Dee entered the large cavernous room with all possible care and stealth she could muster. Something about this place just didn’t seem right. The domed and smooth ceiling hinted that this should be an underground temple of sorts. In the dark even Dee had trouble telling details, but the ceiling seemed to have some kind of painted murals, and great care had gone into its formation. This wasn’t something haphazardly cut into stone.
The walls were adorned with green gemstones that gave magical light. Or at least they had once done so. Now most of them had dimmed, and some had lost their luster completely. The few gemstones that still gave pale light were mostly covered by the dark pillars that dotted the sides of the room, leaving the center in almost complete darkness. Even with Dee’s darkvision, she couldn’t see to the center from the edge of the room.
‘Maybe that’s what’s bothering me so much. With my heritage and the training with Zabaniya, I should be able to see almost perfectly in the dark, yet…’ Dee thought to herself. There was something unnatural about the darkness.
She inched closer ever so slowly, and was finally able to see a figure in ornate vestments performing some sort of ritual over a table at the center of the room. It was hard to tell from the distance in this darkness, but it seemed there was some kind of urn looking container on the table, with faintly glowing magical symbols flowing on its surface. The figure was surrounded by an aura of death, and was hovering over the ground, as no feet were touching the cracked floor.
‘This seems to be the person who summoned the undead at the clearing.’ Dee judged by the aura of death. ‘Seems like a lich of some sort.’ She had never seen a lich before and thus had nothing to compare the figure with; hence it was difficult to clearly identify the figure.
Some beings, like dragons and vampires, were distinctive enough to be easy to identify anyway, but liches were not in that category. The flow of mana and the skeletal frame told a telling story though. This was the downside of her ability to identify races. The next lich she saw would be easy to identify from a distance, now that she had a base of comparison.
Suddenly the figure spoke in a deep and gravelly voice. “It seems we have a little mouse sneaking around.” The figure’s back was facing Dee, but the way the figure’s head rose made it clear Dee had been detected. “Come out little mousey, I can smell you.”
Dee sniffed herself suspiciously. ‘I mean sure, I didn’t get a chance to bathe while I was tracking it down, but I didn’t think I stank. I did clean myself.’ For some reason Dee and her clothes always got clean while she shapeshifted, and she could use holy power to clean herself as well. Many priests and clerics would cry at the wasteful use of purification magic, but Dee even used it to clean her room so why not herself?
The gravelly voice continued. “There’s no use in hiding, as you won’t be able to hide the putrid stench of the living.”
‘Oh.’ Dee couldn’t avoid thinking.
“It’s rather impolite to keep yourself hidden, when you’re the one barging into my sanctuary.” The voice continued, not really even giving time for Dee to respond in any way.
Dee could however feel the lich gathering power, the mana in the surroundings flowing towards the figure. Luckily the dark aura seemed to be connected to the ritual the lich had been performing, and Dee could once again see a little more clearly. She utilized this, by running towards the pillars, hoping to find cover from whatever was being cast.
Suddenly a rain of dark bolts of energy flew in all directions. Dee dived behind the closest pillar just in time, and waited for the bolts to pass. She took the opportunity where the lich was hopefully distracted, to coat one of her throwing knives in psionic energy and threw it at the lich’s back. She wasn’t really expecting to be able to kill the lich with an attack like this, just testing the waters.
However, the result was even more dismal than she thought. She almost forgot to switch positions, as she saw her dagger clatter on the floor several mels short of her target. Luckily she did switch though, as the position she had been in was bathed in dark energy. That’s why the assassins were trained to switch locations after attacking, as a skilled enemy could follow the attack to the source.
Looking more closely, Dee noticed a weird dark halo surrounding the lich’s body. Reading the power in the halo was difficult, as the lich knew to try and hide the exact effect, but Dee saw enough. She wasn’t happy about what she saw either. The halo seemed to dampen the energy of all attacks directed at the lich, and also projected an aura of weakness that would draw away the physical strength of anyone drawing close to the lich. Apparently the closer you got, the stronger the effect.
Normally Dee would be able to use her ability to counter spells to deal with weakening curses like that. This time however, there were two problems. Firstly, she could only counter spells of lower level and lower power than she herself used for the spell purge. This spell was clearly much higher level than her though. Secondly, this seemed to be an aura projected by a magical item. Even if she managed to dispel the magic, the item would just immediately reapply the same effect.
That was one of the strengths of magical items. You’d need to destroy the item to cancel the effect, or the user would have to run out of power. However, one of the worst parts of liches was their copious amount of mana. Even if Dee had not read anything about liches, she could see the amount of mana flowing around the lich, and that didn’t even tell the whole story of how much mana the lich actually possessed. The way it was casually throwing spells around in an attempt to ferret out Dee’s location was also very indicative.
‘Well now, this is a problem.’ Dee thought to herself. She had always been more of a close range fighter than someone who dealt with enemies from long range. She was pretty sure that the aura of weakness would make her physical attacks ineffective, even in her nine-tailed fox form. She wasn’t sure what level he lich was, but it was likely that the level would be higher than hers. Much higher. You don’t wound someone like that with a weakened attack, especially if the aura also cut down on her psionic energy.
‘I guess that leaves holy magic then. The short range negative energy attacks are out, so let’s try something from the positive energy side.’ Now Dee felt a little bad she hadn’t focused as much on the offensive possibilities of using positive energy, but in her defense she didn’t exactly plan a crusade against a bunch of undead. Negative energy spells were much more effective against living targets.
Dee stepped out from behind the pillar and quickly chanted a pair of holy spells to test the waters again. “’Luminous Shards’ ‘Holy Fire’” The two holy spells weren’t exactly complex in their effect. Luminous shards launched several golden projectiles at the target, though it was more effective against multiple targets and wasn’t too high level. This time it was meant to mask the golden flame in the midst of the projectiles. That flame was much more serious as a threat.
The lich gave what looked like a grin, as the glyphs on its ornate vestments glowed and the holy power in Dee’s spells sputtered and died. “You don’t know who I was, do you? I used to be the head-priest of this temple complex. Do you really think I wouldn’t deal with the obvious weakness to holy power that all undead share? Childs play.” With a gesture, hundreds of ice shards suddenly materialized and flew towards Dee who was now clearly visible.
‘Well, fuck me, this really is trouble.’ Dee cursed in her mind as a golden dome of power surrounded her, stopping many of the ice shards, before buckling under the barrage. ‘I really need to have Moirai teach me some way to utilize my power at long range. She’s supposed to be a mix of the mental and power types after all.’ She could try shooting a psionic arrow, but that didn’t seem enough to hurt the lich.
Dee barely made it behind another pillar as the barrage of shards bombarded it close to collapsing. ‘I guess I need to play for time until Moirai gets here. I might have met something that is a very bad match for me.’
“A slippery little mouse, aren’t you?” The lich said, seemingly unconcerned that it had missed again.
“Well you know, we all have our strengths.” Dee replied. “Slight segue, but why did you attack the city anyway? I doubt it was just for funzies.” She asked stalling for time.
“Ah, that. I didn’t really, as I asked someone else to do it for me, although he somewhat bungled it. If you want something done, do it yourself. Although, I suppose he didn’t screw things up completely. Did you know that this area used to be a center of worship back in the day? Some of the communities that destroyed it still reside in the city. That little attack didn’t get them all, but I suppose it did manage to be enough of a distraction to get my pendant back.” The lich murmured almost to itself at the end, clearly not too pleased at the results of the attack.
The pendant belonged to his old body and contained some of his blood. The lich was now in the process of turning the pendant into a phylactery within the magical urn on the table. Once that was finished, the lich would have much easier time mounting an attack on the city and taking proper revenge.
“Sorry to hear that. The attack was kinda half-assed, though I suppose it did draw people inside the city. Not that it helped you much. You do realize that this plan of yours won’t work? There’s no way for you to get enough undead summoned in secret to win against the whole city.” Dee asked, wasting more time.
‘Not to mention surviving today.’ She also added to herself.
The lich coughed a dry laugh, something that sounded eerie and sinister from such a being. “You assume I’m aiming to win. I just want revenge. I don’t have to kill all of you to kill those I want revenge on.”
The lich apparently didn’t want to wait any longer, as suddenly a torrent of huge chunks of ice blew away the pillars around Dee, leaving her exposed. “Found you. Where will you run now?” The lich asked as several dark bolts of energy flew at her.
Dee clicked her tongue dissatisfied, and started stacking every protective holy spell she could manage between herself and the lich. Her amount of holy power might have been nigh endless, but the barriers were breaking faster than she could erect them, every attack getting closer to her. Finally she was forced into using her trump card as she knelt and covered herself with the lavender left angel wing that excelled in defense. Where the black wing was great for offense, the lavender one was great for defense.
The remaining dark bolts impacted on the wing, pushing her back towards the wall. The wing seemed undamaged, but Dee knew there was a limit to how much she could block with it. Especially against someone stronger than herself. Besides, even while kneeling, the wing didn’t cover her completely, and sooner or later the lich would realize that and take advantage.
“Well, well. A demon with the blood of an angel. Isn’t this interesting. Not interesting enough to keep you alive, but I might use your body to create a servant for myself. That sounds like a worthwhile experiment. I always wanted a pet angel, and I suppose you’ll do.” The lich waved his hand and the barrage of attacks only intensified.
Dee knew that simply defending would get her nowhere, but so far her attacks had failed miserably. Perhaps it was time for a distraction and a quick escape instead. The lich knew Dee might try to escape, so it was moving towards the doorway to block her path. Dodging as many of the attacks as she could, Dee pulled several vials from Croestia’s storage. Using her wing as a cover she tossed the vials towards the lich.
The vials never made it all the way, but that was part of the plan. One of them almost splashed the lich as it hit the floor, and an acrid stench wafted out from the spilled fluid. Even as an undead the lich was able to smell the offending liquid. “Are you trying to poison me little mousey? You should know better than that. Maybe something acidic? Either way, your aim is rotten.”
‘That’s because I wasn’t even aiming at you, and the poison was a distraction.’ Dee thought to herself as she dodged another spell. Apparently the lich didn’t know any homing spells. Curious weakness.
Suddenly the lich found itself unable to move forward, as the vestments it was wearing were stuck in the floor. Dee snickered internally at the lich’s confused look, as the superglue she had tossed did its job. Dee hadn’t had much chance to practice her alchemy lately, but the Four Winds did have their own alchemist laboratory, and she did tinker around a bit when she had free time and Mina was busy. She didn’t have any powerful potions or elixirs, but she did stock up on poisons and certain other substances that might become handy. The glue was one of those.
The lich on the other hand was mortified. Its robes were stuck in such a ridiculous way, totally unbefitting its status. It was easy to rip free with the strength the lich possessed, but it didn’t want to ruin the important vestments it was so proud of. Vanity, one of the most basic sins that plagued even the undead. Dee used the small distraction to her advantage. With the help of Umbra’s blessing, she disappeared back into the shadows, completely disappearing from sight.
She also knew better than to head straight for the door, as that would be where the lich would fire all its spells in an attempt to stop her escape. Time to go back to the waiting game. Unsurprisingly, the lich’s embarrassment switched to rage, and a stream of magical attacks flew into the direction of the door, and the space between the door and where Dee had been earlier, proving Dee’s decision to be the correct one.
The lich’s rampage was soon stopped, as a weird fiery portal opened in the middle of the room, near the table lich had stood next to at first. The perfectly circular opening had wild sparks spinning along the outer edge, showing the reality struggling to close the foreign hole in space. Dee smirked as she saw Moirai step through the portal.
‘I knew it! When she talked about a psion capable of using portals, she was talking about herself!’ Dee thought about Moirai’s earlier words about the difference between magic and psionic power. “What took you so long?” She asked in a chipper voice, feeling relieved.
Even Moirai was unable to pinpoint Dee’s exact location while she was using Umbra’s blessing to hide herself. Dee’s voice just sounded from the shadows and didn’t give away her position either. Moirai could detect her mind, but that was only an approximation. That’s one the reasons it took her so long to get here. “I didn’t want to open a portal inside the stone walls. We’re underground if you recall. Your mind isn’t quite what I’d call an exact beacon either.”
Moirai calmly observed the damage caused by the rather one-sided battle. Now that she knew Dee was alive, she was no longer in a hurry. She also noted the lich’s predicament with slight amusement. “Superglue? Really? You couldn’t come up with something more effective?”
“You try fighting a lich above your rank that has an aura capable of dampening your strength and vestments that protect against holy magic!” Dee replied rather sullenly.
“Who told you to rely on such feeble methods?” Moirai asked with amusement, already knowing what the reply would be.
“You didn’t teach me power type abilities yet! That’s going on the training menu as soon as we get out of here!” Dee yelled back, finally appearing right next to Moirai, protecting both of them with her wing.
“Fine, fine. Such a troublesome disciple.” Moirai feigned the suffering master.
It was time to take care of business though. They could joke more later. Besides, this would give her a chance to show off her abilities as a power type psion. Moirai knew she should most likely question the lich, but she’d learned enough from the spider cult acolyte, and frankly didn’t care about the details. Everyone had their motivations and plots, but it would only cause a headache to listen to all of them. Better to just deal with it and move on.
The lich could sense power gathering around the diminutive Meilin, and put up all defenses it could muster. This opponent was clearly much more dangerous than the little angel had been. However, even with the defenses the lich could only yell in surprise as a powerful force slammed it against the nearest wall.
“First lesson idiot disciple. When using power type abilities against mages, the mages always try to put up magical defenses. However, they’re also almost always stupid enough to put those defenses away from their body. That means we don’t have to care. Unlike mages, we can materialize our attacks close to our enemy, assuming they aren’t skilled enough to interfere and most of them aren’t. Materializing your attack inside their shield makes them look stupid.” Moirai lectured, as a visible stream of power flowed from her towards the lich.
While it looked like the lich was nailed to the wall by a powerful stream of wind, the focus point of the attack was within the magical defenses, completely ignoring any opposition. “Next, magical defenses like that are all fine and all, but can be overwhelmed by a superior force. While mages have the upper hand in variety, our strength is that we can put more power into our attacks because we’re not limited to the confines of a spell.”
Suddenly a powerful mass of energy appeared above Moirai’s palm. It started out looking like a ball of lightning larger than Moirai’s head, but it kept shrinking as Moirai added more power, finally ending up slightly bigger than a fingertip.
“Third lesson. While a magical shield that completely surrounds the target like that is useful against attacks from all directions, it’s weak against attacks directed at a single small point.” Moirai emphasized this by throwing the small mass of energy at the lich.
The tiny orb easily shattered the magical shield surrounding the lich. Once it hit the lich, the orb suddenly expanded in a violent maelstrom of energy, annihilating the space within about three mel from the point of impact. Once the energy disappeared, the wall and floor that had been within the radius had completely disappeared as well. There was no sign of the lich either.
“Lesson over. Any questions?” Moirai asked calmly, looking at Dee.
“Yeah, can you teach me the portal thing as well as what you just showed me?” Dee was excited, but also couldn’t help but deflate her master a bit.
Moirai lost some of her vigor and sagged a bit. “Maybe someday in the future. It is by far the most difficult skill I have, and you don’t have the power to utilize it. Maybe once you return to me in the future after your time with the templar. A little carrot to keep you interested.”