Sunday, February 2, 2014

Dead Man Stew 8

This is the penultimate chapter in this short story about Noir and Jesha. Next part should finish it. If you are expecting some of the other things, no worries. They're coming. Enjoy the story.

Jesha sighed.  "You could be a little thankful, couldn't you?  Or are you going to still not listen to me necromancer?"

 Noir gave the dark skinned undead hunter a long look, then he shrugged.  "Things are getting out of hand, aren't they?"

 "Dodge the question much?"

 Noir shook his head.  "This isn't proof of causation-"

 "Causation?  What are we talking science now?  Necromancer, all the restless dead are drawn to this place.  It has to be a blood drinker."  Jesha sat down, putting her face in her hand.  "Can you hear yourself?"

 "I still don't have a good enough reason to believe you."  Noir looked out at the wall of ghosts on the other side of the salt.  Each ghost looked drained, emaciated.  Ectoplasmic blood mixed with the ghostly salt water.  The brine of it stank.  Noir wondered about Bert.

 "I..." Jesha slammed her fist in frustration.  "Really?  Why do you have to be such a prick?  I know you like the dead, but by Lupus-"

 "-I think she's charmed me."  Noir added.  He tried not to blush at his words.

 "What?"  Jesha looked at him.  "Charmed?"

 "Don't make me repeat the words.  I don't think my mind is hundred percent clear.  My body wants... to... er..."

 "Bang Vickie's brains out?"  Jesha gave him a sidelong smile.  "That's cute necromancer."

 "Ugh.  No."  Noir shook his head.  "Its... not something I can let happen, I think."

 "And you can't put it all together because of it?"  

 "More or less."

 Jesha chuckled.  "Sometimes, Necromancer-"

 "Necrokinetic."  Noir corrected.  "I prefer Necrokinetic."

 "Fine, Nec-cro-kin-net-tic." Jesha enunciated each syllable. "Sometimes you've got to ignore reality.  You got ignore your body, you know?  Go with what your soul is telling you.  Don't trust the illusions you've made up."

 "Yeah."  Noir sighed.  "Yeah, sometimes you have to think without thinking."


 "You need to learn to think without thinking, Noir."  Marie, his mentor, stopped the boat.  

 Noir looked around nervous at his surroundings.  "Um, do we have to do that late at night?"

 Marie smiled, the lantern between them casting her in a warm glow.  Moths fluttered about them, as well as some buzzing of mosquitoes.  "Lake Martin isn't that bad ah place once yah know it.  Take a listen, Noir you hear all the song of the swamp has to say?"

 She'd taken him deep into Lake Martin, the swampland and wildlife preserve thick enough that they weren't near any civilization at all.  Noir imagined the sight of crocodiles and black bears, just outside their boat, waiting to take a snap at him.  

 "I think it might want to take a bite out of me,"  Noir stammered.  

 Marie pointed at a nearby bank.  "You'll have to see how dangerous it is for yourself.  That's where you get off."


 "You want to learn?  Or do you want to talk?"  Marie asked.  She kept pointing, driving the boat up to the bank.

 "Um... alright..."  Noir jumped out of the boat.  As soon as he did, Marie took out an oar and shoved the boat back out.  The boat drifted away, taking the light with it.  "Hold on!  Don't leave me here!"

 "Shut up and listen to the Swamp, Noir."  Marie parked the boat far enough away he could hear her, but couldn't make her out.  She continued, and he tried to understand what she was saying.  "I ain't going anywhere until you learn how to listen to it."

 "Okay, Noir."  He waved a hand in front of him.  He couldn't see it in the dark.  "Its okay.  She only left you in a... swamp wanting to kill you... just a foreign place."

 Noir could hear his father's words then, back before he'd left.  A foreign land is a land full of wolves, he'd used to say.  Noir didn't find that very comforting, but tried to let it settle him down.

 "Ugh?"  The questioning grunt caused Noir to leap up in the air.  Startled, the young necromancer tried to get away from it.  Instead, he found a pair of glowing green eyes stare down at him. 

 The massive, rotting corpse looked down, his gaze burrowing deep into Noir.  Noir froze.  This thing stank.  Worms and snakes crawled throughout its flesh.  Vines and other plant life also had grown in part of it.  Its hands looked more like a pair of thick clubs, bone and leathery flesh tightened together through aging into more weapons than anything else.

 "Ugh?"  The thing grunted again.  Noir didn't know what to think.  His body shivered in fear.  He tried to remember what he'd been taught, to say something or do something that might...

 The rotten thing opened its maw, green smoke came out, glowing bright in the night.  It illuminated Noir.  Noir realized that this was how he'd die.  Marie wouldn't be able to come back in time, and he was going to die.

 Then the rotten thing coughed.  A frog hit the ground in front of Noir.  It gave out a frightened "Ribbit!" Then it hopped away.

 "Beg pardon," The rotten hulk then, very politely, albeit in a thick french accent, stated, "you must be with wee Marie."

 "Ah... Okay..."  Confused, Noir stared back at the boat.  Marie waved at him.  Smiling her face off.  Great, she'd known all about this part.  Awesome.

"Ah.  I see."  The rotten hulk gave a bow.  "I am Jacques Martin.  Or is it Martin Jacques?  I forget.  It has been so very long for me to remember.  Wee Marie, I've known her since her grandmother introduced her to me when she was a very tiny girl.  You must be her new apprentice, no?"

 "Yeah... I am..." Noir couldn't believe the ridiculousness of this.  Here was some sort of monstrosity, undead or not, talking to him as though it were some polite meeting at a social function or something.

 "This is a lesson I think you didn't expect eh?"  Jacques asked him.

 "Yeah... I just assumed... well, I thought... er..."  Noir felt embarrassed to admit he thought Jacques was going to eat him or attack him.  It just seemed rude to say out loud now.

 "Yes.  Wee Marie needed to hear it too.  Your body, it can betray your mind, you know?"  Jacques waved at his body.  "I've lived in this swamp since my people first came here.  Long ago I learned the lesson that you cannot just rely on your body if you want to live."

 "But, you're... how long is that?  How could an undead live this long?"  Noir wondered at the possibilities of it.  He'd heard of some undead living long, but always at a cost.  Even then, they still faded away over time.

 "You and Wee Marie help the dead find peace, necromancer.  An 18th century witch wished to punish me for... well, adultery wasn't the only thing, but it reached the top of her queue."  Jacques shrugged.  "But I've lived here a long time.  My condition... well, it has its own mindless drives of its own too."

 Jacques pointed a leathery, rotten bony finger at Noir's chest.  "Your body froze.  It betrayed you.  When mine betrays me, Necromancer, it wants me to drink and eat people.  I live here to protect others."

 "That sounds kind of lonely."

 Jacques shrugged.  "I've learned to live with it.  There is so much still left here for me to learn and teach.  Wee Marie and her predecessors, I tell them the stories I've heard from the Bears and the Crocodiles.  There are other dead men and women who wander the swamps at night, and I keep them.  I've become a berger des défunts, a what is the english for it?  Berger, ah, shepherd.  A shepherd of the dead."

 "Oh."  Noir hadn't expected any of that.  "So... the body betrays?"

 "Yes."  Jacques nodded.  "You always have to remember that.  Reason can always save you, even when you are most forgone.  Reason, hope and altruism always, always bring a man back from damnation."

 Noir held out his hand.  "I'm Noir Bedarte."

 Jacques took his hand.  "Good to meet you, Noir."


 "Really?"  Jesha shook her head and laughed at the thought of it.  "I guess that's a plan.  What do you want on your tombstone?"

 "It'll work."

 "Uh huh.  You sure you can trust a mean old hunter like me?"  Jesha gave him a mischievous smirk.

 Noir shrugged.  He wasn't going to flirt with her, even if that seemed to be how she got ready for trouble.  "You do your part, that's all.  Once I'm sure-"

 "That's the part that'll go wrong, I tell ya."  Jesha stood up, grabbing salt shakers from the cabinets above them.  "But whatever.  I know my part.  You go do the stupid thing.  I'll save your ass, but this time you owe me something."

 "Like what?"

 Jesha leveled a gaze at him.  "A chance to prove you don't fuck dead people."

 "Riiight.  That isn't going to happen, Jesha."  Noir took out a pen and started to jot down the calculations going through his head.  He needed to craft the spell just right, especially if Jesha turned out to be correct.  "Let's focus on Vickie.  We should give her the chance to redeem herself."

 "Oh Deathcaller, you ain't ever seen me really fight."  Jesha threw a handful at the storm of undead, making a path for them to take.  "Once you see that, you ain't ever going to want to say no.  Hawt warrior princess, just you see."

 Noir looked up.  "Okay.  Now to go talk to a friend."

 He took a deep breath.  He hoped he was right.  Noir hoped that he could think without thinking enough to not be another drowned corpse, unless he and Jesha were wrong.  Of course, if they were wrong, well, then it didn't matter what they did next.  They'd drown either way, in a storm of angry ghosts.

He followed Jesha out through the path of salt.