Chapter one.

Artos Basileus Sfor, Wizard Ruler of Necros, city of a thousand souls, many of which trapped into undead rotting bodies moving along or shambling around lazily, was laying his skull in rest, at the top of his wizard tower. Thinking back about his past, he couldn't help but feel utterly satisfied as to where he had finally come:

First he had been a Wizard for over sixty years, then he had become a lich for over three hundreds, finally, after a long and perilous journey of *Self Discovery* which meant pillaging and destroying three to four churches of Nerull, he had gazed upon the secret to Demilichdom after more than four hundred years. He had actually completed said ritual, sending back hordes of goody two shoes heroes and paladins of sort, and had suddenly realized how he missed being able to use hands to do stuff, it was a petty thing, but to him petty things were useful. Sure, he shouldn't be bothered by it, why would he need hands anyway?

As long as his phylactery stayed near the stuff he wanted, it was like wearing it all along, but something on the back of his head told him he was bothered by it, and usually that something was right. Probably just to shut up his inner self, who he had come to affectionately call *Opposite me* as it always was brought up to counter any arguments that Artos himself proposed, to double check and be sure about it, and to concentrate back on his studies on how to grab a spark of godhood, he had actually created an Epic spell of his own, which he had called, in a fit of inspiration, *Coin Flip*.

On one side, there was him, the Demilich so powerful and so outright evil that even Nerull's clerics took points from him, on the other side, there was *Arty* and, at that thought, he actually shivered. Arty was good. In the puking sense of the term, the spell had its vantages, as it made *Arty* completely safe from being even so far as confronted to Artos, but, at the same time, brought forth a couple of disadvantages. Arty simply wasn't as bad as Artos, but they both had the same powers and abilities. Except the undead immunities, since Arty was alive and kicking. You still don't get where the problem is? Well, on one side you have a hurricane of utter destruction and desolation, on the other one of utter creation and safety. You get it now? How can you raze a kingdom if you later on find out *Arty* has brought it back?

The stuff was that of nightmares, actually, because *Coin flip* was useable only when the subject was willing to change, and no compulsions would work. This meant that Arty had actually enough time in the world to fix everything, and then go back to being Artos.

All in all, Artos hated Arty, the problem was that Arty pitied Artos, and did all it could to make him look like a nice guy. Even if it meant speaking to a vampire about how no, Artos didn't get to know his mother at all and was thus always on the verge of crying, and that thus he shouldn't act so evilly with him.

Really, Artos hated Arty. Yet he had uses for him, and had to keep him at bay, but there were times were he had hoped he had never developed that *Coin Flip* spell.

Louise Françoise le Blanc de la Vallière stood forward, hesitantly looking at everyone else of her class, who, thanks to conjuring their own familiars, had advanced to the second school year. She, instead, was still there, trying, and trying again with the summon servant spell, but to no avail. As she tried her best to keep back her tears for the humiliation, she began chanting once more, thinking to herself:

Please, anything or anyone will do. Please! As the words for the chant became more a pledge to a higher god than an actual summon servant.

"By the power of the summoning circle and the elements, bring forth my divine and powerful familiar, please, I beg of you!"

And at that moment, someone, sitting atop a golden throne, with sun images depicted everywhere, decided to take two pigeons with a single stone. At a flick of his wrist reality itself bended, and what was never meant to be, suddenly became.

As darkness loomed over the room, they knew they were going to die. They had tried their best to slip by unnoticed, the zombies and the skeletons had given the wizard an easy time to cast Hide from Undead, the ghouls and the ghasts too had been fouled by that trick. They had gotten close to being discovered when a vampire actually asked a question to one of them, but they kept being silent, and he cracked a joke on how Zombie's redeeming qualities seemed to be their being shambling like limbo dancers, because their limbs danced... horrible crack joke. They finally entered the final room of the tower, where the phylactery of the Demilich was supposed to be hidden. A simple enough room, with a bed, a dresser, a mirror with a set of elaborated golden motifs, an unholy altar on which a small metal box stood, covered in complex arcane writings, the wizard had done his best not to face palm at the scene, and they had outright ignored the open window which gave on a windowsill. The Rogue of the group moved first, searching for magical traps, and when he gave the *All is fine* signal, the mage took his turn, using his Silenced Detect Magic, Detect Traps and Detect Undead just to be sure there were no shadows hiding inside the altar. When, except for the overly magical and oppressive aura of the room, no traps were detected, and no undead, he too gave the *All is fine* signal.

So when the Cleric held high his sword and muttered the Flame Strike, together with the wizard casting the Disintegrate spell, darkness loomed into the room from their backs.

It has to be said: nobody should be that idiotic to believe that a phylactery would be left so out in the open, Artos himself, looking at the scene from the window, was actually surprised by how they managed to get this far. Heroes hadn't always been so stupid, but maybe they believed that, since they had avoided an entire army of undead minions, it would be easy enough. Artos himself had hidden the phylactery on the most impossible place in the world to be found, so, nothing less than him telling them where it was would have worked, and he wasn't Arty.

The spell had kicked in the moment they had set foot in the tower, but they hadn't realized it. The darkness by itself was a simple Ghoul touched with the Blacklight spell, who was moving slowly into the room, in the darkness, it hid what was a nice ensemble of Artos' servants: a mummy Lord, a vampire Lord, a greater Death Knight, and his most favorite servant of them all, a Banshee.

As the Banshee began her wailing, Artos didn't feel like staying to watch the group's demise, and simply left with his flying skull towards a run-down building, which once had been a church of Pelor, but which was now completely empty of everything, and had been tarnished in every way possible, before finally becoming the new prison for the intruders.

"So, your friends have failed" the one who spoke to the captured and bound elf ranger, who had been sent the night before into town, was actually an illusion of Artos, in a more human form. He'd have loved to make some sort of melodramatic entry, but had refrained from doing so in order to avoid wasting spells. The humanoid form had been that of him as a lich, since, after all, nobody would be that stupid to yell out loud that a Lich had risen of rank into the Demilichdom. Doing so would bring other liches around, to inquire on how he managed the feat, and he had all but a will to share his knowledge.

"Miss Vallière…is that a pile of stuff?" professor Colbert asked curious, as when the dust had finally set, something had shined on the grass of the academy courtyard. A skull, covered in jewels stood there, atop what seemed to be a small metal box, closed and on which seemed to be written strange runes, which flickered against the sun's light with a horrible glint, underneath it, a pile of objects, of various forms, like girdles, staffs, rings, robes, and much more stood.

"Professor Colbert, this has to be a mistake! I mean…I summoned…what I actually summoned was this!" Louise was shocked at the sight, did she vaporize her familiar? Was it wearing all that stuff before dying off?

"That's Louise the Zero for you! Objects instead of people!" yelled someone from the student's crowd as many more began to laugh out hard.

"Miss Vallière, I am sure that once the contract will be completed, everything will be explained…while it does seem a bit macabre…try using the skull as a focus, maybe it's a sort of golem," Professor Colbert hazarded a guess, curiosity taking the better of him.

Louise slowly moved forward towards the skull, gulping down nervously.

I'm going to kiss a skull, for founder's Brimir sake, I'm going to kiss a skull!

"Still not speaking?" the illusion of Artos insisted.

"Never! May Elhonna guide me through the darkest of paths for I will…gah!" he screamed as a surge of pain echoed in his body, as strength abandoned him the illusion placed a hand on its temples.

"Let me think about it," the illusion began walking around the Ranger, hands behind its back, it gave a small kick to a broken Pelor image before turning, once more, towards the Ranger.

"You should never say never," as the illusion said that, another sharp pain hit the Ranger, as his will grew weaker, it started crying, he never thought he'd die like that, he hoped at least in a quick death in battle.

"You know, I'm going to keep you alive, flail you alive, have you suffer all possible tortures, burn you a bit, then heal you all up to torture you again," the illusion grinned, if an undead illusion of a lich could grin, "and then, I'm going to actually read in your mind, find your family, and butcher them all in front of you, until nothing remains! HOW DOES THAT SO…" sound. That was what Artos would have liked to say, but suddenly a sharp pain hit him all over. As he yelled his anger and frustration only one thought crossed his mind:

The phylactery! THE PHYLACTERY!

As Instant Refuge cast itself, after the first condition of them all had been cleared, Artos found himself brought through the plane wheel, the clockwork patch of Mechanus hailed him as he went, and finally, he stumbled into the complete darkness of the negative plane, before merging himself with a strange sensation, like going through marmalade, to the…other side.

The kiss to complete the summoning was done, and suddenly, the skull shone brightly, slowly floating upwards. Professor Colbert was quick in grabbing Louise and throwing her backwards, raising his staff toward the skull. The skull had seemed just a normal skull, yet, why did all this malice seem to suddenly sprout from it? The grass underneath it began slowly dying, turning greyish, then rotting as a nauseous stench filled the air. The students stopped laughing, as a dark sort of portal appeared, and echoes of cold made them all shiver and look scared. Many of them outright cried for their mothers, or ran away; even without knowing the reason, many familiars turned nervous and tried escaping the courtyard, without consideration.

Louise stood there, shocked and surprised, when the skull slowly stopped shining, settling on a floating height similar to that of a normal humanoid, Professor Colbert was covering her, his staff raised high in front of him, and Louise would have never thought to see the professor so serious.

As the skull stood silent, Louise grabbed enough courage to stand up, and yell at it:

"Hey you!" raising her wand high in the air, she yelled again, to get more courage, "I'm speaking at you! Familiar of mine!" then Louise gulped hard, as the skull settled its jeweled eyes on her and slowly floated closer.

"Did. You. Just. Call. Me. Familiar?" the skull rattled, expressionless, and, as Louise nodded vigorously, it began laughing hard, flying around.

"AHAHAHAHAHAHA! FAMILIAR! ME! OH MY! THIS IS UTTERLY…" then the skull fell down on the ground lifeless, rolling forward in the grass for a bit, before beginning to slowly float again.

"This isn't…" as he said that, he suddenly realized something, and floated straight back in front of Louise's face, which fell down surprised and scared.

"YOU! YOU DAMN BRAT! WHICH GOD IS IT YOU SERVE! Is it Nerull? Wee Jas is the culprit? Was it Hextor? Don't tell me it's Olidammara, because I'd rather destroy myself against a wall than serve under an Olidammara's cleric."

"I…Shut up!" Louise yelled back at the skull, which rolled on his back, as the stuff on the ground suddenly started floating, and circling all around him.

"I'm not giving it easy to you however! You will never claim the powers of Artos Basileus Sfor! FLIP COIN!" and as he said those words, suddenly, with a loud crack, the skull was gone together with the box.

The clothing, the staff, the stuff which had fallen suddenly appeared like being fitted on someone, and then, after a brief flash of light, a man stood there.

Wielding his staff in his right hand, with fiery red hair, and green eyes, his skin as pale as white could be, his physique tall and slim, it looked down on the girl, and slightly down also on the professor, who was still trying to decide wherever to cast a spell or not.

Louise had no idea what to say, if to say anything, seeing how, on the schools courtyard, only she and the professor remained, and the skull suddenly turned commoner, obviously.

First thing, Artos had dived straight through the negative plane, that is not a nice experience even in the darkest of nights, yet, he had done so, or better yet, he had been obliged to do so. Finally, when he had emerged to the other side, he had seen wizards wielding wands, and a wizard wields a wand only to cast destruction spells. So, as quick as he could, he unleashed his full repertoire of Fear Aura and Withering Aura, quickly followed by Mage armor and a Shield spell. Since nobody had attacked him, but many had scrambled in fear, he had stopped to ponder on the situation.

Clearly something is wrong. Doesn't seem to be damage on the Phylactery. What's up with the wizards here though? Not knowing who they were summoning? Wait. Summoning? Oh no you can't.

That's when the girl had yelled at him, calling him a familiar.

Me? A familiar? A familiar is something like my crow Guendaline. Not something like a Demilich. I mean, who'd conjure a Demilich as a familiar? A god? Is this the realms of Gods? Maybe kid gods. I mean, some did scramble away crying for their mothers. Doesn't seem so divine, however.

Ignoring the girl, he had tried to move away, just to find out that his magical powers seemed to exponentially diminish, to the point of him falling on the ground. He stood there for a second, to think some more, before rolling back, and later flying back, in front of the girl.

It must be a really expert cleric which brought forward a summoning! The negative plain didn't have someone strong enough, and so they sent me! DAMN IT ALL. Whose god is she devoted to? Anything but Olidammara is fine, heck, it wouldn't matter even it were a good god, because once dead I'd return to my plane…wait, my phylactery is here. If I die I return here. Do they plan on using me over and over again! OH NO! THAT WON'T WORK ON ME!

That was why Artos had used his epic spell, *Flip Coin*, which merged his phylactery, which held his soul, with his Demilich skull, which held what remained of his body, into the living body of... Arty.

Arty gently bowed his head, with a sorrowful expression, before whispering in a quiet, gentle tone, completely the opposite of Artos' one.

"I'm very, very sorry for the problems Artos has caused…he can't help it, really" as he said that, Louise stared at him surprised, while Professor Colbert looked at him with a more clinical eye.

"Are you perhaps a mage, mister?" the Professor asked, seeing how the other man had a staff with him.

Arty shook his head with a worried expression:

"No sir, I'm a wizard" which actually would be a synonym of mage, thought Colbert, but maybe it held a different meaning where he came from.

"I summoned a talking skull turned commoner" Louise muttered, not believing her eyes, or her ears.

"Oh, you were the one to summon me, gracious one?" the man asked, kneeling in front of the girl with a wide smile, which made Professor Colbert, for a second, forget about how the guy had many explanations to give, or how dangerous he actually seemed to be.

Louise nodded silently, still shocked for a moment at such a fast change of situation.

"What is your name then, gracious one?" as Arty asked with a small smile, Louise couldn't help but blush a little, as she slowly whispered it once.

"I couldn't hear you, gracious one"

"Louise Françoise le Blanc de la Vallière" she repeated slowly.

"I am Arty, wizard of the royal court of the Island of the Ghorzun," at least, seven hundreds and more years ago, he was, "And I hope we can be friends in the future, not master and familiar. Is it fine with you, gracious one?"

Louise couldn't help it, she simply nodded, the way his voice spoke was so gentle, so nice, so clear and crisp, it was like having the fresh wind from the mountain blowing on her face, and he looked so beautiful too!

Professor Colbert on the other hand was a man, and at that, a researcher, so, when he heard *Arty* speak, he finally gathered enough courage to ask:

"What is your connection with the skull? He called himself Artos, which I can't seem to ignore being the full name of your own. Are you using some sort of illusion magic on your own?"

Arty showed Professor Colbert a saddened face, before shaking his head and standing back up, to speak with the professor at the same level.

"This is not an illusion, but I must admit I do share a connection with Artos…sadly we are one and the same, two souls trapped inside the same entity" as he said that with a saddened expression, he looked to his own feet, like he was ashamed of something.

"Once we were one and the same, but nearing the end of life he grew bitter with how he would be forgotten, given time…so he did it. I cannot speak of it, less he comes back, but you must realize that he isn't evil, just…misunderstood" as he pleaded, Colbert too looked strangely curious.

"Is it some sort of contingency in place which prevents you from speaking?"

"Worst, it's the spell per se" Arty replied, "I am alive only as long as I stick to the rules of the spell"

"The spell…it was called…" Colbert tried saying more, but Arty suddenly yelled:

"Don't say it! Don't!" and Colbert shut his mouth up.

"However, I must ask of you, what task is it that I must comply with? What rewards is there for the completion?" Arty had actually thought the summoning to follow the rules of his plane, which, after all, were pretty simple: conjure something, speak with him to ensure loyalty for a task, or send him back home if you couldn't pay him.

As the man slowly looked down on Louise, the girl looked back up, with a slight increase in nervousness, she finally spoke:

"You are to be my familiar until death do us part" as she said that, Arty himself felt the magic stir around them, more precisely, inside of him. Placing his hands on his chest to feel the beating of his heart, a thing he usually did every time he took Artos' place, he saw runes shine brightly on his left hand.

"Oh…the reward is this, right?" as Arty asked he began looking at the runes on his hand with more interest.

"What do they do?" showing them to Professor Colbert, who looked at them with a surprised expression.

"I don't know…just a minute" as he said that, he took out a scrap of parchment to jot them down.

"I'll research them in the library later"

"Library?" Arty's ears could have actually been seen going up.

"Yes…this here is the Magic Academy of Tristain" as Professor Colbert explained it to him, Arty couldn't hear him.

"Libraries are filled with books. I love books! Do you mind if I read them?" he was hopefully asking, and actually, even Colbert at this point was having a hard time saying no to him.

"I'm sorry, but books are for the students, the staff or nobility…and unless you're a mage…" as he said that, the face the familiar made was so heartbreaking that even Colbert himself was starting to think how horrible he was.

"I see…well then I guess I'll have to speak with Miss Louise…" as he said that, with a slightly saddened expression, he looked down to Louise who had already decided she would grab a couple of books and hand them over straight away to Arty.

"Oh yes, oh my look at the time, it seems its gotten so late! I didn't even realize it" with such a hurried tone, Colbert levitated out of the way, and directly through a window, which probably led back to a classroom of sort.

"So, this is your room?" Arty asked looking at the wide room he had been invited in. It didn't look bad, but obviously he had seen better, and worst. On a corner some fresh hay had been deposited, like if some sort of animal, a dog maybe? Had to sleep in there.

Louise grew more embarrassed by the second, and decided to call a maid to bring in something to eat and drink. Arty watched the food come in, and realized the girl had ordered for two.

He smiled at her sadly, but shook his head.

"I do not eat" Wouldn't feel the taste anyway.

"Oh…I know this is not on the same level of a royal cuisine but…" Louise fidgeted as the maid, a raven haired girl who looked to be from the Orient, was waiting to know if she had or not to remove the plate with the food, a stew of sorts it would seem.

Arty couldn't help but chuckle, the girl thought he was one of those darn nobles all haughty and high, no, he had been an adventurer for most of his life, so he wasn't at all haughty, and he would have even killed for a bite at that stuff…but he simply couldn't let food go wasted, considering it would probably be given to one of the servitude, if he didn't eat it.

"Oh, no, it's not for that reason, I'm sure whoever cooked it would do an excellent job at that, but I simply do need sustenance…magic ring" as he said that, he pointed to a ring on his hand. Actually, the ring was there just for show, as he no longer needed it, but a Ring of Sustenance had been the very first ring he had bought, because, obviously, who would drink water from the countryside's wells during the black plague?

"Oh! You may take this away servant" as Louise said that, she sat down, but still didn't start eating. The maid bowed her head slightly and left with the untouched platter.

An embarrassing silence soon filled the air, as Arty had been silently looking around the room for anything which resembled a book of sorts. Maybe it was in the dresser, but it could also be inside the drawer, or maybe a book would hide himself in a bed-table of sorts.

In the end, Louise broke the ice:

"You said you are not a mage, right?" as she asked that, she took a sip of wine from the glass in front of her. She couldn't be more than sixteen years old, and yet she drank wine and not water? Wasn't there a cleric to purify water around here? Now that he thought about it, he had yet to see any religious symbol. This was an academy of magic, alright, but still, Boccob or Wee Jas used to have an altar of sorts somewhere. Heck, even Nerull had one, in some academies.

"No, I am a wizard" as he said that, Louise looked at him with a dubious expression.

"Wizard and Mage are synonyms, aren't they?"

"I don't know. Tell me what a mage is, and I'll be able to answer you" as Arty said that, he crossed his arms in a thoughtful way, letting his right hand fiddle with his chin.

"Well, a mage channels the energy of the elements from outside, like fire, water, earth and air, and uses them to form spells, the more powerful a mage becomes, the more strong its spells can be. They can also be tied together to form lines, or triangles, or squares even."

"This seems so much like a Shugenja with its elements thing, but you do not seem to have any tenant of a Shugenja" which would be not bathing, not using things of a color, not eating certain foods and so on. Sure they could sense their favorite elements miles away, but all one had to do was throw a Disintegrate at them, and they would fall like any other.

"Shu…shugenCia?" Louise asked surprised by it.

"A definition for arcane based individuals who practice said art through the connection to the spirits of the world; by choosing their favorite one they renounce entirely another one"

"I see, so you're a wizard, what is it that you do? You collect magic trinkets?" Louise was actually curious about the ring, no eating nor drinking, yet he didn't seem famished or suffering from malnutrition.

"No…well, every wizard choses a path, in which it specialties lay. Or it can choose to walk upon all of them" as he said that, he grabbed a strong metallic covered book from thin air, making it appear and opening its nearly infinite pages, at least to Louise, those pages did seem infinite.

"This is Boccob's book, an artifact on which a wizard may write any spells she wishes, to prepare them later at leisure" as he explained, Louise realized the man had some sort of fond recollection about certain pages, as it stopped on them for a bit more than others.

"Boccob? Who's Boccob?" Louise asked curiously.

"The god of knowledge and magic, one of the gods of the Pantheon…"

"Nonsense, the only god is Founder Brimir! The Founder who brought the people of Halkeginia to safety against the elves!" so she had summoned a *wizard* and a heretic. As the youngest of the La Vallière family, how could it turn any worst?

"Wait. Pelor? Heironeus? Hextor? Nerull? Fharlaghan? Elhonna? Obad-Hai? None ring a bell of sorts? None whatsoever?" as Arty said that, a more than worried expression appeared on his face.

"No! Only Founder Brimir exists! Why are you spouting such nonsense, stupid familiar?" as Louise said that, she placed a hand in front of her mouth only moments later. She didn't want to offend him!

Arty was actually sweating pretty hard, like he was scared of something.


Arty tried his best, keeping his eyes closed, muttering prayers to himself, searching for some god, anywhere, who could help him, but it was true, there were none nearby.

Hey Arty, good old side of a coin, let's swap back, okay? Now that we know enough…

Shut up!

Ehi ehi, no need to be so nervous. You know eventually I'm going to come back, right? There are rules out there, eventually the magic will work its way.

I'll find a way.

You won't, because you can't destroy the coin, Arty. Give up, I'll make it quick for them.

No, never.

Suit yourself.

"Is everything fine?" Louise asked, having stood up and gone near her familiar, who had some sort of spirited sight to him.

"Yes! All is fine, really. I just need some time to think by myself…"

"Sure, I had thought my familiar would be a monster of some sort, so I had prepared some hay, but…" as Louise said that, the man snapped his fingers, and a sort of bright white door appeared.

"If you need me, I'm in my Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion, have a good night of sleep" and with that, he opened the door and entered, closing it behind him without a sound.

Not uttering a word, Louise crept onto her bed, rolling over to the side every now and then to realize that yes, there was now a door in her room and that yes, her familiar seemed able to use really strange magic too.

Just what did I summon? Louise thought to herself before falling asleep.

As Louise dreamed, she saw devastation all around her, looters and pillagers in a small town next to a river. In that river, under a bridge, drenched by the cold water stood two children, a boy and a small girl, they were both holding their breath and staying silent, as nobody had still seen them. That was when she felt a fit of fear coming from her back, and turning around, she saw what looked like a really scary mercenary, wielding a giant broadsword in only one hand, looking him too towards the bridge, with amusement. A coarse voice came from within that helm, but she couldn't understand what he was saying. What happened next, however, made her understand: two burly men armed with axes moved towards the bridge, and grabbing the two kids, which the mercenary on a horse had seen, they separated the brother from the sister, and while throwing the sister in a sack, because they were slavers, that much Louise understood, one of the two planted an axe straight through the kids chest, the cracking sound was sickening to hear and Louise turned around in fear.

Turning around, all that she saw was an ample black mantle, coated with fur, and slowly raising her head a scream pierced through her mouth, as atop a skinny, skeleton like body was a horned skull, with at its neck a set of smaller skulls, wielding what looked like a scythe, then, she woke up.

She woke up in her own bed, as light slowly filtered in, looking to her side, panting to catch breath, she could see the white door still there. She stood up, grabbing a towel to remove the sweat from her body before quickly dressing up. He wouldn't let her familiar catch her naked, now that she knew he was probably a mage too, albeit what he used to define himself had a different name. Then, she moved towards the door and, without knocking, entered.

End of Chapter One

Practice makes perfect.

This time, it's crossover time.

First off, I use the *everything goes* in the dungeons and dragons campaigns I actually Master. That said, I never used tome of battle or tome of magic, but I will make references to spells from various books, and from various planes, however the plane the Demilich comes from is custom, and the Demilich himself is a mish-smash of all the various mages/liches characters I ever played. Together with the Demilich final thing I never managed to. It's 3.5 ruleset edition, and since a Demilich is actually a pretty GS 29 encounter, this one is a GS 39. So yes, he could, willingly, kick ass to literally all the continent, twice. Will he or will he not? That's where the serious/humor part will kick in. Furthermore…couples?