Hoopla Among the Necromancers

In the six thousand and ninety-seventh year of a long life, when full of wanderlust and knowledge-hunting, Hoopla lived among the necromancers in the foothills of the great range that leads to destroyed Anquim, in the far southern lands beyond the Great Salt Desert, among the cedars and the pines, where the air is forever crisp with the frosts of autumn, and pungent and heavy with cinnamon and sandalwood and other, less familiar spices. There lie peaceless and lamenting the cities that were emptied by the great plagues that shivered the unconquerable southern empire into an archipelago of quarrelling, contumacious nations, each howling the vengeance of a hundred angry all-powerful gods; and there the unspeaking necromancers practice their unloved craft, drawing ritual signs and mystic diagrams upon the red clay of the hillsides or upon the bones of the empty cities themselves.

Though it is forbidden by their art for any necromancer to speak with the living, still are they gracious and patient hosts, ever joyous to receive a footsore pilgrim or irreligious archaeologist, and a thousand times more eager to house a willing pupil, such as Hoopla was in those days. Eleven months Hoopla stayed among the purple robed southerners, in their cool stone halls smelling of myrrh; eleven months, three weeks, and six days, from icy winter’s night to icy winter’s night through the long grim southern summer, learning all the exoteric art that the necromancers could teach. Strange runes they taught, and lays arcane, and songs of power and strength enough to chain the souls of a dozen dozen unquiet dead, but still was Hoopla curious and asked ever the secrets of death, that it should rest a cold unstinting terror so upon the brief lives of men. As a test of bravery and skill, on the longest winter’s night, Hoopla was haunted by the Lost Legion of Anquim, which none may see twice and live, and from this emerged a necromancer no more, nor student after their shadowed ways, but disquieted and contemplative.

The wanderlust came upon Hoopla’s feet, dragged to stranger climes, and further south, and the necromancers saw their pupil no more, and thought sorrowfully that death had come unsought-for in the ruins of Lost Anquim.