“What happened?” I asked Lunkwit. “Did you get surprised from behind and behdeaded again?”

“Yes, boss,” he said, holding his severed head up with one hand by the hair. His speech was thick and phlegmy, an unavoidable byproduct of the necromantic wards that bound his departed soul to his cold husk. “Sorry, boss.”

“The contract is for ten years of servitude, to be raised and knit together as appropriate and as the dark arts allow,” I said, “Are you aware that, for those who do not perform, another option is available?”

“What’s that, boss?” Lunkwit said. “Five years’ servitude?”

“Oblivion,” I said,holding out my hand. With the barest flick of my fingers, I was able to loosen Lunkwit’s soul from its fleshy cage. I could see him visibly shudder in horror, fighting to hang on to it.

“No, boss!” he cried. “Not oblivion!”

“You made the choice to accept the bargain,” I said. “Face the unknown and unknowable void, or serve me for ten years at a time and remain safe on this mortal coil, protected by my sorcery. No place exists for your should to flee to now that its time has gone. If you disappoint me again, you will find it snuffed out like a low candle. Am I understood?”

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