In today's origins piece, we revisit the Lich Dance series with a prelude story. This is the first of many origins pieces we will be publishing in the lead up to the Elves vs Undead narrative campaign being launched in January 2020.
Light streamed through a small window, one of the few that was not covered. Splintered wood fastened by rusted hinges to the window pane the only indication a shutter once existed. The light cast its glow across row upon row of leather-bound books until the circular shape of the bookshelf turned the books away, allowing the dark gloom to halt the light's reach. Most of the books had a thick layer of dust gathering along their spine, a betrayal of the fact they had not been touched in years. The window was part of a tower constructed of roughly hewn stone, many of whom played host to a bright green moss, clinging longingly and grateful for the morning sun. Snake-like vines spread their tentacles around the entire tower, mother earth's hand reaching up to drag it towards its core. Athien provided an abundance of beauty for those impartial to such things. However, it was of no consequence to the tower's sole inhabitant. For he was not of this world, he was a reluctant alien who longed for home.
In the dark recesses of one of the tower's upper levels, Bastian fingered through a hefty tome set out on the table before him. A furrowed brow betraying his concerns following a recent summons to Between. There was one among the enemy who Bastian knew well during his countless years living on the plane of shadow. However, it seemed, inexplicably, that the individual was now one of the Summoned. It made little immediate sense of how undead could be tethered to one of the demi-god's effigies although it seemed the feat had been achieved. Not any undead either, arguably the most powerful of their kind to ever roam the plans of Between. Lord Fazeal himself.
Undead had always appeared on the shadow plane. However, they had been seen sporadically at best, until recently. When Bastian last lived on Between, Lord Fazeal had been calling undead to his domain. Something that often happened when a particularly powerful undead came into being. Unfortunately, before he could learn more, he became trapped on Athien and well, a few centuries had passed since then, so who knows what has transpired in that time.
Bastian's attention was drawn back to the tome before him as he had found the piece had been looking for. It described in detail how undead came to be. Upon death, every mortal's soul made the journey to Between. After a time drifting in that plane, the soul would then make its way to the plane of one of the four elemental gods, determined mainly by the mortal's beliefs and faith when they were alive.
Occasionally, more than just the mortal's soul would travel to Between, and sometimes the extra essence would form into a semi-physical being. These beings were known as undead. They would remain on Between for hundreds of years if not for all eternity. It was not exactly known why this happened. However, there were several theories. Particularly powerful mortals had the will power to transcend death itself; hence, a more significant portion of their essence would remain intact. Then some mortals took part in rituals and dark magic that helped them cheat death to produce the same effect. In both cases, they would become undead.
Lord Fazeal was a unique case in that, not only was he one of the most potent human warriors to ever walk Athien. He befriended a human necromancer who performed the required rituals to ensure Fazeal took undead form when he died. The necromancer was not named in the tome, but Bastian had his suspicions on who it was. The same necromancer who was able to summon undead while on the shadow plane and who actively sought to become a lich. Oh, Bastian knew of Zaron's plans, however, for now, there was little he could do about it. There were far more pressing matters to attend to.
The Lore Keeper leaned back on his chair and absentmindedly stroked his orange beard. A beard that increasingly became streaked with silver hair, much to his chagrin. Bastian was sure that Fazeal's ascension to one of the Summoned was linked to Zaron, however, at the moment he could not see what the necromancer hoped to gain from it. For the first time ever, Bastian felt like a spectator in the unfolding story. He increasingly turned his thoughts to merely returning home, to Between, then trying to alter events. His allegiance lied with Torin, the god of time, and as usual, he would report back to his master what he had learned today.
Slowly, Bastian rose from his chair and began the journey up the stone staircase to his bedchamber. He knew weariness was the primary source of his melancholy because much like the mortals he lived amongst, Bastian needed rest. Once refreshed, he would be reinvigorated to take up the challenge once again. As he lay in his bunk, eagerly awaiting the deep sleep, Bastian's mind wandered.
It had taken some time to realise Zaron's importance in the struggle between the old gods and the new. However, it was now apparent that the necromancer had the power to shape the world. Bastian knew it would fall to him to put a stop to it before things got out of hand. He would have to confront the necromancer on Athien, the one place he could be killed outright.
With thoughts of the oncoming conflict racing through his mind. The Lore Keeper drifted into a deep sleep.