Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Witch and the Lich; Tracking

Credits; Krell, Arcania,

"Alright, so you have a basic idea how a detection spell works, right?"
Krell nodded.  "it's just a spell that does all the forensic work for you.  Tells you whether something is or isn't something else."
Arcania smiled,  "Or someone, yes.  Although in this case you're correct.  Of course, you can't know what you're looking for unless you've encountered the thing.  Otherwise everyone would just detect source of immortality and the whole world would be even more of a mess than it is.  And only those who are what they want to detect can create items that will detect a thing.  In order to create a Lich finding compass, you have to be a Lich with a compass." 
Krell took out a small Universal Positioning System he carried with him.  Kvald had given it to him when he had been made Admiral.  Carefully designed to look like a comapss, but it stored a complete map of everywhere that had ever been mapped.  And it all fit in a little silver inlaid black box.  It had come with a few tracking enchantments; the fleet for instance, as well as the fleets of a few other nations.  He'd added a few detections of his own; the stone circles that dotted the universe from Earth to deep space for example.  It would be a simple matter to add one more color to the legend. 
"Of course, to find a phylactery you need a little bit more.  Discern truth; don't suppose you know the spell?"
He did.  The emperor had not been much of a mage; so he'd had Krell test certain statements made by those upon whom he was not willing to bestow his trust. 
"Yes, I know it.  Let me guess, combine the two and I get Detect True Lich?"
"Well put; I find that one should always start such enchantments with truth and move from there.  The pattern ends the same way regardless, but it feels more auspicous that way."
"That makes sense.  But there's no difference either way?"
She nodded.  ZeeGee growled and he looked behind him.  The, anomaly was probably the right word even if it didn't seem polite, had taken the form of a dog and was staring directly at Arcania.  She stood up and patted him on the shoulder as she walked over to her companion.  He turned back to the table and began sketching out the pattern for Truth.  He could hear her muttering to the shifting anomaly.  They seemed mutually agitated over something, but he couldn't tell what.  Was it something he'd done?  She came back after a few minutes and drew the symbol for a Lich so he could copy it.  Whatever they'd discussed it had clearly not gone her way. 
"What was that about?"
"Krell, ZeeGee seems to have the impression that you be a bit attracted to me."
"Oh.  Well, you're very nice and intellegent.  Perhaps were I alive and younger I might, but certainly not now."
"Would you mind telling him that?  It's really bothering him."  He knew he'd said the wrong thing, but it was true.  No matter how old she might be, he was bones in a robe.  It didn't get any older; not physically.  Yes she was nice, but he'd already met the perfect girl and he'd been at her side when old age had taken her. 
"ZeeGee, I am not attracted to her.  You have nothing to worry about."  It roared angrily.  He wasn't sure if that was it refusing to believe him or just more echoing its mistress' feelings.  Weren't immortals supposed to be serene and passionless? 
"Are you sure you want to put a tracking spell on your map?  It looks like a very nice map and I'd hate to see it ruined."  She sounded colder than before.  He hoped she'd get past it; he couldn't imagine she'd found him very attractive anyways. 
"It's hardly the first."  He activated the symbols and watched them fade into the map.  He flipped it open, now to test it.  "System.  display tracking; royal family." A series of purple dots popped up in the vicinity of Danielland.  "Display tracking; Lich"  A series of black circles popped up.  Two of them matched purple dots perfectly.  So a second member of the family had become a Lich then.  He'd have to find both then and bring Holine's phylactery before her.  He could see a collection of black rings at the palace with one particular pruple dot; she had his on her.  It was only a matter of time now before he could gain his freedom. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Witch and the Lich; Divine Guidance

Credits; Rea, Krell, Arcania,

Rea didn't come out until nearly noon.  Not to say he particularly minded; Arcania, for all her being responsible for more deaths than any other mortal over all of history, was not only nice, but very smart as well.  He had proposed a round of TacSim only to find out that neither Cyssie nor Igor played and hadn't thought to include the needed facilities in the house.  They'd played Chess for a while but he'd eventually figured out that it wasn't so much her having skill that made her win as that she'd memorized every possible combination of moves and was simply progressing along what she thought of as the pattern.  Finally, they settled on the random and unstrategic game of war.  It was mindless certainly, but it gave them plenty of time to discuss the finer points of navigation in space.  If she hadn't killed so many people, and he hadn't been dead, he might have been attracted to her.  Although, she was rather pale and the lack of pupils gave her a somewhat eerie look. 
He had the feeling inviting her along wouldn't sit well with his current companion though.  Rea must have caught on to his interest in the frosty mage because she was very quick to interrupt their game after finally waking up. 
"So where are you headed next then?"
Arcania seemed to have been caught midthought and was quiet for nearly a minute before responding.  "I've been spelunking on Krove lately.  Zink is known to have hidden a lot of things in those caves and I was hoping she might have left me a clue or something."
"Sounds awfully boring; have you tried just asking her?"
"No..I..I don't think I have quite the standing need to get anything from Him, let alone an audience with her."
Rea shrugged and sat down.  "You're probably right, only one she ever shows up for is Petra and we all know why that is."
Krell wasn't sure how much more of this conversation he could take.  Besides the fact that Rea was clearly being as rude as possible to Arcania; he still had only a limited idea who Petra was, and he had no idea who this Zink person was.  He had to do something. 
"Say, I don't suppose you know anything about finding a phylactery, would you?"
Rea stared at him.  She must not have been used to interruptions, as she was somewhere between confusion and annoyance.  Arcania seemed to welcome the change in topic though, so he felt a little better about having done so. 
"I do actually, it's a very simple spell.  You'll need at least a two point shift towards Light magic though.  Otherwise Rea would have done it by now."
He looked over at Rea.  It wasn't so much surprise that she wasn't perfectly good as that he hadn't considered the possibility that even enormously powerful mages like Arcania were still bound by things he hadn't had to worry about in ages like light and shadow based magic.  Here they were being blocked by the fact that Rea had used a few too many shadow spells to pull off the light based spell they needed in order to complete the task at hand. 
"Oh don't tell me something basic like detect evil would work." 
"You clearly don't read.  You'll need a trace enchantment attuned to a Lich.  Since you have a Lich, all you'll need is a compass or a Universal Positioning System, or some other mundane navigational mechanism that can point you towards a Lich's phylactery.  Divine Guidance should work to isolate it to the desired target.  That's the part I'll teach you." 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Witch and the Lich; Revelations

Credits; Rea, Krell,

The Nieldic new year began as had its final day.  Krell finally decided to sally forth for the day while Rea was still contentedly snoring on the bed.  She hadn't bothered to change, and it seemed to have an interesting effect on the neurally interfaced color shifting dress she'd gotten herself.  In place of mere colors, he could see images whipping across the fabric.  Stars over head, and towards the bottom he could see a grassy field.  Short green grass, he was amazed he could make out individual blades but there they were, cut short, watered, and fertilized.  Somewhere suburban then, maybe a community park or a picnic area.  Then he saw a hand flash by on the side of her dress; it was wearing one of her gloves.  She was dreaming of herself, and if the timing and elevation was any indication, she was practically skipping.  It suddenly occured to him that he was watching someone else's dream and he turned away.  She could dream in peace. 
He walked out side and found himself looking at the face of oblivion.  And endless nothing, absorbing everything around it but never becoming anything.  Then he realized it was much more blue than he'd always imagined oblivion and heard a melodic laugh come from beyond it.  The nothing took on the form of a cat and began circling its mistress' legs. 
"My apologies, ZeeGee can be quite inquisitive at times and I'm afraid in its natural state it is rather startling."
Arcania had set up a large cushioned chair and was playing solitare in front of the door.  Her pet-thing sat across from her and twitched its tail slowly as it watched him.  He knew that it reflected her, and so he could tell that even with her white pupilless eyes she was watching him too. 
"You named it?"
"It named itself, I was simply the first one to call it as such.  ZeeGee and I have much in common you see; we both wander, we both have seen the unrecorded wonders of deep space, and we both enjoy long walks barefoot in the snow."
"It's alive?"
"Ssshh!  If Igor hears you saying that he'll remember his flesh golem research and we'll all be stuck here on our own while he and Cyssie run off to Transylvania again."
"Well we wouldn't want that now would we?"
"No.  Things are boring around here when they leave."  She snapped and the cards began to shuffle themselves.  She continued to watch him for a moment before continuing.  "How much has she told you about me?"
"See, Rea and I have an agreement.  It's actually a threeway, but Petra's not here so I'll let her be.  The way it works is that any time one of us tells someone something about one of the others, that other gets to tell you something equivalent about her.  Rea is the worst at keeping secrets, so I figure she's told you all kinds of jusicy stuff about me.  Petra's really good about it, which is just as well since nobody really has any dirt on her.  And me, let's just say I'm the only one of us who ever had proper siblings."
"So what is this, some sort of mutual revelation pact?"
"Sort of; its mostly to keep Rea from blabbing all over the place about everything, while keeping her closest companions informed of who they're dealing with.  After all, everyone knows about me, and Petra is a complete paladin; its really only her who keeps secrets."
"How often has this happened then?"
"Never, Rea has always had this sort of lone wolf thing going on.  You're her first companion in my lifetime, and I'm no spring lamb."
"Alright then, she's told me who you are, what you've done, about your family situation, how many people normally try to kill you in a day, your love of books and search for a particular book, and that you can't kill anyone."  He paused and thought before adding on, "And she also admitted that she couldn't kill you if she tried."
"She's selling herself short; if she really tried she could.  It's just that she's never had to really try at anything for a long time.  And I mean a really long time; Petra remembers back when she used to make things hard for herself on purpose just to stay in practice.  As long as I've known her though she's been able to clear a room in the blink of an eye.  Have you ever seen her face down a company of soldiers?"
He shook his head.  He'd seen her around combat, but never actually participating in it. 
"Imagine a hundred men suffering exactly the number of wounds, in exactly the right places, to cause instantly fatal blood loss at the same time.  Now before you lose that image, imagine they all have penciled in mustaches and have been pantsed.  And that it happens so fast you don't even see her move unless she manages to stop about a half an inch off of where she started.  Do you know how long our fight last night went?"
He stopped and considered it.  It would have taken him hours to inflict that many wounds on an equivalent opponent, and Rea had still been shivering when he'd arrived. 
"Maybe four hours."
"One minute."
"That's impossible.  I know she's fast but a minute?"
"ZeeGee frosted us both.  I regained consciousness first, she hadn't even used her blades."  She paused again and looked at him pointedly.  "We weren't going to kill each other; you do realize that, right?"
He shook his head absent mindedly.  It was hard to get past the idea of her moving fast enough to have fundamentally won a fight in a minute. 
"Alright, I'm sure she'll catch you up on that eventually.  More to the point then; she's old, very old, older than anyone but Ceanne and five score times more powerful than anyone.  She kills immortals the way Petra kills shades or I read.  Her ultimate goal in life is to grow up; plain and simple.  She has a lot of family, but none of them close and none of them descended directly; best as I can tell she's spent so much time as a child she'd never willing inflict it on anyone.  So I rather doubt she'll ever have kids.  And as for what she's done; nothing.  She's never done anything worth noting.  She fought in the Great Ga-Vok war way back when, and she usually sides with the immortals whenever something big happens.  But she never fights demons, she never leads armies, and she never gets paid for her services.  I first heard about her because she kills a lot of immortals and Mum had noticed the trend followed one teenage girl.  Petra's probably the best one to ask, she's the only one actually stronger and she knows things no one could know.  If you find her, ask."
"That's a lot to know.  Why do I feel like you actually know more though?"
"I do, but I won't say.  She may not keep secrets well; but she reveals them perfectly.  She hasn't revealed the whole truth about some things about me, so I can't reveal them about her.  She can be pretty tricky like that, you should watch for it."
She snapped again and he realized she'd finished another round of solitare.  ZeeGee closed his eyes slowly and seemed to smile mischeviously.  One thing was certain, Rea was much more complicated than she'd ever let on.  He'd have to find Petra and get her to tell him more if he wanted the truth. 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Witch and the Lich; Home for Junsrew, Part Three

Krell waited inside the room.  It was quiet.  He had expected to hear the sound of blades clashing, the roaring of that icy pet of Arcania's, and the sound of spells on shields raging outside.  Instead, the hours passed slowly and silently.  He heard whirring a few times, rooms changing perhaps.  It seemed the home of Cyssie and Igor Von Gravaga had but one door for all its rooms and no halls but the lab.  He couldn't think of why they would design it like that, but they were supposed to be the mad scientists around, so there was sure to be some insane reason that made perfect sense to them. 
He looked around the room and saw that Rea had left her bag open in the middle of the room.  She'd emptied it completely.  Considering everything else in the area he had expected it to be larger on the inside, but it somehow wasn't.  She must have left her presents on the ship and just gone back for them while no one was paying attention.  But she had left a few magazines, some empty jerky wrappers, and a pile of unfolded, likely unwashed, clothes on the bed.  He had expected arcane artifacts and enchanted jewelry but found nothing but the most mundane things. 
Another hour passed.  He paced the room silently, waiting for Rea to return.  Maybe she had died; no fight took this long.  Then the thought occured to him.  It just sort of popped into his mind as he floated past the bed again.  He opened the top magazine and saw an ad for some jewelry circled.  It was a pendant, silver with an amethyst at the center.  He circled the room once more and rolled the thought about in his mind.  Finally he sat down at the desk and drew a circle on it with his finger.  The glass scratched easily and he was able to make his marks very precisely.  Three circles, one for the silver, one for the stone, and one for the spell.  With the flow of energy provided by his Lichly nature he turned the dust of the room to a silver pendant and the knobby fuzz of the carpet to amethysts.  He set each one in turn, delicately placing them in their settings and binding them in place with spell and silver.  He powered each in turn from his own strength and set it within the final circle.  A tap of his finger to the largest stone and the circle vanished, its power absorbed within.  The enchantment completed he returned to the door and opened it. 
Arcania and Rea stopped and looked at him.  Both were startled, but neither so much as Krell.  They weren't fighting, they must have stopped hours ago judging by the level of clotting that Arcania seemed to be experiencing.  They had a few pieces of paper laid out before them and they Arcania was pointing to a spot on a map of the Empire, Tara from the looks of it. 
"Y-y-yes F-f-f-fath-ther?"  Rea was shivering like crazy.  Maybe she hadn't needed it the way he had expected, but it seemed it would still do her some good after all. 
"I'm sorry for interrupting, but since it is Junsrew and all."  He handed her the necklace and her face lit up.  She put it on and her smile grew still wider. 
"Mr. Casat, you shouldn't have."  She practically tackled him trying to give him a hug.  Already weary from his enchanting he could barely remain upright in her embrace.  She whispered quietly into his hood as he saw Arcania grin surprisingly warmly from the other side of the little table they'd set up.  "Thank you."

The Witch and the Lich; Home for Junsrew, Part Two

Credits; Rea, Krell, Arcania,

Lunch was light, sandwiches and a bag of suspicous looking chips.  Krell had nothing.  He couldn't have if he'd tried though, Rea took longer filling plates than she did emptying them.  Girl ate like there would never be another sandwich.  Cyssie and Igor did eat a bit too, but Arcania just sat across from her sister and stared at her own reflection in the glass.  Igor tried to start a few conversations, but his feeble attempts made it clear that the situation had been deadlocked for years.  Arcania was ready to be forgiven, she'd apologized almost as soon as she'd arrived, but Cyssie couldn't bring herself to let go of the past.  And she was normally unfathomably cheerful too, it made the room uncomfortable to be in. 
Finally it was Rea who broke the silence and produced a small package from seemingly no where.
"Look what I have.  I can't imagine who it's from."  Everyone turned towards her as she pressed the corners on the top of the box and it came off.  She set it down and took out a set of color changing headbands. 
"For me?  Why thank you Arcania; I just wish I had a varaibly colored dress to go with it."
He looked down and realized that he had somehow obtained, or more likely had forced into his hands by an inordinately fast assassin, a long flat box.  He had the sneaking suspicion it contained a dress that would match the color of the headband.  Judging by the boxes Igor and Cyssie were now reaizing they held, it came with shoes and a purse.  At least now he didn't feel wierd about having not bought anyone anything for Junsrew; now he could feel wierd about giving people things they'd bought for themselves and forced into his hands without his knowing it.  Rea opened each of her gifts in turn, he'd guessed right.  It was a very nice dress too, and according to the label it had a neural interface capable of changing its color to any shade imaginable.  For Rea, that was aparently just one shade of dark red.   Igor pulled a small package out for Cyssie.  It contained a set of wrenches.  Cyssie instantly cheered up and showed him his present; a perfectly identical set of wrenches.  The two laughed and Rea joined in.  Arcania remained quiet and continued staring at her reflection.  Krell laughed a little himself; but he still felt a bit to far outside of the group to properly join in.  Rea gave each of them a present of her own, Cyssie got a set of lipstick and Igor got a book of recipes for the matter repurpposer.  Krell found himself suddenly grateful he didn't need to eat.  He should have guessed really; the Gravagan's didn't eat much anyways, so there wouldn't have been any crops or livestock around from which to make food.  All of the food here was repurposed.  He was navy, and he'd had some repurposed food over the years.  It just wasn't the same. 
Arcania finally picked up her head and took out a package of her own. 
"This is for Cyssie and Igor.  I had to look around a lot to find it."
Igor took it and opened it carefully.  Considering who was giving it, Krell would have too.  As the wrapping came off he realizwed what it was.  It was a metal case, and when he oppened it he saw two halves of a wooden staff, and all the splinters from the middle section.  Cyssie reached out and touched it, then began crying. 
"I finally found it.  I looked everywhere.  I found it in an abbandoned vault on Cariol.  I tracked down the Lych Ecthon had entrusted it to and found it by his body.  I don't know how it broke, it was still intact when Ecthon killed her.  It would have taken a very powerful mage to destroy it."
If Krell could have gone white he would have.  He knew the staff, and he knew Cariol. 
"I broke it."
Everyone but weeping Cyssie looked over at him.  Rea seemed more proud than curious though, for reasons he wasn't sure he wanted to know. 
"The Lych was called Xanadu.  His plague was the one that destroyed the Empire.  I was in command of the fleets that struck back.  He killed a guardsman who had tracked him down so I went down to face him.  I was alive then, and I was young.  I found a sword on the field and I charged him.  We fought for a while and then I felt something change in my grip as I was swinging it.  The sword turned black and when it hit Xanadu's staff they both broke.  He was thrown back when his weapon exploded, I thought he might already be dead when my spell ignited within his body, now I know he was.  I think your Mother's staff killed him when it exploded."
Rea nodded as though she knew.  He hadn't been paying attention at the time, maybe she had been there and he hadn't noticed.  Considering everything else about her it didn't seem impossible.  Arcania's eyebrow had raised when he'd mentioned the sword and it seemed that she knew what had happened. 
"It did.  There is a spell known to immortals who fought in that war.  It breaks a Lych's immortality, killing them instantly.  Someone," she coughed, "must have cast it on your sword so knowing that he had cast something on my mother's staff to break them both and giving him an advantageous spell battle to fight.  But when your sword broke it released the spell and killed him.  You blowing him up or whatever was just for kicks and giggles."  She paused and studied him for a second.  It was only as he watched her that he realized she had no pupils.  She had such a pale face he had never noticed before, they'd always just blended in. 
"Give me your hand."  He extended a bony hand and he countenance fell.  "Right.  Who did this to you?"
"Holine, the former Empress of..."
"Oh.  HER.  That expalins alot.  Rea, I want to see you in private after we're done here."  She breathed in deeply for a moment before turning back to Cyssie and continuing.  "Cyssie, I know you miss Mom.  I was hoping to get this for you intact because I know she used it to record her will.  She may have never said it much when she was alive, and she certainly never acted like it, but she was always proud of what you'd made of yourself." 
Igor reached over to his wife and pulled her close.  "Would you all excuse us for a moment; I think Cyssie just needs some time to herself."
Arcania didn't hesitate, she stood up and walked over to the door.  Krell followed her over and saw Rea already waiting outside.  Arcania's pet was the last to leave, darting across the table and circling Cyssie before following them.  Rea closed the door and looked at Arcania with as much sternness as a fourteen year old girl in an increasingly pink dress is capable of displaying. 
"Tears?  Really?  I thought you had more class than that."
"I needed tears, and they had to be hers.  I already have mine and Koren's.  All I need now is for you to take care of your quest and I can finish mine."
"You can't bring back the dead Arcania."
"She's not dead!"  Arcania barked at the young assassin.  The icy wyrm swelled in size and became a full fledged dragon perched on the wall behind her.  It was almost as though it reflected her feelings.  Krell couldn't help but wonder what she had felt when it had been a ferret. 
Rea stepped back and shook her head.  She was afraid, he could see her shaking and knew that it wasn't her running elsewhere.  She hadn't been kidding when she'd said she couldn't beat Arcania then.  Somehow though, she still kept the same determined face on through it all. 
"Your mother is dead Arcania.  Ecthon killed her in your palace in the midst of the war you started at his will.  If you don't let go of it you'll lose what you have now.  Just be happy with what remains." 
"Or what?"
"Krell, the room is 489.  Go ahead and go back to it, I'll be back shortly.  I need to talk to Katherine Immersfeld, nickname Arcania, age six-thousand six-hundred and seventy-three, daughter of Hal and Thalia, birthplace Creator's Palace, Gravaga; alone and in private." 
Krell keyed in the number, waited for the whirring to stop and quickly closed the door behind him. 

The Witch and the Lich; Home for Junsrew, Part One

Credits; Rea, Krell, Arcania,

Krell still hadn't quite figured out the layout of the layout of the lab.  He'd finally issued forth from the room in hopes of joining their hosts for breakfast, out of habit and courtesy more than anything else.  Rea had still been sleeping when he'd left.  He wasn't sure how much was that she was tired and how much was simply that she didn't want to get out of bed.  Her apparent age seemed to also be her physical one; so it was hardly a stretch to assume she had the sleeping habits of a teenager.
He wandered around for hours.  It was hard to navigate, and there didn't seem to be a map or anything around.  Finally he saw a familiar looking ship, a Pythen Basilisk-type fighter.  There'd been one by the entrance, and there was probably some way of calling other parts of the facility near there.  He walked over and glanced around.  There was an elevator shaft with some stairs leading down from it, the entrance.  He ran over and just as he reached the top of the stairs the door opened.  Just inside of the waiting room was a pale woman with something small and icy on her shoulder. 
"Oh!"  Her eyes widened and she stepped back.  He knew he was undead and all, but he'd never actually had quite this sort of reaction.  Attempts to kill him, yes; running in fear, yes; Oh!, no. 
She recovered rather quickly though.  Her eyes narrowed and she began looking him over.  The thing on her shoulder seemed to become more defined, growing a sort of rime-fur and taking on the appearance of a ferret of some sort. 
"You're a Lich."
"Yes, I'm a Lich.  Is there a problem with that?"
"Just a Lich.'
What was she getting at?  Not only did was she only startled, she didn't even seem to have a problem with his being a Lich, generally considered to be one of the most evil forms of higher undead.  Either she was a necromancer or she was sligtly crazy.
"More or less; what are you getting at?"
"Less I think, most Lich would have bragged at some point about how they'd cheated death or provided a grandiose title indicating themselves as death incanate.  You haven't and I like that."
"Who are you and what are you doing here?"
"It's Junsrew.  I'm here to visit my family.  A more pertinent question would be' what are you doing here and why aren't you got lost didn't you?"
"What?  How can you tell that?"
"It's an enchantment.  See, when someone gets lost in here the facility automatically brings them back to the entrance and notifies the staff so they can lead you back to Igor and Cyssie, who often lose guests.  Of course, the staff is off today so I'll just lead you myself.  Come along Lichly young man."
The ice creature on her shoulder leapt off, sprouted wings and scales, and the newly formed ice wyrm flew along ahead of them, doind loops and barrel rolls as it lead the way.  Its owner followed along at a steady pace, pale blue dress dragging along the steel plates of the floor behind her.  Krell followed at his fastest, barely keeping up.  They didn't seem to have any particular path, and it seemed like they wove back past experiments they had already seen before at last arriving at the same door he had walked out of this morning.  The pale woman keyed a number into the pad and he heard a whirring.  The door opened and he saw Rea and the Von Gravagas sitting around a table playing cards. 
"Oh look, she's here.  Happy Junsrew Kate!"
"Only you can get away with that Igor, and only today.  Happy Junsrew everyone."
"Happy Junsrew sister."
"Happy Junsrew Cyssie, I'm sorry about Mom."
Rea interrupted Cyssie before she could respond.  The tension was palpable, and from Cyssie it was rather intimidating to behold. 
"Father, I'd like you to meet Arcania Immersfeld.  Arcania, this is Father Krell Casat."
She hadn't been kidding when she'd said she was nice.  He'd expected her to be cruel and unforgiving as a mountain blizzard; but if he hadn't just been told he'd have never known.  The Queen of the Forstbourne had just brought him along for Junsrew lunch with her family.  And somehow, he was still more welcome than when Lewiza had brought him home to her family. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Witch and the Lich; Vulnerable

Credits; Rea, Krell,

Night had become a bit of an inconvenience since he'd been transfigured into this abomination.  Even immortals slept, but for the undead there was no rest.  It was the thing he missed most about his life; the knowledge that at the end of the day, at the end of his year, and at the end of his life, there was time to rest.  And with Junsrew so close at hand he couldn't help but be reminded of losing that reality. 
But that didn't mean he was without solace.  It had taken him years to come to terms with the loss, but now he could rest his fates on something more certain even then death. 
"Lord God in heaven, forgive your servant for his sins.  They are numerous, and each as heinous as the last before you.  I confess feelings of rage at the existence of Arcania.  I confess that I have questioned the path you have placed before me.  And I confess," He paused as he tried to think of how best to word it.  It was God and he had to be honest, but he felt ashamed even thinking of the idea.  "I confess that I have found an adolescent to be attractive.  Lord, help me to cope with these trials that are before me.  Give me the strength to resist my base instincts and to serve you in all that I do.  Praise be your name, that of your merciful son, Jesus Christ, and also to the Holy Spirit.  Amen."
He spun around and saw Rea sitting crosslegged on the bed behind him.  Something about this place seemed to calm her, or perhaps it was simply that she was tired.  She didn't say anything else, just sat there and stared at him for a while before ultimately climbing back under the covers quietly.  There was no way of knowing how much she'd heard, and while she had certainly made it seem like she wanted him to find her attractive, he still worried about how she actually felt about it.  No one could have lived as long as she had without picking up on a few social delicacies.  And equally bothersome was the idea of her not being bothered by it.  Did he want to be associated with someone who looked very attractive for fourteen, and had no problems with the fact that an undead old man found her attractive?  He may have been a pervert for liking her, but if she was doing it on purpose than she'd have had to be several sorts of crazy, and none of them good. 
He looked back at the bed.  She was sleeping quietly, though hardly motionlessly.  He felt a bit of a temptation to put a hand on her shoulder, for all the death she must have caused to grow so powerful her dreams must have been even more haunting than his memories.  She was alone in the universe.  Sure she had a few friends, but she had no one she could truly rely on, no family, no loved ones.  Mortals were too fleeting for the undying, and she couldn't befriend immortals because of the knowledge that she would have to kill them one day.  But he couldn't reach out to her.  He wasn't sure if it was the similarity he saw in her to Lewiza or the resemblance she bore to their daughter that bothered him more; but they both did.  Things were still too confusing for his liking, it seemed he would have to pray some more. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Witch and the Lich; Arcania's Quest

Credits; Rea, Krell,
"Did you realize that Arcania is still alive?"
For a lab of seemingly infinite size, the guest rooms were of a decidedly limited quantity.  Krell and Rea were sharing a room; a prospect he did not welcome.  She didn't seem to mind, whether it was because he was undead or just because she knew he had enough of a sense of decency to stay out of the way and look at the corner all night while he got as close a semblance of sleep as he was capable of, he wasn't sure.  It may well have been a part of her seemingly ongoing plot to embarass him, or possibly worse.  If it weren't for fear of insulting their hosts, he'd have just stayed on the ship. 
Although Rea really didn't seem to be trying too hard this time.  She'd taken her shoes off, but then she'd just sat up against the headboard and started reading.  There had been a little gizmo that was linked to the local archive and she was pouring over it with no apparent goals.  Krell still refused to leave his corner, but a conversation couldn't hurt. 
The clicking stopped and he could hear the bed shifting.  The floor creaked a little, and he realized she was walking over. 
"You really didn't know?"  She sounded calmer than usual, more subdued.  He looked down and saw that she managed to get between him and the corner.  She pointed towards one of the chairs and then slipped back around him.  It seemed like this would be a civil conversation then; Krell decided to risk the loss of his safe corner and lowered himself into the chair.  She had sat down across from him on the bed. 
"Alright then.  No, Arcania isn't dead.  She's not a villain either, but she's no hero either.  Not a lot of immortals live outside of the system, but she always strove to be one of them.  And she still does; she has to.  Do you know how many people try to kill her any time she pops her head outside?"
Krell shook his head.  He had a few guesses, but no actual data. 
"Five.  Four mortals and one newer heroic immortal; I'm surprised she doesn't stay here all the time.  I would if I could.  Arcania has lived a hard life; and you'd do well not to make it harder."
"She killed half the known universe.  I think she deserves a little more than 'a hard life'."
"She was being manipulated by a demon.  She made the mistake of summoning one, and it dominated her.  Ever since Courtney freed her, she's been a depressed wreck.  She spends all of her time reading; and not just silly tabloids and textbooks like I do.  She reads everything she can find about demons, immortals, magic, and anything supernaural.  She's on a quest she's been on since she was my age, and she doesn't stop for people along the way.  But she does feel bad.  And she will never kill again, no matter how hard pressed she is."
"What quest?  To rule the universe?"
"To know the universe.  There is a book, one of ten.  It is enchanted and crafted like nothing of this universe, for it is not of this plane.  The greater Death, Zink, once set out to construct a book that would catalog all knowledge; not just of the physical world but of heaven and hell also.  An Omnipedia so to speak; and she poured her power into one of the ten copies, and made it indestructable, and she made it so that it could never be made unobtainable.  If knowledge is power, than this book could kick me to the curb.  And Arcania wants it.  I don't know why; other than her love of knowledge.  But I think that may well be it for her.  Before she was Arcania, she was just a nerdy little girl with access to a lot of books.  And now that she's free, she's a broken woman, with nothing left but her books.  When you see her, be nice.  She's got all of her Mother's finest traits.  Even if you do insist on fighting her you'll find her courteous and kind-hearted; although I might hurt you if you do fight her."
"And it never occured to you, as you travelled across the universe killing immortals, that maybe there was a slightly more deserving immortl right here?"
"Oh it did.  Back during the war I tried it actually.  I couldn't help myself; she was just so prominent yet reculsive a target."
"Well she's still alive isn't she?"
"She beat you?"
"No, it wasn't her time.  I was...chastised for stepping out of line and going after her when I shouldn't have."
"Could you have beaten her?"
"Knowing what I do now, no.  In a fair fight certainly, It'd take me till tuesday, and the duel would span a thousand worlds, but I'd get her in the end.  But there's no such thing as a fair fight with Arcania; she'd get away every time."  She stopped and yawned.  "Go head back to your corner, I'm going to get ready for bed.  When she gets back on Thursday I don't want to hear a peep out of you about 'paying for your crimes' and whatnot.  I need her help and you won't go screwing it up."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Witch and the Lich; In the Lab

Credits; Rea, Krell,

Krell watched their hosts carefully.  Rea seemed at ease, but she did seem to know these people.  The man was young; not uncommon for an immortal.  He had shoulder length brown hair with a white skunk stripe going from the top of his head back.  Krell stopped and thought about it, but remembered tales of how particularly powerful magic could alter a mage's appearance permanently as a side effect.  With all the strange equipment about, it was more surprising that he had no scars than that he had strangely coloured hair.  He was too short to be Nielda, by at least a foot, so it seemed more likely that he was human.  Not to say there weren't other races that could have appeared human, just that few of them ever became properly immortal. 
His wife was unquestionably Nielda, but no less strange.  It wasn't so much her almost metalic looking golden hair, tied back in a frizzy ponytail, as it was the enthusiasm she had for everything around her.  And despite the obvious burn marks and machine oil stains on both of their hands and faces, the white lab coats they wore were spotless.  Decorated, he could make out a combination of small blue bols of lightning around the trim of each coat and hers also had a pink unicorn on the sleeve, but somehow perfectly clean and undamaged. 
The former Admiral glanced about the lab, ignoring the decidedly cosmetics oriented conversation Rea and Cystronella had struck up.  Girders and columns as far as the eye socket could see.  He could see half-finished ships being built in some of the larger openings, while the smaller ones contained everything from cylinders of unknown elements to a table occupied by a single pocket watch.  He'd seen laboratories, but never anything with quite this many projects in progress.  And he could see a few things that looked rather familiar; a Pythen Basilisk-type fighter with the hull half ripped off and the propulsion systems exposed, a shield buster warhead designed to be fired out of a Nieldic shipboard rail cannon, and in one of the smaller alcoves he saw a bloodstone staff hovering.  It appeared that technology wasn't all they worked with. 

Finally the man walked over and held out a hand.  He withdrew it quickly and wiped it off with a conjured rag before reextending it. 
"Igor.  It's nice to meet you."
Krell clasped the man's rough hand in his own fleshless one and shook it firmly.  "Krell, thank you for having us."
"It's no bother really.  Cyssie does like to get company every now and then; she grew up in a large family and I always wonder if she doesn't miss having people around more often.  We used to go around to her folks for dinner once a month, but after the war the family really fell apart.  Arcania still pops in every now and then with ZeeGee, but Koren never leaves the library and everyone else died."
He stopped.  Krell realized who he was dealing with.  Cystronella Von Gravaga was the daughter of history's nicest, most organized, and most powerful necromancer; Thalia, the creator of the Gravagans.  And that made her the little sister to one of the most heinous and destructive villain of all time; Arcania, perpetrator of the Frostbourne war and the master of the Lych.  She was the one who had given Xanadu, the Lych who had crafted the plague that had leveled the Daniellandish Empire, the resources and power to create that dread weapon.  The thought that his hosts were so closely tied to some of the most powerful figures of the last six millenia was startling.  More worrisome still was the realization that Arcania was still alive.  He knew that the Countess Yellsdana of Stormguard had slain the demon responsible for the war, and he'd always asumed that she'd killed Arcania in the process.  Apparently, the immortals didn't believe in either a death penalty or imprisonment.  And now he was in a place she was quite likely to visit regularly. 
And the self declared most powerful being in the matierial plane was discussing cosmetics with the villain's little sister. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Short Story; Operation Swift Retribution

Credits; Krell,

The Admiral was quite the sight to behold.  It had been only hours since the orders had come down and he hadn't wavered a second since.  He was a man on a mission, and it was a dire mission indeed.  The Empire as they knew it was already dead behind them; of all its proud fleets and stalwart armies, only these few remained.  Four full fleets remained, and fewer armies.  There were enough stragglers spread across the colonies to double their numbers, and they had all been scrambled to assist in the operation.  It was a mere eight days till Junsrew, and every man not needed at the front lines or manning the watch posts had been home on leave; there were no reserves.  And as Sister Neszien looked across the command center in the heart of the Zink's Cleiden, the Admiral's flagship, she could see that only one man was making the effort to maintain his composure.  In full naval regalia, the muted red tunic over the techplate armor all active military personnel wore, though bearing far more medals than most, Admiral Krell Casat was a somber tower of strength in a frenzied room. 

"All ships report."
She heard as the surviving ships began to call out their status to the stalwart commander.  She heard the names of the Lucky Thirteenth called out in their entirety; joined soon after by the Ninety-Sixth and Fortieth.  Then were the colonial watch squadrons, each fearful and inexperienced.  And at last the Admiral announced to the gathered armada that his own Forty-Ninth was prepared and fully manned.  It had taken a miracle, but every ship stood ready with a full crew.  How could they not?  Every one of them had been beyond the borders and not one had been infiltrated by the Empire's mysterious attackers.  They were colonists mostly, no ancestral names or great battlefields scattered across their homeworlds.  The Admiral himself was from Gasca, but his wife and as much of his family as he cared to speak of or with were from here in the colonies; it was thanks to them he was even alive. 
As the comm fell silent once more, or at least reverted to its usual quiet chatter, the Admiral activated a holotransmitter and breathed in deeply. 

"Men and Women of the Daniellandish Armed Forces; many of you have neither met me nor heard of me.  Most of you shall never here from me again.  But today, and for however long it takes, I will be your commanding officer.  I am Admiral Krell Casat, commanding officer of his Imperial Majesty's Forty-Ninth fleet.  I am, to the best of all available knowledge, the highest ranking officer of the Navy or Army who can still be considered strictly alive.  As such, I have been ordered by his Imperial Majesty to lead this joint task force of the Imperial Army and Navy against the perpetrators of todays attack.  You, you shall be the hand of the Empire in these dark times."
He paused, whether for effect or for some other reason seemed unimportant now.  Neszien knew that all else had been set aside, they all did.  Ever since the attack the world had become a blur, rushing to avenge loved ones or to embrace them in the last minutes of natural life.  The sisterhood allowed no attachments, and as an orphan she had few to start with, but she couldn't help but echo some of the passions of the men and women across the fleet.  They were the living hand of a dying empire, and they would bring swift retribution to those who had dared to attack them. 
"The plan is simple; all ground forces have been divided up into platoons.  Every platoon has been assigned a magic user, most of them civilian.  The magic users have been granted the authority to probe the minds of the surrounding humans and track down the cultists who brought death to our homes.  Every platoon will protect their magic user, and will only kill those targets indicated as cultists.  Trusted, senior mages will remain above with the fleet and monitor the magic users in the field to prevent abuse of power."  Krell paused again, listening to a question posed by one of the other surviving navy commanders.  "No.  All weapons will be set to stun.  Even if you are attacked, you are to disable the locals only.  Our target is this death cult, not the Human race; leave genocide to their ilk." 
Then he motioned to her.  It was her first time in front of a live audience, and the circumstances couldn't have been worse.  She took a deep breath and recited a calming prayer silently before stepping up to the holotransmitter. 
"It is a grim day for the Empire my friends.  And I wish we could have met under better circumstances.  My name is Sister Neszien, and I've been appointed as the..." her voice cracked a little.  She stopped and took a drink before continuing. "..the...the civilian...relations...person."  She could feel the eyes of the whole fleet watching her.  It was nothing like recording a news report back in the monastery, so much pressure.  Then she felt a warm hand on her shoulder.  She looked back and found herself looking into the vibrant blue eyes.  It was only then that she realized how young he was, how afraid. 
"Take heart Sister, the Empire needs you to be strong, and your God would not have put you in this place if you were not capable of handling it."
She swallowed and turned back to the transmitter.  "I've been appointed as the senior civilian magic user.  I'll be in charge of making sure that the civilian magic users and military ground forces can work cohesively.  We want to get this done fast and properly.  If you encounter an Imperial Guard in the field, defer to his command and do exactly as he tells you to.  I've been informed that every field operative that could be spared has been sent to help ferret out Cult strongholds and safehouses."  She breathed deeply.  She hadn't prepared anything else, but she felt like there was one more thing to be said.  "Lastly, I want to reassure all of you that our mission is just.  Do your duty, and never waver in the service of the Empire." 
The Admiral patted her on the shoulder and gently moved her off of the transmitter.  "Men, the hour is upon us.  Operation Swift Retribution is go, all ships jump now!"

Thursday, December 16, 2010

New feature; Cast Credits

Some people have been mentioning that it's not always easy to tell who everyone is, and have been having a hard time keeping track of the characters. 
One of them went a step further and suggested a solution.  I've decided to use it. 

As such, I've started a second blog.  That blog will contain entries for each and every major character used on this one.  I will link the entries for various characters at the beginings of chapters. 
For a demonstration of this, I've already written an entry for the current protagonist, Krell.  That entry is now linked on all relevant chapters; I will follow up soon with his partner, Rea.  I may eventually do back entries, but for now I will probably just do it for new ones. 

The Continuing Adventures of Kelvin Bladeheart: Touch of Ash

Credits; Krell, Rea,
Kelvin didn't seem to handle doors well.  He'd crashed through his office door, torn through Vionelle's, and now he was dismantling the portcullis on the local ruler's palace.  It wouldn't have bothered Krell so much if it weren't for the fact that none of them were locked and all had functioning automatic opening systems.  Kelvin was actually holding the door down so that he could destroy it. 
"Maybe a door called him fat when he was little?"
"I think it would have had to do something more traumatic than that to make him hate them this much. You think a door touched him as a child or something?"
"Could just be pent up sexual tension or something, Father.  A sort of Freudian hatred of anything that blocks a portal, maybe he got shunned by one to many virgins and is taking it out on doors."
"Rea, that makes absolutely no sense."
"I win!  You're buying lunch next time Kelvin calms down long enough for us to sit down somewhere and eat."

They followed Kelvin.  He kept a good pace, in spite of slaughtering everything in his path.  But with nothing to get in their way, Krell and Rea were quite able to keep up at a steady walk. 
"Halt!  My master wishes you to end this slaughter, he will see you in his office and you can discuss what you want with him in private."
"Very well then, but it must be truely private."
"Of course, he would allow no other way."

Kelvin sheathed his sword, in as much as one could call placing his sword inside of his chest with the blade sticking out from behind his shoulder sheathing it.  Apparently the whole 'Bladeheart' thing was literal, as with his sword sheathed his heart, lodged firmly on the crossguard of his sword, was precisely where it ought to be in his chest.  It was morbid, to say the least.  Krell and Rea knew not to think about such things to hard, but apparently the guard didn't.  After expelling much of his last meal, and possibly the one prior, he wiped himself off and feebly invited them to follow him. 
It was a nice palace, realtively new certianly.  And a backwater like this didn't have the funds to build anything truely grand.  And of course, with it being humans and all, there was little chance of it being built to code, Villain's Universal or Gravagan Standard.  He hadn't seen a single death trap yet.  A large double door, Wood facade with gold inlay over something stronger, titanium maybe, marked the entrance to the local ruler's office.  Krell stopped them before they entered. 
"Kelvin, real quick, do you mind if I do the talking this time?"
"Alright, if you think you can handle him.  But if you need help just step aside and I'll handle him."

The office contained an ornate desk, lavish blinds, several paintings of the man behind the desk, and a few scantily clad women to each side of the desk, all armed.  Behind the desk was a rather thickly built man, human, between the ages of forty and fifty but he clearly kept active, with a thick mustache and a military looking uniform. 
"Good afternoon, my firends and I have been tracking down a cult on your planet and we were hoping you could be of some assitance, Mr?"
"General Tange, your companion killed twenty of my men, intimidated one of my citizens, and broke my door.  Is he for hire?"
"Not likely, although I do apologize for the men and the intimidation."
"Pity."  The man stood up and stretched his hand across the table.  "Well then it was nice meeting you Mr?"
Krell took his hand and leaned in.  "Father Krell, tell your Great-Grandfather I said hello."
"My what?"
"Touch of Ash."
He swung his hand through the General's remenants.  The best part of touch of Ash was that it left them standing until something disturbed them, which meant people were never perfectly certain when they'd died.  Unless you chose to brush them away on the spot or there was a good breeze.  Krell liked to brush them away on the spot, that way people were never sure if it was the touch from when he was shaking their hand or the touch when he backhanded them that actually delivered the spell.  Kept younger mages guessing. 
"Father!  What did you do that for?"
"Old oaths Rea, old oaths.  Besides, the book on his desk is exactly like the one we found on that last cultist."  He touched the desk and transfigured it silently and without added effect in case any one thought to check.  "Kelvin, it would appear that the cult has sunk its claws into the entire government here.  We should head straight back to the Casat Line and request fleet action."
Kelvin stroked his mustache thoughtfully.  It was funny to see him thinking, it was obvious how hard he was trying to make it look like he was that it was hard to imagine him doing any actual thinking. 
"Krell is right.  There are far to many for us to handle on our own."  A pair of blasts from the General's handmaids struck his armor ineffectually.  He reached behind him and hefted a floor lamp as a mace and proceeded to club them to death.  Krell decided to get a head start back to the ship while Kelvin massacred the palace on his way out. 

He arrived, less surprisingly than it had been in the past, to find Rea already waiting on the entry ramp. 
"What are you playing at Father.  There's no cult here."
"I have to keep him occupied for three years.  I know perfectly well that Lizzie, I mean Admiral Casat, won't dedicate troops to this.  If I can make the negotiations last a few months though I won't have to spend as much time ushering him around."
"And what if 'Lizzie' does send troops?"
"She won't, because I'll tell her not to."
"And what makes you think she'll listen?"
"A very good hunch." 
"Not good enough."
"It's not for you to know why, just that she will."
"Very well then Father, but if you're spending a few months sitting around 'negotiating' then you'l be spending a few months stuck with me and I'm not going to give up on this."
"I expect nothing less."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Witch and the Lich; the Gravagans

Credits; Krell, Rea,
Rea took the lead as they headed down the ramp into the, well, the parking lot.  Krell glanced up and realized that they were actually on a planet, blue sky, white clouds, lone sun high in the south, and not an anti-air turret or fighter patrol in sight.  That, coupled with the names Rea had provided for the people they had come to visit, could only mean they were in the almost legendary Gravagan Collective.  He'd never been before, but the Gravagans were known for their rigid electoral system, short term limits, and refusal to do anything without a lot of deliberation.  Considering their origins, it was actually rather ironic.  The Gravagans were a silicon based lifeform created by the universe's most powerful Necromancer, the nefarious Thalia, who had also been the mastermind behind the immortal's villains and heroes system, as well as being the mother of Arcania, who had been responsible for the frostbourne war.  The Gravagans had been her personal and unstoppable army, designed in every way to make them a highly efficent military force.  They ate dirt, never complained, could run for days, had strength comparable to a Nielda and were nearly as good at range.  Although their crystaline fingers denied them much of the dexterity needed for melee combat, the same crystaline nature allowed them to shrug off most melee attacks.  Under their maker's leadership they had been renowned; since her death they had simply never had the cohesion needed to be considered a real power in the universe, despite their numbers and military might. 
Rea walked up to a small white building, almost like a pillbox in the middle of the parking lot.  Inside they found a receptionist's desk with an elevator.  The receptionist was Gravagan, llight purple skin glimmering from the flourescent lights, and her amethyst strands of hair looked like a thousand gems fused together.  It was no wonder Gravgan women were said to be a rich man's ultimate trophy wife, she looked more expensive and attractive than Rea's ship. 
"Hi Sh'nn'n."
"I'll call you back Liz, we've got a customer."  The receptionist hung up the phone and swiveled towards them.  "It's  just Shannon, with vowels.  What can I get for you today?"
"I need to see your boss."
"Mr. Davon is on paternity leave this month."
"Your other boss."
"Do you have an appointment."
"No, but they won't care either."
"Then you know them, so according to the rules I can just let you in.  First though, how did you know my name?"
"Igor always hires receptionists named Shannon, and when he doesn't he calls them it by accident.  It was a safe guess."
The elevator door opened and Shannon motioned towards it.  Rea nodded courteously and they entered it.  Krell instantly noticed that the elevator contained several couches, a magazine rack, and a small buffet that had been set with coffee and small muffins containing various bits of fruit.  It was only after he realized that it was a waiting room that he realized it was also a lot bigger than the pillbox they'd entered it from. 
"So how long have you known these people?"  Rea had already made it over to the buffet and was pouring a cup of coffee.
"Well, I knew Igor from way back.  We'd shared a few mutual friends and whenever I needed something unusual in order to handle a target delicately, I'd give him a ring and he'd whip up something genius.  I got invited to the wedding, disrupted it, and ended up doing the bride's make-up as penance.  I've been popping in and out since before the war; and as I said back in the ship, I wouldn't dream of killing them, and they wouldn't dream of me killing them.  So this is probably as close to a home as I have."
"And you think they can help?"
"I know they can, there is nothing in the world they won't at some point manage to create in their pursuit of other things.  They've figured out everything from time travel to building battleships that can shrink themselves down and fit in the palm of your hand.  Neither of them could cook if their lives depended on it, and I still don't know if they've figured out that there's more to marriage than rings and name changes, but they're very nice and I like them."
"What was that about marriage?"
"It seems safe to assume they're both still virgins.  They're the most brilliant people in the universe, but not the brightest." 
"Innocent as an empty frame then?"
"I wouldn't say that, they designed most of the weapon systems used by the Gravagans, Pythens, and did the research needed to build most of the universe's superweapons.  Whenever a star blows up, or a planet is wiped clean, or a bunch of machine-cyborg things starts yelling about how they want to wipe other races from the universe, one or both of them is probably involved somewhere along the line.  They are not innocent, I just find it completely justified to speculate as to their virginity.  You'll probably see why once you meet them."
The door reopened and she lead them out.  Before them lay the largest and least decorated laboratory he'd ever seen.  But it was huge.  A great steel frame that seemed to stretch upward forever, and at least as far outwards.  all pristinely white, and at the base of every pillar a desk, or a console, or a rather complicated set of wires, glass tubes, or other equally confusing looking pieces of scientific equipment.  It was loud, and yet there was no generator or factory in sight.  It was as though every piece of machinery was humming in a single great chorus.  It was magnificent.
"Is that a Lich?  Cyssie come look, a real live Lich, sort of.  I haven't seen one in ages.  What's it like?"
Before he could look to see who was talking a young woman popped into exsistence directly in front of him and stuck something cold and metal into one of his eyes.  A series of beeps and whistles made it clear she wasn't trying to kill him, but he still pulled it out on principle. 
"Igor, this isn't just any Lich.  This man's been compelled, I haven't even heard of that happening in my lifetime.  This may be the greatest necromantic oppurtunity ever!"
"A compelled Lich?" Exclaimed her companion, who was now furiously waving a second gadget under his feet.  "Why that's extroridnary, I always thought it was only possible in theory and now here one is right in our lab!"
Rea snapped and both of them were pushed back, much to Krell's relief. 
"Father Krell, allow me to introduce to you; Igor and Cystronella Von Gravaga, the original mad scientists."

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Witch and the Lich; The Face of Rea

Credits; Krell, Rea,
Krell managed to avoid seeing her the whole trip.  Which wasn't to say she hadn't leaned over his shoulder a few times, sat quietly in front of him while he read the latest intel, and he strongly suspected that Rea was never more than a corner behind him whenever he went through the halls.  Still, he'd managed to resist the urge to look at her; despite her best efforts to goad him into doing so.  Although he had been tricked into conversationon today when she'd asked what he was reading the one time he took a break from the intel and picked up a novelization of the first phase of the Great Ga-Vok war.  She'd mentioned it before, and he'd decided to try and learn a little more about it.  Not by reading the archives of course, the archive entry for it was boring and woefully undetailed.  But he'd read some reviews and found that this particular version was the most historically accurate to date.  She'd confirmed it as such, and admitted that she'd actually been approached to be a historical consult for it.  She hadn't, but she had provided some information to a few other historians who did help the author.  The most interesting part of the novel was that it had added characters.  Instead of the usual accounts, which focused on the courage or corruption of the first Grand Admiral, the then pirate Daniel Stone, this one had introduced a pair of characters, the admiral's father and younger sister.  What was more, it added the involvement of a shade, a warlock, and in place of the Admiral recieving a wound that took him out of commission for a year, it actually had him die of the wound and be ressurected by his sister, using unknown means.  It wasn't like any other account he'd ever read, but all of the historians and reviewers who'd read it had reported that, in light of new information, it was actually the most accurate account yet.  He was actually re-reading it in the hopes of finding out more when he heard the engines stop. 
"We've arrived.  Are you going to keep trying to ignore me or are you going to put the book down and come say hello to the mad folk?"  He lowered the book, thumb pressed in the center to hold his place.  He looked up and saw her looking down at the book. 
"This again?"  She pulled the book out of his hand and closed it.  "Don't you have something more interesting to read then a bunch of ancient history?"  She tossed it into the corner. 
"Coming from the girl who keeps a store room just for tabloids."
She shrugged, "Eh, I ran out of interesting things to read, I tried writing a few, and now I'm back to weekly gossip.  Most of your classics, I read as new releases.  Now there's just one thing you should know before we meet the Von Gravagas; they're both brilliant idiots.  Not a lick of business or common sense, sell to anyone for less than it costs to make it, sell to both sides, and the idea of being evil just doesn't seem to dawn on them.  Of course, when it comes to making stuff, they're the best.  Go hood down for this one, they met at a necrotechnology confrence so I know they've got nothing against the undead."
"And what about you?"
"I wouldn't dream of killing them, and they wouldn't dream of me killing them.  That's why I got all dressed up properly for it."
Krell pulled his hood back.  He'd pulled it down to cover his eyes when she'd grabbed the book and he hadn't realized she wasn't wearing her usual steelsil wrap.  Instead, she had a leather corset and a white shirt with puffed sleeves, all with visible laces.  Her pants matched the corset perfectly, but had a belt with an ornate silver buckle.  She had bracers made of some unidentifiable animal hide, both were bulky and seemed to have several gadgets concealed within them.  And hanging from her neck she had a mask, fitted and solid save for a few ventilating slits on each side.  A pair of goggles on top of her head rounded off the outfit, though they served no apparent purpose except to do so. 
And it was as he looked at the goggles he noticed that she was actually fairly attractive, in spite of her age.  She was still much shorter than he was, but otherwise it would have been hard to tell.  She wore her hair short and straight, and while it was black he could tell it was dyed.  The goggles held it back off of her face, maybe that was their purpose.  She had striking green eyes, although it may have been because they were somewhat blood shot.  He noticed that she'd powdered her right cheek more heavily, a scar perhaps? 
In a couple of years she'd probably be beautiful, but for now it just made being around her complicated and confusing.  Then she smiled.  He wasn't sure if she was doing it out of self-satisfaction for having finally gotten him to look or if it was because of some invisible expression she was imagining on his unexpressive skull. 
"How do I look?"
"You have had far to long to hone your looks for someone of your apparent age; its confusing and a little creepy."
"I look good then?"
"Disturbingly, yes."
"Perfect, we can go now."

The Witch and the Lich; The Odd Not-Couple

Credits; Krell, Rea,
Krell looked over his files.  He'd stayed low for quite some time now, and there was a lot of back log.  He'd left his granddaughter with orders to try and find the locations of a few things he'd need to take on Holine. 
He wasn't quite certain what those things were, but thanks to these reports he knew where they were. 
"So what's with all the papers?"
"Ah, my sneaky little assassin companion; what brings you to my office?"
She slipped around the desk.  It was nearly instant, a side effect of her unnatural speed.  Still, it was obvious she was doing her best to slowly creep around it.  It was somewhat disturbing, but the way she trailed her hand, while fast and much harder than she seemed to realize, was clearly intended to be sexy.  If he'd had a heart, or any other internal organs for that matter, or skin even, it probably would have responded somehow.  Maybe beating faster, or crawled a bit; he wasn't certain.  THere was something distinctly creepy about an apparently fourteen year old being flirtatious.  If it weren't for the fact that she was so old underneath the steelsil wrappings and young body he'd have probably just been confused.  But there could be no mistaking that she was teasing him. 
Not that it mattered, he was nothing but bones, mind, and tethered soul.  Even if he had found her advances welcome he couldn't act on them.  He didn't though.  He was sitting in an office that his grandaughter had provided.  Just knowing she was there reminded him of his sweet Lewiza; now long dead.  He should have shared her grave, and even those he'd been close to believed he did.  Just his succesor and Holine knew he was still bound to unlife.  The irony, that the man famous for leading the last living subjects of the Empire was now trapped in undeath, was a constant companion.  It was painful even at times, to know that his tale was used to remind people to remain hopeful, when he had nothing left but the pursuit of his own destruction.  All he wanted was to rest with the wife he'd loved, the children he'd raised, and the friends he'd fought beside. 
"Oh nothing, I just wanted to know if you had any plans?"
"I have our targets.  I just don't know what they are, only where."  He purposefully ignored her flirtations.  She'd gotten behind him and was resting on the back of his chair.  Her breath was cold, but its mere existance served only to remind him of his own post-mortality. 
He refocused on the papers.  The throne itself would be his ultimate goal.  She'd created several Lich, most had become so willingly.  There were five diamonds arrayed on the left armrest, one for each of them.  Two she'd apparently destroyed already when their owners had gone mad and turned on her.  A third was the captain of her guard, who never left her side.  The fourth it seemed was Holine herself.  The fifth was him.  She'd refused to destroy his, perhaps because she couldn't, perhaps because she knew the consequences, or maybe it was because she simply knew that death was the fate he desired and that by denying it she caused him more suffering than if she were to end him. 
Of course, she was no longer empress.  Her son had taken the throne at the end of the Secloran war.  Two years ago Holine's grandaughter, Winifred, had taken the throne.  The diamonds that tethered Holine and her captain had been removed then, but his was still in the armrest, under the padding.  One had been hidden away on Appeni, the second had been banished to 'Realm'.  Neither could be retrieved easily, and there was no way of knowing exactly which one was which.  Worse, that was as far as they'd been tracked.  He needed a way to track down a set of devices invented by the Guard; soul seekers.  The problem was that the only record he could find of them made no mention of location.  And in what felt like an extrodinarily contrived circumstance, the only set of blueprints had been divided into three parts and moved to three serperate locations, doubtless occupied by semi-sentient monsters and booby traps easily solved by an item located somewhere within the ancient temple, ruined fortress, or shadowy tomb. 
Just like old times. 
"But you have the information on how to find the information to just build your own, no doubt hidden away in the sort of place that is only even allowed to exist so that things can be hidden in them.  If I told you that there's a better way would you promise to do something for me?"
Fourteen year old girl with twelve thousand year old mind trying to get him to make an open ended promise, no possible way that could go wrong.  No, there was a better way; he just couldn't ask now.  It was far to risky. 
"I swear it isn't anything wierd.  I just want a fair trade."
"I want to know before I agree to anything, what's the trade?"
"I help you get your body back, you agree to help me grow up."
"Which entails?" 
"Living and travelling in close proximity to each other."  She paused.  Krell had known it would come around to this at some point.  They were already using her ship, living in the same hallway, and she was blatantly flirting with him, albeit very poorly. 
"Hmmn, five hundred year old Lich with a twelve thousand year old fourteen year-old; You don't see something wrong with that?"
"Of course I do, but I happen to like you as a person, not as a collection of bones.  I was rather hoping that one day you might learn to see beyond the fourteen year old girl and see the older wiser woman I really am."
"We've known each other for all of four months and you want me to what, fall in love with you?"
She nodded enthusiastically.  He stood up and turned towards the door.  She'd already beaten him to it, and from the way her hair had been blown, she'd also beaten the air she'd displaced while moving. 
"It's not personal.  But the way the enchantment works, I can only get older if someone is willing to give me years of their own life.  The only way that could be done is either by a very powerful enchantment, such as the one that made me like this in the first place, or the desire to spend your years with someone, i.e. love.  If you love me, really love me, I will get older.  And since we both have all the time in the world, I figure why not just make you travel around with me for a while and hope that it happens somewhere along the way."
It was crazy, but it was clearly better than crawling through a dungeon looking for a scrap of paper.
"Fine, we travel together then.  What's the plan?"
She pulled out a business card.  The script, a flowing black print with capitals shaped out of iron bolts and wires, read simply 'Cystech systems Ultm.  Whatever you direly need, we casually invented several years ago in an effort to cure baldness in Lycanthropes and probably left on a table somewhere.  Mr. & Mrs. Igor Von Gravaga, owners'.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Witch and the Lich: In which the Witch talks about herself, a lot.

Credits; Krell, Rea,
"How old exactly are you?"
"I make the oldest immortal look like a fresh graduate of the academy."
"In years maybe?"
"Eleven thousand, nine-hundred and eighty-four years, thirteen months, and six days.  Don't suppose you want the hours too?"
He paused and tried to find something to comapre it to.  Nothing was that old, save for a few things that were safely taken for granted. 
"That makes you about a thousand years younger than the Empire itself.  Which would make you roughly," He paused and counted off on bony fingers.  "About fourteen years older than the fleet."
"I was sixteen then, my father and I had just started traveling.  We called it the first war then, and the second was the point when Daniel justified the fleet's creation.  You call them 'phases' now, but it felt like a war when you lived through it."
"You fought then, and you called the Admiral by name.  Anatolian then?"
"Born on Danieland proper actually, but I spent all of the years that could be considered an actual childhood there.  And I used to visit from time to time.  Haven't had a reason to go back for ages though."
"I imagine not.  And how is it that I've never heard of you, seeing as your all ancient and accordingly powerful?"
"Well obviously Rea isn't my real name, that would be the first thing.  Besides that though, I track down and assasinate immortals.  So needless to say most of them don't like me much. Not many know I exist anyways, so whether or not they like me is sort of a moot point.  Say, do you know of Petra, the demonslayer?"
"I've heard of her.  What has she got to do with you?"
"What she does for demons I do for immortals. Demons plan to rule the world, she stops them.  Immortals plan to live forever, and I stop them."  Rea took out a little leather bound book and unfastened the strap.  She flipped it open and he saw a name, Imperial Grandmother Holine the fourth.  It seemed impossible, but perhaps that was why she had turned up to travel with him in the first place.  They shared a common foe, and for whatever reason she had chosen to help him rather than simply do the deed. 
"This book was found in the possesion of my first target.  A powerful Ga-Vok warlock, who had gained mastery by summoning a demon, calling himself the Alpha.  I did not slay him, that was left in the charge of his successor, a friend of a relation of mine.  I fought the demon at the side of a still older immortal, a sage from Appeni.  Together we forced it to retreat, and the Alpha fell at the blade of his own right hand.  I took the book and realized that it was my responsibility to follow it.  Each page names a target, an immortal, and  gives me all I need to know, time of death, time of birth, fighting style and magical strength.  When I kill the target the page turns and the next target is named.  I have never taken more than a hundred years to kill my target."
"And that particular target?"
"Oh, she yells at her servants.  I have no qualms about killing her.  Problem is that she's totally paranoid and it's nearly impossible to get her away from the imperial guard.  I happen to like the guard, and I'd prefer not to have to kill them."
"Can I make a suggestion?"
"Let you handle her while I watch?"
"I have a problem with her.  She did something to me a while back and I want to undo it."
"The whole 'lich' business,"  She nodded before continuing, "Yes, it can be undone.  Precedent exists.  The Greeks of Earth told a story about a hero who's life was bound to that of a particular log in the fire.  His mother removed the log from the fire, but when he accidentally killed his uncle she threw it back in and he died as it burned.  I happen to have met the man, he travelled with me before his death.  Full corporeal regeneration, zero memory loss, instant and natural immortality; It's one of the rare ways to gain natural immortality.  When a self created lich destroys their phylactery it counts as suicide; but for rare compelled lich, the destruction of the phylactery by its creator simply allows them to start their life over as a divinely permitted immortal.  Which means, since I assume you'll worry about it as much as he did, that you will never show up in the book.  Making you the fourth such individual I've encountered.  It's part of why I went looking for you; this doesn't happen very often and Holine's one greatest administrative flaw is keeping good records."
"Then you must be the_witch?"
"And clever to boot; yes I am.  I had the system's planner build me in.  I'm good enough with computers that I could write myself in if I ever got written out, but most of the archivists are too lazy to anything more than upgrade the system twice a millenia.  They all wonder who I am, but if they did know none of them would ever do anything about it.  For one thing I'd lock them out of the system if they tried.  I've got an uplink implant, so I pretty much know anything anyone is stupid enough to write down.  Mostly stupid stuff, but the military keeps good records, the guard has to file orders, and some of the immortals have commadered parts of the system for their own records.  It comes in handy."
"I was good with the yes.  So what you're saying is that if I can get Holine to break the phylactery than I can be alive and normal again?"
"More or less.  You've got it easy, all you have to do is bust open a fancy crystal or whatever.  I've got this complicated spell network that involves all kinds of self-esteem, romance, and temporal transfer involved."
"To do what?" 
"Get older."

The Witch and the Lich; 'And God Laughed'

Credits; Krell, Rea,
"Hey, where did Kelvin go?"
"No idea, you worried about him Father?"
"Not really, he's a big boy, he can handle himself."
It had happened rather suddenly.  One day they had been sitting their talking about the likelihood that there was any truth to the rumors that the empress's youngest son was cheating on his wife; the next they were debating the power supply needed to let a Tesser coil jump through space, time, or both, except that Kelvin had managed to completely disappear at an uncertain point in between.  It would have been easier to explain if they hadn't changed between the conversations quite spontaneously at roughly midnight. 
Not that Krell minded, sure there was a chance that a vampire ambassador would try to kill him for it, but that would just be inconvenient at this point.  Rea was a rather brilliant conversationalist, even if she did seem somewhat young.  She could name kings and emperors from millenia ago, and if she wasn't just making it up then she certainly knew some rather intimate details of their lives.  And the sort of things she was saying were far to mundane to be made up.  More confusing still was that she could tell him every single order he'd ever given, to whom, and on what frequency.  The Imperial Archive's communications department had sent back a report that the only person who could possibly access records that useless was a semi-mythical moderator named 'the_witch'.  When he'd asked why semi-mythical they'd replied rather simply, "Well we all know the witch exists, and we all know that even our mods are subject to its authority.  It's mostly that we can't actually prove that the witch is a person, a program, has origins, or that it does anything at all.  It never bans anyone, it never talks to anyone, it just seems to pour through the archives and weed out anything it considers inaccurate, back-up data it finds important, and open convenient doors for adventurers allowing them to reach exactly the set of information they need.  The witch is the reason why the archive operates so efficently, but the only trace of it we can find is a locked slot just above the Archive director for 'the_witch'.  We've tried updating the system and it always turns up in the new one when we finish.  We can't figure it out."
Rea had admitted that she had been trained as a witch, and been a card carrying member of the coven, although her membership was now expired.  That alone made no sense, there was no immortal younger than twenty, ever.  The doctor had confirmed it based on a hair of hers he'd found, she was fourteen.  Immortals kept aging even if they never showed it, if she was immortal it would have shown.  Yet somehow she was a graduate of the Arcane Academy and a fully trained Journeyman level witch, and apparently, by her own admission, an assassain to boot.  Even if she could freeze time, and it often seemed like she could, she would have still aged.  It was odd to say the least.  Maybe she was heavily reincarnated, it would be a first but he'd seen several firsts over the course of his life, and a few more since.

"It's really bothering you, isn't it?"
"What?  All this Tesser coil time travel stuff is just silliness.  It would never work anyways."
"It does actually, but that's beside the point.  You're wondering what I am."
"And you shouldn't be able to read my mind, that's how the mindguard works."
"I cracked it ages ago, any Nielda with military service on his record can use it.  It takes some effort, but I can convince my mind that you do in fact exist.  Personal secret, I have no desire to explain how it works."
"That's what bothers me you know.  You're fourteen.  Medcially proven fact, you are fourteen years old exactly, to the second even.  Yet you have a diploma from the Arcane Academy hanging in your room, and its authentic.  You say your witch's membership is expired, when I know full well that it lasts three hundred years.  And then you can tell me what I ordered for lunch at 12:39 AM on Junsrew five hundred years ago.  It's not possible for a mortal to know these things."
She sighed and waved.  Everyone in the lounge began muttering about needing to do something and wandered out.  She sat on the table and took off her elaborate wrappings.  She was fourteen alright, short, flat, and spindly.  There was barely a curve on her body, even her hair was straight.  But more amazing still was that she was alive.  He'd met her on Gasca, where the plague fumes were still heavy enough to infect even those with full protective gear, and she was still perfectly alive. 
"I don't age, I don't die, and for all intensive purposes I've lived exactly fourteen years.  I don't scar, I can't add muscle mass, and tattoos don't take.  Physically, I am incapbable of changing.  But I am old, I am powerful, and I am much more of both than any natural being.  Little lichling, I hunt the undying and the power from their demise is unnoticable."  Then she rather suddenly flopped over onto the table and pronounced with the same clear voice, "And I am bored.  Worse still I am lonely." 
She turned her head, and he could have sworn he saw a tear.  "Do you have any idea the sort of nightmare it is to be trapped in the shallow end of puberty for nearly a dozen millenia?  All that fear that you'll neve be as attractive as the other girls dropped on top of the experience born realization that in fact no, you will never be as attractive as the other girls.  The budding interest in guys, coupled with the fact that you will never legally be able to know.  It sucks!"
Krell sat and stared at the oldest teenage girl in the universe, and realized with awe and fear that there was a God, and he was laughing.  The most powerful being in the material plane couldn't legally drive, drink, or vote.


Yea, I'm finally back.

To sum things up; NaNoWriMo will definitely be an annual event for me.  I enjoyed the experience, and I'm going to keep working on the novel I wrote for it until it becomes publishable. 

But not here, this blog shall reamin my writing for the heck of it place. 
Because all that serious writing just takes it out of you, so sometimes (most of the time) you need to just relax and do something silly.