A note from vladerag

  Funnily enough, it never occured to me that Halloween was happening when I was planning this chapter.  What with Covid-19 and the fact that even my younger cousins are too old for trick or treating anyway, I completely forgot about it this year.  Lucky coincdence, huh?

  More importantly, by 7pm CST  9:30pm CST the first extra chapter for Patrons will be up and my Patreon overhauled to make sense again.

  In addition, I have decided to join the RoyalRoad Writeathon Challange this month, which means I need to write 25k words by Nov 15th and 55k words by Dec 10th.  Although the "Extra" chapters are shorter, my chapters are - on average - 3k words each.  So over the next two weeks I am going to buckle down and deliver eight to nine chapters to meet that goal.

  There are few things that motivate me like a useless Achievement on an electronic profile.  Sony and Valve have brainwashed me far too well...

  Speaking of which, I would have had this chapter done four hours ago if I hadn't driven myself insane trying to figure out this year's puzzle.  Some people have said it was so easy and obvious but for the life of me I simply have no idea what it is!  I tried Ceasarian ciphers and some possible codes for a Vigenere cipher and chugged through anagrams and checked for stenography...  

Edit: patreon release knocked back a couple of hours because of a puppy.

  "Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all: the conscientious historian will correct these defects.”


  -Mark Twain, on the historian Herdodotus

  For all [Historians], there comes a point where there simply is no more knowledge that can be found on a subject through anthropology and careful study. Indeed, few things can obscure facts worse than time and with over three millennia having passed even [Linguists] couldn’t be sure they were pronouncing the names of the ancient people they were researching correctly. Add to that the chaos of the Descent, the collapse of the Imperial Confederation, and the imperfect record keeping over the years and any [Historian] would be stymied - even with Hintystan itself allowing access to its records!

  Fortunately for history - and unfortunately for Timothy’s concerns about legality - Dr. Karen Smith could call upon.

  The Hin’Tye Empire had renamed itself a thousand years or so after the Descent to Hintystan, but it was still functionally the same Empire as before. The Imperial Republic Triumvirate of Hintystan had a government designed to maximise governance based Skills. Most of that was unimportant, except that the Imperial portion of the triumvirate could trace their family line back to [Emperor] Suth. They were more than just his descendants, they were his family.

  A week ago, the distinction would have been lost on Timothy. He, as anyone with a [Scholar] derived Class would, had a basic knowledge of magic. He had a small selection of spells that were useful to his Class and a general knowledge of the basics of all the important Schools and their history.

  What he had not had was practical experience in Necromancy, the School of magic widely considered to be the most highly regulated in the world. Even Blood Magic was considered a less dangerous and distasteful magic, and Blood Magic required some kind of harm to function! And on the subject of Blood Magic…

  Dr. Smith had somehow convinced a member of the Imperial Family to join them in this dark, underground, room. That man, that [Prince], was currently helping to apply his own blood to the circle being drawn by several high-level [Necromancers] and [Blood Mages] in this almost certainly illegal summoning chamber. Timothy wasn’t aware of the specific laws, but he was well aware that having a specially prepared and made summoning chamber was something regulated and generally not hidden behind a rock on a random hillside well away from civilization.

  He sighed, thinking that it had been going so well.

  After Timothy had seen that stela, he had been overwhelmingly excited to help start unravelling the mystery it presented. He was ready to grab his tools and get to work, no matter how hard that work might be! Except that they weren’t able to find anything more at all. [Princess] Hemetra was, as far as Timothy could tell, a complete non-entity in ancient Ra’Sharon.

  Sure, she had existed and been born in that desert kingdom, but prior to her involvement in the Peace of Flowers she had done nothing at all. Well, that wasn’t entirely true, there were several treatises on Classes and Skills that were believed to be written by [Princess] Hemetra while she lived in Ra’Sharon. It was just that those documents came from the Hin’Tye and that Ra’Sharon barely mentioned the [Princess] themselves. At most, she was noted as excelling at music.

  Considering how much Dr. Smith was able to definitely attribute to the [Princess] and how much she believed probably was attributable to the [Princess], the lack of records in Ra’Sharon was suspicious to her. Timothy, if he was honest, was less suspicious of that. The bloodbath that was the Ra’Sharon succession at the time was well known and his personal theory was that - if Hemetra was responsible for the shift in the Hin’Tye Empire’s behavior - she had been unable to do anything in Ra’Sharon due to pressure from her siblings.

  Yes, that was supposed to be how [Historians] worked. Find as much evidence as they can, and then form opinions based on that evidence. If they sometimes disagree, well, who can really say what happened for certain?

  “We call upon you, the spirit of [Emperor] Suth!” Intoned the [High Necromancer], because the answer to Timothy’s rhetorical musings was simple: someone who was there at the time. “By the blood of your family, willingly given, we call out to the land of the dead!”

  Cold mist began to gather, but it wasn’t wet or damp. In fact, the formerly slightly damp room had become bone dry as the mist slowly flowed from the edges of the room into the center of the circle. Soon, it took the shape of a man…

  “Family, you say?” the mist twisted, becoming more and more detailed as the features of [Emperor] Suth became sharper. “I should be glad that my family still walks, but I can’t imagine you have called on me for merely a social visit.”

  “Actually, in a way, we have.” Dr. Smith said with a smile, “There is no crisis or issue we need help solving, save that of people whose curiosity and desire to know the past was simply too great for us not to try and speak to you.”

  “Truly?” The [Emperor] seemed a bit amused by this, “to go so far just to ask some questions, I suppose I don’t mind indulging so long as you answer some of mine in turn.”

  “But of course,” Dr. Smith said smoothly, “though please allow me to introduce you to [Prince] Cunyet first.”

  “Your Imperial Highness,” Cunyet stepped forward and bowed. “It is an honor and a delight as your descendant to speak with you, Ancestor.”

  “There is no need for titles,” Sut said, waving his hand to accentuate the dismissal of formality. “They are of no use to me here in Death and it seems that my empire has an [Emperor] now still. To refer to me as such undermines his authority, you may call me Sut.”

  Timothy mentally corrected himself, having always believed that the ancient [Emperor’s] name was pronounced “Suth,” before turning his attention back to the proceedings.

  “I am honored,” Cunyet bowed slightly again before continuing. “Sut, it has been over three thousand years since you passed. In that time the empire has waxed and waned, built and rebuilt. In addition to providing my blood to link to you, I am here to attest that what Dr. Smith - a world renowned [Historian] - says next was done with the utmost care and respect. When the city expanded, we did not know what we had stumbled upon until she investigated.”

  Sut turned to the doctor, giving her a silent invitation to speak. Even dead for so long the [Emperor] still commanded the flow of the conversation with ease. Timothy could only envy how naturally the man was able to take control with something as simple as a gesture and a look.

  “I was asked to evaluate and catalogue a site found when construction crews broke the ground,” Dr. Smith answered the unasked question, “and found the burial chamber of [Princess] Hemetra.”

  Sut’s face instantly became guarded, and the dynamic suddenly changed. The [Emperor], who had subtly asserted dominance over the conversation was now on the back foot as Dr. Smith advanced.

  “There we found something astonishing: a stela, ancient yet showing scenes and knowledge that was a mere couple of hundred years old.” Oddly, the spectre relaxed at that statement.

  “A couple hundred years old, you say?” Sut seemed to contemplate that thought, letting his words out slowly like he was considering everything he said deeply before he spoke. “Has society truly advanced so far?”

  “Admittedly, it wasn’t quite that long ago that we figured out all the dangers involved in pollution, but otherwise yes. However, we were curious how that information got onto that stela in your wife’s - Hemetra’s - tomb, curious enough that we decided to ask.”

  “Her name is Hemere,” Sut chuckled. “I suppose you already tried to call her?”

  “Correct, we did try.”

  Timothy hadn’t actually known about that, but given that this ritual involved a [High Necromancer] was over level fifty, he couldn’t believe that they had failed. Yet the doctor obviously had or Timothy wouldn’t be here now.

  “It never had a chance of working, you know? She isn’t dead.”

  At that statement from Sut, Cunyet burst out saying, “I knew it! I just knew it! My Skill, [Hunch], is never wrong!”

  Timothy hadn’t even been surprised to find out that the [Prince] had [Conspiracy Theorist] as a secondary Class. After working with Dr. Smith for months, he felt that there was very little that could shock him at this point. The claim that [Princess] Hemere of Ra’Sharon was not dead definitely could though.

  Of course, “not dead” could mean a lot of different things. The [Princess] could be undead, or somehow transformed, perhaps even Ascended somehow. Timothy had seen the woman’s body - what was left of it - so that limited the options a great deal, but it would seem that Hemere’s spirit was still in the world.

  “Is she ok? Does she need help?” The [High Necromancer] interrupted here. It seemed that despite being involved in illegal acts, the man was not amoral. A dead spirit, bound to the material realm for thousands of years, would be in immense torment. Enough that it would not be surprising to see the criminal [High Necromancer] go to the authorities himself for help free one if he needed it.

  “Ha! I doubt it,” Sut laughed. “But you couldn’t help her anyways, although I appreciate your concern for her. But as I said, she isn’t dead.”

  “While we did treat her body with the utmost respect, it was removed from the tomb.” Dr. Smith said carefully, “It was confirmed as the body of [Princess] Hemere.”

  “It would, because it was. She died, but she isn’t dead. Whether or not I explain more… I haven’t decided yet.”

  “Dr. Smith can keep a secret,” Timothy was shocked to find himself speaking, suddenly occupying the full attention of the ancient ghost of an [Emperor]. “Aside from the people who work with her - all of whom, myself included, have signed magical contracts that will kill us if we share these secrets - the only person who could share your secret is your own descendant. But I shouldn’t think that would be necessary, I have thought about it for a long while and I believe I know why the stela was only carved on one side and why it was in [Princess] Hemere’s tomb.”

  “Oh?” Timothy got no clues from the neutral response of Sut, but steeled himself and kept talking anyways.

  “I believe it is unfinished, and was left unfinished because you found information that you decided was too dangerous for people to have,” Timothy had worried he might pick up the [Conspiracy Theorist] Class himself which how much he had thought that. “I even think, considering when our society discovered the information on that stela, I know what it was. If I were to ask you about a great explosive that poisoned the land it was used on, what would you say?”

  “Smart kid.” Sut replied, “although the notes and letters she left me did not contain information on how to create something like that, it did contain warnings not to let them be created at all. My wife warned me that they could destroy the world. There were many things she only knew vaguely how to create, and a few she wanted me to steer humanity away from ever developing.”

  Sut chuckled again, “I love her dearly, but my wife was truly naive. Sure, her descriptions were far from detailed, but telling people what not to do is basically the same thing as giving them a rough guideline of how to do it. Although my biggest fear had nothing to do with those ‘bombs.’ Instead, I worried about ‘germ theory,’ because I realised that most of the technology restrictions she spoke of could be bypassed by someone with the right Class. Her warnings, meant to save lives, would have undoubtedly given someone the idea to weaponize it even though we would also lack the technology to defend against it.”

  That was… Terrifyingly more reasonable than atomic weaponry. Biological warfare was - in comparison - easy and cheap. Sut wasn’t wrong that there were Classes that could utilize microbes to horrendous effect - just having the [Plague Mage] Class was considered grounds for execution in most countries. But you didn’t even need a Class to spread infected blankets or contaminated water, and the ancient world would have had no medicine and only basic priestly healing.

  “I suppose that you would be interested in learning about my wife then?”

  Dr. Smith’s smile was all the confirmation anyone needed.

A note from vladerag

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Bio: Hello! I am Vladerag the author of several stories here on Royal Road! I hope you are enjoying whatever you are reading, and I hope you check out some of my stories!

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