|Author: TypeAxiom||Original Source: Scribble Hub|
“It is done.”
“Yes, it is done.”
“Are we all present?”
“Bring up a skeleton and the prisoner.”
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Voices echoed each other, each a brittle whisper, all hisses and clattering of teeth, sounding neither male nor female and at the same time both.
Anyone who heard the voices for the first time would feel a bone-chilling dread before sinking to their knees in worship before the awesome power before them.
The speakers, five in total, stood around an altar in an undescriptive chamber of stone. The only noteworthy aspects of the place was just how crudely the cavern was excavated, with the surface of the walls uneven. The other aspect was just how dense the undead mana within the chamber was.
A series of accumulator formations continuously concentrated undead mana into a single point: above the altar, which itself was more ornate and intricately carved than anything else present.
Reliefs of skulls and cryptic symbols covered the stone of the altar, while several grooves to carry away the blood marred the smooth face.
Indeed, there were dried bloodstains on the ground, evidence of past use of the altar.
Each of the five speakers were dressed differently.
One was cloaked in luxurious flowing black robes trimmed with red and gold, their face hidden by a black hood. The cloak was filled with magical power, having spent so long immersed in the speaker’s mana, becoming near impenetrable to unenchanted weapons yet still moving as smoothly as silk and without wrinkles.
On the other end of the spectrum, the most destitute-looking one of the speakers wore a simple brown cloak, ragged and torn, a little frayed around the edges. However, the mana within the cloak was no less intense compared to the luxurious one. Unlike the first, this figure’s body was exposed, revealing a ghastly white head of bone. An empty skull, with only violet flames burning in its orbits.
Of course, the speakers were not the only people in this dark underground chamber.
The others knelt beneath the altar, arranged in rows and with a line parting their formation down the center to present a clear path from the door to the altar. Seven zombie liches. Fifteen skeleton warriors. Eighteen zombie warriors.
Despite their collective might being more than enough to overwhelm the five skull liches that stood above them, none of them dared to look up as the zombie warrior closest to the entrance stood up and walked out, the metal of its armor clanking as the warrior moved.
A moment later, the zombie warrior returned and the heavy sound of metal boots stomping against the stone ground echoed in the silence.
The armored zombie warrior dragged behind him two figures, one an unresponsive skeleton and the other a bound and gagged human that twisted in the skeleton’s grip. But how could a human escape so easily from a knight-class undead?
Even if the woman’s prisoner’s shift tore, her feet were tied together. Even if she could run, the zombie would be able to overtake her in mere steps.
As she entered the cavern, all the blood drained from the woman’s face as all of a sudden she was faced with the might of several dozen knight-class undead.
“Mmmn! Mmmn!” She tried to scream, her struggling growing as she scraped her flesh off against the rocky ground. However, just as she paid no attention to her pain in her attempts to escape, the zombie warrior paid her actions no mind as it dragged her between the aisles of kneeling under before tossing her at the foot of the altar.
Scattered golden hair, soaked with sweat, stuck to the woman’s face as she looked around her in fear, but all she saw was the unfeeling violet gazes of the liches and the hidden eyes of the warriors. The freezing undead mana all around her chilled her to the core and she couldn’t stop shivering.
However, she wasn’t truly cold. It was all an illusion, and this false coldness will not allow her to faint, forcing her to face the imminent tribulations awake and with full knowledge of each and every thing that will be done to her until everything is over.
Tears streamed from her eyes, merging with her sweat, and her body shook with sobs, but no one spared her a second glance.
In contrast, the skeleton did not move at all. When the zombie warrior tossed it to the ground, it simply stood up like an automaton and then remained still. There was no fear, no emotions.
“Good. Who has the gems?” one of the speakers asked.
“How many do we have this time?” another questioned.
“I believe we have three.”
“One living, two undead.”
A ripple of movement swept through the five skull liches.
“Then we are missing one more. Who volunteers?” one of the skull liches rasped, its gaze sweeping across the kneeling liches and warriors.
For a moment, no one moved. However, many undead had near unlimited patience, so room fell into deathly silence if not for the captured woman’s sobs. Finally, the zombie warrior that had been the one to deliver the offerings raised its head that had been lowered in submission, speaking for the first time.
A woman’s voice sounded behind the helmet, echoing in the metal before finally passing through the slits. It was a mature, gentle voice that clashed with the zombie warrior’s ruthless actions from earlier, shocking the captured woman into silence.
“I present my body to the cause.”
However, the voice surprised no one else. The skull lich that had asked for a volunteer simply nodded. “Then let us begin. First, the skeleton. Who will present the first gem?”
Three undeads stepped forward simultaneously. Three skull liches, three gems.
“As we started from the left the last time we met, let us start from the right. Are there any complaints?”
There was none. At the suggestion, the two skull liches that were on the right stepped back, leaving only the first.
“Well then, I shall begin,” the skull lich said. His words caused the four remaining liches to step back away from the altar, allowing the skull lich to take center stage with the altar to himself. The skull lich, Hildrar, pointed a bony finger at the skeleton.
The zombie knight stepped away from the sobbing woman and grabbed the skeleton by its head before roughly pulling it onto the altar before backing away.
Hildrar nodded. “Excellent.” Reaching into his robes, the skull lich brought forth a black gem that seemed to contain the night sky within its glassy confines.
“For evolution,” he said. Holding the gem up, he formed a quick spell construction and poured undead mana into the gem. When the spell ended, the originally solidly black gem began to swirl.
Using a dagger, he carved out a small hole in the skeleton’s sternum before reinforcing it with magic. After slotting the gem into the hole, Hildrar held the dagger with both hands. Under the discerning gaze of the four other liches, Hildrar plunged the dagger down onto the gem.
Held in place by the indentation in the skeleton’s bone, the gem had nowhere to go. The point of the dagger plunged into the crystal, easily breaking through, shattering the gem. However, instead of flying apart in countless shards, a spiraling dark force kept the gem together. The darkness spread over the skeleton, completely encasing the bone.
Slowly, the skeleton absorbed the mana of the gem. The mana seeped into its bones, making the skeleton swell in size. Its bones became longer, thicker, stronger, even as spines spouted to make it more formidable in combat even when unarmed.
The skull liches watched with bated breath the transformation, however, none of them were impressed. Many previous experiments had managed to get this far. However, none had managed to complete the final stretch. Even if Hildrar failed here, no one present will mock him, for none can do better.
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The equivalent of a zombie lich’s mana was stuffed into the skeleton. The influx of power made it writhe. Slowly, the mana within began to stabilize, making the glowing orbits of the skull liches shine brighter in anticipation.
Finally, the mana stabilized and the skeleton stopped struggling on the altar. It could not be said to be the same skeleton anymore, however. Apart from it having a bony physique both before and now, nothing remained the same.
The previous skeleton had been no more than two meters tall, fitting quite comfortably on top of the altar. However, now its head and legs hung off the ends, standing more than three meters tall.
Its aura had changed completely. Its mana no longer had the pathetic feel of a regular undead, but instead radiated the confidence and oppression of a tyrant.
The skeleton slowly sat up, looking at its hands. It looked calm, emotionless, each movement serene and deliberate. However, that peace did not last long. Its glowing eyes flashed and it spun around, stabbing its sharp claws toward Hildrar’s face.
Instantly, hell itself manifested in the chamber as all thirty-three knight-class undead warriors rose to their feet, drawing their weapons, unsealing the aura that they had been hiding out of respect. Seven zombie liches and four skull liches raised their hands, black mist billowing from their fingers.
The aura of forty-four knight-class undeads filled the room, silencing the sobbing woman as her face turned pale as if she couldn’t breathe. An ordinary human woman like her had no business being in the unrestrained presence of so many undeads and the experience left her barely clinging on to her life, barely conscious.
However, the actions that everyone took was for naught. Hildrar, the only one who didn’t move, raised his hand, indicating the undead to stand down. The oppressive aura disappeared as the gathered undead settled, realizing what had happened.
As the newborn skeleton warrior attacked Hildrar, it began to splinter, shattering into smaller and smaller pieces until it turned to dust, leaving nothing…not even the gem behind.
Hildrar shook his head. “Failure,” he rasped as he turned toward the gathered skull liches, stroding to return to his previous position. One by one, the liches offered their condolences without restraint.
“No need to worry, you’ve gotten further than any of us.”
“You were only a step away from success…”
Except one. The skull lich furthest to the right raised its head. “Why did you destroy the body? We could have restrained it and studied it.”
Hildrar dimmed his eyes as if narrowing them. “I did not destroy it. It is simply a result of my failure. I will provide you with my notes so you can see that I am lying. Are you accusing me of breaking the compact?”
An icy aura rose from within the skull lich’s body, betraying its anger even though its voice did not change tones.
In response, the skull lich that had opposed Hildrar threw back his cloak sleeves, revealing bony hands once more. A triple layered defensive shell enclosed his body.
The temperature of the room seemed to drop as the two skull liches look as if they were about to come to blows any moment, but before fighting could break out, the three remaining skull liches sprang forward, separating the two belligerent liches with their bodies.
“Gulthra! Stop being so confrontational!”
“I’m sure that Gulthra did not question your loyalty!”
The liches’ voices overlapped as they tried to talk Hildrar and Gultra into standing down. It did them no favors to be fighting amongst themselves now.
Slowly, mostly because neither wanted to fight the other three skull liches as well as the chamberful of liches and warriors, Hildrar and Gulthra retracted their mana and defenses, once again hiding their hands in their sleeves.
Despite no longer being at each other’s throats, the two refused to look at each other.
However, with the situation defused for now, every undead in the chamber seemed to collectively breathe a figurative sigh of relief.
For those of you that took a look at the glossary, you finally know who those entries are! I’ll see you guys in on the 14th or 15th after my break.
Fire: What he’s referring to as the glossary~