Aldrich closed his eyes as he felt his body start to oscillate rapidly, his skin and muscles undulating grotesquely as if there were countless little things alive and crawling within. Then, countless patches of his skin ripped open, but from these holes, no blood pooled out.
Instead, dark metal streamed out in flowing, living strands.
Gleaming black metal streaked with an aura of crimson. The metal strands weaved and locked around each other and over Aldrich, soon enough encasing him in armor that exactly replicated what Volantis embodied.
This was armor fashioned from the flesh and bones of a Blood Dragon, and its organic origins showed in the spikes of dull white, almost gold colored bone that jutted from Aldrich's shoulder plates, forearms, and greaves.
Aldrich looked down at his hands. The gauntlet's fingers ended into curved claws meant for ripping and tearing, and indeed, the armor did not seem like something someone would wear, no, it felt like a creature of its own, a predator and hunter in its own right.
Bands and streaks of bloody red glowed throughout the armor, signifying the flesh and blood of the dragon imbued within.
The helmet that Aldrich wore - a three horned, spiked construct of black metal and gold bone and red blood with a single gleaming red dot at the eye line - fused into the armor itself with a metallic click.
Aldrich perceived the world around him in a faint shade of red at first before Volantis merged with him better, their minds and souls synchronizing and adapting. His vision adjusted to the color spectrum he was used to, and he felt the armor shift in size, adjusting its dimensions to perfectly fit Aldrich's body.
Instead of wearing a suit of dead metal armor, it felt more like Aldrich was fused with something already alive. Almost like operating a mechsuit with a highly functioning A.I., though even more personal.
'Your command, my lord?' rumbled Volantis's voice within Aldrich's head.
"How much of your own power can you use, Volantis?" said Aldrich.
'My independent strength is limited, for I am bound to you and still recovering from destruction,' said Volantis. 'While I am tethered to you, I am only capable of accessing necromancy that directly stitches the organs and flesh that I have amassed and imbued within this armor.
General necromancy such as that involving the summoning of bone, I cannot wield.
Should you detach from me, I may use all my powers, but again, I will be weakened.
And, I will warn you, my lord, that calling upon my Shattered Bone necromancy will conflict with your own Legion Necromancy. As we share one spirit, one body, we cannot access both streams of death at once with our respective full strengths.
At the least, not until we have reached greater synchronicity over time.
As of now, I may grant you one Stitching at any given moment. Whether that be great muscular strength or wings with which to fly, it is yours to choose. But if you wish me to delve deeper into my Shattered Bone spells, stitching multiple parts at once with greater strength, it will require you to sacrifice your Legion magic."
"Tell me, can you still stitch the arm of the Blood God?" said Aldrich.
'Yes. But it will take all my might. After using it, I must go dormant, rendering me into naught but a mere shell of metal and bone,' said Volantis.
"I see," said Aldrich. He paused to gather his thoughts.
Volantis could use his Shattered Bone necromancy to grow exactly one part on Aldrich for now.
Granted, the base stats and durability that Volantis gave Aldrich was still enormous and likely more than enough to sustain Aldrich through basically any threat. Especially durability.
As an armor set, Volantis was probably the most durable that Aldrich could ever wield as a full mage, easily being on par with the defense offered by a full warrior's armor set.
Originally, Aldrich, as a pure mage type character, could not even wield proper full armor like this without suffering huge negatives, but because Volantis was a Living Armor and more a symbiote than an item, it seemed that Aldrich did not face equipment-based negatives.
Over time, Volantis would also grow stronger, recovering his strength and also becoming more and more synchronized with Aldrich. This also meant that as Aldrich leveled up, so could Volantis.
Theoretically, in a hypothetical 'end game', Aldrich could essentially have mastery over two entire necromancy Occultations - something that was never in the game because it would be game breakingly overpowered to have a caster that was also just as strong as a warrior in melee.
For now, though, Aldrich had to rely on himself to deal damage. He used the 40 Attunement Points he had received from dumping so many points into Attunement.
[Attuned Spell Limit: 7 ] 12]
[Inner Circle Units: 8/45]
[Inner Circle Units:
[Outer Circle Unit Limit: 225]
As a Lich, Aldrich now had massively enhanced capacity to control undead.
Liches were forces of nature that, when angered, were basically like natural disasters.
When they attacked a city or village, they did not just wield a few dozen undead as mortal necromancers did, no, they fielded entire undead armies, submerging living settlements like a flood of death.
Thus, Aldrich's undead control system changed fundamentally to reflect this, splitting into two categories known as the Inner Circle and the Outer Circle.
The typical units-controlled limit that Aldrich fielded now changed to the Inner Circle. This encompassed undead that were strong enough to be above level 15.
Meanwhile, the Outer Circle consisted of units that ranged from 1 to 15.
The max amount of units Aldrich could field in his Outer Circle equaled his Inner Circle limit multiplied by five, allowing him to essentially raise an entire army.
The stronger Aldrich got, the higher he evolved as a Lich, the wider the level range of his Outer Circle.
On top of this, the Raise Undead spell and its Mass variation also changed from a typical spell to a mere Cantrip, giving it essentially zero cooldown when used on Outer Circle undead.
For corpses strong enough to enter the Inner Circle, however, Raise Undead still went on cooldown, and the health and mana consuming channel was the same for raising unit that was significantly stronger than Aldrich.
Aldrich withdrew from his inventory the [Tome of Skeletal Mastery] and the [Tome of Necrotic Carnage]. He used both, learning spells to pad up his spell count and replace those that were no longer needed.
Twin auras of bloody red and ashen white swirled around him, lighting the abandoned, ruined insides of the Red Circle in their eerie twin glows.
At the end of this process, Aldrich was left with the following twelve spells:
First, there were spells he kept.
Create Greater Undead (1st Ring) - This spell was Aldrich's most useless as undead created from this could only go up to level 20. This was because he had not received the necessary [Tome of Dark Arts] to upgrade it, yet, once upgraded, would become much better. As a result, he kept the spell.
Negative Surge - A reliable spell to use in buffing an ally or Aldrich's own physical stats. Once he got the appropriate [Tome of Dark Arts], he would replace this with Death Surge.
And then there were his new spells:
Death Bolt - Aldrich's new spammable spell attack, directly replacing Chill Bolt as a vastly superior alternative.
Call of the Impaler - An area of effect spell that caused impaling stakes of bone to erupt all around Aldrich, allowing for him to generate distance or clear out enemies very easily.
Bone Wall - This allowed Aldrich to summon forth a wall of bone that could block attacks or, if raised beneath an enemy, impale them.
Bone Missile Array - This generated a circle of floating bones around Aldrich that could be shot forth according to his will like bullets. He could also supplement this with bones he found on the battlefield.
Rite of Bone Binding - By activating this spell, Aldrich could make all skeleton type units under his control in his nearby vicinity to greatly strengthen their durability and strength.
Burning Agony - Using this spell, Aldrich could cause zombie type undead under his control in his vicinity to start burning up, their blood boiling and their bodily processes maximizing, granting them heavily enhanced stats and a flaming hot ignited blood aura. Eventually, this would reduce the zombies down into skeletal undead.
Corpse Nova - A mighty spell that Aldrich could use on any zombie type undead or unit with flesh in his command, sacrificing them to turn them into a living bomb. In terms of sheer firepower, this was perhaps Aldrich's strongest attack in his arsenal so far.
Mist Phase - A spell known by all Liches. It allowed Aldrich to teleport a short distance away after a small channel of five seconds. The range extended greatly if he teleported to an undead under his command.
Aldrich's was now beginning to scrape back his original power and, as a result, his original battle strategies. As a Legion necromancer, he was used to fielding large amounts of undead, though now as a Lich, the scale of this increased tremendously.
Knowing this, Aldrich geared his spells towards being able to maximally abuse the hordes of disposable undead he could generate.
[Burning Agony] on raised zombies made even the weakest among them strong threats, and eventually, they would turn into skeletons.
At which point [Rite of Bone Binding] could turn them into durable defensive units or Aldrich could scatter them and use them to fuel his bone-based spells.
Against targets Aldrich really needed to take down, he could use [Corpse Nova] on any of his many disposable zombies, dealing massive and unexpected damage.
On top of all this, Aldrich could now thoroughly defend himself with his own defensive spells and Volantis, no longer needing to solely rely on his undead. He could afford to take hits and fight on his own now.
And yet, at the same time, Aldrich asked himself the same question he had asked himself the first time he embarked on this journey as a necromancer: what was a necromancer without his undead?
Aldrich looked around at the variant and Red Circle staff corpses lying scattered about. He smiled underneath his helm of darkness and blood.
"Serve," said Aldrich as he raised his hands up, casting [Mass Raise Undead]… All the dozens of corpses in the dance floor twitched and shuddered as they rose up as zombies, becoming the first of Aldrich's ever growing Outer Circle army.