The Gopher King: Chapter 32

Malindra’s excitement grew as she descended the final flight of gently curving stairs. “There it is!” she cackled as she pointed to a set of huge iron double doors. “Behind there are the larvae!” The night hag fairly sprinted for the doors. Her monstrous hands worked with amazing speed and soon the latches and locks were undone, and she swung the doors open.

The resulting stench was almost too much for the night hag and she coughed so hard the Viceroy thought she might very well hack up whatever she had that passed for lungs. The lich was unfazed by the odor and continued through the doors. In the darkness of the room beyond the Viceroy could detect a squirming mass of foul profanity such as should never see the light of day in this or any other realm of existence. The bobbling green light floated in and in its glow the lich could see perfectly the wretched larvae squirming about in a fetid, writhing mass. The Viceroy laughed a low and sinister laugh as he held forth his staff. The bobbling green light got brighter, and the larvae squealed and hissed against the intrusion.

“First things first.” Said the Viceroy as his laughter began to die down. “Let’s separate out the Diosian share of these damnable things.”

Malindra was still gagging in the stench but she managed to stagger into the doorway to take stock of the scene. The room was vast but still too small for the larvae to be in comfortably. She waved her hand impatiently. “I’ll lead them into another room down the hall and you hold back every tenth one along the way.” She coughed again and kept waving her hand. “They are docile like cattle. Just push them where you want them.”

The night hag managed to stop coughing long enough to let out a horrible high-pitched whistle. The larvae squealed again and began making their way towards Malindra. Like some sort of demented pied piper the night hag kept whistling and the larvae squirmed out of the doorway and down the hall. The Viceroy counted off nine and pushed the tenth one into another room in the hallway. The larva squealed and expressed its displeasure at being thusly handled but nevertheless acquiesced and remained where the lich had placed it. The larva nuzzled about the walls of its new room with a sort of contended pig snort. The lich continued counting and pushed every tenth larva into the room. They bumbled about in there making all manner of obscene sounds which the lich did his best to ignore. The counting continued.

It took longer than the Viceroy anticipated but he kept pushing the larvae into the room as they wormed their way past him. This was a smaller room but then it only needed to hold a tenth of the larvae that had been in the main room. His count was unerring and by the end of it he managed to segregate out nine hundred and twelve of the larva, plus an additional twenty that Malindra had promised him for helping her keep track of the troublemakers when they went to Fanolania and another one hundred for razing the royal palace of the Fanolanian king, and another one hundred in payment for using his magic to access this dungeon and reunite Malindra with her larvae. The rest had followed Malindra’s horrid whistling as she led them into a room roughly the same dimensions as the original room they had been in. The Viceroy cast a spell and the wall formed a solid surface across the doorway, sealing in the Diosian Lodge’s portion of the larvae until such a time as the Viceroy decided to release them.

Having secured the larvae designated for the Diosian Lodge liches the Viceroy headed down the hall to where Malindra was wrangling her own squirming treasures. The lich took stock of the situation and asked, “Are you ready to go, Malindra?”

The night hag was busily running her hands over the disgusting creatures that were crowding all around her. “Yes, I am ready.” She straightened up and looked at the Viceroy. “What do you need from me?”

The lich pushed his way through the larvae to stand in front of Malindra. He held out his hand and said, “Take my hand. Concentrate on your destination. Do not let any other thoughts crowd your mind. If you fail to remain focused properly I could end up gating you into a wall someplace in the great beyond.”

The night hag closed her eyes and conjured up images in her mind of her home. It had been over a century so there might have been changes so she tried to picture instead the area outside of where she had lived. It was as the name suggested a massive gray wasteland. Not terribly difficult to imagine, really. But she kept her focus. She whispered to the lich, “Ok, I’ve got it.”

Muttering an incantation the Viceroy began to open the long-awaited gate to the Gray Wastes. It was all up to the night hag’s memory and focus at this point. Wherever the gate went depended wholly on her ability to concentrate. The gate opened in the wall on the other side of the room, a spinning dark green vortex. The lich released the night hag’s hand and gestured to the gate. “Go. May we not meet again for quite some time.” The lich chuckled and stepped back a few paces.

The night hag hesitated. Looking at the Viceroy she asked, “How do I know this goes where you say it goes?”

The lich waved his hand and the vortex began to shimmer like a pond’s reflection of the landscape around it. It showed a blasted hellscape of nothingness surrounding a large, ugly black citadel.

Malindra gasped and practically squealed in delight. “It is my home!” Clapping her evil clawed hands together she looked at her larvae. She clicked her tongue at the squirming mass of unspeakable horror. “I see you counted out the additional larvae I had agreed to pay you.”

“Of course I did.” Replied the lich in his deadpan, emotionless voice. “Do you trust me to push them all through from this side?”

The night hag cackled. “No. I’ll keep one foot on either side, thank you very much.” With that she stepped one foot into the gate and looked down to see it shimmering on the other side. With another whistle the larvae squealed and hustled to get through the vortex as she stood to one side and motioned for them to go through. The Viceroy whacked the dwindling number of larvae on the backside with his staff to encourage them to get a move on. The thought crossed his mind to simply push the crone through and shut the gate now to keep the majority of them to himself, but he didn’t. There was no need. He had ample opportunities on the horizon to take more than his fair share of the spoils. He kept prodding the larvae until the last one made its way through the vortex.

Malindra smiled cruelly at the lich and said, “I’ll not forget the trouble you put me through, Viceroy. But I feel my debts have been paid. Would that I could linger in spirit to watch you complete your schemes for I sense that you have many, and much pain and vengeance to deal out before you are through.”

The lich only bowed his head slightly, and Malindra stepped through the portal to her beloved Gray Wastes. With a satisfied chuckle the Viceroy closed the gate and stood alone in the now empty room with the bobbling green light.

This was his home now. He had a considerable amount of work to do to get it in shape. Nobody would ever find him here, and even if they did they would run into some truly wonderful obstacles. He had the larvae secured and a bounty of treasure that he could sort out later. There was only one task to complete now. With thoughtful and deliberate care he began to use magic to carve horrible and powerful sigils into the walls of his new abode. The incantations were long and required careful attention to detail as he began to ward his newly acquired lair against scrying and other forms of divination. It would be as if he had ceased to exist altogether and no amount of searching would reveal his whereabouts. Even if you knew, or could remember, his true name. The Viceroy worked diligently to perfect his defenses. There would be time enough for a satisfied chuckle later on.

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