As the light of the sun downed itself below the horizon, I could feel my energies begin to wax. My studies from the earlier day had been extremely exhausting, but they now remain locked into my mind. I have prepared for this day for many weeks and the time has come to claim what is rightfully mine. The circle is complete and my powers beg to be released. I shall allow them full usage when the moon reaches its apex, for at that time, the pentagram shall be my guide.
I spent the next few hours gathering my needed equipment. I required little, a few pouches filled with power reagents, two bags, my miniature chest and the final item, the Lantern. The ancient source of light was magical indeed, for it never exhausted its source of fuel, if it even had one. The legends of the lantern tendril deeper though, and I am counting on that legend to hold true and not be simply a myth.
My preparation complete, and the moon almost at apex, I strode across my study and unlocked the door to my laboratory. The lock opened with an audible *click* and the door creaked inward. With a word of power, the torches flared to light, the golden aura flickering upon the golden sconces and dark walls. High above, the moon could be seen through the opening in the ceiling. Mere minutes would pass before it was in its final position. I gathered my complete senses and stood within the red pentagram traced in blood upon the floor of my workroom. The moon has reached its apex and the bluish light shone upon my form with the illumination of raw power. I faced the great moon and lifted my hands skyward, basking in the raw energy. I spoke the calling of the gods and was overcome with an intense, bright light. It seemed like an eternity, but it took only moments for the teleport to complete itself, and I found myself on the roadside of a desolate path barricaded by a dark and forboding forest.
The area was definitely familiar to me as I had been here before. Reaching down, I picked up the small bloodstone I had laid weeks before. It was that item that cut down my travels, for it was the focus of the teleportation. Without it, I would have had to resort to traveling to this dark realm by the means of mortals, as I had done so before to position the stone in the first place.
I moved northwest along the path and followed it for a while until I came upon the ancient gates. I thought I could sense the presence of others around me, but paid it little heed, for very few mortals knew the location of this road. Looming out of the fog like silent sentinels flanking the road, the massive stone blocks of the gates shone in the moonlight. This was the marker, and I knew where I must go next. I entered the forest to the north and traveled along an extremely densely, overgrown trail through the dark woods.
Holding my lantern aloft, I could see shadows fluttering just beyond my field of vision. In fact, once, the lantern flickered very brightly and I knew something even darker was within the shadows. The Lantern, it seemed, was living up to its legend. I then came to what seemed to be a dead end, but the forest yielded another trail, even more obscure than the first. It led to the cave.
I entered the cavern and was about to travel further when I heard sounds of battle. I heard shouting and blades striking, but little else. I was not alone in my quest it seemed after all. I guess what I had felt earlier was more than simple intuition. I decided that it would be best to simply wait, for I knew what was in that cave, and I knew that whoever was inside facing it, would either flee, or simply perish. I made my decision, and it was to be patient and await the outcome of the battle. As I exited the cavern, I laid patches of ginseng root along the ground and spoke words of magic. If anyone traveled the cavern now, I would be alerted.
There I stood, listening to the battle with controlled laughter only I could hear. The cave was dark that night, darker than usual to be sure. The evil silence around me noted that there was something special about this night. I could sense throughout my undead soul that this night would be like no other. I stood a vigil just inside the cave entrance. The forest was filled with dangerous creatures. Not so dangerous to me, but in numbers, or surprise, their power could overwhelm even the most fortified battler. I was secure in my knowledge though. I had the Lantern, the ancient caster of light that warded away the creatures of the night. Not all were scared of its illumination, but enough to give me courage to face the dark souls within the cavern. Souls that I knew would be there in time. That time passed slowly. But, like sands flowing through the hourglass, my time would come, and I waited patiently. Long minutes passed, but what is time to the undead?
The time did come and I heard movement from within the cavern. My well laid trail of ginseng spells alerted me to the movement. Their rapid sucession of activation told me that the creature that had tripped the alarms was in no small hurry to make its way from the belly of the mountain. I quietly stepped into the dense forest and shielded the light from the lantern. My form was well hiden as I kept watch of the cave opening. Only a moment passed before two figures staggered from the mouth of the cavern. The first was dressed in full plate armour that was burned and scratched beyond repair. A bright red gash lay along the right arm of the man and was slick with fresh blood. Something deep inside me stirred, but I cast it aside. "How some of my brethren would react to the sight of that." I thought to myself with a tinge of dark humor. The second warrior emerged, much worse off than the first. The creature was covered with a dark cloak and carried a bright blue staff. The cloak encompassed the creature from head to toe, but I could sense with my magic, that the health of this shrouded warrior was very minimal. Turning to the first warrior, the second spoke in a raspy voice.
"Please, I must be healed." The first nodded slowly and laid a hand upon the forehead of the cloaked figure. Red warmth emerged from the open palm and the second warrior seemed healthier.
"We must leave. It took my last bit of strength to heal you. I cannot remain here, else we will die." spoke the first.
The second nodded slowly and said "The treasure shall have to wait until another day. It will be there another time, for only the two of us know of the existence of this hidden place."
How I wanted to laugh out loud at that remark; nonetheless, I kept my presence hidden. The two warriors then made their way through the forest, back to the road that led to relative safety. The first continued to rant about how the area was too hard and how he could not handle the daunting task that now lie ahead of me. I emerged from the dark trees and could hear screams in the distance.
"The two warriors had met their match." I thought to myself. No matter, their lives were along another path from mine. Mine led to glory, and that glory resided in the cavern.
I crept slowly into the cavern and was met with scraping sounds from within. Instinctively I casted the ancient spell of protection upon myself. The wipsy magic conferred an aura of shielding upon my unliving frame. With increased courage I casted a spell of obscurement that a great comrade had taught me. The lantern sparkled slightly but remained in my grasp. I gently set the venerable light source down and suddenly it disappeared. My friend had taught me that it would remain there even though I could not see it. I then reached for it to test and sure enough, the lantern returned to my grasp. I set it down and again it faded from view.
"I had best hurry, for that spell does not last forever." Thus I crept further into the darkness. A few steps into the cave led to paths leading east and west. I ignored them, for what I desired lay directly ahead; nevertheless, I placed my bloodstone in the dirt along a wall at the intersection. Stealthily I stepped to the edge of the cavern's heart. There lie the corpse of a creature known as a darkling, a dark denizen of the forests of this evil place. The corpse was still fresh, so I quickly absorbed the remaining life energy from within it and felt slightly revived.
Peering into the cavern, I could see the great room open before me. Bones of countless creatures littered the floor. Light flickered from somewhere and illuminated the area slightly. I had prepared myself for this and lept quickly into the room and shone light from my diamond phylactery. The room was immediately flooded with a bright light and the horror was there - the dragon.
The great dragon, unliving like myself. It saw me and bellowed with rage. It lept at me but missed. I noticed that a great many of its bones were already cracked and broken. My preparation paid off though, for I quickly let fly a volley of ice shards. The ice engulfed the mighty creature and froze it in place. What seemed like an eternity passed before a crack thundered through the room as the creature fell to pieces, never to arise again.
My win was short though, for a stirring rose from the remains. A mighty creature formed of sharpened bones stood where the dragon once did. The lightning-quick entity was upon me in a flurry of razor-sharp strikes. Darkness crept over my mind as I called forth ice storms upon the creature. Blow for blow, the creature was incredibly vicious. It seemed to be driven with an insatiable hunger for battle. Undaunted, I stood my ground when suddenly, there was a stirring behind me.
Whirling to the side, I looked back and there stood a mockery of life. What could have been called a wolf creature, was mottled with rotted flesh and gaping wounds. It stood like a man though and eyed me with a malicious glowering. "The lantern! Damn!" I had thought the lantern would seal the entrance. The grey-furred monstrosity was a living contradiction to my intentions. Nonetheless, I had been prepared. Time stood still for a moment.
The warrior advanced on my left, and the undead wolf-man crept closer on my right. I cleard my mind and called forth a great wind. The breeze blew into a gale, the gale arose to a storm. The storm then erupted into a maelstrom of ice and cold! The intense winds swept around my body in a torrent and engulfed my two adversaries. The warrior was the first to fall. Freezing from the deathly chill of the grave, it fell in a shattering of bone and ice. Next, the werewolf was overcome with a freezing of its very soul. The creature gasped violently, then slumped forward into death.
I stood in an absloute holocost of corpses. Quickly running between them, I gathered the remaining life forces from them, adding their fallen strength to my own dark powers. My time was running short, I had to hurry. My magical energies had been weakened by the battles to get here, but I stood gauntly and rose my hands to the heavens. With a rumbling of power and electricity, blue sparks began to dance upon my undead frame, charging my mind and soul with raw energy. I was whole again!
Quickly I searched the floor and found the passage that had been spoke of only in legend. I looked down and found more darkness. "Just like home." I jested for a moment. Quickly I scampered down the passage and was face to face with the evil entity I had come to slay. The utter size of the blackened beast was enough to drop the mightiest warrior to his knees in fear, but I held my ground and began my attack. I saved my best for last. The evil creature wrapped me in a tentacle covered with slime. I gathered my power of death in my skeletal hand and grasped the tentacle with my chilling touch.
In a great roar from the creature, the limb released me and fell dead to the ground. I called forth a great storm of ice and cold upon the body of the beast and weakened it blow after blow. The battle was easily mine until I was tripped from behind by a tentacle I had not noticed. The creature dragged me under and filled my mouth with a disgusting slime which caused me to gag and spit. The weight of the beast crushed my frame and I felt my soul deserting my body. I had though it was the end when suddenly I was overcome with a shadowy darkness. My mind was then engulfed with a soothing darkness which healed my body and gave me a second chance. With a final lunge at the creature's bulk, I reached right into the flesh of the monster. I got hold of the heart of the entity and welled chilled death into my grasp. The coldenss seeped from my limb and staggered the creature. I great gurgling of blood and gore was heard and the creature sloughed over onto its side, never to move again. I had slain the great behemoth of a beast.
Sitting down, I gathered my senses and stood proud and tall above the beast and screamed a cry of victory above the fallen monstrosity. The scream echoed within the cavern and shook the walls, victory was mine! Now, to gather my prize. Gold coins were scattered over the entire floor of the cave. I gathered them all and handed them to my winged imp, whom I had summoned moments before. In a phase of existence, the imp traveled away. I did not want to endanger my familiar in such a place.
I was looking for something other than gold. I moved the side of the beast and found some shards of ivory stuck in the ground. I gathered them and stuck them in my bag for future research. I spent long moments scanning the cavern when then I saw It. It was buried under a pile of rocks, but shone slightly from an overturned rock. I grasped the item and held it aloft. The earth trembled slightly and I could feel the power welling from the prize.
It was a Rod. A Rod made of shining steel and glimmering runes. It was mine at last! I was tempted, but decided to not touch any of them, for I would need to research the artifact safely back in my study. I gathered the rest of my belongings and crept from the hidden cavern into the dragon's den again. I was eager to leave this place, as my powers had been drained more than I had planned. I grabbed a strange ring from the warrior that I had not noticed before and stuffed it in my bag. Moving without hesitation, I reached the cave entrance. Other creatures remained in the cavern, along those other passageways, but they would wait until another day. I had what I came for. I reached along the floor and there it was. I picked up the lantern and stowed it away for a future time.
Moving through the forest again, I finally reached the road and came upon the bodies of the warriors I had seen earlier. Their broken forms were laid in silent agony and I felt a tinge of remorse. Yes, compassion still existed within my dark body. I would return these fallen men to their comrades. I grabbed the miniature chest from my pouch and called my magical chest. Shimmering into existence beside me, the enormous chest opened its lid for me in beckoning to be filled.
I gently lifted the body of the armoured warrior into the chest and was about to lift the other when a great blow struck me from behind. I fell to the ground in a staggering pain I had not felt for a long time. Turning, I saw the figure of a great horse. Once a mighty beast, now it was a skeletal automaton. A horrible mockery of the honored beasts that served man, it reared with a great howl. I was stunned, out of powers and near death. I grasped into my bag as I was pummeled again by the undead beast. My undead hands closed around the slender form of the Rod and I pulled it from the sack. In my struggles, I had accidently touched one of the runes I had avoided before. In a flash of light and shearing of metal, one of the ends of the rod fell forth from the Rod along a bright chain. The rod gained a grasping feel and formed into a mighty flail. Surprised at the item I held in my hands, I turned quickly and with the last ounce of my strength, swung the powerful weapon. The beast roared as it was hit, but the flail was not done. The great power of the weapon carried it completely through the beast! Cracks sounded, and the monster was crushed into shards of broken bones. I held my pace and was in awe at the weapon I held in my hand.
"The gods! I do have some research to do now don't I?" I noticed my lantern had spilled forth from a bag during the battle. Its light flickered slightly and I saw something moving within the forest on the north side of the road. I was weak and near death and could not handle another battle. I used my remaining physical strength to lift the cloaked body into my chest. Grasping the miniature, I closed the chest and it faded away. I was left alone.
Darkness surrounded me and I could sense creatures approaching. I had little life left and only slight magic. I called forth the last bit of my soul and screamed to the heavens for aid. A bright glowing appeared along my phylactery, and I was engulfed in a bright flash of white light.
I awoke later and was safely back in my study. A great feeling of serenity overcame me and I began to rest. There would be other battles and, I would return to that dark realm sometime in the future, but for now, I had to rest. It would take time to regain my lost strength, and to research the great Rod which was now mine. But time is nothing to me, for what is time to the undead? what is time to the mighty? What is time to the Lich?
Return to the Legends of the Arch-Lich
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