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The Lilith Bloodstone Series

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Sample: The Black Rose

Headmaster Kerdrimm paused in smoking his cigar and took a long hard look at the student sitting uneasily in the hard chair before his desk. She looked frightened, and somewhat naive under all of that black hair and deep green eyes. Her mother’s eyes. He shook his head and cleared his throat. “I’m a bit confused, Miss Lilith. Please explain to me your request to become a necromancer. As the headmaster of the Academy of Arcane, I’m always interested in seeing a bright young student wishing to delve deeper in a specific aspect of the Arte, but why necromancy?”

The girl swallowed. She couldn’t have been more than thirteen winters old, but already she had adapted the serious demeanor of her father. “Necromancy is the study of life. I’m not interested in the darker arts-”

“The Black Rose,” Kerdrimm said with a nod. He turned in his chair, and looked out his office window at the sprawling gardens beyond, where young students sat on the ground studying their spell books in the sunlight. It felt very cold in here suddenly.

“The Black Rose,” she conceded with a shudder. “I’m more interested in studying the healing aspects of necromancy, and in particular the positive plane.”

“Healing is for priests my dear, nevertheless the idea intrigues me. That positive aspects of necromancy are too often over looked. I have known many necromancers in the past who have studied the Arte for destructive purposes, and many have fallen for the Black Rose, and turned to darker paths...” he trailed off and took a deep puff of his cigar and blew it out slowly. He straightened in his chair and turned back to look at Lilith.

She tried to smile and her hand went unconsciously to her father’s silver medallion which hung around her neck.

Kerdrimm smiled briefly and then his face creased into a frown. “You do realize that if it was any other student, I’d forbid them from studying the necromantic arts, but since I knew both your father and mother, and knew the caliber of their characters, I find it very hard not to grant you this request.” His slid open a drawer and pulled out a worn book bound with black leather and engraved with silver sigils. “Very well, Lilith, you may study the necromancy arts...” he grimaced and slid the book across his desk towards her. “When you’re done studying this book, come back to me and I’ll see about sending you to Silverward’s as an assistant. He’s a bit eccentric, but that is to be expected from a necromancer who has held the Black Rose at bay for so long.”

Lilith took the book tentatively, almost as if she expected it to bite her. Once it was in her grasp however, a smile spread across her face. “Oh thank you headmaster! You will be in my prayers tonight!” She grinned and fled the room, her sandals flapping against the hard wood floors and Kerdrimm could hear her skipping down the hallway towards the gardens.

The old mage coughed out a stream of green smoke and lit another cigar with a cantrip. “I wonder if Phoebus Bloodstone is spinning in his grave now that I’ve just allowed his daughter to become a necromancer. Imagine that! The daughter of a paladin studying necromancy!”

Under the shade of an apple tree with its white blossoms floating down whenever the wind blew strong enough to blow several off, Lilith sat on a bed of moss and opened the book on her lap. She quickly flipped through the pages, reading the titles of each spell written within, trying to decide which one she would try and learn first. She skipped every spell that was combat related and quickly reached the end of the book.

“The only non-combat spell in here is Detect Undead?” she demanded and quickly went through the book once more, certain that she had missed a page or two. She found nothing. Frustrated, she went back to the first page, and started skimming over the paragraphs, trying to find anything of value. Again she reached the end of the book, without finding anything useful.

“This book is useless!” she screamed and slammed it shut. She buried her face in her hands and tried to block the salty tears that flooded her cheeks. “No wonder so many necromancers fall for the Black Rose, all the spells in there are evil to begin with! If I’m ever going to use and good spells, I’m going to have to make them myself...”

Lilith paused and sniffed. “Make them myself?”

“A research grant?” Kerdrimm demanded. He set his cigar down. “I barely just gave you that book and already you want a research grant? Absolutely no way! You may be the daughter of a good friend, but research grants are reserved for higher level students who have proven their skills already! Not an untested novice such as yourself!”

Lilith looked like she was going to cry, already the tears were welling up in the corner of her green eyes.

Kerdrimm swallowed and realized he had been a bit too harsh. “However,” he said quickly.

Lilith looked up with hopeful eyes and wiped away a tear.

The headmaster tried to smile. “Many young mages end up doing this sometime in their life I suppose. You’re not quite old enough, but if you go back and study that book you should be able to handle yourself. I realize you may not like studying all of its combat oriented spells, but they are useful when it comes to hiring yourself out as an adventurer, they’re the only way.”

“An adventurer?”

“You heard me. Study and learn all the spells in that book, and then go check out the wanted ads down at the Vigilance Inn. I hear they have a reward for anyone who can stop the current problems with giant rats.”

“Giant rats sir?” Lilith asked in disbelief.

“Its not pleasant work, but it pays fairly well,” Kerdrimm admitted. “It takes money to make spells, and that is what you want isn’t it?”

“I can’t believe you’re doing this!” Raelean exclaimed. The elven boy crossed his arms and tried to pout. “Why do I have to help you kill a bunch of stupid rats?!”

“You killed that ogre, that one time right? The money you got from him paid for your tuition! I figure you’re more experienced at fighting than I am so you’ll be a big help. Now which should I take? The quarterstaff or my father’s dagger?” she replied, holding up a broom handle in one hand and an old silver dagger in the other.

“Neither, you don’t know how to use either of them! As for that ogre, I didn’t kill him with spells, I dropped an anvil on his head, so that shouldn’t count. We ain’t gonna find no stinking anvils in a stinking sewer!”

Lilith paused and smiled. “I’m still wanting to know why you were sneaking around in that deserted dwarven mine in the first place? Didn’t it ever occur to you that something might be living there?”

“It occurred to me that there might be gold lying around in there, and I was right!” Raelean declared. “I just wasn’t expecting it to belong to an ogre...” he muttered under his breath, and flicked his silvery hair away from his eyes. “It isn’t easy being an orphan you know?”

She ignored him and started scrounging around under her bed.

Raelean sat down on the roommate’s bed and flicked through a book on astrology that was lying there. “Why couldn’t your roommate help you? She’s a fourth year student and knows lots of spells. Surely she could use the money when she graduates.”

“She’s busy studying for exams. Besides what good is a diviner against giant rats? What is she gonna do? Detect it?” Lilith rolled out from under the bed and pulled out a scarf. “Besides, you need the money for next year’s tuition right?”

“Talk about tacky! Look at the orange embroidery! Are you sure you want to wear that thing? The giant rats will die of laughter after one look at you-” Raelean ducked as Lilith tried to smack him with the scarf.

She sniffed and wrapped in around her neck. “It may be tacky, but it belonged to my mother and has a permanent shielding spell on it. I don’t have the energy to cast shielding because I’ll need all my energy for my necromancy spells,” she said with disgust, spitting out the word “necromancy” with more than a little sarcasm.

“You want to be a necromancer and yet you mock it? I’m confused...” Raelean muttered.

“Its not my fault all the necromancy spells lead to the Black Rose. Corruption is not something I care for. If I want to mock the Black Rose, that’s my choice,” Lilith scoffed.

“I can’t believe we’re doing this,” Raelean muttered, smacking the cornered rat with his quarterstaff. “You should have brought the broom! You can’t even get near them with that stupid dagger!”

“I just wish I hadn’t bothered memorizing those spells, these things are a waste of energy!” Lilith grunted and kicked the rat back towards the corner of the shadowy sewer when it tried to escape. She held the lantern out to the side so Raelean could see better to hit the pesky little thing.

“I thought giant rats were two feet long and put up more of a fight,” the elven boy said, finishing the rat off and wiping the gore off his quarterstaff on the wall.

“All I know is that the merchant’s guild will pay us fifty gold sovereigns each if we can stop them from raiding their grain bins,” snorted Lilith. “The guildmaster laughed at me when I said I would get rid of the rats, but he looked at me kinda weird when I told him my name was Bloodstone.”

“Your father was a famous paladin, and always kept his word,” Raelean stated simply. “It makes people think twice.”

“Even though your parents died when he failed at defended their homes?” Lilith asked, touching his arm.

“He died trying, I suppose. That’s what counts,” Raelean muttered and turned away from her. Lilith saw his shadow swallow hard in the lantern light. “I was there when he died... He saved my life,” he muttered so low that Lilith didn’t hear him above the sound of running water and the constant dripping.

Lilith stopped in her tracks. “What’s that up ahead? There’s light coming from around the bend,” she hissed.

Raelean looked up, melancholy forgotten. “Probably just light coming through a grate. Thank the dead kings for building these storm sewers so they don’t smell so bad.”

“But we’re too close to the castle. There is no storm grates out this direction remember? The king had them sealed off years ago to prevent intruders.”

Raelean swallowed and studied the yellow light coming from around the corner to the right. “I suggest you get that Spasm Touch spell ready,” he announced, reaching for his spell components.

Lilith did the same and when she looked back up he was gone.

The sewer was empty except for her and the sound of running water.

“Um, Raelean?”

“I’m invisible silly. You humans aren’t very observant.”

Lilith crossed held up the lantern and studied the shadows. “Okay, now I can tell where you are. I don’t have good night vision like you, you know!”

“Infravision. Its called infravision! Why do you keep calling it night vision?”

“Tis the same thing, isn’t it?”

“Sssh! I’ll go first. Put out the lantern...”

Lilith nodded, lifted the side flap on the lantern and blew out the flame. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out several dried leaves from last fall and crumbled them over her right hand while saying her incantation. Her hand suddenly felt cold as an aura of white energy spread around it and she felt compelled by an unknown desire to touch living things with it.

“So this is the Black Rose...” she muttered, staring at her own hand. She reached underneath her scarf and felt her father’s silver medallion, warm against her flesh. “Corruption will not taint me,” she said, and the strange desire disappeared.

Using her hand as her only light source, Lilith crept forward slowly towards the corner and took a quick peak around. What she saw made her gasp and she jerked back quickly.

A section of the sewer wall had collapsed, revealing a chamber beyond the wall that was glowing with a strange yellow mist. The yellow mist alone had been enough to worry her, but the dozen or so giant rats, each two or three feet long and easily the size of a small dog, feeding upon a large five foot long dead reptile they had swarmed was definitely something to worry about.

“An albino crocodile,” Raelean whispered in her ear, and making her jump. “I didn’t think they existed, but if those rats can take down one of those, I don’t want to know what they could do with us...”

Lilith nodded and swallowed. “Do you have any illusions memorized?”

“Sure, but what’s the point? That will only scare them away.”

“Do it. I want a closer look at that mist and that room-”

“The Black Rose-”

“Just trust me. This has nothing to do with corruption. Whatever is in that room is likely evil, or worse. We should do whatever we can to destroy it.”

“Or worse?” Raelean said, his voice rising. He clamped his hand over his mouth. “What could be worse than evil?”

“We’ll soon find out. Now do it.”

Raelean sighed and reached into a pouch for a ball of fleece. A moment later an incredibly large albino crocodile, so large that it nearly filled the sewer, growled and came around the corner. Green saliva dripped from its rows of teeth and a dead giant rat was caught in the corner of its maw.

The giant rats took one look and scampered downstream and dove into the water, letting the current carrying them away from the monstrosity.

Raelean licked his lips and maintained the illusion until all of the giant rats had fled, including the dozen or more that appeared from inside the chamber with the mist.

“Nice touch with the dead rat,” Lilith commented.

“Thanks,” Raelean muttered, letting the illusion disappear. “Lets go and take a look.”

Lilith nodded and her left hand crept in under her scarf for the comfort of her father’s medallion. Using her enchanted hand for support against the wall, she walked along the narrow ledge towards the collapsed wall.

“Smells like sulphur. There’s no more rats by the looks of it.” Raelean commented on the mist, letting his invisibility spell end as he kicked several broken bricks out of his way.

Lilith stepped over the rubble and took a closer look, her glowing hand ready should anything jump out at her.

A smashed laboratory, its spilt chemicals pooled together on the granite floor and causing the glowing vapours to rise up out of it. Dead cockroaches floated in the pool.

“Evil, eh?” asked Raelean. “Looks more like an alchemists nightmare...”

“But dangerous enough to kill roaches,” Lilith commented. “We should tell the headmaster so he can send someone from the guild to clean this place up.”

The chemicals bubbled suddenly.

“Um, are chemicals supposed to do that?” asked Raelean.

“Don’t look at me, I haven’t studied alchemy at all yet! That’s a second year course.”

“Maybe they should make that course mandatory,” the elven boy replied as the chemicals bubbled more and a large white bubble appeared in its surface. He backed away unconsciously and started reaching for spell components.

The white bubble turned into a skull and Lilith wasn’t about to wait to see the rest of it. She lurched forward with her glowing hand. She didn’t actually manage to touch the skull, she didn’t need to as she felt the energy in her hand suddenly pulse and jump forward striking the skull rising out of chemicals.

The skull jolted and the pool of acid suddenly coalesced together into a skeletal form covered with yellow ichor and green lichen. It moved with incredible speed, and backed away from Lilith and knocked over an old desk.

Lilith backed away, and would have been splatter with acids had it not been for her mother’s scarf creating a protective shield around her.

There was a sound of bone wrenching and the undead creature turned its head to face Lilith, a pair of black orbs burning with cold hatred. “A body...” the skeleton hissed, its jaw snapping together with a clacking sound.

Lilith narrowed her eyes and grabbed at her father’s medallion desperately. Only it could protect her if the undead thing tried to dominate her and take over her body.

A pair of magical blue orbs exploded into the skeleton’s side, searing through its rib cage.

The skeleton turned towards its source and spat out a word that turned into a cloud of black energy that sped towards Raelean. The cloud engulfed the elven boy and was absorbed into his skin, turning his skin a dull grey.

Lilith covered her mouth out of horror as Raelean groaned and slowly looked up, his blue elven eyes turning an eerie yellow colour.

“The Black Rose,” Lilith whispered, watching as her friend was being slowly corrupted by the negative energy. There was only one solution she could think of, positive energy.

Taking one look at the undead thing that was lurching towards her, she gathered the remaining energy in her hand and thrust it as a bolt of energy at the skeleton, ripping its leg off. No sooner had the skeleton hit the ground, than its bones were already starting to knit back together.

Leaping over the rubble and casting her spell, Lilith grappled with Raelean’s struggling form. She could feel the evil and corruption of the Black Rose under his skin. Looking into his yellow eyes, she could see his panic as he himself was struggling against the corruption inside him. Hugging him close, Lilith finished the last syllable of her spell.

She felt the life force energy being sucked out of her, and the static and energy of it counteracting the negative energy inside Raelean. She felt weak and dizzy, her legs numb.

Suddenly she felt very cold. Very cold. Very cold and wet.

When Lilith awoke she was lying on what felt like a pile of old and rotting clothes. She tried to sit up but her legs gave out from weakness. Instead, all she could do was stare around in the darkness and listen to the dripping of water. She was still in the sewers...

“Oh no, Raelean!” she cried and tried to sit up. Again her legs gave out on her and she collapsed into a ball of frustrated tears.

“I’m here,” Raelean muttered. “I’m not feeling much better than you, but I’m back to normal.”

“Oh thank the gods!” Lilith screamed and felt around in the dark for him, finding his arm. “Are you okay? Are you sure? Your skin?”

“Back to normal. What did you cast anyway?”

“I used a life draining spell of all things... I reversed it and used my positive energy to counteract the spell that thing cast on you.”

“So some necromancy spells are useful, eh?”

“Sometimes,” she admitted. “Although that wasn’t normal circumstances. Can you move? You managed to pull us out of the water-”

“That wasn’t me. I passed out when I hit the water.”

“Well who-”

“Meoooow?” responded something in the darkness.

“That’s who,” Raelean replied. He muttered a quick cantrip and lit up the small room with some meager light.

They were in an alcove off to the side of the sewers, likely a tunnel that had been used for the original building of the sewers, but had years ago been sealed off. The room was the size of large closet and filled with a layer of scraps of old clothes and balls of cat hair. In the entrance way, the mangiest looking tomcat Lilith had ever seen sat there with its head arched toward the two young mages.

“I call him Mangra,” Raelean muttered. “For lack of a better name. He’s surprisingly strong. You should see him take on giant rats-”

Lilith glared at the elf boy. “How long have we been here?”

“Several days. You’re probably starved. Burnt rat isn’t the greatest food but its all we have until we get out of here.”

Lilith looked from the battered and bruised elven boy to the mangy and flea ridden cat. “I’m going to be sick...”

The Nameless One looked about the shatter remains of it’s laboratory. It wasn’t sure how long It had been there, only certain that It had been dormant for a very long time, so long It couldn’t even remember It’s name. It looked about for some evidence, some proof of its existence.

A shelf of musty books blurred into vision before It. It’s vision was not the greatest, but that would improve with time and with the more life energy It drained. Eventually It would find a suitable body that It could inhabit, and gain perfect vision.

The female that had escaped was smarter than It had first perceived. If she hadn’t drowned in storm sewer, the Nameless One could have used her body and even leached spells off of her to further It’s own goals.

Goals. Such a thought seemed almost alien after so much time. Goals would be nice. Goals such as destroying the wizard’s guild and draining their life energy and spirits to gain more power and magical energy. Yes. That would be a nice goal to start with.

Pulling a book from the shelf, the Nameless One glanced through the pages until It came to a journal entry. “Nozarius,” It said, jaw clacking. “My name is Nozarius.”

Nozarius reached for another book on the shelf, but this one appeared to be stuck. It pulled harder and the wall to the left suddenly shifted and scraped, revealing a dark passageway leading up.

“Nozarius likes pleasant surprises,” It clacked aloud, and laughed. The sound of It’s laughing was a loud clacking that echoed through the sewers.

“How did I get into this mess?” Raelean demanded as he helped Lilith along the ledge, one hand holding a ball of magical light, the other supporting the human girl. “I was supposed to have a test today on quasi-illusions, instead I’m here! In a sewer of all places!”

Mangra looked back at the pair of mages and shook his head. He paused to wait for the two and spent the time scratching at a flea bite.

Lilith moaned. “Can’t we stop and rest?” she cried plaintively.

Raelean ignored the tears streaming down her cheeks. “There’s too many giant rats around, and you know it. Mangra can’t keep protecting us from them. Besides, we’re going to be going past that lich-thing’s lair soon, so we have to move quickly.”

Something ahead in the darkness stirred and Mangra’s wet hair stood up on end.

A bloody looking giant rat came forward, its black eye sockets spying prey. Mangra hissed and pounced on the rat, his fangs sinking into the creatures neck and pumping a vile poison into it from the cat’s hollowed fangs. The eyeless rat took no notice and simply shook the cat off and kept coming, its hide ripping off in Mangra’s teeth.

“Its undead!” hissed Lilith, leaning against the wall and backing away from the zombie-rat.

Raelean swallowed and pulled a large loose brick from the wall. When the rat got close enough he simply dropped the brick on it and cracked its skull. He grimaced at the gory mess. “Kinda reminds me of my anvil dropping days,” he muttered, trying to cheer Lilith up.

“That’s disgusting,” she gagged and worked her way around the gory mess. “That lich-thing must’ve drained its life energy out of it and then animated it.”

“Don’t talk now,” Raelean hissed. “I think we’re coming up to the thing’s lair.”

“We should try and destroy it,” Lilith said weakly.

“That’s what you said last time, and now look what happened to us? I’ve missed five days of classes and if I ever eat rat again, I’m going to throw up...”

“Sssh!” Lilith hissed, spotting the yellow mist up ahead and pointing.

Peering into the darkness, Raelean saw more undead rats moving about aimlessly in the darkness. What was worse however was that the albino crocodile, its corpse half-eaten, was also up and moving. “I think we’re going to have to rethink this,” he muttered.

“I memorized some more spells,” Lilith replied, leaning heavily on Raelean. “As long as I don’t get hit, I should be able to get rid of some. I can cast a Spectral Hand so I don’t have to get near them and then scare them all away using Chill Touch.”

“That sounds like a decent plan.”

“The plan doesn’t stop there,” Lilith said, her face brightening. “Except that Spectral Hand uses my life energy. I’m going to need you to hold me steady while I use it, or else I might collapse. I don’t have the strength otherwise. I also suggest that you cast some illusions...”

Nozarius looked up a spell book. Flesh that he had stolen from other creatures covered his bones like a lair of rotting clothes, hanging off of him in pieces in addition to musty black robes he had found in the study. His rat eyes narrowed and his crocodile tongue ran over his crooked teeth as he pondered and listened to the strange noises.

Standing, he scraped across the floor of his study and looked down the staircase. A blue light mixed with the yellow light of the chemical lit the bottom of the staircase. He growled and flicked his tongue as he started down the staircase. His bones burned with desire for more energy.

He reached the bottom of the staircase and looked about, spotting a blue-cloaked figure standing amongst the rubble, surrounded by a blue aura. Nozarius’s rat eyes narrowed as he came closer.

“Greetings!” declared the blue-robed figure. “I am Kerdrimm, and I shall be your headmaster this year. Come with me as I guide you through the Academy and show you the many wonderful classes you can expect to take in the next few years-”

Nozarius snarled and flung a globe of red energy at the bold intruder. The globe struck an invisible barrier around the intruder and simply sputtered and was absorbed into nothingness.

“-and over here we have the alchemist’s laboratory, where some of our older students practice the Arte of making potions and other arcane paraphernalia-” continued the blue-figure.

Nozarius clenched both fists and through chanting teeth he blew a stream of black mist out of his mouth and towards the figure.

The blue-figure smiled and pulled out a cigar with a wave of his hand, causing the mist to dissipate. “And thus concludes my brief tour of the Academy. I now turn you over to your teachers-”

The shelves behind Nozarius suddenly lurched forwards and toppled on top of the undead creature. The top shelf neatly cleaved the head off of him, while the others pinned down every other bone in his body. The bones and flesh immediately started to regenerate, but under the weight of the shelves and several stones worth of books, the undead creature’s body was helplessly pinned.

Nozarius’s head rolled across the floor and into a cobwebbed corner. Using his tongue for leverage, he pushed his head upright and about so he could see his attackers.

A cat appeared before him and swatted at him with its claws.

“You!” Nozarius snarled, recognizing the cat for his former familiar. Closing his rat eyes he mentally commanded his body pinned underneath the shelves to reach into a pocket of his black robes and pull out a cat figurine. “Lavaticus,” he spat with his crocodile’s tongue and the cat turned instantly into mist and was gone.

Raelean jumped on top of the shelves and knocked the cat figurine out of the skeletal hands of the undead body. He started to retrieve the fallen figurine when a skeletal fist rose up from under the shelves and punched him in the forehead, knocking him backwards and off of the shelves.

Nozarius’s head went spinning from a kick and he bounced off a wall and landed in front of a female.

Before he could act, Lilith shoved a silver medallion in his mouth and held it there with her left hand. She was panting and on her knees, but she held it there nevertheless. “As long as I hold this in your mouth, you can’t cast any of your spells,” she declared.

Yes, but I can still reach your mind, Nozarius declared, his rat’s eyes catching hers.

Lilith narrowed her eyes and held up her right hand, brilliant white energy crackling around it.

Think of the power I could give you. You seek to learn the necromantic Arte. I am a master of it. Learn from me and you could achieve anything. Together we shall be invincible. You will live forever!

For a moment Lilith was caught in a state of confusion. She wanted the power, but not in this way. Surely this thing could teach her something of the necromantic metaphysics, but would it be the kind of information she was looking for? No, it likely wouldn’t. This is the Black Rose she realized. It was an incredibly beautiful thought, all of that power, but it came with a dreadful price and a soul darker than the night.

“I’m not like that!” she shouted aloud and plunged her fingers into the skull’s eye sockets. White energy raced across her hand and into skull’s two eye orifices. There was the smell of burning flesh as negative and positive energy burst together inside the skull and fried the rotting brains that was within. It took her a moment to realize that she was going to need more positive energy than the spell was providing. Grimacing, she drew upon her own life force like she had when she saved Raelean and channeled it down her arm and into the skull.

The skull shattered and a blue-white wave of force erupted from it, sending Lilith hurtling across the room to collide with the wall.

She blinked and tried to stand in her dazed state, catching sight of Raelean leaning over her. His face was haggard and there was a huge bloody welt on his forehead, but he was smiling. Smiling, she thought as she drifted into unconsciousness. Smiling was good.

Something wet and smelly was on top of Lilith’s face. She grimaced and tried to move. Whatever was on top of her was very stubborn. Its sticky paws balanced on her cheeks and it licked her nose with a rough tongue.

She screamed and sat up, knocking the wet cat backwards onto Raelean’s lap. Lavaticus hissed at her and flexed his claws as she looked about her room, in particularly at Raelean and Headmaster Kerdrimm. “I’m home,” she whispered, dazed.

Raelean stuck his tongue out at her. “Congratulations! You nearly got yourself killed taking down that damned thing! I had to drag your body all the way from Whitefist Street in the middle of the night!”

“I’m alive,” Lilith murmured to herself, hugging herself.

“Barely,” Kerdrimm snorted. “I’m going to have to deduct the cost of the healing potion off of your half of the-”

“She can have most of the hoard,” Raelean interrupted. “I just need enough to pay my tuition, but I want to keep Mangra, I mean, Lavaticus.” He held up the surly tomcat and smiled mischievously.

“You can keep the smelly thing,” Lilith coughed. “Just don’t expect me to be visiting you much anymore.”

“So much the better!” the elf responded.

“Raelean,” Kerdrimm growled sternly and pointed to the door.

“Um, bye!” the elf boy muttered quickly and fled the room, cat in arms.

Kerdrimm studied Lilith, waiting until the sound of the elven boy’s feet had disappeared down the hallway before speaking. He crossed his arms. “A very stupid thing you did young lady. Taking on that lich-thing, whatever it was, all by yourself.”

Lilith lowered her head and tried to keep her face from turning red.

“Or a very wise thing,” he added and set a dark blue spell book before her on the bed. “You may not have known the extent of that thing’s powers, but you did know its weak spot. I trust you’ve learned the true nature of the Black Rose by now? The Petals of Corruption?”

Lilith kept her head down, but her face was smiling. “Yes, Headmaster. I understand its nature now. It wasn’t what I expected however.”

“It means something slightly different for everyone,” Kerdrimm explained. “And it comes in many forms. You have to be forever wary lest you fall prey to it.”

“Will I become eccentric like Silverward?”

“Maybe a little, but I think you already are a bit eccentric.”

The young girl sighed. “I was afraid of that.”

Kerdrimm smiled, albeit briefly. “Study that book until you’ll feeling better. When you’re ready, you can begin your research. Have you given any thought to what kind of spell you might research?”

Lilith paused and looked away, closing her eyes. The Black Rose would always be there, taunting her and trying to corrupt her spirit. She would need something stronger next time than her own willpower. She would need a spiritual force equally as powerful.

She turned back to Kerdrimm with a smile. “A white rose.”

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