Toby Richette was on all fours, he was sweating, he was cold, he was burning hot, he was nothing and everything. He was in a thick forest just outside of the village Reth. His left check felt warm as a low humming noise emanated from a serpentine like staff. It was dark black with small white slivers on the fangs and the eyes. It hissed at him and flicked its tongue at him like all snakes do.
"Human." Said a voice that suppressed all noise and made itself irritatingly clear and sharp. "I... W-w-wi eh ill n- nev" Toby stuttered between gasps of air, coughs of blood, and shivers from hypothermia.
"You would die for your friends?" Said the voice. The staff began to extend around his neck, leaving cut marks and bruises all along it's way as if its touch was damaging. Which it was, obviously. Toby felt his arms give and fell on his face. "I.. I w-w-wooul-d-die 7 times over f-fo-re th-em." "Tobias... You're stubbornness proceeds you!" The snake curled back to it's original position as the staff and said to the first voice "Let me abssssorb it now. It issss weak and will not crack from your probing... Givvve uuuhp" it said to its wielder. "No, He will break." The voice said. Toby felt some of his strength come back and he attempted to stand on his knees. "Lichh! Yuuuo w-will be des-destro-yed!" Toby now had a clear view of his torturer.
The wielder of the Serpent Staff and the owner of the voice was an old enemy of Toby and friends'. The Lich. He was appropriately named as he was in fact a lich, a very evil and powerful one at that. "I'd just as well be beheaded before you defeat me!" He said taunting Toby. "That can be arranged." Said a deep voice that resounded in the accent of some kind of Euro-Russian. The Lich with his strange augmented face smiled and ducked as a massive one sided axe flew by the space that his head used to occupy with a loud whoosh. The Lich in his ducking twirled to meet his attacker and lunged the staff into the midsection of a large Ork by the name of Sukon, wingman to Toby's leadership. Sukon stumbled back reeling from the blow to his stomach. "Oof!" He recovered and pushed the thick black hair from his eyes. "Iy did not szee that coming.." The Lich laughed and retracted the staff. "I'M better now than I've ever been!" He yells turning back towards Toby. "How did the Ork escape Toby! Huh? How!" He said grabbing Toby's chin and lowering his own head towards the human's. "Wha-at cannai say Lich? Th-they're aweso-om." Lich lowered his head and turned around to meet Sukon's axe with the sharp fangs of his staff. Sukon struggled and grunted as he disengaged the axe and tried for a slice at The Lich's arm. Lich had no way of blocking it and felt the stinging lick of the razored edge against his right arm. He stumbled to the ground, grabbed at the dust and sand of the ground and after whispering a few words into it, threw it at Sukon. "DAAH!" Sukon bellowed as the sand swarmed around him and blinded his vision. "Stupid! MAGIC! SAND! BAAAAH" he yelled swinging the axe around like a maniac. Toby, if he could, would facepalm. "ANNAIS HELP SUKON!" Toby yelled, standing up and holding his side. Out of the forest foliage a short and lanky teen burst out wearing a blue minstrel's cloak and a green woodsman's cap that held golden feathers on one side. He whipped out a pan flute with magical runes chained to its side. He began to play a rapid and high pitched melody that almost instantly neutralized the sand, causing it to become typical sand again and fall onto the ground. The Lich staggered backwards. "You! How did you! But I," his sentence was cut short when a firm slender hand reached across his sideways mouth and snapped his neck. "AGH!" He yelped as he fumbled to the ground desperately trying to re-position his collar bone, holding his head in one hand so it wouldn't rip off.
Again. Today. For the 3rd time.
Astrid, the archer-ess who had disabled The Lich, was loading a yellow tipped arrow to her bow. She wore brown and green wraps that partially covered her short repurposed red dress. Her legs were covered in the wrapping save her ankles (dat ankle). She released the arrow just as Lich boy had snapped his broken spinal chord back into place. The arrow whizzed by like a streak of light and hit home right in between his eyes. "GAH! Why!! Why do you always do that!?" The undead necromancer said as he tried to pull the arrow from his skull cavity. "It doesn't even stop me it just hurts!" He complained as he let go of his staff to dislodge the arrow. Astrid kicked the staff away a few yards and shot another arrow down the circle space of his crown. "AACK" he yelled obviously too distracted to notice a beautiful young woman coming up to Toby holding an ironskin booklet.
"You guys sure have a, have a way with timing.." Toby said as Lia applied a healing tonic to his cuts and bruises. "What the heck happened to you Richette?" Lia said sitting down at his level on her knees. She payed her staff on the ground next to her and began to open her satchel which was full of useful medicines and non habit forming drugs. "Serpient... It wrapped around my neck.."
"Well you're lucky Lich's pets don't know where your jugular vein is.
"I'm going to have to use my powers for this ok? So don't hate me if you end up with 3 arms or an extra lung."
She said as she stood up, picking up her staff on the grass. She held the middle of staff with her left hand and placed the palm of her right hand on his forehead. "Héśüs tra tetholiüm!" She shouted as a greenish blue fractured glass looking substance began materializing around Toby, the diamond shaped fractals zipped towards cuts, bruises, scars, and any other kind of wound on him. Once they touched the wounds they conformed to his skin and healed him. A few even went into his eyes and down his throat to heal his insides. This all took a few seconds to happen.
At that same point Annais and Sukon were talking. "Little man! Psych me into it." Sukon said clearing his mind. "You're a monster! An unrelenting force of pure untapped energy! You win everything you do! Go waste that sacreligous undead freak!" Annais says as he now plays an inspiring tune, the green rune begins to glow as a circle of light blasts onto the ground and the song echoes louder and louder enough that Sukon's eyes roll back in his head, his heart opens 3 extra valves that only pump blood for moments like this. He charges forward yelling and delivers a devastating blow to The Lich. "My legs! My, My legs!" He screeches as Astrid thumps another arrow into his right hand. Annais follows Sukon's lead and lands a few quick cuts with his short-sword. The three continue to thrash The Lich. Somewhere in the mayhem Lich had gotten his staff back and was defending himself quite well.
Toby regains his strength and, after kissing Lia's cheek, races into the fray. He calls out, "Annais. Dagger!" Annais's blade collides with The Lich's staff as he then retreats from his attack and fluidly pulls a dagger from his belt and tosses it straight into Toby's hand. Sukon is blown back by a blast of purple/black magical energy explode-y stuff. Astrid has run out of arrows and whacks Lich's back. Toby jumps up from behind The Lich, slice the necklace from his neck and stab the dagger and pendant into the ground with a shattering of glass.
"NOOO!!! This is the LAST time you kill one of my clones Tobias Richette! You'll see you little-" The clone's skin burns into purple smoke and the skeletal remains begin dissolving into the ground.
"I'll.. Never get used to that.." Astrid says pushing her hood off her head. "Whew.. 1 down, and.. Well who knows how many more to go.." Toby said brushing off his hands.
"It's not over yet!" Yelled Annais. Annais wasn't a typical 16 year old. He enjoyed walks in the countryside, swimming, playing his pan flute, and specialized in revving up and calming down Sukon's "Ragéhi", a fight or flight bio-reaction that his species of Ork can activate with or without situations of extreme stress. Sukon's green skin was slightly pale and full of sweat. His eyes had rolled back to their position but his pupils had constricted. "Sukon. Listen to me bro, I got you!" Annais motioned Lia to come over and help him. Sukon clasped his hands against his ears and started muttering in Unulipthium (the ancient Orken prayer tongue). "How bad is it this time?" Lia says feeling Sukon's forehead. "Baagd.. Auughh" he says as Annais plays a soothing lullaby. Toby stands above them all with Astrid. "This clone was waaay too close to town. Not to mention YOU were at death's doorstep" said Astrid pulling him off to the side. "We can't get away with these last minute saves... We need a better plan."
"I know." Toby says looking over the village on the hill this battle had been fought on. "Someday, Lia's not going to be able to save you from his staff's poison and you're to going freeze, burn, and bleed to death" Astrid said. "Wow, thanks for THAT image in my head" said Toby sarcastically. "I'm just saying that ever since we started this journey last year you've been paying a higher and higher price. I think.. I think we should reconsider our tactics. "What do you have in mind?" Said Toby rubbing his shoulder. "I was thinking that we should operate more like a team." She reached for his hand right as Lia called for Toby. Toby ran towards the call leaving Astrid alone on the hill.
"That's fine... I'm fine by myself." She whispered to herself. She trudged down the hill towards her friends and listened silently to their conversation. "Su's back to himself and we're ready to go O fearless leader!" Said Annais standing up in Toby's presence. "At ease Private Panflute." Said Toby jokingly as they began walking towards the village that was a few walking minutes away. As they walked Astrid lagged behind with Annais. "We were lucky today huh?" Asked Annais trying to make conversation. "Yeah.. There's one thing that's bugging me though.." "Oh really?" He turned around and starting walking backwards and ahead of her. "What?" "Usually, Lich sends more than just a copy of himself.. I mean don't we typically have to fight a bunch of his Skelites or like some kind of freaky monster?" The Lich specialized in animating Skelites. 2 foot nothin' buggers that carried with them an array of tools, weapons, and supplies to rival most army's forces. "Yeah I was kind of worried about that too." Says Annais, his face now changed to a bright expression, "But don't look a gift horse in the mouth right? If Lich forget to send his doppelgänger with an army that's fine by me! In fact I think" Sukon cut his sentence short by putting his hand over Annais's mouth. Toby ducked behind a fallen log, Lia followed, Sukon hoisted Annais onto his back and crawled up and behind a large boulder by the side of the road they had been walking on. Astrid ran over to a tree and tried her very best to hide behind it. Either the tree was too small or she was too large for it she prayed that whatever it was that was coming wouldn't notice her body sticking out from the sides of the tree.
A caravan of carts, carriages, horse drawn buggies, and even a dragon saddled by a Skelite weaved its way through the traveling parade of innocent people chained together by their heads. The carts were full of valuable clothing, livestock, foodstuffs, and some strange looking pieces of artwork. Anyone who couldn't walk was locked into one of the buggies. The Skelite wasn't alone, plenty of them dotted the road. Each was equipped with his or hers weapon or tool of choice, literally anything from a screwdriver to a battle axe to even backpacks of explosives. Astrid looked to her right and peered out to Toby's hiding spot. They made eye contact and he motioned for her to climb the tree and take out the rider on the dragon. Sukon and Annais were already positioned behind bushes, ready to strike. Lia was opening a page in one of her books, most likely some kind of attack that would stun the minions long enough for Toby to break the chains of the villagers. Astrid had nothing against Lia, just the fact that somehow she had attracted Toby's affection without even trying was what irritated her. In fact she had noticed that she had that indirect effect on men. Friend-zoned wasn't the correct term for this strange phenomenon, indirect evasion was more like it. Astrid let go of her thoughts and focused on climbing the old oak tree. When she had found herself in a sort of nook between the branches she took aim at the Skelite. The cliché intensity that comes with using a bow and arrow was not present while she pulled back the drawstring. She did not feel the nervousness that an amateur would feel when they try to hit their first target, she only felt the snapback from the string and only heard the arrow land firmly and solidly into the Skelite's chest cavity. She was aiming for the left eye (considering that Skelites have truly massive eye sockets for their boxy skull.). That was the signal. As the Skelite impacted off the steed onto the ground Toby and Lia burst from opposite ends of their hiding places to flank the Skelites who were now gathering at the scene of their fallen comrade. "What!? Wha, wh- where did th-" before the creature could finish its sentence, another arrow followed into its mouth and collided with the first arrow. The skelite died and Toby was already following up on Astrid's move. Toby grabbed one end of the long chain that bound the villagers and released it from a hitch on a buggy. Lia did the same and threw a potion wrapped in a small cloth package at the wheels of the largest cart. The potion itself did nothing to the wheels but the metal axel that held the wheels in place began melting to a point where the entire cart fell directly into the ground, putting the caravan behind it to a stop. Annais and Sukon were close behind, Annais was engaged in combat with a skelite who was wielding the sharp end of a boomerang blade, a nasty weapon that could be folded at an angle to act like a boomerang. Sukon meanwhile was NOT going into Ragéhi and instead was chopping up any skelite in his way. Astrid provided support by sniping off another mount but instead by shooting the dragon's exposed head rather than the rider. The rider was crushed by the dragon rolling over. Toby boarded a buggy, kicked the finely dressed skelites out of the passenger compartment, tossed the drivers out and cut the reins of their bone white horses from the cab. He repeated this many times. 3 skelites had gotten a hold of a barrel of gunpowder and where rolling it away from Sukon's reach. "AAAAAHH!" They screamed as Sukon chased after them. "Strange that these little guys were able to overpower the village of Reth.." Toby yelled as he opened a buggy letting the imprisoned villagers escape. "What's strange is how we didn't notice this sooner!" Replied Lia, who was using her staff as a bat against a skelite who was wearing a little green cape. "Hey angel legs, if ya give up now ill consider not killin' your friends." Said a slightly taller Skelite with a dark purple hood and a black glove over his right hand. This was Ten. A nasty Skelite that for some reason had a little more free will when it came to the Lich's whims. So to quell a possible rebellion he commands his group of lesser skelite soilders with the trademark of kidnapping truly massive amounts of people at a time. They're usually kept as slaves for who knows what but Lia wasn't prepared to give up just because he was about 2 inches taller than her waist. "Excor diesa thymus." She said through gritted teeth as Ten, and many other of his soilders around him were locked in place by a sort of electric current that races around their bodies.
Meanwhile Annais had just been outmatched in sword play by a skelite brandishing a shovel... So he whipped out his Panflute and began to play the same lullaby type melody that helped calm Sukon. Except this time one of the charms attached to the flute was glowing, and massive circle of energy blasted out from underneath him as Skelites everywhere were stunned like Lia had done. Sukon and Toby walked straight up to Ten. Astrid followed close behind reloading an arrow on the bow's shaft. Annais walked over as well still playing the song but keeping a close eye on their captive. The villagers who had not yet escaped watched as Lia walked into their group as well.
"Ten. I reckon you're the one who captured all this kindly folk. Am I right?" He said in his slight southern accent. He grabbed Ten by the neck and held him at eye level. "Prove me wrong boy." He said in between gritted teeth, his other hand reaching for his sword.
"I... I.. Uhh this this was all umm Johnson's idea! Yeah and oh whatever yes you've caught me.." Toby just smiled as he threw him to the ground off the road. "You tell Lich that the Southern Provinces are off limits to any Skelite, Boneshell, or Orge mobilization. You got that son?" Toby said. Ten could only whimper a yes. Toby nodded. Annais switched songs to a dark and depressive tone, the other stunned Skelites felt their Lifeforce being ripe from their bodies and they all fell over and died as their energies where transferred into Annais's third and final charm attached to the Panflute.
Ten ran, he ran as fast as he could, he ran so fast that when he checked his personal pocket watch, he had been running for 3 hours.. He needed a recharge, SOON. Otherwise... He didnt want to think about that, he only wanted to get back to the magical barrier of the LichDom. He wanted to run home.