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Authors: Jonathan Moeller

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Dark Fantasy, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Historical, #Myths & Legends, #Greek & Roman, #90 Minutes (44-64 Pages)

Ghost Undying

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 GHOST UNDYING

Jonathan Moeller

Description

Sicarion is an assassin without equal, skilled with both sword and spell, and no foe has ever escaped his devilish cunning.

Yet when he accepts a contract to kill a renegade sorceress calling herself the Moroaica, Sicarion realizes he may have made a mistake.

For what can an assassin do against a woman who has already died as many times as the Moroaica?

Copyright 2013 by Jonathan Moeller.

Cover image copyright Igorigorevich | Dreamstime.com.

Ebook edition published January 2013.

Published by Azure Flame Media, LLC.

All Rights Reserved.

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination, or, if real, used fictitiously. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the express written permission of the author or publisher, except where permitted by law. 

Ghost Undying

“I will pay you a considerable sum to kill her,” said Maglarion.

Sicarion leaned back in his chair, sipped his wine, and grinned. “You’ve changed.”

They sat together in the common room of an inn not far from Malarae’s chapterhouse of the Imperial Magisterium. Magi visiting from other cities and provinces of the Empire often stayed here when they wished to avoid the chapterhouse for whatever reason.

Such as the recent upheaval, for instance. 

The great weapon at Caer Magia had failed, destroying the First Magus, the high magi, and many of the most powerful master magi. The remaining magi of the Magisterium had fractured into squabbling factions, and many rumors claimed that the Emperor and the Ghosts would seize control of the Empire once more. 

Sicarion hardly cared who ruled the Empire.

But he cared about killing…and the impending civil war offered so many opportunities for it. 

“How so?” said Maglarion.

Sicarion looked at the older man and grinned. In truth, Maglarion looked only a little older than when Sicarion had last seen him thirty years ago. He had same thin, lined face, the same graying black hair, the same lips forever tight with arrogant disapproval. 

The bloodcrystal that had replaced his left eye was different, though.

“Still tedious as ever,” said Sicarion, taking another sip of wine. He took a moment to run a hand through his thick blond hair and adjust the hang of his fine red coat. 

Maglarion’s scowl deepened. “You ought to take greater care around me, assassin. My sorcery is far greater than yours. And I have lived for two hundred and fifty years…”

Sicarion clucked his tongue. “And if you keep making threats, you might not reach your two hundred and fifty-first year. I’ve gotten very good at killing magi.” 

“I am,” said Maglarion, “no ordinary magus.”

He was right about that. Sicarion did not want to push him too far. 

“And since I am very good at killing magi,” said Sicarion, “I assume that is why you are here?”

“You are a murderous little madman,” said Maglarion, “and were I still in the Magisterium, I would have had you executed decades ago, but you were always perceptive.”

Sicarion grinned. “Such flattery. Who is it?”

“My former teacher,” said Maglarion. 

Sicarion raised his eyebrows. “Her? The mysterious sorceress who lured you away from the Magisterium? You’ve turned your back on your lover?”

To his surprise, Maglarion threw back his head and laughed.

“Lover?” he said. “Hardly. She loves nothing but her own rage, and that is endless.”

“I am intrigued, I confess,” said Sicarion. “Why turn on her?”

“Because the world is changing,” said Maglarion. “The strongest magi perished at Caer Magia, and the Emperor shall soon reunite the Empire. The Fourth Empire will end, and the Fifth shall begin. With the strongest magi slain, the remnants of the Magisterium will not be able to stop the Emperor from banning necromancy and slavery.” His smile was grim. “For those of us who have used necromancy to extend our lives, better to keep a low profile.”

“Why?” said Sicarion. “Your mistress has power enough to resist anyone.”

“Because the time has come to end my association with her,” said Maglarion. “I wish to live forever. She wishes to destroy the world. The two goals are not compatible.”

“Destroy the world?” said Sicarion with a laugh. “Not even the high magi had the power to destroy the world, and they destroyed themselves. Does she truly believe herself to be,” he thought for a moment, recalling the foreign word, “the Moroaica?”

“She does not believe it,” said Maglarion. “She is the Moroaica.”

“Nonsense,” said Sicarion. “That’s a legend of the Szaldic slaves. Have you met any Szalds? Superstitious idiots, the lot of them. Every bad crop, every jug of spoiled milk, every little misfortune is the work of some malicious spirit of the netherworld. The Moroaica is simply the queen of their insipid fantasies.”

“No,” said Maglarion. There was no anger in his voice, no mockery. Only certainty. “She is the Moroaica.” The mockery returned. “Does that frighten you, Sicarion? Perhaps I can find an assassin who isn’t so unmanned at the…”

Sicarion sneered. “Do not be absurd. I can kill anything. I killed high magi whose sorcery far exceeded my own. Where is she?” 

“A warehouse not far from the docks,” said Maglarion. “I shall give you the location. She is conducting sorcerous experiments there.” He waved a dismissive hand. “Some folly about the summoning and channeling of elementals.”

“Very well,” said Sicarion. “I will require half of the payment as a deposit. Once I receive the money, your ‘Moroaica’ shall die.”

“I shall send one hundred thousand denarii to your seneschal at once,” said Maglarion. “Along with the ring you will need to bypass her wards. Good hunting.”

Sicarion found Maglarion’s smug expression annoying, but there was nothing to be done about it. He would take his satisfaction in spending Maglarion’s money on wine and fine clothes and attractive slaves. 

And, of course, in killing this madwoman who thought herself a demon from Szaldic myth. 

He finished his wine and departed, stopping for a moment to admire his reflection in one of the inn’s windows. He was well past sixty, but thanks to judicious use of necromancy, he looked barely thirty. His fine clothes concealed not an ounce of fat, and his blue eyes gleamed below his thick blond hair. He had money enough to enjoy all the pleasures of the world. 

But killing was the greatest pleasure of all. 

It was time to indulge.

###

Killing the so-called “Moroaica” was almost ridiculously easy. 

She occupied a warehouse near the docks, and had guarded it with wards of remarkable power. Yet she had given Maglarion an enspelled ring to allow him to come and go, and with the ring Sicarion passed through the wards undetected. The gloomy warehouse was empty, save for a long wooden table heavy with books and scrolls.

An old woman in a red robe stood at the table, pouring over the papers. She was gaunt, with iron-gray hair that hung in stringy curtains around her face. Sicarion sensed several active spells around her, wards of alarm and detection. But a spell of his own wreathed him in shadows, and he slipped past her alarms.

Then he buried his sword between her shoulders, the blade erupting from her thin chest. 

She croaked out a gasp and spun, falling against the table, her bloodshot eyes meeting his. Sicarion grinned. He enjoyed this part most of all, enjoyed watching the fear and the horror as the life drained from his victims.

But there was no fear in the old woman’s eyes. 

Only immense irritation.

“We shall have,” she hissed, “to continue this.” 

Then she went motionless, the last breath fading from her lips. 

Sicarion let out a sigh of annoyance. He always enjoyed the fear.

Well, no matter. He would enjoy spending Maglarion’s money almost as much. Especially since the pathetic fool could not even kill one mad old woman.

Sicarion went home.

###

He lived in a mansion not far from the Imperial Citadel itself, a mansion he had paid for through hired assassinations. His slaves rushed to take his cloak and weapons as he arrived, carrying out their duties flawlessly. 

Incompetent slaves did not last long in the house of Sicarion. 

“I shall be hungry later,” said Sicarion to a bowing slave. “Have dinner prepared. I will retire to my bedroom for a few hours.”

The slave bowed again and hurried away. 

Sicarion climbed the stairs to his bedroom, humming to himself. Killing always put a fire in his blood, a fire that he preferred to quench with one of his female slaves. An attractive eighteen-year-old woman could easily command a price of a hundred thousand denarii or more, but Sicarion did not care. He could afford it easily.

And his concubines, too, carried out their duties flawlessly. 

Or else.

Sicarion stepped into his bedroom. The huge bed dominated one wall, while a pair of doors opened onto a balcony with a fine view of his gardens. His newest acquisition, a young Szaldic woman named Adina, stood near the doors, gazing into the gardens. For all his contempt for the Szalds, Sicarion admitted they had lovely women. Adina had flawless skin, wide blue eyes, and thick black hair than hung to her shoulders. She wore only a tight gauzy shift that displayed everything it covered to good effect. 

“Adina,” said Sicarion. “Attend me.”

She turned, head titled to the side, and smiled.

“Ah,” she said. “The assassin.”

There was no fear in her voice. Every other time, Adina had quivered with terror, knowing that his slightest displeasure could mean her death. Now she only regarded him with cool, distant amusement, like a scholar contemplating a manuscript. 

“You will address me,” said Sicarion, “as master.”

“Whatever for?” said Adina. 

Rage blossomed through Sicarion.

“You are about to find out,” he said.

He had left his weapons with his body servants, but he needed no blades to inflict torment. He summoned power, murmuring a spell of necromancy as green flames blazed to life around his right hand. Still Adina showed no sign of fear. She had seen him use that spell on disobedient slaves before, and knew the agony it could bring. 

Well, it was time to for her to learn the hard way.

Sicarion thrust out his palm, and a column of shadow wreathed in green flame burst from his hand and lanced for Adina’s chest.

A faint smile appeared on her lips, and she made a small gesture.

And his spell collapsed, shattering against a mighty ward. 

He stepped back in alarm. 

“Who are you?” he said, casting a warding spell to deflect arcane attack. “Someone from the Magisterium? A Kindred assassin with a bit of skill in sorcery?” 

Adina’s face remained cool and remote.

“I told you, assassin,” she said, “that we were going to continue this.”

Sicarion remembered the dark warehouse, remembered the old woman’s calm eyes staring up at him…

He cursed and began another spell.

Adina, or whatever had taken control of her body, was faster.

She made a flipping gesture, and invisible force seized Sicarion, lifted him a few feet from the floor, and held his arms and legs immobile. He tried to summon power for a spell, but again Adina gestured, and another ward hardened around him, disrupting his effort to gather arcane power.

“Guards!” roared Sicarion. “To me! To me…”

Adina pointed, and the psychokinetic force slammed his jaw shut. 

An instant later the door burst open, and Sicarion’s bodyguards stormed into the bedroom. He had purchased a dozen seasoned Istarish gladiators, veterans of the brutal fighting pits of the Padishah’s capital, and trained them himself. Their loyalty had been reinforced by spells upon their minds, and they would fight to the death to defend him.

The gladiators charged at Adina, and the concubine raised both her hands.

And Sicarion saw a display of sorcery more potent than any he had seen years.

Shadow and green flame lashed from her fingers, and three of the gladiators fell dead in a heartbeat. Psychokinetic force lifted two of the men and smashed them against the wall with such force that their skulls shattered and their necks snapped. She gestured again, and two more men fell dead, their heads collapsed by blasts of invisible force. A few of the men actually reached her, only to have their blades rebound from her warding spells.

In a matter of seconds it was over. Eleven of the gladiators lay slain, killed so quickly that they had likely been dead before they hit the soft carpet of the floor. The sole survivor, a grizzled man named Dorgan, knelt with his sword resting upon his palms, terror on his face. Sicarion vowed to kill him for his disloyalty. 

Unless, he realized with growing fear, unless the thing that Adina had become killed him first.

“You may speak,” said Adina, crooking a finger. 

The invisible force holding his mouth shut relaxed.

“You dare?” said Sicarion. “I will…”

“Did Talekhris send you?” said Adina.

“I will kill you,” said Sicarion, “for this. I will…”

“Talekhris did not, then,” said Adina.

“You will scream before I am done with you,” said Sicarion, “and…”

“Foolishness,” said Adina. “You killed me once before, assassin. What good did it do you?”

“You’re…her?” said Sicarion, his fear growing. “The woman I killed. The…Moroaica?”

“You may call me that,” said Adina, striding toward him, “if it pleases you. But now you shall answer my questions, and I shall ensure that you tell the truth.” 

She rested one slender hand upon his forehead, and Sicarion felt her arcane power tear through him. It closed around his mind with talons of steel, and if she had commanded it, he would have cut his own throat. 

He had never encountered power like this.

And not since his days as an initiate had he been overpowered so completely.

“Now,” said the Moroaica. “Did Talekhris send you?”

“I don’t know the name,” said Sicarion.

“A man in a jade mask,” said the Moroaica. 

“I’ve never seen him,” said Sicarion.

“How did you get through my wards?” said the Moroaica.

The talons in his mind compelled him to answer. 

“Maglarion’s ring,” he croaked. 

“You killed him and took the ring,” said the Moroaica. 

“No,” said Sicarion. “He gave me the ring, and paid me to kill you.”

“Did he?” said the Moroaica. “The treacherous little rodent. He was so afraid for his miserable life that I thought he would never summon the nerve. Likely he has fled halfway to Anshan by now.” She tapped his forehead a few times. “What is your name?”

“Sicarion,” he said, compelled to answer.

The Moroaica laughed. “Sicarion? Old High Nighmarian for ‘of the dagger?’ Truly? How pretentious. If you were a cook, would you call yourself ‘of the spatula?’ Yet…you have some arcane ability. Why aren’t you in the Magisterium?”