusting the hood on her head before she was spoken to. She looked up at the man and smiled warmly, clasping her hands together.]
[font "Times New Roman" [i “Well that truly is fantastic! Best thing I’ve heard all day in fact.”]] [font "Times New Roman" She approached the counter, sliding her hood down.] [font "Times New Roman" [i “I am indeed searching for someone, and I hope you can be of assistance to me, good sir!”]]
[font "Times New Roman" Her demeanor seemed strange to some, friendly and warm but something lurked beneath the surface. It was almost spooky to people who spoke to her. But her smile never wavered as the covered eyes of her mask seemingly bore into the man. She dug into her pocket, taking out a small bit of paper she had written the Necromancer’s name on.]
[font "Times New Roman" [i “Now, I know it’s a bit taboo, but I’m looking for a person named Roark. Maybe you’ve heard of them? I’m not meaning to seem like a stalker or anything, but I have important business with them.”] She shoved the paper back into her pocket, the name still sitting on her tongue like a curse. This guy couldn’t be that weird… right? Necromancers were magic users at the end of the day.]
[font "Times New Roman" Something just felt off about the entire murder. The symbol, body placement, body condition. It just felt all too surreal and unnatural, even for the supernatural. Her hand reached up to tuck a stray lock of hair that had fallen in front of her face back to its spot behind her ear, anxiously waiting for the man’s reply. She was half expecting to get kicked out again, or have things thrown at her for even inquiring.]
[size12 There were always strange and odd folks coming in and out of the shop. Humans weren’t the only species still in the world either. Granted, some species were much rarer than they were back centuries ago but they still existed in their own domains. Magic didn’t start with humans after all.]
[size122 The shopkeeper went wide-eyed upon the mention of the name. Not from offense but from shock that anyone would willingly seek out that man. The world despised him. How dare he disturb the dead for his own purposes!]
[size12 He regained his composure.] [+red “If you seek him out, then something must have gone very wrong. People only seek him out in the most dire of situations.] [size12 He heaved a sigh.] [+red “Wait here. I have a map that will guide you to his home.”] [size12 He then turned and walked off to a room in the back of the store.]
[size12 Clatter could be heard as the man searched for the map. Another voice that wasn’t his sounded before his own replied. More noise, more clattering, a loud bang and yelp, the shopkeeper cussing like a navy sailor. Apparently, the back room was a disaster zone. It was about five minutes before the shopkeeper came back out covered in dust. In his right hand was a folded piece of paper. He placed it on the counter top and slid it over to the woman.] [+red “That’s the map. His place isn’t too far from here. He’s made his home in the middle of the woods though and has it well protected. You should be fine as long as your intention to see him is not of ill will. Otherwise, that barrier of his will pack a wallop.”] [size12 He seemed to go into thought for a moment, as if trying to remember some key details.] [+red “Oh. One other thing. He doesn’t always pay attention to the door when he’s got his mind set on doing something. He may also be in his garden or in the basement part of his house.”]
[size12 Meanwhile, Roark heaved a sigh and moved off from the wall. He rubbed his eyes as if trying to get them refocused.] [b “I really need to find a substitute for the damn Serene Root. So sleepy.”] [size12 He mumbled before a yawn took over as he wobbled his way to the sofa and flopped onto it like a ragdoll, arms and legs going wherever they happen to land.]
[font "Times New Roman" As the man retreated to the backroom, she took a long moment to fully inspect the shop. What a strange little place, she was surprised she hadn’t heard of it before. The situation was indeed dire, and it was a matter of time before more bodies began appearing. She could only imagine the horrors of leaving this entire situation to lie.
The clattering in the back was almost comical, her hand coming up to stifle the small laugh that threatened to escape her. She composed herself when the shopkeeper returned, looking towards the map he produced. How dramatic. People must really hate this guy. She reached forward and picked the bit of parchment up, pulling it open to inspect it further.
Tromping through the woods wasn’t planned for the day, but she’d make it work. She rolled it back up hastily and shoved it in her coat pocket before bowing her head. [i “I thank you for your cooperation.”] Her lips were pulled into a sincere smile before she turned to leave.
Middle of the woods, and a protection ward. Roark really did not like company. She couldn’t tell if that was a good or bad sign. Maytag assumed she’d find out in good time, just like all things. She exhaled sharply before making her way to the woods, things could never be cut and dry, could they?]
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