The Lich

John Peters

The egg beckoned him. His ghastly palm reached outwards, cradling it gently.

It was his last connection to the world he so desperately clung to. Thoughts of his past drifted into his hollow head, echoing within his skull. Son. Husband. Master. He was none of those things now. He was only a shell.

The egg was gold with purple trim. He gently set down his soul. Fragile as glass.

The revenant’s thoughts turned to his childhood. A breeze blew over what had long ago been his hair. Chasing Beatrice through the fields, laughing as they fell. The clouds rolled over his eyes, still bright and full of life. They lay together, not a care in the world. Where did he go wrong?

The egg sat alone. The last remnant of his love. Reflecting the light.

He was surrounded by four lifetimes of work. The greatest alchemists would gladly sell their tongues, their limbs, even their family just for a glimpse into his workshop. And for what? It had brought him nothing. For all his knowledge and expertise, he could only keep himself frozen in time while the world advanced around him. Nothing could change the past. Nothing could change the future. He could only live in the present.

A gift from his belle. She handed him the egg with glee, a sign of their love.

The door shook. He knew this would come. He had tainted the land with his presence, draining the ground of its life. Precisely four hundred years he had been here. Rummaging through his books, he searched, unsure what for. A spell to defeat them, to drive them back? A way to protect himself from their holy lashes? What in this forsaken tower was worth saving?

As she screamed, it shook. The egg watched the woe unfold. Dead mother, dead child.

The door was blown off the hinges. The Ironwroughts, elite soldiers of the church marched in. Clad from head to toe in metallic plate, they tore through his home as they ascended to his study. The lich stayed in his room. To his dismay, he couldn’t shed a single tear. He had no eyes, no heart. Only his bones remained, held together by long forgotten spells. With nothing left, why was he here?

A cold, rainy day, the egg snug in his pocket. No one else mourning.

The day was burned into his mind. Her father had died years prior in the war. Her mother, of a fever. Her siblings resented her for marrying an eccentric and their son had never taken his first breath. He was the only one left for her. As the rain fell on Beatrice’s tombstone, he felt terrified for the first time in his life. Feeling for the egg in his pocket, he finally realized just how fragile he was. To her, he vowed to carry on her memory.

The footsteps closed in. He clutched the egg, eyes lit. Now, he knew his fate.

The Ironwroughts burst through, weapons pointed. Armored eyes, as hollow as his, but burning bright with unshakable faith. He sighed. The fields of his childhood filled his thoughts, the flowers and rabbits guiding the path to freedom. The sun shone upon him, filling his empty sockets with warmth. There she was, standing on top of the hill, silhouetted against the sun. Just as he remembered her. Beatrice.

It crumbled in his hand. Pieces fell to the ground, soul freed. Finally at peace.

The egg shatters in his boney palm. Fragments of gold fly across the room, landing at the feet of the Ironwroughts. They look on in disbelief as the bones fall to the ground. His soul flies through the air, free at last. The study waits in silence. Its master has finally left this world, abandoning all he clung to. Poking at the remains, they expect some sort of trick. An illusion, a feint. But eventually, they can deny it no longer. Puzzled they turn around, to tell the cardinal of their strange excursion.

The breeze flows through him. Ascending, he sees her face.

“Beatrice, I missed you.”