To shepherd in the Treasures of Khaldun we have a series of short pieces of fiction to supplement the events in-game. We present the final installment,
Whispers in the Dark
By EM Malachi
There was the rattling caw of a crow in the distance, and an open window carried an acrid wind from the part of town that had been put to the torch. Even as exhaustion and grief pulled at him, the old sage couldn’t sleep. He could not forget the faces of the murdered innocents he had prepared for burial the next day. He forced his eyes shut and tried to ease his mind.
There came a child’s giggle from the hallway outside his room, and then a voice spoke from the darkness, “Humbolt…”
“Humbolt…” spoke another voice from the other side of the room. This one was from another child.
When Sage Humbolt sat up in fear, the first voice spoke again, “Humbolt, aren’t you going to find us?”
Out of the shadows stepped two small forms, a little boy and girl. Humbolt recognized them. He had seen them earlier that day in shrouds. “You’re alive?”
The boy turned his head slightly to show a cruel wound. “Oh, the optimism of the living! Isn’t it amusing, sister?”
The little girl giggled, and her bloodless eyes rotated oddly. “We could end him tonight, but where is the fun in that? Let’s play the game of questions.” She traced a terrible glyph in the air, and Humbolt felt an icy spell paralyze his limbs.
“Just like the old days? An excellent idea.” The small corpse moved itself closer to Humbolt, staring at him with its unblinking eyes. “The game is simple. We ask each other questions until one of us doesn’t. There will also be consequences if you lie. I’ll even let you go first.”
Humbolt asked, “How are you so powerful?”
Kyrnia giggled, until the small form she wore started to bleed at the mouth. “He still thinks he will stop us, brother. Even now…” A small pale hand picked up a dagger from the bureau.
Lathiari shook his head. “Now, now. We can’t end the game after a single question.” The lich in the stolen body walked over to the bed. “We are so powerful because of patience and study. We always did love the books mother gave us. There were so many secrets there: the Dark Unknown, Mordin Grimswind, even Khal Ankur. Humanity has chosen to forget so much darkness, in the name of civility. We didn’t let the past stay buried.”
Kyrnia tapped on the wall. “It’s our turn to ask now! Can we ask him the person he cares about most? What he is most afraid of?”
Her brother thought for a moment. “I think I have a question, if you’ll let me.” When Kyrnia didn’t object, Lathiari asked, “What will you give to stop us?”
Humbolt didn’t hesitate in answering, “Everything.”
Lathiari learned down, and Humbolt could smell the corpse’s incipient rot. “We may have to hold you to that.”
Kyrnia giggled and started playing with the sharp knife. “That was wonderful, brother! You got him to suggest a new game. I’ll begin ‘everything’ with the little toesies…” She was interrupted by heavy knocking on the door, and armed guards sounding the alarm. “This town is so dull now. So vigilant and suspecting! Let’s move on to the next one.”
Lathiari nodded, and the two wraiths departed the forms they were animating, leaving behind small still corpses.
The potion had been bitter to drink, but the taste of lich heart was worse. The necromancy that had kept the liches alive stuck to the tongue like mold, and it burned all the way to the stomach. It was a cruel task, one Humbolt could not have given to any other. The shadows seemed to taunt him as delirium gripped his mind.
Two shapes appeared before him, the wraiths of Kyrnia and Lathiari. Already, their magic was fraying, sending pieces of their twisted spirits off to whatever darkness was waiting. Kyrnia glared at him as the memory of her face crumbled to dust. The skull of Lathiari grinned as oblivion claimed it, tendrils of corrupted magic reaching out toward Humbolt. When there was almost nothing left, Lathiari whispered:
“Sage, we keep you to your promise. You gave your life, but there is one last thing left to take. You will find no rest, even in death.”