“Well, transdeath rights are in a pretty good place right now, but most people only think of vampires and zombies, you know? They don’t even know the difference between a zombie and a lich and a revanent and a ghoul, and they sure aren’t giving us extra points when it comes to hiring.”

“Why don’t you do something about it, Kershaw?” The voice from beneath the grave sounded sad, almost tremulous.

“Well, I try. I run a support group for ‘underserved undead’ out of the community center on 7th. But I’m the only regular attendee since Alan the Barghest died of the rot, and we’re lucky to get three attendees on a good day.”

“That’s…really sad.”

“We have a hard time with those ‘Life Ends at Death’ protestors,” I said. “I’m sure you know how it is. People are scared of the unknown and the unfamiliar, always have been. I don’t blame them and I only light them on fire a little bit, but I think we get targeted a lot because it’s not politically correct for them to pick on zombies or vampires anymore.”

“Would…would you let me come to your support group? Even if I arose as something like a zombie?”

“Of course,” I said. “I’ve never turned anyone away except that one freak in makeup.”

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“Well,” I said, “Gyles Kershaw fled England and Cromwell’s dogs hoping for a place where his alchemy lab wouldn’t be burned down every other fortnight.”

A thoughtful pause. “I guess…he didn’t find it?”

“Oh, he most certainly did,” I said. “He unlocked the secret of life eternal, in point of fact, and was able to achieve powers unthought-of by mortal man through dark elixirs and covenants with the lords of shadow.”

The grave was silent a moment. “Well, speaking with the dead was clearly one of them.”

“I chose the powers I was sure would be the most useful, and would strike fear into the hearts of mortals. The ability to speak to people over long distances without error. The ability to imbue any vehicle I chose with motive power. The ability to cause terrible wounds at a distance. And of course conjuring light and flame at will.”

Maddy was silent from below again. I thought that she was being timid, but after a moment I realized that she was struggling not to laugh. “So…cell phones, cars, guns, lighters, and flashlights?” she said.

“It was a lot more impressive in 1692,” I snapped. “How was I to know that human ingenuity would render each of them meaningless in less than 400 years? Deathlessness was not something I had the training for, and the shadow lord gave me maybe five minutes to choose my powers.”

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The mummified and discolored skin around the glowing points of light that were the lich’s eyes softened, the great sloping brow beneath what long and stringly strands of white hair remained to him lifting in surprise. “Lady Syn,” he croaked in a voice that was tomb and sepulchre doors creaking on their hinges.

“Lord Verice.” Dessicated flesh about the other lich’s sunken cheeks and her own ember-bright eyes grew gentle, even compassionate–and expression they had not worn for countless years of sorcery and undeath. Tentatively, she reached out a hand that was alive with dark magicks and ran it over Verice’s face, recoiling not at all when it rustled across parchment-thin spots or the jagged hole where once had been a nose.

“It has been so long,” Lady Syn said with uncommon gentleness.

“So long.” What might have been a tear, watery and impregnated with vile preservatives, slid an oily path down Lord Verice’s cheek.

“I have…done things,” Syn said softly. “As you can see. Things that not all would be proud of.”

“You have done what you must,” said Verice, sadly but firmly. “As have I.”

“Do you think…that perhaps…we could…?”

Verice shook his head. “It has been too long hasn’t it? Do we even remember how to feel the way we once felt?”

“The memory will have to be enough,” Syn croaked sadly. “Or the memory of the memory.”

Inspired by this image.

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