Xilobrax, Lovrian, Driaith, and Borybran were hastily acquired, and Tultamaan, and Psajathrion and Rhosmanthus at Tultamaan’s recommendation. Eight dragons levitated in a circle around Mr. Norb’s corpse.
Osoth spoke his weighty words, and performed his wicked gestures. Borybran flinched.
Osoth snapped, “Borybran! You are displeased! Perhaps you have some reason for fearing the revenance of our pithed factotum?”
“Nothing like that! Your mystic passes, however, offend me in a fundamental but inexplicable way,” said Borybran.
“Me, too,” said Xilobrax. “And, unlike Borybran, I have never been deified, and — with all apologies — I should not like to be.”
“But that is a well-known property of the particular necromantic force you were applying,” said Borybran. “It is very widely blasphemous.”
“Ah, yes. It is. That explains why our most deified drake and our most atheistical drake both wince at the wizardry. But why did the wizardry not work? What was blocking it?”
The assembled dragons blinked at each other. “I saw no opposition” — “Nor did I.” — “There are no counterspells active here.” — “Nor illusions concealing counterspells or blocks.”
“Gentle-lizards!” cried Osoth. “I appreciate the interruption of your day, and your presence here. But you are clearly somehow mistaken or deluded. Here is a corpse! Here is a necromancer! Here are the spells! But — not here are the effects of the spells! Some influence must cause this!”
“I saw nothing,” said Lovrian. “And, though it make me the prime suspect, I say it again: I saw nothing.”
“Nor did I,” said Xilobrax. “The methods of magicology are extensive, and little by way of a broad general blocking-spell could be concealed from them.”
Tultamaan cocked his head. “Is all manner of your Black and Wicked Art blocked, Osoth?”
“I know seven thousand two hundred and eight necromantic spells, if one counts terdigerations and tveth-alternates,” said Osoth. “I have somehow neglected to try them all. You must forgive my omission! I have tried a representative sampling of the appropriate ones! It would do us no good to animate the body of Mr. Norb into a mobile corpse lacking all mind and spirit, all that is truly Mr. Norb, and thus unable to answer questions or describe his murderer.”
Tultamaan said, “Of course not. The only purpose of this Questioning of Us is to see who killed Mr. Norb. Poking at the Nature and Strength of the cryptic necromancy-block is of no Value or Interest to Us at All. So thwacking it with other bits of Necromancy, while likely to Teach us a Good Deal, is Beside The Purpose and Not To Be Tolerated.”
Osoth hissed at his lieutenant. “Tultamaan, speak plainly! Cease these upsetting Backwards Advices, for we are sufficiently upset already, and then some!”
“Animate his corpse, then, and see how the blocking-spell deals with that. Make it work often enough, and it might wear itself out, even,” said Tultamaan.
“Right,” snapped Osoth, and roared, “Corpse, stand forth, obey me!”
Mr. Norb’s body raised its head and hands, and moaned.
“Well, that worked quite normally,” grumbled Osoth.
Tultamaan frowned. “Two possibilities arise Immediately. Well, several others As Well, but these two are waving Purple Flags to get our Attention. The first is that there is a Conspiracy by all Magicologists to kill Mr. Norb. Hush, Lovrian, and hush, Xilobrax! You shall have time to protest later if you Wish. I think this conspiracy Implausible and verging on the Ridiculous To Even Mention, to say nothing of being Technically easy for the rest of us to notice. For one thing, neither magicologist has the slightest Known Motive against Mr. Norb, with whom they have both been Passing Friendly, and whose efforts have Pleased the Both of Them. Whence I discount this Possibility. Now argue against me if you Wish, Lovrian, and bitch thou completely, Xilobrax!”
The magicologists declined to argue.
“And the other possibility is that, somehow, Mr. Norb’s essence has Departed beyond the reach of Osoth’s spells, or imprisoned elsewhere, or, perhaps, been Destroyed altogether. For the results we have seen are as if there were no Ghost Present to Conjure,” said Tultamaan.
”… Yes, any of those would show us what we have seen so far,” said Osoth. “But who of us, save me, has the art to do this thing? And even I could not destroy him.”
“Nobody, to the best of my knowledge, has that Art,” said Tultamaan. “We must consider the possibility that someone has a device that can do it — some strange use of the wixio, perhaps? Jaraswat despised Mr. Norb. Could removing his linguistic ability render his soul unreachable by necromancy — unable to Respond to those itchy Words of Power?”
“I do not know! Let us confront Jaraswat, and see if he can explain himself!”Support this project! Show that you’re reading it by exchanging notes with the characters, other readers, the writer, and occasional other entities at sythyry.livejournal.com. And/or buy Bard Bloom’s books on Amazon, especially Mating Flight and World in My Claws, the prequel to this story. Also: Glossary and Dramatis Personae.