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I Saw Seven Bounties

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Kravitz takes all seven of the bounties, because a group appearing all at once like that always means they’re a package deal. Find one and you find them all. It is admittedly odd, though, that all of them are charged with defying death despite only two being reported as liches. Not to mention that there’s unusually little information on them in general-- not uncommon in and of itself, but for seven people appearing together to not even have a name or face between them? That’s weird.

But Kravitz isn’t about to go questioning the Raven Queen’s sources (or lack) of information. He has a job, and he enjoys what he does, including the challenges that come with it. This won’t be any different than a normal hunt-- he just has a few extra troublemakers to deal with.

With so little information, there’s not much he can do but keep his senses peeled for liches as he attends other bounties. Trying to track them down directly would be ludicrous-- what, is he going to pick through every inch of the earth for hiding necromancers? They’re probably hiding in living bodies, too. Those are the hardest to find by lich-sensing alone, with their ghostly power masked by all that flesh and bone.

About two years pass with no new information. Towards the end of it, there’s a ping on the radar-- a coworker tells Kravitz one of the liches he’s tracking has died near Wave Echo Cave. But as soon as it appears, it’s gone again. There’s no time to figure out the actual direction it came from.

Kravitz spends the next weeks combing the area near the cave and finding nothing. But just as he’s getting frustrated, he feels the appearance of another lich-- and speak of the devil, it’s got the soul signature of the other bounty he’s taken. This one doesn’t disappear, so of course he rushes right towards the source.

He finds himself travelling towards the city of Cimbar, or what’s left of it. The entire area was decimated by the Pheonix Fire Gauntlet years ago, as one of its last victims. Nobody’s sure what hid the Grand Relics well enough to end the war overnight, but it sure took a load off the death-processing departments.

He goes at a reasonable speed, not wanting to portal in and spook the lich into moving. Not being detected as a reaper would be ideal. After a few days of travel, Kravitz stares out at the expanse of black glass. It’s a perfect circle, terrible in its beauty. He wonders how such a purely destructive weapon could have such a consistent effect. It was the only Relic known for its impossibility to interrupt or change once initiated.

Then he sees it, shimmering with the heat waves that come up from the glass: a bright red figure. As he walks closer, he sees that it’s a floating robe, clearly the lich he’s looking for. Whatever the guy’s reasons are for becoming undead, the choice of wardrobe was unusual. Not only is it a bright color, but it’s short. Kravitz is used to liches with long, draping garments that drag along (or phase through) the ground as they float. This one appears to be fitted to an accurate human size, like the guy was just wearing normal goddamn robes on the day he decided to throw his life away.

The lich spins around, snapping him out of his train of thought. He steps back instinctively, but it doesn’t advance. It just says, in a gruff but very plain voice, “Ah, oh, man. Hey, are you-- are you lost? Or-- or maybe looking for something? Because, look, trust me, everything here’s glass. Unless, uh, you’re here for the glass? I mean, it’s cool if that’s your deal, but--”

“It’s not,” Kravitz cuts in. No point being tricky about it. This lich might be notorious for evading capture, but now he’s right in front of an agent of the Raven Queen. There’s nothing he can do to escape, no teleportation that can’t be tracked at this close a range. “I’m here for you.”

There is a moment of silence while the lich considers this, skeletal face unreadable. Kravitz tenses, but the emotion-driven monstrosity keeps his oddly even temperament. Finally, he says with genuine concern, “Are you sure you have, uh… the right person?”

“Absolutely.” This is where Kravitz would like to say the bounty’s name to sound ominous, but there is no name on file, so he goes right to the charges. “You’ve been charged with avoiding death via necrotic means, creation and takeover of living bodies beyond permissible minion necromancy, and no less than twenty-six deaths that were not followed by a trip to the Astral Plane.”

The lich brings a hand to his m… teeth. “Twenty-six? Oh, wow, how do you know about-- are you undead too? I only ask ‘cause most living people can’t even, uh, can’t think about that. Which, you know what, that sounds ominous, sorry.”

Kravitz is at a loss for words, mostly because the lich hasn’t given him a single sensible thing to respond to. He’s about ready to call off this conversation, because it feels like a ruse to slow him down more than anything, when the lich speaks up again.

“How about-- why don’t we start over? I’m, I’m Barry Bluejeans, and I’m trying to-- I’m helping my friends and preventing the- the- the end of the world.”

Blue-jeans? Is that supposed to be a joke? Well, who cares. The guy might as well have one last moment of fun. “I am Kravitz, a reaper under the Raven Queen’s order, and it is my job to prevent you from destroying the world with your delusions.” He summons his scythe and takes on his own skeletal form to underscore his words.

“Shit, really? Shit.” Aha. There’s the normal reaction. “This world has-- there’s death police here? That’s-- that’s gonna be inconvenient.” Okay, less normal.

The lich-- Barry, if that goof is to be believed-- starts crackling with red lightning. The two of them stand there for a moment, clothes billowing in what is not natural wind, but the force of the energy coming off both of them.

“God, I hate-- I’m really not a fan of- of messin’ with people just doing their jobs,” Barry says, seeming less concerned for his own well-being than he should be. He’s floating backwards as Kravitz approaches with his scythe. One swing will tear his soul away and end this instantly.

If Kravitz was less focused in this moment, he might actually notice that the heat rising from the glass is sharpening, that the air is thickening, that the lightning arcing from the lich is nothing but a flashy distraction. He is focused, though, so he misses all this, and he goes in for the swing.

His own movement rubs against the air like he’s trying to oppose a river’s current. Or, perhaps more aptly, like he’s scraping a match hard across wood. It comes in contact with the edge of Barry’s robe, and instead of yanking the soul out, it opens a flaming rift on the incorporeal cloth. Barry backs away, but the line of flame stays fixed in space. Kravitz stares for just a little longer than he should, and this is a mistake.

The thing about Kravitz being on fire is that it shouldn’t hurt like this. His nerves don’t get affected this heavily by anything based in the material plane, as a precaution against this very sort of situation. But this isn’t quite like a fireball being thrown in his face, or a flame wall coming at him. The fire in front of him stays in place, actually. But he can’t tear his eyes away from it, and now there is a terrible heat overtaking all of his senses and filling every function of his brain with nothing but panic and flame. And it hurts, but he can’t look away, and it’s burning, it’s awful, even his clothes are lava against his skin--

The flames in front of him vanish, and everything feels cold for a moment before it’s back to normal. Barry Bluejeans is gone, he realizes, leaving no signs of his presence behind. But god damn it, Kravitz will track him down again, and he’ll be prepared next time.