December the 11th 2012 I need to write this down. I woke up in panic early this morning. A dream, it was only a dream. But it seemed so real. The earth shaking, a loud roar. It’s all blurry in my mind now. I sat on...

One There were originally nine of us scheduled for the spelunking expedition, but Murphy’s Law dictated that two of the group had to pull out due to various issues. It was a disappointment having fewer members to share in the experience, but then again, there were benefits – less logistical problems, more space and so on. I, personally, wasn’t that affected by it; while most of us were close friends, I hadn’t known those two well. Our rendezvous was the cave entrance, at the crack of dawn. I was the first one there, as usual; those who knew me often remarked at my attention to punctuality. Slowly, the rest of the group arrived, parking their cars and unloading the equipment that we had organised between us. As the expedition leader, I had the emergency provisions on me – first aid kit, flare gun, GPS locator. It seemed quite odd that a flare gun would be taken into an underground location, but I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it. We assembled at the cave entrance. There was Jason, Alex, Karen, Samantha, Vincent, Ashley and, of course, myself. Alex and I were experienced spelunkers, while the rest had varying skill levels: moderate (Karen, Vincent and Samantha), poor (Jason) and a first-timer (Ashley). Normally it was against my instinct to take a first-timer into an unexplored cave and in such a large group, but he had promised to obey every command I gave him and had agreed to carry the most cumbersome equipment on the safe parts of the trek. The cave loomed in front of us. It was typically dark and rather foreboding. Not for the first time, I wondered why it was, according to every available record of local geological sites, unexplored. Perhaps it was the isolated location, or the fact that until recently, there had been no way for vehicles to access it through the surrounding forest. “Are you sure it’s alright?” Ashley nervously asked, shifting from foot to foot. His earlier bravado had deserted him. “Yes. You can’t change your mind once we’re in, so decide now.” I said flatly, turning around without waiting for an answer. He’d make his own mind up without any further input from me. The rest of the group followed me. After a few moments of apparent indecision, Ashley hurried in after the rest of us. Soon, the darkness swallowed us whole. Inside, the cave was quite larger than it appeared. It proceeded inwards for about two hundred metres and then sloped down quite quickly. As per usual, I ordered the group members to “buddy up,” a system in which the group divided into pairs and three’s and were responsible for keeping together. Ashley and I were partners, given that I was the most experienced and he was the least. It wasn’t as fun spelunking when you had to care for somebody else, but it was a necessary evil. Besides, he was a quick learner. Soon the sunlight from the cave mouth faded. “Flares out, everybody,” I ordered. One by one, the expedition members cracked the flares. As per local guidelines, each member carried two packs of thirty handheld flares. It may have been excessive, but the flares weren’t very strong and only provided enough light for the immediate area around the user. I took a glowstick from my pack and wedged it into the rock beside me. Only I carried these and they were quite stronger than the flares, able to last up to twelve hours with diminishing light after eight. I would use them to mark our trail back up. Slowly we continued down. The handheld flares lasted for fifteen minutes on average and soon we reached an edge. I ordered the group to stop five feet from the precipice, where the ground levelled out. As you may have noticed, I am a stickler for safety measures, but not without good reason. I didn’t want a death on my hands. “Ashley, crack a flare and throw it down,” I said, watching to see how he did it. Ashley withdrew a flare from his pack and lit it. Then, without moving, he tossed it forward, down the hole. I nodded in approval – he hadn’t moved forward from the five metre guideline. I crept forward to the precipice and looked into the abyss. Then I saw it. Descending into the darkness, barely half a metre from the cliff edge, was what appeared to be a staircase.

The hitchhiker Andy picked up on that July afternoon was one of the stranger people he had met. She had, after warm thanks for stopping, and a moment or two of silence, proclaimed herself to be able to grant a wish. The conjuration she had...

It's your first night in your new apartment. Your stuff is still in boxes. Your furniture (with the exception of the mattress on the floor) hasn't arrived yet. The utilities won't be turned on until the next day, so you're making due without. A flashlight...

I'm doing this for you. And for Mike, too, I guess, though I don't think there's much I can do to help him at this point. I suppose I should provide some background information first. I'm a sophomore in a fairly good university in Boston -...

September 2nd 1868 Arrived in Cheyenne in the new Wyoming Territory early this morning on the new Union Pacific line. Has been three years since I rode the locomotive. Did not realize it would remind me so strongly of Atlanta. Spent the last day of the journey with the phantom smell of blood and iron in my nostrils, and the bile rising at the back of my throat, but it is over. God willing, I will never have to ride the train again. Cheyenne is new born and mewling like a babe. Immigrants from the east and across the seas teem here, filling the streets with a babel of tongues and the raucous laughter of drunken listless youths. The hound I purchased before leaving tugs at his leash with delight at the sights and sound. The plot of land is still two days ride across the border and to the Southwest, but true to his word, the man from the bank has hired a guide to take me there. Sent a last letter to my wife and boys with instructions to meet me here in the spring, and have purchased a wagon and the supplies for construction. The guide, a half Indian fellow, I'd wager by appearance, but civilized in tongue, has helped me hire two young men: a Irishman with a sullen chinless face, and a German, watery eyed and stinking of bourbon. Both despicable wretches, but they have agreed to work for a pittance, and both claim to have experience in homesteading. They may intend to kill me, seeing an easy mark in a naive settler, but I do not fear these drunken children. I've seen a generation of these boys spilled open, and I know what they are made of. September 8th 1868 Have crossed into the Free Territory of Colorado, after a day of the level prairie of warm wind of Wyoming, into the Front Range. This land is wild, in some... strange way, and like nothing I've ever seen. We are following a river through the shadow of two jagged peaks, and camp tonight just a few miles from the parcel of land. I requested remote, and by God, the bank man did not fail me. The Kraut and the Irishman grow demure and quiet without spirits, and I see no possibility of violence in them now, lest they suspect me of hoarding whisky. They will do fine quick labor, and return to Cheyenne to drink and fuck the profits. These are men of dust, and serve only this purpose. To think, good men like me fought and died to protect these jackals from the reach of Lincoln’s tyranny, God grind his bones. I will be free of that monster soon, and if it should spread it’s federal borders this far, then I will burn my new home to the ground and move west yet again. Sons of bitches will have to push me into the sea before I swear fealty. Found a skull just off the deer trail, when I went to make water; it was bleached white and divorced from jawbone and neck. I try not view this a portent. Tomorrow, we should reach the plot, and begin. September 9th 1868 The bank man has lied to me, the foul stuffed pig. The plot of land, clearly identified by compass and map, is not the idyllic grove his words painted, but a swamp. A sodden hollow filled with mud and grass, ringed with broken and dying pines. I would flay my guide alive if I thought his wretch of a employer might feel a sting. Am determined to homestead here, however. This may not be the land I desired, but it is mine, by God. The Irishman and the German fell trees for me, and I have found the highest place, where the earth is damp the least. I will tame this land. The hound does not like it here. He growls at the horizon and pads in small tight circles, looking always behind him. September 10th 1868 Guide has vanished in the night. He was to spend the next few days properly mapping the borders of my land, but he has fled. Worse still the Irishman and the Kraut have grown skittish at his departure, the German tells a tale of hearing screaming in the woods last night. But in morning light, the guide’s tent and belongings were packed away and gone. It shames me to admit, but my first night was filled with unease. There is something about this land, unlike any in the East. It seems to breathe and pulse around me, like it watches me with a cold intelligence. The trees sing softly in the breeze and in the smallest hours, when sleep had fled into the dark, I fancied I heard whispering voices in the breeze. I will share none of this with the laborers; they are weak and callow enough as it is. If superstition infects them, I will be left alone here while they flee.

The power does it to everyone. It corrupts us all, or at least those of us who embrace it. Although we dive right in to be swept away by the black waters of necromancy, it's not easy for us to stay afloat. Our humanity is the coastline, the palm trees, the dry land itself. You put your humanity side by side with the fact that you're a wizard of hell, coastline next to infinite expanse of ocean, and you decide being a wizard is more fun. It appeals to you. You can't get away from it, so you dive in and swim out in to the ocean to get a bigger taste. To feel it all over your body, instead of just staring at it and dipping your toes in. The first time you swim in the ocean of the dead, the waters are electric to your soul. They shock you, show you things that you can't possibly understand but eventually DO come to understand. One day, it just so happens that you might decide you're tired of swimming, so you try to turn around, but the coast is gone. You don't swim back. You keep being swept out. To the sharks and an unknown abyss below you. The only place you can go is down, and that leads to a place that no man has been before. That is my family's struggle, and they have devised a society and a code over the years. If I have the right person, then the man in front of me has trampled our ideals in to the ground. Our traditions, our laws, our fellowship. In truth, we necromancers are afraid not of the dead, but of each other. We know that one of us might become too potent somewhere down the line because we stumble across the right demon with the right power, or because we sacrifice a particularly powerful spirit to the underworld. We know that one day, one of us might rise up and try to assert a kingdom of the dead on earth. The Chomhairle believe this is the man who poses that precise threat. They sent me to find him after we found his diary. When my father learned that his own brother had deserted the coven and handed over a bloodstone to a random child due to a disagreement, he put a death sentence on this man's head. We couldn't begin to search for him until he left his bloodstone behind. A trace of his power that we could latch on to, that we could follow. The man shuffles past me to the urinal with a mumble of "excuse me," and he shies away from looking me in the eye. He seems tired and drained. This is a good start. It could be him. I linger by the sink, lather my hands, and rinse them off, hoping that he will finish in time for me to see his face in the mirror. To strike up a ten second, meaningless conversation. Anything. It's been such a long road here. I'll take what I can get. I have to know. I can't walk out of this place now, even if I'm on the brink of death. I might have to teeter here for awhile. He is so very, very familiar with the spirit world; he might know it more intimately right now in this very moment than I ever will in my lifetime. If this is him, then his guise of deception is stronger than any in our history. We know some of what he is capable of. But not all. I hope one minute spent in this bathroom will be the conclusion to the longest wild goose chase in the history of the Chomhairle. If this is him, then I'm initiated as a council member. If it's not, then I'm at least another hundred years out. My ambitions within the council are nothing in comparison to the thirst for power. The bathroom is fritzy, five star, and new age. It's deep in the heart of Soho, of course. A cesspool of youthful rebellion. The green light in this place is too strong. That's hint number one that I have the right man. Let me go down the list for you. When he shakes it off, he spends an extra five seconds scratching his testicles, and then he rubs them a bit as he stares at the ad for the after hours swinger's club in the corner above the urinal. Even if this isn't the guy, he's still a pervert, and I've decided to sacrifice him if he's my sixth case of mistaken identity in a year out of simple frustration. I wash my hands a second time, waiting on him, trying not to be disgusted. He finally zips his fly and moseys over to the sink. So there's hint number two. "You spill something on yourself?" He asks me. I've never heard his voice. It sounds different than I expected. I know how this dangerous sorcerer sees the world. He's made a mistake, sharing his most intimate confessions with me. He never should have written them down. His ego may be his weakness, if I’m strong enough. Maybe. This has to be him. I say it in my head a thousand times in a split second. "Crawfish bisque. Good as hell, but I can't seem to finish a bowl without spilling it all over my sleeves." I say, squirting a fresh batch of soap on to the paper towel and scrubbing at my perfectly clean fisticuff. "Aren't you a little old to be dining here? I'd think you would be at the Mesa or the Palm." He says, and he makes a valid point. I do feel out of place here. I'm the only person in the building over the age of twenty five. He's bold. He thinks he's invincible, and I know that this is hint number three. He says the first thing that comes to mind with impunity, and he always has. That explains the four ex wives and the masculine decorations in his town house. I stare at his eyes in the mirror, and he's too busy focusing on my pocket. This is hint number four, and this is the best of them all. I know this is the rogue necromancer. His eyes have a green twinkle in the backs of them, something that normal humans can't see. He feels the stone, burning with ice fire in my pocket. He knows it's fucking on me, and he's stood next to me for less than half a minute. That's because he can't ignore the pull. It shows. This is him.

Though written about in fiction occasionally, the mirror box is quite an old invention. Being inside of one can be enlightening or traumatizing for the witness who bears its burden. The procedure is simple, though finding and preparing the materials required might take some time. The...

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