Mortimer looked down at the book…
He was glad of the 6 skeletons that stood around the camp, around him, protecting him, protecting the book. It gave him the time, the tranquility, the peace and quiet of the cold clear night air. He needed that. His companions thought of him as the iceman, the cold, self serving weird guy who they all kept around because he was useful, he was the guy who brought people about back from the grey waste, he was the person who moved villages across the barrier (with a little help from his friends), he was the guys who he suspected everyone would keep around, right until he wasn’t useful any more. Then, he wasn’t hedging his 4’ tall bets.
It was three days after the escape from the Tomb Of Horrors, The Tomb of Acererak… the Tomb of the greatest Necromancer, the greatest ruler of the Western World that the world had ever know, and this was coming from a Gnome that grew up in the only city that had ever opposed him.
Mortimer hated the man, but not because he was anathema to him, but because he was a mirror held up to himself, he was a reminder of what he must not become.
And on that note, for the first time, Mortimer stopped and let himself dwell for a moment on what his prize had cost him:
He had lost a friend, and in truth, he did not have many of those. A friend who had known (nearly) his true motivations, had known, heck, had sparked his contemplation of the deities of old, inspired him to contemplate The One and Asmodeus as more than mere footnotes of historical delusions in the records and tombs of the past he had studied his whole life.
At this he laughed quietly to himself. Like he was a great believer, he had manipulated Carrig’s faith, getting her to show him the route to Asmodeus so he could turn him into something he could tap power from: Undead… Life if beyond a Necromancer’s purview, keep to what you know…
He’d spoken to a god and instead of falling to his knees he’d manipulated it into a battery to fuel his quest for immortality. If an agent of Asmodeus got off the chain he was so fucked! Carrig really couldn’t have been left to live, she did him a favour, and part of him hated that, part of him really didn’t.
He looked at the book again. It was getting harder to see Acererak as so bad
In here were passages, not just instructions for spells, lists of ingredients and actions, but whole diaries, justifications for the manipulations of the arcane, the elemental, the necromantic, and Mortimer couldn’t deny they didn’t seem logical, reasonable, inspired even.
Here, there was the moment Acererak innovated a way to sprint miles, in mere moments, to return to an apostle who had fallen ill, and use his power over life and death to reward his faith. There, a passage detailing the wizard turning the chill of the grave into an actual ice storm to vanquish a fire elemental an opponent had summoned against him.
Both of these he could learn from the pages of this book that he and his undead body guards protected with their lives, or, unlives. Such passages of an inspiring leader discovering universal truths right next to blatant instructions of the most efficient method to rip the lifeforce out of another living being with a touch… was… for the part of Mortimer that had taken to accepting there were still divine beings that inspire people to greatness, well… I didn’t sit easily, even for a necromancer…
if only he had a friend who understood matters of faith…
Closing the book Mortimer was relieved by the idea that actually it was just him wrestling with the concepts of morality and mortality that his necromancy brought, he wasn’t Acererak, his personal quest was not risking anyone else, Carrig had gotten herself into this, it wasn’t his fault, he didn’t have apostles!
He dwelt for a moment on the requests of Sir Marius… well true as an eldritch knight he’d been interested in Mortimer’s studies, but… he looked over at Jack, reborn from the grey wastes, a warlock already on his second life, but that didn’t prove anything! Finally Mortimer and Rima, fresh from the worst grievance she could suffer. A life lost he felt guilty he couldn’t reverse. The two looked up from their respective spell books at each other as they studied long into the night… his ancient, her’s brand new… well crap.
It was days back to Homlet. Far too much time to think.