Villain Week Finale – Liches and Other Undead

The struggle of saving Liches and the Undead for the final day was really painful, but worth it in the end. Why? Because there was, believe it or not, an actual order to this week. The posts began with tyrannical, evil leaders, a sub-type of villain characterized by a constant craving for more power, and it ends with Liches and the Undead. Like Old Gods and Invading Species, Liches and Undead don’t necessarily want power. Their motives aren’t always known. More often than not, however, these three types of villains (well, it’s more a guaranteed thing with the Old Gods and the Liches) are all about destruction. Invading Species may show up and eradicate any resistance before continuing with their plans. They may be doing so to pave the path for world domination, or they could be setting up for planetary destruction. The Old Gods could very well have deeper motivations that aren’t always made clear through their actions, but the ultimate goal usually seems destruction and the further-spreading of madness.

Liches, however, and their Undead legions are delightful in that their endgame typically revolves around one guiding principle: the eradication of all life. Unlike Invading Species and Old God counterparts with the same goal, the Undead have one added trick that helps make them such a formidable agent of chaos: the more death they cause, the greater their own numbers become. The Undead, however, are notorious for not being the easiest creatures to keep indisposed. There’s necromancy for raising new undead creatures (or bringing back the fallen ones), viruses and plagues that lead to undeath, and so on and so on. Whether created by magic or malady, once the Undead show up they are guaranteed to keep on keeping on until they are stopped at the source. Not all Undead are subservient to a higher power, such as Liches, as evidenced by The Walking Dead and George Romero’s (Whatever) of the Dead

That’s where Liches come in. Liches are defined as powerful magic-users who have made a gamble at immortality by stashing their souls away in objects. Liches seem to vary from story to story in terms of overall personality, behavior, and exact driving forces, but the basics stay relatively close to the same. Their souls are stored in an object, typically similar to an urn, called a phylactery. This allows the Lich to survive having its physical form destroyed as though it were merely a minor inconvenience (I could have said it’s merely a setback, but…well, now I have said it). Their usual plan of action is to eradicate all other life, leaving only the Undead to roam about or just simply ending all life. As masters of their fellow Undead, Liches also often have some command of mind control spells and act as the driving force in a sort of hive-mind collective.

In most cases, they are still very powerful users of magic. The type of magic seems to vary from one Lich to the next, however. Final Fantasy’s Liches are associated with Earth magics, the Lich/Lich King in Adventure Time seems to be associated with Fire magic, and the Liches in World of Warcraft are heavily associated with Ice/Frost.

Noteworthy Examples:

The Lich (Adventure Time) –

Setting aside just how bone-chillingly terrifying Ron Perlman is at voicing this character, here’s one Lich who really embodies the idea of Undead characters ending all life. The Lich was (probably?) created as a result of The Mushroom War, and appears to draw its power from a place where some of the Mushroom Bomb’s fallout remains. He is clearly one of the most powerful forces of evil in all of Ooo (and its neighboring worlds and dimensions), as evidenced by Hunson Abadeer (the ruler of the Nightosphere) considering him to be a worthy adversary. His influence and ability to mind control anyone nearby, coupled with his desire to end all life, are both only small parts as to why this Lich is a force to be reckoned with.

The Lich King (World of Warcraft) – 

Here’s some more half-assed lore to get into this properly. The Lich King controls the Scourge, the vast majority of Azeroth’s Undead, by way of a telepathic link. His will is their will, essentially. The bulk of the Lich King’s power comes from all of the souls fed into Frostmourne, his reliable, evil sword with an insatiable appetite. Unlike the standard Lich, Arthas (or whoever so happens to be the Lich King at the time, really) doesn’t stash his soul away in a phylactery. Instead, the Lich King is essentially whoever wears the Lich King’s crown. Without guidance from a King, the Undead of the Scourge would roam free and kill everything in their path. With, in most cases, guidance from a Lich King, the Scourge still destroy everything in their path. There’s just more organization involved in the process.

Lich (Final Fantasy) –

The Lich is a recurring boss encounter in the Final Fantasy games, and is typically the evil blight affecting the Earth Crystal. Comparatively speaking, aside from being a particularly frustrating boss encounter if you’re not sufficiently prepared, this Lich isn’t nearly as formidable as its peers.

So that’s it for a Celebration of Characters: The Villains Edition. Next week, starting tomorrow, I’ll be cleaning up this mess with a celebration of heroes.

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