It was three months since our arrangment began when the adventure found its way back to our lives. It arrived in the form of a friend from the village; Bartok the butcher, who was kind enough to bring fresh meat and vegetables from the market once a week, along with any gossip that may be buzzing about. As per usual, we were made aware of his presence by a soft whimpering coming up the walk. While Bartok was a kind man and didn’t mind bringing our supplies to us, he was also terrified of Azmodeas, and dreaded the long walk from garden gate to the front door.
At the time of his arrival, Eldwist and I were seated at the table, enjoying a nice lunch of toast and fruit with cheese. Eldwist looked up from the book he was reading and chuckled; “Is it Friday already?”
“Hm?” I glanced up from my knitting and looked curiously at him, for I hadn’t heard the noise.
“Bartok is here.” He replied. I turned my head towards the door, and the sound reached my ears. Shaking my head, I stood and moved to let the poor man in; just before he knocked on the door. The surprised young man jumped back slightly, a hand on his heart but smiled warmly and came past me with his load; which he set on the table.
“You know dear,” I said, trying to hold back my laughter; “he wouldn’t do anything to scare you if you didn’t react that way. He only does it to make you squirm.”
“Easy for you to say, m’lady.” Bartok stuttered, “You’ve raised him. He don’t bother you.”
“Oh come now Bartok,” Eldwist laughed. Standing up he gave the man a clap on the back, “He’s a spirited young thing, just like yourself.” Rather than reply, Bartok fixed Eldwist with a glare which had Eldwist bursting with laughter. “You’re a good man Bartok. What do you say to a cup of tea?”
“Tea would be wonderful, thank you.” While Eldwist prepared the tea, Bartok and I discussed the payment for both his services as delivery boy and butcher. He had also taken the liberty of bringing us our mail, which contained letters from my father, my brother Rialvas, and Rook. Eldwist rarely, if ever, recieved mail.
“So, Bartok,” Eldwist said as he sat the tea kettle down and began to gather cups, “What’s the news in town? Anything interesting happened?”
“As a matter of fact,” Bartok chirped while pouring a cup, “there has been a very interesting development. Seems a very strange man has locked himself in the tavern and refuses to come out unless he speaks to the two of you.”
“What did he look like?”
“Not sure. One of the barmaids happened to catch me right as I was leaving to bring you your shipment for the week. Just said that he was an odd fellow. Didn’t give no name ‘r nothin’.” Eldwist and I gave one another a look that pointedly said ”Well so much for peace and quiet” and began to put things away, and prepare to leave.
Once Bartok had finished his tea, the three of us headed for town, a three hour walk which we shortened to about two due to our quick pace. When we reached the village center we found nearly the entire town clustered around the tavern, looking very angry and shouting obscenities at the locked windows and doors.
“Where do you get off locking us out like this?!”
“Open up you swine!”
“You let us in or we’ll break down the damn door!”
All shouting ceased, however, when a cruel laugh broke through the crowd; a laugh that sounded manic, almost unnatural. “I’m not coming out until you bring me Blueleaf and Thunderfist!” said the voice, magically magnified so that it carried through the crowd. Eldwist’s eyes narrowed and he gave a low growl as he pushed through the crowd with me in tow.
When we had nearly reached the front he bellowed “Get out here you putrescent sack of filth! I don’t have time for your ridiculous games!”
Almost instantly, the door swung open to reveal an elf; or at least, what looked like an elf. Skin stretched taut across bones, with thin chestnut-brown hair hanging in sunken red eyes which held centuries, if not millennia of untold knowledge; detracted from by the twisted smile that adorned his almost nonexistent lips. He approached but was stopped short when Eldwist put an arm in between him and me, “Finally,” he whispered with a voice of slate being dragged against slate, “I’ve been waiting for ages for this moment.” He stood with his arms outstretched and closed his eyes like someone feeling spring rain for the first time, until his gaze fell on me and he gave a small bow, “It is a pleasure to see you again Lady Blueleaf. I do hope you will forgive my sudden intrusion.”
I blinked blankly “Have we-” I started, shaking my head slightly to clear it of the cloud of confusion, “Have we met before?”
He nodded his head toward me “Ah, I suppose you wouldn’t remember me, would you?” He gave a deeper bow and took my hand to his lips, where he placed a light kiss “Scourge, at your service, your grace.” I kept my composure as best I could, though my mind was spinning with memories of the skeletal figure, hanging upside down from a tree at the mages college over a century ago. His red orbs seeming to float in empty sockets, glittering with glee as he told a 17 year old Rook about a very old power, which was lost centuries ago to warlocks. This was the Lich responsible for Rook’s becoming a warlock. The one who helped him make a pact with a demon for revenge, and thus one of the most revered assassins of all time. This was The Demon of the West, The Cold Harvest, He Who Wields Ten Thousand Knives. This was one of the most feared and elusive liches to ever walk the earth, just standing here without a care in the world on his shrunken features.
Eldwist broke my stunned silence with a growl, “What are you doing here Scourge?” The litch didn’t say a word. Instead he handed Eldwist a scroll, with a wax seal of two Axes crossed. Eldwist raised a brow, but opened the scroll and began to read. After a moment he looked back at the litch, “Patches sent you then?” The litch nodded, and Eldwist gave a curt nod back before handing me the parchment.
My Dear Friend,
Damon and I have found ourselves in a town full of promise. Wonderful land for farming, perfect harbor for fishing, and plenty of room for growth if needed. The only thing keeping this town from prosperity is a colony of Dark Elves, and a lack of knowhow.
They are without a healer in this town. They know nothing of the magical arts, or how to fight. These poor people are in need of teachers, like yourself and Lady Blueleaf to help them in their quest for safety and prosperity.
Please, come as soon as you are able.
Your loyal friends,
Patches Bloodhoof and Damon LaMarc
“A wonderful chance to find something about your sister, wouldn’t you say?” Scourge asked with a metallic glint in his eyes, “One that could bring you one step closer to bringing the wretches who stole her away to justice, yes?” His voice flowed like cool silk and for that brief moment he seemed to be the cold, calculating lich.
I narrowed my eyes at him, “Give me one good reason to trust you, Scourge.” I hissed.
“Your grandmother did.” he said has he nested one bony hand inside the other, “We trusted each other with our lives, until the day she died.” I froze, I had forgotten who he truly was. He was my grandmother’s truest friend. Once a warlock by the name of Lance Greenstone, he and my grandmother had journeyed through the swamps of Kamigawa, in search of Gods know what. They never found it, but not for lack of trying. The party had to return to our plane due to a threat nobody could have foreseen. The first Black Crusade.
Legions upon legions of demons spilled out of Nastrond, threatening to end our world, to drive out all light. The elven races had no choice but to take drastic measures to stop them. Scourge, being a powerful warlock and one of few brave enough to go through with the plan became one of the twelve litchs created under an overseer; Tim. Along with his four generals and their armies, Tim and the litchs drove back the demon forces. They became known as The Forsaken Legion, and were slaughtered or imprisoned, as thanks for their services. Scourge, however, managed to escape. Nobody knows how, or where he hid for over a hundred years, but he did. He kept in contact with her for years, always at her beck and call should she need him, though we never saw him ourselves. We only heard that her dear friend “Lance” was coming to visit and that we were to make ourselves scarce. It wasn’t until that night in the dark of the night, under cover of the trees, just outside the walls of the mages college, that I found out why.
And now, here, he stood before me for the second time in my life. A reminder of my grandmother, and the horrors that the elven races endured. Living; more or less; proof of the desperation that had overtaken my people nearly a thousand years ago. Looking into his cold, red eyes I realized something about the litch; he knew me too well. He knew that my grandmother had been my guiding light, and the strongest force of all things good in my life. She was the reason that I could be a lady, and a warrior. She was the reason for my compassion, for my heart. Without her, I would be a cold, heartless killer. Scourge knew that, and he knew that if she had trusted him, then so would I. For, beneath the insanity, what little of his mind remained knew that the bond of families was easy to prey upon. That the trust of one, meant the trust of all.
I gave a brief nod, signifying that the litch would have his way, and he began to ramble “You know, we would probably still trust each other with our lives, except, you can’t really do that when you ... no longer... have one. Of course I suppose that doesn’t really apply in my case does it? I suppose she trusted me with her life, and I trusted her with my.. Un-life?” Scourge looked up at Eldwist and then towards the path, his head moving in a strange jerky motion, “Well, off we go then.”
Without waiting for a response, he began to walk down the path leading out of the village. Eldwist and I looked at each other, confusion etched on both of our features, then shook our heads and followed him. We quickly turned him towards the cottage so that we could gather the necessary supplies and rest for the night, and set out the next morning just before sunrise.