This week, we’re doing things a little differently. I’m traveling, which means I needed someone to fill in while I was out of town. But I also wanted to make things interesting. So instead of the typical guest advisor, I went somewhat… far afield. This week, we have questions from the noted master of the dark arts, Johannes Cabal – Necromancer. After sending out for questions within his metier, the good Herren Cabal and his brother Horst have been kind enough to share their expertise with us.
And so, brothers Cabal, the floor is yours!
Dear Dr Cabal,
I’m hoping your unique experience can shed some light on an issue I’ve been having lately. I lead a fairly exciting life compared to many of my peer group. It may not quite be collecting souls for the Prince of Darkness but it does involve occasional forays in running a traveling carnival, recruiting talented performers and lots of networking and deal making with nefarious powers.
Most of my dating prospects within this community are either a part of my own operation or would involve hundreds of miles of travel. I have no problem dating outside the community in principle. It just seems like those dates are always pleasant but unremarkable. A good time is had by all but there’s just no spark, no chemistry that makes me excited at the idea of spending more time with my date in the future. How would you go suggest going about finding someone who can hold my attention with so much else competing for it?
Attention Deficit Devil
J: This so-called “Devil” is calling me a “doctor.” I have my limits. Horst?
H: Hello! Horst Cabal here. My brother Johannes seems to have gone off in a huff, and left me to…
Oh. You called him a doctor. Oh, dear. Well, never mind. I’m sure I can offer some advice.
Actually, I think you may have answered your question yourself. You say you’re looking for somebody who can hold your attention when there’s “so much else competing for it.” Just a thought, of course, but are you sure you’re being as scintillating as you might be yourself? It takes two to tango, after all, or – as my brother puts it – “It requires both reagents to revivify the carcass.”
It seems you’re putting the onus on your partner to hold your attention when, by your own admission, you’re not making much of an effort to hold theirs. Hardly surprising, then, if they decide that while you may be nice enough, you’re not really making much of an effort to engage with them, so why should they?
So, to answer your question, the problem would seem not to be finding others who can hold your attention nearly so much as you should try freeing up sufficient of your attention so that you can actually get to know someone. Yes. That seems quite reasonable. I think I might be quite suited for this rôle.
Ah, but my brother Johannes returns.
To the esteemed Johannes Cabal, Necromancer —
I find myself in a terrible quandary. I’ve recently realized I’ve spent the last two thirds of my three decades on this planet trapped under a terrible mind controlling geas which was accompanied by an insidious disease has been slowly destroying my body, bringing me ever closer to being a lich, all while my true nature (something akin to that of a lamia or a lillim), but, due to the nature of the geas, until the last two months no one has believed me that I was under this geas, or that the disease was indeed destroying my body. I had had my suspicions that some sinister power was at work, but, alas, like Cassandra, no one would believe me.
I’ve spent the last two years slowly chipping away at the psychological aspect of the geas, with some pretty solid success. True, there have been ups and downs, but I have finally transformed into a beguiling, seductive, and highly intelligent example of the creature feminine, and have established strong, healthy relationships with other beings, as well as many casual and playful relationships — this has been quite the reversal from my youth when I was treated much as one would treat a low level demon incapable of more than brute utility.
To have discovered that there has been a truly cataclysmic physical toll on my earthly shell has been quite the shock. It started with a simple enough diagnosis, but now it appears to be far more systemic, and, quite honestly, a threat to my continued corporeal presence.
While I await under a Damoclean miasma of worry over the state of my physical presence I find myself torn: if I am not long for this earth due to situations beyond my control should I attempt to limit the amount of hurt and damage I cause to other beings by shutting myself off from others, or, should I live as fully and vibrantly as I possibly can, whether I have many more decades on this celestial orb, or merely months.
I do not wish to cause sorrow or trauma to those I care about, but I worry greatly that if I persist in befriending and enjoying the company of other beings I will leave a much wider wake of pain if I were to pass from corporeal existence sooner as opposed to later.
To wit: if I’m not long for this earth as cancer has marked my doom should I live as much as I can while I can, or, should I spare beings who would potentially care about me the heartbreak of my untimely and early demise?
I most humbly await your response,
A Succubus Seeking Sapience in Social Responsibility Facing Her Mortality
Hello. Firstly, you should put aside the thesaurus; you’ll give yourself paper cuts with all that page riffling.
To the meat of your enquiry, however, my answer is simple and unequivocal. Life for all of us is a brief light in an unsettled climate that may at any moment be snuffed out. It is to be lived, so go forth and live it.
I regret the severity of your prognosis, madam, but in the grand scheme of things we are all short-lived creatures. That your span is foreshortened is a cruelty of fate to be sure, but consider the blameless citizen mown down by a speeding carriage. Such an end may befall any of us at any moment, but should we stint our interactions with others simply because our light may abruptly be extinguished by an inexpertly driven Morris Cambridge, or a meteorite plunging through the ceiling, or a contagion carried in the bite of a fly, or because our own flesh turns against us and forms a cancer?
In my case, yes, but that is purely because I am a professional recluse and practised misanthrope.
In your case I would say not. Go forth, live and love, madam, although as you’re a succubus, try to avoid killing people in the process, as that would be unkind. As a proviso, however, one should be honest about one’s condition, although I appreciate it may not be something you necessarily wish to cry from the rooftops. People can be strange about cancer, as if it’s contagious, or something. I hope and trust that you have sufficient discernment that your circle would not include such ignorance.
I wish you well, Madame Succubus. May Death stand around in the marketplace of Samarra for a good long time, foolishly awaiting your arrival in vain, and looking like a damn fool into the bargain.
Dear Dr. Cabal,
I’ve recently completed my degree in history, only to find that no one is paying for historians these days. I’m thinking of taking a sideways step into the dark arts (raising the dead is sort of like applied history, isn’t it?), but I’m not sure where to start. Can you offer any suggestions for a budding necromancer just starting out?
J: Ach du lieber Himmel! Horst! Another who insists on calling me a “doctor.” Claims to be a doctor himself. Possibly herself. Itself. Deal with whoever it is, would you? I shall be in the garden, kicking pixies.
H: Hello! I didn’t quite catch what Johannes said, but I can hear the tinkling screams of pixies being punted around the garden, so I’m guessing that you called Johannes a doctor, did you?
Oh, gosh. Becoming a necromancer, eh? First step, don’t, do not, do not lock your brother in a crypt that contains a vampire. Just don’t. Just because you want to become a necromancer doesn’t mean you have to be an utter arse about it.
Second… Umm. Something to do with selling your soul, I think. Apparently, you’re only a necrothologist until you sell your soul and get the deep knowledge.
Step three is to get your soul back again, because not having it is a huge nuisance. So, carnival. Obviously.
Actually, I’m not sure it’s entirely necessary to sell your soul. Johannes has a few rivals who didn’t, and they seem to bimble through quite happily, raising zombies and dismaying the citizenry. That would imply that there are other ways to get that knowledge. I bet they involve forbidden tomes and all that sort of palaver. Things man was not meant to know.
Sorry, distracted by a pixie bouncing off the window just then.
So, yes, I’d skip the whole “selling your soul” thing as a bit of a dead end (no pun for once intended), and get yourself kitted out with some ancient tomes of eldritch knowledge. I understand that “eBay” is a good place to start.
Hello, Mr. Cabal:
I am most pleased that you have agreed to take questions. While relationship advice may not be your true forte (You should really talk to Doc NerdLove about your “one-itis” issue, and your failure to pursue a closer relationship with the singularly wonderful Miss Barrow is quite beyond my capacity), you are most certainly a master of planning, strategy, and acts of questionable moral character. It is not the wisdom of a scholar of romance amongst the socially inept that I need right now; I require someone with the skill to turn bad situations to his own advantage.
My problem is my ex-wife. She is a most loathsome person in many ways, and I am most glad to be rid of her from my daily life. However, we do have two kids together, which forces me to interact with her more often than I would like, which is to say “at all”. She uses these interactions to be beastly to me on a regular basis, but rarely in such a way that would provoke so much as a raised eyebrow from a court of law. The years she spent manipulating and tormenting me in our marriage taught her a great deal, and she knows precisely how to quietly stick a needle into an exposed nerve bundle while appearing innocent to onlookers (constant subtle condescension and derision, evasion of direct questions if answering them does not suit her purposes, refusal to take any responsibility for problems, avoidance of action that might help me at no expense to her, etc.). She is, in short, an emotional abuser of some skill and no repute at all.
Now, while I might fantasize about summoning a spider devil from Hell’s darker reaches to eat her soul, that is neither practical nor advisable. After all, she is the mother of my children, and the spider devil might find her soul rather dry and sour. I would prefer that my children keep both their parents, and I have no desire to leave a devil with a bad taste in her mandibles.
Were she a proper demon, I am certain I could find the appropriate rituals to shield myself from her malevolence. But alas, she is not a proper demon at all; she’s just a petty human with a demonic aspect, so I am left to find some more mundane method to prevent her from doing further violence to my psyche. My current method is to take the High Road and shrug off her stings, but it is most unsatisfying and requires an unseemly amount of effort. Is there anything easier or more efficient you might suggest?
A Gentleman Who Has Grown Tired of Vexation
(Who should probably not try summoning dark forces to exact vengeance for him, as much as he might wish to.)
J: Good day to you. A moment while I wipe pixie grease from the toes of my shoes. There. Much better.
In the first instance, I must point out a small inaccuracy. In my experience, your ex-wife would not leave a bad taste in a spider devil’s mandibles. A bad taste perhaps, but emphatically not in the mandibles.
To cases, however. It seems to me that you have two options. The first is to evaluate precisely why your ex-wife takes such a pleasure in tormenting you? You say this is in her nature, but with all due respect, I have only your word for that. You may be a dreadful person, and she is retaliating in kind for years of slights. If she is truly the dreadful person in this equation, one wonders why you married her. There are any number of possible reasons for that, all of which eventualities cannot be briefly addressed. As a general catholicon, have you tried talking to her about it? Simply asked her why she does it, or is she even aware that she is doing it? Most people are not inherently wicked (admittedly I encounter a disproportionate number who are, but that is the nature of my work), and do not actively seek to cause pain. Perhaps she believes she has cause to, in which case you can negotiate from that point. I know that sometimes it can be difficult to open a conversation in such a circumstance, but it may do you both good, and – in passing – be good for your children, too.
Alternatively, she actually is evil incarnate (I strongly suggest you attempt some sort of détente before settling firmly upon this view). In this case, your options are limited. If she is the psychic sadist that you describe, then she has the psychology of a bully. You may passively resist by alloying your weaknesses, that her needling slides harmlessly from you, or actively by asking in sorrow rather than anger, “Why do you say things like that?” thereby putting the onus upon her to explain her behaviour. Reactions are important; bullies seek to provoke pain, upset, and helpless anger. In the modern parlance, I believe this is called “trolling” (and is far less civilised than the behaviour of the few trolls I have actually met. Usually under bridges).
Do not feed the troll.
Unless it means to kill you, and you have a goat carcass handy.
Otherwise, do not feed the troll.
To the esteemed Johannes Cabal,
I’m afraid I’ve gotten myself into something of a fix. I run a small business concern out on the edges of what amounts to the frontier these days. Unfortunately, the local situation is not what you might call…stable. Or terribly safe, for that matter. In order to protect my employees – and to a certain extent, myself – I’ve had to make some deals with people I would rather not have. Unfortunately, this means that I’ve found myself more or less at the mercy of the whims of some less than savory folks and quite frankly, I’m a bit in a bind. Because I made this deal, I’m now finding myself in the position of having to agree to increasingly untenable demands from my benefactors – to the point of having to sell out people I consider my friends.
Quite frankly, this deal is getting worse all the time.
As someone who’s gotten out of what were otherwise unbreakable contracts with powerful entities, what is the best way that I could extricate myself from this situation… and hopefully my friends and employees in the process.
J: Lawrence. You are understandably vague as to your exact circumstances, but you will appreciate that this means my reply must also be vague and general. I cannot guess with whom you have made this deal – from your letter it could as easily be a bank as with criminals, which is to say, much the same thing – but they must have had something that you wanted, and vice versa for a deal to viable.
The ideal situation would be to extract yourself bodily from the deal. Every contract has clauses concerning its cancellation (believe me, I have had grounds to closely study contracts in the past), and if you can trigger one such, all the better. This is far and away the better path. Seek legal help if necessary (if you know anything of my background then you will appreciate how difficult it is for to offer that advice, but needs must when the devil drives).
Failing that, you must look at renegotiation. Your side of the bargain seems to be unworkable (and, if you have not already done so, you should spend some time analysing what got you into such a situation in the first place so that it never happens again), and so the whole deal is. It dismays me to think what sort of situation would require that you betray your friends.
I regret I cannot offer anything more specific, but it seems that you urgently require legal aid of some sort, up to and including involving the police if this deal was forged in criminality. Your current situation is untenable, and you must seek aid above and beyond that which can be supplied by, I regret to inform you, a fictional necromancer. Good luck and be strong, Lawrence.–
— Herr Cabal
And there you have it, my friends. My deepest thanks to Herren Cabal – both Johannes and Horst, to Cassandra Khaw who helped put this together and Jonathan L. Howard for volunteering both his time and his voice for this event.
If you enjoyed this – especially as much as I enjoyed the process – might I suggest you visit their Amazon pages and check out their books.