OOC- This tale was broken into many smaller parts.. also entirely replated to the campaign and rp-quest.
Night had fallen. Deshana returned to the rats' warren that was Waterdeep and her maze of twisting streets and dark alleys. She shivered, wrapping the night-black cloak of raven feathers around her shoulders. More and more these days the walls of the city felt like a cage closing around her. There would be no escape from the trap ensnaring her.
Deshana wandered into the tavern of the Dead Orc and was not entirely suprised to find a messenger bird awaiting her. What rocked her to her core were the accusations and mistrust blasting from the neatly penned parchment. Another ring had been found.
Another ring. The words pounded like the beat of her heart, thrumming against her temples. Another ring. Deshana imagined that she could feel the ring she'd kept hidden, feel it burning with a need to be revealed. A need she couldn't meet.
Deshana mentally replayed the scene; her talk with the dwarven Cleric, Dornax. His hatred battered against her defenses, she who worked towards balance. She'd never seen such hatred. And directed at her... Deshana went still for a moment letting the memories wash over her.
"We need to talk." The voice at Deshana's elbow jolted her from her memories. She looked up onto the somber green eyes of the aging Human rogue, Kyrend, bracing herself for more bad news. Kyrend was good at what he did, his skills sharp in a way that belied his age, despite his plaints. She'd been spending a lot of time in his company of late. Deshana forced a smile, waiting for his words.
Kyrend gracefully claimed a barstool and gazed at her soberly. "They got word of another ring, Desh." He sighed. "A man called The Serpent was in Waterdeep. He was seeking information on the rings." Kyrend paused, considering his next words carefully. "Desh, this Serpant, he's a Grey Elf also known as Eliath Craulnoble. He's been known to move freely among the shadier aspects of this city. He's also believed to have some connections to Undermountain. He's dangerous. I'm concerned. You need to be more careful."
Kyrend leaned over the bar, claiming a bottle of beer from the bucket of cool water behind it. He tossed a coin to the bemused tender and sent him on his way. Kyrend moved with an odd mix of supreme confidence and apologetic grace. Deshana watched, amused despite her concerns. He looked at the slender elf and cocked an eyebrow. "I'm not joking, Desh, he's dangerous... and you haven't exactly been watching your back." Kyrend took a long pull from the cold bottle, regarding her carefully. "He had someone with him, a dark Knight of some sort. They asked a lot of questions, Desh."
Deshana nervously raked her long silver hair back from her face with her fingers, then took a long steadying drink from the flagon of ale in her hand. "What kind of questions?" She was proud of how steady her voice sounded in her ears. "Who was he asking?"
He watched her drink and heard the tremble in her voice, concern growing. Kyrend knew she wasn't weathering the strain of secrecy well. He took another pull on his beer before answering, letting her regain her composure. "He asked a lot of people I'm not entirely certain who all he talked to. Someone mentioned something about an Alu-fiend in Undermountain maybe having information. The Serpent began pushing for someone to go look." He paused again, knowing his next bit of news would upset her further, though he wasn't entirely certain why. "Ladak finally organized a group. Lazus went with him. So did I."
Deshana froze, flagon half way to her lips. Lazus Al'Medin, Priest of Lathander, was the one person she knew she could never directly lie to... She had avoided him, knowing how easily he would pry the secret of the ring she held from her. She'd sworn an oath to her brother that she'd not reveal his posession of a ring long before Lokar had passed his burden to her hands. She knew if Lazus asked a question, she would be unable to hide her knowledge of the other rings... All of them. That was the reason for her tension. The secrecy was wearing on her. "La..." Her mouth was dry, her voice rasping. She took a gulp of ale and tried again. "Lazus went with you? What did you find?"
Kyrend noted her reaction, telling himself he'd ask her about it later. "We went into the bowels of Undermountain and sought the Alu-Fiend... Despex. She claimed to have hidden the ring from a great darkness. Shadows hunted us, dogging our path. We were forced to retreat. Ladak spoke to the fiend at length, however." He paused again, letting the cold beer slide down his throat washing the dust of Undermountain from his mouth. "Lazus asked me if I knew the names of the ones that held the rings." Kyrend watched as her already pale skin went milk white. She cringed a little bit before regaining control.
"And you told him...?" Her voice was slightly flat, too controlled.
Kyrend sighed, taking another pull on his beer. "I told him I didn't know. He's suspicious, Desh, and he's not stupid. He knew I was hiding something." He watched her intently for a moment then put his arm around her slender shoulders, feeling her tremble slightly under his hand. He gathered her against his wiry body and just held her comfortingly for a while, rocking her like a child, as she regained her composure.
Deshana sniffed, scrubbing at her eyes with her sleeve. She felt the tension draining from her, leaving her soft, relaxed against Kyrend. She wondered a moment, how it was this cold-eyed human made her feel safe, then pushed the thought aside. Whatever the reason, she knew she had Kyrend's protection her when she needed it. Deshana rested against his chest a moment longer before pulling away.
"What will you do?" Kyrends voice held something she couldn't name. An indefinable emotion.
"What else? Talk to Ladak. I need to find out what he knows." She smiled with a slightly false brightness. Kyrend just raised an eyebrow, allowing her to dodge the subject. She crumbled a piece of parchment and tucked it into her belt pouch then rose to her feet. "I need to do a lot more research. I have to find the answers. There's too many things we don't know. Too many things that don't add up." she trailed off, pulling her cloak closer around her shoulders. She was fleeing again, running from the questions in his eyes. He let her go, watching as she hurried out of the tavern. Kyrend leaned his back against the wall so he could keep an eye on the door, and popped another beer.
Deshana paused in the bright sunlight and coaxed a small finch from one of the trees spaced around the square. Whispering her instructions softly into its feathers, she tied a small light note to its leg and sent it to find the fire giant, Ladak. Deshana watched it labourously fly off in search of its target and settled herself to wait.
She looked up as the small bird returned to her, sooner then expected. Unrolling the slip of paper, she saw that Ladak would meet her in half an hour in a small park near the eastern gates. Deshana nodded to herself and headed there to wait, curious as to what the man would have to say.
A deep, booming voice hailed her, and she looked up to see the tall, fierce-looking hunter standing by the entrance to the park.
"Well met, Druid. You wished to speak with me?" Ladak smiled down at the little elven woman, intimidating without really meaning to. "What is it Deshana?" He regarded her curiously. The druid had never sought him out for conversation before and this interrogation came at a time when his mind was beset by worries.
"You were in Undermountain." Deshana came straight to the point, face serious. "You went seeking the rings. What do you know of them?" Her fingers restlessly plucked at the hem of her tunic, her agitation fairly obvious.
Ladak blinked. "I know that they are a source of unrest in the realms, if that is what you mean." He scratched his head, thinking. "I don't believe there is any good to them." Ladak eased his massive frame down on a log beside the druid. "What is it?"
Deshana dragged her fingers through her hair and watched him quietly a moment. "Ladak... I need you to tell me what happened when you went after the ring Eliath sent you for. I need to know everything. I believe we have only the smallest puzzle pieces in this and we need to put them together."
"The little elf man was interested in acquiring a ring. We tracked one to an Alu-fiend in the Undermountain. She told us a bit of her story." Ladak frowned, remembering the fear, real or feigned, in the demoness' voice as she spoke. "She said that she had found the ring and hidden it away. That shadows sought it and harried her and had killed her minions." He paused, frowning about something. "She told us where it was... Vortex. We went to retrieve it. The shadows harried us and drove us from Undermountain. I have never been so glad to see the Yawning Portal."
"Does it not seem odd to you? That these demons and Liches all seek to "save" the realms they normally choose to dominate?" Deshana watched him a moment, measuringly. "We need more information, Ladak. This upsets balance. Thus far I know of no "good" creatures that seek to help or ask us to destroy the rings to save the realms."
He considered for a moment. "There is more then that, Druid. After we were driven from Underdark my friend, Thanuk, sought to go back. He came out with the ring. I don't believe this to be a good thing. I worry for him. There is too much that is not right about these rings. They aren't natural." Ladak shifted his bulk uneasily. "I don't trust them, nor the powers seeking them."
Deshana looked suprised, eyeing the fire giant with new interest. "What if I were to say that there was evidence to bring more suspicion to these tales that the rings will save us all?" She arched a silver eyebrow, waiting.
Ladak gazed down at the druid a moment. "I'd very much like to hear this... evidence. As I said, I worry for my friend. And my hunting grounds."
Deshana noded soberly. "I can arrange a meeting then. I do not hold the evidence personally though I have seen it. I'll arrange it if you like and arrange to transport you there." She smiled weakly. "Oh, and Ladak?" He paused, waiting expectantly. "If you see Thanuk acting oddly... watch him closely... In fact, be wary of anyone that is acting in a way not at all like themselves." She bit her lip a moment. "That includes me Ladak."
He nodded and took his leave.
The sun was setting after her meeting with Ladak. Deshana headed down the streets of Waterdeep, her shoulders hunched, and body aching. There was fire in her side where broken ribs had been strained. She rounded a corner and almost collided with a tall broadshouldered figure clad in robes of pink and gold. Strong hands reached out to steady her and she found herself looking up into the beloved face of Lazus Al'Medin. She attempted a bright greeting but something in his worried brown eyes froze her voice in her throat.
"Desh," Lazus spoke with a soft, deep voice, pain overlaying his words. "we need to talk. In private. Now." His words were clipped and she couldn't bear the look of betrayal in his gaze. He knew. Somehow, someway, he knew. Deshana nodded obediently and whispered that she would meet him in her grove. With a single word she vanished.
Lazus stared hard at the spot she'd occupied a scant second before, heart heavy. He stood there a moment and soon a pool of silvery mists opened at his feet. He stepped into it, and emerged in the midst of a verdant hidden grove of ancient trees. He'd been here before, and knew it as a hidden spot on the elven island of Evermeet. This was where the druid felt safest to conduct her most sacred worship. Glancing around he found her sitting under the branches of a sacred oak tree.
Deshana bent over the silver and onyx holy symbol and concluded her prayer before looking up. "You were in Underdark with Ladak." Her voice shook. "Tell me what happened?" Her eyes gleamed reflectivly in the rising moonlight.
Lazus gazed down at her then settled himself beside her. He'd felt a distance growing between him and this slender woman who claimed to love him. Now he felt he knew the reason.
"I did. We were driven out by shadows. Thanuk Pantherclaw went back in today. The shadows attacked us. I wonder how hard they were trying to keep us back?" He paled a little and shivered in memory. "These shadows seemed to herd us, but they focused their attacks... They always attacked me first, Desh. They ....it was horrible." Lazus felt her slip up beside him and wrap her arms around him, trying to bring comfort. For the first time it brought none. He knew now. He sighed and shook himself before continuing.
"There were three rooms, each with guardians to a portal. We would kill the guardians and have ten seconds to enter the portal and move to the next guardians. We used most of our spells with no time to replenish them." He dug his fingers into the soft moss, gathering his thoughts. "They were spirits. We awaited for them to replenish themselves that we might be fresh for the final room. They did and we defeated them again, then stepped through the portal. And faced ourselves."
He heard her soft gasp and felt her arms tighten around him. "Each shadow was identical to the original. I held a Starseed Nebula, my shadow also held one. They had all our spells. The battle was terrible. I... " He broke off, attempting to regain control of himself as tears threatened. "I was mortally injured and the last thing I saw before losing consciousness was the smiling faces of my friends surrounding me... Waiting for me to die." He felt her tears silently soaking into the back of his tunic and felt his heart warm slightly. Then another memory intruded.
"Deshana, I know the names of all who hold the rings. The Dark Knight told Thanuk." Lazus waited for her reaction, feeling her body stiffen behind him.
"You... know all of them?"
Deshana pulled away from him a bit. He turned to find her staring intently at the moonlit moss. He grasped her chin in his large, sensitive hand and forced her to meet his gaze. "Why didn't you tell me you held a ring, Desh? Why did you lie to me?" His voice rasped, sounding harsh in his own ears.
"Laz... I'd given my word. Blood Oath that I would not reveal Nilan as a ring holder. If you knew I held one, you'd know he held another. I couldn't hide one and not the other... So I hid both." Deshana spoke in a whisper, tears streaming crystal trails down her pale cheeks. "He didn't trust you. I made the oath before I was entrusted with a ring."
Lazus's voice rose with anger and hurt. "I don't understand, Desh. These rings are evil and need to be destroyed. Why hide one from me? Did you think I wasn't strong enough?" He let his hand fall away from her face and she quickly lowered her gaze. "Damnit, Deshana, I love you! I'd go to hell for you. Why didn't you tell me?"
Her only answer was to hold up her left hand, swathed in black spider silk bandages. "Blood Oath." Deshana sighed defeatedly. "I swore not to tell anyone at all about my brother's ring. Even you. When Lokar entrusted me with his, I chose not to tell you because if I did you'd eventually ask me if I know who else had rings. A mistake... but not one I can fix." She looked down, tears falling onto her silk-wrapped hand. "I won't hide anything from you again."
Lazus looked down at her and softened, reaching out to stroke her hair. "Will this ever be over, Desh?" Tears burned in his eyes, for the feeling of change was between them. The feeling had lingered since she had first become involved with the rings and he felt helpless against them.
They sat together in the moonlight, taking a moment of peace in the timeless grove, tears between them. She leaned against his shoulder, silently vowing to protect him at all costs. The focus of the shadows... Well, it was possible they wanted him. They may also have been trying to harm her through him. Unthinkable... But, in a way, it made sense. She'd need to discuss it with Nilan the next evening. Deshana curled against Lazus with an air of desperation, taking what time she could in the turmoil.
The day dawned bright and warm, belieing the cold shadows on her soul. Deshana stretched carefully, feeling her muscles pulling around her broken ribs. Another day, and much more to be done. She decended from the bough she'd perched on all night, her bare feet making no sound on the forest floor. Looking around one last time, she headed towards the great walled city of Waterdeep.
Before she even reached the great gates, a sleepy owl swooped upon her and droped a parchment at her feet, its flight silent and lazy as it headed into the dark forest. Deshana bent and picked up the note, scanning the words on the page. Her brother wished to meet her. Deshana nodded to herself and blurred, shifting, bluring, her form shrinking and growing feathers to replace the hair. She felt her lips extend and harden into a sharp, wicked beak, her arms sprouting long flight feathers, and her bare feet turning into hard scaled talons. Spreading her wings she took off towards the South, and the free City of Baldurs Gate.
A young human woman, within the city walls watched as a majestic golden feathered eagle circled twice before soaring towards the southlands. Maeli had watched the transformation and chuckled to herself. Following winged prey could be... a challenge. She followed, walking at the brisk pace only a very young person could maintain.
Deshana flew slowly, with frequent pauses, panting with the agony in her side. It hurt to fully extend her wings, pain blazing over her nerves. She hissed softly and continued her labouring flight towards her brother.
A silent shadow trailed behind the eagle. The stalker bided his time, never nocking the arrow loosy hanging from nimble fingers. She'd lived, the witchbeast. Impossible, but that could be remedied. He never knew who she met when she flew south, his stealth was worthless indoors so he never got that close. He waited for his chance to strike. "All drow and Drow-lovers are evil and must be purged." He renewed his oath to his god, and followed.
An amused smile passed over the lips of the little human rogue. So.. her target had more then one follower this day. This could be... interesting. Maeli ducked behind a tree out of sight. She wondered a moment if she could pry some training out of that stogy old coot that was always trailing after the elven druid with mooncalf eyes. Was worth a shot anyways. The eagle moved again, the ranger followed.. and so did Maeli. She was amazed by the distance the bird had traveled. the bird passed over the sprawling city of Baldurs Gate and continued southward. the ranger looked bewilded upon passing into the city, but Maeli was used to city and trailed on quickly, a lithe shadow in the wake of a great eagle.
Deshana was exhausted when she came to a landing outside Jenna's Wayhouse. Mustering her strength she reverted to elven form, muffling a scream as her abused body reformed. She looked around, and saw nothing amiss, then headed into the Wayhouse. Her eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, the smoky cook fire stinging her nose. Deshana headed up the stairs wearily, a long red clad arm ending in an ebon skinned hand snaked out of the shadows and dragged her into them before she could so much as gasp.
The vicious yank sent pain shooting through her side, knocking the breath from her and a hard black skinned hand clamped over her mouth. A voice hissed coldly near her ear, "You grow careless Druid. If you become a danger to me it will be my dagger, and not my hand you next feel" The hands spun her around and her captor shook her hard, bringing more pain and rising anger. Deshana shook him off and backed up, tasting blood in her mouth where pain had caused her to bite her lip.
Facing her was a slender drow male, his eyes hard with distrust and rage. He glared at her a moment longer before tossing his thick braid of stark white hair over his shoulder and turning away from her. Deshana felt the anger building further and fought to keep it down. "Damnit Nilan, I didn't know another ring had been found! I'm not omnicient, How could I have known? I have duties to my grove." She raised a hand to wipe the blood from her lip, fighting for calm. "I'd have told you... Kyrend told me just as I got back to the city..." Her voice was calm, reasoned, but her heart churned under the battering of his mistrust. Deshana paced, attempting to find relief from the pain in movement, her words clipped. "I talked to Ladak, the one that was sent for the ring. He told me his story and told me he didn't get it." She dragged her fingers through her long silvery hair, considering. "Ladaks group was driven out by the shadows. He wants nothing to do with the rings. His friend Thanuk was of a different mind. He went back in." Breifly she detailed the description Lazus had given her of the fight in Vortex.
Nilan gazed at her hard for a long moment, then, looking ashamed, dropped his gaze. "I'm sorry, Abbil. Trust does not come easily to my kind." He knelt gracefully before her, eyes lowered as if he faced a woman of his own people. It hurt her to see him when his training so overwhelmed him. He was too proud, too skilled, it was literally painful to watch him debase himself. Like watching a powerful bear forced to preform tricks for children. Foolish and degrading.
"Don't do that," she rasped hoarsly. "You know you don't need to be that way with me." Deshana lightly reached out and touched his shoulder, begging him to rise. "Brother.. A'keeran, Ladak doesn't trust the rings. He thinks as we do that there is more then the Thayan lich and his allies say. And Nilan, he was the one that broached the subject. I think he needs to see with his own eyes what we have learned."
Nilan raised his eyes and studied the druid before him before noding slowly. "Alright, Druid. if that is your wish I will meet with him. See to it" He flicked his fingers dismissivly at her. "Arrange the meeting."
Deshana bowed her head to hide the hurt in her eyes. "I'll see to it brother. Neutral ground, of course. I take my leave now." The pain in her side flared and she faltered a bit before turning and heading out the door. As soon as she emerged into sunlight she uttered a single word, and vanished.
The hunter in the grass stood, lowering his bow and cursing in a strange tongue. Maeli watched as he packed up his gear and resolutely trudged north, still swearing roundly. Her eyes widened with astonishment, catching one of the more colourful phrases. 'Well..' she thought bemusedly. 'That is certainly biologically impractical at the very least'
Maeli watched a little longer, and was rewarded in her vigil by the emergence of a cloaked figure as the sun set. The figure paused, and pushed back his hood a moment, revealing the handsome features of a drow. Maeli gasped and ducked down, praying the monsterous killer would not see her and, incredulously wondered if this had been whom the druid had been meeting. Circles within circles. There was more here then even she suspected.
Maeli gathered herself and headed for the wayhouse, attempting to seem no more then another weary, dusty traveler, and sought lodgings. It was much too late to begin the trek homeward.
"Ladak, do you have a moment? I need to speak with you." Deshana feverantly hoped her voice didn't betray her emotions. Lasts nights meeting had left her feeling wrung like a wet ragdoll.
"We can meet in the park again," she rushed the words out. " I have something that may interest you."
Ladak peered down at her diminuative form curiously. Twice in three days the elf girl had sought him, He was prepared to humour her. "Alright, As you wish, I have a moment or two before my brothers and I go hunting. Speak your mind Elf." His deep voice rumbled his amusment. Ladak gestured towards the park and ambled carelessly in that direction, leaving the elf to scurry after him, unable to match his ground eating stride. Rounding the corner, the fire giant eased his bulk onto the same log he had occupied for the last interveiw. He wondered if this would be as bewildering as the first. "Sit. Tell me what has you so aggitated." Ladak lowered his voice, trying to set her at ease.
Deshana settled herself and looked up at him, considering her approach. 'Be direct,' she thought. "About the rings," she blurted. "What if we had tangible evidence that something foul might be part of this mess?" Deshana picked at the hem of her tunic, holding her breath. 'Smooth Desh, ever hear of tact?' Berating herself, she awaiting his next words.
"I'd thought as much from the beginning of this, Druid. Show me your evidence, I would know more." Ladak searched her face, seeing lines of worry there. "I believe this evidence you speak of is importent to you." He patted her shoulder awkwardly, careful not to knock her over. "It's alright, Druid. I've already said I'd listen."
She took a deep breath then stubbled on. "I don't have it," she admitted, sheepishly. "But I can take you to the one who does. He's agreed to meet with you. Peacefully and on Neutral ground. He um.." Deshana hesitated, not wanting to offend the giant. "He doesn't trust surfacers much. You can't bring weapons. And I'll be there to prevent any harm from comming," She bit her lip. "I'll be maintaining balance."
Ladak studied her a moment. "Ah.. So its the drow." He nodded wisely, prepared to concede the matter of weapons. "I can understand his caution. I give my word that I will not seek to harm him unless he first seeks to bring harm to me." He smiled with what he hoped was reassurance, noticing the little druid was more nervous then usual in his presence. "Where will I meet him?"
She smiled tenetivly. "Tonight, I will send you a moonwell from the meeting place. Ladak," her gaze softened with gratitude. "Thank you.. Nilan is my brother in many ways. I think.. I thnk we can't do this alone. And we need the answers." Deshana stood, then impulsivly kissed his cheek. The slender elf vanished back into the city streets, leaving a somewhat bemused Firegiant to consider what new evidence this night may bring.
A pool of silvery mist formed at Ladak's feet. Again wondering what this might mean, he stepped into the moonwell, emerging from the pool in.. a Fish Market? So it seemed. Deshana stood there, looking tense. She stepped forward and embraced him, thanking him again for comming. Behind her stood a slender, whipcord thin man with skin the colour of ebony and hair as white as snow. A drow. He held a dagger openly, looking as if he expected Ladak to simply attack him. Nilan nodded a tense greeting.
"Human" Was all the drow said, seeming to not notice Ladaks huge stature. perhaps taking the ruddy skin as a sunburn. Deshana quickly stumbled through introductions, pointing out Ladaks race gently as she said his name. The drow nodded again, releasing his tight grip on his dagger and seeming to relax as the moonwell vanished behind him.
What is it you wished to speak of with such ugency, Nilan? Deshana mentioned Evidence?" He stood, waiting, not overly wishing to relax in the presence of what the surface dwellers of this prime plane believed to be one of the more dangerous races.
"I'll get right to the point then." Nilans voice was clipped and slightly accented, though his common was excellent. Ladak wondered a moment when he had learned it. He also raised an eyebrow at the dagger Nilans hand still rested upon. the drow noticed and let his hand fall, somewhat sheepishly.
Deshana made a soft comment, Ladak caught only the word "tension" She seemed mildly amused.
Nilan reached into his backpack and calmly produced a ring. It was black, with a red and white stone, and fairly radiated evil. "These," he stated, with false calm. "You know of these, yes?" Nilan put the ring away quickly, as if fearing discovery.
Ladak nodded. "Indeed, a contenteous point within the Realms." He frowned slightly. "I know of the danger they present to our lands, I just never thought the term 'Our' would be used in this board a context." His lips twisted into an ironic half-smile for a moment.
Nilan smirks a little, "Ah but I was not chosen like the others, Like your pitiful friend Thanuk. I came into posession of my ring another way."
Ladak snorted derisivly. "Thanuk was tricked, I believe. Some pity can be shed on him for that. How did you come upon this.. device?" He waitied calmly for an answer, he knew it would come. As unlikely as trust was between them, it looked as if Deshana had convinced the drow to try.
Nilan watched him warily a moment. "Your lands as well as mine are at stake." Ladak nodded his agreement, noting with some amusment the look Deshana bestowed upon the drow that so clearly stated "I told you so" Nilan continued, ignoring the look. "While I care nothing for your lands, I love my lands and people dearly. Thus if in saving my people I save yours as well.. So be it."
Ladak nodded again, "I feel a similar intent. I feared that some of the underdark races could be involved in the gods of entropy, and wishing to destroy Toril, in well...their best interests.."
Nilan growled, "Do Not accuse my people." his eyes narrowed, gleaming coldly in the dim lighting.
Ladak snorted. "I accuse no one. I mean no harm here. Let be and continue. I see you understand the signifigance of this time and am interested in your words."
Nilan paused... then slowly nodded. "Alright. If you have time I will tell you the whole of it." He glared cooly at Ladak a moment. "Who now carries these rings?"
Ladak frowned. "This has somthing to do with your theory? I know Thanuk does, and Deshana, and the Ranger Adriorn, where-ever he has lost himself, and the Dward Thadrin, who may well be lost as well." He waited, wondering what was comming.
Nilan rushed on, "What if I told you I have evidence to suggest that when these 12 fools proceed to this fiery pit to toss these rings in that they will not be destroyed? What if I tell you that instead this ritual will open a portal gating demons...Ssazz Tams demons into this world?" Nilan waiting for his words to sink in, watching for the slightest reaction.
Ladak thought a moment. Deshana inserted a few words, correcting Nilan, "Technically Brother, the count of those who will theoretically walk to the furnace to cast in their rings is Ten. You and I... well we have other notions at the moment." She resumed leaning against the wall, holding her hand to her side.
Ladak nodded, and spoke. "I would wish to know more of your evidence, I saw the ring come into the hand of Thanuk, through not his own desire, and I do not believe they are coming together on the prime plane for such a simple reason to be destroyed."
Deshana nodded agreement, and Nilan pursed his lips. "You are wise for ummm.. a Fire Giant." The drow relaxed a bit more, and a little more tension faded from the druids posture. "Very well. If you are certain you have time I will tell you everything."
Ladak nodded again."Time I do have, while I am impatient with insolence, and poor fighting, I have eternal time to hear any wisdoms that you may speak."
Nilan paused, seeming to reach some decision. "I ask a favour then, Fire giant. My allies grow thin, and few of the surface will listen to the theories of a drow assassin. Sooner they would lynch me then pause to hear my words. Deshana can attest to that. You are of the surface folk, carry my words with you and spread them, that those of the surface are not blinded by the easy path." Nilan smirked a little. "Your friends peril should be some motivation, even if helping me is not."
Nilan went on calmly. "Ladak I tell you this because even as we speak Ssazz Tam, his Dark Knight Aldric, and the Grey elf known as The Serpant hunt me. My theory must live on even if i fall, Deshana understands this, but she too is hunted. She asked that I meet with you, Thus.. we are here."
Nilan settled himself. "This will take a while. I formulated my theory long before i came to possess a ring. I seemed to me that the rings are a force of destruction to all causes. I learned that the 12 rings were to be found and destroyed to prevent a great evil from entering the realms. Well..That seemed a bit off to me so sought a ring to prevent this from happening until more was learned. It didn't escape my notice that the beings attempting to get these rings destroyed were universally of evil intent and purpose." The drow smiled coldly. "As you can see, my bid to aquire one was.. sucessful." Ladak shivered at his tone.
"So it is possible to work against these rings?" Ladak smiled inwardly. "Good, I was hoping for such, Fire giants don't like change." He thought a moment. "Tell me, have you heard of a shadow more deadly then any dagger?" Both drow and druid motioned for him to explain. "When I lead Thanuk's party into the deep, an invisible force the fiend refered to as the shadow, was...
after... the ring ... As they hunted the Fiend Dezspex for possesing a ring, they also tailed my group through undermountain, attacking and delaying us. When I saw the twixt that the ring was not something we should seek to aquire, I left the darkness and the shadow behind, and was wise enough it seems, as it has not chased me. The fiends followers, one by one, were ...assassinated, ..only by seemingly no one.. This is why I ask about the shadows."
Deshana frowned, deep worry clouding her eyes. "The.. shadows, seemed to target Lazus first in the Undermountain. They focused on him..."
"The moon elf," Nilan began, but she interupted him.
"This isn't mortal power, Brother. Whatever else he is, Eilaith is mortal." Deshanawent a bit paler, holding her side and leaning heavily against the wall, as Nilan began to pace, movements graceful and deadly.
"Describe the creature, if you can." Nilan motioned to Ladak, never ceasing his restless paceing.
Ladak pondered a moment. "Something darker than the tunnels of the undermountain, and more potent that the demons contained within, it struck down everything in its path in an instant as if banishing them from the very realms itself. It wanted the rings to the surface."
"And the rings want to be destroyed." This from Nilan, paused, poised and wary like a hunted animal.
Ladak nodded, adding, "I have little doubt that this darkness was abetting in the gathering of the rings, hence it's dire threats, but not action, against the fiend Deszpex."
Deshana nodded, understanding gleaming in sea green eyes. "Herding, rather like hunters using a funnel trap to guide prey into a corral they cannot escape."
Ladak nodded. "I have aluded to the idea that dazspex, as did you, put some sort of barrier againt the devices of the rings.. I swore to the gods I would leave the mad tunnels of undermountain and take no part in the rings arcane tortures." He frowned thoughtfully. "Thanuk on the other hand.."
"Was Seduced." Nilan stated it bluntly.
Ladak didn't disagree. "He saw the finding of the ring some sort of challenge, to disprove the fiend, and please..the elf.. I trusted not the elf or the dark knight from the start, I knew there was some reason they sought me to find the ring, and I am pawn to no one."
Nilan nodded showing the faintest hint of smile. "I am glad for that. Tell me based upon what you have seen Ladak....what do you think they will do with me...now that I have er, aquired one...and will not destroy it?" Again, his posture tensed, waiting.
Ladak thought a moment, then rumbled "Hunt you, as they did Dazspex. But she did prove in her own caverns, they could be outdone. I believe that is the most important of detail I have concerning the most recent finding of the rings, indeed, a more colorful elaboration may ensue when combined with, your theory?"
Ladak thought a moment. "That is, they will hunt the ring. You are incidental."
Nilan nodded. "I won't let them take it. I cannot."
Ladak flashed a mild smile towards the drow. "As I said, when the shadow found Dazspex to have hidden the ring, it would not kill him, only his minions, they are not patient even after the passed eons. There is something about this time."
Deshana shuddered. "Thats what worries us Ladak. Its not the bearers, its those around them." Nilan nodded his agreement.
"The Serpant, and the darkknight, Aldric issued a similar threat to me. Destroy the ring or your wife Elisten will suffer." Nilan closed his eyes, hiding deep emotion.
"Lazus was focused on by the shadows... the ones in vortex, even before they entered that foul place." The druid shuddered, tears welling in her eyes.
"Because of the ring you carry, Deshana" Nilans voice was suprisingly gentle as he adressed the druid.
"Or else he may be chosen as well." Her voice faltered. and Nilan rested an ebon hand on her shoulder, supportingly.
"I'm glad he doesn't carry a ring." Nilan stated it gently.
Nilan sobered, his face and voice hardening again. "I have hard evidence to show you....not the stories of a lich that so far the surface folk seem to believe. Shall I begin?"
Ladak nodded and motioned the assassin to continue his narrative. Nilan glanced at Deshana, and took a deep breath. "Most of my kin think me a Heretic and well, the surface folk, I believe will do whatever they think needed to see these rings destroyed."
"I first learned that children may possibly have been abducted. We know that dark times are ahead, what with weather changes, crop failures, the lack of wildlife, particulaily near that mountain where these evens started" Nilan considered his words, and their affect on the fire giant. "I started looking into the missing children situation, asking around.. the evil races scoffed, or dismissed my concerns, the good acted as if they believed i was after Their children." Nilan chuckled a little at the memory of the paranoid good races.
"Then I encountered the moon elf, Lirathal. He bade me aid him in finding out more about the disturbances in the Realms, as they seems to be worsening. I agreed with him and finally aggreed to aid him." Nilan looked puzzled for a moment. "I asked him why me, a sworn enemy of his people. He said i was not the first choice, only the only one that asked nothing in return. Thus, he said, he felt I had honour."
Deshana looked sharply at Nilan, "The elf was Lirathal?"
"Yes. We talked. Does it matter, Abbil?" Nilan met the druids eyes as she stared at him, long and hard. "I could not reveal his name." He felt relief, seeing the understanding in her sea green gaze and she motioned him to continue. He started to speak when Ladak snorted and made a truely disgusted face. "You don't approve, Ladak?"
Ladak waved his hand in front of his nose, "No, no, its not that its this fish smell! Phew!"
The fire giant looked apologetic and nodded at Nilan.
Nilan nodded, took a deep breath, and began. "I believed that if they werent stopped that eventually the same fate would befall my people in the underdark as well as other underdark races. As Deshana knows....My people, the Drow people, mean the world to me. I will see my kin take back what was taken from them so long ago. I will see the drow nation rise to glory once again." He paced the room like a caged panther. "Based upon my goals for my kin I agreed to meet this Grey Elf....an enemy of my people. But at the same time, kin to my elven wife, Elisten"
"So unbeknownst to the other drow...or the surface folk for that matter I go off to meet this Elf. In meeting this Elf I learn of rumors of House Rilant'tyr and a missing child. About the involvement of some insane man in a tower controlled by the elements (air, earth, fire, water)." Nilan paused in his pacing, piercing Ladak with a hawklike gaze. "Is all this news to you, Ladak?"
Ladak nodded silently, and the drow continued. "Well it gets better, soon I'll let you hold the evidence I have so you see my theory is supported by facts. Coincidently , these 4 elements are also what controlls the weather. So , I agree to assassinate whomever necessary to obtain a book that is rumored to contain some information and a bag. Perhaps there are clues to this missing drow." Nilan resumed his pacing, his words taking on the candence of a story chant. "I do not consult the surface because honestly he believes these surface folk would not band together to help the drow people. Having dealt with the surface before, I dont believe they will aid me, so I turn to my guild (then Crimson Coalition). When I discover that they will not aid me, I leave the Coalition and become a free agent. But realizing that free agents, especially lesser drow males of destroyed houses do not last long alone, I returned to Orbdrin D'oloth." The drow ceased his pacing, settling on an overturned barrel.
"I got my evidence. With they help I assassinated the evil mage near the tower, and retrieved his spellbook. In its pages, hidden in the binding, the Grey and I found this." Nilan pulled a piece of rough, thinned bark from his bag and handed it to Ladak. He read the note with deepening curiosity.
What must I do to end this suffering? The rains pound my roof day and night! What can be done? My crops have no yield, my family are riddled with sickness.
Please help us! Please!
Ladak returned the bark to Nilan, looking deep in thought. The assassin continued his tale.
"I think its a plea to those very ones that make these people suffer...I think its begging this lich and death Knight to stop. What do you make of it?"
Deshana leaned wearily against the wall, feeling the throbbing of her ribs burning. she fought to hide her pain and listen to her brothers tale.
Ladak rumbled, "The man you got this book from, he is dead?" At Nilans confirming nod the giant sighed. "A pity. It is where the impatience of the younger races play against eachother, if the evil man was not dead, his own impatience could be tortured to extract the meaning.." Nilan looked at the giant curiously.
"My common is not so good, Explain?"
Ladak pondered a moment, "That the man who may have been involved in these dissaperences was so quick to be killed...may have been folly, when he could have been...used.. Did you have a chance to confront this man, in person?"
Nilan nodded, "I believe he was the man i spoke to in Westfalls, at least they spoke of identical things as are contained in the note. I cannot be entirely certain, however."
Ladak nodded, and Nilan picked up his narrative where he left off. "I then go back to my kin and show them what I learned. They scoffed me, called me a "slave to the surface" and a "heretic" in that I have aided the surface races. I endured a few smacks, spits and taunts." Nilans expression turned bitter, then sorrowful. "They do not yet understand." He bowed his head.
"My instincts tell me, that these people, and creatures such as the lich, know more of these rings than we ascertained previously, perhaps the rings are a new contruct, to return an older evil to the world, not something old that is rising as I had believed." Ladak filled the uncomfortable silence with his deep rumble.
Nilan nodded again, "Indeed, I thik you will find the rest of my information interesting if not enlightening."
Deshana looked up with pain glazed eyes and inserted, "This is about where I stopped watching and started acting." She straightned a little, nodding to her brother.
Nilan smiles gently at the druid, "I pocket the item and now needed aid to aquire this bag (within the same tower). my kin seemed about to lynch me, so I sought out the druid Deshana. She has been of great aid to me in my search." He bowed to her, arms crossed. "She agreed to try to obtain this bag. She eventually did, with the help of others and delivered the bag to me. I then took the bag to this Elf." He faltered then, sighing heavily. "What I found in that bag.... An adamantium hair pin - this bore the insignia of House Rilynt'tyr. I believed it to belong to the missing drow child. My trips to the surface have caused the inscrpition upon it to fade. And this," Nilan reached into his bag again, pulling out the hairpin, and a bloodstained parchment. He handed both to Ladak for inspection, Deshana had obviously seen these items before, her eyes misting with tears.
"It is written by the missing drow child, I have translated it into common, the words are beside it. She appears to have written it in her own blood." Nilan's voice rasped with supressed emotion. Deshana shivered and chafed her arms to try to warm herself.
Diary Entry, Day .... ?
I have been trapped here for so long, will anyone ever read this? I have been gone so long from my house. Does anyone know that I still live? How long have I really been gone? I just know not if hope is worth the space in my soul.
Ladak shuddered, returning the items to the drow. "Indeed, my intuitions are strengthened."
Deshana nodded, pointing out softly, "All this we learned before Sszass tam became so openly involved."
The assassin produced another parchment form his bag. "When i was learning this other information, I came accross this on the ground. It mentioned Tam and Ifound it interesting, having heard a Thayvian spy was soliciting arms and money in Waterdeep. Have I shown you this Deshana?" At the druids head shake, the drow handed it to her first. Deshana quickly read it then passed the note to Ladak.
You still wish to see me?
Shout it as loud as you can, and I shall have my falcon bring you word of what I wish to have before you can seek my audience in regards to the rings of soul entrapment.
Deshana shivered, mumbling, "Adriorn. T'was he that sought the lich." Nilan denied the thought, "I found this not on the surface, Abbil." Deshana continued, thoughtfully, "Tam sent him to dark places.. zhentil keep, and a place where Brain golems patrol"
"Indeed, I found it in the underdark." Nilan grew thoughtful.
"You wished an audience with the Lich?" The deep rumble cut the night air like thunder.
Nilan shook his head, "Nay, I only found the note, I think it confirms his involvment and interest in the rings.
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