Paladin and Necromancer

Writing Award Sub-Category
Award Category
Logline or Premise
During the war, the paladin Kassander married the necromancer Silver. After all, the world was ending, so anything went. Unfortunately, they survived the war. With their marriage now messier than ever, a mysterious demon attack forces Kass and Silver to work together to save the realm.
First 10 Pages


Seven years ago, the planes of existence split apart. That was rather unexpected for the humans of the realm, but the gods assured them that this happens sometimes. Once the army from another plane invaded, they recruited swaths of the more-or-less faithful to save the world.

Many cities were razed to the ground or fell into rapidly opening interplanar rifts. But many also survived, as the newly recruited paladins called upon their gods to lend them strength and mages drew on newly accessible channels of power that allowed them to cast destructive spells hitherto unimaginable.

The war ended three years ago. It would be overly charitable to say that humanity won, but at some point the attacks stopped as the enemy either ran out of soldiers, dragons, or patience.

The planar rifts stayed open, however. Every world in the multiverse now had an open door, including the gods’ very own pocket realms. Even the most powerful deities were unable to close the rifts, so humanity focused its efforts on creating barriers and shields against future invasions by their interplanar neighbours.

Understandably, everyone is a little on edge.

Chapter 1: Present

“So, you’re telling me the rift just appeared out of nowhere?”

Kass likes an old-fashioned notepad. Whenever he gets mad, you can hear the ink screech against the paper. His squire Allen squirms.

“I mean, it might have had something to do with the human sacrifices nailed to the walls. But I’m sure the rift came as a surprise to everyone else in the manor.”

“I take it there were no survivors.”

Allen huffs out a dry laugh. The manor, once made up of white marble walls and drowned in pastel-coloured, goose-feathered throw pillows, is now best described as red. And sticky.

“None, sir.”

“Okay, then walk me through it. You and your squadron are called by a concerned neighbour due to the …”

“The screams, the terrible screams, sir.”

“Very good. You enter the manor and find that everyone has already died.”

“Most horrifically, yes, sir.”

“Very good. You fight off the remaining demons –”

“Which were very scary, I should mention, sir.”

“Very good. And then you find a portal down in the basement?”

Kass points at the spiral staircase that leads from the entrance hall down into the manor’s wine cellar. Apparently, someone in the noble family thought that mixing drink and demonology was a great idea.

“Yes, sir.”

“And apparently you find that prospect very frightening?”

Allen looks up.

“Have you been down there, yet?”

“Not yet.”

“Well, it’s… well, it’s strange. Pultruding, one might say.”


“Yes, sir.”

Kass rubs the back of his neck.

“So, you just had to call her”, he mutters.

“Pardon, sir?”

“Silver. Of all the mages in this town, you just had to go and call Silver.”

“She is listed as an expert in –”

“She is a necromancer. You’d think demons would be enough – now you just had to go and add undeath and reanimations into the mix?”

“She’s your wife, sir.”

Allen’s voice is quiet, and he exchanges an awkward glance with the rest of Kass’s troops. They don’t give him the reaction he expects, as they move away from their choleric commander and take shelter behind half-torn marble statues and collapsed columns. For a moment, Kass is severely tempted to scream out his frustration until his squire runs all the way back to his backwater home village, misshapen sword between his legs.

Then he remembers that he swore a blood oath to the god of justice and temperance and takes a deep breath instead. His squire and the rest of the city guardsmen relax.

“Very well”, Kass says in the voice of someone who is decidedly not very well, “Let’s see what my dear wife has unearthed now, shall we?”

Silver is in the process of reanimating two corpses, and somehow none of Kass’s subordinates have deemed it fit to stop her. The body of a male teenager, almost entirely torn in two by what must have been a demon’s claw or beak, is hovering in a purple-glowing pentagram. The body of an elderly woman, perhaps his mother, is still lying on the ground beside him but has likewise started to absorb the light from Silver’s hand-painted spell.

His wife pays them no mind. Instead, she is sitting beside the rift, her skeletal hand hovering perhaps an inch from its steaming exterior. She has locked her wheelchair in position and is almost lifting her lower body so that she can poke her nose into the magic strands that are holding the rift in place. Her thin, whitish-blonde hair is swaying in a faint breeze that seems to come from nowhere.

“Silver”, Kass says in place of a greeting. She doesn’t turn around when he enters the wine cellar, turned summoning chamber. They get enough of each other at home.

“Great, you’re here”, she says, “Can you tell me when our friends here come to?”

She points at the two corpses she is reanimating. Her voice is raspy and quiet. She permanently damaged her vocal cords back in the war, when the enemy tried to torture her to death in repayment for the many fireballs she’d thrown into their midst.

“Is it really necessary to bring them back? Some noble idiots summoned a demon, accidentally opened a rift to one of the hell planes, and after it was done with dinner, our fiend returned to whichever dimension it came from. Just block off the damned rift and we can get on with our day.”

Silver turns around to him and fixates him with her small, dark eyes.

“Think about that again”, she merely says, then turns back to the rift, whispering a small incantation that seems to flow right through it.

Kass sighs and steps closer, his squire Allen and the rest of his men cautious as they move on the concrete floor, soaked in blood and wine. Wine shelves, many of which are shattered on the ground, lie to his left and soak up the room with the intoxicating stink of grapes. In the centre, there are the two pentagrams that Silver must have drawn up before returning to her wheelchair. On the right wall, there are the corpses that Allen promised him, nailed to the wall with small swords and daggers.

Kass sighs internally, then turns back around to his squire.

“Are there any other rooms in the basement?”

He can’t see any, but then again, he’s no rogue. He’s never been good at finding trap doors and hidden corridors. Allen, on the other hand, was recruited from the villages where kids had to learn all sorts of skills to survive.

Silver interrupts the squire before he can answer.

“Nope. I did a scrying spell, too.”

“And upstairs –?”

“Lots of corpses and tasteless décor. But no –”

She interrupts herself to see if he’s guessed it for himself. Kass sighs, out loud this time.

“No summoning circle.”


Silver turns around and he sees something like approval in her eyes. Sometimes he finds it difficult to look at her; with her torn-up voice, her skeleton arm, and her legs that only work on good days. The war still clings to every inch of her while he feels like it’s forgotten him somehow.

“We could just have missed it”, Kass suggests. He turns around to his men and commands them to comb through the entire manor again, this time looking for any alchemical symbols or pentagrams that could have been used to communicate to the infernal plane. They do as he asks, leaving only him and Silver in the basement.

“Waste of time”, his wife says, “If there was a summoning circle, I would have been able to trace its residue energy. Instead, all I could detect is this.”

She points at the rift. Her skeleton hand comes a little close to its outline and a small electric bolt jumps onto her fingers. She doesn’t seem to feel the pain, though.

“Even you’ve been wrong before”, Kass cautions. Silver shrugs but doesn’t deny it. She strokes her chin.

“If we assume that I’m no bumbling idiot, though, why would demons enter this manor of their own accord? And why leave a backdoor to wherever they came from?”

She touches the rift again, this time intentionally. A bolt of lightning springs from its exterior and shoots past Kass’s head into the back wall of the wine cellar. He doesn’t do Silver the favour of flinching.

His wife continues.

“This rift reeks of powerful magic. Powerful enough that it makes me think –”

Kass interrupts her.

“Is there any chance this was a natural phenomenon? Rifts still appear all over the place.”

Silver thinks about it for a moment.

“I’m not sure. There haven’t been any big ones for a while. You know, the sort that let entire armies pass onto our plane.”

She shrugs.

“But now that everyone knows that other planes exist, it was only a matter of time until people found a way to replicate the big rapture from seven years ago.”

Kass curses quietly. The king has, of course, outlawed any experimentation on the rifts, as have the ten gods’ temples. But it’s hard to enforce rules when it comes to mages.

“But it could be a coincidence”, he reiterates.

“I mean, yes. But here in Old York, Kass? Now?”

“Granted. Big coincidence. Too big.”

Silver nods, then taps her nails on the arms of her wheelchair.

“I reckon if a mage expended the energy necessary to open a rift, they wouldn’t have bothered for a second-grade noble house. No. I reckon that the demons that were sent through this rift are still here, completing whatever mission they have.”

Kass sighs a third time, but he admits that she might have a point.

“Could you do a city-wide scrying spell? Find any creatures that passed through the rift?”

Silver hesitates.

“I could try, but you’re better off asking a diviner. Scrying isn’t my specialism.”

“I know.”

Kass remembers begging her not to go down the path of necromancy. The memory was burned into his dreams, tormenting him whenever he thought he might come up for air.

When they’d first met, Silver had been a wide-eyed girl, desperate to protect her home from the invading enemy. Like many nobles, she’d been taught a bit of magic by a bored house tutor, and she’d shown some more talent and inclination towards the subject than most.

Kass was the son of a tavern owner and had sworn his loyalty to the first god who’d have his services so he could join the army. He had never thought he would actually be chosen as a favoured divine fighter. As a paladin.

In many ways, things had been easier during the early days of the invasion, even as they fought their fears and self-doubts as viciously as the enemy outside the walls. Before they’d slowly been forced to give up all the things that made them hopeful and innocent in favour of obtaining powers that would keep them safe.

“Still, I’d prefer it if you tried it first. No need to unsettle the higher-ups before we know our demons’ targets.”

Silver raises her eyebrows, then smirks.

“That, and you don’t fancy the paperwork of requisitioning someone from the mage guild.”

“I built you a two-floor study and laboratory. You might as well put it to use for something other than resurrecting that damned cat over and over again.”

“It’s your cat, Kassander.”

“It was. When it was alive. Now it’s an abomination.”

Silver rolls her eyes.

“That’s a pretty big word, husband. Are you sure you know what it means?”

Kass glares at her until she relents.

“Fine, I’ll scry for your demon. Let me just take a sample.”

She pulls out a vial from one of the many pouches and bags she has strapped to her wheelchair. She whispers a quiet protection spell, then simply holds it inside the rift, using her skeleton hand. With another quick incantation, the vial closes, trapping some of the air and lightning inside.

“I assume we can’t simply pass through the rift?”, Kass asks in lieu of a thank you. Silver shakes her head.

“First thing one of your boys tried. He’s in the hospital up Glengarden Road now.”

Kass nods, then gets distracted by a movement on his left. The two corpses in the pentagrams have risen and stare at him with unblinking, faintly glowing eyes.

“Ah, finally!”, Silver says, clapping her hands, “They were so messed up, it took ages to bring them back.”

Kass suppresses a shudder, and he feels the divine energy coursing through his body propel him to action. While many gods dislike the undead, his own god, Five, hates them with a burning passion. When he had first signed himself into Five’s service, he hadn’t predicted that this would become a problem.

He fights down the impulse to cleave through Silver’s summons with his Zweihander and takes a step back. Soon enough, she’d end the spell and the nobles could be given a proper burial.

“Can you speak, lost souls?”, he asks. The teenager manages a nod. The woman doesn’t react, but he can’t exactly blame her. There is a great gaping hole where her throat should be. The fact that these were the most suitable corpses Silver found for reanimation speaks volumes.

“Tell me what happened here”, he demands. The teenager opens his mouth, and a spout of black pestilence falls from his tongue. Kass curses.

“Death”, the boy says, “Demon. Fire. Claw.”

“Easy questions”, Silver reminds him, “Yes or no, ideally.”

Kass nods. He knows this, however much he wishes he didn’t.

“Did you summon the demon?”

The teenager and the woman both shake their head. Hers rolls precariously onto the side, but the point stands.

“Do you know if anyone else from this house summoned the demon? Or tried to?”, Kass presses.

Again, they shake their heads.

“Do you have any enemies? Anyone who might have wished you harm?”

Again, the same response. Kass turns around to Silver, who has narrowed her eyes.

“Interesting”, she murmurs.

“Any ideas?”, he asks. Silver rubs her chin again, scratching away a bit of skin with her skeletal fingers.

“Were any of you spellcasters? Anyone in your family?”, she asks but receives the same response as Kass.

She curses.

“The spell is fading. We don’t have much time left.”

“Do you know where the rift leads?”, Kass asks.

The teenager shakes his head, but the woman stills, staring at him with wide eyes. Kass turns to Silver.

“Can you make her speak? She might know something.”

His wife nods. She raises her skeletal hand and whispers a spell that binds the woman’s skin together, twisting and turning around her throat until a temporary flesh shield has formed against the open air.

“Speak”, Silver commands, her voice even more hoarse than usual.

“Tower. Two towers.”

Kass feels his blood run cold. That meant that whichever pocket plane the demons had emerged from was inhabited, possibly by an advanced civilisation. The hell planes don’t have towers, as far as he was aware. So, this was a targeted attack. The outset of another war? He utters a quick prayer to Five that it isn’t. Humanity won’t survive that.

“How would you know that?”, he asks. The rift’s exterior is covered by wind and lightning.

“I saw. When it opened”, the dead woman presses out.

“What manner of demon did this?”, Kass demands. But the spell fails before the woman can reply, and the two corpses crash into the ground. He turns around to Silver.

“Can you –?”

Silver raises her hands, but after a moment lowers them again.

“They are gone”, she explains and makes a waving motion that imitates the souls vanishing in thin air. Hopefully passing to another plane where they could find an afterlife. Souls don’t need a rift for that. They become one with the fabric of existence as they sink into peace.

Kass curses, using terms he tried to forget from his time working in his father’s tavern. Silver shoots him a bemused glance, but she doesn’t comment. Instead, she twists the vial between her fingers.

“This just got interesting”, she mutters. Kass interrupts his flow of curses, then shakes his head.

“She might have misinterpreted what she saw”, he suggests although his voice isn’t very hopeful.

Silver shrugs.

“Maybe. Or the boy and your squires got it wrong, and this wasn’t the handiwork of a demon at all.”

“What would do this if not a demon?”

Silver glares at him.

“People, for one thing.”

He can’t argue with her there.

“And all this effort for what?”

Kass takes another look at the boy and the woman. They belong to a minor house in Old York, the realm’s second – and now only – capital. Kass knows little about them, so he asks Silver.

“House Karthe? They’re mineral traders, from what I remember. They got their titles about a century ago in exchange for a pretty hefty loan to finance one of the King’s crusades to the East.”

As a noble, Silver knows most of the old families in the realm – and the new ones who’d gathered up enough money to impress her parents. Once upon a time, her family had been keen to get her married off to a promising young lordling or heiress. Kass had only met them once before the catapult debris turned their home to dust and buried all of Silver’s family except for her eccentric aunt and a sister in exile. Her parents had been horrified at the prospect of their favourite daughter engaged to a newly enrolled Paladin with nothing to his name except conviction.

It had been easy to become Silver’s replacement family after she’d lost everyone else. Perhaps that was part of the reason why divorce was still not a word that was uttered between them.