|Author: TrashyHuman||Original Source: Scribble Hub|
Charak Desert: Underground Labyrinth
People will instinctively fear the dark. They will look at the vague silhouettes of all the things that would seem normal in the day and they’ll see the outlines of the things that would make them feel insecure. The creases on the fabric will become crawling spiders the size of a human head, the lamp by the wall will turn into a withering hunched figure that would stare right into the soul, there will seem to be something looking at you silently right behind the corner, observing, waiting and plotting.
Even the silence will become oppressive. You will be afraid of your own breath and heartbeat. You’ll start looking behind your shoulder because you will feel that there was someone breathing right behind your ear. Unfamiliar and unwelcome presences will begin to torment your mind.
But you will know that none of it is real. Of course, how could those things be real? They’re just figments of your imagination… right?
Not always. The person, no, the thing that was sitting on a chair roughly carved out of a huge block of stone in the underground labyrinth was most certainly real.
It was four meters tall and humanoid in shape. The sharp metallic glint that was reflecting the flashes of the dim torches off of its body had a dull quality to it as if its body was coated in wax. It had the form of a giant human skeleton and it sat completely without any movement, so the only thing preventing it from being mistaken for a bizarre metal statue was the ominous soulfire burning brightly in its eye-sockets. It was burning furiously with a repulsive green color and any unfortunate ordinary observer would have the urge to vomit when looking into it. They would feel as if their soul dragged into a deep swamp of disgusting sludge, becoming filthy and disgusting in the process.
Yes, the thing sitting on the former block of stone was a legendary being, an Archlich.
Despite the common misunderstanding about the origin of Archliches, they weren’t created with the power of necromancy. Usually, a really powerful magician that would try to pursue the secrets of eternal life would make a very poor judgment and that mistake would lead the essence of their very being, what made them who or what they used to be to disharmonize. All that would be left would be a twisted parody of what they once used to be.
They would obtain immortality, yes. Their spirits would be strong enough to withstand the endless passage of time without withering and decaying. The same can’t be said for their physical bodies to which the spirits would be attached in a way that even death would not be able to separate them.
They would have to endure living as nothing more than moving corpses, feeling their insides slowly turn into dust until only bones are left. Every single second of their existence would be filled with agony and madness and no amount of regrets would bring them salvation.
This particular Archlich once used to be an outstanding Archmage. Thousands of years ago there would be no one in the world who didn’t know the Archmage’s name on the planet. Now, not even the Archlich remembers what it used to be and how it became what it became.
Now it eternally drifts between fits of madness, agony, slumber and very rare moments of rationality. Sometimes it wonders whether eternal life was worth all of the pain it has experienced. Its past sins continue to press heavily onto it in the brief flashes of clarity until they get swallowed up in the currents of pain. The kind that only the spirit can experience. The once glorious Archmage now reduced to a cursed creation, it is its fate to bear its pain until the day that the universe itself dies, until time itself stops flowing and until the strings of fate will unbind it.
Or it was how it should’ve been.
It was morning. The Sun was crawling over the horizon. The Archlich was slumbering, its mind free of its torment during the precious times of slumber. And then the skies changed. They began to glow in many colors: green, blue, violet, pink and yellow, the colors curving and bending, filling up the view with shadows and waves with ever-changing intensity
Mad cackling was heard within kilometres around and a slim shape sitting of a floating broom revealed itself.
It was a woman with dark-red hair and fair features. Her eyes were equally red and her gaze held power. She didn’t seem very young but somehow she lacked maturity in the way she bore herself and her appearance made it hard to tell her age. Her dress was very simple: A black cape with a long collar, a black pointy hat, a black long-sleeved shirt, a black skirt with its length reaching to below her knees, a wide belt tied around her waist and long black shoes.
She looked at the ground and, despite her serious expression on the face, she continued to laugh uncontrollably.
“Found you! Come out, Archlich!”
She yelled overbearingly and waved her hand. As if under command, the many tons of sand and hard rock levitated up and flew with incredible speed away, revealing the maze underneath. The skeleton was sitting there, green sickening fire lighting up in its eye-sockets.
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“Oh my, I seem to be very lucky this time! Not just a single finger bone, with a specimen like you, maybe the entire wrist will be compatible!”
The skeleton roared, enraged. The world seemingly shifted, the sound wave alone created a storm that forced the broom on which the visitor sat to steer away like a kite.
“Ahahaha! Aren’t you quite energetic for a moving corpse?”
The woman in the air grabbed her hat with one hand and pointed the other in the general direction where the skeleton was in. She pointed at the air several times while speaking.
“You, you aaaaand you! Strike him with lightning”
If a magician observed the battle they would see countless invisible soldiers on both sides: lesser spirits. Lesser spirits possess no will or intelligence of their own, so they are usually used by mages to cast magic. And a shocking sight would greet the observer for both sides had uncountable legions formed into tidy lines, both armies extending to beyond the horizon.
When the woman made her command countless spirits moved, sacrificing themselves to make catastrophic bolts of lightning.
When they struck down they caused the world to lose colors and all was separated into blinding white and pitch black.
Each strike caused craters to appear on the sturdy rocky terrain and many rocks were flying into all possible directions in the aftermath. The air was filled with the scent of ozone.
Among the rubble, the Archlich stood unscattered but it was evident that it was filled with rage.
It roared again and shook its limbs wildly like a rabid animal. The spirits too went into frenzy, causing a rain of fire that could melt steel instantly to fall from the skies.
It jumped and roared again, getting only more irritated. The spirits charged at the one that disturbed its slumber and collided with the other’s troops. Both sides began annihilating each other, creating a massive canyon running deep into the ground, separating the wide desert in two. It was enraged, so were the forces of magic under its command: vortexes of lightning appeared all over the place and earthen spikes as tall as mountains littered the desert.
The woman that had invaded its domain wasn’t idle either: her spirits began running all over the battlefield, casting dozens of spells per second under her command. Her will reshaped the ruined landscape into a cage where the Archlich was trapped. They methodically destroyed its spirits while dying in the end. The entire battle was the picture of pure chaos.
After the clouds of dust settled with a wave of the sorceress’ hands, the skeleton was trapped in a circular formation with many complex shapes drawn on it masterfully. It was humming with energy while the Archlich was only getting madder.
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It jumped around the encirclement, hit its heavy arms against the ground and roared and stomped to no avail. Just as its rage was beginning to reach a boiling point, it stopped in its tracks, the soulfire in its eyes no longer violent and full of primitive wrath.
It stood still and calmly looked around. Then it pointed its gaze at the guest in front of it.
The woman faced its gaze with no traces of her own madness present.
“My, my, you are full of surprises, aren’t you, mr Skeleton?”
“I wonder what you will do now, that you are no longer… as wild as before?”
“Will you defend yourself? Or will you accept your death?”
“I’m sure you have been dreeaaming of liberation, haven’t you, mr Skeleton?”
“So, how about it? Will you let me do as I please, or will you try to preserve your miserable existence?”
“…I shall choose… freedom”
Its voice was inhuman as if it was imitating the way the other party communicated. Its bones didn’t move but its words reached every place in the desert as if the Archlich was saying it right in front of it.
“…I wish for pain… no longer. Liberation…”
“Liberation it is, then”
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The woman snapped her fingers and the circle beneath the skeleton’s feet lit up. Its soulfire began to fluctuate and it began to scream in pain, while clawing at its own skull. After about an hour, its torture ended.
“Liberation, it is”
The woman now landed on the circle and skipped towards the unmoving remains.
“Liberation, it is. Death, it is. What a fool”
She looked at its left wrist and held it in her palms tenderly. Her red eyes had both gentleness and madness shining brightly in them.
She tore the wrist off with a quick burst of force, forcing the skeleton to fall over. Hanging the wrist on her belt, she stood on her broom and flew up into the skies, leaving the sight of destruction behind her.