The Old Kingdom
Below is some general information about the world you are about to be a part of.
The Abhorsen are those of the hereditary bloodline whose charge is maintaining the border between life and death, though inheritance is not always direct –the next Abhorsen could be a niece or cousin or sibling, rather than the current Abhorsen’s child. The Abhorsen combines Charter Magic and Free Magic in his/her bells to compel and control the dead, righting the wrongs created by Necromancers or others who pervert the nature of Life and Dead. The arrival of a new Abhorsen or Abhorsen-in-Waiting is signaled by the arrival of the bells. They use necromantic bells infused with Charter magic. As they are servants of the Charter, they bear uncorrupted Charter Marks, unlike necromancers who raise the dead.
The Charter and Charter Marks
The Charter underpins everything that exists in the Old Kingdom. Almost all things are described, contained and joined by it. The Charter flows everywhere, though in some places it is distant or blocked. Charter Mages are particularly attuned to the Charter, by birth or baptism, or both.
To use the power of the Charter, a Charter Mage must visualise reaching into the continuous flow of the Charter and if successful, can then mentally select and grasp the individual Charter marks they need. A single Charter mark may perform some uncommon action, or several may be woven together to create a particular spell. The marks can then be spoken, drawn in the air, traced on the ground or used in other ways. Some Charter marks quickly fade back into the general flow of the Charter, and their effects cease. Others may persist for a long time, sometimes even centuries.
Because there are an uncounted number of individual Charter marks and thus limitless combinations, most Charter Mages tend to use a very limited selection that they are familiar with. It is very dangerous to attempt to use unknown marks or unknown combinations. Even using known marks is not without danger, as reaching into the flow of the Charter brings certain risks.
Charter Mages use an invented alphabet to record Charter marks and possible combinations that will form spells, to avoid actually invoking the marks. However these books and records are useless to someone who does not have a baptismal Charter mark, which is the first step towards being able to work with the Charter, rather than just being part of it.
Free Magic uses different powers, not contained and described by the Charter. Free Magic sorcerers and Free Magic creatures are inherently enemies of the Charter and those who use Charter Magic. All necromancers, save for the Abhorsens, are Free Magic sorcerers. The Abhorsens are the only Charter Mages who can also use Free Magic, though they must resist the lure of its more straightforward, angry power.
A guide to the necromancer bells
Seven bells are used by necromancers to summon and control the Dead. While most such bell-wielders will be Free Magic sorcerers, the most highly-accomplished wielders of the seven bells come from the Abhorsen family. They are always Charter Mages, and they use the bells to defeat the Dead and compel them to return into Death and pass beyond the Ninth Gate, from which there is no return.
The seven bells are kept on a leather bandolier, like an old brown belt, each in a leather pouch, starting with one the size of a small pill bottle and growing larger, till the seventh is almost the size of a jar.
The Abhorsen’s bells are usually silver, with dark, deeply-polished mahogany handles and Charter marks appearing on both wood and metal. Other necromancer’s bells may be bronze or silver, with handles of a darker wood, usually ebony. They do not have Charter marks upon them and will have the characteristic hot-metal reek of Free Magic.