Epilogue – Thoris Greenly
The sound of hurried footsteps echoed through the vacant corridors, but nobody was around to hear. It was Ritual Day, and everyone had places to be and things to do that had been rehearsed so many times they could have done it in their sleep. However, sleep was the last thing on anyone’s mind, especially Daphne’s. In fact, Daphne could not remember the last time she had slept, but that did not stop her from running down the grand corridors. She kept a large book tightly grasped to her left side, but many of her components and trinkets spilled from her robe as she turned a corner. Daphne wanted to go to the Ritual chamber, but she knew that on this day, only authorized personnel were allowed even close to the doors. Instead, Daphne ran to the quarters of her good friend Dewy. Daphne hoped Dewy was sleeping in like he usually did, for the situation would be more dire if he had already left for the Ritual chamber.
Daphne finally came up beside the door to Dewy’s room. Outside the door stood two armed skeleton guards, each brandishing a spear and shield. As Daphne approached the door the two skeletons continued to blankly stare at the wall parallel to them, as if the world disinterested them. She muttered the safety words when she got close then reached panting for the handle and threw the door open. The room was filled with stacks of books and spell components. A tall desk and bed were pushed against the walls, and a very fat not-Dewy sat on the stool by the desk.
“Fredric… what…what are you doing here?”
The fat man looked up at Daphne, startled. “DAPHNE! What are YOU doing here? I thought you were supposed to help with the Ritual.”
Daphne frowned. “I am supposed to help with the Ritual, but I found something rather troubling. Where is Dewy?”
Fredric gave Daphne a strange look. “He got up early to go to the prison before the Ritual starts.”
“He never gets up early.”
“_Everyone_ got up early today, Daphne. In fact, why aren’t you off casting spells? I thought you had an important role in today’s,” Fredric through up his hands sarcastically, “festivities.”
“I do. Did. Er, still do but… look I just need to talk to Dewy!” Daphne turned and slammed the door not out of malice but out of hurry. As she continued her run down the hallway, she could’ve sworn the empty bone sockets of the guards followed her movement.
She still kept the book close at her side, securing the many meticulously labeled bookmarks from the same fate as her spell components. She finally reached the staircase leading down to the castle dungeons. At the bottom of staircase was an iron door and another set of skeletal guards. Their would-be eyes glared at her suspiciously. She again reached past them and threw open the doors. Daphne had never really spent a lot of time here, and did a quick scan of the room. There were a number of large cells on this floor, each packed with half a dozen people of different shapes and sizes. A few wardens sat lazily in chairs, leading Daphne to believe these were not the most dangerous of prisoners. About halfway deep into the room stood Dewy, who was mid conversation with a charismatic looking prisoner.
“Don’t worry,” Dewy said reassuringly, “I’m sure something can be worked out after the Ritual. The Master is merciful and just.”
“Thank you,” the prisoner replied, “we’ll even serve in t’Master’s army if’n he sees fit. We didn’t mean no harm, really.”
“Even if you are guilty, your crimes are not punishable by death.”
“Thank you!” The prisoner said while he and the others bowed humbly.
Dewy then turned to see Daphne and his mouth fell open, “What are you doing here?! You’re supposed to be casting spells for the Ritual!”
“Dewy, we need to talk. Somewhere private would be ni-”
Dewy grabbed Daphne’s arm and began leading her away from the cells. The skeleton guards seemed to shoot her hateful glances as she was lead further from the room. The two eventually stopped halfway down the grand corridor and Dewy forcefully turned Daphne to face him, giving her the first real look of him she had had in a while. He is well groomed, she noted, he never combs his hair like that… he even put on scented oils. Despite his clean face and formal attire, Dewy’s face was not amused.
“Daphne, you have to get to the Ritual chamber immediately! This is the Master’s big day! He needs you! He needs me! Without your spells something could go wrong.”
“Something will go wrong if I cast the spells as well.” Daphne replied.
Dewy gave her a shocked stare, “What do you mean? Is the Master in trouble?”
“You could say that,” Daphne continued, “the Ritual doesn’t do what we originally thought. It will turn him into an undead.”
Dewy laughed. “You really had me scared there for a moment Daph. Of course that’s what it does, he’s never been secretive of that. We’ve all known that would be the case for years now.”
“No, you don’t understand Dewy, it won’t just turn him into a lich, look at these notes.”
Daphne finally relieved her tight grasp of the book at her side and presented it to Dewy. She opened to the first bookmark.
“The Ritual will turn the Master into a lich, but also strip away his soul. Although we see undead as mindless tools and weapons the process of becoming a lich is far more dangerous and evil. Look at the first of the spells I’ve bookmarked, a basic animation spell.”
“I could cast that in the belly of a Tarrasque. What of it?”
“Notice the wording, the spell restores the creature’s body, but not the soul. Now, look here.” She flipped to the second bookmark. “Raise dead, the simplest form of resurrection. Although the spell requires powerful components and is more difficult to cast, you can see here that the spell restores both the body and the soul. It effectively opens a planar portal to the soul so that it may return to and fuse with the body. See how it uses motions from transmutation, and both the healing and teleportation sub-schools of conjuration?”
“Where are you going with this Daph?”
“Look at the notes the Master gave us for the Ritual.” Daphne flipped to the third bookmark. “I didn’t notice at first, not until you couldn’t figure out some of your part and gave me a copy of your notes.” Dewy blushed embarrassedly. “Anyways, after you got the hang of it I kept the copy of your notes and was able to compare it to my own part in the Ritual. See here, the Ritual not only restores the body, but poisons the soul. It opens a similar planar portal but taints the soul on the return trip. Do you see Dewy? We must do something about this.”
Dewy paused for a long time, frowning at the open book.
“I heard you Daphne.” he said, shutting the book and returning it to her arms. “I heard you, but I don’t believe you. I refuse to believe someone so good could fall so hard. The Master has done nothing but good for us and many others across the land. He’s supported many good causes since the Great Forging. All the boy ever wanted was to become a powerful mage and help others. We have worked for him for years and now you abandon your trust in him for a spell so powerful you can barely understand?”
“I am not saying I don’t trust the Master I’m only saying he might have missed something. All I ask is that we give it more time.”
“We’ve been preparing for months! I think you’re just getting cold feet Daphne.”
“I am not getting cold feet! Dewy I’ve been up for days because I want to save our Master, not to plot against him.”
“If you’ve been up for days that might explain all this nonsense. Maybe you just need to rest Daphne, you look exhausted.”
“No. I will not rest until the Master himself sees this.”
Daphne’s words echoed through the empty hall, and the ensuing silence was only interrupted by her angry and tired heaves.
“By now the Ritual Day is in full swing, and there’s little you can do to stop me from doing my part. I will tell the Master you are too sick to perform today, but the Ritual will find a way to go on.”
Dewy started down the hall, heading for the Ritual chamber, and Daphne quickly realized there was no way she could keep up. Dewy got further and further away as Daphne practically limped down the halls.
If I’m not going to be allowed to cast in the Ritual today, I might as well use my spells now.
Daphne began to cast but instead tripped on her robe and fell hard on the ground. She rolled over onto her back and saw down the hallway behind her. Two skeleton guards marched aimlessly down the hallway, but their eyes seemed fixed on Daphne. Daphne saw them approaching and began to panic._ They are just on patrol. They know nothing of what you have been doing_, Daphne told herself. She crawled around the corner and summoned what was left of her energy into a single propulsion spell. She slid rapidly across the castle floor until she crashed into the wall at the other end of the corridor. Dewy was once again in her sight along with the door to the Ritual chamber. At either side of the ornate doors stood a skeleton guard. They had no eyes but they looked seemed to look at Daphne with hate and distrust.
“DEWY!” She cried frantically.
Dewy turned around to see Daphne and frowned once more. He gestured to the skeletons and entered the Ritual chamber, shutting the doors behind him. The skeletons lowered their spears and advanced on Daphne.
“NO!” She screamed again while flailing her arms in front of her. A sheet of fire whipped out and split one of the skeletons in half. The other continued its silent advance while Daphne worked her way to her feet. She gave a quick stomp and a stone tile from the castle floor ascended from beneath the second skeleton, crushing it against the ceiling. Daphne panted and began walking toward the Ritual chamber doors. Not a moment later Daphne felt a pair of bony hands grab her from behind. She turned to see the two from the prison door. They were unarmed but the one held her tightly and lifted her off the ground. It turned as if to take her back down the hall, but Daphne had energy for one last spell. She sucked in enough breath for 20 men and expelled it in a sharp and loud sonic blast. The two prison guards were obliterated into clanking storms of bones as they blew against the wall. Daphne was not-so-gently released from their grapple and returned to the floor of the corridor. As her eyes began to shut against her will she stretched a hand toward the Ritual chamber doors. Then it all went black.
Daphne could not say how much time had passed when she finally opened her eyes again. A growing cloud of green smoke filled the corridor as it billowed out from underneath the Ritual chamber doors. Daphne managed to walk over to the door despite the thickening green cloud. She stopped however, when she got halfway and her footsteps turned into a sloshing sound. She heard screams and cries for mercy from behind the door. She listened nervously to them before finally finding the courage to look down. Melted puddles of contorted faces floated and oozed out from beneath the chamber door. The faces of the dead split as they parted on Daphne’s trembling legs. Dewy’s face oozed out from underneath the door last, floating between Daphne’s legs but parting on a skeletons skull as it flooded down the corridor. Only then did Daphne break. She turned away from the Ritual chamber doors and began to run but slipped on melted flesh instead. She had never stood up faster in her life, but froze once she regained her footing.
The doors to the Ritual chamber had opened and what was left of Thoris Greenly slowly walked down the corridor. Daphne felt herself spin in place to face the lich against her will, more flesh goop piling on the fringes of her robe. He outstretched his skeletal hand and she felt herself lift off the ground, a gift of which she was only momentarily thankful. She seemed to regain control of her limbs but her neck began to tighten and she could no longer breathe. A small army of undead began forming ranks behind Thoris as they emerged from the unlit Ritual chamber.
“Eat her first, then the prisoners. Dawn will be upon us soon, and by then we shall have lost the element of surprise.”
The last thing Daphne heard was the snapping of her own neck.