Thoc found himself in some sort of bunker. An underground room in the dead center of the land. It was smart in a sense, quick access to all the other encampments. The first carved out room was a simple one. A bed roll, cooking implements, stacks of books scattered about. There was a door that lead deeper, possibly chambers for other uses. Anavari walked over to the cooking pot he had set up, which Thoc noticed was an iron legion stove much like his own to heat up meals. The darker charr took a wooden bowl and poured what seemed like beans and meat into it. He placed a spoon inside and handed it to Thoc.
“Should be better than legion issued rations.” Said Anavari with a grin before returning to get a bowl for himself. “That’s Ash legion armor, Fumus took you in I take it?”
“I couldn’t stay a gladium for long,” said Thoc before taking a spoon full of food into his mouth. It was a bit spicy, and was definitely much better than his rations so he continued to eat. Anavari didn’t seem to have served himself much food, and what little he served was barely touched to begin with. The necromancer waited for Thoc to finish eating, only then did he spoke.
“So why are you out here?” The words came out with only an air of what Anavari used to be, in fact they almost came out as a command. The voice flowed with a different hum, different presence. It was more imposing, more frightening.
“For you,” said Thoc. “I wanted to take you back to the citadel.” The necromancer stood up and walked over to the stack of books by his bed roll. He took one of the books and began to skim through the pages.
“There’s nothing left for me in the citadel,” said Anavari, indifference carried through his voice as he took out a pen and circled an area in the book. “I’m a gladium, remember?”
“Fumus will take you in,” rebutted Thoc. “It’s not like you have nowhere to—”
“I’m of use to the legions here,” said Anavari as he took his staff and walked over to the door that lead deeper into the… hideout? “They give me some resources every now and then in exchange for tottaling a flame legion camp every now and then. They get to forward their troops and I kill some flame legion, everyone’s happy. Now if you’ll excuse me for a moment.” Anavari disappeared behind a door, a glow of green light appeared around the sill and Thoc could hear muffled noises coming from within. It made his spine shiver. The noises stopped abruptly and moments later Anavari returned, he wiped a rag on his claws then tossed it into a bin which Thoc realized was now filled with other rags. He could smell blood. “Apologies.”
“What…” Thoc was almost too afraid to ask. “What’s behind that door?”
“Flame shaman,” said Anavari with indifference. “Had to knock him out before he started screaming again.” Thoc felt his insides turn to ice.
“Why…” Began Thoc. “Why would he be—”
“It’s best if I don’t tell you,” said Anavari, he walked over to his bed and returned to his book. “On the bright side I was able to find what camp to attack next.” He jotted down a note. “Like I said I’m perfectly fine with my current arrangement, you don’t need to worry about me. You can go home now.”
“But,I just got here,” Thoc said, demeanor waning. “You don’t want me to leave so soon, do you?” Anavari closed his book and placed it aside, he smiled.
“You’re right,” said Anavari. “I suppose being out here has made me a bit standoffish. Stay for a while if you wish, though I cannot stop working. I hope you understand.” Anavari stood abruptly as if remembering something important. He walked over to a chest where he began to draw out several implements for sorcery.
“That’s alright,” nodded Thoc. “Maybe I can help?”
“That’s not necessary,” dismissed Anavari. “I wouldn’t want to bring you into any danger.” Thoc furrowed his brow.
“Anavari, I’m still a soldier. I even started training with ash legion,” said Thoc. “I can hold my own.” Anavari simply smiled.
“Take some rest,” The necromancer moved towards the door to his hideout. “I have something I have to attend to. I’ll be back soon.” Thoc was left alone now, he was partially stunned by how sudden it was. The charr took a moment to examine his surroundings, mostly the stacks of books Anavari had lying around. Books on anatomy, biology, and some on diseases. Some notes were written down, to Thoc they seemed like theories on other aspects of diseases and plagues. Anavari was a scholar after all, but his interest in such things was new. Up until this point his focus was mainly on how exactly the body worked, mostly to enhance his necromancy. He didn’t go as far as researching for ways to tear down the body, however, at least to his knowledge. Thoc grew worried. He didn’t bother checking the other books, less he found something more disturbing.
He waited, for hours. Eventually it became too much waiting for him, and he needed to see what Anavari was up to, what exactly he did in flame legion territory. Thoc left the hideout and took a mental note of the location, making sure to record any landmarks so that he could quickly find it again. He scanned the scorched landscape once again, wondering where Anavari had gone off to, it was difficult since night had already shrouded the land in darkness. There was something in the distance though, a faint glow, an emerald glow. He could see what looked like smoke, though it was difficult to be certain. Thoc began to travel toward that direction, being mindful of staying out of sight from possible patrols.
The light was further away than Thoc expected, and ended up jogging for the better part of an hour. The closer he got however, the stronger the stench of smoke became, which was impressive given the location. There was just something else about the air, it was an odd scent, an acrid one. It motivated Thoc to put on his gas mask, originally he had brought it should he be forced to go through large quantities of smoke, but the filters would work for poison just as well.
He drew closer, finding the source of the glow. It was fire, except the flames were green. Thoc examined the burning camp, the charr running out of their tents. As soon as one charr would try to escape the flames would leap out towards them and grant them an agonizing death. Thoc watched in horror as the flesh deliquesced off of their bones. A flame shaman in the distance was trying to fend off the flames with his own magic, summoning flame elementals and conjurings snakes of flame that danced in the air. He was silenced by a radiant figure bringing down its sword on him. It was engulfed in the bright green flames, a figure was underneath it all that much was certain, but it did not seem to be affected by the magic. The figure began to travel outside of the camp, carrying it sword over its shoulder.
Thoc could see the bones of a charr under the striding flames, it was a short charr, but one with a dominating gait. As soon as it was outside the camp the flames were snuffed, in an instant. Thoc stared in disbelief as Anavari now stood in the wreckage of what was once a flame legion camp. The necromancer sighed as he glanced back at the burned remains, then shifted his gaze away and spotted Thoc. His eyes widened as Thoc approached.
“Anavari?” Thoc asked, risking to remove his mask in the scratching air. “What was that?” There was regret in the necromancer’s eyes, but it was shoved aside, replaced by indifference.
“What did it look like to you?” Asked the necromancer, expression now blank.
“You just…” Thoc was still trying to process it all. Anavari was only gone for a few months, how had he grown so powerful? “How?”
“You’d be surprised how quickly one grows,” said Anavari. “When motivated.” Thoc took another look at the bodies, they weren’t charred, they were rotted, reduced to decomposed masses that barely resembled what they used to be. Boiled skin writhed over bleached bones. The sight, and the stench, almost made Thoc retch.
“This is what you do?” Asked Thoc. “Anavari you melted their skin off!”
“It’s actually a combination of decomposition and extreme heat that creates the—”
“You know what I mean!” Snapped Thoc. “Anavari, what is this? Why are you doing all of this? I know you and you wouldn’t enjoy something like this. Last I checked, mass murder wasn’t something you aspired for.”
“It’s not murder,” said Anavari, the glow in his eyes gave him an ominous presence. “You don’t ‘murder’ pests.”
“What happened to everything else?” Asked Thoc. “What happened to leaving the citadel and traveling? Garfas wouldn’t have wanted this for you!” Anavari glared and Thoc took a step back.
“Don’t bring Garfas into this,” snarled Anavari with a snarl that sounded unnatural. “These people took him from me, they took everything!”
“And so you’re torturing them in return?”
“The flame legion is no stranger to torture themselves,” said Anavari. “Do you know what they do to prisoners?”
“That’s not what I meant,” said Thoc. “This isn’t you. This isn’t the Anavari I was friends—”
“That Anavari died when Garfas did,” said the necromancer. “I have a new goal now.”
“What? fight the flame legion?” Asked Thoc. “What exactly are you trying to gain from all of this?”
“I WANT THEM TO DIE!” Anavari roared, his body once again burst into flames, a skeleton was underneath the raging energies . “THEY WILL DIE OR BEND THE KNEE TO THEIR LICH LORD!” Thoc stumbled back from the intensity of the fire, he shielded his face as a gout of flame leaped out and grazed his arm. The fur on it caught fire and began to gnaw on the flesh of his arm. Thoc could feel intense pain, overwhelming pain. He tried to pat out the flame and it only spread to his palms. Suddenly the fire on Anavari’s body was snuffed, the necromancer seized Thoc’s arms. The flames retreated, the pain slowly subsided, but Thoc still felt a sting. He stared in disbelief at his friend, what he had become moments ago.
“I’m sorry,” said Anavary, his voice echoing with a slowly fading energy. He reached for Thoc’s pack and took out a kit of medical supplies. He placed salve on a bandage and wrapped it around Thoc’s arm and paw. Thoc stared at Anavari in disbelief.
“You’re a lich…” said Thoc. Anavari shook his head in response.
“Close, but not there yet,” said Anavari. Emotions were returning to the charr’s voice. He sounded so hollow, defeated, tired. He stood up. “You should go back to the hideout, I need to finish up here.” Anavari strode back towards the camp, leaving Thoc on the floor. He rubbed the area where he was burned, he wanted to talk to Anavari, he wanted to convince him to come back home. He decided to try once he returned back to the hideout, however. He knew now to not get in his way.
Anavari didn’t return to the hideout that night. Thoc woke up and his friend still had yet to return, he prepared breakfast for himself, and spent most of his time looking through the stacks of books once again. He had found a few adventure books, turns out Anavari hadn’t completely transformed. He found himself reading one of the books, getting himself caught in the story.
“You can keep that one if you want,” Thoc jumped to find Anavari standing by the entrance, he wore loose fitting rags that barely covered his body, they were mostly burned off. The necromancer walked over to a box that had more clothing and began to dress himself in something more modest. “I reread it so many times I practically have it memorized.” Thoc closed the book and placed it aside. He approached Anavari, who had occupied himself by writing a series of notes on a sheet of paper. Tentatively, Thoc placed his hand on his friend’s shoulder. Anavari tensed, but quickly relaxed. “…how’s Mara?”
“Worried,” said Thoc. “Fumus is too, spends a lot of his days drinking.”
“Didn’t take him for much of a drunk,” said Anavari.
“Well the warband manages,” said Thoc. “He uh… tells stories of you when you were a cub when he’s sloshed.” Anavari released a groan of embarrassment as he placed his paws on his face. Thoc smiled.
“I want to go home,” said Anavari, he turned to meet Thoc’s gaze, his eyes wistful. “But, I don’t think it would feel like home if I do return. I don’t think home is a place I would be happy in.” Thoc paused and looked at his friend. He was someone else, yet he was still the same charr. Underneath the anger and sorrow.
“It’s better than being out here, don’t you think?”
“I wonder sometimes,” said Anavari his voice shook, his eyes scrunched up and tears began to flow. He pulled Thoc in, and wept into his shoulder. Thoc was caught by surprise, but of course he knew that Anavari never truly allowed himself to mourn Garfas.
“It’s okay,” said Thoc as he patted his friend on the back. He repeated the statement a few more times, relieved that his friend was finally back.
Anavari agreed to return, but there was something more, a look that the necromancer had in his eyes. He had a plan, one he was hiding. Thoc didn’t press him for information, both were too tired, both just wanted to return home. It was several days after returning to the Citadel did Thoc learn what the plan of his was. He visited Mara, who showed puffy red eyes from crying. She had told him Anavari’s “plan”. Thoc scrambled out to the city, once again searching for his friend.
He spotted him on the road to Diessa, and froze once he saw his face. It was a different Anavari, one untouched by pain, one who had the whole world in his eyes. It was a charr that was out on a quest for adventure. Their eyes met, though Anavari looked at him as if he was a complete stranger. Thoc averted his gaze, trying to pass off the exchange as an awkward coincidence. Once he glanced back, the necromancer was back on his way, towards lands unexplored. Thoc sighed.
“See ya later I guess…” He hoped that his friend, his companion, his brother in many respects, would find what he was looking for.