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Her Majesty’s Secret Spellcasters

So the general opinion is that the “necro” in “necromancer” refers to death– traditionally necromancy is the ability to speak with dead spirits, for the purpose of lifting curses, busting ghosts, whatever. This has led to the image in popular fantasy of necromancers being gothy types who hang around in cemetaries raising zombies and the like. Which works as a trope, but… it could go another way.

Another meaning of the original root “necro” is “dark.” Not dark as in “evil,” dark as in “obscure or hard to see.” i.e., hidden, secret. Necromancy by that meaning is therefore not “the deathly arts,” but rather “the secret arts.” Which could be anything! The secret art of turning lead into gold? Sure. The secret art of getting that fifth dentist to recommend sugar-free gum? Anything!

This of course leads me to ruminate on the word “secret.” What are secrets, exactly? They are things you carry with you. Your secretary carries your correspondence (and your secrets). A secretion is something that has been deposited on you. The Secret Service is not “secret” in the sense that people don’t know they’re there– far from it– they report to the Secretary of the Treasury, and they “carry” the President safely.

(Historical note: The Secret Service was actually founded to combat forgery after the Civil War; it wasn’t until the assassination of Pres. McKinley that they were given the task of protecting the President.)

This leads me to a vision of a fantasy setting in which an important personage (Queen, Emperor, Prime Minister, whatever tickles your fancy) is protected and served by a small cadre of elite necromancers (in the sense that they study secret arts), sort of James Bond meets Harry Dresden if you like. I can see this working particularly well as a steam-fantasy setting a la Gail Carriger.

However, I don’t have the time to write this at the moment, so I’m setting the idea free by writing it up here and putting it into your head. I might come back to it later, we’ll see.

-The Gneech

Originally published at gneech.com. You can comment here or there.

Comments

laurie_robey
Jun. 13th, 2014 09:28 am (UTC)
I like it!

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