“Family is difficult,” said Darvinia, Enchantress of the Cursed Forest.
“AS YOU SAY, MY LADY,” intoned the Automata that she had purchased as a personal guard.
While it was a fantastically efficient killing machine (quite literally), its conversational skills were at best, subpar. She knew that it would eviscerate any foe with its plethora of built-in weaponry, it lacked that personal touch that toadying brought.
Suddenly, her Automata sprouted long, wicked bladed from the ends of its hands and positioned itself in front of her.
“WARNING MY LADY! INTRUDERS APPROACH!”
“Buttercup,” Darvinia said, deactivating his kill everything but her mode, “It’s just my sister.”
“SHALL I ADD HER TO THE LITANY OF FRIENDLIES?” it inquired.
“Yes,” she replied, though, in her head, she added ‘for now.’
With a gesture, Darvinia parted the vines and other flora that comprised her woodland estate, giving her sister a safe passage to the outer courtyard. Bracing herself, Darvinina smoothed her dress, an elaborate number woven out of poisonous plants. She had to drink an especially nasty potion whose aftertaste lingered before wearing it but she felt it was worth it.
Riding on a wave of leaves, she went out to greet her sister, Exhaultia.
Entering the courtyard in a chariot drawn by six reanimated horses, Exhaultia threw her arms wide and cried, “Sister! I am overjoyed to see you!”
“As I am you!” declared Darvina.
They both air-kissed each other. Exhalutia stood back and inspected her sister.
“I am delighted to see you in such high spirits, given the recent unpleasantness.”
Darvinia smiled and said in what she hoped was an airy tone, “Whatever do you mean dead sister?”
“You need not pretend with me, we are family after all.”
“Let me settle any and all concerns, I am doing very well.”
“Losing all your minions must be a terrible blow!”
Making a gesture to her Automata, she stated, “As you can see, I’ve traded up.”
“Is that one of Ren-Hab-Fin’s?”
“It is! Top of the line,” Darvinia said as humbly as she could. Which in case you were wondering, was not humble at all.
“May I?” asked Exhaultia.
“By all means.”
Her sister inspected the steel figure who still managed to intimidate whilst standing completely motionless.
“You have to give it to the Gnomes, they do remarkable work!”
“As I said, top of the line.”
“It must have been very dear.”
“Well, it wasn’t free.”
“And you could only afford the one?”
Taking a deep breath, Darvinia replied, “If you saw what it could do, you would of course know that one is all you will ever need.”
“Of course,” Exhaultia said with a slight twist of pity.
“You must be so tired from your trip, perhaps you’d like to clean up, and then we can have a bite to eat and catch up.”
“You are too kind. Is my room ready?”
“Always dear sister, always.”
While her sister freshened up, Darvinia grew a globe of plant life around he so she could scream without giving Exhaultia the satisfaction of knowing that she made her nuts. Once she had gone hoarse, she made herself a herb-infused rum toddy to soothe her throat and take the edge off.
Exhaultia met her at the open deck that overlooked the woods. The two sisters sat in reclining chairs made from embiggened lilies with a toadstool table ladened with snacks and drinks.
“These are just yummy!” cried Exhaultia as she nibbled on a raspberry truffle, “I’m so jealous of your little treats! I’m hopeless in the kitchen.”
As with most compliments from her sister, there was an undercurrent of snark and a healthy helping of self-superiority.
“It must be difficult to get a proper meal when all your servants are re-animated corpses,” replied Darvinia with a sad face.
“I do keep a chef or two alive for meals, but they keep running away and then I’m forced to make an example of them. Sad really.”
“Well, that must be an occupational hazard of being a Necromancer.”
Exhaultia shrugged and took a sip of a fizzy mead cocktail.
“Of course, you must be terribly lonely,” Darvinia said and lay a hand on her sister’s pale, cold forearm.
“You’d be surprised,” smirked Exhaultia.
Darvinia suppressed a shudder. She was never quite sure when her sister was joking but clearly came from a deep-seated desire for attention.
“Not that I’m not delighted to see you, but to what do I owe the honor of this visit?” asked Darvinia.
“Can’t I just pop in to see how my eldest sister is doing?”
Darvinia was about a year older than Exhaultia, a fact that came up in conversation more times than was strictly necessary.
“Well, I’m splendid, as you can see.”
“I can’t help it if I worry, what with this dreadful Goblin unpleasantness. You must be sick with worry.”
“Not at all! I’m perfectly capable of taking care of my own business.”
“There is no shame in asking for help.”
Taking her goblet, Darvinia sipped her fizzy mead cocktail. It took a great deal of self-discipline not to drain it in one go. No shame? If she took help from her sister, she would never hear the end of it. Additionally, the idea of trusting Exhaultia to take charge of her safety was laughable. Not haha laughable, more in a manner of a cackling lunatic. Putting down her drink, she turned to look at her sister.
“As I told you, I’ve got things under control. I and the Cadre of the Nefarious have things well in hand. So, don’t worry that little head of yours.”
Exhaultia adjusted her bone tiara. When they were children, Darvinia used to tease her about the size of her head, and clearly, the seeds planted still flourished. Time well spent.
“Let me be honest with you,” admitted the Necromancer.
Darvinia smiled and thought, ’first time for everything.’
“Given the Goblin thing, I’m going to offer my services to the Cadre of the Nefarious.”
“Are you saying that you are going to put your own undead troops in the households of the evilest beings in the Land?”
“No, no, no!”
“Because no one would agree to that.”
“Of course not. I’m going to sell them, undead troops.”
“You are batshite crazy!” shouted Darvinia.
It just came out. She immediately regretted it. Not because it would hurt Exhaultia’s feelings, hurting each other’s feelings was their love language. The last time someone had called her sister ‘crazy’ it had gone very, very, VERY badly. It was a long and bloody tale but in the interest of keeping things moving along, know that it was a raw nerve, emotionally speaking.
Exhaultia narrowed her eyes and softly said, “Oh. Am I?”
“What I meant that the idea was… Unconventional and other members of the Cadre might not-”
“I think, you need a demonstration.”
Standing, the Necromancer threw her arms wide and uttered a spell in a dark and obscure tongue. The ground around the woodland estate rumbled and boney arms clawed their way up.
“TOO BAD YOUR GOBLINS RAN OFF! I’LL BET YOU WISH YOU HAD SOME SORT OF PROTECTION!”
Darvinia groaned. This was the worst visit from her sister since YuleTide three years ago. She summoned an army of vines to restrain the reanimated skeletons. Of course, building her woodland estate over an ancient bloody battle was done for the mystique and a tidbit to be dropped during dinner parties. Unfortunately, it did give Exhaultia a rather large resource to pull from.
“Don’t you think you’ve made your point!” asked Darvinia.
“WHEN YOU FINALLY ADMIT THAT DEATH IS INEVITABLE AND ALL-POWERFUL!”
While Darvinia was fully on the evil side of the equation she also felt that life was more potent and it was a matter of what you did with it. Plants made the most powerful toxins and they were full of life.
Knowing full well that this only prolong this argument, she declared, “NEVER!”
“SO BE IT!”
Rolling her eyes, Darvinia had her sister swallowed by a large, flesh-eating plant. It was still for a moment, then bone spikes shot out and shredded the plant, freeing Exhaultia.
“BEHOLD THE MIGHT OF NECROMANCY!”
It might have been a more effective declaration if she wasn’t covered with plant goo.
“You think the Cadre of the Nefarious will trust you not to turn on them? We’re sisters and you’re trashing my home!”
“WHY DON’T YOU EVER SUPPORT MY IDEAS?”
“I invested in your skeletal tavern, the one made from bones and human skin and completely staffed by zombies!”
“I DON’T KNOW WHY THAT DIDN’T TAKE OFF!”
“Because when people have drinks with friends and comrades, they do not want to be reminded of their own mortality! And zombie waiters are gross and bits of them kept dripping into the food!”
“IT WAS TOO HIGH CONCEPT FOR THE MASSES! I SHOULD REOPEN IT IN A MORE COSMOPOLITAN MARKET!”
“You need to learn to take constructive notes!” offered Darvinia with no real hope that she would listen.
“LET ME SHOW YOU WHAT I’VE LEARNED!”
With that, Exhaultia made a rapid and intricate series of gestures that drew all the skeletons into a twelve-foot-tall hulking figure, bristling with sharp, jagged barbs.
“WHATTA YA THINK OF ME NOW?”
Sighing, Darvinia pressed a gem on her bracelet. The sound of brisk and heavy footsteps grew louder and louder. Bursting through the oaken doorway was her Automata. She pointed at the bone monstrosity.
It sounded like brittle stone exploding. The Automata’s fists pounded this undead behemoth relentlessly until the deck looked like it was covered with freshly fallen snow. It was, of course, pulverized bone. But you already knew that.
Regarding Exhaultia, she said, “I think your plan needs work.”
As filthy as she was, the Necromancer spoke, “Would you look at the time. I do have to leave. Things to do. Many. Things. To. Do.”
“Would you like to wash up before-”
“I’m fine… Sister.”
As much as Exhaultia cultivated an aura of death, her tightly wound calm whilst being utterly filthy, was the scariest she had ever been.
“Let’s do this again, soon. Kisses.”
Exhaultia thundered away on her skeletal chariot, leaving behind silence and a great deal of property damage. Darvinia knew that repairs would have to wait for the moment. She needed to warn the Cadre. The dead had risen, and they had issues.