Lyon smoked his pipe outside of the checkpoint. Liys was inside meeting with his commanders.
“Greetings, Mister Ivytrunk.”
Lyon froze. The voice was coming from behind him. He wasn’t sure whether to reach for his folding spetum or to cry out. A cloaked figure moved past him. “Be at ease, I’m not here to harm you.”
Lyon smiled, his panic subsided as he recognised the visitor. “Magi, what are you doing here?”
Larick removed his hood. “I came to help the attack unfold in the best way possible for our people.”
“The attack that’s going to be launched against this outpost, of course.”
“We’re going to be attacked? I’d better send word to the Royal One!”
Larick brought his arm up and gestured for Lyon to stand down. “The Royal One will receive word within the hour. Leaf and Lofu will be sent with a unit to repel the trolls.”
Lyon calmed down. “That’s a relief.”
Larick entered the outpost. “Yes, it’s always a relief when things happen as they should.”
The ground in front of Wicadia’s gate cracked open. A dwarf emerged from the earth. He was sitting atop a floating, stone disc. He wore dark crimson robes and had a bushy brown beard. He had bright blue eyes.
Bastian bowed his head. “Welcome to Wicadia, Entrik.”
The dwarf spoke with a heavy accent. “Where I am, I recognise well. Of the others, how many are here?” The dwarf’s voice was deep and booming.
“Solan and Squen have gone inside already.”
“Almost complete, our party is. The discussion will be soon.” Entrick gestured and the disc carried him over the wall.
The guard turned to Bastion, confusion covering her features.
“Entrik is an ominmage,” Bastian explained. “His legs stopped working centuries ago. He uses that slab to get around.”
“It’s quite fascinating really,” Reynard explained.
I pinched my arm to keep from falling asleep. “So I’ve heard.” I was hoping that he would take the hint.
“For instance, fire-element mages have the combustion spell. Earth-element mages have the scattering flesh spell. Air-element mages have the binding breath spell.”
Reynard had been talking about suicidal attack spells for a half-hour. I knew what they were and I’d read what interesting people thought about the philosophy behind them. Now I was getting lectured by the dull prince.
I propped my head up with my arm and watched the wall. Soon my time with him would be up and I’d get to be bothered by someone else. I started thinking about Callie. At least when it was her turn I’d have a reason to pay attention.
Bastian watched as a robed figure approach. He had light-blue skin, opaque eyes and short white hair.
“A merman? What’s he doing here?”
Bastian ignored the captain. He walked over to the visitor. “Welcome, Pran.”
Pran looked up at him. “Hello, Bastian Mord. Sadow will arrive in ten minutes, fifteen seconds. At that time Entrik will berate him for his tardiness and the meeting will begin. We will argue about how to approach Larick’s situation. It will be tiring.”
Bastian nodded. “I understand. I’ll try and provide rescue.”
“Refreshments will be sufficient,” Pran stated. “Tiresome meetings are to be expected when we gather.”
“I’ll see to it,” Bastian assured him.
I watched the concoction. It would take another day to set completely. I did not mind. I had adequate time to wait for it to set and then go after Sadow. The guard was watching me with a curious expression. He clearly considered me overloaded.
I can understand that position completely. James Fingol once stated that “Only a damaged mind seeks violence.” Yet here I was, fully prepared to do just that. I wonder, will my people be ashamed of me or will they understand the exceptional circumstances involved in this situation? Should genocide not be punished as harshly as possible?
“So, you’re the draconian.” It was a relatively young elf. He had blond hair and light green eyes. His resemblance to Lynai was immediately apparent.
“You are Lynai’s sibling?” I asked.
He nodded. “I’m her younger brother, Lan Elfblood. Third royal son.”
“Why have you come here?”
He scratched his head. The movement seemed to be habitual. “Curiosity, mainly,” he answered. “I’ve never seen a draconian before. Can’t say I ever expected to either.”
“Your response indicates that there is another purpose behind your visit.”
He studied me for a moment. I remained stationary. “You don’t seem crazy to me,” he observed. “Why were you with Lyn?”
“Her presence was based on her own request. I merely agreed to accompany her until we found our way out of the forest. I was not aware of her position.”
“I believe you,” he said. “I’ll speak with my father on your behalf, once he has time. In the meantime, please forgive him. He’s only concerned for Lyn’s well being. He can be stubborn, but he is a good man. I’m sure he’ll come around now that he’s had time to cool his head.” He smiled at the guard and ascended the stone stair.
“There he is,” Bastian said. “Just as Pran said.”
A white cloaked figure stopped at the gate. When he spoke his voice was hollow and deep. “Am I the last to arrive?”
“You are,” Bastian answered.
Sadow pulled back his hood. His eyes were hollow sockets emitting a blue light. His flesh was mostly gone, what remained was heavily decayed. His muscles and tendons were visible. There were no vocal cords. The guard captain gasped.
“Sorry to disturb you, Young Lady. Is my appearance that grotesque?” Sadow asked.
“My apologies, Sir,” Bastian said. “Our captain has never seen a lich before.”
“That’s unsurprising,” Sadow said. “The process to become a lich is long, painful and complex. Very few mages can manage it.” He looked at the guard. “But the reward is virtual immortality, well worth the price.”
“The council is waiting for you,” Bastian said. “Will you come with me?”
Sadow nodded. “I became distracted. I would be honoured if you would lead me to the chamber.”