Spare the Dead
Short Story (Fantasy/D&D)
Relanore spends his days trying to bring the dead back to life. He works tirelessly on his gruesome experiments. But to what end?
Relanore finished his series of incantations and watched as the dead body opened its eyes, swung its legs off the stone slab and stood up. He held up a match and moved it from side to side. The zombie’s eyes followed the flame. He ran the creature through a series of tests and recorded its reactions in his journal.
Relanore frowned. The body still had no blood circulation. The zombie could move using the magic that raised it from the dead, but it was still a very limited imitation of life.
He sat at his desk, making notes on improvements for the next experiment.
The first rays of the sun entered his study through the high window. He rubbed his eyes and stretched, frustrated at how little he'd achieved. He moved back to the motionless zombie and dressed it in an old pair of trousers, boots, a long-sleeved shirt and a hat with a beekeepers mask. Taking a step back, he examined his creation from different angles and adjusted the clothes to ensure no skin showed. Satisfied, he sprayed it with perfume to mask the stink of death. This should provide a reasonable disguise in the unlikely event anyone should see it.
"Come with me.”
The zombie followed him out into the overgrown, walled garden.
The zombie looked on as Relanore pulled weeds from the garden beds.
“Now you do it.”
The zombie bent down and started pulling weeds.
He observed the zombie for a few minutes and satisfied with the work said, “Continue until I return and tell you to stop.” He went back inside to make breakfast.
Relanore ate porridge and thought back on the attack which had taken his wife and daughter from him more than eight years ago. He’d been on his way back from ministering to his flock in an outlying village. As he approached the crest of the hill he saw black plumes of smoke. He ran to the top of the hill and looked down on the burning ruins of the town. Running between burning buildings he reached his church. Entering the vestibule he shouted the names of his wife and daughter. Then he saw them. Lying on the floor, their bodies horribly mutilated by Ork axes. Sadness clouded his features, nothing more. He had long since emptied himself of tears.
He had checked on the zombie several times during the day as it continued to tirelessly pull weeds from the overgrown garden. As the sun went down, Relanore walked into the garden once more and found the zombie had collapsed. He checked it and made a note in his journal. About twelve hours of sustained activity before the magic dissipated.
“Not enough!” he muttered. “It’s never enough!”
He dragged the zombie to a dark corner of the garden and pulled up the storm cellar door. Flies buzzed angrily around his head, disturbed from laying eggs in the dozen previously failed experiments that lay there. The smell was overpowering. He pushed his most recent failure through the cellar door and let it crash closed.
“There must be a way to bring true life back to the dead. Not just this limited and mindless shell that only lasted a few hours, but enduring life with passion and laughter and love!”
He went back into the rectory, sat at the kitchen table and buried his head in his hands.
He must have dozed off and was awakened by a knock on his front door. Looking through the window he saw his faithful retainer. He opened the door and helped to manhandle the latest fresh body through the doorway and into his study. Leading his retainer back to the front door, he bid him good night.
Relanore stared at the closed door for what seemed like hours but was probably only minutes. He shook his head to clear it. There was still work to be done.
He walked to the rear of the rectory and entered the back room. It had no windows and was lit by hundreds of candles. The white flowers on every surface provided a pleasant odour. He looked at the two single beds on which his wife and daughter were lying. He had healed their injuries years before and they both looked like they were simply asleep, but neither drew breath. Relanore started the incantations that would keep their bodies in stasis for the 420th week since the attack.
The 420th week trying to find a way to bring them back.
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