Northborne: Chapter 1
Our tribe lived in the far north, past the mountains and past still more. We cared nothing of gods, blood storm, or planar energy. We had each other, we had the beasts of the land, and we were content. I was the daughter of our tribeâ€™s wisest hunter, Volk. For days and years he strove to teach me his wisdom; that the mind is greater than the sword, that magic could be used to defeat any foe, but I was an unruly student. All that mattered to me was the wild land, running for days, hunting beasts, and challenging anyone who crossed me. It was not until the night of death that I finally understood.
I had been returning to my tribe after a month away in the wilds. My mood was lighthearted, for behind me on a sled I dragged a huge bear I had slain. â€œI will be honored tonight,â€ I thought. I imagined my father standing with the elders, his golden hair in long braids. He had always told me that my red hair came from my mother, but she had died while I was still an infant. Quickly I trudged up the last hill that rose near my village.
Black smoke and screams met my senses.
I dropped the sled abruptly and stood there. Below me were unearthly flames, green and purple, and a virulent odor that smelled unlike anything, and yet worse than everything. Villagers were running from their homes, and black shapes moved against them in the darkness. A shrill scream pierced the night and I saw a woman consumed by a green inferno of fire. Regaining my sense, I hefted my axe and rushed down the slope toward the burning village.
By the time I passed the village wall, almost all of the screams had stopped. In its place came a silence dark and brooding. I looked over my shoulder, gripping my axe tightly, and my hair felt like it would stand on end. Blood and entrails covered the burnt walls of every house, yet I could not see any bodies. Furtively I stepped forward, sniffing the air like a wary beast. Ahead of me, about one hundred paces, I saw the village square. A strange green light, much like the color of the flames that had engulfed the village ebbed and pulsated.
Dark shapes silhouetted against the green glow began moving towards me. I raised my axe chest high and growled, quickening my pace towards the square. Suddenly, the shapes halted. I laughed quietly, but soon the laughter caught in my throat. A cavernous voice, almost a moan, came from ahead of me, and seemed to echo behind me.
â€œAhhhâ€¦ this one waaas not on the listtt. This one isss different.â€
Out from the shadows not five paces away stepped a dusty robe. I started and nearly fell backwards, but jammed my axe into the ground and caught myself.
The robeâ€™s laugh sounded like bones being rattled together. Underneath its dusty hood I could see purple eyes and the flash of teeth.
â€œHmm hmm. Different. Aaalmost like an aaanimal.â€ The robes moved forward and I was powerless to back away.
â€œWwwhere have youuu been dear?â€ The purple eyes were now a pace away. â€œI haaave been expectinggg you.â€
I remained silent, fearfully studying the figure. A noxious odor filled the air around the shape. It was much taller than any of the men of my tribe, and looked slightly bent. Long bony fingers protruded from the robeâ€™s sleeves, twitching slightly.
â€œSsstrong silent tyyype hmmm?â€ The voice had a tinge of humor in it, and I cringed. â€œWeee will seeee how strong youuu are after youuu visit yourrr friennnds.â€
A powerful force gripped my arm, and half walking half dragging I was led by the figure to the village square.
â€œItâ€™s a lich,â€ I thought to myself. I had heard stories of undead sorcerers that the elders told occasionally, but like most stories I either didnâ€™t believe them or didnâ€™t care.
How do I kill a lich?
I vaguely remembered my fatherâ€™s lessons that I had never listened to.
You damn fool. Youâ€™re going to die because you never listened.
Abruptly I was thrown to the ground in the square. The lich shambled ahead of me and stopped.
â€œSeee your friendsss.â€ The voice moaned.
Out from the blackness stumbled many shapes, large and small, bent and broken. I saw faces I recognized and did not, faces I had loved or hated. They had horrifying looks, part fear and sadness, and part rage. The bodies stopped and stood obediently in front of the dusty robes.
I gasped and clawed at the ground, trying to get away, to get anywhere but there. The lich waved his arm and I was pinned to the earth.
â€œTheee dark lord Regulosss calls all to himmm.â€ The lich made a mocking bow. â€œAaand his humble ssservant obeys.â€
â€œIâ€¦ donâ€™tâ€¦ obey anyone.â€ I grunted.
â€œAhhhh heee heee.â€ The lich laughed and his fingers twitched. â€œKneeel before me in liiife, or bow in deeeath, either waaay, youuu will serve meee.â€
â€œAnnnd my master Regulosss.â€ He added as an afterthought.
I looked up at the lich and beyond him. My eyes stopped, and I caught my breath. At the other side of the square, beyond the shambling bodies of the cursed, I saw a crumbled form. It had golden hair in long braids, and surrounding it were burned and mutilated remains.
Tears began running down my dirt stained cheeks, and I crawled towards my fatherâ€™s body. The lich watched me, but made no move.
â€œTch! Thaaat one wasss a pain in myyy pelvic boneee!â€ The lich seemed genuinely annoyed. â€œImagineee a mage living among thisss pathetic little tribeee!â€
A mage? My father?
It all made sense then, all those lessons he had tried to teach me. He was trying to pass on his knowledge, his power. Somehow he knew that that day would come. I had been too foolish to listen, I had thought that an axe could solve every problem that arose.
â€œNow look at you, silly girl.â€ I mocked myself. â€œCrawling in the dust, all you know and love is dead.â€
The tears fell heavily. I reached my fatherâ€™s body and cradled him in my arms. He seemed so small now, like every ounce of power within him had been expended. I noticed something sparkled in his fist. Gently I opened his hand and stared at a glowing symbol made out of a strange material. I had never seen him with it before, and the design seemed distant and alien. Hesitantly, I reached out my hand and touched the symbol. It seemed to glow a little brighter, and I felt a strange sensation in my fingers.
My head was jerked around by the horrible rasping moan behind me.
â€œHeee heee. Timeee is up little girlll.â€ The lich raised his arm in a mockingly friendly gesture. â€œAreee you readyyy to serve?â€
â€œI donâ€™t serve anyone.â€ My voice was as cold as ice, and emotionless. My face, now dry from tears, was hard as stone as I stared straight at the lich.
The lich seemed taken aback slightly at my sudden change in mood. His fingers twitched, and his dusty robe moved. Suddenly, he threw back his hood and revealed an ancient visage of sorcery and death. His face may once have been beautiful, but ages of death magic and servitude to the blood storm had turned it into a shriveled husk stretched over his skull. His eyes glowed faintly purple from his hollow sockets. Sparse strands of black hair fell to his waist, where he now gripped a purple bladed dagger.
â€œYou. Will. Serveee!â€
The ghastly figure rushed at me and without knowing what I was doing I grabbed the strange symbol in my fatherâ€™s hand. Closing my eyes, I felt arcane power rush through me, passing from my fingers to my chest and into my legs. Voices and images I didnâ€™t know or understand flashed into my mind for a split second, and then vanished. I opened my eyes and saw that I was now standing, face to face with the lich.
â€œImpossible!â€ The lich wailed. â€œThe Vigil haaave never comeee this far north!â€
I did not know who or what the â€˜Vigilâ€™ was, but I could clearly see, for the first time, that the lich was uneasy. His hands twitched violently and his face became contorted in anger and fear.
â€œDifferent! Different!â€ He seemed to be chiding himself now. â€œThisss one is different!â€
The lich nervously backed away toward the other dark shapes in the square.
â€œKillll herrr!â€ His voice, now a squeal, rang out.
The bodies, with surprising speed, shambled toward me. One of the faster creatures suddenly leapt out of the darkness. Instinctively, I raised my hand to shield myself.
The body was instantly consumed in a burst of light and flame. More creatures shambled towards me, deliberate and without any fear. Shaken by this sudden power flowing through my body, I backed towards the wall. Whenever one of the bodies rushed towards me I raised my hand and it became consumed in white flame. Still more and more creatures set upon me, but each one of them fell into a heap of ashes. The air reeked of death and burning. The last few creatures stopped a few paces from me, as if commanded. Then they turned and began shambling off.
Beyond the square, at the entrance where I had come from, I noticed a slight green glow.
Rage enveloping me, I dropped the symbol on the ground. Hardly noticing the remaining bodies, I rushed towards the gate, burning anything in my path. Never had I run so fast, it was as if some greater power was carrying my feet across our village. But it was not fast enough. Just as I reached the gate, the eerie glow was fading across the top of the hill. I heard, or maybe sensed, laughter following it.