Wigalf the Gaunt watched as the Dread Master slowly dismounted the illusory pegasus and handed its reigns to a stable hand. The magic disguising the felsteed would hold for several more hours, confusing the servants to be sure. As much as he wanted to find out what it was all for and how it helped them, he knew better than to ask in this moment.
“I have gathered your scions,” he said, approaching his telepathic master needlessly, “as you instructed, my Lord.” Behind Wigalf waited a cadre of Necrarchs drawn from the ranks of Drakenhof’s necromancers in the preceding two years, eight in total, including his rival, Oliver. The Dread Master regarded them all with a sweep of his empty face, instilling them with an inexplicable unease. His mood was as inscrutable as his intentions.
~ Come with us. ~
Us? He and the Master? How many had heard that? Wigalf gave it no further thought as the Dread Master produced a sealed parchment.
This is a list of rituals we require. It is the final task we have for you, Apprentice, for once it is complete, you will take our place as the Dread Master of Liches.
Wigalf’s unbeating heart exulted! If his nerves still worked, his hand would have shook as he took the parchment.
In the moldy corner of a rotten basement of an abandoned warehouse where light hadn’t reached since it was first carved from the ground a century or more ago, a pitiful creature slept fitfully.
Since the night he had met her in that alley and made his promise, since she had gone to her debtor and freed herself, she had drifted in and out of lucidity. Her old johns had tried to find her and take their advantage, but each time they had stopped short, sensing the taint on her and turning away in revulsion. She had convinced herself that she was saved for him, he who would had promised her that he would return.
Then the nightmares had come. Not the nightmares of madness that were her own, for she had been touched by his darkness, but new visions. Visions of new things.
Prepare a place for me. I am coming soon.
Her listless existence had taken on a new purpose. She still clutched the pouch of gold he’d given her. It kept her fed and clothed, despite her low status. Now it had purchased her this place, this hole, this dank and wretched place that was so perfect for her and only her, where she would meet him and her purpose be fulfilled.
Emile picked herself up from the dirt floor and struck a candle. Then she set herself to preparing.
Closing the tome and running his deformed hand over its cover, Wigalf then clenched his other hand into a triumphant fist and motioned for a nearby skeleton to carry the stack of books. The pair began the long, labyrinthine journey back up from the vaults to the Dread Master’s auxiliary quarters in Drakenhof.
Hours later, they arrived. The Dread Master was just as he’d left …them?…him?
“One of the rituals has eluded me, my Lord. I beg your forgiveness,” better to beg humility, he reasoned, lest the task be given to Oliver instead. He could imagine no worse a fate at this critical juncture.
The Dread Master rose from where he/they studied the Grimoire Necronium and opened a drawer across the room with a cantrip.
Bring our seal and a note from there. We grant you access to the Black Library. Find that ritual. Time is short.
Wigalf’s vision swam as his body willed itself toward the drawer. His imagination and curiosity overwhelmed him. He dared at last to question his Lord,
“What…if I may, my Lord….what will become of you when this is complete?”
A pregnant pause. The Dread Master fixed him in place with his eyeless face.
We will at last become who we are.
Wigalf could stand it no longer, these enigmatic and evasive answers, “And…who might that…be?”
The Dread Master turned back to the Grimoire and spoke, actually spoke, aloud,