26 B.E. – Ankarath, Greater Khartoum, 1056 years in the past during the time of the Cataclysmic Wars.
“He is here!” the servant, drenched in sweat and with eyes round with terror burst into the room, but the shaved headed scholar did not even look up from his writing.
“Very well.. Thank you” Umr at-Tawil muttered.
His terrified servant turned to leave, but was knocked senseless as the huge wooden door slammed open, and in the doorway stood a figure shrouded in pure malice.
For before the head Librarian, walking slowly and deliberately towards him with nothing but sickly glowing green slits for eyes in a massive. black helmet clearly of preternatural origins, was none other than the DeathKnight himself.
He stopped only inches away, towering above the 30 year old priest and scholar, and in return Umr looked up at him dispassionately, with a hint of annoyance in his eyes rather than fear.
In a deep voice but quiet that seemingly set the room buzzing and humming with unadulterated evil, the DeathKnight spoke.
“I will dispense with the pleasantries Al-Tawil and put it quite simply. You know who I am and what I want – and you WILL assist me, for I have not come here unprepared and your entire family, and everyone you know is but a single thought away from meeting their end.”
Umr sighed as his reply, and stood up to his feet and looked up at the 7′ tall black armor clad nightmare standing before him, narrowing his eyes and gritted his teeth. “Welcome to the Great Library of Ankarath my Lord” he said with a bitter, wry smile.
“Hahaha. Good. But I warn you priest, I will know if you try to sabotage or mislead me. I need not tell you what will happen to you and all of your people should you do. For you see, the only thing keeping everyone alive here is the simple fact that you have knowledge that I seek. So if you make things difficult for me, then no one here no longer holds any use for me..”
Umr crossed his arms and smiled. “I am not stupid my Lord. I clearly understand my situation. I will work for you, for I clearly have no choice. But if you threaten me again, then you will have to take your time and search the library yourself..”
For a second, the DeathKnight did not move. No one had ever stood up to him before, and in a flash of violence, the Brand of the Fallen burst forth in tendrils of black flame from his left hand, while he grabbed the head librarian by the throat and lifted him off his feet.
While struggling to breathe, the smile never left Umrs face. And as his face began to turn red, and his eyes started to roll back in his head – the DeathKnight dropped him and booted him like a rag doll across the room. Umr rubbed his broken ribs, a faint glow appearing where he touched, and there was the sound of the bones cracking and re-arranging as the DeathKnight walked past him and began scanning the bookshelves. “Get over here Librarian!” he bellowed.
Umr groaned and muttered to himself.. “Patience.. This oafs time is numbered. But he may even prove useful..”
Dark Secrets Reluctantly Learned
During the time of the Cataclysmic Wars, the man who was later to become the Lich King and give Greater Khartoum a new moniker, the Land of the Dead, reluctantly served the DeathKnight. And true to his word, and living by the ancient proverb “do not wound what you cannot kill”, he did not sabotage his ‘masters’ plans, and showed him everything he wanted to know dispassionately..
For he knew that it was his abuse of power that would be Thanes eventual undoing, and during the time he was in servitude, he gleaned all the darkest secrets of necromancy by osmosis as he reluctantly assisted the DeathKnight to raise the dead as mindless minions to bolster their numbers during the wars, and did whatever was required of him – all the time quietly growing more powerful..
In the end, he was right – the DeathKnight and his armies brought the wrath of all the nations of Eletreus to the Thanes, and in that final apocalyptic battle, no-one noticed a lone and strange mystic returning to his war ravaged homeland..
On his way back into his ancestral homelands, Umr at-Tawil encountered the remains of naught but field upon blackened field of his countrymen who had been slaughtered. Soldiers mostly, but then entire villages and towns. It was said after days of seeing none but the dead he was overcome and wept for three days and three nights. But on the third night, he made a grim decision.
His people were almost all gone, his lands – emptied. But all around him, he could see while their bodies were lifeless and starting to decay, some of them still lingered on in spirit. And so he burned incense, and summoned forth the spirits of the dead with a proposition.. The best offer he could muster..
The offer was for them to enter their bodies, in the state they are now, and as best as they can have one last chance to say goodbye to their loved ones – be they also dead or among the living, and to finish the things left undone, and then take their final rest in peace at a proper grave back in Ankarath or their hometowns.
Many of the spirits were angry with him, for they simply wanted release. Others were outraged at his obscene suggestion and were tortured by his words. But a few considered deeply. For there were those who would take any chance to say the things they left unsaid in life, seek out those they had lost, do the final things they needed to do..
And by the time he arrived at the Capital, the remains of thousands of un-buried soldiers, now sentient animated skeletons – were following behind.
What little was left of the cities garrison sallied out from still broken walls to fight off this new perceived undead menace. But they were struck dumb by the clear voices of their own dead countrymen and women imploring them to stop, and Umr strode forward boldly to meet them and explain what had happened and who these people were.. With a kings ransom of diamonds and the rubies, he ordered fine cloaks and golden masks from the cities remaining artisans, and slowly – the dead started to take care of their affairs..
But the problem was, most of the dead men did not want to leave when they had completed all they originally set out to do – and while horrified by the truth, after realizing that the person they loved was still inside, many living family members of returned dead soldiers did not want them to leave either..
And then some family members wanted their relatives to stay on.. And Umr, did not want to grow old or die either.. But as only he could raise himself, he realized he needed to step across to the otherside and come back all by himself.. And so, he studied the Ankarathian Book of the Dead, and was reborn..
Umr at-Tawil was Dead. But in his place, T’shering the Eternal – the Lich King – was born..
It has only just recently been 1000 years since T’shering the Eternal drank in a deadly poison and rose again as a man with no heartbeat, no hunger, no unnecessary pain or suffering. He quickly rose to central power and was proclaimed King, and over thousands of years he has amassed a tireless and incredibly efficient labor force and army.
For the first two hundred years of his reign, he actively campaigned to defend his people against the fear and revulsion felt by the lands outside their borders, for Greater Khartoum had always a very different attitude towards death, mummification and the ‘afterlife’ than their neighbors (ever since the early Pharaohs learned the secrets from the mysterious Qahoori Nomads)
And it was only by the Lich Kings patience and wisdom that he was able to avert invasion and war with his neighbors, and when he had reached a point of military equilibrium with the combined forces of the rest of the known world, he largely retired from public life. But behind the scenes he remains in firm control, and is always guiding and protecting his people, whom he considered as his children.
Indeed, were it not for what lies under his golden mask – it would be easy to mistake him for a living man – while he does not eat nor drink, he is said to pass the long centuries by reading all manner of books, is a master architect and a patron of the arts (indeed, he is a skilled painter in his own right).
And yet while he feels no shame at his true appearance, most outsiders would find it deeply unsettling..