The Ash King was in a foul mood. Despite being in a foul mood most all of the time there were indeed shades of terrible that could be gleaned from his attitude. His current state was as vexing as any had ever beheld and to say it was cause for alarm was a gross understatement. His was not the mood of a monster that feared his own power was weakening. Oh no it was much worse than that. His was the mood of a monster that feared somebody else’s power was growing stronger.
He sat alone in the council chamber of the Grand Hall of the Damned. He had only minutes earlier alerted his Diosian Lodge peers that he was convening them in an emergency meeting. One by one the assembly arrived via their teleportation spells and took their place around the great circular table with the gaping pit in the middle of it. The growing clamor of their thoughts made the Ash King even moodier.
When all had arrived the Ash King used his mental telepathy and told his brethren, “Silence! Cease your mental gibberish! We have upon us a crisis in the making.”
The other liches silenced their thoughts and turned their attentions fully on the Ash King. Having thusly secured their focus the Ash King continued. “You will doubtlessly notice that the pit before us remains empty. The Viceroy has failed to return and bring us the larvae that was due us in payment for our services to the night hag Malindra. I have scoured the continent for any trace of her essence, and it would seem that she did indeed return to the Gray Wastes. But our payment has still not been rendered!”
He held up his hands to prevent any of the other liches from interrupting him as he continued his mental discourse. “Nor have I been able to locate the Viceroy, that inept fool of a go-for that has proven once again his unfitness for the simple tasks given to him. I can vaguely divine traces of his magic in someplace called Forêt Verte and my scrying leads me to believe it is a heavily forested place where mortals fear to tread. Yet I cannot fix my thoughts upon the Viceroy for he seems to have been swallowed up in obscurity.”
This was too much for the Witch Queen who mentally blurted out, “And good riddance to him! He was a thorn in our side and his damnation is long overdue!”
The Ash King stood suddenly and with a wrathful tone he broke mental communication and bellowed in his deep, echoing voice, “FOOLISH COW! DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND HE HAS OUR LARVAE!” His bony fist slammed into the table in front of him hard enough to cause a faint crack to appear in the solid stone surface. He looked at all of the liches and in fury yelled, “He has power enough now to bring us all to ruin in an instant! He knows where we all are, our secrets, our hidden hideaways and long forgotten weaknesses!” Shaking his bony fists in the air he bellowed, “AND WE CAN’T EVEN FIND THE MISERABLE BASTARD! WE HAVE NO WAY OF KNOWING WHAT HE IS UP TO!”
Slamming his hands down on the table again he looked at each lich and said angrily, “You make it your every waking task from here on out to find that worm! Leave no trick out and utilize every spell in your library! We must find him!”
The liches sat in stunned silence and the Ash King sat back down. In a low, barely audible voice he muttered the words that delivered terror into the hearts of these immortal and unnatural monsters; “Or need I remind you that he knows where all of our phylacteries are stashed?”
The Diosian Lodge sat in dreadful eerie silence as each considered the ramifications. Even if they moved their phylacteries to another location the Viceroy knew precisely what they looked like and could describe them to others in vivid detail. Others that might be able to strike at the liches from unknown directions. The Viceroy may yet be able to turn their own minions against them and they had no earthly notion where he was or what he was plotting. But they knew he had an enormous amount of larvae and all of the evil power that they contained were his for the taking. Far from being the addle-minded buffoon the other liches had taken him for the Viceroy may very well be proving himself to be the most dangerous among them. No amount of disdain, even now being second-guessed, could drive the thoughts from the liches’ minds that the Viceroy had spent centuries learning their methods while they had never given his so much as a second thought. Something was happening to the Diosian Lodge. They began to greet a new companion, each in their own way. From here forward they would exist in a state utterly alien to them. Fear would be their constant companion. Fear of what the Gopher King might do next.