The village’s clock tower announced the time: 4 o’clock. The air was especially still, as if the night had witnessed a tragedy — or the bare avoidance of one.
Atticus Q. Redghost, shapeshifter, sat on the floor of his kitchen and ate ice scream. Bruised and dirty, he sat near a discarded cloak and other adventuring gear. It could stand an hour’s wait to be cleaned, folded, and put away.
“Barely made it,” Atticus croaked, his voice thick with dust and grime. The apple-sized glass orb, if it could understand, did not respond. “But we did.” To celebrate, Atticus ate another bite of ice scream. The flavor, appropriately, was ghost breath with swamp chocolate and cursed caramel. “It will take time but I will bring you back.” Again, the sphere made no indication of understanding.
The lich was young, its time as an undead horror was measured in months where most of its kind are decades or even centuries old. Weak and vulnerable from its transformation, it hadn’t been able to shore up its defenses by the time the heroes stormed its cave. They knew its name in life, its weaknesses. Enemies from when it was alive, maybe.
In its final moments, the lich had retreated into its soul sphere, a final fortress for its lifeforce. While not invulnerable and as much as prison as a fortification, the gem bought the monster time enough to send a distress spell out.
“I was able to destroy your attackers,” Atticus told the orb quietly. It hurt to talk. “We will use them as skeletons and wraiths, build up some guards for your cave.” He sighed and winced at the pain of sighing. Some of the paladins were immensely powerful, it would take weeks of spellwork to repair his own wounds and a season, at least, to bring the lich back to corporeal form.
“You are safe,” Atticus said as he stood and put his bowl and spoon into the sink. He turned the faucet on and washed the dishes, then picked up his discarded cloak belt, boots, and other equipment. He brushed them clean and put them away.
Finally, he picked up the orb and set it in a jar of full of spiderwebs and grave dirt on a windowsill. “I don’t know if this will help, but I hope it will bring you a little comfort,” Atticus told the jar, filling it with moonlight suspended in water.