Aldrich watched as Rockshaper slumped down to the floor. The hero's face planted against the metal floor with a thud as he unceremoniously sprawled out, drool pooling from his slack jawed mouth.
Aldrich first raised his hand up, absorbing all the souls from the deceased heroes. They were all of middling rarity, quickly filling up his max inventory of 20 with garbage. Though he could allot people and physical items into his Chrysalis, souls, he had to rely on with his inventory, and 20 was not much space at all.
That said, Aldrich was more than willing to get rid of these lower level souls for other ones if needed be later.
"You should have chosen to die. It would have been far, far easier for you," said Aldrich as he crouched down and grabbed Rockshaper's head in his hand. The hero's head felt small in Aldrich's palm, showcasing just how much he had grown physically with his lich transformation.
Aldrich shoved Rockshaper's head towards his chest, and the metal around it opened up in strands of black. Beneath the metal strands were fibers of red musculature that snapped off of Aldrich's pale skin.
The purple phylactery shone with a dull vigor from Aldrich's exposed chest, but as Rockshaper's flesh neared, the phylactery reacted, oscillating rapidly.
A small distortion in space tore across the spherical surface of the phylactery, and from it, several grasping tentacles of shadow burst outwards. The end of each tentacle ended hooked claws that ripped into Rockshaper's body, digging into his flesh before sucking him in hungrily.
Rockshaper's body spatially distorted, funneling into the comparatively tiny space of the phylactery like he was being drained into a black hole, and within a second, he was gone.
"Hm. Odd." Aldrich looked down to observe a few purple tinted cracks lining the flesh surrounding the Phylactery. He registered minor damage from them.
The Chrysalis had been unable to use its spatial powers properly this time, creating a portal that had damaged Aldrich.
Aldrich waved a hand over his chest, and the uncovered metal strips exposing his phylactery sealed shut again, fusing together seamlessly back into his armored chest plate.
Though the Chrysalis inside the Phylactery had obeyed Aldrich's command to open up a portal, the way it had done so felt…sloppy. Or rather, unfocused. The Chrysalis had been unable to stably control the dimensional powers it should have been familiar with.
Aldrich reached out to the Chrysalis via his link as its master, but he encountered some difficulty.
Trying to communicate with the Chrysalis mentally hit a foggy psychic barrier of sorts, as if the Chrysalis was in a state of constant hazy unconsciousness.
Aldrich would have liked to see the Chrysalis evolve and grow much stronger. Especially considering the massive amount of power it absorbed from Aldrich moving his soul into the Phylactery.
But for now, it seemed that the Chrysalis had gone largely dormant, capable only of basic portal openings; the same kind it could perform before.
Aldrich did not want to disturb the Chrysalis too deeply, for he could feel that the creature was in a semi-dormant state from processing his power.
If Aldrich had to give an image as an example, he likened the Chrysalis right now to be sleeping dormant in a cocoon of Aldrich's power, feeding off of it until it was ready to burst out and hatch.
There was the potential that by forcibly pulling it out of its cocoon early, Aldrich could cause irrevocable damage not only to the Chrysalis, but to his soul hosted inside the Phylactery.
Thankfully, Aldrich had an expert on all matters magical on hand. He put two fingers to his temple and reached out to Fler'Gan.
So long as an undead was in Aldrich's Inner Circle, he could establish a strong mental link to them with no issue. He had yet to test long distance communication, though, for in game lore, there were instances of undead being so far away from their masters that they reverted to being mindless monsters.
'Yes, O Elder?' said Fler'Gan.
'I will have a few more test subjects for you soon,' said Aldrich.
'Ah, wonderful!' said Fler'Gan in glee. 'Once this awful, loud, and all too destructive battle is done with, I may finally return to my experiments. With that 'Editor' sample you spoke of and further more of these Alters, I fully believe I may be on the brink of a great breakthrough.'
'That's excellent to hear,' said Aldrich. 'I need your expertise on something.'
'Oh? What is it, O Elder?'
'The Chrysalis - you've seen it and you have an idea of what it is. It's housed inside the Phylactery you personally built. And you know well how the entire process of tethering a soul into a Phylactery goes. So there's nobody better to ask you this question: the Chrysalis has entered a dormant state after I moved my soul into the Phylactery,' said Aldrich. 'I can understand it having difficulty processing the influx of power, but it feels different too. Trying to reach out to it is difficult, as if I need to pass by some kind of mental block.'
'Has it now? Let me wrack my brains…' After several seconds, Fler'Gan spoke again. 'It is difficult to offer accurate diagnoses for the Chrysalis is a creature not native to our realm, but I can offer some hypotheses.'
'Any insight from you would be valuable,' said Aldrich.
'This Chrysalis, from my limited experience with it, seemed to be a creature optimized for adapting to and taking the characteristics of the energy it absorbed,' said Fler'Gan. 'Hence, it could perform the marvelous feat of adapting itself to make it compatible with mana.'
'Logically speaking, then, it should be able to adapt itself to the energy of my newly empowered soul,' said Aldrich.
'Ah, but there is a distinct difference.
Mana is colorless. Pure energy. And, most importantly, physical in its essence. In our realm, it permeated the air we breathed and the dirt we tread upon. Similar to the 'Ether' permeating this world.
Thus, anyone native to our realm could utilize mana simply by having a physical body.
However, a soul is vastly different.
In its basic form, a soul is a nugget of energy, yes, but it is spiritual in its essence, lacking any physical form to interact with.
To harvest energy from souls requires having an anchor not in the physical world, but in the spiritual plane.
Thus, drawing energy from a soul requires that one possess a soul, for without one, there is no tie to the spiritual plane where souls reside.
As a result, you will never see a Necromancer calling upon the dead without a soul. Or a Shaman that communes with the dead without a soul. To use souls requires having a soul, and a strong one, at that.
All too often, there are tales of errant Necromancers or Shamans that channel the might of far too many souls and overwhelm themselves, their own souls shattering as their bodies become hosts to a chaotic mess of foreign spirits.'
'I see…,' said Aldrich. He did remember lore tidbits about magic interacting with souls needing mages with strong souls themselves. This, of course, included the field of Necromancy. But this was not the main point.
Fler'Gan's voice had grown more and more excited as he kept speaking, hinting at some other groundbreaking revelation. 'So, what are you hinting at, Fler'Gan?'
'That creature, that 'Chrysalis', lacks a soul, no? Thus, it should be impossible for it to harness the power given by your own soul, no?' said Fler'Gan.
'Well, if what you say is correct, then yes,' said Aldrich. He paused for a moment, thinking about this, and then the realization hit him.
The Chrysalis was a changing, adapting creature. It latched onto energy and then changed everything about it to effectively harness the energy it absorbed. It could change its physical structure greatly, creating environments that matched the landscape around it. It could alter its very own spatial dimensions.
So, if the Chrysalis changed itself to harness the energy given to it, and if the energy of Aldrich's soul required a soul to harness, then that left only one strong conclusion: the Chrysalis was trying to form its very own soul.