Collab Post by @Sophrus and Jojo
Arlo and Grave Lord Mortan
Arlo laughed politely at the dwarfs response, of course he wouldn't discuss it with a human but it was worth a shot anyways. He saw the old man off as he went into the tavern, waving goodbye to the man and promising that he would still honor that drink anyway.
Alone again, Arlo ran through the events of the last few minutes in his head. A shadow sprite attack before nightfall... a few weeks ago Arlo doubted shadow sprites were even capable of an outright attack and now they were becoming a real threat. That elf woman, by the looks of her and the gear she was carrying he guessed she was just a hunter on her way home, but he had a feeling there was more to her than met the eye. The knight who talked in riddles and looked like a riddle himself, he brought a warning of something worse to come but Arlo had yet to decide if it held any real meaning to it or if he was just a spirit that was bored to madness. And the dwarf, of course, with his machinations. Worst of all, a leveret. Not that he wasn’t fond of his own people, but they rarely left their home of Moonfall out of distrust of the men on the surface. Arlo didn’t expect to be seen by one, and might have just been discovered. They were all oddities in an exceedingly odd time in the capital city. And now that he thought about it, he didn't catch any of their names. No matter, he had plenty of time tomorrow to learn their names in the daylight, for now he had to move on if he was to do what he was here for.
He was close to the gate of the city walls, so tonight he decided to comb the south side of the city and work his way up road by road until he reached the castle. While he would admit to himself it wasn't exactly an efficient search method it was the best he could do alone. Along the path of his patrol he passed by a guard post, well lit and manned by two soldiers who glared at him as he passed.
"Filthy mage. You claim to be helping us, but how are we to know you are not behind the attacks yourself?"
"If I were the sort to attack a city, why would you lot still be standing?" Arlo retorted, not slowing his pace.
"Ye can't scam a king if you kill his subjects. I bet you summoned these creatures so you could "save" us with your fancy spells and collect a reward."
Arlo did not respond to the further accusations of the men, as to not escalate the confrontation. The hatred for magic ran deep in this place, but the reasons were not made clear to him. He knew that the capital city was a rare case for not having a mage of some kind working for the government, most places had a magical adviser of some sort even if it's citizens were typically non-mages. Something happened here that he was not being told.
Counting sprites became kind of like counting sheep as he went along, each of them scurried away from him when they saw the daylight spell approaching. 1...2...3... it became a little harder to stay awake as the night went on. To them, he imagined, it must look like the sun was rising and gave them quite a scare. 4...5...10...20...30...
Wait, something wasn't right. There were so many here. He had moved so far along his route that he was closer to the castle now, and it was an unlit and mostly unused portion of the city. The street was ruins, not wartime ancient, but not recent either. It's houses were reduced to rubble and splintered wood, it's road was overgrown, everything looked like it hadn't been touched in decades. Whatever happened here, the people of the capital were far to scared to go here and reclaim it. In fact Arlo didn't even remember seeing it before tonight and considered that perhaps the other buildings and walls of the capital were made precisely to hide this way.
If Arlo dropped his spell for even a moment here, it would likely result in his certain demise. But he pressed on, eager to see if the increased activity here was merely circumstantial to the low light and low population or if what he was looking for was here all along. It was hard to see the sprites move about outside of his circle of protective lighting, but he had a trick for that.
As he focused his thoughts and cast another spell, careful not to dispel his daylight. His skull headpiece sparked a glowing blue light from it's eye sockets, and he pulled it further down over his face so that he could see through them. Through the glow of this spell he could visibly see the mana stored in the bodies of each sprite, allowing him to see their shapes even in total darkness as long as they were within line of sight. The only downside to the spell was that it made seeing his physical surroundings more difficult, but he would navigate by way of sprite alone.
They behaved erratically, twitching and scratching and even sometimes attacking one another. Something was agitating them, now he was sure of it. It was close, and moving towards the highest count of sprites was pushing him closer and closer until he finally saw it. A massive pile of sprites all crawling over each other in a single spot. The sight of it put him in awe, he had never seen so many in one place before. An anti-social creature all forming a supercolony? Not possible. The solution to the crisis was in the center of the mass. He dispelled the manasight and looked at the squirming black mass.
Arlo might have performed the same flash spell he used to save the woman from before, but he couldn’t without risking the loss of his daylight spell and the subsequent wave of surviving sprites. Instead he slowly moved toward the mass, and one by one the sprites instinctually moved away from the object and away from his light. After a long process of slowly advancing on the mass, left at the center was a silver necklace.
“All of that, and this is what caused it?” he asked himself, before reaching down and grabbing the strange jewelry by it’s pennant.
The moment Arlo touched the tarnished face of the object something snapped, or stretched, he wasn't sure as the sensation was entirely unique. He found himself in a dark stone room lit only by a few torches and a brazier. As he regained his bearings he noticed a robed figure sitting at a half rotten desk with its back to him. He held up his hand to greet the person when he noticed that his had was ghostly and translucent, he hadn't made a sound and had only briefly thought of speaking when he heard the soft thump of a tome closing.
The figure rose and turned towards Arlo, as the hood was revealed by light Arlo could see the face of the creature. It was like a dried mummy with points of light sunken into its empty eye sockets. The creature searched the room and Arlo was sure that the corpse's gaze passed over him without being noticed and a sense of relief washed over him. Just then the corpse's eyes locked onto where Arlo was."What is it?"
wheezed the corpse angling his head a fraction "Is it a lost soul?"
He clenched his fist and tendrils of black snaked around Arlo and started to squeeze making it impossible to move. "Is it here to serve the Lich?.. No, it would not serve Mortan it is weak and afraid. but where is the rest of it?"
Mortan said as he stepped forward and placed a hand of the Spirit of Arlo. Despite his fear Arlo felt a moment of deep curiosity, How could a physical being touch an incorporeal body so easily. He dismissed the thought, he was in real danger academia was not important right now.
Arlo tried to speak but couldn’t manage through the tendrils’ grasp. "If it will not tell..."
Said the Lich ominously "It will lead"
The lich's hand moved and placed its tapered, almost talon like, fingers against Arlo's chest and pushed sinking the sharp fingers almost an inch deep before saying a Word of Power that Arlo didn't understand over his own shout of pain and surprise. He blinked and was back in the city kneeling on the ground clutching the pendant he found so tightly that the jagged edges had cut into his palm welling up a few drops of blood. With another wave of relief he noticed that his light keeping the shadow creatures at bay still shown bright.
A heart beat passed as Arlo tried to reconcile what had happened when he heard the voice of the Lich again and a soft glow coming from the amulet the same light as the Lich's eyes "This place.. It brings me to a place. A place i remember."
Arlo tried to drop the pendant but his arm and fingers disobeyed him. "No! It lies. This place is ruin, but no, it doesn’t. It cannot lie to me like this... This place rose from ash. no, no, no, the war must END!"
the lich finally shouted and severed its tie. Arlo's fingers relaxed and the pendant fell to the cobblestone.
Exhausted and in pain from the experience, he collapsed to the knees and grabbed at his chest where he thought he would find a wound but found nothing. It took a few moments of labored breathing to get the strength to get back up.
A curse. Of course. He kicked himself for being so careless in picking up the artifact with his bare hands, which were now bleeding from the pendant. He couldn’t remove the curse on his own, his merits in magic lied mostly in illusion and protection spells. For now, he would have to carry it with him and make a journey to Ashton and ask the healers of the church to help him. Knowing now not to hold it with his bare hands he removed a bandage from his robes and instead of first taking care of his hand he picked up the pendant with the cloth and wrapped it carefully.
He was eager to be done with this misadventure and wanted to leave for Ashton as soon as he could, but he was so exhausted it would have to wait until morning. He shuffled back to his quarters, placed the pendant on his bedside, removed his robes and after a thorough search for any shadow sprites that managed to get inside he fell into his bed and immediately into a deep sleep.