17th Vhalar, 717
Although he loved his new laboratory to bits, Tio had to admit that VonDwight had gone a bit overboard on the whole 'secret doors' gimmick. It had been fun at first, but as Tio progressed further in his efforts to renovate the place and discovered more rooms hidden behind secret doors that really weren't worth the trouble to hide it started to grow tiresome. What possible reason could anyone have for hiding the larder behind a revolving bookcase that would only turn when someone pulled the lever disguised as a Videnese cookbook? Larders were not that important!
Which was why when he took down a poster displaying a diagram of the human body and discovered a small button in the wall behind it, his response was a long-suffering sigh. For a lab intended to never have any visitors in it, its creator had sure gone to a lot of trouble to make it difficult to explore. What mediocre room was awaiting him behind a cleverly disguised door this time? A rec room? A swimming pool? Whatever it was, it would be best if he explored it now so that he could get an idea of how much more time it was going to take for him to clean the place up. When he pressed the button a portion of the wall slid away, revealing a set of stairs heading upwards, and with an annoyed groan Tio began to climb up them.
About a break or so later he reached the top of the stairs, and pushed open the door waiting at the top of them to step into a dark room. Immediately the strong yet faded smell of long rotten flesh slammed into him, and his nose wrinkled in disgust as his eyes began to adjust to the much dimmer lighting. The room he was in was a pretty big one, though most of it was not accessible to him due to the enormous cage that took up most of the space. By the looks of things this cage took up almost the entirety of the room, leaving only a L shaped space wide enough to fit about two people shoulder to shoulder along its side, which he was currently standing it. This room, it seemed, was a viewing room, where Xavier could study the contents of the cage safely.
But more surprising than the strange room was what was trapped in the cage itself. The skeletons of around half a dozen animals, all of them different species, were moving around under their own power and making ghastly parodies of their original noises at him or each other. There was a monkey, a tiger, and even an elephant, all moving around as naturally as if they still had flesh and muscles on their bones. Of all the undead animals however one stood out among the rest: a horse laying down in the center of the cage that still had a full body of flesh and blood upon it. Its hair was a pale grey, as if it hadn't seen sunlight in years, and it was thin and lanky enough for the outlines of its ribs to be made out along its chest, but the rise and fall of its chest suggested that unlike the other creatures in the cage this horse was still alive!
Tio walked along the L shaped space to the point farthest from him, and found a small table with a half-filled notebook, a dried up inkwell and a dusty old book bound in black leather. When he opened the black book he soon recognized it as a text on necromancy, which described in great detail an object known as a 'Phylactory'. All of the descriptions of how it worked or how to make one involved concepts and theories way to complicated for him to even begin to understand, but as he read through it Tio was at least able to glean some understanding of what a Phylactory actually was.
Within those fractures he'd heard about it was apparently possible to mine these strange types of crystals, known as wells, which as the name suggested acted as a constant supply of ether that mages could take advantage of. They were a key component in ensorcelling and the creation of magical artifacts, and necromancers were able to implant them into their thralls in order to allow them to stay animated on their own, as well as grant them enhanced power and regenerative abilities. Yet this book claimed there was another function a well could serve in the hands of a necromancer; according to legends, if a necromancer was powerful enough they could entrap the soul of someone who died with a well, and use them to craft a frighteningly efficient class of thrall that could perform with the same amount of skill as the victim could in life. Taking this concept, there were some who believed it possible to reach immortality by transferring their own souls into a well, called a Phylactory, and then placing the well into their original body to animate it like a thrall. A being made in this way was only referred to once by name, a Lich, but the fear the writer had felt whilst writing it was palpable in the shaky handwriting. A Lich was supposed to be the unchallenged master of the undead, and more powerful than an ordinary mortal could possible imagine.
The idea seemed kind of silly to Tio, but the writing in the notebook showed that Xavier had been investigating this legend as another possible source of immortality. However whilst he wanted to live forever Xavier was apparently unwilling to risk dying himself, and was experimenting with the possibility of implanting pseudo-phylactories into already living creatures in order to grant a living body the undead's ability to regenerate and remain youthful. He'd captured types of animals in pairs, killed and entrapped the soul of one within a well, then implanted that well into the other and locked them in this cage whilst he studied them. Pretty much every experiment had ended with failure, as the host animal died soon after the pseudo-phylactory was implanted inside it, but the test subject he'd been experimenting on when he abandoning the lab had been holding on to life for a lot longer than the others had.
And that subject was a pale horse.
"Damn Xavier, you are one dark dude." Tio muttered to himself sadly as he looked up from the book and at the pale horse lying in the centre of the cage. If what this notebook said was true (and really, what reason did Xavier have to lie in his own personal journal?) this poor horse had been trapped down here in this cage for over 80 arcs, unable to die and with nothing but mindless thralls for company. He kind of wished he could let it go free at last, but the logical part of him warned that this was the untested result of a strange and dark experiment, and as such there was a chance it could prove to be seriously dangerous to people if he let it go free. The kindest thing he could do for it now was remove the pseudo-phylactory within it and let it die.
Feeling guilty for what he was about to do, Tio let out a depressed sigh and made to lean on the edge of the desk. As he put his weight on it however the edge of the desk gave way slightly with a faint clicking noise, and alarm bells went of in Tio's head as a large portion of the wall inside the cage slowly began to rumble open, letting a faint stream of sunlight in with it. Oh shit, it was another secret door! This one connected to the bottom of a cave by the looks of things! It must have been installed to allow Xavier to get creatures as big as elephants into the cage, but why on earth had he hid the switch as a corner of the desk!
The pale horse stood up immediately at the sight of sunlight, and though he could have been imagining it Tio could have sworn he saw flickers of hope and relief dancing in its eyes. With a whiny of pure joy it ran forward, its weak and spindly legs powered by nothing but sheer elation after all the years of disuse, ducked under the still-opening door and made a mad dash up the cave towards the sunlight. Strangely enough the animal thralls charged along after it, the slower ones like the monkey riding on the backs of the faster ones, and with frightening speed the skeletal procession made its way up to the surface.
"Oh dear. That's-... is that my fault?" Tio muttered to himself in horror. The secret switch had also caused some of the cage bars to swing open like a door, and Tio grabbed Xavier's notebook and ran through them and over to the cave door in time to see the undead horde disappearing out the cave mouth and into the outside world. The cave door started to close on its own, and so he ran out into the cave the animals had escaped from and left it to shut. Damn it, this wasn't good at all! He needed to take down those thralls before they could hurt anybody! But on foot he stood no chance of catching up to them!