The first thing an undead remembers...is how cold the ground is.
He woke up screaming, first time he came back. They always scream, howling bloody murder at the sky. It's usually from how they died, if they were in pain when they went. Sometimes they scream because they were sent back to finish something they left undone. Of course, there's always the idea that there's just no more room in Hell.
But these are undead. Not strictly zombies or ghosts, though they do fall in that category. Not specifically brain-hungry monsters or phantoms meant to haunt the site of their demise. Some undead are a bit more complicated than that, and not all of them are evil. Some are just misguided or angry, uncomfortable with how they went. Others are scared, willing to make deals with the wrong sorts of people on the other side just to get back for a little while. Heaven and Hell are locked behind doors, and the deceased are guaranteed entry into either one or the other. Or they end up like the man spawned in the darkness, alone and confused, slowly remembering bits and pieces, and shoved out on the streets with no context of what he's supposed to do.
At least, that's what he thinks right now.
The natural human reactions are normally preserved to an extent. For zombies it's to feed, to fill their aching stomachs and "survive" in a sense. But for more competent undead like liches or wraiths, it's to find out what their purpose is. That's the first thing they understand, a compulsive need to belong somewhere, much like they were concerned with in life. Some become purely malevolent, finding pleasure in killing and raising their victims as zombies. These lost souls wander in Limbo, between Heaven and Hell, unable to find solace until their bodies discover a solution to their hunger. After all, a soul brings life to what would otherwise be a pile of flesh. It is consciousness, sentience, and understanding. It is morality, or lack thereof, and a sense of being. Without a soul, living creatures cease to be and they become little more than puppets.
That is why liches such as the one just now coming to realize his place in the world are so heavily conflicted. They are as alive as the humans they will eventually come to despise or envy, unable to truly die and pass on into the other side.
That is why he's screaming, only he doesn't understand exactly why just yet.
Don't know where this will go exactly. Probably in the waste bin like all the other things. Just felt like sharing a possible "origin" story.
Once the screaming subsides, their cold hearts beating in tandem with their racing minds, a lich is able to recognize his surroundings for what they are. At first, their thought process is halted every now and again by new sounds and sensations, things they are not accustomed to learning with their new bodies. After all, they are not who they once were, their very being is rooted in mystery. Here is where guides typically emerge, to teach them of the world they have been reborn into. But some have different styles of instruction. This new lich has been designated to be slightly different than others of his kind.
Normally, liches are raised either out of an express need of an exceptionally powerful necromancer or because their souls craved something greater yet in the land of the living, a need so strong that they bought their way out of Limbo by bargain or by piracy. Though necromancers are indeed capable of raising and controlling liches, it is only for a very limited time, for the liches soon regain sentience of their own and become the masters themselves. These liches often replace the necromancers responsible for their rebirth at the head of whatever school of dark magic they commanded, becoming even deadlier still thanks to their new apathy for life as a whole. Liches are much like humans in this regard, as first impressions usually are the deciding factor in many things.
But the one emerging today has not been taken out of the ground by the works of black magic. It has been a long time since his body was laid to rest, a time that he is not familiar with. It might seem like days one minute and then it shifts into a period of time lasting many centuries. Confusion takes root in this stage, as the lich desperately tries to piece together what happened. He is indeed a living being, he feels fear and pain, he understands the concepts of morality and nature. There must be a logical reason that he is alive, and yet there is no purpose behind his new flesh and blood. This is not his body.
This is not his life.
This is not natural.
He is born into a dark city, somewhere between the borders of the world, a forgotten metropolis where the people live amongst rats. While Gothic City is a living, breathing battlefield, it is as though a war passed through these streets long ago and nobody bothered to rebuild and yet here they remained amidst the ruins. Old fires left their mark many moons ago, the homeless clinging to life in a burgeoning world gone mad with hysteria and grief. They do not choose to rebuild, for what can they rebuild with? Or to what purpose would it extend? It all seems folly, and it proves true to this day. This city has no name, for its name passed out of all memory before the dawning of the nuclear age.
It is the staging ground of many supernatural events. The dead here are restless, and angry. It is the beginning of the lich's emergence into the world, where his deeds go unnoticed here and yet imprint upon his icy heart forever.
This is where he will learn his purpose.
"Another one came up. It's been what, 400 years?"
Silence. The only light in the room is a cigar burning quietly. Nothing enters into this room, this void.
"Over it are nineteen. This is the last one,"
"What do you mean?"
Creaking, someone is moving in the darkness.
"The last one we're ever getting from Limbo. Over Hell are nineteen angels. This is the nineteenth lich, the first one in 400 years,"
The lich had no other purpose than to stalk the streets that night, to look for something. He didn't understand exactly what. His natural instincts were not dulled, but rather delayed. He had no hunger in the pit of his stomach or vengeance plaguing his mind. Plain and simple, he was lost. No direction guided him, but that would soon change. The smell of blood lingered in the air. People were dying out there, slain by hands other than that of fate. Murderers infested these streets. A city with no name and a monster without a cause to inflict some manner of justice upon it; that seemed natural to the man underneath the lich. Only then did a hunger finally reach into his guts and cause him ache.
It was a hunger to visit swift retribution upon the guilty, and liberate the downtrodden. Yes, that was his purpose here! He was sure of it. That was why he had been sent back.
An exchange gone wrong, two loan sharks holding down a poor man while a third pointed a gun into his mouth. Two other men were already dead in the alleyway, victims of the firearm no doubt. Splatters of red dotted the concrete. Only one of the many crime scenes this evening, but one that the lich could intervene upon. In a flash of shadowy colors, he blended into the darkness, through what manner he knew not. The gunman turned his attention from his third victim of the night to the newest addition to the gathering. His lackeys demonstrated their cruelty by kicking the man they had pinned to ensure he didn't get back up - or at least, if he tried, then he would be in absolute agony.
The lich walked forward, having no concept of his powers yet but knowing something in the back of his mind that allowed him to have a distinct advantage here. The gunman asked no questions, and pulled the trigger three times, each shot sinking into the lich's chest. This was his first contact with necroplasm, as he expected red blood and pain but instead only received a distant thud in his torso and soon relief from the sensation of being shot at all. At this time, the gunman noticed he was dealing with at least a metahuman. Opting to run, he was instead struck down by a series of chains extending from the lich's magnanimous cloak. Again, this was all new to the lich, and he simply went along with it given time.
Already victimized, the man at the center of all of this just covered his head and prayed for it to be over soon. He didn't react to the lich's hand reaching down for his, nor did he engage in conversation once he was forced to his feet.
"Are you alright?" the lich inquired.
His guest took one fleeting glance at his savior, and turned away screaming into the distance.
"St-Stay away from me!"
Confused, the lich cocked his head to the side, taking notes amidst his bloody handiwork. Three men, butchered like cattle, and strewn among the rafters - hardly the stuff of heroes. Yet, he knew their hearts. He understood their dark souls even before touching them, just by admiring their natural radiance. They were evil men, corrupt down to the core, and needed to be punished for their sins. He didn't comprehend at that moment just why he went to those lengths, if they truly did deserve to die, but his deepest consciousness told him otherwise. It was profound and strong, adamant in the decision it had chosen for him. He didn't question it, because it was like denying the basic truths of human morality, of human decency.
And...he was human...right? Then why did they all look at him with such disgust...why did their eyes tell a story of not just fear, but of the greatest possible loathing? Just as he understood their evil souls, so too did they recognize a hatred in their very beings for him. A hatred reserved for beasts, not men.
The voice beckoned him to listen, regardless of its mysterious source.
"Names aren't important right now," it continued, emerging from the shadows now, the same shadows that once housed nothing. He, a figure, strolled out of the darkness as if he was always there, coming closer to the lich now. His bulbous gut was the most pronounced of his features, as were his pig nose and dark red eyes. His physical form, however, did not stay as it appeared at first, but rather changing ever so subtly when the lich looked away or if he blinked, only to return to the stocky norm he initially recognized it as.
"You're probably full of questions right now, huh? Seeing what you did just now, it's a step in the right direction of finding everything out. Keep killing kid, it's good for business,"
"What are you talking about?"
"You want to find out what's going on, right? Follow me."
"You really don't remember do you? Stop asking questions, you're ruining the mood,"
The area looked like it was hit with a bomb. Tombstones were broken, cast down, or simply not there at all, merely roots of cement leading down into an unmarked grave. The lich sighed, admiring little of his surroundings. His fat guide kept walking, sauntering back and forth like a large penguin. His waddling eventually brought the lich to a hole in the ground, an unmarked hole, but recently uncovered somewhat. Only a few inches of dirt were disturbed, as if someone tried robbing it and left abruptly.
"Go on, start digging,"
"What, no shovel?" the lich replied coldly, kneeling into the mud.
His clawed fingers, fingers that he didn't recognize as his for some reason, sank into the fresh soil and shredded out handfuls of dirt. One after another, and ten minutes passed. He kept digging and the fat man watched him, his smile growing wider with each passing moment. The lich did not tire, he couldn't. He kept shoveling away the muck, spreading the grime across the splinters of grass and seedlings. Nothing grew here anymore. They were all brown and decayed, dried and dying. Still he continued to scratch at the mantle of the Earth. Still he tried to find something, a clue maybe. Perhaps the fat man buried a chest of secrets here, and only now decided to tell him everything.
Thirty minutes passed, and six feet down the lich quietly lingered. On the supposed box of memories was inscribed a name on a gold plate, the thick wood of the coffin locking away something beyond his sight and senses. He turned towards the fat man, or rather where he expected him to be, only to find nothing at all. Was...Was he imagining things? Did he just dig up a grave for no reason other than to satisfy some unconscious desire? He looked at his hands, hoping beyond hope to see fingers chipped with effort and weariness. The claws dragged into his vision, haunting him even as he closed his eyes and tore away in a panic.
"These are not my hands," he murmured. He started to remember, remember what happened.
The chaotic memories clashed together again, and he lost all coherency. Was he crazy? Did he do this for no reason? He had to find out! He had to tear into the coffin, and see for himself what was on the other side!
"My name, this is my name!" he roared into the gathering stormclouds. "This is my name! I want it back! Who are you?!"
Splitting the wood apart as if it were paper, digging past regret and mercy long ago in a flurry of confusion and fear, the lich finally uncovered the secret to all of this. Behind the coffin door lay a corpse, empty and hollow, buried in a military uniform pinned with various medals, his hands folded over his chest peacefully. On the foremost finger, a wedding ring. He gathered his heart from his throat, breathing heavily. What was he doing? He couldn't honestly tell. Reaching for the ring, he instead tore off the rotting digit due to the weakness in the decayed tissue and bone. Peeling the jewelry away, he gazed at the inner band. For the love of God...
Convinced that he had just robbed a grave, thinking himself cognisant of some nightmarish dream or - God forbid - an actual physical interpretation of such, the lich threw the ring away and tried climbing out. The rain started to fall, and made the soil slick again. But, from behind, he felt his legs constricted by some otherworldly force and he was dragged down again into the grave. Pinned against the dirt wall by his throat, the lich struggled against the grip. He opened his eyes, only to be met with the empty pits of the corpse that he had just pilfered from. By some unnatural law, it had awoken, and now sought to kill him outright for the transgression of disturbing its eternal rest.
Only, it spoke to him, as if entirely aware of the uncertainty he possessed.
"You want to know who I am?"
The lich tried swiping at the corpse, only to be met with open air. He gathered his senses, or so he hoped, and saw that the body had been returned to its resting place, or rather - it never moved at all. The ring still in his hand, he read the inscription inside the band again. Kyle and Mary forever...
"It's about time you figured it out," the fat man returned.
"You! You did this!"
"Nah, it's not in my jurisdiction pal. You died, you're alive again, get over it,"
"Tell me what happened or I will kill you!"
"Oooh, getting a little too big for your britches eh? I'm not telling you anything, and even if you did try to kill me...hehe...it wouldn't end well for you, let's just leave it at that,"
"Tell me damn you!"
"Why? You're just some punk without anything to live for anymore. You're a slave to a cause, a soldier in an army. Face it, you've been conscripted and there's nothing you can do about it. You're just a ghoul now, just a lowly little pawn,"
"I've lost everything, and you're the cause of it! Tell me what happened or - "
Just like that, he disappeared again, leaving behind his awful little laugh to ring inside the lich's head for the next couple of minutes. His warped understanding of life and death, swirling inside his mind along with meeting his own corpse...an army?
"You're right about one thing," he said at length. "I am a ghoul. That's what I'll become to stop you and anything you have planned."
And so, the building blocks within the dark city came to pass in such a short amount of time. Before the lich came to the world of the living, the city never existed to begin with. It is a staging ground for their kind, to understand again what it means to either be a human or a monster. And after the lich leaves the city, it will forever fade away from all notable memory, the people inside already condemned to live within Limbo until their debts are paid. That is the law of the dead. It is a law that the lich abides by, for soon will come the days of evil that none can predict or prevent.
Signing in and out of alternate accounts used to kill momentum for me, though. I would post somewhere thinking I was on the right character and then have the post deleted because I had logged in on a different account on another tab.
That's why I'm trying to squish everything into this one.
The first thing an undead remembers...is how cold the ground is.
"It shouldn't have turned out this way,"
"We just have to wait and see,"
"Don't leave me,"
Ghoul wrapped his fingers together. He had taken a liking to that name, even though it meant something completely different from what he had adapted it for. It served as little more than a placeholder, a mask.
The city around him had drawn its last breath ages ago. Probably a radiation leak, or a coal fire deep underground. It didn't matter. Nothing ever did anymore.
Bleached by the scalding sun, the alabaster walls held their secrets. Their stories. Shadows of living things scratched at the surface. Plaster fell off in chunks, the only sound for miles. These were the ruins of a war Ghoul no longer understood or remained a part of. He had passed beyond anything like that. Anything important.
He muttered silently into the wind, whispering something he didn't consciously record or understand on a personal level. He opened his hands. The ring inside closed no circles for him. It looped around in his head, cycling back and forth, turning pointlessly and monotonously. He started to tip over his wrist, the open palm facing him glaring back at him with an unblinking solid gold eye. He closed it into a fist and the harsh gaze disappeared with it.
Ghoul rolled back onto the roof of the building he had climbed to the top of.
"No, this doesn't make sense. I know who Mary is...I know a Mary... I... I thought I did,"
He once more dared a glance into the hand containing the mysterious ring that haunted his dreams.
"But... my name... Kyle's not my name,"
"Looks like things are clicking together," a voice, so intolerably close he could almost smell the stink of alcohol on the speaker's lips.
He recognized the words, and hated their source. He swiped to his immediate right, to where he thought they came from, claws lashing out tipped with just enough necroplasm to melt the skin off anyone they came in contact with.
But no one stood there. No one had been there for years, the decades of dust left undisturbed save for Ghoul's own cautious footprints.
He brought his attacking hand back and held his forehead, desperately trying to drive back whatever had followed him here - if anything at all.
"Stop it. I'm not here to be your puppet!"
Maybe he was going crazy. He dropped the ring on that lonely rooftop, and descended into the shadows.
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