"You, Death Walker, will now ascend to a plane of existence beyond any mortal, beyond any mere undead," said the Death Lord, without wasting any more time, beginning the end of the Ritual. She clasped her hands together and held them out towards Aldrich. As she did so, large swathes of crackling green energy surrounded his astral body in a spherical matrix.
The Death Lord's reptilian green eyes flashed brightly, and a chord of swirling green energy manifested between Aldrich's spiritual heart and the Phylactery in his physical body. The Phylactery's purple orb started to oscillate rapidly, baring countless glowing blue lines of magical inscription weaved into its surface.
One by one, these inscriptions faded away, breaking off into flecks of bright blue dots.
"As a mortal Necromancer, you merely walked through the currents of death. You waded waist deep in the infinitely vast stream of living and dying, afraid of sinking your head under for it was forbidden among mortals to do so," chanted the Death Lord, and as her words echoed through the Necropolis, more and more inscriptions faded from the Phylactery.
As the Phylactery lost its inscriptions, it began to open up physically, baring moving segmentations that clicked and clacked as they slowly slid open like pieces in a puzzle box.
"But now, you will now what it means to truly be a part of this stream. To not be afraid of what lies below, but to embrace it. To swim within the raging rivers of death without drowning, no, to breathe it in, to let it become a part of you.
To let it become your might.
You will know power. And you will know eternity."
The tether tying Aldrich's spirit form to the Phylactery intensified in its green glow, and that was when he felt himself slowly assimilating into the Phylactery. His spirit body began to grow ever more transparent as his essence funneled into the orb.
The Death Lord paused, waiting for Aldrich's spirit body to fade away entirely into the Phylactery. When it did, Aldrich found himself inside his own body again as his Phylactery started to close up, returning into its spherical shape.
The black circuit shaped streaks all around his pale body were still present, but he did not feel any stronger. Any better than before.
"So what, that's it?" said Aldrich. He held his hands near his face, seeing that his body was the same, as was his level of magical energy.
"No, not at all." The Death Lord smiled, baring her rows of threatening fangs. She put a hand on the hip of her silken green dress as she flitted out a forked tongue with strangely seductive air. "This is simply the process to tether your soul into your Phylactery. It is once you leave the Necropolis and return to your realm that you will truly ascend.
When all the power that you have amassed here descends upon you in one crashing tidal wave of strength.
Oh, how wonderful your strength will be, how terrible your aura will be, how much death you will spread - I truly, truly anticipate it with all my cold, undying heart."
"So that's it? You want me to kill for you? To spread death?" said Aldrich.
"What? You think me some mere hungry spirit? Of course not," said the Death Lord. "No, my dear, what I want from you is merely for you to actualize your potential."
"What do you mean by that?" said Aldrich.
"All will be made clear in time," said the Death Lord mysteriously. She laughed. "I jest. It would be so easy to end this with a mysterious line like that, no? But in all honesty, I am simply bored. I am trapped here in my realm, severed in its own pocket of space time, and I cannot interact with anyone or anything else other than you.
You are my only and, thus, greatest source of entertainment. So do your best not to die and end this show early."
The Death Lord made a cutting motion with her hand, and a portal opened up behind Aldrich, leading out into the real world. He floated towards it, and even if he tried to stay, he would not be able to resist the pull of the portal.
"Wait, this power I'm about to receive, I don't fully know all about it-," began Aldrich. He knew what Liches could do in the game, but he did not know entirely if the game mechanics translated perfectly to real life.
"You will find out," said the Death Lord. "I am not sending you away so soon because I begrudge your company. Nay, as I have said before, I like it. But there are those that need you."
"Yes. This arena blocks your connection to undead under you from outside its walls. But, let's see, you've received no less than eight distress signals that these arena walls have intercepted. I assume you are direly needed," said the Death Lord.
"What? An attack?" Aldrich immediately perked up in battle readiness as his mind raced to think about how this had happened. He had planned very thoroughly with Casimir about how to take down every conceivable threat that would come the Red Circle's way.
This involved creating unique teams to defeat Blackwater's combat instructors, the strongest threats on hand, and the Trident Elite squadron stationed in Haven. Other than them, there would be no significant threats until at least a day later when reinforcements came.
Had reinforcements arrived early?
How was everyone doing?
Was Valera alright?
"Your most recent distress call was a mere minute ago. Those that rely upon you should still be intact." The Death Lord waved Aldrich away. "Now go. Receive your strength. Test it upon those that dare to strike against you. And when the time is right, bear it down upon me."
She smiled eagerly at Aldrich in pure, battle-crazed desire. Her crown of glowing green shards flared. "Take this heavy crown of death from me. Make it yours."
Aldrich blinked, processing what she said, but before he could respond, the portal sucked him in with one last violent draw, and he saw nothing but darkness.
Then, as Aldrich perceived the real world, the beginnings of color and shape forming the walls of the Red Circle's dance floor, it hit him.
It washed over him like a tidal wave, and at first, he felt like he was going under, completely drowning, his consciousness and body buffeted and crashed every which way and that by power. His vision turned a bright green, and he felt almost like his entire existence was being pulled apart at the seams.
He felt as if at any given moment, if he lost control, if he let himself be pulled under this raging flood of strength, he might be scattered into atoms.
But, almost as soon as the power hit him so very violently, it stopped.
The blinding bright green around him faded into pure darkness. He felt weightless in this darkness, without any physical form, just his basic consciousness, but here, he saw the very familiar sight of letters typing across a status screen.
But where before the letters were white and gold and styled as if they belonged to a fantasy game, the letters were now a bright, eerie green, the font shaped like thin, bare bones scratch marks.
And there, he saw the rewards he had reaped pouring in -
[CALCULATING EXP GAIN…]
[EXP GAINS EXCEEDING NORMAL LIMIT…]
The level up messages continued on and on and on until finally -
[Level 14 ] Level 40]
[New EXP Bar: 0/45,000]
[+130 Stat Points available to distribute]
[Race changed from Undead (Risen) to Lich]
[Passive: Inner Circle of the Lich obtained]
[Passive: Outer Circle of the Lich obtained]
[Spell: Death Bolt obtained]
[Anti Life Shell Rank 2 changed to Mist of Undeath]
[Lich stat bonuses obtained:
[Racial Passive: Undead Body changed to Racial Passive: Lich Aspect]
[1x Living Armor (Volantis) automatically equipped. Current armor set consumed.]
[50+ Miscellaneous Items (Weapons, Armor, Materials) obtained. Exceeds personal inventory limit. Surplus moved to available personal storage identified as the Chrysalis]
[Summons preserved in temporary storage:
[30 x Death Knight]
[1x Crimson Knight Captain]
[20 x Skeleton Knight Archers]
[1x Zombie Giant]
[1x Great Bonewheel]
[Miscellaneous raised mortal undead]
Aldrich saw all this power flowing into him through the void and did what he knew best: he built his character up. He distributed his stat points. And as he did so, as he organized himself, he did not just upgrade his character, he built his very existence back up.
His physical body, his old mortal shell, was gone now.
In this darkness, as he put in points into magic, into attunement, into vitality, as he gained a greater and greater grasp of what he could do, he could see his new body starting to form again, manifesting around his bare, floating consciousness.