Ashtehar held up the captain's severed head over the chaos for all to see. Soldiers around him lost their will to fight the monstrosity and simply ran. It was not a peaceful retreat, as the enemy mages arrived along with their fury. Spells flew through the air as the battle shifted from one of ordinary citizens to mystical forces.
Doevm had someone help him and the unconscious Hopi down the tree as they retreated with the rest of the army. His foot had been wrapped in bandages in a crude attempt to preserve its shape as well as to prevent any shards of bone from falling out. He limped over to his spear, which was crushed into a thousand pieces, and gathered them. 'What am I doing?' he thought. 'I should just leave it.'
His hands kept moving, even quickening in their pace. His entire squad stopped their march and gazed upon his sad figure. Each piece was thrown into his bag even the broken tip. He didn't know if he had all the pieces but ordered a soldier to carry him back. He held out the pieces, wondering why he purposely suffered all the cuts on his fingers and held up his men's retreat for them.
"Doevm," Hopi must have woken up because he put a hand on Doevm's shoulder.
"I told you," Doevm said, turning to face Hopi. "Call me squad leader or else I'll-"
Hopi shook his head: "I'm not talking to you as my squad leader. I'm saying it's ok to lose. It sucks but we have to keep moving. Don't cling to your failures. They will only hold you back."
Doevm stared at him, then at the pieces of his weapon. "That's right," he let the pieces go. They flew to the ground eventually be blown away and forgotten. He looked at the sky, which was turning darker as they walked under the leaves. 'For me, today was a complete and utter defeat. I don't think I've lost this bad in a few centuries. I was defeated as a warrior, as a mage, and as a squad leader.'
For once, the atmosphere on the way back was not grim, at least for his men. One or two people smiled, talking about how intense the battle was even as the dead was hauled over their shoulders. It was the squad's first complete victory. They had held onto the left flank and prevented anyone from passing. Doevm felt his world sway as he was helped. Once or twice he had to rest. It was embarrassing but no one blamed him. Especially since on the way back, he passed out.
Doevm opened his eyes in the medical wing. Oliver hovered over his foot; his white robe covered in fresh blood. Each one of his breaths were heavy. His swollen eye's met Doevm's: "Oh, you're awake! I'm glad you're not dead." He retracted his hands and disappeared in the mess of healers in the busy room.
Doevm sat up and tested his foot. Finding it to be completely back to normal, he looked around. His curtain, along with every curtain in the unit, had been flung open. People wrapped tight in bandages moaned for the overworked healers. Magic circles brightened the room like a flickering light crystal. One man was even pointing to the healers with his own severed arm, yelling about how long he was waiting. Doevm felt so tired that he couldn't help but fall back down.
He sighed, 'And now I've seen another magic circle. It doesn't matter if I don't want to learn healing magic now. I know the second I leave this place I'm going to that damned cave.' He waited for the Lich to show up and gloat, cursing to himself. 'He's right. I'm just a Lich. No matter how much I try to move on, I will always be one.' He bent his foot back and forth. 'This body wasn't even meant for combat. It's tall and lanky frame can never gain as much bulk as I need it to. I will always be weak. I will always rely on my magic.'
"Hey Doevm," a voice said. "I see you lived." Following the source of the voice, he saw Frey, who was on a bed to his right. His skin was leathery, and all of his hair had been burned off. If Doevm didn't know better, he would have thought he was looking at a mini burned Ashtehar. "Me? I got hit by a fireball. No big deal." He laughed, which transitioned into coughing. "I'll be fine in a bit, just a little bit less hairy."
"That's funny." Doevm would've laughed but he could only manage a smile. 'I see. Healing magic takes energy out of a person. Whether it's stamina or willpower I am too groggy to tell. Maybe the bigger wounds require more energy to heal? My head is too foggy to think straight.'
"Hey Doevm," Frey said. "Can you just keep talking to me? I need something to take my mind off then pain." He tried to smile but flinched. His white teeth were so bright compared to the rest of his blackened skin.
"Sure," Doevm sank into his bed. "How was the battle on your end?"
"Great," Frey coughed twice. "I managed to get a new weapon: the shield leaning against my bedside. I'd show it to you, but it hurts to move." Doevm managed to lean his head over to see a shiny hunk of metal. He was getting more tired by the second.
"Is it enchanted?" His world alternated between gray and blurry. The screaming and constant movement of the room didn't help. 'If I was still a Lich, I wouldn't have this problem.'
"Yeah, how did you know?" Frey wasn't shocked at all. Doevm couldn't tell if that was because he was barely conscious or if he in too much pain.
"Just a guess." Doevm's eyes closed but he willed them back open.
"Hey Doevm," Frey's mouth just kept on going. If Doevm didn't know any better, he would have guessed Frey was playing a joke. "Marcus told me something interesting today, that you are someone who shouldn't be trusted." His voice was getting raspier and more unintelligible by the word. Doevm put all his focus into deciphering them in his head until they turned into something resembling a language. "He tried to recruit me into some kind of organization. I forget what it's called. I have an invitation in my pocket...which probably burned away." Frey had another laughing/coughing fit.
"Marcus said that?" Doevm would have narrowed his eyes but they probably would have shut if he did that. "What did he say exactly?"
"You know," Frey's voice drifted in and out. "That you were hiding something. I don't think you're untrustworthy, but I can't seem to disagree with him." Doevm swallowed his saliva. "You're always doing something strange, yet everything seems to work out for you. I know you read a lot of books. That's something I can't do, but something tells me those books aren't the reason you can do all those strange things. Do you know what I mean?"
"Sort of," Doevm shrugged. "I'm just lucky, I guess. There's not really anything special about me. I'm just trying to get stronger."
"Strong for what? What do you need to do with your strength?" Doevm wanted to close his eyes and sleep. He could just pretend and leave Frey to ponder his own question. That, however, would make himself more suspicious.
"I don't know." As he said that, he realized he wasn't lying. "I just feel a need to do it. It's a goal I found and I'm going to accomplish it. Sure there are better things I-" He yawned as his last bits of energy were expended. "-Could be doing. I could be working on bigger and better things. I just...was tired. I'm so tired." He closed his eyes. "For all my life I've been working away in that library, thinking all that work meant something. I passed up on everything and dedicated myself to those books. I thought that was my purpose. Somewhere down the line it all just felt empty, like I was wasting my time. I want to do something I enjoy for once. Does that sound strange?"
"No," Frey said. "That sounds like you hated your life." He looked over and Doevm was snoring. "I guess everyone has their reasons." He lay back in his bed. As a healer came by and treated him, he felt a pang of guilt. 'Marcus, you're wrong. Everyone has their reasons. If Doevm is hiding something, who am I to dig it up?' He let himself be carried off into his dreams as his flesh regrew.
Doevm woke up inside his house and stared at his ceiling. 'Frey, for someone so uneducated your words really hit home.' He turned to his side. 'I should get up.' He told himself. Twenty minutes later he turned to his other side. 'I should get up.' More time passed as he kept blocking out his own thoughts. 'I should be doing something.' He didn't move. His sheets were so warm and cozy, a feeling he had never felt in his previous life. They wrapped around him in both a trap and with the care of a mother. 'Why am I here?' he thought to himself. 'What am I going to do if I give fighting? Will I just run away? Am I going to go practice magic? Am I going to shut myself in another library?'
Frey's words echoed in his head. 'Do I hate magic?' Doevm kept staring at the ceiling as if he was in a trance. 'No, I've never hated magic. I've gotten bored of it. For a Lich like myself, magic is life. I never could have gotten this far without it. When did magic become something that holds me back?' He blinked for the first time in what felt like hours. 'Aren't I a Lich?' He blinked again and threw one of his sheets off himself. 'Why am I so angry at myself? Aren't I strong? Didn't I accomplish my goal of learning every magic in the world? Sure my healing magic needs work, but I know its basic spells thanks to Oliver healing my foot. Shouldn't I be happy right now?' He tossed again. 'What's the point of me laying here? Should I restart and reincarnate? What would I do then?' He pulled his sheet back on himself.
'Fighting and magic, what else can I find purpose in besides those two? What do I want?' He scoured his mind and came up with nothing. 'Have I ever hated magic?' As he asked himself this question, a doubt surfaced. 'No, I've never hated it. Now that I think about it and look at my past actions, it does look like hate.' He pushed his sheets off him, letting his feet meet the cold air. 'That's not right...Even as I learned healing magic, I should have felt some sort of satisfaction, even if it was an echo of my former self.'
He sat up and spotted his things lying beside him. He equipped everything except for his broken spear. 'No, this isn't what I'm supposed to be feeling.' His shirt flew on as his body moved on its own. 'I'm supposed to get up. I'm not supposed to be in bed. In a thousand years, when have I ever taken a break? Even if I consider the fact my human side should influence me, I shouldn't hate magic. I should have control of my own thoughts.' He hiked his pants up, nearly ripping them because he gripped so hard.
In the corner of his room was a present the size and width of a spear wrapped in leather. Unwrapping it, he found a note. He smiled: "Thanks Wade. Good to see you haven't forgotten about me." He walked out of the base and past the guards. Upon reaching the cave, he looked at all the drawings he had defaced. "Now let's get to work." He took out a notebook and wrote down all the drawings he knew including the one he saw Oliver use. "I know basic healing spells, but I need to get better. I have to be able to heal even my-"
The Lich appeared next to him: "Have you finally decided to embrace yourself?"
"No," Doevm said as he wrote the designs to a completed magic circle. "I am not you and you are not me. It's so simple now. I can see it. I know what I have to do, what's happening to us." He wrote down more designs, cut himself, and healed the flesh back together. "Alright, progress." The Lich didn't say anything. It merely vanished with a slight laugh echoing off the cave walls.