I wasn’t sure how far the Lich would take Edithe. Neither was I the best tracker. In the Netherworld, when Haec was captured by Lucerna, I managed to track him down because of the trail of blood left behind. It was easy to follow, especially since the stone ground was a pure, clean white.
The black stains stood out in this clean canvas, a direct road to Lucerna’s Lamp. It worked because there was nothing else to the Netherworld. It was a desolate landscape full of rocks… and wild Demons. Maybe there was more to it. I just never saw it.
The Plaguelands, on the other hand, was far more chaotic. I’d run into any number of undead if I wandered aimlessly for a day, unlike the Netherworld where I could go for days seeing nothing else. Also, the blight obfuscated my sight. It was difficult to see beyond the nearest hills, especially this deep in the Plaguelands.
That was not including the way the blight would rot the landscape. Whatever tracks, trails, or paths left behind by the Lich were eaten away by the foul magic. So, Daniel and I were headed in a nebulous direction.
We returned to the site of our defeat. The entire area was torn apart, its face changed by the powerful magic of the Lich. It was not difficult to find this spot, what came next required a lot more care.
“Are you absolutely certain, Salvos?”
Daniel fixed me with a dubious look. I nodded.
“Yep. The Lich took Edithe by the hand and brought her there.”
“And that direction is…”
I exclaimed, gesturing at the sky.
“Look, so the sun is up there, so north is there, and west is there, making northwest here!”
“I don’t know, Salvos…”
“Just come with me!”
I grabbed him by the arm, yanking him after me. The sun was at its zenith, beginning its descent towards the horizon. Once that happened, the world would return to darkness. And we would have only a few hours before Edithe decided to blow the Horn of the Caller.
Anyone within ten miles of it would be able to hear its call. It was an artifact suited for someone who often found themselves lost, away from their friends, wandering around alone. Like me. But I never had the chance to use it.
And it found a more suitable owner with Edithe. The red-haired woman was captured. Not against her own free will— although I was sure Daniel would disagree with that. She said she’d use it after a day passed, once we recovered.
The Lich was bringing Edithe somewhere, and we believed it was a place where we could find its source of its life force and destroy it. We just had to find her.
Ten miles wasn’t the vastest distance. However, with the speed the Lich was walking, I believed— or hoped— that ten miles was enough for us to hear the artifact’s effects.
Daniel and I waded through the blight, crawling through the Plaguelands. We moved at a brisk pace— not fast enough that we’d completely miss the Lich’s Lair, and neither slow enough that we wouldn’t keep up with his glacial pace.
The blight grew thicker and thicker the deeper we went. Blight flowers stood on their lonesome. Scattered and spindly, a smattering spread wide. Not the sight of a field, but the showing of a foul magic’s yield.
No place was free from the blight. The blight was no longer just a billowing wall coming from a field, diffusing to its surroundings. It came from everywhere. From the fields and the lands between. Daniel made a face of disgust. I wasn’t bothered by it.
I only focused on one thing. And that was finding Edithe.
“Leave us alone!”
I cried as my claw sheared through the [Wight]. It let out a ghostly scream as the life flickered out of its eyes. Another came forward, reaching to touch me, as if to brush its fingers kindly over my cheeks. I opened my mouth and screamed.
“Where is Edithe?”
I knew it wouldn’t answer. It couldn’t answer. I engulfed its entire being with blue flames. Then when it dissipated, I grabbed the [Wight] by the hand and flung it over me. Daniel sliced up, and it fell apart.
“Relax, Salvos. And stop shouting— you’ll attract more undead to us.”
“Aren’t you mad, Daniel?”
I turned to the Human man. He stepped over the dead [Wight]. The last of the ones we encountered.
“The Lich took Edithe.”
“And if we want to defeat it, we’ll have to conserve our energy.”
I narrowed my eyes as I identified him.
[Hero - Lvl. 98]
When was the last time he leveled? I shook my head, pressing forward. I spotted a group of Ghouls bounding after us, readying [The Primordial Spark].
“We can rest once we find Edithe. If something happens to her because we’re too late… I can’t allow it.”
Daniel stared at me. He pursed his lips as he spoke in a hesitant voice.
“You’ve never lost anyone close to you before, have you?”
“I have not. Why does it matter?”
He readied his sword, not facing me.
“It’s nothing. Come on, they’re here. Try to kill them without drawing the attention of even more.”
I bared my teeth as my fire enveloped the foremost Ghoul.
Class [Adept of the Fae] Level Up!
[Adept of the Fae - Lvl. 16] -> [Adept of the Fae - Lvl. 17]
Gained 2 Secondary Skill Points!
Class [Adept of the Fae] Level Up!
[Adept of the Fae - Lvl. 19] -> [Adept of the Fae - Lvl. 20]
Gained 2 Secondary Skill Points!
Subspecies [Daeva Cambion] Level Up!
[Daeva Cambion – Lvl. 101] -> [Daeva Cambion – Lvl. 102]
Gained 5 Stat Points and 3 Skill Points!
Salvos (Death of the Destroyer)
Species: [Archdemon of Pride]
Subspecies: [Daeva Cambion] - Lvl. 102
Class: [Adept of the Fae] - Lvl. 20
[Advanced Mana Manipulation] - Lvl. 7
[Identification] - Lvl. 5
[Racial Skill: Universal Language Comprehension] - Lvl. 1
[Racial Skill: Demonic Essence] - Lvl. 1
[Racial Skill: Partial Mortality] - Lvl. 1
[Rest] - Lvl. 4
[Lesser Enhanced Wisdom] - Lvl. 2
[Title Skill: Zealous Call] - Lvl. 3
[Available Stat Points: 0]
[Vitality]: 123 (+5)
[Strength]: 100 (+5)
[Endurance]: 108 (+5)
[Wisdom]: 190 (+5) (+6)
[Agility]: 245 (+5)
[Available Skill Points: 3]
[Barrage of Cinders] - Lvl. 20 (Maxed)
[Demon’s Mark] - Lvl. 5
[Haste] - Lvl. 5
[Intimidation] - Lvl. 10 (Maxed)
[Nebular Construct] - Lvl. 1
[Radiant Slash] - Lvl. 15 (Maxed)
[The Primordial Spark] - Lvl. 10
[Wings of the Netherworld] - Lvl. 1
[Passive - A Hunter’s Sense] - Lvl. 10 (Maxed)
[Passive - Blue Flames] - Lvl. 20 (Maxed)
[Passive - Weapon Mastery] - Lvl. 20 (Maxed)
[Unused Skill Slot] x3
[Available Secondary Skill Points: 5]
[Banish] - Lvl. 10
[Spatial Sight] - Lvl. 10
[Unused Secondary Skill Slot] x1
“What did he do to you?”
Edithe placed a hand on the ice sculpture. A woman with red hair stood frozen in time. Her hands were placed on her chest, her mouth open, as if she had been talking moments before she was turned to ice.
She wasn’t like the other women here. The rest were dressed in adventurer’s clothing. They had armor and equipment, as if they came to the Plaguelands to do battle, but were captured when they faced a foe far beyond their level. This woman, however, wore a long, silken dress. Like a noble.
There was no reason for someone like her to have been anywhere close to the Plaguelands. It was a story Edithe would’ve loved to hear. It was the kind she read in books and saw in plays. Unfortunately for whoever this woman was, her story ended as a tragedy.
Edithe didn’t want that to be her fate. Her fingers tightened around the Horn of the Caller. If only midnight could come faster. She saw the orange glow of the sunset. The vague shape of an fiery circle pierced through the veil of blight. But she couldn’t use the Horn of the Caller. Not yet.
She lay on the violet bed and faced the ceiling. It was the only place she could look at without seeing a possible future for herself. What did these women do which made the Lich kill them? There were a myriad of possibilities. Shutting her eyes, she tried to think of what she could say to avoid death.
Not long after, exhaustion set in, and she dozed off without thinking of any feasible plan.
Edithe was startled awake when the door creaked open and a voice blared into the room.
“Lilian, my dear Lilian.”
The Lich drifted towards the red-haired woman, his arms spread wide.
“I have tended to our marvelous kingdom. Come, embrace me, for the night has begun and we can share our love once more!”
She quickly scrambled to her feet, nearly stumbling back when she saw how vigorously the Lich approached her. Taking a deep breath, she offered him an uneasy smile.
“My… dear Zacharius…?”
There was a pause. She waited to see if the Lich would react violently to the name. He did not.
“How fares our kingdom? Are the people fine?”
“They are glorious, my lovely Lilian. This paradise we’ve built is flourishing, teeming with milk and honey. The other kingdoms may quarrel over us, threaten our borders, but our people know that they’re safe as long as you and I continue to live.”
Edithe hoped that she didn’t make a weird face. Or if she did, the Lich wouldn’t be able to parse it. He placed a hand on her shoulder, and she flinched.
“Now, my darling Lilian, that night has settled upon us, shall we partake in our nightly activities?”
A shudder ran through Edithe as she realized what this meant. He brushed his finger over her cheek.
“I have been feeling tired lately, my gorgeous Lilian—”
“How about a night stroll, my… um, great Zacharius?”
The red-haired woman bit her lower lip, cursing that she couldn’t think of an appropriate word in time. The Lich, however, didn’t pay it any mind.
“A stroll, this late at night?”
He tilted his head, and she hurriedly nodded.
“Don’t you just vie for a change in scenery? See how our beautiful land is under the sparkling stars of the night?”
“That is… a marvelous idea, my dear Lilian!”
The Lich forcefully grabbed Edithe, like an excited child trying to drag his mother along. But Edithe was not his mother. Nor did she find the icy grip of a skeletal hand to be comparable to the soft grip of a child.
They headed down the run-down halls, headed for a pair of decrepit double doors up ahead. Edithe paused for a moment as she caught a glimpse of a tall, arched entryway. Rotted red carpets led to the inside, and a throne sat atop an incline of steps at the very end of the room.
She narrowed her eyes as she saw a black box sitting on the cushioned chair.
Is that the phylactery? If it was, then that was likely where the Lich’s life force was stored. She had to destroy it.
Edithe spoke up, slightly apprehensive.
“My dear Zacharius, how about we take a break?”
“This early into our walk?”
He glanced back at her, and she rubbed her shoulders.
“I am feeling rather weary today. Perhaps we could rest in the throne room? Ask our servants to bring us a late meal?”
These were just suggestions— the kind made in casual conversation. Unfortunately, Edithe didn’t know the Lich. She barely knew the history of Lilian or Zacharius. They were only ever talked about under the context of Zacharius’ betrayal, never about what they sought to build.
“We do not have servants.”
The Lich’s words stabbed Edithe like a knife. She felt her legs growing weak, and her voice quivering as she spoke up.
“Oh…? W-we don’t?”
The flames in his eyes dimmed. He peered at her, not saying anything else. Was this it? Edithe couldn’t just let it all end her. She waved a hand off, letting out a chuckle.
“My dear Zacharius, that was a joke. A rather crude joke, of course. That’s right, we don’t have servants. After all, this is paradise, yes? Come now, let’s just continue our walk.”
She hesitated. Should she have said all that? She might be digging herself deeper into her grave here. The Lich remained silent, and Edithe almost closed her eyes in resignation.
The Lich began… laughing?
He bent over, slapping his knees as he erupted into terrifying laughter. Shaking his head, he wiped a nonexistent teardrop from his eyes. Edithe took a step back, unable to bring herself to laugh with him.
“My beautiful Lilian, your sense of humor truly has always been far beyond my feeble comprehension. Yes, how silly of me, to think that you’d ever need to rest. Come, let us enter the garden.”
Edithe found herself being pulled along by the Lich, sighing in relief. Now all she had to do was survive for a little longer— convince the Lich to keep his hands off her for the night— and she’d be able to escape with Salvos and Daniel.
She stepped out into the garden… and froze. There was a glint. Light reflected from the moon above. She took in the blight flowers, the crumbling stone, and the ice sculptures spread throughout the front patio alone.
Oh no. The realization sunk in that Edithe wasn’t the first one to have thought of this plan. And that it was not as simple as she thought it would be.