Part 2: The New Old KingChapter 1: The New Old King
Not a long time ago, in desert far, far away, there was a mountain. And on one of its slopes was a small cave opening, barely noticeable like that. If some adventurous souls were to came there either because a wizard in an inn told them so or they thought that every cave was filled with treasure they could probably notice some faded death glyphs. Whittled away by time and sand, they were barely noticeable, much like the cave.
And inside well, there was nothing noticeable, either.
Sand and its pervasive cousin, dust.
A pile of tiny rat skeletons where a rat suicide cult sealed their pact.
And a stone slab.
A stone slab that lifted and fell away with a thud. There was a fain glimmer of steel, for in the alcove behind the slab stood a skeleton in fine armor. His arms were crossed and his eyeholes were empty.
If some adventurer had been there and then, and not preoccupied with trying to rob the corpse, he would have noticed that a fain hum could have been heard before the stone slab fell and it was the hum that was growing louder. Louder and louder, until there was a loud whiplash and nothing happened.
Nothing but for two ghostlights that appeared in the skeletons eye sockets.
King Lich V had died fighting the United One back in Ardania and now rose as King Lich VI. He wasnt the lord master of undeath for nothing and he had many secrets hidden from everyone else. Otherwise he could not keep returning even after enemies demolished his physical form. But since his immortality was assured via a variety of creative and mysterious ways, he could always come back.
Even if it took time, and it would indeed take time, since this way of resurrection always rattled his mind. In truth, through all his incarnations, King Lich VI might have forgotten more magic than most of Mage Council ever knew back in Ardania.
So he took an inventory of his own mind
Well, at least I still have my magic
His relief was true. Even after all the resurrections, he still remembered waking up as King Lich III and remembering only home economics and the genealogy of the rebel leader that he had been fighting before one of his deaths. Not the most useful of knowledge.
Now, it seemed, his still possessed a little bit of that casting quickening power granted by certain spells he researched while fighting the Dremer threat. He was also quite adept at squeezing that extra bit of mana from the environment if only he had a functioning mana collector!
Shadow bolt was an old stand by spell, almost a cantrip by the ease of casting. And healing well, the last round showed King Lich the value of living subjects. After all, the skeletons filling undead armies were no more than intelligent than furniture that suddenly started moving and attacking villages. Flying bats always left glowing piles of guano everywhere they went and vampires were always brooding about the tragedy of their fate, eternal torment and forsaken love for village girls. The living were more upbeat and made for better company.
Except for goblins.
I swear I've had more stimulating and less smelly conversations with zombies
He exited the cave to look around. Desert plains stretched for a bit, but there was a town nearby.
And the flat of the axe to the side of the head.
Alexiri spy! Bring him to Rurik!
Rurik was more akin to a pile of metal with two eyes than a person. King Lich had never seen anyone that heavily armored, and he had had a company of Paladins of Dauros under his command. Still, it was a comparatively short pile of metal with eyes.
Whats a dwarf? What are you talking about, skeleton?
Im no mere skeleton. Skeletons dont talk, and I have that on good authority
Alexiri skeletons talks. Barely and rarely, but they talk when nobody is watching.
Can they also do this?
The kings hands were tied, so he launched shadow bolt from his mouth a neat trick he learned in case he would be reduced to a floating head.
Rurik stared at the broken chair for a minute while other dwarf warriors scrambled around, axes drawn.
No, I have never seen one of them cast magic.
Now do you see? Im not some skeleton and not a Alexiri spy. Now where am I and who do you serve?
The dwarf laughed bitterly.
Serve? We dont serve anyone. Not anymore. You are, however, welcome to the company of Svarts on the Burnout shard
And so did Rurik tell the story of Svarts, who faced a Dremer invasion in their own plane, fought hard, but lost eventually. Of course, being an extremely hardy bunch, they managed to survive the shattering of their plane and started to rebuild life among the shards.
But it was a very hard life. Every new gate brought new dangers and new powerful monsters to kill. Every new day had to be carved in the rock of distant shards and flesh of alien beasts. And no matter what they did, there was never a new world, only shards left after the passing of the Dremers. Eventually, this started to wear on some of Svarts and they found that they couldnt really go on.
Es Kaliborn, the immobile stone king of the Svarts, made a hard decision: those who didnt have the will to go on could choose to go into exile, where they wouldnt weight heavy on the spirits and the supply of other svarts. And so they did.
After many perils and trials, particular group ended up on a desert shard. Not having anything really valuable in way of resources, covered in deserts and plagued with flying pests, it was of no interests to any higher power that ruled the shards, and so they settled.
And so we stopped here. Just stopped. Didnt even come up with a name for the city. Name is needed for someone who has hope and a need to travel somewhere, to describe where he came from. We dont really have purpose anymore, nor plans. We didnt even need a name
The lich was nursing a small cup of yamshine (the desert wasnt exactly the best place to brew alcohol, so the Svarts had to make do with one made from local yams) only out of politeness, for lack of digestive tracts would have meant yamshine stains on his armor and thinking about what the dwa- svart said.
A leaderless people with a strong need of purpose, possessing advanced metallurgy and science, and actually competent in a fight?
I also had a history with the Dremer
And so did he tell the story about Litchopolis and Lichopolis, about human scribes and werewolves, about stupid elf neighbors, about Dremer appearing, about other Great Mages who were more incompetent than magical, the final victory against Dremargor
You killed the Dremers?
More like the one important Dremer. There are some still out there, but theyre not invading anyone. Also, while it was my leadership and magic that got us there, the werewolves were the ones that killed him
And then the story took a darker turn. The tale about the betrayal of the United One, the conquest of Ardania, the subjugation of mages, and is death.
So here I am. In need of a people and an army to go back home, kill the usurper and rule some piece of Ardania till some hero messes up again or the Great King returns. Something always happens
Hmmm. If, say, I convinced others to join you, what are the guarantees that you wont just use us like goblins
King Lich VI almost smiled hard to do that without soft tissues or magically animated metal face.
Answer me this: do your people shit themselves and eat the product? Have you ever lost a village because the people forgot how to breathe? Does your religion revolve around eating anything and worshiping a god of swamp and diseases?
Then you know your answer. Question is, can you convince your people?
Rurik could. Being a veteran and the leader of local militia (svarts might have been hopeless burn outs, but not really actively suicidal), he held some sway over the locals. The fact that there werent really opposing leaders also helped.
My axe is yours, King Lich VI. My people will follow you to overthrow the United One or perish along the way
The Slayer of the Dremers! For King Lich!
My new subjects! Im overjoyed to see such dedicated and skillful people under my command. I will not betray your trust! We will take back Ardania or perish, and Ill perish with you
But before that
this place need a suitable name!