Blood and tears flavored the youngest years of Neronin’s life. Then the tears ran out. Born to an abusive father and a weak mother he spent his early years learning survival from the end of his father's fire-poker or the unforgiving cruelty of the streets of Etzos. Abused and desperate for attention, Neronin sought comfort from his mother. He desperately tried to be whatever he needed to be to make his mother protect him, or make his father stop beating him. It did not work. The only thing that kept the fear and pain at bay was, as he grew to find, anger, hate, and independence. He slowly weened himself off the need for his parents, though he still lived with them. It was better than getting stabbed on the street or kidnapped into slavery.
This independence came with a new wrathful defiance toward his father and his abusive hold over the household. The result was more beatings, more poker-scars, and more hate brewing in the boy. But Neronin was no longer the soft child he had once been. Still a boy he was, but a smart one hardened by a life of suffering. When his father got in the mood for violence, Neronin would often slip out of the house knowing full well the blows would land on his mother instead. But her weakness and slavish servitude long ago sapped whatever empathy or pity Neronin had for her. She had never raised a hand in his defense, instead rationalizing the blows. She encouraged some mysterious conformity, as if his father's anger could ever be abated by any change Neronin could make.
One evening it all went too far. Too far by the screwed up standard of Neronin's family, not by normal standards. He showed up at the door after a day spent resolutely away from kin, a good day. Before entering the battered old home he could hear his father's panting effort. He felt anger flare up inside him. It was not born of affection for his mother, indeed she caused it as much as he. Her disgusting submissive nature, his pathetic, cowardly physical dominance. Both were so typical, so predictable in their behavior that the anger flared up in a vile pool of disgust within him. He kicked in the door then, unable to help himself. They deserved to know what he thought of them. When he stepped in the room, however, his father took one look at him and launched into the most vicious assault he had ever conducted.
The fire-poker, an old enemy of Neronin's, danced from his mother's whimpering form to his. He felt the hot pangs of pain lace his body, dousing the anger within him. He had no room for it, all he could think about was the pain. Neronin collapsed and found the wooden floor's cool boards a surprising vivid sensation coupled with the iron cruelness of the poker. But that only lasted a moment, until the world fell into darkness. Neronin was eleven.
He wasn't supposed to wake up. His parents had inspected his body and were sure he was dead. They had muttered between themselves of what to do with the corpse. Eventually they decided to haul him over to old Gavrel, they heard the old man paid real money for fresh corpses. In the end it had cost Gavrel nine silver nels. He didn't even get what he paid for.
Neronin awoke with a start, his whole body aching with pain. He moaned and struggled on a cold, stone surface. As he opened his eyes, Neronin was greeted with faint candle light and the eerie sight of bones. Bones lain upon shelves, bones piled in wooden crates and barrels, bones that seemed fresh from a corpse. He was in a small room, stone with a dirt floor. Neronin saw a few scrolls and books littered across a desk which was the primary source of light in the small chamber. Behind the desk sat a gaunt, pale man. He watched in surprise as Neronin sat up and rasped in broken breaths.
"You're supposed to be dead." the man said simply.
"Well..." Neronin breathed, every word a struggle. "My... father always... was a dis...appointment." He stared back at the older man.
"This isn't what I paid for!" The old man stood, extending one hand palm down. "You had a purpose when dead, now you're useless."
Neronin was profoundly confused by this. Could his corpse really be more useful than the living being? Was he that worthless? He watched as the old man muttered under his breath, gesturing with surprising dexterity for one his age. Neronin was thoroughly confused for a moment, and then one of the barrels of bones moved. He watched in horror as they shuffled about and one ivory hand clutched the edge of the barrel. The hand became an arm, and then Neronin watched as the top half of a human skeleton pushed itself out of the barrel. The empty eye sockets were fixated on him with a hunger that he would never forget. This was magic. This was power.
"Stop please! I'll do anything! Spare me and I will serve you." He pleaded, sickeningly servile. "Let me learn from you and I will give you far more than one corpse! I'll give you anything." By this time the skeletal minion had it's cold boney hands grasping Neronin's shirt. It stopped, Neronin stared into the face of undeath.
"Very well. You will provide me with corpses, free of charge, for your life." The man said, making a waving motion with his hand. The skeleton released Neronin, turning back to it's barrel. "I will be your master, my name is Gavrel."
"What is this?" Neronin gestured at the barrel that now housed a recently motionless pile of human bones.
"That? Something of a Marrow. Well, are you going to find me a corpse for tonight's experiment?" Gavrel asked impatiently. And so Neronin's unlikely apprenticeship in Necromancy began. Under constant threat of being killed and turned into a 'useful' aide, Neronin learned to pretend at servitude. The hunger for power became too great under Gavrel to rebel against the mage. Gavrel was not a kind master, but Neronin was not accustomed to kindness anyway, and was not bothered. Gavrel constantly threatened or manipulated Neronin. He sent him out to rob graves or switch medicines, anything to bring in more corpses for his dark magic. He sometimes Sapped Neronin of his energy and threatened to let his minions devour the boy.
Gavrel was, however prickly, an excellent teacher. Eventually Neronin was initiated into the art himself. It was a horrific and glorious day. The threats did not stop coming after that, the need to find corpses to keep himself from becoming one did not go away. Now instead of the few hours of sleep he would have gotten, he scavenged the city for dead rodents for his own practices. They were easily acquired and able to be hidden from Gavrel, who would see any corpse not his as a breach of their agreement, even a rat.
And so it went on, Neronin dancing the line between power and death. He constantly tested Gavrel, unable to fully commit to his servile role. He would challenge Gavrel's ability in subtle ways, pushing him to dangerous levels. Sometimes it would cause breakthroughs, of which Neronin would have to endure silently. Sometimes, though, it would cause disaster. His subtle coaxing would on occasion cause a minion to get out of Gavrel's control. Neronin knew that Gavrel making a mistake was the only way he would be released of service, and he loathed service.
Eventually he convinced Gavrel to attempt a Hulk, a massive meaty monster that would propel Gavrel's prestige as a mage past anything he had previously achieved. They were both present in the dank chamber when Gavrel began the incantation. Neronin could feel the effort in it. He smiled inwardly at the older man's complacency. What an idiot he was to trust in another's presence during such a vulnerable ritual. But that was the weakness of arrogance. Neronin waited until his master was fully invested in the incantation before he began to work his own ether. He pulled from himself a miasma of dark, vile ether and willed the dark cloud to hurl itself at Gavrel's back. The Sap made him falter and fall to his knees. Neronin knew he had to run. Whether his plan worked or not, he should not be present or risk being devoured himself. As he fled the room and leant against the wooden door he heard the sound of Gavrel's screams. The horror and pain of the sound brought a satisfied smile to the face that so rarely wore them. His visage almost seemed kind in that moment.
He let the Hulk have its meal without interruption. Instead he gathered the burlap sack of rodent bones he had in his room, the meager menagerie of allies he could trust. He left the old man's home with all his belongings in two bags and made his way to another familiar home. Before entering his parent's home he wondered vaguely if they would recognize their supposedly dead son. He dropped the bag of bones on the ground outside their door and raised his hands. It took a long moment to cast the spell, but no one disturbed the solitude of the street. The bag began to move with the new life he had bestowed. A thrill of power surged through him and he watched as the decaying rats crawled into view, searching with that ever present hunger for living flesh. Neronin gently opened the door for them. He stepped easily over the foremost rats of the swarm and entered the familiar room. It was empty, but the door to his parent's bedroom was ajar.
He walked to it, urging his tiny minions along in his wake. The scratching of their claws upon the floor was a faint hissing. peered inside the bedroom and saw the familiar forms of his parents in bed. He hesitated, struggling with whether he should wake them or not, then decided against it. They were not worthy of a final conscious thought. Instead he poured his hatred and disgust into the swarms of rats under his command. They scurried past their master and into the bedroom. He did not watch as they climbed the blanket onto the bed. He did not listen as his parents awoke with terrified screams. He did not come when they begged for help. He did not regret when they died.
He counted out nine silver nels and let them fall, one by one, onto the floor.