The Gopher King: Chapter 12

The Viceroy had been occupied for some time with going around the ruins of the city gathering up the ghouls that he found scattered about. He herded them back around the ruins of the castle and had them standing about in neat little formations. He scoured about for anything resembling a useful clue but found nothing interesting. The sun was creeping across the sky and while the lich didn’t have a particular aversion to it he didn’t especially enjoy the daylight. What he was most interested in was finding someplace he could hole up in to be alone with his thoughts. He looked towards the old winery on the little hill outside of the city a couple of miles away. He stood there silently for a while before deciding he might as well go and see if Malindra had someplace he could call home for the time being. They were obviously going to be at this for more than a couple of hours.

As the undead wizard approached the winery grounds the hobgoblins on duty began to panic. As he drew closer they vanished from view as they tried to find someplace to take cover from the Viceroy’s horrifying aura. Undeterred and unchallenged the Viceroy walked into the winery and stopped for a moment to get a feel for where the night hag might be. Sensing her in another part of the main house he began making his way to her. Servants and soldiers alike ran away from him as if he was a shark swimming among minnows. Arriving just as a group of hobgoblins was making their way out of the main hall in which Malindra was situated, the lich’s arrival sent everyone except the night hag scrambling for cover. Her guards abandoned their posts and headed for the nearest available exits. One of them even jumped through an open window and fell a floor and a half into the courtyard below.

Malindra glared at the lich and growled, “Under normal circumstances I would find that hilarious. But I am vexed with tales of treachery and intrigue and in no mood for the chaos that your mere presence brings to those around me.”

The Viceroy chuckled in a dark and wicked tone. “I am not responsible for the terror I instill in lesser beings.” He said, still chuckling. “If you want me to stay out of the way and not create a hassle among your…minions… then I suggest you provide me a place to meditate and ponder the puzzles we have both uncovered.”

The night hag sat forward and scowled at the Viceroy. “What have you found out?” she asked in a very demanding tone.

The lich held up his hand and waggled his index finger at her. “Tsk, tsk, night witch. You haven’t paid me for that information.”

Malindra growled again as she asked, “If I provide a room for you to hole up in, will you tell me what you found out?”

Laughing loud enough to shake the walls of the building, the Viceroy declared, “Foolish woman! I can occupy any space I wish! You haven’t enough of a hold on anything here to dictate to me where I can and can’t go!” his laughter rang out and was enough to make Malindra wince in anger. “I am merely giving you a chance to know where I am so that you don’t have to hunt for me. If you’d rather I find my own place for solitude then I will go, and you can try and find me.” The Viceroy continued laughing.

Gnashing her teeth the night hag dug her claws into the arms of the chair she was sitting in. “There is a small room in the top of the tower in this house. Probably used to be storage. Hole up in there if you like. Once I find payment for your services I’ll let you know.”

The lich chuckled again and turned to leave the room. Malindra stood up and screeched at him, “I didn’t say I was done with you!”

The Viceroy kept walking and said in his crackly voice with a laugh, “I don’t care.”

Malindra watched him go and let out an otherworldly scream once he was gone. She whirled about and yelled, “Where are my hobgoblins? Somebody get in here! Now!”

There was an understandable reluctance on the part of Malindra’s hobgoblins to respond immediately to her angry demands. Only after carefully checking to insure that the lich had left the room did they begin filtering back in. They had difficulty retaining their poise and there was no denying that those affected by the undead mage’s fearful visage were more than a little shaken by the experience. But they all did eventually heed their mistress’ summons and resume the duties they had been set to.

As soon as he had left the hall in which Malindra had set herself up as a queen of sorts the Viceroy cast a spell and became as insubstantial as a wraith. In this form he wouldn’t inspire the horror that he caused just be being himself, and he could slip through the tiniest cracks and crevices. He made his way quickly to the one tower in the house and while he was noticed by the hobgoblins he encountered they reacted in mere surprise rather than abject terror. The Viceroy passed through all of the doors that stood in his way and went up the spiral staircase through a number of rooms before reaching the top floor. There was some furniture stored in here, but everything was covered in cobwebs. The lich resumed his normal form and stood in the dusty tower loft to survey his new domicile.

The stairs continued up to the defensive parapet above. A heavy wooden trapdoor sealed off this room from the top of the tower. There was another trapdoor in the floor of this room to cut down on drafts. None of this was much good as there were a series of six small windows placed equidistant around the room and each one allowed a small amount of air to seep in. Had he been a living being of flesh and blood the Viceroy would have been acutely uncomfortable here. As it was though he found it quite suitable. He looked around for something to use as curtains to cut down on the light that flooded in from the windows. Settling on the dust cloths thrown over some of the furniture, he tore them into smaller pieces and using a minor dweomer held them in place over the partially opaque glass windows. It helped a bit, but he could always cast a continual darkness spell to make it more to his liking.

Fumbling around with the stockpiled furniture revealed a plethora of once comfortable chairs that the Viceroy could use for his own throne. He set them down around the room and tried each one in sequence. The lich was immune to normal considerations for comfort and yet there were aspects of these seats that either appealed to him or that he found oddly annoying. Some of them were too short for his tastes, and others too tall. Most were simply too small and ridiculous for a creature of his power and standing. None of them were grand enough for what he considered to be his station. He settled on a kind of wicker chair that had a dreadfully massive back that flared out and up to provide a sort of umbrella over the Viceroy as he sat in it. He liked the feel of it and the close feeling it provided. He found a couple of large, dusty pillows that while not the right color to suit him ideally did a good job of preventing his bones from protruding through the brittle material that comprised the chair.

Having settled on which chair he would use, the Viceroy then set about seeing what else was in this spacious room. He found some tables and a couple of writing desks which he set up near his chair to give the feel of a proper lair. The remaining chairs and a handful of small beds he had no use for, so he opened the hatch door and began tossing the unwanted furniture items down the stairs. They tumbled predictably and haphazardly creating a nearly impassable obstacle for anyone trying by normal means to sneak up on him. He didn’t have any bookshelves but nor did he have any books. The Viceroy cast a spell and by this means left his wizard’s mark on the floor of this room. From now until this tower should be cast into ruin the Viceroy would be able to scry what was happening here regardless of where he was, and he could simply teleport here without error at any time he chose. This room would serve from now on as a sort of home for the undead spellcaster.

The only thing missing were his beloved books still stashed in the cold dungeon deep beneath the Ash King’s castle. The Viceroy took one last look around, and then in a flash of green light was gone from the winery tower. In the next instant another flash of green light heralded his arrival in the dingy, pitch-black room in which he had kept his meager belongings as a guest of the Ash King. The Viceroy took a moment to get his bearings, and then set to packing up his books into the two crates of his keepsakes and knick-knacks. With a crate in each hand he then looked around to make sure he had everything. He picked up a couple of skulls that he had setting about and added those to his cache of items, and then once again there was a flash of green light and the Viceroy was gone. Far above in the vast and impressive hall of the Ash King’s court there was an awareness on behalf of the more powerful lich king that his guest had taken his leave. A ripple of amused relief went out among the depraved and insidious courtesans in the Ash King’s entourage as they joked among themselves who was stuck with the Viceroy now. But nobody really cared. This was how it was with the Viceroy. He came, he outstayed his welcome, and then he left.

When the Viceroy reappeared in the winery tower, he set down his crates and began putting things where he wanted them. He set the books on the writing desks, and the various oddball items he painstakingly arrayed on the other tables so that he could see and appreciate each one. The skulls he set to one side for further spellcasting, which he would do once the rest of this work was done. He had a notion in mind for a way to keep tabs on his surroundings while he was left alone to just sit and think of more solutions, but he would need more bones, or even full bodies. He would have to see what Malindra would allow him to do with whatever else he found. In the meantime the lich needed to refresh his magical repertoire. Like every mage he would need to consult his spellbooks and spend a great deal of time in study before he would be able to cast the full range of his sorcerous ability. It would take ten minutes of studious contemplation for every level of a spell cast for the lich to replenish his magical power. He had already cast some fairly powerful spells, and a handful of lesser magicks so he would need several hours of uninterrupted study to get himself fully prepared for whatever the night hag needed him to do.

Malindra had no idea what the Viceroy in the upstairs room was up to. Frankly she was too tired to care. Unlike her undead houseguest the night hag was still susceptible to hunger and exhaustion. The hobgoblins had raided across the border to the west in Chute de l’Ombre and brought back quite a number of deer, fowl, and small animals in order to prepare a feast for the return of one of their queens. Malindra was famished and had one of the rabbits brought directly to her, and she devoured it completely leaving only the hide. She relished using her most barbaric tendencies while in her normal form. It gave pause to anyone that might try and usurp her hold over the hobgoblins. Having had a snack the night hag was ready for sleep. She had the hobgoblins prepare her a place to sleep deep in the cellars of the main house. The wine had all been commandeered long ago by Colldrenia and her minions. The hobgoblins made up a large hammock bed for the night hag and posted guards outside her door. In no time at all the hag was fast asleep and snoring with a thunderous howl.

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