Viktor Travels to Cragmore

(This story takes place some months prior to the Nameless War.)


Viktor knew what he had to do.  Call it a mission.  A job.  A calling.  An obligation.  It didn't matter what you called it.  Desmond Fick, the lich-lord of Cragmore, must die.  And he would die by Viktor's hand.

The red jungle flora all around Viktor contrasted with his black armor, raven hair, and dark eyes.  The sometime mercenary had gone on the journey to Cragmore alone.  He had spent enough time in Eldermont, and among its heroes, to know that they would not help him with his mission.  Not without a lot of questions, and a risk that they might even try to stop him from killing the lich.

And Viktor could risk no interference.  The various missions that Viktor had been doing for Jasper Nithercott across the Kingdom of Eldermont had provided him with a lot of autonomy, and freedom of movement.  No one really knew where Viktor was, and it was likely he could end this whole matter without discovery.  He liked the Heroes of Eldermont, and had found a home there.  He did not relish angering his new friends, or losing his new home.  No, he needed to get this done, quick and clean.  Then he could put it behind him.

Viktor of Eldermont
Viktor of Eldermont

Through a break in the foliage above him, Viktor could see smoke rising into the sky.  He was close to Cragmore.  Had there been an attack by someone else?  Had the lich built great funeral pyres to honor his Gods of Death?

Viktor came across a road through the jungle.  It seemed to wind its way toward Cragmore.  He decided to follow the road, but stay hidden in the jungle along the road as he did.  

Viktor came to the edge of a large cleared area around the large mountain called Cragmore.  Crouched in the darkness of the jungle, he crept forward to get a get a good look at what stood between him and the lich under the mountain.

The jungle forest had been cleared entirely from the slopes of the mountain.  And the cleared area extended out about a half-mile from the base of the mountain in every direction.  Viktor sneered.  The undead make for obedient laborers if you are able to control them.

The mountain clearly had volcanic origins, and near the base of the mountain there was a huge hole in its side.  During Viktor's youth in the Empire of Bone, he had plenty of time around volcanoes, both active and ancient.  And it was clear that this large hole was a volcanic vent, or had been caused by an explosive event scores of centuries ago.

Viktor's gaze wandered to the right of this large vent in the sleeping volcano, and a puzzled look crossed his face.  A town?  He squinted his eyes.  Yes.  There were buildings, and homes, and farm plots around the perimeter.  There were farmers in the fields of crops, and it appeared that people were shopping at a market area!



Viktor heard people traveling on the road through the jungle he had been following, and watched as a group of people with two horses and a cart entered the great cleared area headed toward the town.  They were definitely living people.  Apparently a married couple, with three children of various ages.  They were talking to one another, and one of the children was teasing a younger sibling and laughing.  He let them get about halfway across the cleared area, and then went back to the road, and began walking toward the town.

Viktor felt exposed being out of the jungle under the mid-afternoon sun.  But, he needed to get to the bottom of what was happening here.  And he couldn't do that from the darkness of the jungle.  How many people would he have to hurt, and perhaps kill, to get to the lich?  Were these people under some spell, and being exploited by the undead mage?  Did they know his nature?  Were they willing supplicants?  Viktor was determined to find out.

As he neared the town, a farmer leading a mule with a plow gave him a smile and a wave.  Viktor hesitated, but then waved back.  As he actually entered the town, he saw looks of curiosity from the townspeople.  But none approached him.  Viktor walked into the market square, and sat on a bench near the center of the space.  People were milling about, going about their daily business.  Viktor watched them closely with dark eyes.

"Trader or settler?"

Viktor turned.  A young woman had approached him from his left.  "What?"

"Trader or settler?  That's pretty much all we get here in Cragmore.  Really, it is just my poor attempt to starting a conversation."  The young woman smiled.  "I'm Janisa."  She was in her early 20's with straight brown hair, green eyes, and she was attractive in a mousy sense.

Viktor faked a warm smile.  "Perhaps a settler.  I'm not sure yet."

Janisa shrugged.  "There are worse places to live.  There's a small boarding house where you can stay until you find something more permanent."

Viktor nodded.  Then he leaned toward her and asked quietly.  "I guess I'm a little worried about living in a town so near..."  And he gestured toward the mountain.

The woman laughed.  "A mountain?"

Viktor clarified quietly.  "Desmond Fick."

"Oh!  No.  You shouldn't worry.  We've all heard tales of the old lich under the mountain, but he's dead and gone.  Died about a year ago, I'm told.  His son, Edwin, lives in the large green home," Janisa pointed, "Down this street, and to the left.  You can't miss it.  It is the nicest house in the village of Cragmont."



Viktor secured a room in the boarding house, a tiny place named after its owner, Mary Grace.  When dusk came, Viktor left the boarding house, and found his way to a small tavern filled with people.

A few people welcomed him to town awkwardly, and a few even attempted to pay for his drinks.  Viktor would converse with them, playing the role of a potential settler to the town, and eventually would bring the conversation back around the Desmond and Edwin Fick.

A few facts became clear.  The entire town had been built and settled within the last year.  No one Viktor spoke with had been here when Desmond Fick lived under the mountain.  Some had heard that Desmond Fick was a lich.  Others believed he had simply been a reclusive necromancer performing strange rites and rituals in his laboratories under the mountain.  Others felt that everything said about Desmond were just the gossip of housewives, and complete rubbish.

Desmond Fick
Desmond Fick, the Lich Under the Mountain

But everyone Viktor spoke with seemed to like Desmond's son Edwin.  The younger Fick had built many of the public buildings with his own money, and had given settlers without the wherewithal to build a new home, the resources they needed to start comfortably.

Edwin was known to throw great feasts on holy days, and seemed truly delighted at the growth and progress of the town.  He was known to meet with new settlers personally, and he welcomed visitors to his home.

It was a wide consensus that Edwin was handsome, and a kind man.  The only negative thing that Viktor heard about Edwin during his time in the tavern was that Edwin's manservant, Aman, was a bit odd and off-putting.  But, even that was credited to Edwin as a positive thing, for giving gainful employment to such a strange young man.



After a night of fitful sleep, Viktor woke early, ate a pile of Mary Grace's spiced eggs, and made his way to the largest home in the Village of Cragmore.

Viktor knocked on the door, and shortly the door opened, and a young man's face filled the gap.  "Yes, may I help you?"  The man was in his 20's, with sharp features, close-cut dark hair, and eyes to match.  

Viktor faked that practiced warm smile.  "I'm new to town, and was told I should stop in and visit Edwin Fick.  Have I found the right place?"

The young man's grim expression did not change.  "Welcome to our village.  Please enter."

Aman of Cragmore

Viktor was led to a clean and cozy sitting room, and shown to a soft couch that sat opposite from two leather chairs.  Aman said simply, "Wait here," and took his leave.

Minutes later, a man of around 30 years of age entered the room.  He had fine features, blond hair, and a smile on is face.  He strode over to Viktor and held out his hand.  "Welcome."

Viktor stood and shaked the younger man's hand.  "Thank you for seeing me."

Edwin gestured to the couch behind Viktor, and then took a seat in one of the leather chairs.  Viktor sat back down.  "I welcome all newcomers to Cragmore in my home.  We're a small town...a new town.  And its good to know one's neighbors in a place like this."

Viktor asked, "So you are the leader of the town?"

Edwin laughed.  "Yes and no.  It is probably more accurate to say I'm the principle investor in the town.  I want to help nurture its growth.  Make is a good and healthy place to live...for people.  For families.  Everyone's welcome.  And we look out for each other.  Is that the sort of place you are seeking?"

Viktor made his face a mask, allowing none of his thoughts or emotions to show.  "Maybe."

Edwin looked to where Aman was standing.  "Bring some tea...and food, if you would."

Aman gave a formal bow from the waist, and left on his errand.

Edwin refocused on Viktor.  "What is your trade?  What skills would you bring to our community?  Or are you looking to learn a trade?  That's something that can be arranged as well."

Viktor didn't answer immediately.  He decided that answering with something close to the truth may be the best way to learn more.  "I've been a soldier.  A mercenary.  I'm not sure if that's of use here."

Edwin Fick of Cragmore
Edwin Fick of Cragmore

Edmin seemed wistful.  "My father sent me away from Cragmore...for many years.  I tried many trades.  Honestly, being a soldier may be one of the few professions I didn't sample.  We have no use for soldiers or mercenaries here.  But, you are a strong man, and I imagine a hardworking man when you are interested in what you are doing.  If you choose to stay here, you can apprentice with one of our tradesmen, and learn a way to contribute and support yourself."

Viktor got the sense that he would learn more from the standard greeting interview, and decided to change things up.  "What did you know of your father...Desmond Fick?"

Edwin's face hardened.  His eyes became more piercing.  "I don't speak much about my father.  It is a subject...a subject that is distasteful to me.  He made his choices, and when he died...this place was my birthright."

Viktor grimaced, more of his true emotion coming out.  "He was a lich.  He was the lich under the mountain."

Edwin seemed to scale back his reaction to the subject of his father.  A smile crossed his lips once again.  "I think you have me at a disadvantage, Sir.  Here I thought you came here as a potential settler, and it is clear there is much more at play.  Why don't you step from behind the facade, and get to your point."

Viktor regarded the young man with a discerning eye.  "Your father was a lich, and I came here to kill him.  You and the townspeople want me to believe he is already dead...and that a productive community has grown up here.  I'm not convinced."

Edwin gave a curt nod.  "I see.  What would convince you?  Must we dig up his body for your examination?  Must I produce witnesses to his death?  Perhaps you would like to interrogate my servant Aman?  He was there when my father died."

"You would let me dig up your father?  Because I will."

Edwin looked down at his hands, clasped on his knee.  He seemed to be deciding something, or quelling inner turmoil.  Eventually he looked up.  "Viktor, you have shared what you came here to do, but you have not revealed why.  And I am enormously interested in why.  Before I agree to allowing you to desecrate my father's grave, I think you should allay my curiosity."

Aman came back in with tea, meat, and cheese on a tray.  He set it on a table in the center of the room, and then exited.  Neither Viktor nor Edwin seemed to even notice, as their eyes were locked in silence.

Finally Viktor answered.  "I kill liches...and the undead to pay a debt.  A debt that I must pay.  I have no choice in the matter."

Edwin pursed his lips.  "And who is this debt owed to?"

"Does it matter?"

Edwin nodded.  "It matters very much to me."

Viktor was very uncomfortable.  He had never really talked with anyone about this.  But, he almost felt compelled to answer.  "The Raven Queen.  I struck a deal with her.  She brought my sister back to return for a debt.  Sdelka s d'yavolom.  When I've pay the debt, she'll give me peace."

Edwin smiled a wry smile.  "She'll give you death."


Edwin got up, picked up the tray from the table, and held it before Viktor.  Viktor took a piece of meat, and the cup of tea.  Viktor set the tray down, picked up his cup of tea and sat back down.  "It sounds like a poorly negotiated deal.  I'm not judging you on this.  Your sister's life was at stake, and no man negotiates well when something that important is in the mix."

Viktor drank down some of his tea.  "Poorly negotiated or not, if I don't fulfill the deal, my sister will die.  I have no choice."

"What if you did?"

Viktor looked hard at the young man sitting before him, sipping at his tea.  "But I don't."

Edwin laughed.  It was an honest laugh.  "Oh...but you do.  You just don't know it yet."

Viktors's voice was angry then.  "You speak nonsense.  Don't you think I've been over it, again and again?  Don't you think I've quietly looked into how to escape this fate...this deal?  You know nothing."

All mirth was gone from Edwin's face.  His eyes narrowed.  "I know everything!  I put before you a choice.  A real choice."  Edwin leaned forward.  "I sit before you in a young man's body.  Proof of my longevity...proof of my knowledge and power.  I am the lich you seek.  I am Desmond Fick."

Viktor hand shot to the pommel of his sword.  But he froze.  Edwin...Desmond...whomever he was...was still just sitting there.  He had not made a move to attack him.

Edwin glanced at Viktor's hand upon his sword, and then back up at Viktor's face.  "Remain a puppet...and chase after death until she comes for you herself.  Or consider that there is another way.  Consider that a man that abandons his dark ways to build a community from nothing, might just be willing to help you get free of this debt.  I have found myself in possession of a second chance.  And I promise you that I'm willing you help you earn a second chance as well."

Viktor was lost.  Too much was happening too quickly.

Edwin continued.  "If you attack me, I will not kill you.  I will subdue you and you will wake up on a ship traveling to somewhere very far away from Cragmore.  This is no sdelka s d'yavolom, as you put it.  I want nothing in return.  I'm hoping...I'm hoping you will just let me help you.  Help you and your sister.   The choice is yours."


    • Jay

      Viktor’s mind flashed first to his sister, then the the Raven Queen.  And finally to the broken body of his infant son, and Sedaria’s vicious sneer.  “I don’t know why you have brought them here.”  Viktor stated waiving his hand expansively “but it will not be.”  Viktor stepped forward raising his hands as they cracked with dark energy

      • Mark Stinson

        The ball is in your court, Jay.  :-)