The Seven-Degreed Physician of Black Maladies

The Necrotech Artificer

Quote: I suppose you’re wondering how you lived through that. Don’t worry, you didn’t.

It is hoped that all Dynastic children will Exalt. Only in rare cases, when the parents have unrealistic standards or a child is a true prodigy, showing uncanny aptitude and talent, is Exaltation expected, taken for granted, even demanded. Ragara Zhayom was of the latter sort, developing an obsessive fixation on anatomy and medicine when his peers were learning basic arithmetic and the rudiments of classical poetry. By the time he was bundled off to primary school, he was better qualified as a physician than the apothecaries and herbalists of many Threshold villages. His parents boasted that their son was the greatest medical prodigy the Realm had seen since his great grand-uncle, Ragara Bhagwei, now dominie of the Heptagram.

As it turned out, only two things distinguished Zhayom from his illustrious ancestor. First, while the master of the Heptagram was motivated by a combination of pride in his own skill and a desire to be the sort of hero the Elemental Dragons had imagined when they bestowed their powers upon men, Zhayom lacked all compassion for or desire to aid his patients. Human anatomy and the many ways in which herbalism, thaumaturgy and steel could act upon it seemed like the greatest puzzle ever devised to him, and his interest in unraveling the mysteries of the flesh and becoming their master was an exercise in pure academia and ego. He awaited his Exaltation and new vistas of possibility and knowledge impatiently.

And therein lay the second difference between Zhayom and his great grand-uncle: the Dragons withheld their blessing from him. He was given a cool reception by his parents when he returned from primary school still mortal; they had already paid his way into the Heptagram and knew they had no hopes of recouping that small fortune in gifts and bribes. By his 20th birthday, he could not stand the sight of them, nor they of him, and he took the earnings from his practice within the family and relocated to the Scavenger Lands, as far from the shameful environs of his birth as his money would carry him.

It was not, however, the end of Zhayom’s dealing with the Realm. He soon discovered that there was profit to be made and satisfaction to be had in catering to the surgical needs of the very wealthy in that untamed frontier, far from the scrutiny of true civilization. He cured poxes and chased illness from royalty, yes, but also became known as the man to go to if you needed… something special. He modified the bodies of slaves to suit the jaded sexual curiosity of Cynis Exalts and cut healthy organs from kidnapped serfs and other nobodies for transplant into wealthy clients. These practices kept Zhayom living in the style to which he had become accustomed; moreover, they kept him interested and helped him to forget about his failure.

To this day, the Physician does not know why he was killed. Perhaps one of his clients began to doubt his discretion after the fact, or maybe a grieving husband or father managed to track one of his clumsy hired kidnappers back to him. He is quite sure he did something to deserve it, in any case. One evening, there came a strong, insistent rapping on his front door. Zhayom opened it, and a gray-faced man, grimacing, drove a knife into his forehead with a sickening crunch. He was left twitching and bleeding on his own doorstep as the stranger turned and walked away. Incredibly, the wound was not immediately fatal. The doctor spasmed and shuddered for hours, paralyzed and in agony, as night spread its cloak across the sky and the moon rose. Finally, as his limbs begin to settle and cool, another stranger came striding up the walk, a massive man in heavy armor. “I have need of a man with your talents,” he said, and his voice caused the grass to turn brown in an instant. “If you would live and serve me, then rise.”

The Physician found that he was able to do so. That was the beginning of his second life.

The Seven-Degreed Physician used his modest fortune and assistance from the Mask of Winters to refurbish a manse near Celeren, which he has renamed the Sanatorium Sepulchral. There, patients are cured of the ailment known as life, and he is able to perform his works of genius without concern for such trivialities as shock-trauma or blood loss. He has recently conceived a desire to produce some wonder of necrosurgery that will seize the horrified attention of the entire world—something to upstage even the grand spectacle of Juggernaut. He considers the conquest of Great Forks in order to obtain the raw materials to fuel his vision.

The Seven-Degreed Physician of Black Maladies

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