Kravitz slowly dragged himself up the stone stairs to the main area of the cabin. His form may not have any muscles, but he still ached and needed a break from this night.
Kravitz was not looking forward to the paperwork on this. He would have to collate all the reports from the area over the last couple of years, see what was connected and what wasn’t, and definitely figure out why they hadn’t seen it sooner.
He’d been wanting a break from the near endless paperwork pile that was his desk, but he had not been expecting to have to fight a dozen hot-tempered necromancers, have to reform his whole construct near instantly, and uncover a widespread coordinated necromancy plot.
And there was probably other sections of this cult still out there, that would go to ground if he didn’t find them fast. At least he knew what he was up against now.
Kravitz would admit, if questioned, that he was a little distracted by his internal monologue of exhaustion and annoyance. So while he hadn’t quite forgotten the strong necromantic presence that had appeared earlier, it had certainly been moved to the backburner of his mind while he dealt with the clusterfuck downstairs.
As a result, his eyes were only drawn to the bookshelf in the far corner of the cabin when the figure standing in front of it shifted slightly.
A familiar red figure.
“Oh no. Not a fucking chance. I am far too tired to deal with this particular brand of bullshit tonight.”
Barry Bluejeans looked up from his inspection of the, undoubtedly necromantic, scroll in his mage hand and was managing to eye Kravitz’s form amusedly despite not currently possessing any real eyes. “Hey Kravitz. You’re looking a little, uh, a little singed there, buddy.”
“I am not your buddy,” Kravitz snarled.
“Of course not,” Barry said appeasingly. “So how was work, dear?”
Kravitz looked too angry to form words.
Barry nodded understandingly, “that bad huh? They’re really working you to the bone these days.”
The lich lost composure almost immediately after finishing his sentence, letting out half-choked sounding cackles at his own terrible joke while Kravitz tried to resist the urge to set him on fire.
There had probably been more than enough fire for one night, and it would only start a very short-lived and embarrassing fight for Kravitz if he attacked this particular lich in his current exhausted condition.
Barry gamely made a show of pulling himself together.
“I’m sorry bud- uh, Kravitz. Couldn’t help myself.” Barry paused, as if considering his next words carefully.
“You, uh, you really don’t look so good, though. You’ve got kind of a singed raven thing going on which, you know, keeps with your general vibe but uh… really didn’t expect these guys to be able to give you much of a fight. They seemed pretty incompetent, actually.”
A more serious tone had crept into his voice this time. If Kravitz didn’t know better, he’d think Barry was concerned for him.
And it’s not like Kravitz didn’t agree with him. He had underestimated them too, until he made the connection to the spree of similar rituals. And, if he’d had his way, he certainly wouldn’t have fought a large number of cultists in a cramped basement with little to no information on their power levels.
But he and Barry were not friends, not even close. Kravitz had come out of encounters with Barry looking far worse than he currently did.
“And how would you know about their level of competence? Are you involved with this cult?” Even as he said it, Kravitz couldn’t see it being true. “This kind of ritual doesn’t seem like your usual area, the kind of power they were trying to summon would be nothing to a lich of your level,” Kravitz added grumpily.
Barry gave a small chuckle. “Involved? Uh, no. Nope. Although, when I heard they had stolen some interesting scrolls I’d been wanting to get my hands on I did try to, uh, infiltrate their group.” The hooded lich shook his head, “I made a pretty convincing human disguise and offered them some choice necromancy tips, sorry about that, but they, uh, didn’t really go for it.”
Kravitz almost laughed at that. “I can’t really blame them. I’ve seen your human disguise, Bluejeans, and you dress like a farmer. Doesn’t exactly fit in with the usual necromantic aesthetic. You’d probably get further if you told them you were someone’s dad and offered them milk and cookies rather than advice about dark arcana.”
Barry snorted at that.
“Shows what they know,” he said in an amused voice. “First off, I can’t bake - or cook - for shit. I’ve been booted out of the kitchen for trying to make toast. On several occasions.”
Kravitz was both amused and also uncomfortably reminded of why so many conversations with this particular lich always caught him off guard. Who was booting an extremely powerful lich out of a kitchen? Why was he in a kitchen, apparently failing to toast bread, in the first place?
He certainly wasn’t speaking as if this was all a long time ago, before he’d become a lich and had time to get so powerful and controlled that he could escape a reaper as old as Kravitz. Why did he always come across so… normal?
Barry continued in a dry tone of voice, “And second, those idiots don’t know what they’re missing out on, ignoring my vast knowledge of, uh, ‘dark arcana’. Warding against reapers, for starters. And their sigils, my gods, I can’t believe they haven’t fucked up and gotten themselves killed with sigil placement that sloppy. Well, you know, gotten themselves killed by their sigils failing, instead of by a pissed off reaper.” Barry appeared to be trying to wink at him by blinking off one of his flaming eyes very deliberately.
Again, Kravitz almost laughed at Barry’s antics. But his words had been a sobering reminder of exactly what he was joking around with here.
This man, this lich, standing before him and chatting amiably was not normal at all. He was a self confessed necromancer, and an extremely powerful undead creature. He knew how to ward against detection by reapers, and he knew so much about necromancy and rituals that he could critique other people’s sigil placement. Kravitz didn’t even know when he’d had a chance to see the, admittedly sloppy, sigils drawn in the cellar.
And while Kravitz himself had a great deal of knowledge about necromancy, that knowledge belonging to a lich, no matter how friendly and non-threateningly dressed that lich sometimes was, sat uncomfortably for Kravitz.
He wished, not for the first time, that Barry Bluejeans was not openly and obviously continuing to seek and use necromancy at every given opportunity. He wished that Barry was the nice man he had sounded like ever since they’d managed a conversation amongst their irregularly scheduled showdowns. One who had gotten in too deep with the wrong crowd, and who Kravitz could scare with tales about the Eternal Stockade, lose a few rounds of cards with, and let him off with a warning.
But there was no such thing as becoming a lich by accident. No way to become as proficient and powerful at necromantic magic as Barry by merely stumbling into it. Kravitz had only run into Barry tonight because he was here seeking the powerful old scrolls that this cult had stolen. Detecting him through his reaper magic only happened rarely; when Kravitz got lucky, or when Barry messed up - or even wanted to be found.
And now Kravitz also wished that his complicated feelings surrounding this lich, who was quite possibly playing him, did not exist and thus could be detected by the room’s other occupant.
Barry was now standing quietly, giving off a vaguely understanding air that Kravitz hated.
They had been almost laughing together a few moments ago, and when Kravitz had suddenly gone serious at the mention of Barry’s considerable knowledge of necromancy, it would not have been a huge leap for Barry to figure out why. He was a very smart man, unfortunately. And they had had conversations like this before.
Barry carefully put down the scroll in his hands, not looking away from Kravitz.
“I suppose this, uh, means we’re going to fight now?” He sounded resigned.
Kravitz almost said yes out of anger, what fucking right did Barry have to sound resigned? He had chosen to become an abomination. And he wasn’t the one who’d had to reform his entire fucking construct tonight because hunting down leftover cultists was an unnecessary headache on top of night already surpassing its allotment of headaches.
Kravitz sighed, the anger draining as fast as it had come.
“I honestly probably couldn’t at this point. What did you say before - I look like a singed raven?”
And wasn’t it strange, to admit weakness to a lich he’d had some of the biggest showdowns of his undeath with.
He hated to even think it, but he wasn’t at all worried to do so. He knew Barry was about as interested in initiating a fight with Kravitz as he was in coming to the Astral Plane of his own volition.
The man just wasn’t a natural fighter; he tended to fight Kravitz only for as long as it took him to get away. He was definitely a formidable opponent, but he didn’t delight in violence like most liches and necromancers Kravitz had met.
In fact, Barry Bluejeans reminded Kravitz far more of the irritating necromancy professors at Goldcliff University than the bloodthirsty, mad liches he usually had to deal with. Less uncontrolled destruction and desire for power, more unchecked curiosity and enthusiasm for necromancy. Still dangerous, Kravitz knew, but far more annoying than truly evil.
“I mean, yeah, you do look kinda exhausted bud- shit, Kravitz. But I still wouldn’t wanna fight you, you’re a pretty strong opponent! It’s definitely taken me several days to recover from some of our more, uh, explosive meetings.” Barry sounded enthused now, “hey, remember that time in Neverwinter? Hoo boy, I bet that park still hasn’t recovered!”
Kravitz met this unexpected reaction with a silence that lasted a little too long to be comfortable.
Barry was starting to do the lich equivalent of shifting from foot to foot, which mostly made him look like a tattered red drape swaying awkwardly in the breeze.
Kravitz finally managed, “Are you-? Are you seriously trying to make me feel better about myself right now? By reminding me of that time I caused a small earthquake in a park because you raised up all the animal skeletons buried there? Is this a pep talk about my fighting skills from the guy who’s been a major thorn in my side for the last, oh, eight years ?”
Barry had the good grace to look a little sheepish.
Kravitz continued, “you really are something else, Bluejeans. You know that?”
He got a laugh in response.
“Oh Kravitz,” Barry sounded as if he were suppressing giggles, “are you telling me I’m not like the other liches?”
And at that, Kravitz finally did break down and laugh, loudly and helplessly, alongside the absurd creature he knew so well but not at all.