Path to the Throne (Part X)

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Rene, who already knew about her pregnancy—he was a necromancer, after all, and any experienced necromancer could easily detect the number of souls next to him—realized that logic was powerless against Cassie, and started to comfort her. It took him two hours—and very pleasurable ones. Yet Cassandra didn't want to go even after that. She was convinced only by her husband's promise to come to her after the epidemic was over.

Rene wasn't fooling himself. He knew he would last a moon, while the epidemic was in its height and the others still needed him. Then his fate would be sealed. They would try to kill him. As long as you had a necromancer, finding a stake to burn him on was simple enough. So after fending off the disease, he would need to leave. But first, he needed to sell all of his things to get established in his new home, and his dearly beloved Cassie would have to be sent away from the city with all the money he could gather.

So Rene set out to find a family who would want to escape the city as well—at least for a time. He didn't have to search long. A mail coach driver lived two houses away from him. After hearing the necromancer's tale about lilac chickenpox and seeing the proof—one of his children's veins changing color from blue to lilac—Ruben Shikhley was ready to kiss the necromancer's hands and feet, for warning him and saving his boy.

They left the same day in Ruben's carriage. He had promised to get Cassie to Limdor, a small town on the Riolon border, and look after her until the necromancer—or a man with the necromancer's letter and his ring—arrived. He was paid with his family's sterling health, as he drove away with not just Cassandra, alive and well, but with his mother, wife, and two children—before anybody knew anything, before panic swept the streets, before the epidemic broke out in full, and the roads got blocked. They were going to wait out the epidemic in Limdor. Just in case, the necromancer gave his wife a few well-crafted protective amulets designed to reflect unvoiced ill will. Translated into common language, it meant that if the owner of such an amulet got a death hex sent their way, it would be reflected on the originator of the curse. Wishing a broken leg would cripple you, to burn—well, you'd be lucky to stay alive after the fire. Such amulets never worked for long, but Rene hoped to find his wife before they ran out of power.

Cassandra was crying and swore to wait for him. Rene escorted the carriage to the gate and went to visit a life mage. Was it foolish? Yes. Incredibly dangerous? Absolutely. Yet he couldn't do anything else. He just couldn't.

Was it honor? Stupidity? Naiveté? The feelings that drove him were hard to describe. He knew necromancy was outlawed, that people he helped to save would all run toward a thrall of the Bright Saint to confess and repent all to avoid "becoming corrupted with the Tempter's taint," that an enraged crowd could easily tear him to pieces.

He knew all of that, and yet, it was his home, his city, his people. He talked to them on the streets and drank with them in the taverns, prayed with them, and broke the law with them, laughed and danced during festivals. Two houses down the street from his house lived Fanchetta Merlo, a once pretty girl who he had been secretly in love with in his youth. Since then, she had turned into a happy chubby mother of six. Every time she saw Rene, she smiled, and her husband, a renowned cobbler, often invited him for a visit. Their children snuggled up to Rene and asked him to tell them stories about knights.

If he left the city, they would all be dead. They didn't even have money for treatment, and necromancers generally weren't known for philanthropy and helping the law. As for Rene, he had never been ostracized, and after meeting Cassie, he became a rare thing—a happy necromancer. And he started to think about people like Uncle Jenn, the innkeeper, and his three pretty daughters, who delivered heavy food trays, their cute cheeks reddening after hearing a coarse word. Even noblemen visited Uncle Jenn's tavern because nobody could even raise their voice inside, not to mention swearing or yelling at another. Then there was Shadow Richelle, the Night King, who was Rene's constant employer for almost twenty years, back when Shadow was just a lucky pickpocket, and Rene was only starting to practice his magic. And there was his son, too—the child of a runaway nun who had died in childbirth, his father's pride and joy. And there were hundreds of other people, whom Rene barely knew, but couldn't abandon to their fate.

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