From the shadows nearby, another set of eyes watched as the remains of the box crumbled through the hobbit’s fingers. Shards of the enchanted material clattered across the melted gold at his feet, while a clear viscous liquid oozed down from where the container had once been. Resting over the crack where his hands met was the eye of the Lich God, Necrodemus.
It was as one would expect an eye to be, a soft white orb with a long nerve trailing behind it. There was no coloring around the pupil. In fact, the pupil itself was narrowed very much like that of a venomous snake!
The cavern rumbled from the battle taking place on the opposite side, where the great red Wyrm and Sorcerer continued to battle the other’s wills. Even as the eye was freed from its prison, one of the two combatants was nearing the end of its life.
The watcher gasped as the eye began to levitate from the hands of the diminutive figure before him, so surprised was he that it still possessed any magic to do so. The nerve straightened like an arrow as the orb turned to face away from the hobbit, aiming for the empty ocular cavity.
What came next happened in a matter of seconds. The eye slammed into the skull of the hobbit, who in turn began to scream as his very soul became forever corrupted by the power of the long dead deity. His small head slammed backward, projecting the last display of pain and suffering he would ever feel unto the cold stone ceiling above.
Even as the little man shrieked, was he beginning to levitate slowly into the air. His clothes began to rot away from his skin, falling away in patches that in turn fell apart like ash when they hit the stone below. As the observer continued to watch, horrified, the pale skin of the hobbit became emaciated, withering inward until he was no longer recognizable as a male or female creature.
The sound of its screams became something inhuman, no longer reflecting anything even remotely like pain, but more akin to pure rage. A black oily smoke formed beneath its feet, swirling lazily around the mummified hobbit until it was covered with a robe born from the darkest pits of hell. The smoke rippled over the creature’s form, gradually smoothing into a material that to look at for too long was to become lost in its starless void.
It was then that the observer realized that the shrieking had ceased. He looked upward, seeking the facial features of the reconstituted Lich and was shocked to see that it was staring down at him.
“Ahh,” it sighed with gusto. “You have no idea how long I have waited for this moment.”
The Lich had been facing the battle when it began to rise from the ground so only its head was turned toward him. The eye that was once confined to a magical prison focused on him while the other darted about madly in its socket. To the observer, it seemed that all which was left of Joeshan was imprisoned inside.
“It’s been too long since last we met, drow. I have been thinking about you for an eternity!”
The observer, having been identified by the evil creature before him, stepped into light reflected from the battle between man and dragon. His features were elfin, but his skin bore the color most commonly attributed to his people. He wore clothing from the surface, bright and vibrant forest colors that complemented the color of his eyes. A bandolier was slung from his left shoulder to his right hip, from which hung a small hand crossbow and several bolts. Two longswords were sheathed from his waist, on a belt from which several small pouches were also fastened. The pommel of one was encrusted with a black diamond, while the other a deep magenta.
“Indeed,” the drow answered softly. “As have I.” He hooked his thumbs into his belt and tilted his right knee slightly outward, striking a neutral pose as he contemplated what to do next.
Thus ends the story of the adventurers three. Each came searching for The Box with motives hidden from the other, and it was their hidden agendas that brought them down. We have reached the end of one story, but we find ourselves at the beginning of another.
Who will prevail in the battle between dragon and man? Who is this mysterious drow and what is his relationship with the Lich God? And, with Joeshan seemingly imprisoned in his remaining eye, is there a chance that he will ever be rescued?
These are all good questions, but I’m afraid that’s an entirely different story.
~ END ~