Xenophanes the Deceiver, Archlich
Descent into Darkness
OOC Note: The picture above is now what Xenophanes looks like. I’ll describe in the story.
It took time and rituals, divination and greased palms, to figure out where the Wolf-Warrior had gone to “die,” but once found out it was easy to locate. Such a place was ripe with emotional power. It glowed vibrantly in the spectrum of magic with intense loss and suffering, final rest and sorrow.
It seemed only fitting for the dying sage to come to this place at this time.
Once he understood the nature of this graveyard, Xenophanes began to understand a little more about his connection with the being known as Blackpaws. It was not mere happenstance that the old sage had reached out from the Far Realm and connected with this being. Divine power and fate stood with a ready hand, eager to connect the strands.
Gods. Everything fell back to the will of gods and their amoral choices. Xenophanes was once a devout follower of Ioun, the Balancer of Knowledge, but no more. That fool of a deity could not provide him with the power to extend his life, to save his soul from eternal damnation.
Xenophanes began a journey, then; a descent into darkness. Foul pacts with unnatural creatures were made, broken, and renewed with disastrous consequence. In the end, the old sage had been forced to yoke his soul to a young Eladrin thief in order to extend his lifespan. He had been forced to sap the soul of another in order to live to perform his work.
“No more. No more will I damn another’s soul to the suffering of that Far Realm.” The warlock whispered softly against the old oak tree placing a hand gently upon its bark.
From within his decaying robes Xenophanes produced two small objects. One was a small wooden box, remarkably similar in appearance to the one that had created this very tree. In fact, with the exception of the screaming faces etching into its sides, the box was identical. Xenophanes carefully reached out to the tree and plucked an acorn from its branch, placing it within the velvet lined box.
The other object was a key. The key. He set it down upon the ground with a sense of regret. That object must go to another for safe-keeping.
Xeno looked up at the tree and smiled softly. “Your sacrifice clarified my mind. Ioun did not hold the key to my path. The beings of the Far Realm could not offer a way. Vecna’s damnation gave me the idea, but you with your connection to that dark queen, you led the way.”
Xenophanes began to strip down, then, to the barest of clothes. Underneath his ancient robes was a disgusting body riddled with puckered scars. His flesh was decayed in many places from the leeching effects of the pacts. The old sage flaked off pieces of his skin, plucked out hairs, and ripped cleanly away a fingernail upon his left middle finger. He placed each object in the box alongside the acorn before shutting the lid.
“I hope you will not damn me for this, but I cannot care at this time. The importance of this place is too great to pass up.” Xenophanes began digging at the headstone of one of the empty graves. The child’s grave.
Hours passed as each handful of dirt was lifted with a decrepit old palm, bleeding from the effort. The ground was soaked in aching sweat, drying blood, and the curses of an old man laid bare. Xenophanes was covered in mud kneeling in the depths of the hole, six feet down.
“Neither Ioun nor my own foolish pacts could do what must be done. Therefore, I will seek your path, friend Paws.” Xenophanes inhaled deeply, coughing blood on the exhale and looked about. Of course, as expected, the spirit of the wolf came from around the tree to watch.
Xenophanes stared into its eyes as he began the ritual. Each word was punctuated by the sound of handfuls of earth falling back into the grave, pulled by magic atop the whispering form of the warlock.
“I implore you to listen, Queen of Ravens. Listen through your vessel, this wolf, this connection of my soul to your realm. I offer up freely the soul that has been keeping me alive for these long centuries. I offer up freely the power that has allowed me to cause suffering to others against your will. I give you Vis Deimos, Demosthenes in true name, and I violate my ancient pact. Damn the creatures of the Far Realm if they wish retribution. They may seek me out for punishment. I give to you the soul of the thief to do with as you wish, eternal rest or eternal work. I offer, as well, half of my own soul. Half, because I wish to remain in this decaying form as a being you despise utterly. I wish to emulate Vecna in order to destroy him. You will hold my soul in this place, in this box, prepared to end me if and when the time is right.” Xenophanes paused, then, taking in his final breath as the last of the earth fell down upon his face.
“I give you the power over me of life and death in order that you grant me your will. I vow to destroy the Avatar of Vecna. I do it not for good, nor for your sake, but because that being has troubled me for centuries and I no longer care to hide. I will be clear of the vow of retribution. No matter what my own motivation, you will benefit as the soul of Vecna is destroyed. Grant me these powers and I will serve you well.”
All of a sudden, the entire mound of earth fell in upon the warlock and he whispered no more. The box lay quietly atop the grave for a long time with the wolf watching.
From all around the graveyard, a deathly silence was heard. Then, as the beginning of a torrential rain, acorns began to fall atop the earth in droves.
A hand shot up from within the grave, no longer bare, but covered in the shroud of undeath. The box sank as if in quicksand as the being once living arose undead.
Xenpophanes lifted up out of the child’s grave and his phylactery fell beneath to take his place. Before the edifice of sacrifice and sorrow, the Archlich was born.
The warlock swore an oath then, binding himself in dark pact to the Raven Queen for this task. His clothing rose up and formed around him, bathed in tendrils of the shadows of life and death. His mask elongated into metal. Skulls from the other graves rose up and formed accoutrement around his form, and he floated, silently, atop the ground. Finally, the short, keen blade of the dagger at his hip flexed outward in impossible directions transforming into a massive scythe.
The key reappared within his palm and the warlock looked down at it, willing it to disappear. Another quick ritual and the object vanished from his grasp with a prepared note.
Finally, the Archlich Xenophanes looked up to the spiritual wolf and whispered once more: “Our purposes may not align, guide of my soul, but we are now and forever intertwined.”
The warlock vanished into the portal he had created leaving the disturbed grave, and his soul, behind.
Atop a sacred alter, a key appeared. Tiamat’s key. With a note. The priestess Lia read it carefully once alerted to its presence and considered for a long time the value of the words.
Then, just as carefully, she lifted up the key and placed it in her pouch for safekeeping.
As the noted burned, she read the last words once more:
“…key sacred to Tiamat. Of utmost importance to the fall of that foul beast. Protect it well, for it will soon be of use. I am trusting you to know the time.
- Xenophanes, the Sage”