Authors: Charles E Yallowitz
Legends of Windemere
© by Charles Yallowitz
All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the author, except where permitted by law. Reviewers may quote brief excerpts in connection with a review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cover Design & Illustration by Jason Pedersen
Legends of Windemere
Beginning of a Hero
Prodigy of Rainbow Tower
Allure of the Gypsies
Family of the Tri-Rune
To everyone who has entered Windemere
And left their mark upon its soul
A shriek of fury and pain cuts through the vast clearing, forcing the enchanted workers to freeze in terror. Muscular orcs, covered in sweat, flex their sore arms as they stand around the nearly constructed castle’s courtyards. Many of them cling to the ledges of the buildings they have been fixing, holding their breath in anticipation and fear. The lean, reptilian giltris hiss in the direction of the noise before returning to their work on the moat and defensive walls. Still, the lizardmen move cautiously and keep an eye on the eerie central tower of the castle. They shiver whenever a burst of putrid green light erupts from the tower’s windows and their master’s screams of agony whip the wind into a cutting frenzy. Even the gargoyles seem to shift nervously on their perches, as if they are about to come to life and flee into the bowels of the Caster Swamp.
The source of the noise would be ecstatic that he was instilling so much fear in his servants if not for the fact that he was in extreme pain. The lower half of the Lich’s body is nothing more than gnarled, barely formed bone. The bones continue to twist and fight to reform into legs while he writhes on the cold floor. Steam still wafts off the frayed edges of his cloak where Selenia’s barrier sliced through it. Another scream shatters all of the glass bottles and v
ials in his laboratory, causing potions to spill onto the stone floor. With a feeble wave of his rotting hand, the Lich freezes the potions to prevent them from mixing and possibly blowing the entire castle off the face of Windemere. The use of magic causes one of his fingers to crumble to dust before his smoldering, red eyes.
“You find yourself in this position far too often,
Tyler,” states a female voice from behind him. A transparent figure walks through the sprawled necrocaster and crouches in front of him. Trinity stares at him with a look of concern, but he can see a glint of pleasure in her violet eyes. Her body suddenly fades away until only the shining gem in her forehead can be seen. It takes a few seconds for her to return with a frustrated expression on her face.
“I’m not in the mood for your teasing,” he snaps as he turns away from the chaos elf. “I need to heal before those champions arrive.”
“Go right ahead,” Trinity says, waving her hand toward his malformed legs. “I didn’t send my shade form here to stop you or tease you. Though, I’m having trouble maintaining it through your barriers. Do you think you could ease them up a little until I leave?”
The Lich ignores the ghostly woman’s request and clutches a rainbow-colored shawl. It seems out of place among the black and gray of his robes, yet he tenderly strokes it as if the shawl is the dearest item in the world to him. A warm glow runs along the shawl, growing in intensity until it is bright enough to blind anyone who looks at it. The glow seeps into the Lich’s chest and runs down to his mangled lower half. Within minutes the bones of his legs and pelvis reform with scraps of rotten skin on them. His robes unfurl from their frayed edges until they cover him completely. With a sigh of contentment, the Lich rises onto his freshly repaired feet.
“Why didn’t you do that after Luke Callindor nearly destroyed you?” Trinity asks with a small smile. The cobalt-skinned elf snaps her fingers and has a throne of bone appear behind the Lich, who cautiously sits down.
He rubs the arms of the chair and caresses the smooth skulls at the end of the armrests. “I prefer not to use my stored aura unless it’s an emergency. It will take me months to recharge my shawl, which means I can permanently die if I’m no
t careful. As much as I despise regenerating slowly over the course of months, the alternative would be to put myself at risk.” The Lich looks up at Trinity, who is nervously biting her lower lip. “That is not a face I’m accustomed to. What is wrong?”
“You need to run, Tyler.
Forget the champions and the master. If you value whatever passes for your life, you need to get out of here.”
The Lich cackles maniacally until his voice sputters and cracks. “You actually care about me, Chaos Queen?”
“Not in the least, but there’s more going on here than you realize,” Trinity says. She spins and creates a weave of purple magic around the room. “Now, we have some privacy from prying eyes and ears.”
“You’re worrying me, Trinity,” the Lich hisses, feeling a bead of sweat trickle down the solitary s
crap of flesh on his forehead. What is going on?”
“Stephen is setting you up for destruction,” Trinity replies, rubbing her arms as if a cold wind keeps whipping
at her. “He doesn’t care if the Baron punishes him because he thinks you’re a waste of attention. You’re failure with the krypters in Hero’s Gate has given his father a reason to turn a blind eye toward Stephen’s actions toward you.”
Enraged, the necrocaster clenches his fists and rises to his feet.
“The krypters were worthless and poorly constructed! They fell apart in water and were killed with ease. Why should I be punished for Stephen’s shoddy craftsmanship? We are better off without those wastes of flesh and aura, but it’s not my fault that plan collapsed.”
“It doesn’t matter
,” Trinity soothingly claims, hoping to calm her ally down. The thought of the Lich trying to attack Stephen fills her with dread, even though she knows it would be entertaining to watch. “Those creatures could have removed Nyx from our path or, at the very least, kept her in check. We both know Stephen made them to fail and set you up for a bigger downfall, but his father doesn’t see this. If he does see it then he no longer cares and he’s against you.”
g. This is a trick you’re playing on me for your own personal gain.”
“Do you think the barrier cutting you in half was an accident, you idiot?” Trinity asks. She drifts across the floor and jabs a ghostly finger through the Lich’s eye. “Stephen knew you would use your shawl to regenerate because you have limited time. He’s setting you up to be taken down by the champions, who are now five instead of three. I might not like you, Tyler, but if Stephen gets away with this, he’ll become bolder. Wha
t’s to stop him from plotting mine or one of our allies’ demise? If you run then he will be preoccupied with trying to catch you and maybe the Baron will see what is going on with his loyal servants. He can bring you back into the fold as long as you stay alive . . . or whatever you are.”
The Lich strokes his chin and moves to the eastern window. He looks out over the clearing around his castle. The orcs and giltris are resting and getting dinner as the sun dip
s behind the distant trees. The yellow light from Ult, the amber moon, is already starting to move across the ground from the western side of the sky. It is a relaxing and eerie sight that makes the Lich smile beneath his shadowy hood. His fingers creak and clack as they dance along the window sill in an ancient beat that he thought he had long forgotten. It is a song in honor of a warrior who refused to surrender even if death was certain.
“If I run, like you suggest, then the master will never
forgive me,” he sternly declares without turning to Trinity. “He never rewards cowardice, so it appears that I’m doomed no matter what. I believe I would rather be destroyed as a loyal servant of the master than a sniveling coward. If the master wills it, he can bring me back into existence like he has done before. Remember, dear Trinity, that I’ve been around longer than you and death for a Lich isn’t as scary as it is for the living.”
“Bravery isn’t your style,” the chaos elf states with a wry smile. “I expected you to take this poorly.”
“Oh, I’m furious, but the magic of my shawl has a soothing effect that lasts for a few hours,” the Lich states with a crooked grin. “Even if I wasn’t calmed, I would remain here. If Stephen wishes to destroy me then he better pray he does it right or I’ll be back to slit his throat. Besides, there is nothing for me outside of the master’s influence. This tower is my home and I would have to give it up if I ran. Would you abandon Shayd and your people if you were in my position?”
Her pride insulted by the comparison, Trinity growls and holds back the urge to call back her shade form.
“That’s entirely different. I rule a kingdom and my people depend on me for their survival. I could never abandon them. You live in a swamp with nobody depending on you. Those creatures out there are your servants and the monsters you’ve unleashed on the swamp are nothing more than beasts.”
“It’s still my home,” the Lich says with a stern, chilling voice. “I devoured the necrocasters of old to claim the Caster Swamp. I filled it with unique monsters and made it infamous throughout Ralian. I might not have citizens to rule over, but I’m the king of this swamp. Not even an
immortal whelp like Stephen can drive me from my home.”
Trinity is about to say something when the tower visibly shakes. 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.”
“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 declares
, glaring 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.”
“Make it stop!” Sari cries.
She collapses on the ice-covered floor and rolls onto her back. Her hands push against her stomach, the feel of blood seeping through them making her dizzy. Sari looks down to see that she is not bleeding, but the feeling is too strong for her to ignore. Her breathing becomes ragged until the pain vanishes and she is able to struggle to her feet. Tears stream down her face, clouding her view of the barren room of ice that she is trapped in. There are no windows or doors, so she has no idea how she ended up in the room.
Fixing her colorful skirts, Sari moves toward the nearest wall. She reaches out to place her palm against its icy surface and tries to use her naiad powers to make a door. With a whimper, she pulls her hand away and angrily kicks at the wall. The air is filled with a sickening crack, but it’s her left arm that abruptly twists and snaps, the bone puncturing the skin. For a few seconds, Sari stares at the injury in numb silence, her mind barely able to understand what has happened. The pain hits her like a hammer to the face and she screams at the top of her lungs before crashing to the ground again.