Lord Claus Reichart wasn’t accustomed to feeling this anxious. He was a tall man with a distinctly military bearing about him that gave away the fact he had once been a proud officer in the ranks of the Fallen Knights of Lotharingia. Now he was their ambassador to the court of the Archduke of Maelonbourg and the Wenigzustand. The Lotharingians only ever referred to this man as the Archduke of Maelonbourg, though. Lotharingia had always been of the mindset that it was they that controlled the little states of central Partum. No other noble from any of these tiny realms, however well-connected they might be, would be welcomed if they assumed to claim anything that the Fallen Knights considered to be their own. Being selected to represent the four lodges of the Lotharingian knights was not the honor it might seem. The lodges constantly competed against each other as they jockeyed for the best position when the annual military expeditions began. Trying to present a good face on the actions of the knights wasn’t an easy task and there weren’t a lot of volunteers to try and do the job. Lord Reichart had simply been smart enough to accept the role, but that was before the arrival of the Green King and the anxiety all of that brought with it.
Dealing with a lich wasn’t anything like dealing with even the most irrational and temperamental general or marshal. The Green King had taken control over Lotharingia by using the growing Fourth Imperium’s influence in southern Partum to his advantage. He had recently gone so far as to force the four lodges to swear allegiance to a Grand Marshal in the form of Lord Verrat, a mysterious monster of a man that seemed to be blindly loyal to the Green King whatever the cost. Lotharingia was now raising up the biggest army it had ever fielded to serve whatever cause the Green King had in mind. Lord Reichart was particularly appalled by the lich’s use of undead to bolster these forces to ever greater strength. While the Fallen Knights had never been shy of using undead if it suited their purposes, they had never done so on this scale because no individual necromancer could control such numbers of animated corpses and bend them to their will. But the Green King had no difficulties in this endeavor, and every day hundreds more of recently animated undead warriors staggered forth from tombs, graves, and reopened pits to line up in eerie perfect ranks. It wasn’t just here in Lotharingia, either. Condamner and Forêt Verte had already fallen under the complete control of the Green King, and Sachsen had signed up voluntarily to the Green King’s cause to avoid becoming a victim in the war that was bound to follow. Escaut had been absorbed completely just by the lich’s curses, and Söldnerland had been bullied into submission because there was no force capable of strengthening them. Lotharingia had never been a part of such a powerful coalition. This meant Lord Reichart spoke for many more than just his own land. Lord Reichart was speaking for the Green King.
This didn’t sit well with the ambassador at all. Now he walked the corridors of the great hall of the Cursed Iron Lodge in Dusselburg, their heavily fortified base of operations, and he tried to think of the best way to deliver his message to the Green King. The lich was a terrifying entity at the best of times and Lord Reichart didn’t relish delivering unpleasant news to the undead wizard. The Archduke of Maelonbourg was a ranger by the name of Xan, and it was common knowledge among the leaders of Lotharingia that Xan had once been one of the Green King’s most important minions. But this minion had a mind of his own and a number of clever friends and allies that figured a way to sever the Green King’s hold over Xan and allow him to begin actively fighting against the lich. Attempts to coerce the Archduke into joining the Green King anew or at the least allow the forces of Lotharingia to cross Maelonbourg’s territory to fight Fanolania to the west had not gone according to plan. If anything these methods could be considered to have backfired as it seems to have made the Archduke and his allies all the more determined to destroy the Green King once and for all. There was nothing but unpleasantness all around Lord Reichart. Deliver one threat after another, back and forth. He welcomed the possibility of war just so it would get him released from this endless futility of action.
It was here in this great hall that the Green King had decided to set up his own court whenever he was in Lotharingia. There was always at least one general on hand from each of the four lodges as well as an honor guard. There were no ambassadors to the court of the Green King, although the night hag Garstynnia was frequently here whenever the lich was present. Lord Reichart found the lich in the main reception hall, pacing as was his custom. Garstynnia was not here, though, and Lord Reichart found this to be somewhat reassuring. Upon seeing his ambassador in the doorway, the Green King waved his hand to dismiss the generals present and they took their leave gladly. As Lord Reichart entered the room he took a deep breath. The huge doors closed behind him as if shut by unseen forces.
Alone together the lich’s voice seemed louder than it needed to be even when he spoke in a calm and normal tone. As normal as could be expected for such a monster, at any rate. “What spin would you put on your message, Ambassador Reichart?” the Green King intoned hollowly as the pinpoints of green light in the eye sockets of his skull flickered spookily.
Lord Reichart stopped and stood attentively as he addressed the lich. “The Archduke was unpersuaded by your latest attempt to coax his cooperation.” The ambassador’s voice was straightforward and as emotionless as he could muster. “I do not believe that Maelonbourg will attack Lotharingia, but nor are they going to be easily rolled over.”
The lich stared at the ambassador for a moment before saying rather flatly, “At least this time he didn’t lop off your head and toss it on the bridge for us to find.” The Green King had no body language to bely his intent as to whether this was a jest or not. Lord Reichart was unsettled by the comment.
The ambassador almost subconsciously rubbed his neck with his hand and said softly, “A rather specific sort of observation to make, sir.”
“And yet it is one that has crossed your own mind, hasn’t it?” asked the Green King as he stepped a few paces closer to Lord Reichart. “You felt it in Maelonbourg. You vaguely recall being attacked, don’t you? Yet here you stand.”
The ambassador felt himself getting feverish and he wiped his brow with a kerchief. “I cannot explain this sensation, my lord.” he said weakly.
The Viceroy stepped even closer until he was within range to reach out and touch the ambassador if he so wished. “I can explain it.” his voice was a whispering hiss as he spoke. “Something turned back time and reset us all from the course that had been set by my trap. He didn’t kill you this time. But he did kill you before. And something powerful didn’t want that as an outcome.”
Lord Reichart looked into the twinkling green lights in the lich’s eye sockets. “What does it mean?” he asked incredulously.
The lich continued staring at Lord Reichart as though he were trying to bore into the man’s soul by way of his nervous eyes. “I’ll tell you what it means, Lord Reichart. It means that your master, and your master’s master, has an enemy more powerful than the whole of us combined. Even I cannot twist time to suit my own desires the way this was done. Not even the ascending god has that ability. Something or someone with nearly divine strength has sided with that accursed woodsman.” the lich seemed to teeter somewhat before steadying himself and adding, “Which means you are of no further use to me.” The Green King’s right hand snapped out before him and with one stroke the lich’s bony claw-like fingers tore out Lord Reichart’s throat and the ambassador staggered backward and fell onto the ornate marble floor of the room. Blood pooled in a great circle around the dying man as the lich said almost off-handedly, “Not alive, anyway.”