SEE ALSO THE LILITH GALLERY, THE ART HISTORY ARCHIVE & THE LILITH EZINE.
The Lilith Bloodstone Series
Sample: The Emissary of Darkness
While a war of darkness waged upon itself, while demons destroyed other demons over a plain of dust, while heroes were slain the bowels of the Abyss, a Queen of Darkness received a disturbing report from one of her grandchildren. Lilith, Queen of Succubi, Goddess of Earthly Desires, Shadows and Deception, was not easily disturbed.
She sat on her throne of bone white alabaster and drummed her fingers on the arm rest.
“I swear goddess,” vowed the red-haired succubus called Renastia, kneeling before a throne of bones. “The necromancer is a sign of some great potent. Death and destruction will surely follow.”
The goddess twirled white hair around her finger, something she only did when nervous and reverted to ancient mortal ways. “But who’s death?” she said, her voice low and soft, quite pleasant to the ears. “The Day of Reckoning is far off in the future, or at least I believe it to be,” the goddess mused, scratching the arm rest with her razor sharp nails before she continued. “I do not tempt fate easily.”
“She banished me goddess,” Renastia said slowly, tentatively, as if not wanting to anger the goddess before her. “I was powerless before her might. That is not something easily achieved by mortals.” She paused and when the goddess did not reply she took it as a cue to continue. “I am at your service, my Queen. What would you have me do?”
“You are little service to me while banished. You shall bide your time for a hundred years, just like every other fiend. In the meantime, find an emissary and send it to scout out the necromancer and report back to me. Make sure its not too powerful however, or else we might risk losing a valuable future ally to this girl. A weaker demon will suffice.”
The succubus nodded and bowed, disappearing into the mists of the Abyss to find a suitable emissary.
Lilith was waiting outside the Headmaster’s office, fuming and consciously trying to control her anger. Why had she been refused entry to the class on Anatomy? Anatomy was an essential part of her necromantic training, and to not take it would be like a pyromancer not studying explosives.
Arms crossed and one foot tapping impatiently on the marble floor, she waited and tried to sort through possible reasons why she wasn’t being allowed into the class. Surely there was a logically reason why.
The door opened and a pale looking female student walked out in tears. She was wiping away her tears when she saw Lilith standing there and then her crying returned threefold.
Headmaster Kerdrimm stepped out and saw who was next in line. He looked somewhat sad and disappointed too and he motioned the young necromancer in. “You’re here about the Anatomy class right?” he asked the moment the door closed behind them, not even giving her time to sit down.
Lilith nodded and started to sit down. Her eyes were wide with intrigue and curious as to what had been this important to cause the previous girl to break into tears. Could their plights be related?
“Professor Oratius is refusing all females entry to his lectures. He says they don’t have the moral responsibility to be studying Anatomy.”
The necromancer sat there dumbfounded. “What difference does being female make upon morals?”
Kerdrimm frowned and leaned against his desk. “That’s his wording not mine. In truth, Oratius thinks females shouldn’t be seeing the male body nude and that studying it would result in promiscuity and other problems.”
Now Lilith knew why the other girl had been in tears. Being refused something just because she was female was nothing new in Korovia’s patriarchal society. Not everybody fell into the patriarchal beliefs, but the ones who didn’t believe that couldn’t do anything to change the patriarchal minds anyway, and so such beliefs would continue to exist for a very long time. Only several of the humanoid cities in Korovia believed otherwise, and those were extremely rare. Elves for example were far more accepting of the equality of females.
The Headmaster pulled a cigar from his pocket and looked like he might light it, but instead just held it and toyed with it nervously. “I’ve spoken with Oratius on the issue and he has decided to stand by his beliefs. To the point that he said we’d have to fire him and get another professor to teach Anatomy if we truly wanted to allow females to study it. Hiring another professor to teach it isn’t in our budget.”
Lilith sat there, thoughtful. She licked her lips before speaking. “Would it be possible for me to go elsewhere and study it? It may not be essential to most mages, but as a necromancer I simply must study it.”
Kerdrimm nodded, flipping his cigar into the air and catching it. “The girl before you asked the same thing. I told her that I had already contacted all of the other magic academies, and to my knowledge only one teaches it to females: The Mystical Tower, in far off Sylvania.”
“Sylvania? The elven city?”
Kerdrimm nodded. “And they don’t teach humans. So it’s still out of the question.”
“Surely there might be a way to convince them otherwise?”
The Headmaster nodded. “They’ll be a lot easier to convince than Oratius, I’m sure, but you would have to travel there in person to do so. On top of that, I don’t think you speak elvish?”
Lilith shook her head.
“Which means you would need to hire the elven professor on a tutor basis, in which they would speak Korovian instead of elvish. All of this adds up to a lot of money.”
“Something not even a knight’s daughter can afford,” Lilith murmured, staring at the floor. The answer to all her questions had been logical, annoyingly so. She paused and looked up at Kerdrimm. “What does it take to become a professor and teach Anatomy?”
“A master of the Arte and the willingness to teach it.”
“And if I were to master in it, learn all there is to learn, and return to teach it?”
“Then I hope I’m still here to see your glorious return. You’re serious about going to Sylvania?”
Lilith shook her head, unsure. “I’ll have to think about it and I’ll probably have to ask Raelean to come with me.”
“Raelean has his own studies to contend with, and the Mystical Tower’s tuition is fairly steep, although their reputation is that they are very thorough and the training takes a long time.”
“Nevertheless, I shall ask him,” Lilith declared. “We’ll be passing through troll country on the way there, so if we make it alive, we should have a troll hoard or two to help pay for tuition, and several less trolls to worry about. If not I may look into doing some mercenary work in Sylvania, enough to pay for our tuition.”
“Spoken like your father. A true Bloodstone.”
“Sylvania!” Raelean shouted, waking up half of the dormitory. “Why even bother asking me? Of course I’ll go!” He practically pounced on Lilith, hugging her tightly. “I’ve been wanting to go back to Sylvania for over a decade!”
The necromancer nodded, somewhat shocked. She had forgotten that the elf boy was so long lived and technical old enough to be her grandfather, even if he was younger according to his looks. He looked more like a thirteen or fourteen year old, perhaps even more so by human standards because no elves ever grow facial hair.
“When do we leave?” Raelean demanded, immediately going to his closet and looking at all of his stuff, as if pondering what all to take.
As soon as we’re done our exams for this semester I suppose. Headmaster Kerdrimm said we may even be allowed to take them a bit early, that way we’ll have more time on the road to travel to Sylvania, and hopefully make it in time before the Mystical Tower’s next semester starts.”
Raelean paused and blinked. He turned around to face Lilith slowly.
“What?” she asked.
“He didn’t tell you how long their ‘semesters’ are, did he?”
“They’re usually two or three years. The elves are very thorough in their training, plus with elven life spans, its not really a problem.”
“But I’m getting a tutor, so it shouldn’t take as long, right?”
“Perhaps. It will depend on what the tutor says.” Raelean paused again. “You have thought about payment right? Sylvania is very expensive in some ways, like a whole other world. We may have to actively seek out trolls on the way there, and then figure out a way to transport what we find.”
“Gold tends to weigh a fair bit, and we’re going to need a lot of it.”
Renastia took her time in selecting an emissary. Several months of time actually. She needed one that would be resourceful enough and with the discretion to follow orders. Intelligence and loyalty was a hard thing to find in the Abyss, the latter being almost impossible.
Nevertheless, when she did find what she was looking for, it wasn’t even a creature from the Abyss.
The man, and it was indeed a man, but not any normal form of man who walked boldly into the succubus’ lair.
He approached the succubus’ couch, where she was flipping through an ancient tome and leaning on a mound of leathery pillows. Pillows made from human skin, which when combined with the rest of the decor was more than enough to scare any mortal.
Renastia looked up from her resting place at the man bearing a scroll, a message presumably. He was dressed in full plate armour, but the armour was covered by frost so thick it was hard to see the inscriptions on the armour. The sword he carried was not steel but ice, and he wore no helmet. His face was framed by white curls made of icicles and the beard on his blue face was frost. His eyes were ice white, with blue irises that burned like a flame.
“Who and what are you?” the succubus demanded, standing and giving the man an ample view of her cleavage.
He didn’t seem to notice, his ice eyes concentrating on her own eyes. “I have no name. You may simply call me Ice Man. I am an incarnation of ice. I bear a message for you from the balor Erratius.” His voice was flat and without emotion.
“If this is about breeding more spies, I’m not interested. I am however interested in hiring you for some services. Interested?”
The Ice Man looked at her, eyes burning. “My master would be willing to trade my services for yours. Interested?”
“How did an incarnation of ice come to work for a balor, a creature of fire and evil?” purred the succubus.
“I was not captured, if that’s what you mean. I am immune to my master’s powers. I seek to become more powerful however, and a balor has much power to give.”
“Indeed, we demons always do. It’s how we tempt mortals.” She paused and played with the strap of her dress, as if thinking of taking it off. “Is there any other ways to tempt you?”
“My loins do not burn with earthly desires, if that is what you mean. An incarnation of cold has no such purpose.”
The succubus stopped her playing and smiled. “You’re perfect.”
Interesting Fact: Ice, pure ice, is actually harder than steel. Impure ice has air bubbles in it that causes it to crack easily, but pure ice is harder by far. This is why ice bergs can so easily sink steel and wooden ships. While the iceberg keeps going, the ship sinks.
The brigands that attacked the Ice Man on the road to Kost couldn’t have possibly known this, and were certainly surprised when the frosty figure on the path countered with an ice sword that sheared through their steel swords as if they were nothing.
The brigands would have turned and ran, had they had the chance. Instead they felt a sharp sword pierce their ribs and a burning cold spread through their limbs and paralysis spread through their limbs. They died soon after.
The Ice Man donned a bloody brown cloak from one of the brigands, knowing that his icy appearance would draw attention in the open streets of Kost.
The bloody cloak wouldn’t be such a bad matter. Not with war coming from the north and the paladins fearing a war with Oraknev. The succubus had been quite detailed in giving the Ice Man information about his area, an important factor for any spy.
“I can’t go with you to Sylvania,” Andras said sourly. I may be able to dodge the paladins here, but elves with infravision will be another matter. They’ll take one look at my cold corpse and spot an undead creature instantly.”
Lilith nodded and bit her lip. “I’ll be okay. Raelean will be with me.”
“The elf whelp? He’ll hardly be a match for a troll, let alone whatever monsters live in the forests near Sylvania. Winter wolves and gods-know-what else...” He kicked a loose shingle off the roof of the dormitory.
“Don’t be so harsh. Raelean is a lot better than you think.” She huddled on the roof, her legs tucked up to her chest. An enchantment kept her warm despite the chill wind and freezing rain that surrounded them. It was spring, perhaps the worst season for colds, and she had thought the enchantment necessary to ward off a cold.
The vampire sighed and looked at her strangely. “The rumours of war from Oraknev are increasing. Derek the Deadly has killed off all of his enemies and has united the surrounding baronies. They have sworn allegiance to him as their King.”
Lilith swallowed. “What of it? That doesn’t effect us.”
“It effects the paladins here, should Derek’s greed lead him to conquer all of Korovia.”
“The paladins will never bow down to him.”
“No, they’ll fight and die like your father did. And then all that will remain is you, a figurehead, the daughter of the dead paladin. You may not realize this, but you’re already a little famous.” Andras kneeled beside her, staring off into the midnight sky. Lilith shrugged. “I’ll be in Sylvania. I’m no good against an entire army. I can barely hold my own against undead.”
“I know that. Which is why when I’m done escorting you to Sylvania, I shall go to Oraknev.”
“As a spy?”
“As an assassin of sorts. Derek may be the best fighter in Korovia, but he’ll need almost godly help to avoid a vampire and his host from taking him down.”
“A horde of vampires that I will need to make. Like a small army.”
Lilith sighed and felt rather uncertain. “The cure will be worse than the disease. And when you’re done and this horde runs free?”
Andras shuffled uneasily. “If Derek the Deadly is half the warrior they say he is, he’ll defeat most of the horde anyway. What he won’t be expecting is that he’ll get a crossbow bolt in the back while doing so.”
“I guess I can’t do anything to stop you anyway,” she sighed. “How will you escort me during the day?”
“I can’t, unless its cloudy. I will stick to the shadows, and guard your camp at night, since that is the time trolls are most likely to attack. You should be fine during the day. Stick to the open and avoid places where you could be ambushed by trolls. If you see them coming, don’t rush into battle either. Go for the defensive first and see if you can just plain get out of there.”
“Can trolls climb trees?”
“Yes, they can.”
It was daylight and the snow was blowing across the horizon like a river of mist. The sky was clear and the sun was bright, but the chill wind that blew the snowy mist across the frozen ground simply sucked the heat out of the two struggling young mages.
Lilith, even with her magical scarf and enchantments still felt the cold under her layers of furs. Her breath came out in gasps of steam, steam which floated away on the wind and quickly became crystalline snow.
Raelean was behind her, following in her footsteps so he wouldn’t sink as much. They had taken turns in the lead so far, but right now the shorter elf was having a hard time of it and was wishing they had brought snow shoes.
Out of the mist loomed three figures in the distance. They were dark and spread out slightly, and they were too far away to accurately gauge their size.
“What are those?” the elf muttered out with a puff of steam.
“They could be horses or men or trolls. I can’t tell from this distance.”
“Perhaps we should hide?” Raelean suggested.
The landscape was almost completely barren. There was a forest further ahead, on the horizon but there was no where else to hide. “And where do you intend to do that?” Lilith demanded. “In the snow?”
Raelean paused and started to unravel a rope off his backpack. With a quick couple arcane words he tossed one end of the rope high up into the air.
Lilith watched, fully expecting the rope to fall down and hit the elf in the head. Instead the rope seemed to anchor onto something in midair, a good twenty feet up.
The elf tested the rope and started to climb. He was about half way up when he looked down at Lilith. “Com’on silly! Those things are getting closer!” He continued to climb up and suddenly his head disappeared into nothingness.
“Hurry up silly!” he called down without a head.
Lilith swallowed and grabbed hold of the rope, unsure.
Raelean finished climbing up, seeming to disappear into an invisible hole. His head poked out and he made a face at her.
Shrugging, the necromancer started to pull herself up the rope, finding that it was a lot harder than it looked. The rope was already cold and slippery and she was weighed down by her backpack.
After falling back down twice, she decided the backpack was simply to heavy. She set it down and quickly knotted it to the bottom end of the rope. Climbing up the third time was much easier and she made it to the top with a lot less hassle.
Raelean helped her into the small room above and started pulling the rope up behind her.
Looking around her new surroundings, Lilith saw she was in a non descript room with white walls. The walls were opaque and as smooth as glass, but not hard to the touch. She sat down and found that it was also quite comfortable inside, despite the draft coming from the hole in the floor.
The elf finished hauling up her backpack and the rope and the hole closed behind them, becoming a circular trap door.
There was no light source, but there was no shadows either and it felt somewhat unnerving to the necromancer. “What is this spell?” she asked.
“An extradimensional room basically, but its more commonly called ‘Rope Trick’,” Raelean replied. “From here we can spy on whatever those things are too, just by sticking our heads out the hole.”
The elf didn’t move however and looked distracted.
Lilith opened her mouth to speak and then paused and listened.
Below them, she could hear grunts amidst the sound of the wind.
Raelean stuck a finger in the trap door and moved his finger as if prying it open so that a small hole appeared. A claw appeared below them and flashed past the entrance.
Lilith came closer and looked down the hole.
Three trolls covered in frost and looking up at them stood down below. One leapt upwards, his green claw the size of Lilith’s head actually entering the hole and his yellow talons clinging to the side.
Raelean promptly kicked the troll’s claw back out of the hole and closed the hole. He gasped and looked at Lilith. “I guess we’ll have to wait until they leave.”
“How long will this spell last?” the necromancer asked.
“A couple hours.”
“And if they’re still there?”
“Then we’ll have to think of a plan. We have time though. Fire should scare them off,” Raelean suggested.
“A fireball? But we’re so close.”
“The Rope Trick will protect us from most of the flames.”
“How about an illusion?”
“An illusionary fireball? Yes, that should do it. Lets wait though. We might as well rest and wait. Maybe they’ll leave and we won’t have to waste a spell.”
“And if they go and kill someone instead?”
The elf paused, thinking about it. “An illusionary one will scare them off anyway, and they will go kill someone else anyway in that case.”
Lilith frowned. “And if you cast the illusion to scare them off a bit and then cast a fireball from a distance?”
“Well that sounds more like a plan, but a fireball is still a pretty powerful spell. What if we need it later?”
“I have spells too, but this one seems to be your fight. Do you have a better idea?” the necromancer asked and poked him in the ribs.
“Well... No, I guess not.”
Ashtrag set down his hunting sack and sat on the snow. He scratched a huge wart on the side of his face. He squeezed it and green pus immediately squirted out. A moment later the wart healed over as if it had never been scratched. He squeezed it again and the process repeated itself, his magical regeneration simply regenerating the warts too.
He grunted and sighed. Beside him Vonrax was leaping and still trying to get at the scent of the creatures in the hole. He couldn’t see the hole, which was strange, but they knew the creatures were there.
He could smell their warm blood. It was teasing his nostrils and annoying him, making him drool and green slime appear in his mouth. He opened his mouth hungrily and green slime drooled out between his teeth and fangs and dribbled down onto his mottled green chest.
The chill wind froze the slime in place in patches of ice. Ashtrag didn’t care. The cold meant nothing to him. If the snow covered him up entirely, he could simply sleep til it was warmer and awaken and eat.
He was hungry now however, and his hunger was ravenous.
A creature’s head poked out of the hole and Vonrax roared in delight and leapt upwards.
The creature ducked back and immediately stuck his head back out again while nine foot tall Vonrax fell back to the ground.
A blue fire sprung up around the fallen troll and seemed to spread across the ground.
Ashtrag rolled away and ran away. Struglag and Vonrax followed, keeping their distance from the growing wall of blue fire.
The creature appeared on a vine, climbing down part way. He looked at the three trolls and held out a hand. A torch of blue energy crackled in his hand and he flung it towards the trolls. It spiralled and grew into a prism of flame.
Ashtrag tried to back away as quickly as he could but the prism of fire grew larger and encompassed him and his two comrade trolls. All around him he saw nothing but red and orange and yellow and black smoke churning from his own burning skin.
The three trolls roared and screamed as one, but the fire continued to burn and eat away at their skin until nothing was left but ashes and bones.
Ashes that quickly scattered in the cold wind, dusting the landscape along with the snow.
Raelean sighed and started to climb back up the rope when a claw grabbed him from behind and threw him roughly to the ground. The illusionary fires began to spread across his limbs as he lay there in pain. He looked up in shock at the towering troll before him.
A troll with flapping wings was above him, grinning with malice. The wings were small but held the troll's twelve foot tall form aloft in midair above the churning blue flames with little effort. A mysterious glint of intelligence appeared in the troll’s eyes and there was clearly magic at work.
Lilith looked down from the hole above, her eyes connecting with Raelean’s and then going back to the flying troll below her.
This was certainly an unexpected development, Raelean thought as the troll landed heavily, unafraid of the illusionary flames. The monster spread his jaw and revealed twin rows of sharp teeth and a pair of huge canine teeth. His snout was huge and dog-like, but the rest of him was brownish-green and mottled with warts, fungus and frost. The wings on his back however were black and bat-like, and appeared to originate from a grey bandoleer that was stretched across the troll’s chest and around his back.
“Nice trickee mortal,” the troll snarled. “Meza not so dumb,” the troll spoke haltingly.
Raelean rolled to his knees and looked up, preparing to spring away when the troll attacked. He waited.
The troll narrowed his eyes. “Youza jist smol mortal. Smollar than smol. Whyza not so big?” he asked and stared.
The elf narrowed his eyes and stared back. “I’m an elf and a child. We’re always smaller.”
“Youza almust too smol to eatza meza say,” grumbled the troll and crossed his arms as if thinking. “I smell more though. There is more food around, right?”
Raelean frowned, realizing the troll could smell Lilith. Meanwhile the necromancer was busy hastily casting a spell. He could see her past the troll’s wings working on something inside the extra-dimensional room. Slowly, the elf stood, determined to give her more time for whatever she was planning.
“If you want more food,” the elf said. “Then perhaps I can help you. I can lead you to a town full of food.”
“Town?” asked the troll, sounding intrigued. “Whazza town?”
“Like a big cave,” the elf improvised. “With lots of people for food. Sound good?”
“Town sound dangerous. Whazzif they attack Meza with fire like you do to dumb trolls? Meza not like that.”
“You don’t have to attack whole town,” the elf supplied. Just fly over town and pick up food whenever hungry and leave before other town people notice.”
“Howza I gonna fly over cave-town? Cave-town under ground, right?”
“No, this one above ground. Lots of buildings made of stone, but people outside too.”
“Youza take Meza there?”
“Yes, and then you don’t eat me?”
“Because I don’t want to be eaten. Whats the point of me leading you there and being eaten anyway?”
“Meza dunt know, but sound like gud idee to Meza. Whyza Meza-” the troll stopped in mid-sentence, his words fading into silence as Lilith jumped from her hiding place onto the trolls back and drove a sharp ruby the size of her thumb into the troll’s back.
For a moment nothing happened, and then Lilith started chanting and the winged troll started screaming and reached up with both claws to swat at the necromancer.
The human girl leapt backwards and landed on the ground, drawing her father’s dagger. “Attack now!” she yelled.
Raelean shrugged and pulled a dagger from his boot and another from his belt, not sure what good they would do. With one in each hand he ran in close and slashed at the troll, knowing full well that the wounds would heal over just as quickly.
He danced back out of troll’s reach but instead the troll continue to claw at the gem stuck in his back. The gem was glowing a soft white light.
The wounds were not healing.
“You took away his regeneration!” Raelean cried, his hopes renewed.
Lilith didn’t respond and slashed the back of the troll’s knees, hamstringing him.
The troll fell forward, nearly landing on the elf and still trying to scratch the gem away from his back. His flailing arms were a hard target so the elf boy stomped on one arm with a boot to hold it still and cut off the claw with his dagger while the troll continued to struggle with his other arm, trying to scratch the gem free.
Lilith leapt up onto the troll’s back, in between his buffeting wings. She tripped and fell onto his back, getting scratched numerous times by the troll’s one good arm.
Ignoring the pain, she drove her dagger into the base of the troll’s neck and twisted it harshly to the side.
A soft groan escaped the troll’s chest and he ceased struggling.
Raelean panted and held both daggers at ready, wondering for a moment if the smart troll was simply faking and pretending to be dead.
Lilith twisted her dagger in the opposite direction just to make sure and severed the troll’s neck. She wiped the green pus and blood off on the troll’s back. She would have to clean it later with snow.
The elf boy stared and cleared his throat. “I’m betting that's the first troll that's never had to be burned to get rid of the corpse.”
“And he won’t be the last either,” Lilith declared, using her dagger to pry the gem from the troll’s back. She held up a diamond for him to see, for it had been a ruby only moments ago.
“Wow. How did you do that?”
“A new spell I learned from Lucentius before I left. He’s been giving me small lectures on anatomy too, but he’s very distracted and never stays on topic. I barely managed to learn this one.”
“Yes, that's true. He never shuts up either,” muttered the elf. “So what does the spell do exactly?”
“It channels a person’s healing energy into the ruby instead of to their body. Normally its used for people so they can store up extra life energy, but Lucentius told me that I can also use it on a troll to negate their healing powers.”
“So why didn’t you mention this when the three trolls were below us?”
“I only have one ruby for starters, and once the ruby is turned into a diamond you can’t use it again.”
“Oh, good point,” he said with a shrug. He looked down at the dead troll. “That bandoleer is attached to the wings, isn’t it?”
Lilith nodded and knelt down. She found a buckle and unbuckled the bandoleer. The wings immediately shrunk and disappeared into two grey knobs in the back of the bandoleer. The bandoleer itself also shrunk to the size of a belt. She held it up for the elf to look at. “I’m guessing the thing has to be against your flesh to work. The wings seemed to suit the body it was attaching to.”
“So if you put it on?”
“I’ll have to try that in some place warmer,” she replied, noticing the chill wind again. She held up a sack that was attached to the bottom of the bandoleer, and then pointed to the other troll sacks that had been dropped by the other trolls amidst the fake fire. “Looks like we may have some of our tuition money.”
“Lets hope its all we need then. I’d hate to go through this again.”
“Actually I’m hoping there’s more rubies. I could use some more. There’s no point letting trolls roam around if we can defeat them and perhaps save other travellers who come this way.”
The Ice Man knelt beside the dead troll and examined the marks on its body. Its head had been sliced crudely off but that shouldn’t have stopped it. Its regeneration should have been enough for that. If his target had been able to get around that somehow however, it denoted that she had a knack for magic and finding an opponent’s weak spots.
He would have to report this to the succubus later however, for the woman’s path was getting hard to follow in the thick of the blizzard, indeed it had entirely disappeared in places. This normally wasn’t a problem for the Ice Man, for he could track creatures despite the snow that covered up their tracks.
This time however there were no tracks at all, except for the elf’s. It was as if the woman’s tracks had simply ceased to exist. This would also have to be noted and reported later. For now, the Ice Man had to catch up to the elf and see if he could find the woman.
Wings as pure white as the snow below her graced Lilith’s back. She had been forced to cut holes in the back of her fur cloak but it was worth it. The wind whipped past her face and she didn’t seem to notice the cold anymore. She was simply too happy and the adrenaline rush she got from flying negated the cold that froze her cheeks.
Raelean was jealous, but she couldn’t really blame him. The magical wings seemed to be almost a gift from the gods and she had never before found something quite so exhilarating as the flight that bore her upward and upward and then let her glide upon the wind, or even dive downwards in dizzying speed.
She had almost crashed at one point and she had long since realized that she was going to need to practice a lot more with these wings before she would be able to control them properly.
The wings felt strange in many ways too. They were attached to her skin and she could feel things through them as if they were part of her, but the cold didn’t seem to effect the wings. She knew the wings were cold but there was no pain. The wings and the white feathers that surrounded them simply were there and felt quite normal. Part of her and strangely addictive.
She wondered just how symbiotic the wings were and where they got their energy from, for they didn’t seem to make her tired and she could fly as much as she wanted without rest. The wings could flap without her even thinking about it consciously. She supposed that meant that she was getting used to them.
They had rested the night before in a cave they had ridden of more trolls and Raelean had agreed to teach Lilith how to cast fireball. They had decided that it might be easier to get out of troll country if she also had fire to wield in a fight.
Raelean seemed content with the cache of gems and more treasure they had managed to find in the cave, but whenever Lilith flew by, her face in a smile and the wind blowing harshly in Raelean's face he couldn't help but yearn for flight also. There were spells that could achieve that end, but none of them seemed as powerful as the wings that graced Lilith’s back.
“Perhaps the elves know of something even better,” she had suggested. “Their magic is very different, is it not?”
“Elven magic is more sophisticated and less for show. It is far more subtle I believe.” He seemed less certain when he said it however, as if he didn't really know.
“Will that be a problem for us when we get to Sylvania?”
“Only if we pick a fight with an elven mage. We should be able to learn it easily enough. The language of magic is the same, but its the method that is different. Its like math. Its the same wherever you go.”
“How so? Give me an example?”
“Lets say a human wizard encountered a Korovian dragon, how would he solve the problem?”
“Lightning bolts and a stoneskin spell for protection?”
“Elven magic could be used to lull the dragon to sleep, or even tempt the dragon into leaving soon after, finding a cave and then sleeping for a millennia or more. Elves like trickery. In comparison human magic is more based on direct violence.”
“And when the dragon wakes up and goes on a killing rampage?” Lilith demanded, flying down to stand in front of the elf.
“With luck, a party of adventurers will find the dragon before then and collapse his cave from the outside.”
“And if they don’t?”
“Then its the human wizard’s turn. There’s other ways the dragon may die before then too. At very least it keeps the dragon out of action for a very long time.”
“Why not just kill it and make sure?”
“That isn’t the elvish way. Remember that Korovian dragons can also be benevolent, if somewhat fickle and dangerous. They’re also very loyal to Korovia as a kingdom so they will rise to the occasion in the event that the region is being threatened.”
“Who knows? The lands in all four directions are vast and may hold many other untold monsters that we’ve never heard of. Surely they too will be curious and seek to travel across the globe too.”
“And perhaps they have wings too?”
“A race of winged people? Or if not, other dragons...”
“Its possible, don’t you think?”
“If so, I’m surprised they haven’t conquered us already then,” Raelean muttered.
“You’re thinking like a human elf.”
Wings like an angel, the Ice Man concluded as he watched the elf and the flying human. His frozen form was camouflaged against the snowy background. Now this was definitely intriguing. The succubus would definitely want to hear about this.
For a necromancer to possess such wings and make a habit of killing trolls, pursuing them as a paladin might, it suggested that her goals were beyond those of most mortals. This Lilith was someone to be feared and perhaps reckoned with. Her power was growing, that much the Ice Man could tell.
She wasn’t as powerful as the immortal succubus, but she was close and growing in power at an incredible rate.
Her companion was equally powerful, but in a different way. He carried himself lightly and smoothly, his power held in reserve whereas Lilith bore hers up front and used it frequently without knowing it.
The magic literally emanated from the pair and the Ice Man was close enough now that he could close his eyes and track them simply by following their trail of magical residue. He could sense their power and it hungered him.
And that was not even mentioning their hidden ally which was following them and protecting them at the night. The Ice Man had noticed him too, sensing his power.
Both of them had sensed each other but had not actually encountered each other. The Ice Man’s lack of evil intent perhaps had not provoked an attack as of yet, for the two were likely matched in power and a struggle between the two would be useless since they both seemed intent only on observation.
Lilith’s hidden ally obviously realized this too and kept silent, whatever he was.
For now the Ice Man’s mission of simple curiousity was perhaps what kept him safe. Where the two mortals he tracked possessed a great deal of magical energy, he knew he could easily take them due to his high resistance to magic.
The succubus however had not given him motivation or reason to do so however, and so the Ice Man would wait. And so would the creature of darkness that also followed Lilith, he reasoned.
Soon they would leave troll lands however and enter elven territory. Then things would become far more complicated.
“Mreow?” Lavaticus crawled up on Lilith’s shoulder and dug his claws in. He looked up as Lilith glared at him and he snarled, showing his fangs. The cat was still angry at them for shrinking him and sticking him inside a box for the long journey.
The necromancer promptly shoved the cat off her and towards Raelean. “As long as he doesn’t think I’m a bird to eat, that's good, but I wish he’d stop digging his claws into me.”
Raelean shrugged and leaned back in his chair, looking around the quaint inn on the edge of civilization. “At least you’re not wearing your wings anymore. I think that was partially what was attracting his attention.” He patted his stomach and looked at the pheasant bones on the plate before him with a smile.
A moment later Lavaticus was on the floor under their table, munching on the bones happily and cleaning the remains of the meat off them.
“Happy kitty,” Lilith muttered. “I hope he chokes.”
“He’s magical. I don’t think that can happen. He’s immortal.”
Lilith shrugged and drank deeply from the cup of warm milk before her. She studied the room around her intently, her eyes roaming across the hard wooden floors, smoky lanterns and the fireplace with a slim elven sword resting above it. Her eyes rested on the hilt and she studied the craftsmanship and all the intricate details.
Raelean followed her gaze. “Elves decorate their weapons of war in ways human’s rarely do. To them a sword is a trusted friend with a name and a thing of beauty to be cherished. When a warrior dies, his sword is given to the people he died protecting and it is kept in memory of him in a place of honour. Its considered good luck.”
“And my father’s sword?” she asked, tears in her eyes. “Why was his sword not given to the elves?”
The elf swallowed and looked away. “He was human, not elven. Besides there was no one left alive.” He looked down at Lavaticus beneath the table and muttered under his breath. “Except me.”
“And so the paladins, not knowing of elven tradition, kept the sword to themselves and gave it someone else,” Lilith muttered.
“The elves buried him though, not far from here I think.”
That caught Lilith’s attention. “They buried him? Where?”
“In a hidden grove. Not many people know where it is though. Its practically a legend now.”
“Do you know where it is?”
Raelean looked away, not answering. “No,” he lied.
Lilith studied her friend and decided not to press the issue. If he was lying, she was sure he had a good reason. She took another drink from her cup of milk and felt a bit sleepy. “Time for bed,” she announced and stood, heading for the stairs. “See you in the morning.”
The elf boy watched her go and petted Lavaticus as the cat curled up in his lap. He looked down at the mangy cat as if he was going to cry and hugged the cat suddenly. “Why would I know where he was buried? I only buried him.”
Elven lands were not made up of evergreens like the mountains were as Lilith soon learned. Despite the cold air and the abundant snow on the ground, deciduous trees in full leaf were plentiful. They looked to be mostly white birch and orchard trees too. Elven magic was at work here.
Birds chirped from a cherry tree to her left and a squirrel chittered from an chestnut tree to her right. Wild flowers from the wrong seasons stuck up through patches of snow. Lilith could only conclude that this land was simply weird.
Raelean walked beside her, a broad smile on his face and Lavaticus was always a step or two in front of him.
Lilith had decided to keep her wings hidden for now and walk and enjoy the sights and sounds around her. The air was still cold, but it was pleasant and the wind wasn’t blowing at all. This was perhaps one of the most peaceful days she could remember.
The road here was raised above the rest of the ground, almost like a gigantic dam, for the water seemed to accumulate more on one side, but then the side with more water would sometimes change, which Lilith found to be weird. Elvish irrigation systems ran constantly and she could hear running water constantly.
People on the road was constant, usually people walking like themselves from house to house. Sometimes the houses were close enough that Lilith wondered if they were in a town, and then realized that towns didn’t really mean the same thing to elvish people. This was more like a widespread community.
They came to a bridge and numerous elves stood there leaning over the bridge and watching the swans that swam below.
Lilith paused beside Raelean as he stopped and pointed out a nest resting further down the river and a mother swan keeping her eggs warm. “This place is more like a park,” she commented, a bit awed.
“You’re in Sylvania now, what do you expect?” asked an elf beside her. He bobbed his head in greeting, his white-blond locks falling down over his face. He looked up, his eyes peering through his hair and he smiled mischievously. “You’re from Kost I’m guessing?”
“She just fell off the turnip wagon,” Raelean supplied, bringing a laugh from the elf and his companions. He took Lilith’s arm and led her farther down the road. Lavaticus followed, licking his lips at the swans as if reluctant to leave.
“Isn’t Sylvania a city?” Lilith asked when they were out of earshot.
“It is and it isn’t,” Raelean replied. “Its more like a kingdom essentially. People in this area make their homes fairly close to each other, with no set boundaries and a lot of sharing of land. They help each other with crops and harvesting, defend each other from winter wolves, and generally everyone gets along peacefully. There is no real towns in this area, just people that happen to live close to each other.”
“So where are we going then?”
“To elves, all of this land is Sylvania. To humans and other races, only the densest part is considered to be Sylvania, and even then its not that dense. The only difference there is the trees are bigger.”
“What do you mean?”
“In the ‘city’ of Sylvania, the trees are huge. Elves build houses inside them, sometimes many families per tree, and they have huge extended families so that's a lot of people for one tree. Add on several thousand trees, and it becomes a city by human terms. They’re still spaced out a bit, like here, but the trees add a great deal of bulk and a lot more levels than the land here does, so the population is more thick.”
Lilith nodded, understanding more now. “How far away is those trees?”
“Still several days, but it will seem like longer because the roads don’t go straight there. The roads here aren’t really roads but irrigation dams, and there’s a lot of them. Sometimes we will pass through pasture lands, and that's when we’ll have to worry about winter wolves.”
“Don’t the elves hunt them? I’m surprised a place with this many people wouldn’t have got rid of the wolves by now.”
“The winter wolves are as smart and tricky as a dragon, and with an icy breath like a dragon’s too. You know the human saying about foxes being sly?”
The necromancer nodded.
“Well, here we have a different saying: The wolves aren’t fools. When we pass through the pasture lands, we’re going to need to hire a ranger as our guide.”
“We can handle trolls, but not wolves then?”
“These wolves are the size of horses, aren’t afraid of fire and they come in large numbers and attack with cunning. Trust me, we’ll want a ranger to guide us safely.”
“And you’ve already found him,” said a new voice from above.
On a long branch overhead of the road an elf curled his legs around the branch and dangled down so that he was upside down and facing Lilith. His white-blond hair dangled down around his face and he smiled. “We meet again Kostian,” the elf from the bridge declared, crossing his arms across his chest and bowing slightly, closing his eyes.
A squirrel ran down the elf’s body and came to rest on the ledge created by the elf’s folded arms. It chittered at Lilith, ran around in circles twice and then rolled up into a ball and studied the necromancer intently.
Raelean seemed unimpressed. “And whom are you?”
“Kyzasius Moonshadow, at thine service,” the elf replied and opened his eyes to inspect his possible employers. “I am not a warden of the north, but you will be hard pressed to find another ranger who knows this area as well as I. Knowledge doesn’t come cheaply after all, not in Sylvania.”
Raelean nodded and looked to Lilith for her opinion.
“I am Lilith Bloodstone. Where is Sir Phoebus Bloodstone buried?” she demanded.
The elf’s frown looked like a smile. “Alas, milady of Bloodstone, I do not know. He was buried over a decade ago by his elven comrades, those few who survived. Only they know the location. Sadly I was elsewhere during that battle. I can however guide you to people who might know however. There is a seer not far from here. That will cost you however.” He smiled and it looked like a frown.
Raelean pulled on Lilith’s elbow and took her back several yards to discuss. “Why do you want to see your father’s grave so much?” he asked.
“I’ve never been there before, and I miss him of course! What a silly question to ask!”
“Perhaps so, but I think we should continue on our way. We can always come back here during the summer and make a proper visit. Perhaps even bring a gift for him.”
“A gift for the dead?” Lilith demanded, finding the idea to be quite ridiculous.
“This is Sylvania. Gifts are symbolic in ways you can’t always fathom, even if you’re human.”
“Nevertheless, the matter still stands. Should we hire the ranger or not?”
“He seems decent enough. We shall learn soon enough whether he was boasting or not,” Raelean said with a shrug. He turned to the elf. “What is your price for taking us safely to central Sylvania milord Moonshadow? The Sky Trees?”
“Ten platinum griffons, or some equivalent price.”
“Your price is a bit steep,” Lilith declared. “And we have no platinum. If you can also lead us to a moneylender, we can exchange some of our riches for platinum if that is the currency here.”
“It is the highest form of currency commonly accepted, and the one that takes up the least amount of space.”
“Three platinum would take up even less space,” Raelean declared. “Especially since we’re only hiring you for three days.”
“Perhaps so, but the price has went up lately because of more frequent winter wolf attacks. The beasts have become more open and roam in large packs. Scores of them.”
“Scores?” queried Lilith.
“Twenty or more.”
“I better start memorizing spells,” Raelean murmured.
Cheeks bulging with stored nuts, the chipmunk skittered away from Lilith’s touch and hid behind the elven ranger. Kyzasius only smiled mischievously and held out a walnut to the chipmunk.
Black eyes lit with interest, the chipmunk skittered closer to look at the walnut.
Kyzasius set it down and flicked it towards Lilith with his thumb.
The necromancer picked up the walnut slowly and held it in her palm.
The chipmunk dashed forward and snatched it from Lilith’s palm and ran for the nearest tree. An intent looking Lavaticus watched it go and strained against its master’s hands in its eagerness to give chase. The elf boy held the mangy tomcat in place until the chipmunk had safely climbed up into the far reaches of the tree.
Lilith sighed and went back to looking at the fire before them. There was still snow on the ground here, but the air was warm and the snow was melting at a leisurely pace. The only problem was that it left behind soggy earth and so it actually felt better to fall asleep on top of the hard packed snow rather than the mud. If she fell asleep on top of the snow however, it would melt overnight from her body heat and she would be in mud by morning anyway. Not much she could do about it, either way.
A sudden chill wind passed by her and she shivered and looked up at the clouds, half expecting and hoping for snow.
Kyzasius jumped to his feet and pulled out his sword, a long thin elven blade with a keen edge. He looked to the trees, eyes darting. “That was no wind that passed us, but the tell tale sign of winter wolves coming our way.”
As if in confirmation of his words, a dozen sets of gleaming blue eyes appeared in the darkness, looking towards the group and their campfire with malevolence.
Raelean set aside his spellbook, and stood confidently, almost as if he had been expecting this. He glanced once at Lilith and then at Kyzasius. “Whatever you do, don’t hit the troll,” he declared and began to chant.
A moment later the elf boy’s arms and legs seemed to elongate and turn green. His hands became taloned claws and his face transformed into a canine snout with large pointed green ears. Most intriguing of all was the set of black bat wings that sprouted from his back and spread out to their full wingspan. He turned back to Lilith, his blue eyes the only thing left that wasn’t trollish. “Now its my turn to fly!” he declared and beat his wings several times to get himself aloft.
The ranger only seemed to shrug at Lilith. “I guess your friend is a stronger mage than I thought.” He brandished his sword at the approaching pack of wolves. More eyes appeared to the south of them, and before long the entire camp was surrounded by gleaming cold eyes. So many that the necromancer lost count.
The air was incredibly cold suddenly and the fire wavered.
“They’re outnumbered at least ten to one,” the Ice Man said to the pool of water as he watched the battle starting to unfold. “The elf boy has taken the shape of some kind of winged troll and the ranger appears to be waiting for the wolves to make the first move. The necromancer is chanting something and has also grown wings.”
“Wings?” demanded the succubus, her voice bubbling from the ripples and bubbles that appeared in the puddle of water. “Did she cast a spell to create them?”
“No, they appear to sprout at will, without so much as a command.”
The succubus was strangely silent for a moment, thinking. “And what of the dark shadow that also follows her?”
“He is preparing for battle. I can sense his bloodlust growing, for he has an unusually powerful bloodlust. He shall feed tonight I believe.”
“Still, what do you think her chances are?”
“The ranger is good, but he is outnumbered ten to one just by himself, and he has only one sword. He cannot fight three wolves at once, although he can surely take down a few. He is very skilled from what I’ve seen of his tracking skills and alertness. He nearly spotted me on several occasions but I used my skills to fade into the snow.”
“And the elf boy and the girl?”
“The elf boy is powerful, but he is no warrior. His new form is powerful, but unlike a real troll he can’t regenerate. Lilith is a different matter. She will likely stay out of reach of the wolves and use spells to take them down from a distance. Even so, she seems to be very devoted to defending her comrades and will likely land if she is forced to defend her elven friends.”
“And the bloodthirsty shadow?”
“He sticks to his shadows, and rarely fights in the open I believe. He is a wild card, but he still lowers the odds to about eight to one”
“Very well, here is what you must do. You must help the girl in order to even the odds. I want her to survive for now. Her wings intrigue me.”
“As you wish mistress,” the Ice Man replied and drew his sword.
Andras drove his sword cleanly through the wolf’s neck and danced away from the jaws of another. A blast of frost breath in his direction came his way and was deflected by his twirling cape. He pounced forward and grabbed a leaping wolf by the neck and ripped its throat open as if it took almost no effort to do it.
Another wolf took him from behind, dragging the vampire to the ground and going for the neck. The vampire responded in return, showing the wolf how to do it properly and biting deep into the wolf’s neck arteries.
A spray of ice cold blood washed over the vampire’s face and it tasted distinctly different. Winter wolves were magical monsters just as much he was and their blood was every bit as cold as his, which did little to ease his bloodthirst.
He tossed the huge dead wolf aside and swiped at the wolf that was biting his ankle, taking off the wolf’s ear.
A cry in the distance sounded like Lilith and his oath of protection brought his mind back to his whereabouts. He took a lightning fast step forward and kicked in the wolf’s neck, collapsing its windpipe. The wolf would suffocate within minutes.
The killer spirit within him subdued temporarily, he ran off into the darkness to Lilith’s aid.
He found the necromancer standing over the injured ranger’s body and trying to ward off the surrounding host of wolves with a torch while trying to cast a spell with her spare hand.
With the ranger down and the elf boy nowhere in sight, Andras entered the clearing like a berserker, his movements so fast and vicious it would have been obvious to any viewer that he wasn’t mere mortal. He quickly cleared a path to his liege lady, more out of scaring off the wolves than by sheer brute force.
“Lilith, I am sorry I wasn’t here sooner. We shall have to fight back to back like your father and I did,” he proclaimed, taking up position with his back against hers. “By the way, nice wings.”
“Thanks, but this isn’t the time,” the necromancer responded, tossing the torch away and throwing a sphere of fiery blue energy at a wolf to burn away its eyes with a yelp of pain.
From the forest, a winged troll ran forward and jumped over the fire that no real troll would even go near and took up position beside the other two, forming a triangle of backs. The troll looked at the vampire with blue eyes and then at Lilith. “Why am I not surprised for some reason?” he grumbled aloud.
The wolves began to slowly come back to surround the party of three and the injured ranger. Several of them howled into the night and the air became even more cold.
“Lilith,” the vampire whispered. “They know they have us severely outnumbered. I suggest you and Raelean use your wings and take the ranger to safety. I alone can stay and survive.”
“Not so fast,” growled a winter wolf in the darkness. “You’re not leaving without your pet are you?” The wolf came forward into the firelight, a bloody and mangled Lavaticus dangling from its maw.
Raelean took one look at his injured cat and left behind his friends. He sprang into flight towards the speaking wolf with a roar of anger, totally ignoring the trio of wolves that flanked his flight below him.
The speaking wolf tossed the half-dead cat aside and leapt into the air to meet the troll, going for his neck. Raelean raised his arms up to fend off the deadly jaws and tackled the wolf in the air. They struggled in mid-air and hit the ground hard, the trio of wolves following behind and each seeking out limbs of the twelve foot tall troll.
A rush of cold wind surged around the camp, blowing out the campfire without warning and plunging the party and wolves into darkness.
Moving to help her elven friend, Lilith tried to see in the dim moonlight.
A chill human figure encased in frost leapt from the darkness and stood over Raelean’s prone form. A sword flashed dangerously four times and four wolves fell to the ground dead. It knelt quickly, frost spreading from where its feet touched the ground, and picked up Raelean, the elf boy having reverted to his original form.
Lilith hoped that didn’t mean he was dead and the spell has simply collapsed from his lack of mental direction. Behind her she could hear Andras fending off the wolves that sought to attack her from behind, but she paid them no heed as she rushed to meet the cold figure holding aloft her friend.
“Hurry Lilith,” the Ice Man said. “You must fly him south. There you will find a tower in the middle of a waterfalls. They can heal him there. There is very little time. Your ranger friend is already dead from his wounds.”
The necromancer’s eyes met the Ice Man’s sharp and cold blue ones and knew he spoke the truth. She took the elven boy from his hands and leapt into the cold night air. It would be a struggle for her arms to carry the boy, but at least her wings would never get tired.
She left behind the Ice Man and the vampire, two creatures of cold and darkness with blood that ran cold, to fight a score of wolves who’s blood ran even colder, on ground that had become encrusted with frost.
It seemed like hours before Lilith arrived at the tower. She was cold and she swore her lips must be turning blue. She had nearly fainted from exhaustion, her arms were so sore, but she dared not stop.
When she heard the roar of the waterfalls, her hope had been renewed and she doubled her efforts as she flew towards the shadow of darkness that was silhouetted against the sky. Dim lights from within the castle showed that despite the night, people were still awake.
Not sure where to land, she tried to keep her altitude the same while her human eyes searched the darkness for signs of a reasonable place to land.
A balcony with a circle of torchlight on it at the base of the tower presented itself as she drew closer and she dove towards it with a cry of “Please help me!” As she dove closer she saw she was interrupting a magical ceremony, but there was no time to follow protocols. She could sense Raelean’s breath growing weaker against her cheek.
The elves scattered before her as she came to a rough landing, her exhaustion driving her to her knees as she tried to cradle Raelean’s body.
When the world stopped spinning around her, she looked up with tearful eyes. “Please help me! He was attacked by winter wolves!” she cried, trying to steady herself and not fall forward from dizziness.
Gentle and hurried hands took Raelean from her arms and she collapsed to one side, her head hitting the stone floor.
She awoke to Lavaticus licking her face. The tomcat looked down at her and promptly licked her nose before springing away. She groaned and tried to swat the fleeing cat but found that her arm was in a sling and she couldn’t move it.
“Be still human,” a lilting voice said. For a terrifying moment she thought it was the cat who spoke.
A warm wet washcloth was spread across her forehead and a soft hand caressed her face. The air was warm and the covers around her felt to be silk.
“Raelean, my friend?” she murmured, realizing her throat was also sore.
“Your elven friend is also resting, but yes, he is alive,” the voice said. Lilith wasn’t sure if it was male or female, it was unusually beautiful and soothing however.
The necromancer groaned, some of her pain suddenly sinking in. She had been injured numerous times last night and she hadn’t noticed. Her head was throbbing now. Strangely though, she could still feel her wings attached to her back.
“How did Lavaticus get here?” she asked suddenly.
“The cat?” asked the elven voice. “He appeared this morning. Swam across the river at some peril I guess and made his way into the tower. It is a remarkably unusual cat that would follow its master so far and even swim to reach him.”
“How did he heal though? He was half dead when last I saw him.” Lilith croaked.
“I believe the cat is magical, so your guess is as good as mine,” replied the elf. “If you are well enough, we would also like to ask you some questions.”
Lilith nodded. “First, where am I?”
“You are in the Mystical Tower of Eveningfalls.”
“Of Eveningfalls? Is this the Mystical Tower of Sylvania?”
The elf laughed. “There is more than one tower. This is just one of them. We teach the Arte of Healing here, amongst other things, which is why you are so fortunate to have come here. How did you know where to go if you did not even know the name of the place you sought?”
“A man told me to come here, to a tower in the middle of a falls. I think he was a man at least.”
The elf fell silent for a moment. “A woodland creature likely. A satyr perhaps?”
Lilith shook her head and regretted the action, pain shooting up and down her spine and she writhed in agony.
“Be still. Your injuries are major but they won’t kill you. My name is Tserarilia but most humans call me Rosepetals. If you have need of me, just call. I will go fetch Mistress Laeralfox. She is the one who seeks to ask you.”
Lilith murmured an “Okay” and waited. She could hear the sound of rushing water, but it seemed distant and otherworldly to her, like a dream.
A moment later a new presence entered the room, the necromancer could smell honeysuckle in the air as the person came closer and heard the creak of a chair as they sat down. A hand touched her arm and warmth spread through Lilith’s body, and her pain seemed to subside.
“You can open your eyes and sit up now if you like,” said a female voice. “I am Mistress Laeralfox.”
Lilith moved, testing her limbs for pain before risking it. She sat up slowly and the washcloth fell off her forehead and she looked about with blurred vision. She spread her wings that had been tucked underneath her back for a moment and then relaxed them.
The red-haired elf sitting across from her looked to be younger than Lilith but slight wrinkles around her eyes and a twinkle within them suggested several centuries of pain and past. Her eyes followed the motion of Lilith’s wings and then rested on the necromancer’s face.
“I’ve spoken with your comrade Raelean already, albeit briefly,” the elf said slowly. “He is delirious and claims that you are Lilith Bloodstone, daughter of Phoebus Bloodstone, one of the few non-elves to be honoured in elvish history. We are unsure whether he is speaking truth or mere delirium. Is this true?”
“It is,” Lilith proclaimed, her hand going to the medallion around her neck.
The elf nodded and crossed her slim legs. The human was dumbfounded for a moment at the elf’s sheer beauty and grace. “We noticed the medallion, and first assumed you to be a priestess, which made us wonder why you could not heal him yourself. After inspecting your belongings, we determined that you were no priest of any sort, but a mage, possibly a necromancer which is even stranger.”
Lilith nodded, bowing her head slightly. “I have come to Sylvania to study anatomy.”
“Then you are in the right place, but at the same time you must understand that under most circumstances a human, let alone a necromancer, would never be taught at an elvish institution.”
The necromancer nodded, biting her lip.
“But that may indeed be ignored on the basis of other matters, for you intrigue us in the extreme. For starters, your wings. How did you gain them?”
Lilith’s hand moved to the bandoleer that was around her chest and then found it was gone. She felt around for it, finding only a silken shirt the elves had dressed her in. “Where’s my bandoleer?” she asked, mostly to herself.
“We removed it earlier. Is there a problem?”
Lilith felt around behind her, feeling the wings attached firmly to her back. She closed her eyes for a moment and the wings shrunk and shrivelled, disappearing into her back. She felt where they had disappeared, finding no sign of them. She looked up at the elf, confused and embarrassed. “The wings are supposed to be attached to my bandoleer...”
“Well, it would appear they have attached themselves to you now. You seem surprised?”
The necromancer nodded and kept feeling for some sign of what had happened.
“Very intriguing indeed,” Laeralfox murmured. “It would appear the gods have gifted you in a way none of us can understand.”
Lilith nodded, distracted and touched her medallion, feeling the energy inside it. “I haven’t got a clue what’s going on,” she admitted.
“And then there’s the matter of the ceremony you interrupted-” the elven female began.
“I’m sorry about that-” Lilith interrupted without thinking.
Laeralfox held up a hand to hush her and only smiled. “That ceremony was a powerful divination, calling upon the gods to give us a sign about what to do concerning the coming war with Oraknev. We believe the gods have given us that sign, and your mysterious wings are only the beginning. Raelean is the other.” She stood. “Come, let me show you.”
The necromancer stood up on trembling legs and leaned on the female mage, and they walked slowly into an adjoining room. On a stone altar before a large open window, Raelean moaned and writhed in agony. A fiery blue nimbus of energy surrounded him. The window curtains had been burnt away from the fire that consumed and contained the elven boy.
“Father,” Lilith murmured, one hand on her medallion. She came closer to her friend and could feel the heat radiating off him. She reached out to touch him but the heat was too intense. She turned to the elf. “What's wrong with him?”
“He cast a spell in his sleep. Fire Shield by the look of it. The fire doesn't hurt him, but anyone seeking to touch or harm him will be hurt by the flames,” the elven female explained and then shrugged. “He’s delirious and he keeps talking and saying strange words. Some of the words are magic, and thus he occasionally casts a spell. That’s why we placed him in here and removed all possible breakables. We healed him first, but he still seemed to be in pain, so we let him rest, and that’s when he started casting spells in his sleep and talking.”
“Phoebus,” Raelean moaned loudly and his hands reached out as if trying to grasp something.
“I managed to get him to calm down a bit by using a telepathy spell to gain rapport with him and soothe him, and thus learn more about you at the same time. He was a lot worse earlier.”
“Shouldn’t he eventually run out of energy?”
“He seems to have a lot of it, and besides when you’re sleeping you actually gain magical energy, not lose it, and so it just seems to regenerate his magical energy. In the meantime, his spirit is in a state of flux, and we believe that’s what is causing this. His spirit was half departed when we managed to save him, and thus now his spirit is in a state of confusion. We need someone who is an expert with spirits if we can fix this.” The elf looked at Lilith squarely.
Lilith looked up, unsure. “You mean me, right?”
“You’re the only one who can help him it seems. We could call for a necromancer to help, but the necromantic arte is frowned upon in Sylvania and it may take quite some time.”
“Lucentius?” Lilith called out into the mists. The world warped around her and the necromancer appeared to her on a beach. He was dressed simply in a purple tunic and pink polka-dotted shorts and was skipping stones off into the waves.
“Woohoo!” he shouted. “A new world record! Fifty-three skips!” He turned and flashed a smile at Lilith. “What can I do for you, oh Lady Bloodstone? My you look pale today! Is something wrong?”
The necromancer swallowed. “Raelean is dying and I need your help. His spirit is caught between two worlds.”
Lucentius sobered up immediately, his face becoming a mask of concern. “Now that is a serious matter! You’re going to need to travel to the astral plane to fix that one.”
“The astral plane?”
“Yep! A plane existence that is attached to our own. Its a lot like here, with all the mists. Its not hard to get there, just stick an extra-dimensional spell inside an extra-dimensional spell, and it will turn into a vortex that will suck you into the astral plane.”
“And then when I’m there?”
“Then you will need to gather up the pieces of Raelean’s spirit, which should be attached via a silver cord, and then bring them back with you inside a receptacle, preferably a gem.”
“And how do I get back?”
“Getting in there is easy, getting back out is hard. To do that you’re going to need a Plane Shift spell, or something similar such as a powerful Teleport.”
“I don’t have the power or the means to do either of those.”
“Yes, you do. You have Lavaticus.”
Lilith handed the small stone cat sculpture to Laeralfox. “I have no way of communicating with you while I’m in the Astral Plane, so I’m going to need to set a time limit.” She glanced out the window at the rising sun and then back to the elf. “Call Lavaticus back when the sun sets beneath the horizon. If this works, calling his name will also bring myself and Raelean’s spirit back.”
The elf frowned and took the sculpture. “I still say this plan is foolish. The Astral Plane has many dangers that you are not aware of and many creatures apart from our own world. To trust in your necromancer inside the gem is foolhardy, for he doesn’t know for sure if this will even work.”
The necromancer shrugged. “Do you have a better idea?” she asked and nodded to an elven mage, who started casting the spells that would create the vortex that would take her into the astral plane. She picked up the cat and for once he didn’t scratch her and stayed strangely silent.
All around her the roar of the waterfalls was deafening, but when the vortex opened up in the middle of the air in front of the balcony a roar even louder came from within as it echoed the roar of the falls ten fold.
Ignoring the pain in her ears, Lilith ran forward and jumped off the balcony, her wings carrying her across the air, over the roaring waterfalls and into the vortex.
With a strange popping sound, the vortex closed behind her.
“Spoken like a true Bloodstone,” Laeralfox declared.