Steinbeck meets Tolkien in this high fantasy set in 1920s Oklahoma.
The Good Lich's Request
When the time was right, Huck took Del and they knocked on the door to the tower. Ivaile answered and smiled. "Come in."
They climbed the stairs as they had before, and both entered the lich's chamber.
"Thank you for permitting my company, once again," said the Good Lich as they entered. "I know it is... difficult for mortals to encounter a fiend such as I."
"Don't worry about it," said Huck. "We -- we're okay."
"Yeah," agreed Del, hesitantly.
"Well," said the Good Lich, "I suppose you have wondered why I have summoned you here."
"I know you want us for something," said Huck.
"It's true, I do," said the Lich. "There are so few people to trust in these broken times, in these broken lands, but I see something special in you, my friends. Something, I loathe to admit, I need. You see, there is an errand that has come to my attention that I cannot perform by myself."
"What kind of errand?" asked Huck.
"A journey. A message that must be carried."
Del already knew the answer.
"But -- how do we get there?" Del asked. She was getting braver.
"I'm glad you asked, dear Delilah," said the Lich. "I'm glad you asked. You see, while I am not privy to understanding the why of the fracturing of our worlds, I am lucky enough to understand the map of the new territory."
"How is that?" Huck asked.
"Why, magic of course. Magic, and, I have some friends in high places, if you must know. Let's leave it at that."
"So you know how to get to Iska from here?"
"I do. And it's easier than you might think! All you must do is head West from here, and in a few days time you will pass into Iska."
"It's that easy? And what if something goes wrong?" Huck asked.
"Well, we'll pray to our gods that won't happen. But I won't send you without allies. The halfling mercenary and his enforcer, the orc -- I have taken them under my employ, and they will accompany you West."
Flavian and Jobe. Both of them scared Del, and she believed they scared Huck as well. "What do we do once we get to Iska?" Huck asked.
"There will be a city," explained the Lich. "An old city. But the orc has known it in the past. It is called Delidua. It is ruled by a sorceress, and you must take a message to her."
"What kind of message?" Huck asked.
"A message of peace," the Lich promised.
Huck looked at Del, who carried emitted fear through her eyes and shoulders. "And what if we say no?"
"I'm not going to threaten you, I respect you too much for that," said the Lich. "But I am willing to barter. This is most important to me, and I am willing to offer you many things, whatever you require to carry out this duty."
"We just want to be safe. We just want to live," said Huck.
"Oh, but me too, my dear Huck. That's all I'm trying to accomplish for myself and my loved ones."
"Can you send us somewhere safe, once this is done?" It was Huck's only wish.
"I'm afraid, my friend, that there is no place that is safe anymore. Uncertainty floods every crevasse now. But I promise, I can help you carve your own niche, away from this madness."
"That's all we want," said Huck.
"Then that's what you'll be given."
Huck looked at Del. "What do you think?" he asked her.
She was surprised he would consider her opinion. Still, her opinion depended on his. "Whatever you want to do, Uncle Huck."
"Then we'll do it," said Huck.
After they were done with the meeting, Ivaile led them out. But the apprentice had words to impart himself.
"Two days from here to the West is a forest. You must traverse it. There will be both allies and enemies within it."
"I've heard of it," said Huck.
"Here, you will need this." Ivaile handed them a pair of sheathed knifes. "Silver," he explained. "Just in case."
"Just in case of what?" Del asked.
"Certain creatures can only be harmed by silver. Iskan creatures. I hope you do not meet such things on your journey. But if you do, you will be prepared."
"Thanks," said Huck.
"Secondly," continued Ivaile, "This is the message we want you to deliver." He handed Huck a rolled up parchment, sealed in wax. "And one more thing," Ivaile told them, as he let them out the tower's door. "Do not fear. I will be dreaming of you, and when I dream, the Good Lich listens. You are not alone."
Del wasn't sure what he meant, but it still sounded faintly reassuring.
"Okay," Huck said, it seemed mostly because he wanted to be polite.
"Good luck," said Ivaile.