Jorininki Castroflame, Necromancer of the Seventh Order of Wrivaca, pinched the bridge of her nose and turned over the page in the grimoire she was studying. It was bound in human skin. It smelled funky.
She muttered words to herself, trying to fix them in her memory. She left careful pauses, of course— it wouldn’t do to accidentally summon the undead hordes— but she had to know her spells. There would be a battle tomorrow, and Lord Alstaz would expect things to work.
The words slid away from her, slippery as freshwater eels. A ball of black anxiety settled in her stomach.
The magical garnet of Ifera set in the heavy gold bracelet on her left wrist glowed red and emitted a cheerful chiming sound. Jorininki sighed and tapped it.
A voice spoke. ‘Jori, is that you? Can you hear me? Hello?’
‘Can you hear me?’
‘Yes, Dad, I can hear you. Are you okay?’
‘Oh, that’s good. We’re fine. How are you?’
‘I’m fine. Look, Dad, I’m kind of busy here… big thing tomorrow, you know. Is it urgent? Can I call you back tomorrow evening for a proper chat?’ That is, she thought to herself, if Lord Alstaz hasn’t thrown me into his dungeons because the undead hordes turned out to be three tatty skeletons with missing bits and a couple of zombie rabbits.
‘Yes of course, darling. But before you go. Um,’ her father paused.
‘What is it?’
‘I know you’re busy, I expect you’re working. You work so hard. Very important stuff. I know I couldn’t do it.’
‘Dad, you have no idea what I do.’
‘No, no, I know. Protecting a kingdom. It’s a lot of responsibility. I can’t imagine. Me, I’ve been a farmer my whole life. I don’t know anything about politics—’
‘Dad, I really am busy…’
‘Yes, yes, of course. Anyway. Look. We were at your aunt’s funeral on Tuesday.’
‘I know. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it.’
‘No, it’s fine. Everyone understands. They all asked after you. It just made me think, you know, it does, doesn’t it? A funeral. Everyone saying things they couldn’t say, you know, before.’
‘Mmm-hm,’ said Jorininki, turning the page back on the grimoire.
‘Well, I just wanted to tell you that we’re very proud of you, Jori. Very proud. You’ve achieved so much. You work so hard. We love you very much, your Mum and me. That’s all, really.’
Jorininki pushed the heavy book away before the tear could splash onto the yellowing paper. ‘Oh, Dad.’
‘I don’t say it enough, I know that. I wasn’t brought up to talk about these things. It’s different these days. Anyway. I just wanted you to know that even if I don’t say it all the time, I do love you.’
‘I love you too, Dad.’
‘That’s good, that’s good. Well, bye, bye, sweetheart. Don’t work too hard. You need your sleep.’
‘I’ll do my best.’
‘All right then. I’ll talk to you tomorrow?’
Jorininki Castroflame, Necromancer of the Seventh Order of Wrivaca, smiled as the red light of the magical garnet of Ifera blinked out.
Then she wiped her eyes and pulled the grimoire back towards her, the words now seeming that much easier to remember.
It’s a trope of fantasy fiction that the parents of heroes and bad guys are dead. This piece came about after I wondered: what if the evil necromancer still has a Mum and Dad, who like to chat to their daughter every now and then? (And what about grandparents, that’s what I always want to know — maybe that’s for another day.)