The Gopher King: Chapter 25

To say that Malindra was in a foul mood would be the height of understatement. She had gone from exhilaration beyond happiness to burning rage in a matter of minutes and the juxtaposition was more than she could bear. She stormed back to her winery and screamed at everyone foolish enough to approach her. Oh how she hated the Viceroy and the pompous buffoons of the Diosian Lodge.

For the Viceroy, though, this was turning out to be a delightful day. He paced slowly around the perimeter of the ruins for a while reaching out psychically from time to time to see how the skeletal badgers were doing. As he predicted this was going to be a long, drawn out process. It was down to mostly waiting. The Viceroy decided to do his waiting someplace more comfortable, so he teleported back to his tower room. Taking up his spellbooks he did some reading to replenish his magical power and divert his mind from thoughts of digging.

In the midst of his reading the Viceroy began to sense that somebody he had drawn blood from was feeling agitated. The agitation was growing into a swelling fury and only through the strength of his will was the lich able to focus on finishing his studies. The Viceroy set aside his books and set his thoughts to the individual creating this stir. Predictably it was the blood drawn from Druuna that had initiated this commotion. There was enough hostility being projected to the lich that he knew immediately the green dragon was not as hesitant to act as she had suggested. His curiosity was aroused and so the lich cast a spell and took a look through the dragon’s eyes to see what was going on.

There seemed to be some kind of conflict surrounding a building project. It looked like a bridge, but the dragon wouldn’t hold still long enough to allow the lich a good enough view. The great lizard was blasting a cloud of chlorine gas all over what appeared to be a terrified construction crew. Soldiers were scattering in all directions and it was evident that nobody present could put up any measure of resistance to Druuna’s onslaught. Very much like the lich’s experience at the Maison de l’Iris the Fanolanians were at a loss when confronted by this much force and in surprise. The beginning of what could be a long and protracted struggle was always a pushover it would seem. The lich wasn’t under any illusions as to how tough an opponent the Fanolanians were going to be in the long term and he suspected that the dragon was aware of it as well, despite being under the lich’s spell influence. The dragon though was going to be instrumental to the schemes of the Viceroy going forward and this was all a vital part of his plans being successful.

The lich turned his full attention away from the slaughter being waged by Druuna to completing the potion that would be needed to turn her into a more useful asset. The more mundane ingredients he could conjure up out of nothing, but the more exotic ones he would have to do a little more work for. He already had the key element, the dragon’s blood. Running over the list in his mind he settled on the best way to gather up what he needed. The lich was fortunate though that he knew a bunch of people that had everything he needed. The Diosian Lodge members, oblivious to the fact they were about to be robbed, had all manner of mystical reagents, herbs, rare creatures and everything else the Viceroy could have wanted. And having spent enormous amounts of time in each of their sanctuaries the Viceroy knew exactly where it was all stored.

The Shadow Sovereign had most of it and from him the Viceroy swiped an imp, a handful of small bones from a cyclops, and several little bundles of herbs. The Iron Count had an actual larvae, and while it wasn’t alive it was still going to be useful even in its pickled state. From the Prince of Pain the Viceroy got some powdered emeralds and a bottle of elven blood. In the vault of the Patriarch of Fate the Viceroy found some old sacred texts that he could burn and turn into unholy ashes, and from the Dread Admiral he stole a jar of clear deep-sea water. The Blade of Vengeance owned a ceremonial mortar and pestle that the Viceroy vowed to return because the Blade of Vengeance was the only one of the peers that caught the Viceroy red-handed pilfering from his storehouse. The Witch Queen had a bottle of spectral essence and the Viceroy took it along with a small golden bell from the Ash King. It too wasn’t going to be consumed in the spellcasting, but the Viceroy wasn’t bringing it back. “Screw that guy.” He muttered under his breath, and in the blink of an eye the Viceroy vanished and reappeared back in his tower room.

It was one of the mysteries of life as to how difficult it was for a mortal to obtain everything it needed in order to perform the ritual and make the potion to transform into a lich and yet once they had become a lich these things were almost stupidly easy to collect. Granted it was easier to do when you had other liches you could borrow and steal from, but it was still easy. It took a full day for the lich to set up everything in just the right way for the ritual brewing. Had he not been undead and tireless it would have taken three times as long. This is how most of those seeking an existence as a lich met their gruesome end, by getting in a hurry. Rushing things of this nature was never advised. The Viceroy wasn’t under all that much pressure anyway because he wasn’t going to be going through this again, he was just getting it ready for Druuna to drink. And while he would hate to perform the ritual wrong and lose an invaluable weapon to a magical chemical mishap there was always a chance that the Viceroy could find another dragon to try this on. That seemed like something of a longshot though and the Viceroy was not feeling like a gambler today. He took his time and double checked all of his measurements and verified the quality of his components. When completed he had no doubts whatsoever that this foul and blasphemous elixir was going to work exactly as planned.

With a couple of days gone by before the Viceroy checked in again on how Druuna was doing the lich already guessed that the powers that be within Fanolania had dispatched some sort of force to deal with the dragon harassing Jivet-au-Marruse. He made contact again unbeknownst to the dragon and took a few minutes to see things literally from her perspective. From what he could tell she was safe and still lurking about her forest. She had not, from what he gathered, attacked the town directly but in testing their defenses had demolished the bridge they had built into her lands across the Marruse River. She seemed to think that whatever reinforcements arrived to bolster the towns defenses would be just that many more victims she could devour when she did unleash her full fury. The Viceroy was pleased with how bloodthirsty the beast was, and how deliciously cunning she came across in her plotting.

With the potion complete the Viceroy checked in with Malindra before he did anything else. He had expected to find her still in a foul mood and wasn’t disappointed by her demeanor. It had only been a few days since the Viceroy had ruined her brief taste of victory and true to her nature Malindra was nursing a grudge. Night Hags would harbor ill will for hundreds of years and she had just gotten started on hating the Viceroy. Even though he had told her explicitly what she was to do next the night hag had made no attempt to follow through on it. All of this was evident from her pout and her slumped over posture in her so-called throne.

“Everything is proceeding according to my design.” Intoned the lich flatly. Standing before the hag he asked, “And have you done your part in asking the troublemakers to come clear out these undead hobgoblins?”

The crone looked at the lich with a scowl. In a mocking sing-song tone she answered, “No I haven’t asked them to come here. That’s stupid. And I don’t know where they are anyway. It is your job to keep track of them. I don’t even want them here.” She resumed her pout and crossed her arms in front of her like a defiant toddler who has just been scolded for taking a cookie.

The Viceroy wasn’t fooled for a second. “The ranger is terrified of you. You can enter his dreams at will and discuss any number of things with him regardless of where he is. Your attempts to delay my goals only sets your timetable back, too. If you want to go home to the Gray Wastes then I suggest you get off your throne and do your part to make it happen.”

The hag’s eyes burned as if the fires of hell itself were ensconced in her skull. She stood up abruptly and screamed at the lich, “YOU AREN’T IN CHARGE HERE! YOU ARE TO DO MY BIDDING! THAT WAS THE DEAL!”

Without missing a beat the Viceroy raised his hand towards her, and in a flash of green light and with the sound of a thunderclap in the room the night hag, her throne, and everything else that wasn’t nailed down flew across the room. There was the distinct sound of one of Malindra’s bone’s breaking when she hit the far wall and she compulsively called out in pain. Her throne and a small table went rocketing out through the windows and the sound of breaking glass pattering down broke up her astonished gasps for air.

Stepping towards her, the lich became wreathed in a green flame. He tapped the floor with his staff with every step he took. His voice was flat and controlled. “You will not defy me, witch. A lesser conjurer killed your sister, turned her minions into ghouls, and destroyed her castle. This pales in the scale of my sorcery. I will rend your flesh from your bones, capture your soul, and cause you to dance in eternal agony for my amusement. You will never return home. You will cry and wait without ceasing. For a thousand ageless eons you will rage and fuss with impotence unmatched. Or you will obey. The deal you had with the Diosian Lodge hinges on your dealing with me. Should you wish to renege on that deal then I will do as I please. If you wish to hold fast to that deal then you will uphold your end of the bargain from here on out.” He stopped a few feet from the night hag and pointed his finger at her. His green fire began to set the fluttering draperies alight and caused the rug to smolder. “Rein in your pride, crone of the wastelands. This is my realm and in it I alone rule supreme. If you wish me to hold my wrath, nod your ugly head.”

Malindra’s fear overrode her anger and weakly she nodded her head. The fierce blow from whatever that spell had been had broken some of her ribs and possibly her ankle. Her pride had taken the worst of the damage. Night hags were unaccustomed to experiencing fear. It was deeply unpleasant.

The lich didn’t wait for the night hag to respond verbally before saying, “Indeed. You see the folly in standing against me. I have work to do. I will return and when I do you will have settled this matter with the ranger and his allies to deal with the undead here. Do not disappoint me again.” With that the Viceroy held up both of his arms and vanished into the ether.

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