Trinity is about to say something when the tower visibly shakes. The frozen puddles of potion begin to scrape across the floor, gaining speed until they are swirling and crashing into each other. The Lich whispers a spell that launches the potions out of the tower, moments before they explode in a fiery blast. Flaming orbs rain upon the resting workers, who scramble for safety by jumping into the moat or diving behind the scattered pile of stones. Trinity’s privacy spell shatters as the tower lurches and she can hear a deafening scream from deep within the castle. It is a high-pitched, female shriek of anguish and pain that sends a nauseating chill through Trinity’s incorporeal stomach. She quietly thanks Ambrosine that she is really in Gaia and her body barely feels the effect of the screaming.
“Apparently, Stephen has started his experiments,” the Lich says, a touch of bitterness in his voice. He picks up a bowl of red ink and goes about making arcane marks around the walls. “The fool thinks he’s Nyder and that he can crack the secret of the champions. Even his father knows there’s no tangible secret in them. It’s destiny and if you could hold that in your hands then you’d be Gabriel. I hope these protection glyphs can hold that girl’s power back.”
“He captured Nyx?”
“Think shorter, happier, curvier, and blue hair, your highness.”
“He’s torturing Sari!?”
“I nearly forgot you had a soft spot for that gypsy,” the Lich cackles, feeling happy for the first time in days. “We delivered the other gypsy to Selenia for healing. I must say that I delivered a grand performance until that bastard tried to destroy me. Anyway, it would appear our agent has returned with Stephen’s prize. The beautiful part of this is that the boy has a spell on him, so he can’t hear the girl screaming. He’d be so angry that his lover is being tortured and examined, but he has no idea what’s happening.”
“That monster is sicker than every demon in the Chaos Void,” Trinity whispers, her eyes locked on the floor as if she can see through the stone. “I’m betting he’s laughing and enjoying himself.”
“Probably, but he’s being careful,” the necrocaster states. He puts down the bowl and weaves his hands through the air. The freshly painted symbols glow as ice seeps up through the floor. “Before your time, a vampire companion named Ulgrik decided to experiment on a captured champion. The master allowed it even though he thought nothing would come of it. In a way, he was right.”
“I heard this story from Nyder,” the chaos elf says out of boredom. She watches the ice recede back into the floor as the red energy on the walls pushes it away. “Ulgrik set something off and the champion exploded, taking the vampire’s crypt and half of the undead yards along with him. He was only an old world vampire, so it wasn’t much of a loss.”
The Lich walks through Trinity as he cleans up his laboratory and throws herbs into the central cauldron. She waits patiently for him to say something, but he continues working as if the ghostly figure isn’t there. Trinity decides it is time to leave when the cauldron bubbles with purple foam and leaks onto the floor at her feet.
“I have work to do in Gaia,” she casually declares. She glares as the Lich gestures to wave her away. “Watch your back, Tyler, and make sure Stephen doesn’t bring your kingdom down around your head. With Sari’s power, he could turn your precious swamp into a frozen wasteland.”
Trinity fades away, leaving the Lich alone with his thoughts. He stops throwing random items into the cauldron and returns to the window. His teeth slowly grind against each other as he stares into the darkening sky. Winged shadows start to rise from the trees, no two of them alike as they go on the hunt. The nocturnal sounds of the swamp are soothing and harden his desire to fight against Stephen.
“I lost count of how many years I’ve been loyal to my master,” the Lich whispers into the night. “If my reward is that his bastard son will cast me away then I’ll get a final victory to take to my grave. One of those champions will join me in death.”