Once upon a time, there lived an old necromancer up in Dalburry Blough. Folks were paranoid about him, cursing the strange blue wisps which sometimes could be spotted emanating from his cabin during one of his his full-moon rituals. Outlandish explanations for many inexplicable occurings were circulating among the villagers. Dead dogs, cats and cattle were attributed to the necromancer’s maleficient deeds, as were the frequent outbursts of an insatiable plague befalling the town.
Even stranger tales were readily shared with any of the rare travellers at haggard old inn of Dalburry. Mysterious screeches could be heard coming from the woods during the death of night, as any old crone would attest, and many a villager could vividly recall that dreadful summer during which the whole town seemed to be haunted by the same recurring nightmare. Night after night, wretched spirits would burst from the old necromancers cabin and haunt the villagers in their dreams. A few Dalburry folks are said to be unable to tell dreamworld from reality still, and can be heard screaming in terror many a night.
None of the living villagers have spoken with the necromancer in generations. Belief has spread that he only converses in legendary tongues of the elders to invoke his shadowy rituals, way beyond simple folks’ comprehension. He very much kept to himself in his infernal seclusion, as if existing on a different plane entirely. There were rumors among the villagers that his cabin was fiercy guarded by the reanimated remains of dead animals, and even the shambling corpses of long-deceased townsfolk.
It has been village custom for generations to collect tribute for the necromancer each season. Rare stones and shiny jewels were brought to the base of the hill on which his cabin stood, for the village was rich in shiny stones and the miners worked tirelessly to procure them. By custom, the amount of tribute to bring increased each season by just the tiniest amount. The fearful villagers sought to perfect themselves and their methods in procuring stones and jewels, lest they incur the necromancers wrath. In some way or another the whole of Dalburry, from starry-eyed child to wrinkling elder, were engaged with mining or refinement of stones or jewels, with care of the miners’ daily needs, or with production of the most artisanal jewellery.
It was the ancient way of the people of Dalburry to bring the remains of their dead to the base of the hill, too. This was the only time anyone ever saw the necromancer – high up at his cabin, beckoning the villagers with his hollow eyes. The Corpses were always whisked away by an unseen hand, and no one dared speak their mind as to their fate.
He hated them all. Pitiful, small-minded creatures. Incapable of even a tiny intellectual leap. No grasp of the terrible forces just outside their realm of comprehension. It was not always like this. The degenerates had established their claim over the gene pool of the hellhole called Dalburry Blough only a few generations ago, and there was hope yet. He grimly watched the buzz and hustle of people mining the useless stones and fashioning an endless number of hellish trinkets.
If only he would be able to perfect the formula. So many souls, for this. Hundreds of abyssal townships like Dalburry, each one incubating a slight variation of the insatiable mutagen. Nothing but moonshots to find the tranquil equilibrium of psychohistorical stability. If only…
[from here onwards the story was generated in collaboration with GPT-3]
He did not like to watch it. Not at all. But he kept watching. Because he had no choice. Because he was responsible for their state of affairs. There had been a time when they were capable of so much more. His careful engineering of the cohorts of each township had been perfected. He himself had witnessed the instant when the perfection of the psychosis first came to fruition. And then his eyes grew old… and he had become all too distant from the cold, callous world outside his cabin.
This was the last generation. He knew that. And he knew that they would lose their battle. It was not too far into the future. The never-ending horrors of the torn lands outside of Dalburry would claim them, and yet in which measure? They had been making progress, but maybe the constant unrefined influx of psychohistorical data would destroy them. He sighed. Time to leave them to their own demise.
He would miss Dalburry, though. To stalk the villagers in their dreams one last time. He doubted that his presence there would give them nightmares, though. Not when the real horrors were so close.
[alternate updated take by GPT-4]
He pondered in his cabin, surrounded by the clutter of old tomes and ancient artifacts. The necromancer, whose name had long been forgotten, was once a respected and influential figure in the magical community. However, as the world changed and the people of Dalburry became more and more consumed by their obsession with the precious stones, he had grown disillusioned with society and retreated to his secluded cabin.
For centuries, he had been experimenting with the souls of the deceased, attempting to create a cure for the ignorance and greed that plagued Dalburry. The spirits he summoned from his rituals were mere side effects of his experiments, but they served to cement the villagers’ fear of him and ensure his isolation.
As the necromancer pored over his scrolls, searching for the missing piece of the puzzle, a sudden gust of wind blew into the cabin, scattering his papers and extinguishing the candles. In the darkness, a figure appeared, draped in a cloak of shadows.
“Your time is running out,” the figure hissed. “The souls you have collected will not be enough to sustain your experiments much longer.”
The necromancer scowled. “You think I do not know that, Reaper? But I am close to perfecting the formula. I must save this village from itself, and countless others from the same fate.”
The Reaper sighed, a sound like the rustling of dead leaves. “I have watched you for centuries, old one. Your dedication is admirable, but you cannot save them all. There must be another way.”
The necromancer, struck by the Reaper’s words, realized that perhaps he had been blind to other possibilities. He decided it was time to take a different approach. “Perhaps you are right,” he conceded. “If I cannot save them all, I must at least try to save some.”
And so, the necromancer began to devise a new plan, one that would break the cycle of fear and ignorance that had ensnared the people of Dalburry for so long. He would find the souls most worthy of enlightenment and bestow upon them the knowledge and power they needed to rise above their petty concerns and reshape their world for the better.
As the seasons changed and the villagers continued their tribute, the necromancer set his plan into motion. He chose a handful of souls, each with a unique talent or trait, and infused them with the wisdom and magic he had cultivated over centuries. These individuals, now enlightened, began to spread their newfound knowledge throughout the village.
Slowly, the people of Dalburry began to change. The obsession with mining and hoarding precious stones lessened, as the villagers discovered new and better ways to live. They built schools, libraries, and hospitals, fostering a spirit of community and cooperation.
The necromancer, watching from his hilltop cabin, felt a glimmer of hope. Perhaps it was not too late to save the world from itself, one soul at a time.
As the years passed, the people of Dalburry continued to grow and prosper, their lives forever changed by the wisdom of the souls the necromancer had chosen. And while they never knew the true source of their enlightenment, they no longer feared the mysterious figure on the hill. Instead, they whispered grateful prayers in his name, thanking him for the gift of knowledge and the promise of a brighter future.
Nils Steinert & GPT