Ciraas the Living Phylactery
Ciraas stood at the black gates of the Necropolis, taking a moment to stop and question if this was really the right thing for her to do. She'd messed up, yes, but servitude to the Lich King? Perhaps there was another way... "No," she thought to herself. This was it. This was how she'd learn to control the powers she found herself with; the powers she didn't know well enough to save her father.
The 14 year old halfing was far too short to reach the unhinged jaw that served as a knocker. Instead, she picked up nearby rocks and pelted the door. This went on for several minutes before, finally, one of the Lich King's servants opened the door. It uttered something out in the black tongue. It was completely incomprehensible, sharing seemingly nothing with Common or Halfing.
Ciraas nearly retched at the smell of decay coming off the servant, but she steeled herself. "I am Ciraas, of clan," a gulp interrupted the confident sounding proclamation. Saying her family name still pained her at times. It reminded her of the life she'd never get back. Or maybe, just maybe, she could... She'd just have to pull this off. "Of clan Anise. I have come seeking the lord of the dead. I wish to study under him, to become... to become a necromancer!"
The servant blinked. A puddle of drool was starting to form at its feet. Or rather, what remained of them. Had it understood her? The blank look on its face and low gurgle in its throat seemed to indicate a resounding "no." With an agitated sigh, she made to push past the shambling corpse. The servant blocked her path. She tried to shove it aside, but it was simply too heavy.
The halfling knew what she had to do, but she wasn't thrilled about it. She took a deep breath and fanned her hands out in front of her. Eyes rolled back in her head as she entered a deep, trance-like state. Suddenly a commanding voice shot out of her, "Move!"
The servant stood up straight. It gave a slight nod to Ciraas, uttered a word in the black tongue, and began plodding off. A smile spread across her face as the young girl realized her plan had worked. She let out an excited yip, but quickly placed a hand over her mouth. This was no place for that sort of behavior. She'd need to be calm and cool here.
Feeling that she'd wasted enough time already, the halfing began her trek into the Lich King's fortress. She had absolutely no idea where she was going. Hallway after hallway, room after room, Ciraas was convinced she'd be lost in here forever. Finally, an idea came to her. She rushed over to the nearest servant, and again entered a trance. "Take me to your master."
This servant moved much faster than the first. Ciraas's small halfling legs struggled to keep up. At times, she was practically running after it. Initially, she planned on keeping track of the path they followed through the keep. But after the seventh spiral staircase she realized that would be impossible.
With her legs burning and her breathing labored, Ciraas finally found herself in front of the Lich King's throne room. She wasted no time. The doors opened with ease, almost as if she'd been expected. There, in the middle of the room on a throne made of bones and flesh, sat the infamous Icon.
The Lich King. No amount of stories could have prepared her for this moment. His skeletal face was fixed on her, the ruby adorned eye peering into her very soul. The voice that left his mouth could only be described as if death had a noise all its own. "Fascinating... How does one as meek as you make it all the way to my island, much less to the foot of my throne?"
Ciraas froze. She thought she could handle this. She'd thought about it for so long, practicing the speech she'd deliver over and over. Yet now, in the moment, the halfling was terrified. Her body shook. Her eyes filled with tears. Perhaps this really was a mistake. Training with the Lich King? What a crazy idea! How foolish she'd been to convince herself of this wild plan. And now that she was here, there's no way she'd be able to leave.
The sound of creaking bones filled the air. The Lich King rose from his throne. He walked down, staff in hand, and stood in front of Ciraas. The skeletal man towered over her. With a swift motion, he placed his staff under her chin, and lifted her face until their eyes - or what would have been, had he had any - met. "Speak, girl. How did you survive my island?"
"T-the dead! I used... I used the dead to guide me." She stammered out.
"Hmm..." It was a contemplative sound, accompanied by the staff lowering from Ciraas's face. The Lich King circled her, inspecting her closely. "Used the dead, you say? Show me!" He raised an arm, and from the ground in front of him rose one of his servants.
The servant cowered in fear. She was fresh. The decomposition process had yet to claim her completely, leaving patches of skin and hair strewn across her body. Judging from her whimpering, she did not even know the black tongue yet. All the legends said that the Lich King forbade the use of any language but his own from his servants.
Ciraas felt terrible. A pit had formed in her gut with such a ferocity that it felt as if it sought to devour her whole. He wanted proof she could influence the dead somehow, that much was clear. But she didn't feel right commanding a servant that was clearly still so lucid.
The Lich King smacked the servant with his staff, knocking her to the ground. "Show me, now!" He demanded with a roar.
Ciraas swallowed hard and tried to enter a trance. It was a struggle, but she managed to do it. Hearing the sobbing of the servant, the young girl did the only thing she could think of. She placed her hands on the servant, and said, "Be calm. Be at peace."
The servant's sobbing reduced to whimpers, then to nothing at all. Her shoulders stopped shaking. She pulled herself out of the fetal position she'd retreated to, and stood up calmly. The command had worked.
The Lich King smirked. "So you can exert your will over the dead. Very good... Why did you come here?.."
"I came here to be taught by you. Please, show me how to use my powers properly." Ciraas's eyes remained locked on the floor the entire time she spoke.
A skeletal hand gripped her hair, forcing her to look the Icon in the face once more. "Do you understand what it is you ask for, child?"
Ciraas didn't give herself time to second guess her decisions, "Yes. Please, mighty Lich King. I pledge myself to your service. Teach me to be one of your necromancers."
The hand released its grip, returning to the Lich King's side. He smirked, "Very well... Prove that you are willing to do what it takes. You seem to have commanding down; command her," a finger shot at the servant, "to die. Permanently."
The halfling's eyes grew wide. Permanently? This isn't what she wanted. She wanted to learn how to prevent death, to save her father! Not end others lives'. "I have no choice... Please, father... I hope you can forgive me, when I see you again..."
The whites of her eyes showed once more as Ciraas fell into the trance. There was no thought this time. Only action. A single word fell out of her mouth, a word that felt as if it were made of ice, "Die."
The servant began to fall apart. First one arm, then the other. A leg became a stump. She fell to the ground, barely more than a torso with a head. Her eyes locked on Ciraas, and she muttered out a single, sorrowful, "Why?.." before her head crumbled to dust.
Ciraas shut off her emotions. It was the only way she'd be able to prevent the tears. The only way she could avoid feeling like a monster.
The Lich King laughed. A dry, horrible laugh. "Why, wasn't that dramatic? Here I expected you to give her a merciful death, and instead you make her witness her own demise as she literally falls apart. Splendid! Yes, I believe I can use you after all... Come, child! I will have a spot made for you next to my throne."
Ciraas followed the Lich King to the throne, as servants rushed out to fulfill his request. She took her seat next to him. Nothing was in her eyes now. Not joy or sorrow, anger or contentment. She knew this was her only chance at redemption. She just hoped the ends would justify the means.
The Lich King stands alone, speaking in the black tongue
"Yes, I am certain she is the one.
I hold her father's soul quite literally in my hands, she will not leave.
No, there is no threat of that. She is a halfling from a poor family, no one will come for her.
Yes, I am sure.
I have already begun the rituals. She thinks they are just to make her a necromancer.
No, she doesn't suspect a thing.
By my estimate, she will be ready to become the vessel in two years time.
Yes, the current vessel will live that long.
This is the first time in decades my vessel will be a necromancer. It's really quite exciting.
Thank you, your idea to make my phylactery a living organism was utterly brilliant. With this, my reign shall endure forever!"