The Power of Insults

April 21, 2009

The lich unleashed a ray of raw black power, hurling Mikal the Avenging Paladin to the side. Another ray lashed out at Jacob, and the bard quickly sung a rhythm of speed to give himself the chance to dive away from the blast.

Shaping sound into magic and magic into sound, he hurled his own spell as he staggered back to his feet – a rolling wave of thunder that shook the room around them. The lich simply raised his staff, and the power washed over it without effect, but that wasn’t Jacob’s real target – instead, he gave a sigh of relief as his magic dissipated the fiendish spirit that the lich had summoned at the start of combat.

Amarytha was dead by that spirit’s touch – the lich had known her for a cleric, sensed her divine power, and focused all its might against her to bring her down first. The Darkspeaker had fallen next – for all his dealings with fell powers, the warlock hadn’t been prepared for whatever spell the lich hurled against his mind, and now cowered upon the floor, screaming into the stone.

And now Jacob was all that was left standing – and he had no last minute saves left when the undead wizard spoke words of black magic, and the bard felt the air around him crackle with entropic magic, covering his armor with rust and turning his flesh white and withered. He fought off the worst of it, but still barely remained standing after the attack – and with the greater part of his power expended, he had nothing left to do… save to laugh.

The lich paused. It spoke, its voice a jagged whisper, like the sound of bones shattering into dust. “You find your death amusing, hero?” It gestured at him with a skeletal hand, and a ray of pure shadow struck his arm, and he felt his side grow numb.

But his laughter continued. “I laugh at the irony of it all. At the joke at the heart of our battle – even if we die here today, it is you who has already lost!”

Another blast of shadow made him wobble on his feet, and the lich stepped closer. “Your broken corpses will tell a different tale, bard.

He stumbled to the side, leaning heavily upon the wall behind him as he staggered away from his foe. “What will they say – that we lost to Kargat the Damned – the Lich King, the Blight of Ages, the Dragon Slayer? Such a tale could not be told – or if it was, it would be a lie, for Kargat is not here!”

The lich pinned him in a corner, jabbing its staff against his chest and unleashing another wave of entropic power – drawing forth bitter groans amidst the laughter, but not causing it to stop. “Kargat stands before you, mortal! Kargat claims your life!

“Kargat died two hundred years ago!” Jacob screamed, staring deep into the lifeless eyes of the lich. “You are a withered skeleton with a handful of magic, and nothing more! Hiding in the dark of the world, clutching at the memories of a life no longer yours!”

The lich gave its own cry of rage, dropping its staff and seizing Jacob in both hands, hurling the bard up against the rough stone of the tomb’s walls. “I have been blessed with undeath, fool! My power is eternal now! My magic greater than it ever was! And if death is what it takes to end your laughter, death you shall have!

Even as the icy touch drained his life, Jacob kept the lich’s gaze even with his own, kept a mocking grin upon him. Even as the lich’s bony hands clutched tight about his throat, he continued his tirade, “You… you forgot…”

I have forgotten nothing! Every scrap of magic I’ve learned, in undeath or in life, is mine to command! Every pact, every tale of lore, every dread secret – mine, all mine!

Jacob, grinning, croaked out the rest of his words. “You… forgot… about… the paladin.”

Mikal’s warhammer came down in a single crushing blow upon the lich’s skull, filled with pure divine power that sent radiant light blasting through its skeletal frame, vaporizing its bones and chasing away its screams to whatever dark place the lich’s spirit chose to flee. Jacob dropped to the ground, no longer held aloft by an undead grip – but his companion’s powerful arms quickly helped the bard back to his feet.

Staring down at the ash that was left of their foe, Jacob couldn’t resist one last quip. “You were right after all – it was an amusing death I was laughing at, Kargat. It just wasn’t mine…”