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The Rise of the Lich [Masterwork]

03 June 2014, 23:26 Rating: 12 [+]

Vildang and his wife started out early that morning as they did every morning -- before the first break of light. His reptilian prey would be slowed by the frigid night mountain air. As his wife went to her duties in the field, picking berries kissed by morning dew, Vildang stole away into the cliffs and peaks of the steamy vale to track his game. Approaching a den of asps, a less experienced pursuer would have loosed a stack of quarrels at the serpents only to run off with one or two when the others "held their ground." Vildang has deep roots in ranging though, his ancestors were hunters long before the fall of the age of myth and will the recent birth of his first and only son, they will be for years to come. His hand obediently steady as it drew the blade, his pace even and unchanged from his typical stalking, he approached the snakes to severe and collect the heads, and allowed the tails to twitch out before placing them in his bag.



As Vildang past through the gates the first sun was rising and the third shift of guards were wearily on their way to the barracks. He dropped the heads off at the toxicologist and made his way to the back yards where the butcher was grumbling out of his quarters. Vildang dropped his snakes on the butchers block and turned to go out for a second hunt. The predators would be awake now, the snakes were just to get his mindset. Now was time for a challenge.



His wife was not amongst the other herbalists as he sojourned to his mountain pass, but that was of no mind, she often climbed through the mountains and cliffs to find more exotic pickings; perhaps they would cross paths on the range. Halfway to the summit, he began tracking a bear and readied his weapon. Following lethargic foot prints he found the bear watering at a nearby brook and found a good vantage. He steadied his crossbow and loosed. A direct hit to the underbelly. The beast was hurt but still came barreling towards him. Without hesitation he reloaded his cross bow and loosed again. The quarrel struck the bear just wide of the right eye and he slowed to a crawl. The steel was strong and Vildang was a master with both bow and knife. Hr approached the bear with a bead drawn on his head and his knife drawn. He found the heart with his blade and it was over as quickly as it began. He dressed the bear and began the haul back to the mountain homes.



The domineering gates shown as a silhouette against the rising sun but a strange blue haze obscured the view this morning. As the ancient stone wall drew nearer the ranger began to make out object strewn across the front yard. Clothes, picks, crafts and weapons littered the otherwise clean yard, hinting that something was awry. Breaching the gates more signs of panic revealed themselves. Then the blood and disembodied limbs. They seemed to be cauterized with frost where they had be severed -- Frost giants. Vildang had only heard tales of the beasts that the ancient dwarves had battled long ago. He recognized pieces of jewelry and trinkets of coworkers of his wife. Had she met the same grisly end as the others? There was no way to tell for sure. He dropped his kill and quickly made for his sons quarters in hopes he was not too late to get them out of the mountain homes and to relative safety in the mountains. Rushing through the halls he saw evidence that the insurgents must have gone upwards to the ramparts to battle the soldiers before pillaging the rest of the fort. Perhaps there was still time to get his son and escape.



Vildangs legacy was safe -- so far. He unlocked his sons door, grabbed him and they took off towards the back exit. Traversing the great hall he heard the clang of steel dropping to the stone as his brothers fell to the evil that lay behind them and the haunting sounds of the frost giants, unheard for generations echoed through the halls. The air grew cold as they approached and Vildang knew there was no time to make it to the exit. He quickly directed his son down the next corridor, into the temples. The giants were only a few paces away now and as Vildang turned to open the closest door the worldenders sword came down upon his shoulder. His bow and quiver came free and dropped to the stone. His left hand reaching for his knife, unruly now, unlike the controlled draw of the morning. As the steel cumbersomely came out of the sheath, a second giant grabbed his son by the throat and stuffed him into his silk bag. Vildang reached to grab his son but the worldender took a back handed slash across his torso, lacerating his stomach and sending him reeling through the door. He saw his son writhing in the bag as the door closed and locked behind him. The giants left him for dead to continued their destructive path down the hall.



Vildang lay on his back, staring up into the high cloistered ceiling above the temple. Darkness surrounded him; the displaced candelabras burnt dimly on the stone floor. There was light enough to see the feeble state he was in; guts strewn across the floor and his arm rested peacefully-- lifelessly -- above his head. The Blood began to run down his arm from the gruesome wound in his shoulder. The fluid pooled in his cupped hand and spilled to fill the engravings on the floor and mixed with the holy serum spilled from the chalices of the temple. He could feel the life draining with the blood and the emptiness the enveloped his arm began to spread to his chest, then his legs and finally to his head. As the last breath left vildangs mouth as did his soul escape and made for the onyx oculus in the roof of the temple, destined for eternal peace. He gazed down upon his corpse and the gore that surrounded it and saw the ancient runes filling with sanguine fluid. They were unfamiliar to him as the castle had be carved millennia ago by the ancient dwarves who last battled the giants. His ascent slowed-- as if tethered by the runes to the temple. He reached the black occulus and where his warmth once was he felt a cold, vengeful weight that brought his soul back towards the altars below.



The runes now read clearly to him. His souls was embodied in the black altar, waiting for his corpse to be mended by the powerful magic unleashed by the blood and holy water that had mixed in the runes in the floor. His mind found peace in his bodily fury. Pushing aside the loss of his wife and his son, the very legacy of his line as well as the dwarf he once was. If he was to fulfill his destiny he must let go of the past, allow it to become even slighter than a memory. Same as the scars that covered where his mortal wounds once were. Both had to be effectively erased before he was to move on. His mind occupied one plane and his body another. Once they had both been reconciled, his mind fell into a deep trance, taken by the dark powers of the temple.



And dimly he awoke. A soreness came over him that he hadn't felt in years. Bodily pains are of no bother to the soul. Whereas his mind traveled lightly and elegantly before, his body was cumbersome and heavy. Rising to his feet he began to feel again the power of Armok. The emptiness that was his flesh became full of the gods destructive will. His death in the temple fulfilled the prophecy written on the floor, that the dwarves will one day surpass their spiritual connection with Armok to become a worldly power, their progress angering the frost giant demi-gods. The onslaught brought by those cold beings would ruin the fortress and unless one was to transcend through the power of Armok the race of dwarves would be coming to its end.  Vildang unknowingly was this soul to transcend dwarvrs and was fueled by the wrath if armok himself.



Regaining his coordination, Vildang made his way out of the temple to see the rotten carnage that remained of the attack now almost a decade ago. He knew naught of these slain creatures, only that he was brought to avenge their suffering and reinstill the obedience to armok that they had forgotten in order to allow their culture to flourish as it once did. He left this place and began to wander the mountains needing no sustenance, fearing neither beast nor man.



The blight had spread throughout the land and the realms of men and dwarves were all but gone; struggling to survive in the harsh wilderness. Even the elves receded back to their forest retreats and isolated themselves from the butchery. As he traverses the land in search of a civilization advanced enough to bring him the tools of Armok he needed bring death upon his enemies, he heard of a stronghold that was taking in survivors of the mountain home slaughters. He searched at length for this sanctuary until he happened across a group of vagrants cast out by the angered giants, wandering as he was to find a new home. Dwarves of all creed, color, age and gender were in the group and they all were drawn to the horrific sight of Vildang’s new form.  The group labeled him “Lich” but their worldly titles were of no concern to the transcendent being. But they agreed to allow him to join their group so “Lich” he would be. They were bound for a small fort built over a volcano to protect from the frost giants -- vermillionhorn.



The meaning of the name became evident as the group approached the cliff face that the fort had dug into. The entrance of the fort lay across the chasm created in the cliff by the volcano and the light from the magma glistened up day and night to create a vermillion backdrop against the mountain.  The opening extended hundreds of feet in the air and when the alarm horn blew to signal their arrival on fortress territory, it billowed through the chasm and farther than anything Lich had ever heard and shook his bloodless body to the bone.  Upon his arrival the fort was aghast and awestruck by Lich’s appearance.  Amongst the murmurs came a strangely familiar sound: “Vildang?” the voice whispered with surprise. A female dwarf approached with a hopeful teary face. When their eyes met she collapsed in his arms bawling. He had no recollection of this voice, woman or emotions she poured upon him.  Taken aback, Lich explained: “I am no longer a dwarf, but something more…” looking down at his gaunt body in comparison to the male dwarves of the fort “...and less. I have transcended the dwarves, I am an instrument of Armok.”



The dwarves, in great awe of this holiest of gifts dug a large chamber for the Lich and named him Commander. He was to be their savior and their reckoning against the Frost Giants who were surely like to find the fort in time. He was also given a set of steel mail armor and an artifact named Ziksisidash, an orichalum long sword forged but the weaponsmith here. The sword was strange to the Lich but he wielded it and trained until there was none better. He rose the ranks of the dwarves and studied to raise his own undead ranks from the road paved in the corpses of the forts enemies. His rise to power was steady and swift. He was shortly the most decorated war dwarf in the entire civilization and his name spread far and wide. The bone statues of his victims that he created from their corpses decorated the halls, golem guarded every corner of the fortress and entire ambushes fell with ease.  The temples began research into his black magic to aid in his conquest over their sworn enemy. Although they had no direct contact with the giants yet, most of the inhabitants had fled or survived Frost Giant sieges; leaving behind their lives and families to vanish into history.  The fort was quickly becoming the catalyst in the vengeance of the dwarves and everyday Lich’s powers became stronger. Evoking his DFHack magic, Lich can conjure stone from nothing, enable the dwarves to move at super speed and locate valuable minerals, leading to the advancement of the civilization becoming the new world power. With his aid the dwarves are able to join the smiths guild and forge the finest armor and weapons in the land for the most deadly Legionnaires to have been trained.



With more pending research in the black arts and Lich’s new alliances with the Mighty Dwarven Legion, Drows, and Elves, he will soon have the ability to crush the frost giant offensive and drive them back to their homes in the glaciers. From their though the battle falls unto Lich alone and his undead army. By Then he will have amassed hundreds of golem, and he will finally face the end of the frost giant civilization that brought his own to near destruction.



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