For something undead, the concept of being afraid is… an uncomfortable one. The wisp snaked its way through the Thornwood effortlessly, but its movements were imperceptibly slowed by the distant yet unshakeable thought that this was not a place it wished to be.
The Cryx occupation of the Thornwood had infected the land; it’s influence warping the very ground and all the life that had once flourished here. Abominations crept through the wood as the screams of distant victims echoed throughout the forest… But that’s not what slowed the wisp as it swirled its way down a cave which had been turned into a laboratory of sorts.
Ghastly experiments were carried out, with bodies being stretched and cut in ways that would have chilled the souls of the bravest mortals. Various tables still had living occupants, whose screams were muffled by tubes of foul looking liquid that were rammed down their throats; as their bodies were cut, electrocuted, modified, and prodded for the advancement of the Cryx.
Eventually however, the wisp arrived at its destination; a large central hall where the myriad of operating tables and human sized test tubes stopped, to be replaced with a single larger table where necrotechs and ghastly looking surgeons surrounded a single body that writhed with an unnatural energy.
“… My lord?” whispered the wisp as its hollowed eyes darted around the chamber. The necrotech’s did nothing to stop working, but a booming voice that sounded like it was coming from everywhere rocked the chamber.
“Leane my dear… What news do you bring?”
The wisp shivered, its incorporeal form somehow finding something to be cold about as the voice snaked around its very form. It did not like remembering the life it had before…
With hesitation, the wisp spoke again.
“My lord… the expedition to the north has been lost. Our forces have just returned in full retreat”
Now there was movement as a necrotech was suddenly cast aside, its body launched away from the table with a velocity that almost made it look like it had been fired from a cannon. The other necrotechs were quick to scurry backwards as the being on the table raised itself.
If Lord Exonne, the iron lich on the table had once been human, it was almost impossible to tell now. It was no less than 12 feet tall, with a body that looked half human and half farrow, augmented everywhere with sickly slates of Cryx metal erupting from its flesh. It’s face was probably the most human thing about it, but the skin hung just a little too far from the flesh, and the areas between the gray pallid flesh and blackened farrow fur looked just a little too disconnected to be trusted…
“WHAT?! BRING ME THE SICAR RIGHT NOW” began the lich, its prosthetic large right claw twisting like a drill being primed to rend stone from metal.
But the lich was smart… and in a moment realized that for as useless a sniveling coward as his lieutenant Sicar was; he would know better than to send a wisp to relay news that he should speak himself. The surprise of the realization caught the giant as its anger was quickly replaced with a lightning fast series of logical conclusions… There would be questions to answer; of which included those that Exonne would have to answer for itself to the likes of Asphyxious later today…
“Sicar is no more master… Nor is Mali and any of its people…” whispered the wisp hesitantly.
“How?” asked the lich, taking its first great stride towards the wisp which quietly recoiled in fear.
“Artillery strike… The diversionary mercenaries commandeered one of our siege engines, and burned the town while the majority of our forces were preparing to process the civilians… Including Sicar”
The lich thought on this for a moment as it absently stroked a razor sharp claw against the nearby table, causing an ear piercing shriek every time the metal met resistance.
“Just like Sicar to get greedy… His foolishness has cost us dearly” thought the Lich aloud as it contemplated all the times it would’ve torn the lieutenant apart just for the sake of doing so. Mali was to be the foothold the Cryx needed to begin launching their offensive, but the loss of so many of their resources and the lost element of surprise would be difficult to explain. Asphyxious was not one to broker failure…
“Our witness-” stuttered the wisp before the lich cut it off.
“Witness? I thought all the civilians were purged?”
To answer, two thralls marched in, a mangled gurney of black twisted metal between their metal hands. Upon it rested a single being, its flesh and clothing burned beyond recognition. The lich moved up and signalled the necrotechs to follow suit as they surrounded what was left of the being on the table.
“Hmm… most interesting” boomed the lich as its right claw gently turned the mangled body. The body was indeed badly burned, but unlikely the artillery strike; this one was burned with conventional fire, its flesh now warped and blotched with all features having been torn away. In the absence of features however, Exonne placed the tip of its claw against the only distinguishing mark left on the creatures face.
A single bullet hole, right between its iosian eyes.
And with that, it’s dead eyes snapped open as it glared at those that surrounding it.
“… Most interesting”