The Necromancer's Dilemma
By SJ Himes
The Beacon Hill Sorcerer Book #2
|Cover art by Garret Leigh of Black Jazz Designs.|
Even love can die without trust.
Angel’s brother, Isaac, has returned home, and the pair begins to make slow and awkward attempts back to each other. Learning how to be a brother to a grown man instead of a parental figure has Angel adjusting his behaviors and habits, and Isaac still remains a mystery. Was it merely entering adulthood that turned Isaac away from an overprotective Angel, or does Isaac carry a secret that will keep them from finally being a real family?
Daniel Macavoy, Angel’s new apprentice, is torn between his bond with Angel and the grasping machinations of his father. Dealing with a traumatized apprentice with dangerous holes in his magical education, saving Daniel may be harder than Angel first thought—especially since the biggest problem is not revenge, but guilt.
The one shining beacon in his life is Simeon, Elder vampire of Boston’s only Bloodclan. Four hundred years old and sexy as sin, Simeon is warrior and sage, patient and cunning. The strength Angel draws from Simeon’s devotion and the newborn mate-bond between them is steadfast and true…and the fount of death magic that animates the undead lord places Angel in the midst of a power struggle for control over himself, his lover, and his family.
Through it all, Angel is beleaguered by the unwanted attention of a troll-hybrid, the adventures of a dragon in the city, and a serial killer has decided to hunt the back alleys and midnight streets of Boston.
Solid, thick arms stopped his descent, and Angel pressed a kiss to the corner of Simeon’s mouth in thanks as he was lowered to his feet. He looked up at a rectangle of light, blinking. It was a drop of about twenty feet, and he gulped. “Really glad you went first.”
Simeon chuckled, and helped him straighten out his gear.
The tunnel was made of cut stone, dripping with moisture and moss. The floor was curved, the tunnel circular and looked to be a few centuries old. Angel looked back up, then ahead, and guessed the tunnel went straight, matching up with the alley. Eventually, depending on how long it was and if there were no turns, they would end up at King’s Chapel. He looked behind them, and saw nothing but utter black.
Angel held up his hand, and snapped his fingers. A green ball of hellfire appeared, and he tossed it into the air. About the size of a grapefruit, it hovered a foot or so above their heads. A miniature green sun, it illuminated the tunnel, casting their shadows on the walls.
“Dead end that way,” Angel said quietly, pointing behind them at the solid rock wall. He turned back around, the tunnel stretching out ahead of them into the darkness. The hellhound paced a few yards away down the tunnel, easy to see now in the deeper dark that it glowed with an inner fire of its own. Its eyes were brilliant in the shadows, and Angel grinned, still pleased he was able to use the huntmaster’s whistle after all these years. “Can you see?”
“I can. I don’t need the light, a ghra, but it doesn’t hinder me. Be ready to put it out if I say so, though. We may need to remain hidden so as not to give away our position.”
“Say the word, and it’s out,” Angel said and gestured ahead, letting Simeon take the lead.
Simeon took his hand, and led the way into the tunnel.
The stone underfoot was wet, but not frozen, and the temperature was still cold, though warmer by a few degrees. The hound’s snuffling and the scratch of claws on stone was as loud as his breathing. Simeon made no noise, and if it weren’t for the larger hand holding his, it would be impossible for Angel to know he was there if the light went out.
Eroch stirred and climbed out of Angel’s sweater, perching on his shoulder, one front hand-like paw clutching at his ear to steady himself. “A necromancer, a vampire, a hellhound and a dragon all walk into bar…”
Simeon made an inelegant noise, and squeezed his hand. “Are you nervous, my love?”
“Walking in the total darkness in some subterranean tunnels beneath the city? I’m fine,” Angel said with a smile, though his heart was beating a bit faster than normal. Simeon didn’t call him out on it though, just held his hand and kept walking forward.
Eventually Angel detected a slope, the tunnel angling down, and the rocks under his feet grew slick. Simeon held out his arm, and Angel had no trouble swallowing his pride and borrowing some of Simeon’s balance. The hellhound had no need to worry about such things as slipping, its wide paws and huge claws giving it traction no boots could match. It thankfully wasn’t tracking at a headlong pace this time, its nose to the ground and its long tail out. Occasionally it would lift its head, sniff the air, and then continue onwards. There was never a light ahead—it remained dark.
They walked. For what felt like ages. Angel knew from checking his watch that it was less than an hour, but the intensely close surroundings of the tunnel and the deprivation of light made it seem longer. The angle became even more extreme, and Angel gave a serious amount of thought to just sitting on his ass and sliding down the tunnel. At this degree of descent, they were going deeper more than they were going forward, and Angel had a feeling they were somewhere beneath King’s Chapel.
Ankles aching and his legs burning from the angle, Angel moaned in gratitude when the tunnel leveled out, and the walls on either side opened up. They paused, and the hellhound whined, tail wagging.
He sent the light in front of them, and breathed out in amazement. “Fuck me.”
Columns rose from the ground, carved stone that depicted odd creatures and foliage. Angel counted, and from what he could see, the thirty-foot ceiling was supported by a dozen columns, two neat rows of six marching down evenly the length of the room. The walls, just out of view until he increased the light, were smooth, flat, and appeared to be made of unbroken stone.
“Are we alone?” Angel asked as quietly as he could, his whisper echoing in the cavernous space.
Simeon tilted his head, listening, and grimaced. “I cannot tell. I hear no heartbeats, but that doesn’t mean much. The subway runs nearby,” Simeon said, pointing to the left wall. “It’s the Park Street entrance, and there’s still trains running.”
“Ask Fido,” Angel whispered, and Eroch chittered in amusement. Simeon called to the hellhound, and it waged its tail before loping ahead down the length of the room. “What does that mean?”
“It’s your spell, a ghra,” Simeon replied. “But I’m certain there must be someone or something here.”
Angel sent the green light ahead, feeding it energy, making it grow in size. His eyes ached at the increase of light but he was able to see the vast room more clearly. The dull gray stone now shone a vibrant shade of green, and the columns were even more disturbing. Simeon took the lead again, and Angel followed behind.
He approached one of the columns, and the artistry was astounding. Fae females and males lay entwined in beds of flowers, with forest creatures frolicking amidst trees and bushes. Words in languages he’d never seen before were chiseled into the roots of trees, along the petals of flowers, amid blades of grass. He walked around the column, the scene unending, with other scenes he could not make out stretching above his head toward the ceiling.
Angel walked to the next column, his footsteps echoing, and found himself looking at a new scene, the relief carved in stone of two fae males, features identical, standing on the prow of a ship. They were dressed in armor and leather, swords on their backs, both of the men staring straight ahead. The waves of the sea, the sweep of a gull’s wings, even the long braids in their hair were carved so delicately, so perfectly, that Angel was left awed. It was art, at a level he’d never seen before. Such work must have taken several lifetimes.
This column too had words carved into the details. He tried deciphering them, but the alphabet was wholly foreign to his experience and he couldn’t figure it out. “Fae language, maybe?”
Eroch chirped at him, the little dragon confused as well. Eroch made no move to leave his shoulder and explore, and Angel couldn’t blame him. The columns were beautiful, but the room was cool, the atmosphere chilling and somehow sterile.
It felt lifeless.
“Angel.” Simeon’s voice echoed off the walls, his lover sounding far more distant than he was. Angel jogged towards the call, and he passed nearly all of the columns before he came to the end of the room—
It wasn’t the end.
A long, low dais about twelve feet long and three feet high was near the far end of the room. The wall, about twenty feet beyond the dais, was crumbling in, large stone blocks tumbled about like children’s toys. Roots grew through the broken wall, a whole mass of them, as thick about as Angel’s waist and dark brown in color. Thousands of offshoots and minor roots sprawled across the wall, ceiling, floor, the longest of which touched the dais, and the object on top.
Simeon came out from the shadows, startling Angel. Simeon put a hand on his shoulder, and pointed to the dais. “What magic is this?”
“Dear Hecate, fuck me,” Angel breathed, eyes wide, heart pounding. “Is that a coffin?”
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The Necromancer's Dilemma
72,000 words. Mature content. Violence, sex, gore. Contains mature content and extreme snark.
Bonus short story at the end, called "The Necromancer's Birthday Surprise.". Written for Crystal's Many Reviewers Birthday Celebration, March 2016.