Four Wizards and a Funeral
by Mike Rimar
I. The Starling
True to her reputation, Simone the Starling was positively ravishing for a wizard.
With her black satin robe accentuating her long, free-flowing hair, she moved like
wavelets across a pond at midnight.
In contrast, her face was paler than the dead man lying between us, a slash of
crimson across her full lips the only suggestion she retained any membership to the
Remembering my station, I folded my hands in a functionary manner and half-smiled, half-frowned my condolence. "Did you know him well, madame?" A
standard if officious question. A blind man would recognize the only female
member of the Cabal, or that Carmichael the Ferret, the leader of that notorious
quintet of mages, lay prone upon my preparation table.
"Know him?" Her gravelly voice betrayed life experience well beyond her visible
years. At once I realized her beauty was but a glamor cast upon herself. "Yes," she
said. "He was my -- grandfather." Her upper lip twitched into a smile. "Great
grandfather. Tell me, Undertaker, he is dead, yes?"
Looking at the corpse, I almost smiled thinking she had made a joke. Thankfully, I
remembered the Starling wasn't one to appreciate flippancy. Of any kind.
Especially not from a lowly mortician.
"Yes, madame," I answered. "Quite dead."
Simone reached to a side table, retrieved the oil lamp I had placed there, and held
the flame over Carmichael's face. In the flicker of shadow and light, I glimpsed a
woman who might have once been filled with love, compassion, and humanity as
she reached out with trembling hand to brush the dead man's cheek. As if sensing
my observation, she glared at me with such vehemence that I stepped back.
Whether from fear or respect mattered little; when dealing with the Cabal they
were one and the same.
Many years of servicing the dead and their bereaved had taught me how to become
innocuous; achieve an aura of invisibility so that anyone may grieve without
embarrassment. Under her penetrating glare I retreated to those skills, fastidiously
tending to the implements of my trade.
"You are alone?" she asked.
I nodded, unwilling to refute the obvious.
She continued to stare until I acquiesced to her silent demand for a more detailed