The Hidden Necromancer Series
by Rhiannon Frater
Genre: YA Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy
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The Unblessed Dead
The Hidden Necromancer Series Book 1
When I was younger, my mother saved my settlement from the Unblessed Dead that would have killed us all. It cost her everything to reveal her necromancy and sent shockwaves through our stringent religious settlement. Convicted of heresy against our sacred Lost Texts, she died soon after.
Excerpt #1 The Man in the Garden
I awoke to discover a dead man standing in the garden.
Now I linger near my bedroom window watching him. Mist swirls around his emaciated figure, and obscures his mottled face, but I recognize him even in the gloom of the night.
I scurry across the rough wooden floor to my sister’s bed on the other side of our small room and shake her awake.
“Leave me alone, Ilyse,” she mutters beneath her blankets. She burrows deeper, leaving only the halo of her blond hair on the pillow.
“Carrie, Schoolmaster Simmons is in the garden,” I whisper.
Flipping the covers down, she glares at me. “Schoolmaster Simmons is dead.”
Returning her peeved look, I say, “I know he’s dead. But he’s still in our garden.”
Lifting herself onto her elbow, she stares at me, her eyes slowly filling with understanding. “Oh. Again?”
“We have to return him to the Perdition Sanctuary before Father discovers him. Hurry.”
My heart is beating so hard in my chest it feels like it will shatter my ribs. How many times will this happen before my father discovers one of the Beloved Dead in the garden staring at our bedroom window and my fate is sealed?
I grab my hooded robe from the hook on the wall near our bedroom door and shove my feet into my leather slippers. Behind me, I hear Carrie doing the same.
“Why does this keep happening?” Carrie’s frustration bleeds into her hushed voice.
“I don’t know.”
I can’t share my fears with her. If I tell her what I suspect, my younger sister will panic, and my father will certainly notice. She’s an awful liar.
Carrie lies on the floor next to her bed and stretches out on her stomach to pull her control pole free from its hiding place. I do the same, my fingers searching the edge of the bedframe until I find my rod, and dislodge it. Hiding the tools from our father is necessary since women aren’t allowed to interact with the Beloved Dead. We’d been forced to use tree branches to usher poor Matron Chao back to the Perdition Sanctuary. A traveling merchant had eagerly traded with me for the poles when I’d presented a basket full of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs from our garden.
Carrie shrugs on her robe and pulls the hood over her head. “Are we the only ones dealing with them somehow getting out?”
“Maybe.” I twist my auburn hair into a bun at the nape of my neck and set the hood low over my forehead. “If others are dealing with the Beloved Dead escaping the Perdition Sanctuary, they’re not speaking about it openly.”
“Just like us.” She picks up her pole, her expression pensive. “Should we tell?”
I shake my head. “We can’t risk our names being tarnished with scandal. My Bridal Auction is soon. Yours is in five years. We must be of Pious Standing to secure husbands.”
With a disgruntled look, Carrie hurries to the window. “Sometimes I tire of always being in Pious Standing.”
I flinch at her words. I’m much more cautious than my younger sister when it comes to criticizing the way of life in the Atonement Settlement. Over my seventeen years, I’ve witnessed the repercussions that come with falling out of Pious Standing. At four years younger, Carrie is sheltered by our father and aunt. Sometimes I wonder if that’s a wise choice on their part. My father fears that we’ll imitate our eldest sister’s rebellion and bolt in the middle of the night into the Deadlands beyond the walls of our settlement. He’s done his best to instill fear into our hearts and train us in the way of the Lost Texts, but despite his best endeavors, the world appears to conspire against us. If anyone sees the Beloved Dead in our garden, we’ll be suspected of being necromancers and put on trial.
Armed with my pole, I unlatch the locks on the top and the bottom of the lead glass. Carefully, I swing the heavy window panes outward so I can step over the sill and onto the grass. The mist stirs around my feet, cold and damp. Carrie follows in my wake, her fingers tight around her pole.
“Be careful,” I whisper.
She rolls her eyes. “Like I’m not?”
The thick plastic loops at the end of the control poles swing back and forth as we approach Schoolmaster Simmons. My former mentor stands among the strawberries, his head cocked, staring at us with white, empty eyes as we approach. The sleeve of his tattered coat is folded and pinned over the stump of his arm. He was born in the Radiated Lands without a full arm on one side and with missing fingers on the other. Not one week dead, he still retains some semblance to the man he’d been in life.
I miss his gentle guidance in my studies and his encouragement to imagine a life beyond the Atonement Settlement. I’d been dreaming of our last conversation when I’d awakened to see him in the garden.
Is that why he stands in front of us now?
Have I summoned him without realizing what I was doing?
Excerpt #2 The Hidden Necromancer
“Wardens, are the accused secure?” Elder Johan asks while he and the other Elders begin to move toward the stairs to exit. Watching them depart makes me want to scream. They’re condemning us to hell, but aren’t even brave enough to watch from their lofty perch.
“The accused are secure,” comes the reply.
“Open the doors and let the Unblessed inside.” With those final words, Elder Johan disappears from view as he descends the stairs to the exit.
The sound of protesting metal is accompanied by the creak of the large gears churning. The thick metal doors at the far end of the room begin to lift. The stink of death flows into the warm room and my stomach lurches. The wardens on the catwalk secure masks over their mouths and nose to blot out the stench. One tries to hand a mask to Quade, but he brushes it away.
“If the women have to endure it, so will I,” he says.
The noise of many feet shuffling reverberates through the large enclosure. An unearthly keening starts with one voice and blooms into a loud disharmony. The Unblessed scrabble against rising doors with their decayed hands, and the increasing noise shatters what’s left of my resolve. With a hiccupping cry, I cover my mouth with my hands in an attempt to stave off the need to scream.
“I can’t do this!” Carrie’s loud cry of despair draws my attention to her. “I was wrong. I’m not this strong!”
“Carrie, you can. Don’t look at them. Don’t let fear take over,” Aunt Leticia answers. “Ilyse, do the same.”
At the tower to my right, Carrie sinks to the floor and wraps her arms around her legs before hiding her face against her knees. Threading her fingers through her blond hair, she rocks back and forth.
I want to close my eyes and pretend this isn’t happening again, but I can’t. My gaze is pinned to the doors inching upward. Gas lamps along the walls shed pale illumination over the vast area, but the floor of the enclosure remains shrouded in shadows.
I miss when the first of the Unblessed slip into the gloom, so I scream when sharp bangs ring out and the tower vibrates beneath my feet.
They’re small. Kids. Don’t panic.
I peer over the edge of the platform and can barely discern the small faces turned upward to growl at me.
The doors clang to a stop. The crowd of Unblessed surges forward in a wave of gray skin and tattered clothes. My aunt lets out a gasp of fright. Her tower is the closest to the doors, but she’s not immediately visible to the Unblessed. The towers that Carrie and I are perched on are directly in their line of sight. The air trembles with the reverberation of so many feet shuffling over the wooden floor. My fingers ache from the fierce grip I have on the railing and I force myself to loosen it. The Unblessed swarm around my tower and Carrie’s, their hands slapping against the metal sheeting that protects the base.
“Close the doors!” a warden orders.
I look toward the gaping entrance to catch a glimpse of the corral on the outside of the wall where the Unblessed are herded for the test. It’s nearly empty, but something odd catches my eye. One figure stands just outside the door shrouded in a dark cape and hood.
The Accused Dead
The Hidden Necromancer Series Book 2
According to the Lost Texts, the sins of the mother are laid on the shoulders of her female children
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