Light spread across a red-marked sheet of paper as the skeletal boy held it up. His black eyes had narrowed in a squint as he stared at it. The runes seemed awfully faded, and he could barely make them out. He would have thought a spell to summon a spirit from the dead would require bold, intense lines and shapes. Right? That made the most sense--
Professor Rax took the paper out of Samhain's hands and turned it over. "You're looking at the wrong side."
Samhain blinked at the bright red runes in his face now. "Oh, thank you! That looks better!"
"It's upside-down too."
With a heavy pause, the skeletal boy slowly turned the paper 180 degrees. He didn't see the difference in the runes - in fact, they looked much like they had a moment ago, but then he noticed a little arrow in the corner that said 'this side up.' Oh. Well, maybe the runes should have come with better instructions. He wasn't expected to try reading them, was he? So surely Professor Rax didn't expect him to see if there was an arrow on the side.
The professor looked at him for a couple more moments then shook his head, moving onto the next student. Samhain, a smile on his face, placed the paper down onto the ground carefully, then stood up and stared at it. Professor Rax hadn't said anything about how to activate the runes. The actual runes were in front of him, made by blood on the dusty ground. The paper was a smaller version, one they were expected to study after the class was over. Or perhaps Professor Rax expected the students to recreate the runes, but Samhain's artistry skills weren't that impressive... it was hard to understand such complex designs anyway.
"Now, everyone, I want you to prick your finger and let a drop of blood land on the runes in front of you when it's your turn to summon a spirit. Who wants to go first?"
Samhain's hand shot into the air. "Meeeee!"
Professor Rax studied him for a heartbeat. "Okay, go."
"How do I prick my finger?"
"... Usually you do that with a sharp object. There's a ceremonial knife right there - you can use ceremonial knives in summoning to strengthen the magic in your blood."
Samhain toddled over to the display of shiny knives with their fancy hilts. Some of them were silver, with elaborate vines curling around their base, and others were gold, unusual runes etched into the soft material. After a moment's hesitation, Samhain reached out and took a gold one, then skittered back over to the circle. He then jammed the knife into his palm, making the students next to him wince.
Professor Rax raised an eyebrow. "I did say prick your finger, but I suppose that works too... let the blood drip onto the runes. And don't miss, or you have to do it again."
Samhain looked at his hand. "It's not working."
"What do you mean, it's not working?"
"It's not working."
"Repeating what you said doesn't change anyth--never mind." The professor realized that arguing with someone who seemed to have a mere two brain cells to rub together was fruitless. He stepped around the edge of the circle and approached Samhain from behind. "What do you need help with?"
The skeletal boy held up his hand. In the center, there was an indentation, much like what it'd look like if a knife pushed into gel. Besides that, the white hand was unmarred. The boy wiggled his fingers, making the black markings on the back of his hand shift and move.
"Do you not have blood?" Professor Rax stared.
Samhain shrugged. "I don't know. I've never bled. Not like how you guys with soft skin do!"
A couple of murmurs rose up from the crowd around him. Soft skin? What did that mean? But as Professor Rax took the student's hand and looked at it, it became apparent what the issue was - there was a soft, malleable surface on the boy's hand, but beneath it, a substance hard as bone. Actually, that probably was bone, based on the way that he looked.
This perplexed Professor Rax. Of course, there were ways to activate runes without the use of blood, but it was still an unusual situation. "You're alive, right? You're not just a skeleton?" The weird state of his body seemed to imply the former. His hands weren't skeletal per se, as he had seen plenty of skeleton hands in his day, of course -- what would be expected from a necromancy professor? They seemed almost bulbous.
"Pretty sure I am!" A wide, blank smile faced the professor. He sighed.
"Do you breathe? Or have a heartbeat?"
"Yes and yes, to both counts!" The glazed look still remained.
Professor Rax leaned against his scythe. He'd have to look into this later - specifically to see if he could control the skeleton boy the way he could with actual skeletons. But for now, he didn't want to hold the class up any longer with debating why this student's biology was so weird. "Right... come to my office after class. In the meantime--"
"AM I IN TROUBLE?" Sleeved hands pressed against the boy's white face as his mouth formed into a large 'o' shape. "What'd I do? It's cause I can't bleed, right?"
Oh, this was going to be a long term, Professor Rax just knew it. "No, you're not in trouble--"
"--stop interrupting me."
"Sorry!" Samhain made a motion of zipping across his mouth.
After waiting a moment to see if the boy would suddenly interject with something else, Professor Rax continued. "If you have something liquid then you can activate the runes that way. Spit would work, though that's rather disgusting. Even more importantly, don't urinate on my runes. How about a drink? Do you bring any?"
Samhain had tilted his head curiously at the statement 'don't urinate on my runes,' but he nodded and took a small bottle out of his cloak. A pumpkin was plastered on the front of the bottle, a horrified look on its face while a needle pulled its innards from its body. Professor Rax stared at the image on the bottle with bewilderment, then gestured forward. "Pour some of it out onto the runes."
"Mmm!" The boy uncorked the bottle and allowed a bit of the orange liquid to dribble out of the top. It splashed against the runes, and in reaction the garnet-colored markings began to glow a bright, dangerous red. He then poured a few drops on the piece of paper containing the runes he'd been given, making the professor roll his eyes. The intensity of the glow increased, then suddenly a black shadow ripped from the center of the rune circle, its glowing red eyes searching out the person--or weird ass thing--that had summoned it. As it settled in front of Samhain, it slowly formed into a human shape, though with twisted horns and a broken jaw, it looked more demonic than human.
"Wow! What the hell is wrong with that thing's jaw?" Samhain burst out, his black eyes wide.
Professor Rax whacked him in the back of the head with a quick smack. "Don't insult the spirits you summon!"
"Oops, sorry! I think your face is beautiful! Yep..."
The spirit narrowed its eyes, then lashed out with claws that glowed red. The claws sliced across the front of the boy's cloak, digging deep in until a sudden screech could be heard. The spirit then disappeared back into the center of the rune circle, and one could swear a string of profanity followed it.
"That was not unexpected, but are you okay?" Professor Rax asked, looking at the student in concern.
"Oh yeah," Samhain said, looking down the front of his shirt. "It didn't get past the bone."
So that's what that screeching was - the sound of claws scraping across bone. Professor Rax pressed his fingers against the front of his face then looked to the student who stood to Samhain's left, a tall fellow in a suit. He had a bad feeling about the remainder of the quarter, and what would happen in future classes if that student stayed with his department. Why did all the weirdos have to go with necromancy?
He just didn't know. "Would you like to go next? And please, take a hint from this demonstration and don't insult the spirit you summon, or it might try killing you - and actually succeed, as you look softer and squishier than this one does."