Raising an Army

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Raise him.

Ursula's words cut across the silence that had been the entire atmosphere for more than fifteen minutes. She looked tired; a weariness that wasn't just due to Hubert's waking her.

"What?!" Hubert looked at her from across the room. He was still slightly shaking, despite it having been an hour and a shower later.

You will have to do it soon, before he leaves this place - worse, if Jenson has a claim on him.

"Go back a bit, Ursula, I don't know what you mean."

You must raise the boy, she said, slowly emphasising each word. If you wait too long, he may lose some of his recent memory, or Jenson will claim him, or it'll just be too hard.

"Why on Earth would I raise him? And raise him as what?"

Something conversational. Ursula's eyes flicked over to Edgar in his statuesque pose by the doorway. Despite them both being undead, the vampire and the skeleton never seemed to quite gel.

"Why?"

Master Necromancer, Ursula's voice drawled through his mind. Your enemy has sent one of his own into your camp. One who, no doubt, has information regarding the location of your enemy. One who probably has other information of use to us. He had this child destroy himself as part of his twisted message, but that doesn't matter to us. You should raise him, and question him. It should be done soon before his essence detaches and any memories he has that are of immediate use are somehow lost.

Hubert hadn't even considered the idea of raising the boy. His mind had been frazzled with the repeated image of the child's explosion. Glimpses of internal organs and soft red flesh tearing and scattering around the hallway still flashed in his mind. An army. Jenson was raising a fucking army. For what reason? To come after Hubert? Was that it? He didn't need an army for that - he could have had the boy do it. Master Necromancer he might be, but unwary ignoramus he still was. With different instructions, the boy could have simply killed Hubert instead of himself.

Master?

"God, Ursula, I don't know. I haven't even processed everything. Why is Jenson doing this? Why an army?"

Do you want to find out? Raise the boy!

"As what?"

As your servant.

It didn't matter of course; zombie, vampire, wraith. As long as the boy could speak and tell them Jenson's plan. Or at least, everything he knew about Jenson's plan.

"Wait," Hubert demanded and pulled out his phone.

Two minutes of research later and he had his idea. Something that could answer his questions yet threaten no one.

"Edgar, come with me. Ursula, you seem to have no squeamish qualities whatsoever, would you mind cleaning up the remains? Bring me..." Hubert paused and sighed. "Bring me his head."

Ursula nodded quietly before leaving. Edgar retrieved his dice from somewhere on his person and followed Hubert out of the bedroom door.


* * *


"The key," Hubert intoned, sharing his new-found knowledge with the vampire, "is in preservation. A good brain-in-a-jar requires the right amount of embalming fluid; formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde and the like."

You have this?

Hubert laughed. "I have everything." For a moment he was silent, remembering those online shopping runs with Dan shortly after his mother's insurance policy was paid. He did have everything that they had thought they might ever need, no matter how obscure. Including a huge glass jar.

The perfect mix of ingredients, a sprinkle of the necromantic field and some secrets. It was time for something new.

Hubert swirled as he worked, his necromancer uniform now a comfortable part of who he was. In the early days there had been a lot of uncertainty, but now there was none. He knew what he was doing, could sense the missing pieces of knowledge coming to him as they always seemed to do, fed from his subconscious or the field itself, he had no idea. Power washed over him euphorically, and he become absorbed in his work as Ursula performed her part as his assistant and Edgar guarded, both a physical presence at the door and a mysterious master of the necromantic field.

The worst part, Hubert was to reflect later, was the sound of the bone saw against the small boy's skull. Knowing that he had to be gentle to ensure he didn't cut the soft tissue housed within meant that he took his time and the grating sound of metal on bone echoed in his mind many times louder than it reverberated in the real world. This had once been a child, Hubert reflected, turned into Jenson's puppet and now to be what?

A weapon, he reflected. He was taking Ursula's idea of information gathering and was pushing it far our to a greater limit. A weapon that might be of great power in the coming war.

You want armies? Hubert imagined telling the wraith. I'll give you armies, and you won't stand a chance.

No more vampires, no more wraiths. It was time to become a master to the magic and the risen dead it gave him dominance over. Brain-in-a-jar was just the beginning.

Still, he couldn't stop himself humming the theme tune to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as he worked.

He lifted the brain carefully into the jar of preservation fluid. It would take on a green tint from the embalming liquid as the days and years went by, but for now it was still pink from blood. It hadn't been a zombie that Jenson had sent him, it had been a living, breathing six-year old. Enthralled somehow, possessed even, but still a little boy.

"I'm sorry," Hubert whispered as he placed on the lid while mentally threading together the magic that would give un-life to the organ within. "But I have to do this."

Puffs of lime-coloured clouds formed in the fluid, tiny sparks of green light pulsed from them to the brain, which moved suddenly from its lifelessness to a strange throbbing.

I WANT MY DADDY! The scream was deafening. Hubert stepped backwards into the wall and Ursula, who seemed to be affected twice as strongly, clutched the sides of her head. DAAAAADDYYY!

It's OK. Hubert threw the thought at the brain with as much calm as he could muster. Daddy can't be here, but I'm here to look after you. I'm Huu. Can we be friends?

I need Daddy. Where's Daddy?

We can try to find him together. I don't know where he is at the moment though. But I can look after you.

I can't see.

I can help with that too, Hubert reassured, you just need a little rest first. But before that, we need some help - maybe it'll help us find your daddy. Can you tell me about Jenson?

Telepathic communication has the advantage of not needing words where images are more effective. Hubert sent an image of Jenson clearly to the brain and everything went dark.


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