What Price To Become Human Again?
What would you do, gentle reader, were you faced with my predicament? I was animate, I was returned to the world of the living, but I no longer drew breath. The Necromancer knew his work, I fault him not for my condition, but even he had severe limits upon his powers. He could tie my soul back into my body with threads strong enough to fend off the grasping reach of the great and terrible God-King Xbalanque, but he could not make rotting flesh whole again. Not on his own.
He made for me many tinctures, poultices, and salves to slow down the putrefaction of my physical corpus. I learned to dress in clothes, both long and baggy, which would cover the obvious signs of my death. I shied away from bright lights and crowds. I had never been highly social, yet now I found myself downright avoiding the slightest of contact. For who could I identify with, now that I had faced that most hellish of realms? It had turned me, twisted me into a mockery of my old self. I was free, yet I would ever be a prisoner within my own mind, my own memory.
I shall attempt to save you from excessive prattle over my misery. Suffice it to say that I felt an unbearable mix of piteous gratitude for my freedom, yet all around me existed naught but reminders of my state. And what could I do? I knew what awaited me should I ever relinquish my grasp upon this decaying sack of flesh and bone. No, I would rather face an aeon of this half life than go back to the torture chambers I had been saved from.
Affairs between my wife and I continued to unravel. She had saved me, yes, with her steel will against Franz's self interest. And she loved me still, of that I would never doubt. Yet we were forced to occupy separate rooms and my condition required constant care. The pleasures of the flesh were lost to me. Even food and drink had no flavor. I existed quite zombie-like in practice, though I had lost little of my mental faculties. The more time passed, the more we drifted apart.
My attempts to elicit help from Franz were in vain. He would not see me nor respond to my emails, and, somehow, I could never find his place again. Every road I drove upon led me to a cliff's edge or a flowing river. Only the Necromancer offered me assistance; I could tell he felt sympathy for my frustration yet could do naught beyond slowing the inevitable.
Thus it was, that when he appeared at my doorstep quite animated (forgive my pun) and gabbering about some sacred tree, I felt my hopes soaring for the first time since I felt the light upon my eyelids after being snatched wholly from Hell.
"I have found it!" He said, amidst his other babblings. "The Tree of the Many-Eyed One! It is your salvation, my friend. It is but one ingredient of nine, but that is it!"
"What are you talking about?" I asked, afraid to let my hopes rise too high. Though there was but one thing that would excite him so much that he would bring it to my attention personally.
"An agent of Franz. He found it. No, no... I shan't tell you his name. But it was he who unburied the book of Bone and Water. And there... I can't believe it's real... there, in plain text, did it mention nine sacred ingredients used to purify the flesh of the dead."
"I mean, I now have access to the full ritual of Claiming. It was used in ancient times to allow a dying Necromancer to take up the younger body of a sacrificial victim. Yet, I am certain that I may modify it to bring back your body to full health and well-being. And with your soul still attached."
I was speechless. I stood there, mouth working, tears springing from the corners of my eyes.
"Whatever it takes," I said. "Send me to the furthest corners of the globe. I care not. I will be whole again."
In the back of my mind, I knew there must be a cost. Surely there was a cost, for there ever is with the supernatural. Yet I cared not. Whatever the price to regain my humanity, I would pay it. I would fight the hordes of a thousand Xbalanques, so long as the slimmest chance of success existed.