A/N: Because someone actually read this piece, I have decided to break this down in chapters, and I have actually worked on it recently. So, anyone out there who is still reading "The Quest for the Purple Unicorn", this is a bit of a spoiler. I do have an ending planned for that story, mind you. This piece sprung up for a couple of reasons. One of which has to do with that I had the desire to write something a little bit more serious. The other reasons I keep to myself, but one of them has to do with picking on certain characters.

If you have not read "The Purple Unicorn" story, I think that this story will stand well enough on its own. So, read and enjoy. Drop me a line. I love to argue with you if you feel inclined to do so, because I am being a bit radical in this story. I love it when people twll me that I can't do something!!

Chapter 1: Background and the Meeting

The snow flurried down into the clearing to cover up any sign of passing life as it persistently had done for the last three days in this gods forsaken place. Three bloody days he had wandered this damned place in search of his companions. Three days he had wandered alone. For the last seven years all he could do was complain about wanting to be left the Abyss alone and have a descent amount of time to himself. Now that he was actually alone, he felt desolate and empty. Stupid! Why should he feel anything at all! Yet, mayhap things would not have seemed so dismal if he had not been in such a cold and wretched place and he could have something constructive to do with his time other than worrying about the increasing difficulty of movement forward due to the accumulating snow, but all his books and projects were back home, and he was unable to gather any useful information about this place and its magicks. He had not even met any intelligent life along the way. However, recently, he did sense some intelligent creature following him at a safe distance away. This being was certainly in for a nasty little surprise when he did catch up to him.

Nightfall had come and gone several hours ago, and he knew he must rest soon whether he liked it or not. Malhavoc looked up at the relentlessly falling snow and cursed. He had been a lich, an undead monstrosity, for more than five and a half centuries. Why did he have to rest? Why did he have to feel this bloody cold? He clenched his black gloved hands under the layers of thick heavy black robes. This was all that bloody dragons fault! All of it!!

Up to seven years ago, he was a relatively normal lich, if such things could be possible for his kind. He cared for nothing but the acquisition of knowledge and the total annihilation of all living things. Something happened to shift those goals. Something stupid happened and that damn dragon won the favor of their demon liege lord over him. Out of all things possible in their world, Skratch wanted Malhavoc to return to that frail despicable human state. The dragon wanted him to be that inept sickly little human being over all the wealth in the world. What in the name of the seven hells was wrong with that dragon!! The lich gave a cynical laugh. Some things were even beyond the powers of demons . . . Thanks be to all the evil powers of the Abyss for that! Even more fortunately, their master was a lesser demon. There was no telling what the dragon's true motives were behind that request!

Yet, demon he still was, and he was able to greatly scar the lich's existence and put him in a state between life and unlife. His phylactery was completely destroyed and his soul had no choice but to flee back into his corrupted decayed body. Not that he would ever choose a different body, which was in his power. He was now able to feel the air around him for the first time in 500 years. He could feel the heat and cold again, and a blow to his blasted little body of bone could be devastating. Hell, if he received a hard enough blow to the head, he would find himself unconscious. Of course, he would never admit that to have a sense of feel was a good thing in some special cases. To be able to feel the temperature change during certain incantations and spells could be useful. He would be even less likely to admit that he actually enjoyed being able to feel Marissa's soft smooth hands on his face and shoulders or soft warm lips on his cheekbones. He shrugged off the daydream. What was he thinking! He was dead. The dead don't have those kinds of feelings!

His situation could have been worse. At least Nikodemus saw to it that he was provided with warm clothes and lodgings. Things could have been a hell of a lot worse! Damn it all, Nikodemus went as far as to purchase his soul from Skratch, and he actually gave it back to the lich freely. The price the dragon asked for a defective lich was a steep one indeed! Malhavoc pulled his hood more forward to shield himself from the frigid wind. He had never heard of such pains given freely for one of his yolk. Flesh and blood folk did not help the undead willingly or without reason.

Flesh and blood would have helped to create more warmth, but it would have been too much of a liability, especially, since in life, he was prone to the lung fever. He touched one of the pouches at his waist. Nikodemus apparently did not understand the true meaning (or any part of the meaning) of undead. He was insistent that the lich carry some bread and a hunk of cheese on their travels. The damn kender-drow could not get it through his thick skull that the lich had no need of sustenance, Nikodemus only smiled at him and would say "You never know when it might be useful, then there it will be!" Malhavoc shrugged. That was why the tower was so cluttered. Oh well, they had been through some truly strange and bizarre dimensions.

Another pouch contained some useful spell components. That one he had no argument in carrying, although most spells he used called upon the energies within himself and around him to create. However, it was nice to have a short cut every once and awhile. This was the pouch he wanted. He leaned the towering staff of Emerikol on his shoulder in order to free up both hands for the spell. He cast out a dark powder into the wind with his right hand and made the properly adjusted hand motions with his left hand. Most wizards, like everyone else, were bloody right handed, and the gestures and spells were written with that in mind. Malhavoc was the exception. He was left handed. He could have easily learned the proper precision just as easily right handed, but his left handedness used to aggravate Emerikol terribly, so it made him all the more determined to succeed left handed in defiance of his old master.

The sparks of a flame appeared with a pile of branches. The fire would burn as long as he needed it, and it would disappear without a trace at his command when the time came.

He struck the ground with the staff and mumbled the spell that would protect him from all that could harm him, whether it be brought on by evil beings, good beings, who wished to stomp out the evil of his kind, or just natural accident or predator. The staff shook. Malhavoc concentrated his will stronger on the staff and grabbed it with both hands. It fought, but it relentlessly yielded.

"You know that I am your master," he stated. He had fought with Emerikol, and he had completely and utterly defeated the older wizard. Emerikol was a pile of ash and the seven foot staff of bone with blood red runes became the lich's prize possession. Chance was quick to point out that a seven foot staff held by a five foot skeletal wizard was one lousy fashion statement. Malhavoc did not know at the time that frying the obnoxious thief was a way to gain the eccentric young man's affection. Nevermind Chance, he thought, as he stroked the staff proudly. It was his greatest trophy. He had won against his old tormentor. He knew that part of the essence of Emerikol was still in the staff, and it gave him pleasure to quell that essence every once and awhile.

He sat by the fire and warmed himself. He prepared himself for rest. That was another curse from the demon. No lich should have to rest. He should be able to travel on for days, weeks, months, years . . . without rest. Skratch had said that he talked too much and needed to be silenced sometimes. So, the lich had a choice now. He could rest now for four hours a day (give or take), or he could collapse after three days for exactly 24 hours with no way of being awakened until the time was up. Here again, he found his companions useful. For all their flaws, they would protect his body so he would have a body to return to. Outwardly and a good portion of his soul told him that they did this because they found him useful. Even when he lost all memory of his spells, he knew as well as they did, he could easily regain them again. The vague reminisce of good, that was ever in his soul (and he would be quick to deny it) told him that they actually liked him.

He looked into the dark woods, Having unnaturally good sight, even in complete darkness, he saw movements among the snow covered trees and underbrush, He would have smiled if he still had lips to do so. The presence had been following him for the last six hours. He sensed him wanting to approach, but fear held him back. Malhavoc appreciated that there was actually someone out there who had sense enough to fear a monster of his magnitude. Of course, he wasn't sure who was more dangerous . . . himself or Nikodemus. Malhavoc would kill and enslave the undead soul because he wanted to. Nikodemus would do it just to find out what the spell would do. He truly did not have the responsibility to wield the magic that he possessed. He could easily destroy a friend as well as a foe, not to mention creating other atrocities by a misspell (or plain and simple, just curious to find out what a spell would do).

The lich felt full of himself. It had been so long (if ever) since anyone showed him the proper fear. Wasn't it suppose to be natural for the simple living to fear him, who had walked the roads, that should have never been traveled by a mortal soul. When he made the transition to a lich, he didn't know he needed a bloody illusion to evoke fear in the living. He always thought that being a walking carcass should have been enough. He didn't know how truly and utterly wrong he was, especially now that he had a young half elf girl, who would like nothing better than to bed him. Strangely enough, although startled and more than a bit embarrassed, he was rather pleased with himself over that one. Of course, when they met seven years ago, Chance had also offered to bed him. He was less pleased with that suggestion to say the least.

Not being much amused by games for long, the wizard looked forward into the woods and spoke. "Come forward if you have business with me. If not, be gone and cease haunting my steps."

Silence was his answer.