Dragon Stone: Chapel of The Dead

The Necromage.

“Ignorance is death. A closed mind is a catafalque.”

Anna Quindlen

“Remember, your body is the vehicle that your soul is using here on Earth. If you don’t pay attention and take great care with your vehicle, it will break and become useless. Then your soul will be released and return.”

Author: Sister Souljah

This is another short story for this month’s prompt. All characters have been silenced, as this is the first appearance of the Necromage.

BLOGBATTLE prompt word Catafalque

Dragon Stone: Chapel of The Dead

Even long dead bones trembled in the darkness. A once proud Elder Mage was reduced to a withering wreck before releasing the rune lock. Satisfied, the Necromage released his grip and opened the door. The first time in centuries that an unknown civilisation created and then abandoned the necropolis, leaving its library of the dead waiting for a future custodian.

The ease with which the granite rolled back was unnatural for something that had lain closed for millennia. Credit to the builders. Most of whom dwelt on the shelves within. He could hear them shuffling into dark recesses in an attempt to avoid the Necromage’s glare. It worked not as he sent tendrils of his craft as a reminder not to refuse enquiry.

As he entered, sconces lit. Automated ignition devised through arcane conjuration. It displeased him. Darkness was his domain, not light. It served one purpose only. To show the racks of dead extending into the distance. Tier upon tier and to one side, an exclusive collection of Elder Magi predecessors. In chronological order, which stretched back in time for aeons. He searched rapidly through necromancy. Older and older as his mind drifted through the corpse spirits. Somewhere in these dead courses, there was a catafalque. Upon the was his predecessor. At least, that was the inference from the screaming dead.

It was in the Prophecy of the Skull, too. Seek the necropolis, and deep within shall the acolyte find the master. Except he was no acolyte, not now. It had taken four hundred years to unravel the puzzle and a further half-century to pass through the rune door. During this time, the War of the Elders had come and gone, dragons were vanquished, and what remained of the Elder Magi were being hunted down by his hunters, The Magi of Enigma.

He had lain inside a conjurer’s bubble for half that time, waiting for some fool of a dwarf to unlock it. So much manipulation and patience to get the elf and him to leave the Keep and begin the other prophecy. Tendrils of the puzzle were left in libraries throughout the world, each dripping the Crow until imbeciles took over and avarice followed. Man was a predictable species that ran in cycles. Ignorant of the past, uninterested in the future and wrapped in greed. It was a simple game of solitude, waiting until the cycle dipped and pushing the nearest dead thing to start the wheel turning.

Cresswell had his uses, and by the time he worked out whose side he was on, matters would be long passed. These thoughts drifted through the shroud as he began the search for the Originator.

Corridors spewed left and right, tier upon tier of alcoves holding bones and rotted garments. Some distant artisans of the dark arts arranged it all. As with the Vault in Tor Angra, long ago, these halls would be full. Except these would be fighting against the light. Echoes of their words rippled as he moved through the layers. Steps led down; their risers worn by ancient use. Stopping, he listened.

Close Necromage, the source lingers like an aftertaste.

The Matriarch was right. Now, he paused to let tendrils of his craft flow among the holes in the rock. He could sense another waiting. The right word, but was it that or baiting? No research had revealed anything before the Elder Magi. Though he was older than that civilisation, all paths led to false trails. Lies and deceit shielding the truth. Even his mastery of those traits failed to unlock anything.

Dragons, he was certain, knew more but deflected all attempts to reveal their knowledge. Of all creatures, alive or dead, these were immune to his ministrations. He inhaled the scents of death and tried not to let anger consume him. One day, he would know more and then all worlds would crumble. For now, it was the Originator. That would know the secrets of the Time Library and how to collapse it.

Ahead, he felt a spasm of fear from a crypt. He tipped the serpent staff forward and found a High Elf lying in unrest. Another Gate Keeper. That meant another rune door and, if The Matriarch was right, behind that was a cubiculum containing the catafalque. His mind searched the bone pile, moving into the space beyond where souls drifted in an ethereal emptiness.

“Fear me not, Gate Keeper. Speak freely, and no harm will come to you.”

“I’m dead fool. What can you possibly do to me now?”

The Necromage smiled, “Have it your way.”


Time passed, slower for the Gate Keeper as strands of dark magic flowed beyond this world and into the next before wrapping around the essence of life that was. Grinding the remnants and breaking bones that should no longer have sensation. Yet here in the dark arts, all was reconnected. The difference now was that pain alone was inescapable. No death or fainting, just endless torment and screams as each bone shattered, reminding the Gate Keeper of misery long forgotten when the builders left them to rot inside bricked-up loculi.

As the door slid open, the Necromage drew the ancient soul with him. As with the others, it entered the collection trapped in the weave of his shroud. His knowledge was now part of the mage’s library. Joining a plethora of others now suffering eternal torment. It pleased him.

Once inside, the cubicula defied the confines of a catacomb. In the centre was a stone chapel surrounded by a liquid pool of mercury. A small boat lay on the opposite side, linked to a chain anchored to an iron ring set on a rune-etched standing stone. His hand of bone clenched, and the chain creaked into motion, drawing the craft toward the oak platform he now stood upon.


Inside the chapel lay a granite sarcophagus. Dark runes scribed across its entire surface. This rested on a black catafalque. Inside the tomb, a long-dead eye opened on the desiccated husk within. Satisfied that the builders had left each organ preserved in jars and resting alongside the remains of his life, it began reassembly. As the Necromage entered, a silent alarm initiated rebirth. In silence, the stone lid slid off, and it waited for the Necromage.

It has woken Necromage. Beware the trickery of this one.

The Matriarch already knew of the mistake, yet the Necromage had no time to consider how. She had sensed an awakening suggesting she knew of the creature within the chapel. Had they once been in a union? If so, it presented a black mark on his trusted wyvern. A warning was one thing. Failing to inform him of what he now faced was treachery. That said, dragons were not known for divulging their secrets readily. It could wait until the path was clearer. He tightened his grip on the staff and felt The Matriarch become angry.

Ahead, a stone bridge arced over more mercury. A double moat poisoning any who entered with life. He already knew that beneath the surface lay a bone field. Some were discarded after construction, a few early grave robbers and many were the followers of the Originator. He listened. Most were not thereby consensual agreement. The weave on his shroud fluxed, waiting to harvest more souls. One he had located already that was prepared to unveil what he intended to approach.

“Your arts of darkness are not required, Mage. I give freely after millennia of unrest.”

“Speak on Builder.”

“Inside lies death. What you are he once was. A master of Necromancy that cut all living creatures from existence once this necropolis was completed. Be warned, he rests among his organs, waiting for such as you to offer up a new existence.”

The shroud fluxed once more as the bone hand gripped the serpentine staff. “Come then freely and enter this weave. For you, there shall be salvation from this liquid metal.”

As his grip on the dead builder eased, it retracted with another to add to the collection. Focus turned to the bridge and an arched oak door resting on blackened iron hinges. The chapel itself was no house of God. Crafted to resemble one, but not here in the depths of a necropolis where catacombs stretched ever on, filled with cubicula lined with loculi. From the builder he knew, branched corridors fled into the darkness. Each home to sarcophagi. All spread from a pentagram with this unhallowed chapel at the centre. Suppose the Originator rose again, then so too would each arm’s host and, no doubt, the legion lying below this cavern.

He paused. Long years kept his mind sharp. Legend spoke of a husk waiting to rise again. This was the Prophecy of the Skull. A wanderer would approach a tomb and be consumed by fire. From the flame would come an ancient enemy. Rebirth from the ashes of the fool. There were many such prophecies. The crow was one, the Elder Soul another.

The Necromage searched for outcomes using chronomantic aftershocks. Fingers of time flowing away, holding possible futures. One held him. War. To turn and leave left no ally. The Matriarch was torn between two, and the horde locked in battle with the undead. His dominion was in limbo as eternity pulled them in. Light prospered, dragons returned, and the Time Library began transcribing.

Another path showed alliance, power, and death. His time stream ended in betrayal. How was unclear, but Matriarch and Originator were hovering at the end. He drew on something Delalande once said, “To divine a future is unwise. A poor choice will alter the course of time unfolding. Of course, that might well be supposed to happen, in which case the flow of nature directed the choice. But know this: if you choose a path, then learn from the vision. Always clues lie in the minutia.”

The Necromage had once enjoyed listening to the Scribe. Something he could do while locked in the conjurer’s bubble. Not too disparate from the powers of the accursed Amanuensis. That plan was hatching. But first, what he desired was inside this sanctuary.

Enter and beware, Necromage. This is a God.

 A warning from The Matriarch. Did that mean she had chosen her side? He moved across the bridge. The door opened soundlessly, revealing a chancel. Instead of an altar, the catafalque rested. Sconces ignited their torches with black flames. The Necromage remained in the door arch waiting. He could see the sarcophagus was open.

Outside, under the mercury, screaming began. This he heard and felt the tremors of the dead. It struck him that within this necropolis, there may be unexpected allies. None seemed eager to embrace their past. Treachery, the great betrayer. Knowledge he knew well and why he permitted the lies to propagate. All he needed was a seed. Man used that all by themselves until the lie became truth. Only when the untruth was discovered did they seek blame. That was not his way. Truth crystallised and was a power far greater than the rambling of politicians and priests.

As he waited, a bone hand gripped the edge of the sarcophagus. The Originator sat up.

Dragon Stone: Necromage

Even in the gloom, the Necromage could see as all. More weathered steps led to a chamber that must have been dwarven in origin. The folly of deep mining.
Even in the gloom, the Necromage could see as all. More weathered steps led to a chamber that must have been dwarven in origin. The folly of deep mining.

37 thoughts on “Dragon Stone: Chapel of The Dead

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  1. Got some strong Halloween vibes going on here! Not only is the Necromage a mysterious character, I’m also intrigued by the Matriarch. Her alliance with the Necromage does seem slippery, and as a dragon-kind she may be one of the few to evade his ‘powers of persuasion.’ The mummy connotation in regard to the Originator adds to the creepy factor, and I believe I recognized the name of Delalande! 🙂 With such a cliffhanger ending, I presume we’ll learn what happens next month?

    1. Hadn’t thought of Halloween when doing this so pure coincidence…. although I vaguely recall choosing the word just for October now you mention it.

      The Matriarch and Necromage connection is relatively new in the scheme of things. However I have established its strong and suits the dragon for now. She also has a connection with The Black, but not quite worked out what although as I’m writing this reply Hatchery came to mind and something the Husk said about requiring a Dragons Breath to initiate the embryos. I leave it to you to consider what just came to mind haha.

      I have dragons here pretty immune to anything that impacts their minds unless they allow it. They have powerful send abilities and something new has appeared in the next piece which is ready. Not sure that’s quite right yet, but this character is new to the written word in recent times. Delalande has appeared a few times so yes you should recognise him 🤣

      He’s part of the Amanuensis thread and a Key Master in the Keep.

      Thank you for the positive comments too. Much appreciated as always 😊

      1. The reference to the Necromage once being caught in one of those bubbles did make me wonder how much association he had with the Amanuensis, and of course the whole elf and dwarf reference was quite familiar!
        I’m going to try to click *Like* on your comment now, but sometimes WP won’t let that stick. Ah … technology!

        1. WordPress can be odd at times. Often I end up copying a reply in case it disappears in the ether. As for the similarities with the Amanuensis… more if that is in the next one. Now I’m writing his character its all becoming a shade clearer. A chat with Roger on this created an idea that’s been incorporated already!

  2. Ah, it’s been too long since I delved into these waters, Gary!

    It’s just as good as I remember. I really love this Necromage character, he’s really fitting for this Halloween season! This piece has a very gothic vibe to it, which I obviously love. The darker, more horror-themed elements, definitely speak to me.

    Am I right in understanding this Necromage was trapped in a conjurer’s bubble just as our Amanuensis was? Is there a sort of reflection/symmetry between these two characters? At first, I couldn’t figure out if this character was evil or not. But I realised that he is neither, he is simply there to serve himself. An agent of his own design, free from such human labels.

    I loved the architecture of this place, too. The moat of mercury is a beautiful touch (but don’t touch!). I’m not sure I’d go for a ride on that boat, haha!

    Excellent as ever, Gary. I’m glad I popped back in to read your stories once more. 🙂

    1. It was a conversation here that made me realise this character is pretty fundamental to DS but I’d never put him down in words. This is the second piece and I’m about done on the third. Not sure I’ve hit it running yet although in my head he’s very well-developed. Gothic vibe, too and must at some point return to that novel in waiting too.

      Quite right. His bubble was opened inadvertently by Naz. Regarding the Amauenisis, everything here is from the bubble. In the current WIP, he’s not there yet…and yes DS is now at 90K. I’ve finished Letters of The Amanuensis and itching to start Prison of Ice.

      There are parallels too. The Necromage has found a similar place to the Keep…. That’s the next timepiece. As for his good/evil status. I try not to just write an antagonist for the sake of it. I want it just as developed as the protagonists otherwise it’s not going to have any real meaning to a reader or me. You are the second to say that too. His ambitions from his POV are perfectly moral. He’s actually a hybrid character I developed decades ago using inspiration from Lumley Necroscope and Planeswalkers Voodracoor. Obviously with my own twist. Back in the day folk commented a lot on his actions which made him a story in waiting.

      The Mercury thing was inspired by some beliefs that such a pool exists somewhere on the Terracotta Army site. Here its purpose is to lock the dead beneath it so nothing can access them to reveal the secrets of the Necropolis.

      Here it was a one-level Chapel room, now as ever its become somewhat larger than intended. Hey Ho… What can you do!

      1. Well, I’m glad you decided to put this character down in words. I love his complexity. You’re absolutely right regarding his development. Reminds me of Stan Lee’s criticism of his older work. Why would the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants refer to themselves as that? They’re the heroes! At least, in their own eyes.

        To this end, this might be one of the sources of my struggles with the novel. The MC is fully fleshed out. But the others characters less so. It makes their interactions feel awkward and cardboardy. I don’t have a villain, per se, but still. Each person needs a motivation and a goal.

        I love the insertion of real-world beliefs. The Terracotta Army is a fascinating thing from which to draw inspiration. Reminded me a little of the cave lake thing with the Inferi in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

        I hope to read more of this character. I love the gothic vibe. Perfect for this time of year, too. My favourite time of year.

        Great stuff, Gary.

        1. But of a conundrum Joshua. My tip Re novels versus shorts is world-building. I use BB specifically for doing that. It creates character depth open for folk to read rather than me just making notes. It also gives text that might well end up cut and pasted later.

          IMO the important part is why a character is there. What drives them, are they real with back story to give the writer self-belief in who they are or dropped in with some uber skill to solve a problem that’s not actually part of their make up. Doesn’t matter if they are antagonists or protagonists. The same build applies. Also, an RPG tactic applies. A writer knows all. That’s out of character (OOC) perspective. The character can only do what it knows so your mind must go in character (IC). A novel requires an overarching goal with problem-solving for the protagonist and a reason those obstacles are there. In the one you have Archie is part antagonist but driven by a ghost. Those up against him are trying to unravel what’s going on and why a house does not want to be sold. That’s a loose appraisal.

          I do use a lot of real world inserts. The Gothic one used two navy ships that disappeared. I dip into mythology and legend. One of my favourite BB ones was using Fenrir but altered to fit DS lore. My book shelves have stacks of books on said subject including Tarot as I used that in Black Marsh.

          It not only got gives characters depth but you learn shed loads too 😂

  3. I was looking forward to read your story based on ‘The Word’. This would have to be good, and I was not disappointed. The images of the apparently dead and their apparent resting places were powerful – no true rest!
    The Necromage is a fascinating character; normally in fiction any Necro- mancer/ mage etc tends to be leaning to the pantomime villain. Not this one though. Of course he’s not a guy you’d want to spend time with. He’s not the standard anti-hero (conflicted with ‘a past’). He comes across as almost amoral, working his way through this richly complex world of vastly differing perspectives where the terms Good and Evil at times just don’t suit. He is doing what he has to do. This will not be pleasant or justifiable by our standards, but in this world, it is what it is.
    The journey and the interactions were well done, I was drawn along by the slow steady pace of the narrative as well, which it needs to be in a world where someone can use ‘chronomantic’ aftershocks.
    Good work Gary

    1. If you’d said “Had to be Good” before, I doubt it would have been due to extreme pressure!!. Thanks, Roger. With this, I feel what’s happening is not quite revealed to me yet. I’m working through the next one bit by bit and its drifting I think.

      The considerations of dead and unrest are old and fixed in my fiction psyche. Ever since I created this character for RPG. Strong influence from Brian Lumley’s Necroscope blended with a species known as Voodracoor from Planewalker.

      I feel antagonists can’t just be thrown in for a plot. That runs into that Pantomime thing you mentioned. King roles with this concept too. They need a purpose and a backstory to allow a reader to empathise even if they don’t like what goes on. Its a perspective thing. They have to have a reason for doing what they do otherwise they fall flat and appear there just to make a protagonist work. Helps I guess because as a concept he’s been with me for several decades I guess!

      You’re right to so good spot. He is not conflicted by a past. He is what he is and in truth his deep past remains secret even to me. The idea is to make the light side side good and evil (if they are the right concepts) in exactly the opposite vein to the dark who consider what they do as good and the light been evil. From his POV what he does is perfectly moral. I hope that come across, but having said that we are only a couple of pieces into his story. Not in my head, just as words on a page.

      In this world I think there is significant blurring there too.

      The pace for some might be slow I think. However you have hit that too. This world moves slowly as the complexity grows. When that breaks matters will tsunami forward.

      Many thanks for the considered comment Roger. Much appreciated.😊

      1. I agree wholeheartedly with you Gary. Characters have to have a believable motivation, as long as its not one picked out of the used box at cliché central!
        The moral compass is also an very important factor. Within War there is a fearful logic which are the time can produce horrific acts. and yet are all part of a complexity which led there. As you say from his POV his are perfectly moral.

        ‘When that breaks matters will tsunami forward.’ I love it when that happens in a narrative, it’s a thrilling business.

        It’s going well Gary, keep up the good work.👏

        1. Thanks Roger. Maybe I’ll send DS as it stands at the moment if you’re interested. It’s not been read yet even by me as I’m just going on with the narrative. It’s actually approaching the crunch moments in several places. All depends if they can cure The Emerald or not. As someone who does know most of the back story you may find unreleased characters interesting too.

          1. If you put it all together Gary, I will have a read, though to be fair to you will probably take a while to comment; on account of a number of domestic and literary projects on the go.
            So if you don’t mind waiting, literally until likely the New Year for a full response……

            1. No rush on response Roger. It’s a big document and close to 90k. It’s more feedback as and when to make sure I’m not going in bad directions. The Necromage as you see him now is more for the next one which I’m itching to start 👻

                1. I sent it last night as I was working on it in Word and thought I might as well. No rush, though, Roger. I’ve mentioned the chapter on here before, and it’s in this story around chapter 3, if memory serves true.

                  1. Found it!
                    Sorry about that Gary, I dashed straight into WP this morning, which is my usual means of communication with folk.
                    Just checked the e-mail (replete with offers, notifications and well meaning appeals) and downloaded the doc onto my laptop.
                    I will keep you up dated on my progress…looking forward to it.

                    1. No worries Roger. Happens to me all the time these days. Age related what was I supposed to be doing again 🙈

                    2. Know the feeling. First up is car for paint repairs and wheels. After that its make it up as I go apart from more garden clearing and a pub cellar

                    3. Wise words. Maybe Charlie Brown knew the world was run by The Silence. They that talk and follow up with no action hoping you turn away and forget… except to vote for them via subliminal implantation.

                    4. The other alternative is that they’ve discovered that Humanity is too quirky and dangerous to be around so they are sending messages to buy time while they pack up and get out of here?

                    5. I suspect if I were a Silence that’s exactly what I’d be doing! Far less aggro on Mars say, and the old machines underground might just need a touch of WD40 to get going again.

                    6. Which reminds me of a Bowie song which owing to the origination of WD40 is now answered by a “Yes” 🤣

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