Wigalf shifted in his makeshift stump/seat and cleared his throat. Across from him in this clearing beneath a shaded copse, Oliver had been staring intently at his uncomfortably long fingers… talons?… for minutes. The sun had just dipped below the horizon when they’d arrived and now the shadows were growing long.
It was already the oddest lesson he’d ever received, and he’d been in Drakenhof so that was saying something. Back in the castle, at least his mentors had still been human. Oliver’s utter stillness, from his unblinking eyes to his unbreathing chest, was bad enough when one wasn’t forced to endure it for incredibly long pauses.
It was Sigurd who mercifully appeared and broke the silence… or rather, didn’t. The shade was as noiseless as his master, but his appearance at least snapped Oliver from his reverie. Sigurd bore a stack of small books secured with a leather thong, probably seven or eight, altogether the stack was as tall as his forearm was long.
“My journals from the last six weeks. Acquaint yourself with them, Wigalf.”
The apprentice, who in another life might have been a father considering thoughts of his legacy or which girl to marry a son to, instead pondered the musings of the necromancer with equal parts excitement and abject fear. Who knew what madness lay within those pages? Oliver was watching him closely.
“They are partially written in the primordial tongue, a language you undoubtedly know by now; I veer between languages from time to time. Begin with the green-covered one: my thoughts on the essence of undeath and the blood kiss. What did the Von Carstein’s tell you of it?”
“They guarded their secrets,” he admitted, “especially from the novices. I only know it promises eternal life… power… perhaps madness.”
“None of these things are true,” came Oliver’s response. Wigalf straightened and frowned as he took the books from Sigurd. The Shade drifted into the shadows and disappeared from his sight. The Necrarch continued, “Un-life is not eternal. It is a larceny and one pursued by the powers you steal it from. Your energies, my apprentice, currently remain tied to … forces. The Blood Kiss removes their grasp upon the part of you which is eternal and houses it within your shell.” Oliver waggled a talon up and down in Wigalf’s direction.
“But like a burning candle, it is expended over time. Without-”
“Yes. And no. Don’t interrupt. Without something to reinvigorate your energies, they will dwindle and disperse. Your Ren, your true name, will be lost… then it is only a matter of time before you disperse to the Aether.
“Blood is only one fuel. The Sekhem of a spirit flows within the blood. Dark magic itself, Dhar once it enters your flesh, is another fuel. There may yet be more but our forefather was content with Dhar and so must we be.”
Oliver began to pace as he pontificated. Wigalf tried to spare some attention to the first few words of the green journal’s pages but found this difficult. The apprentice proffered a question, “What are these forces which lay claim to my soul?”
“Ah! That is a matter of much debate! Priests of Sigmar… morons all… believe the soul must be weighed. Pay them no heed whatsoever. The gods seem to be the most convenient answer. But do these beings have spirits? If they do, to whom do the gods’ energies belong? If the gods are eternal, what mechanism makes it so? Perhaps they feed upon the spirits of mortals as vampires feed upon blood? Or perhaps they feed upon the mindless devotion? This leads to the most important question of all, good Wigalf:
“If we wrest our spirits from their grasp… do we not become like gods ourselves? Imagine it!” Oliver’s pacing had become almost theatrical. Some of the other humans in the army’s camp were drifting close to listen to him. If other things besides just Sigurd listened from the shadows, Wigalf couldn’t sense them.
“Imagine a world where all creatures were free of the gods’ whims. That is what the Blood Kiss offers, and why the priesthoods find it so abhorrent. Eternity is not for the weak minded such as they anyway. Think very carefully before you embrace it. After my own master deemed me worthy, I spent the next fifty years entombed with a golden mask over my face.”
Wigalf shrunk a little and glanced at the ground.
“Oh don’t worry, I won’t do that to you. Unless you start getting ideas…”